In honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2011, I wanted to share a series of articles about my efforts towards creating a polycrystalline solar array for my home. The steps outlined in these articles are easier than you may think and will help you make your home energy independent. Many people are discouraged from implementing their own solar system because of the high costs and overpriced home installation companies that participate in the marketplace today. You can avoid both of these factors by shopping for your own system piece by piece and assembling it yourself. The point of this series of articles is to show how it can be done by yourself with absolutely no help from local solar contracting companies.
Potential Uses For An Off The Grid Solar Array
A home solar array can be used for a wide variety of energy saving cost measures. Powering outdoor floodlights, water pumps, freezers and even air conditioners with free solar power are all options for people that wish to install their own off the grid solar array. Here are a few solutions that I have made over the past year which you may find useful as well.
First, I have discovered the joy of using a cordless electric lawn mower which is powered completely by solar power captured during the day. I recharge at night using an 8D lead acid battery and a Black & Decker PI750AB 750 Watt Inverter. The Black & Decker CMM1200 cordless electric mower not only has the power to cut my thick sub-tropical lawn but since it requires no gasoline the fumes are missing as well. So far, the mower has worked without failure for three years, let’s hope it will see Earth Day 2012 too!
Second, with free access to unlimited amounts of power, you can now take advantage of one of the most effective insect killers know to man; boiling water. Almost by accident in my younger years, I discovered that boiling water kills fire ants. Using solar panels, I now boil large pots of water at my home and kill these pests without having to pay the electric company huge energy bills. No chemical residue, no bills and a use for renewable energy all combine to make this a very effective Earth Day idea!
Third, my garage now has two large freezers running off the solar panels in my backyard. I cannot reiterate how much money this is saving me and the freedom it gives me here in Southern Louisiana. You will be able to take any amount of fresh fish, deer or sausage meat that your friends and neighbors have to offer!
Finally, a functioning off the grid solar system will give your family peace of mind during a natural disaster. You can power your home should the utility grid go down. The energy is free and does not require a noisy gasoline or diesel powered generator. My home has already been designated as the community survival depot because in the event of a hurricane, my freezers will remain operational even if gasoline comes into short supply in Southern Louisiana.
Home Solar Panel System Checklist
The system built in this exclusive series of articles was designed to function in an open yard. Wide flange 4×13 galvanized steel beams and aluminum channel were used to keep the system stable in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane striking my home. An 8ft x 4ft x 6 inch concrete slab was poured to give the beams a strong anchoring point. Inside the concrete, several foot of Cantex A53ba12 Pvc Schedule 80 Conduit was installed to help transmit the solar power to a centralized hub while at the same time avoiding the need for using costly outdoor rated, utility cabling. Inside the Lifetime 60012 Extra Large Deck Box are the electrical components and batteries. While this system would ideally be mounted indoors, it can still function outside with a few precautions to make sure the deck box remains dry.
Here is a list of recommended parts that I collected and used to create the fully functional system seen in this series:
2 x 230 – 260 watt Polycrystalline Solar Panels
MPPT Solar Panel Charge Controller
Black & Decker PI750AB 750 Watt Inverter
Lifetime 60012 Extra Large Deck Box
Trojan 8D-AGM 12V 230Ah AGM Battery
WF 8×13 Galvanized Steel Beams
100ft Of 10 AWG Copper Home Wiring
2,000lbs Quikrete Portland Cement Per 8ft Section Of Solar Array
Cantex A53ba12 Pvc Schedule 80 Conduit
Various Steel Bolts, Nuts And Washers
Dewalt Steel Drill Bits
Many of the parts needed to build your own solar system can be bought at local stores or online using Ebay.com. I purchased my steel and aluminum from Superior Supply & Steel because they offer up to two cuts on any item for free and can also deliver if requested. Many home supply stores also offer free shipping for pallets of ready mix Quikrete concrete so check with them before trying to haul that around yourself.
Computer Based Solar Monitoring Systems
You may also notice that I included a screenshot from the surveillance system installed in my solar controller. The solar controller is a simple home computer case which houses a variety of gauges and the MPPT Charge Controller. A USB web camera provides the video feed which I can monitor from anywhere in the world using LogMeIn.com software. The free package works with any Apple iPhone or Apple iPad.
Advantages To Constructing An Off The Roof Solar Panel System
Today, many people install solar panels on their roof. The solar panels are hard to reach while performing routing maintenance and can be impossible to wipe clean with any sort of towel or cotton cloth. As a result, you will be stranded on the ground, looking upwards and wishing that you could get on the roof.
An in the yard solar array, gives you free access to all mounting points of your solar panels. You will be able to remove them for maintenance at anytime. Another handy benefit to yard mounted polycrystalline solar panels is the shade they provide. My dogs often sleep under them during the day because the cement is much cooler.
One of my long terms goals for my home is to build a cinder block wall around the border of my property line. The privacy fence installation will be half complete as a result of placing these galvanized steel beams in concrete. So they will actually serve a dual purpose that will help increase my home resale value. You should read the article, How You Can Prepare for Building a Cinder Brick Wall on Your Property?, to find more help on this subject.
With a little prior planning, you can build your own solar panel array in one weekend with the help of just one additional hand. I was thrilled to see the results of my work and encourage anyone thinking about this to try it out for yourself. Today, the solar panels have survived hail storms and 60 Mph wind gusts without a problem. I saved thousands of dollars by doing the work myself and have reinvested the savings into high tech solar equipment. Going off-grid for Earth Day is one the best ways to contribute to environment while at the same time seeing a direct benefit to your family security.
If you liked this article, consider reading the Solar Project series written by Reuben Gathright by clicking on the links below:
How to Generate Your Own Electricity with Cheap Solar Panels – Part 1
How to Install a 50 Watt Solar Panel – Solar Power Project Part 2
How Does a MPPT Solar Controller Work? Solar Power Project Part 3
Increasing Inverter Capacity With The Black & Decker PI750AB – Solar Project – Part 4
What Do Polycrystalline Solar Panels Have to Offer Over Monocrystalline Solar Panels? Solar Project – Part 5
Recharging Your Citizen Eco Drive Solar Powered Watch