Introduction: Offgrid Solar System With Battery Storage
For sometime now I have been experimenting with solar and batteries from very small 1.2v solar panel to the biggest one that I currently have which is a 150w. After much experimentation, I was able to save up and build a proper system for myself and just to get a feel. I really wanted to make a perfect system and then share to everyone but then realised that things will just pile u and I won't get much of feedback from others. Plus this system took me about 10 years just to build as I am in africa and I only get about $150 or less per month so not very convenient for me when I have to prioritise my resources.
Thus is the reason why even though the system is working but still not perfect I am sharing it with everyone. This instructable will be an overview of how I built my system from the components that are needed, the preparation, assembly, testing and turning the system on with maintenance in the long term.
That is the plan that I have made which is the overall plan which in time there will be additions made.
Step 1: Parts Needed for the Build
Below You will find a list of parts that you will need or what I used to make mine a reality.
- Solar Panel 150 watt
- Terminal Blocks (many)
- Light Sensor / LDR
- Conduit round (any color will do)
- Electrical wire
- Light bulbs 12v
- Light Enclosures
- Conduit Yellow/Orange for underground use
- Pipe Holders
- Screws (many)
- Rawl Plug (many)
- MC4 Connector
- MC4 wire extension 5 meter
- Charge Controller
- Battery Monitor
- Connection Boxes waterproof
- Battery 100ah
- Charge Controller
- Concrete Blocks
- Uplights 12v
- Spotlights 12v
- Soldering Iron
- Wire Stripper
All right lets dive into it.
Step 2: Setting Up the Metal Frame Support Structure and the Solar Panel
The first thing that I had and could install easily and not require other parts was the solar panel. So this was the first thing that I did and got some help to install it on the roof, I made an instructable about it as I realised that getting a frame is expensive and was able to find a cheap alternative.
Here is the link to my other instructable for the frame: https://www.instructables.com/id/Solar-Panel-Mount...
Hope that it can help if you want to do your own or better if you can afford a designed purposely built for your own panel and system.
Step 3: Electrical Wiring From Solar Panel to Battery
Once the solar panel has been installed we will need to start connecting all the wiring and devices together to make sure that everything works as it should. Note: we do not want to wrongly connect the wiring as this might damage the system and cause injury.
So for the parts list, we will need:
- MC4 extension wire
- MC4 tool
- Charge Controller
- Battery cables
- Battery Terminals
- Battery Monitor
A Diagram to represent the Big picture concerning the connection stages as seen.
Making the connection in steps starting with.
From the solar panel there are two connectors the positive and negative both marked with white strips with the positive and negative marked on them. For me the wiring was too short so I added another 5 meters of cable which will lead to a dry area and connect to other components. Both mc4 connectors were linked and the other ends were stripped so as to be connected to the charge controller.
After running the wire on the roof, through a wall and into a pipe, I connected the wiring into the charge controller and see if everthing was working fine, then I taped the wire and fixed the controller to a piece of wood which I would lay down. From there I connected the charge controller to the big battery and see if everything works as it should. Once done, I made wires that would connect many smaller batteries together and then tie eveything together. Since I didn't have the right cables I had to buy bits and connectors where these would be soldered in to make the battery connection.
Finally I added a battery monitor to see the voltage and see the level before and after the charge for monitoring purposes.
Step 4: Laying Down Conduits Around Property
According to my needs I planned where to put everything where needs be as seen on the plan.
Now that the main connection is in place it is time to put in the conduits as tracks that will be used to house all the wiring and connections to the fixtures, switch, lights, inverters etc...
For the pipes, the white ones I used 20 mm that I would run cables on top and on the sides for clean installation and then for cables that will be buried, I used the orange ground flexible pipes. Then all connections will be made into the connection boxes which would be affixed to the wall and Concrete slabs in the ground.
Depending on the distances that will be needed, the pipes will be cut to the length required and connected to connection boxes and fixtures.
Step 5: Making All the Electrical Connections
Once all the conduits have been layed down and affixed all the accessories like lights, switches, power inverter, power lines etc.. time to make all the connections and get the system on.
Once all the Pipes have been laid and fixed to their resting position, its time to start installing the wiring through. Instead of buying wires, i had many laying around which i used and cut to the required length where required. Note: My wiring were all black and I needed to make sure not to wrongly make the connections as there are no indication of which wire is positive and which one is negative.
From the top a main box will be affixed and mains power from the battery will connect to whereby additional routes of power lines can be connected to the main bus bars.
On each connection such as wiring that will go into a light fixture, light sensor etc... the easiest way for me was to connect a simple terminal block that I could easily connect just by screw in and out. From the pictures that took everything can be seen on the different connections.
Step 6: Test, Test and Test.
Great all the connections have been made, now its time to test.
One thing that I did was that as I was doing the connecitons with all the lights and accessories was to plug in and test at each and every step to make sure that everything works as it should instead of just connecting everything at once and then just test.
During testing issues will be found then fixed and with time more issues will pop up that will be needed to be dealth with. For example during the connection test that I made I just made a loop with the wiring into a switch and when turn on the wire will heat up immediately and smoke to appear that immeditely needed to fix.
Another one was afterwards about two months later the wiring in the conduit that was buried in the ground, water got inside and the wire would break down and cause interferences to the point that the wire melted and electricity would no longer flow and the lights would stop to light.
In time more issues will pop up but just to be sure that everything works as it should maintenance is a must and also to ensure safety.