Save Money on Electricity…Buy the Power Company

If you have your own solar power system, you literally own the power company. Heck, you ARE the power company. It can be a big chunk, at first, but over the long term you should save some big bucks. Like the big power company, you’ll have maintenance costs, but at least you won’t have to replace 10,000 poles next time a hurricane or ice storm rolls through. The big power companies know that solar is […]

Will Has A Question, Part 3 1

Will Has A Question, Part 3

Will needs a big solar power system for his big house. We figure he has the perfect slab of roof for installing enough solar modules. Now, since he wants an off-grid system, we are going to think about a battery. A really BIG battery. No, I have not forgotten about Will and his new solar power system. It’s just, well, holiday season, firewood cutting season and working on my own system season. I have been […]

What's Wrong With This Picture? 2

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I’d have done this a little differently. Take a good look at the photo. These guys are going to lose space for an entire panel because of a vent pipe poking up through the roof. Why are there vent pipes? Because when you use a sink or any other water source in the house, it needs to be vented to drain properly. The vents stick out the roof because clean water is not the only […]

Buy Plenty of Wire 3

Buy Plenty of Wire

And connectors, and terminals and adapters and… Just a quick tip coming from experience. I was out in the Solar Shed, today, pulling wire to add a couple more panels to my Non-Export Grid Tie experiment. I’ve been running 1200 watts, being shared by two GT inverters. Now it is 1800 watts. Soon, it’ll be 2400 and live on the grid instead of in the lab. I have the giant spool up on a rack […]

Will Has a Question, Pt. 2 4

Will Has a Question, Pt. 2

We now know a bit more about Will’s roof, his power consumption and what he wants to do. Let’s get started…on some Texas-sized solar power. I’ve been in contact with Will and he supplied some more information.  If you read Part 1, you know he wants to go with solar power, but that leaves a lot out.  We now know that he has a big house, 3700 sq. ft., and pool.  He also has a […]

Reverend David's Solar Freezer 5

Reverend David’s Solar Freezer

Using the hot sun to keep the groceries cold. Awesome!

Will Has a Question

Actually, Will has several questions, but they all boil down to “how do I get started?” ” I am looking into installing solar panels on my roof. I have a straight gable roof that the back slope faces South. I have a 200 amp breaker box and would like to keep that amount of power when I go solar. Looking at solar panels, they come in different amounts of watts per panel. How many watts […]

Tiny Solar Power for a Rainy Day 6

Tiny Solar Power for a Rainy Day

Tropical Storms in the Gulf, tornadoes in Alabama and lots of rain. That’s not a time when you’d normally think solar power, except how little the panels are putting out. It IS a good time to hole up with a small project. In the last post, I mentioned the Tiny Watts group and their tiny projects. And I mentioned that Solar George had given me an idea. I had a couple of small solar panels […]

In the News

Just a few notes on solar in the news. Click in the parentheses for the links, since I can’t seem to make them show up in some browsers. A really biased (headline) blames California power outages on climate change. The actual cause of PG&E outages is PG&E pulling the plug when it gets breezy! Proper powerline maintenance, line stabilizers and right-of-way maintenance to reduce fuel would go a long way to prevent fires from powerline […]

Meters 7

Meters

When installing a new power system or doing a little troubleshooting, an appropriate meter can be just the thing to make the job easier.  For example, with the analog voltmeter and the digital ammeter, we were able to determine that the panel above was a little low on output.  What could possibly be wrong? There are analog meters, which you don’t see much, anymore, and the digital meters which seem to be in favor these […]

Troubleshooting Solar 8

Troubleshooting Solar

Some folks have big systems and some have small. A small solar power system is pretty easy to wring out if there is a problem. Use your multimeter (You DO have a multimeter, don’t you???) to tell if you have volts getting to your charge controller, or if you have it up to that fuse that blew, but not beyond. A bigger system can be a little harder to keep up with. My system has […]

Little Solar Projects 9

Little Solar Projects

My first solar project was to put 4 tiny 6 volt solar panels on the top of the instrument panel of my old Piper TriPacer.  The panels were little more than experimenter toys made from solar cell scraps in a plastic frame.  40 years ago you took what you could get in solar.  Old airplanes have tiny batteries, crappy starters and high displacement engines. Add in flying them only on the weekends and you can […]

Show Time! 10

Show Time!

John was just about worn out when I talked to him, yesterday.  He’s at the big solar show in Salt Lake City.  Sun Electronics does not have a booth, there.  He’s there to hobnob and network, catching up with old friends and keeping up with the latest offerings. All of the panel makers are there, including the Chinese, who are not selling a lot of modules owing to the tariffs.  I’m sure each maker is […]

So Your Power Bill This Month Was $497 11

So Your Power Bill This Month Was $497

It Doesn’t Have to Be! My neighbor Connie got her power bill yesterday.  It was $497.  That was just the one for the house, she has another for the well.  I got my bill today and it was $67.  Mind you, $27 of that was for electricity and 40 is for taxes, fees, waste and corruption.  So Connie only used $457 worth of electricity, but she gets mad when she hears about my tab.  Well, […]

Don’t Do This!

This morning, going through the email editions of American Solar Energy Society’s Solar@Work and  PV Magazine, I came across an article on things found wrong during inspections of photovoltaic power systems, both at home and commercial installations. You might want to take a look at the article and then take a look at your own system! https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/09/19/solar-power-installation-techniques-dont-do-this-w-pictures/ –Neal

GS 4048 Hybrid inverter

Louisiana Screws Up Net Metering

Don’t Worry, We Can Fix This After Hurricane Katrina, solar power took off in New Orleans. Long nights without power left folks wanting a little more control of their situation and rooftop solar took off. How much of that was actually usable when the grid is down and how much was grid tie? I’m betting there was a lot of grid tie. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you get real net metering. Figure up […]

Solar Air Conditioning Recap 12

Solar Air Conditioning Recap

John called the other day for some solar chit chat. He asked if I was still using my solar air conditioning and I replied that I was. It was holding up well in the blistering heat. He said, “You should write a blog about it.” Well, gee John, don’t you read this stuff? There are 3 articles here in the tech blog, I think, about air conditioning with solar power, but maybe that isn’t obvious. […]

A Hot Time at WalMart

Don’t Try This at Home Did you hear about the solar panel fires on the roofs at various WalMarts?  Don’t let it happen to you! Little bits and pieces of this story have been coming out in the solar trade press for a few weeks, now.  What I have gathered from this is that the rooftop solar power systems at 7 WalMarts have caught fire.  The roofs were steel and the stores were not extensively […]

Evolution of Hurricane Survival 16

Evolution of Hurricane Survival

Survival Stories 460 years ago, a Spaniard named Tristan de Luna y Arellano sailed into Penscola bay to establish the first European settlement. A few weeks later, before they even had all the ships unloaded, Luna and his 1500 colonists discovered the hurricane. I can only imagine the shock and terror as these folks held on for dear life as their makeshift houses blew away. It got worse after the storm was over, because one […]

John’s Home Office Solar Backup Power System

Condo Solar As promised, I am passing along John’s description of the emergency backup system he put in his condo, years ago. Battery backup, with solar and a generator. The power does not usually stay off very long in big cities, but it doesn’t have to go off at all! When I started Sun Electronics 35 years ago, I used my home office, it had been my Kyocera America East Coast and Latin America office. […]

Let us know how it goes 17

Let us know how it goes

If you are in the storm zone, we wish you all the best. If you have a backup power system that survived or can cobble something up, let us know what worked. If your system failed, let us know about that, too, so we can learn from it. I spoke with John Sunday night. The blogs have been getting an overhaul and he is having trouble making posts, so I thought I’d let you know […]

Getting Grazed by a Cat 4 'Cane Will Leave a Mark 18

Getting Grazed by a Cat 4 ‘Cane Will Leave a Mark

I was working on a new series of posts on the basics, but something has come up…a hurricane.  The projected trajectory has it going over Puerto Rico, where they’ve still got a lot of PTSD from the last one, then pass by John’s balcony in Miami and maybe come ashore somewhere between West Palm and Jacksonville.  I have a friend in St. Augustine who has had chest deep water in his living room twice in recent […]

Can I Do It Myself? 19

Can I Do It Myself?

So you’ve been thinking about solar power or battery backup and wondering, “Can I do it myself?”  Well, let’s stop for a moment if you really meant, “May I do it myself?”  Those are two different things and I’ll talk about both, separately, but I wanted to point out both considerations.  Without any more information, I’d say, “Maybe” to both.  Can you?  Let’s talk about the physical requirements.  I’m 65 years old, am 30 pounds […]

Quick and easy emergency solar 20

Quick and easy emergency solar

John and I have been talking about using solar power to survive in relative comfort after a storm.  In my efforts to mostly eliminate my old 24v solar power system I realized I was putting together what would make a good example for survival power.  Why did I not eliminate the 24v system completely?  My solar electric launch, Sun King, is in the Solar Shed and needs to be kept charged up in the dark […]

East and West are Subject to Wandering 21

East and West are Subject to Wandering

Archæologists have discovered that it is not just modern mankind that buries its dead with their feet to the east, it has been going on for a long time and in a lot of cultures.  They have also noticed that all of the bones in a particular ancient burial ground are buried in more of a loose version of east or sort of east, rather than on a true line.  The reason, they conclude, is […]

Think Outside the Box 22

Think Outside the Box

The purpose of this post is mostly to stimulate thought and open up some possibilities for you.  Many folks would find these ideas impractical or even impossible if you live in an apartment or have a strict homeowners association.  Wild stuff, but maybe there’s a mad scientist among you who could make it work.  If you know John Kimball, Sun Electronics’ fearless leader, he has been on a crusade for decades to bring affordable solar […]

Microinverters! 23

Microinverters!

What is a microinverter and why in the world would you want one?  The first answer is easy.  Whereas a regular grid-tie inverter takes the power from a bunch of panels and injects it into the powerline,  a single microinverter bolts onto the back of each panel.  The solar panel’s MC4 connectors plug into one side of the microinverter and a connection to the 240 ac power line plugs into the other side.  This makes […]

Power Use Optimization and Free Energy Storage 24

Power Use Optimization and Free Energy Storage

In my last post I talked about some seemingly off the wall, but doable, energy storage contrivances.  As for the compressed air storage, apparently some pretty clever people have already thought about this.  Follow this link to a pretty thorough  discussion of the subject. https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2018/05/ditch-the-batteries-off-the-grid-compressed-air-energy-storage.html. There are some pretty neat pages at Low Tech Magazine and No Tech Magazine. Speaking of energy storage and No Tech, how about storing energy with NO equipment?  This is […]

Show and Tell 25

Show and Tell

I wanted to show you a couple of examples of some really nice solar work I have seen lately. I’ve known Courtney for 60 years.  Back then Courtney was a guy name and, in his case, it still is.  Courtney has gone nuts for solar in the last few years and he is at it again.  In addition to our joint solar a/c schemes, he decided that his curved solar pergola grid-tie is not putting […]

Cool It 26

Cool It

I never thought I’d be happy about a tropical depression starting to spin up in the Gulf, but it has been really, miserably and mind-numbingly hot around here and the rains have helped in that department.  We’ve topped 100 degrees for days, usually hitting 103-105 after lunch.  It has been so hot that I have been wearing welding gloves to handle modules I am remounting.  Of course, inside the Solar Shed, it is even hotter […]

RTFM!!! 27

RTFM!!!

RTFM!!! That stands for Read The Fine Manual. There are variants on that acronym, depending on your vocabulary. That’s what we used to say when a customer wanted to know how to work something he bought from us, but was unwilling to read the instructions. This happens a lot with solar stuff, too. You may have products that can do more work for you, saving you from having to buy other gear. Wouldn’t you like […]

Cool Running 28

Cool Running

We surely do get spoiled by some of our modern comforts, don’t we? When I was a kid, we didn’t have air conditioning at the first 3 houses in which I lived, nor at school. Our first car with a/c was a ’65 Pontiac. Although I don’t crank the thermostat down low, I still like to have it to knock down the humidity and cool down on those muggy Florida afternoons. One of the goals […]

Battery safety tips 29

Battery safety tips

Bring a big truck when you visit and work safe when you get home.I write this stuff for fun and to be helpful. I’m not an employee of Sun Electronics, I’m a customer. In my role as customer, I set out the other afternoon for my third visit to Sun’s Miami headquarters and my first visit to the Miami Lakes facility. This place is a lot nicer than the Miami Gardens warehouse, though it lacks […]

Sharing Resources 30

Sharing Resources

In my last post I mentioned that I had gotten carried away at Sun Electronics’ Miami warehouse and had filled my trailer and truck to the point that I decided to leave some batteries behind. I shredded one tire at one A.M. and only had one spare, so maybe that was good that I didn’t try to overdo it. Will I have enough battery power to get by until my next trip to Miami? Probably, […]

It Ain't Rocket Surgery 31

It Ain’t Rocket Surgery

How hard is solar power? Some folks are a little intimidated because they don’t know anything about it. John has asked me to put together a booklet for do-it-yourselfers and I think that is a good idea. It just requires a little more focus than writing down whatever pops into my head. Today, though, I am going to write down whatever pops into my head AND give you an idea of how simple solar can […]

Solar and Taxes 32

Solar and Taxes

The state has a pretty dismal record on solar promotion and subsidies. I didn’t even know there was a program until I read about it in a California magazine! The first couple of years, it appeared that most of the program’s budget was spent on office furniture and administration, leaving only a few slots for participants. Then the rules were a bit too burdensome to make it worth the bother, in my opinion. Maybe this […]

30% More 33

30% More

Once you get your first taste of solar power, you want more. You can always find ways to use it. Want 30% more? Back in the 70s and 80s, when solar modules cost a lot more in dollars and dollars were worth a lot more, equipment choices were far more limited and people were always trying to get more power from their solar panels. Makes sense. Naturally, if you point your solar panel dead-on at […]

Pelicans 34

Pelicans

Just a letter to John that somehow got posted here! I’m glad to hear you are back in the water. Sounds great. Somehow I didn’t get to the water all year. Now it is too cold to stay out on the boat overnight.I like pelicans, too, from a distance. It is funny how they almost always travel in squadrons. 8 or 10 of them will sit on a floating log or do a fly-by. Sometimes […]

Solar Heat 35

Solar Heat

When my grandfather came to this country over 100 years ago, he worked his way around the US and Canada learning English and looking for just the right spot to establish a farm. About 1920, or so, he found the right spot on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, in Palm Beach County, Florida. It was heaven for a Danish farmer, with a climate that allowed year-round crops. Solar power was already a big deal in […]

Efficiency 36

Efficiency

Going through my morning email newsletters, I came across a press release from a company called LONGi, announcing a new record of solar module output efficiency of 20.41 percent! The exclamation mark was theirs, because another tenth of a percent doesn’t get me all that excited. Last week some outfit announced their record output of over 40 percent. A close read of that announcement showed that their output was achieved with concentrating lenses. Concentrating lenses […]

Backup Power System, Part 3 37

Backup Power System, Part 3

I have been rambling about backup power and it is time to touch on the batteries and other topics. My advice on backup batteries is a little different than for solar systems. I advise that you get something that requires little or no maintenance. The reason for that is that you will probably lose interest in a system that just sits there doing nothing when the power company is doing there job, because the lights […]

Backup Power System, Part 2 38

Backup Power System, Part 2

Continuing on the subject of a backup power supply for your house, I want to discuss the inverters a little more. There are things to look for and things to watch out for! I have owned lots of inverters, ranging from 150 watts to 12,000 watts. Some were high end and some were junk. I have even built my own inverters like the 5548 that is on my 48v system and a 3648 for the […]

Backup Power 39

Backup Power

Coming out of last weekend, the network news guy told us how many HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of homes were without power in the wake of a big snowstorm, which included a lot of area where people were not accustomed to dealing with such. It looks like a little more of the same this weekend. Here on the coast, we have to deal with hurricanes knocking out power every few years, on average, but we aren’t […]

May I? 40

May I?

Remember when you were a kid and you always had to ask Mom or Dad permission before doing anything so you wouldn’t get your bottom smacked? Boy, you couldn’t wait to grow up so you could do anything you wanted to do! Then you grew up and found out you still had to ask permission to do things. Bummer. Building your own solar power system might well require you ask permission in the form of […]

Keep your powder dry....electronics, too 41

Keep your powder dry….electronics, too

For some months, the wife has been grudgingly patient about the Trace 2524 in the living room. Why was there an inverter in the living room? I’ve been engaged in a multi-year evolution in my power system, so lots of new stuff has been coming in and out of service. In our Southern climate we have humidity to spare and when you add temperature swings you get condensation. Stuff sweats, especially stuff containing heavy transformers. […]

42

After playing phone tag the other day, John and I were having a conversation about all things solar and my Solar Shed phase 3 performance. He asked how well the modules were performing as these are all recycled salvage panels in the form of roof tiles. I replied that they are doing well, having seen around 8kw with a 10kw nameplate rating. That concerned him and he seemed a little surprised when I made the […]

Increased output from fractured cells 43

Increased output from fractured cells

I looked for that article we were talking about, regarding fracturing cells for greater output. I found lots of articles on how fracturing can reduce output, but not the one for which I am looking. I did find a patent for manufacturing cracked cells to increase output. Patent for fracturing cells. Link Here are my observations on the subject. I test my panels with an ammeter instead of a voltmeter. A tiny section of a […]

Basics 44

Basics

I started taking old radios apart as a very young kid, began my career in electronics at 16, was a licensed broadcast engineer at 19. That led to computers and all kinds of electronic gimcrack design. Having been making sparks for so many years it is easy to forget that some of the basic stuff might seem scary or mystical to folks just getting started. Today, let’s look at a couple of very basic and […]

More Parallel and Series Stuff 45

More Parallel and Series Stuff

The other day we talked about series and parallel connections of batteries. You know, getting 24 volts using four 6 volt batteries in SERIES and getting lots of amps at 24 volts by using 2 of those 24 volt strings (8 batteries total) in parallel. What about connecting your solar modules? Yes, it applies there, too. These roof tiles John is giving away, put out about 4 volts under load, so you use 3 of […]

Enough is enough? Nah! 46

Enough is enough? Nah!

Can you get too much solar power? Spend too much time on Pensacola Beach and you’ll think so, and have a red face to remind you. But, no, I am talking about photovoltaic power. In the case of grid tie, it has gotten to the point in some places that they are having to add battery storage systems to balance things out. The lack of battery saw the advent of the “duck curve” in utility […]


Post navigation