Are You On The List?

Do you get the email blasts from Sun Electronics? If not, you might need to go to the HOME page and sign up to find the latest bargains. I am not in the sales department at John Kimball’s solar wonderland. I live 700 miles away and I find out about the latest deals via the emails, like everybody else. Right now I have more solar modules than I know what to do with. Honestly, I […]

don't try this at home

STILL Not A Generator Plug

I used to get a magazine for electricians, EC&M, I think. Every month they’d have a photo layout of scary stuff that electricians and inspectors had come across. Our recent “not a generator plug” photo would have gone well in that feature. While I was concentrating on the dangers of having the shiny bits electrified in a bootleg generator lashup, electrician Michael spotted a couple of other problems. Note that either side of and below […]

don't try this at home

This Is NOT a Generator Plug

It is getting to be that time of year, when a lot of people think about getting a generator in case there is a hurricane. Even if you have solar, it is a good idea to have a generator for times of extra load or for equalizing batteries. There’s also no guarantee all your modules will still be where they were before the storm, once it all settles down. The thing about generators, though, is […]

July solar arc at the Solar Shed

A Different Angle

Traditionally, we’ve been told to point our solar arrays to the south.  There were guidelines on the angle from horizontal, too.  Pretty much all of this is open for question, now. You may have noted my recent posts on the arc the sun travels and my experiments with a vertical array.  There’s more to it.  Instead of my next expansion of the Solar Shed being linear along the airstrip, I’ve decided to make a portion […]

AMPACITY

AMPACITY. That’s our word for the day. If you think it sounds like a mashup of “ampere” and “capacity”, then give yourself a gold star. That’s exactly what it is. So, what’s it all about? If you are moving electricity around with wires, then you need to understand that you need to choose the wire of the right ampacity. Really thin wire could melt and start a fire. Too thin wire would work safely, but […]

Various and Sundry Items

I have not forgotten you. I’ve been upgrading my own system, while hot rodding one of my solar powered electric farm vehicles, getting Turbo Beast stuck on archæology expeditions, cleaning up hurricane debris and goofing off when possible. I have another kilowatt of solar connected and 1500 watts more waiting for a mounting rack. The 12kw inverter set is connected to the transfer switch to the house, leaving the old inverter on standby. The new […]

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

(I wrote this in December and somehow it did not get posted until April!) This morning it was about 50 degrees. Tomorrow morning we are expecting 28. The constant temperature swings make it difficult to dress. Layering is the key. Temperature changes affect your solar power system, too, particularly in battery charging. Is there any action you need to take? Depends. Lead acid batteries, sealed or flooded, need a higher charge voltage in cold weather. […]

What’s a Shunt?

Let’s talk about shunts. That thing in the picture is a shunt.  As in when your Momma said, “Y’all shunt be pokin’ that possum ’cause he’ll bite you!”? No, not that kind of shunt.  For the record, my Mom was born in Massachusetts and raised in Palm Beach County, Florida, with a Danish father and a Down East mother, so she never did learn to speak proper Southern. A shunt is actually just a resistor.  […]

Stephen is Thinking Solar

And 2000 pound monsters. I got this comment from Stephen. I’ll let you take a look at it and then I’ll comment, OK? “Well I’m a new-b, & an old fart, I wanted to start this process a long time ago, but for the dollars…I’m interested in learning more of the availability of these 2000lb. Monsters, though I really need some education on the basics like …If I Install 11,500 watts of panels on my […]

Does Anybody Have a Fire Extinguisher?

It is only natural to want to improve or hot rod your system. Know the limits, though. Despite all the political controversy, Facebook remains a useful tool, especially the “groups” if you are into a special interest. I don’t have a FB account, but I hijacked my wife’s account to join a group of folks who also have the mobile solar generators, like the one I bought. (See TurboBeast story). There is a wealth of […]

Batteries–Bigger is Better

Sometimes bigger really is better. It is raining, today. What to do? I’m in the middle of a huge upgrade of my solar power system, but most of the work will be outside and I don’t care to get wet. Wet, as in a hot tub is ok. Being cold and wet does not appeal to me. I guess I can water batteries. It is time for some of them. In my various independent and […]

I’m Declaring a Holiday

Hmmm, I guess it already is a holiday, today, Presidents Day, but tomorrow is a good day, too. Some might think I have been on a long holiday, already, but the hiatus has been a combination of clunky WordPress blogging platform and sharing my internet tower with school kids and work-at-homes. I have been to the peak of my hurricane-battered roof and moved my antenna higher and rotated it to a different tower. This has […]

Solar Security

Some people go with solar power to provide energy security to their home or business, especially in areas with a crumbling power grid. But what about the physical security of your solar equipment? I have given a little thought to protecting my solar investment, but it does a lot to protect itself. For example, the main batteries weight about 250 lbs. each and there are a bunch of them. You’ve gotta be dedicated to haul […]

Neal & Turbo Beast’s Big Solar Adventure

Buying prefabricated mobile solar power plants at auction and quickly spiriting them away.

It Pays to Know Your Stuff

Some people build their own solar power systems. Some people pick up the phone and then write a check for theirs. It’s ok, either way, but I advise that you at least have a basic understanding of how things work. If you have to ask why, I can give you a recent example from my neighborhood. It isn’t what a lot of people would call a regular neighborhood. It is nearly a mile to the […]

I’ll Bet the Neighbors Wish…

When it is raining buckets and the wind is howling, it is very comforting to have the lights stay on when the power lines go down.

Solar at Florida Governor's Mansion

Where the Politicians Stand

You may have noticed that it is political season. What have the politicians personally done for solar? Jimmy Carter put solar-thermal panels on the White House roof. They came down the next time the house was reroofed, though they were still working. One is in the Smithsonian and another is in a science museum in China! Bush 2 put solar on the White House, again, as did Obama. What? Did Obama add some or did […]

Miscellany

Oh, will they ever come up with the perfect battery? Super capacity? Super cheap? I’ve met one guy who has learned to adjust his pace to make it from Pensacola to Miami in a Tesla. Maybe adopting a more relaxed pace would be good for most folks! Solar Jorge, down in the Keys, likes the discontinued Chevy Volt. You can do your daily commute on electric and charge it with solar, but if you want […]

Saving a Battery

If a terminal is broken or melted on a battery, you may be able to save it with a simple fix.

$7 Panel Update

Why not cover a carport with $7 solar panels?

Aftermath

We take a look at post-hurricane emergency power after Hurricane Sally.

Torque

I recently had to burrow into the entrails of my new 21 year old truck’s transmission. It is sort of a rite of passage with the old Dodges. Specifications for putting the various pieces back together are very specific. I remember what my little brother did to his Plymouth’s transmission 45 years ago and I didn’t want it to happen on my Dodge, so I bought a new torque wrench. I had one I bought […]

I Don’t Know What It Is, But I LIKE It!

Every now and then you need to tidy up a bit. I’m bad about that sort of thing. I needed to take a truckload of batteries up to the recycler in Atlanta, but the Chevy just won’t carry enough. Then I inherited, sort of, a Ram 2500, which can carry an additional ton without any problems. I loaded up and got on the computer to plot a course to the recycler.  The GPS course used […]

Don’t Be a Post Hurricane Statistic

It makes me mad to see that people die after the storm. You buy a generator to keep the lights and fridge on, but the thing can kill you. Here are some thoughts. First of all, have a battery backup system in place.  This can be a building block for a future solar power system or it can be a quick solution.  More on that later. When you buy a generator, also buy a length […]

Fun Fact

This was in the morning newsletter from the American Solar Energy Society. “A household rooftop solar panel system can reduce pollution by 100 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in its lifetime—and this includes the energy it took to manufacture the solar panels. Solar panels can improve future air quality for humans as well as the millions of birds, fish, and mammals that are negatively affected by pollution each year.” Save the planet! Screw the power […]

Still Looking…and Finding

When adding an upgrade to your solar power system, consider what other components may need to be upgraded as well.

Take A Look Around.

Don’t be afraid to look around and borrow ideas from the other guy’s system!

Put an End to Snap, Crackle and Pop

Have you connected a battery, a charge controller or an inverter and had rapidly charging capacitors make a loud pop and maybe even a welding arc that messes up a bolt? That can be really annoying and it can be dangerous, too. I have never had it blow up a battery but I have had it mess up threads on a battery terminal. The large capacitor bank in my inverter always makes an unnerving POP! […]

Deconstructing a Solar Power System

A widow has asked me to dismantle her 4 year old 10kw PV system. It isn’t that she didn’t like solar power, but she has to sell the house now and mortgage inspectors are brutally thorough and her husband had overlooked the business of permits when he installed the system. In the process of going through Tom’s system I am finding some things of interest. Here are the good, the bad and the ugly. First […]

Look West Update

I have been observing the performance differences of my west wall array and my conventional south arrays. Arrays still pick up a lot of power under cloudy conditions, but the south arrays are doing better. I think I know why. The current situation is that the west wall will do pretty well with direct afternoon sunlight. However, it is pretty much facing a dark wall of trees, which reduce diffused and reflected sun from the […]

What’s with these $7 Solar Panels?

Have you seen the $7 solar modules on the Sun Electronics web site? They are 70 watts, so that’s only a dime apiece for a whole watt! Can they be any good??? I admit it, I am a tightwad and bargain hunter. I didn’t need 50 more solar modules, but I saw where John was advertising these solar panels so cheap and I could not resist. Apparently a lot of people have reservations about these […]

Scoundrels and Scalawags

There are good deals. There are bad deals. There are scoundrels who will try to tell you their bad deal is good. If you don’t want to deal with all the razzle dazzle in solar power systems, do it yourself and you will know exactly what you have.

Look to the West

The rule is that solar panels have to face the south. Some of us break the rules.

What’s a Combiner Box and What Do I Want to Look For in Mine?

It is a weather-tight box that combines the outputs of a number of solar panels before sending the power to the next level of equipment. It can be simple or very elaborate. I was recently looking at them for a project I have. Solar panels are sometimes used as singles in parallel or in multiple series strings. Running a wire from the roof or backyard from every one of those panels or strings would use […]

July solar arc at the Solar Shed

What Do Cemeteries and Solar Arrays Have in Common?

A Cultural Resources Management (CRM) firm recently had a question about an old water-powered mill in our county. You don’t think much about water power in a state as flat as Florida, be we had lots of them. US 29, through Escambia County, could have been named “Industrial Boulevard” there were so many. The firm contacted the University and the query was forwarded until it got to me. I worked on the mill survey a […]

Thar She Blows!

Fuses offer cheap circuit protection, but there are some precautions you may need to take. The H-Bridge locked up on my inverter recently. It blew a fuse. It blew it with a lot of self assurance, too. There was no dilly-dallying. Never mind what an H-Bridge is, but in this case it can handle 1200 amps, so when it locks up, something bad could happen. That’s why there’s a fuse. Usually, you kind of work […]

That Time of the Month

You know, the time when you do your preventive maintenance. Unless you have sealed AGM, Lithium or other such batteries you need to check the water at least once a month. Even if you do have sealed batteries, there are other things to check. Back to the water, this is a rehash, but in case you missed it, keep a supply of distilled water and a box of baking soda handy. A rubber apron, gloves […]

Zero Export Grid Tie

They keep changing the rules on grid tie. Avoid dual meters, special fees and changing deals by mixing your power with that from the power company, without backfeeding to the grid. Many years ago, a fellow came up with a gadget he called a synchronous inverter. Today we call it a grid tie inverter, and it changed everything. It allowed you to mix sun power DC current with the utility AC current. If you were […]

What’s a DIN Rail?

And why would I want one? No, DIN does not equate to a cacophony. It means for German Institute for Standards, or National Standard, bearing in mind that Germans spell things differently than we gringos do. There’s all kinds of DIN stuff, so it isn’t just rails. DIN rail is a metal rail, usually aluminum or steel, about 35mm edge to edge and pretty much as long as it needs to be. I first saw […]

It’s Raining

And Tropical Storm Cristobal is on the way. It looks to be heading to Louisiana, but Florida is getting the bulk of the rain. As far as storms go, this should be pretty mild, but you never know what tornadoes might pop up. Driving could be tough. Trees can fall on power lines. Hopefully, those of us in the storm zone just get some soaking rains and our solar power will keep the lights on […]

Danger, 10,000 Volts!

Ok, you know I like to talk about safety, often based on experience, so here is a quick one I bet you haven’t thought about. I am planning to try some of those 10 cent FS70 solar panels that Sun Electronics is selling and then write a review. I have actually used 4 of them in the lighting system in my “boxcar”, a 40′ boxcar-red shipping container. At the Solar Shed, some space freed up […]

My Latest Power Bill Came

In it was a handout touting the cooperative’s dedication to service to its members. The coop power had been out for over 3 hours at that time, owing to a car vs. pole incident. A neighbor had power because I could hear the generator buzzing. I had power, too, but nobody could hear it. Back to the power bill. I have been waiting for it with glee. How often to you hear of that? Pretty […]

It’s Always Something!

Last week, during my morning coffee and internet infusion, I read of a very large solar power plant being planned for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Nevada. Then, this morning, I read about a 6.5 earthquake in Nevada. Man, it’s always something going wrong, isn’t it?  Then I heard Puerto Rico had one! It just goes to show that normal, everyday conditions are not the only ones to plan for. Here in Florida, […]

Size Matters

Reassessing capacity. I read online solar news journals every morning while the coffee soaks in. Most of it is grid stuff, but those guys are in it for the money and have the bucks to pay for the research, so I pay attention. I also paid attention when I lived very closely with my solar power during my 44 days aboard Sun King. What I learned there was that we waste an awful lot of […]

Basic Skills

Let’s build some cables I told you the other day I had reached the limits of what my homebrew 5500 watt inverter could do. I had a 10kw driver module to install, but it was bigger and was going to need some more cables. One night I switched the house to grid, ran a power cord from the Sun King for lights and I shut down the inverter for a recon. What I found was […]

Why Can’t I Tell Sea Stories?

John tells of the glories of swimming with the fish in Miami’s bays. Then he tacks on something solar. It’ll be a while before I get back into the water, but I have some solar sea stories. I built an electric boat and it was great, but I couldn’t travel with it. I could easily do a 20 mile day trip, but I wanted to go places and explore. That is how Sun King came […]

I Finally Overdid It

What happens when you outgrow your solar power system? Plan ahead for upgrades.

Innovations

They are now making solar modules with power output in excess of 500 watts! Wow, that’s what I need for the Solar Yacht, instead of the 330s I have now. The thing is, you just can’t buy them, yet. The superest, duperest biggest and bestest go to the solar farms. Don’t worry, by the time the Gopher sets sail they will be available, but you’ll be wanting the 600s. A few years back, someone came […]

Chasing Phantoms

I chased one and it wasn’t what I thought it would be. A big part of living off grid or keeping the power bill down if you are on grid is efficiency. Try as you may to get everybody in the household to turn off unused lights or to not leave the fridge door open, there can still be waste. Some of this comes from “phantom loads” from devices that still use power, even when […]

Time to Change the Battery

Sooner or later, you gotta do it, whether it is the clock, the smoke detector in the hall, the car or your solar power system. Oh? You have grid tie and don’t have to change the battery? We’ll talk about that, too. The batteries that I had on the main bank were in great shape, but there weren’t enough of them, especially now that the brutal air conditioning season has begun. One of the auxiliary […]


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