Backup System finished at Little House

Magna Sine inverter and Rolls batteries. Whole house transfer switch also.

Off-grid installation complete at the Bunker!

Wow, it’s taken a while to get this posted, but I’ve got the grid-backup system completed at our little house (we fondly refer to it as THE BUNKER…). I was recently out there during a freak snow storm that dumped 5 inches of wet snow in about 2 hours, and when the power went out, there was just a slight flicker of the lighting as I was sitting at the computer checking my email. The UPS on the computer didn’t even get a chance to kick in! I excitedly went downstairs to the basement to check out the inverter, and sure enough, it was on line, quietly humming away, providing full power to the main electric breaker box for everything that was presently on in the house. The Magnum MS-PAE 4024 inverter can provide about 4,000 watts of continuous power until the batteries discharge 80% of their capacity. Since the house normally consumes only about 500 watts (average) power, this represents about 20 hours of run time. Fortunately, when the backup system is in operation, the solar PV system can “back feed” through the breaker box and provide the power the house needs as well as re-charge the batteries, so this setup can run pretty much indefinitely, as long as there is a few hours of sun each day. Even on a cloudy day, the 2.4KW (Twelve 220 watt panels) solar array provides about 500 watts, so that extends the capacity of the system pretty well.

 

Home Brewed Genset simulator for transfer switch activation

In order to make the TRANSFER SWITCH operate, I had to build my own little GENSET SIMULATOR. It connects to the output of the backup inverter and provides the necessary voltage and control signal to the transfer switch to make it kick over when the power goes out. These TRANFER SWITCHES are designed to normally work with a gas or diesel GENERATOR SET, as they are called.

It took a little studying and research, but I figured out how to SIMULATE the voltage and signals that normally come from a GENERATOR SET that would connect to a WHOLE HOUSE TRANSFER SWTICH on the V+, GROUND, and PIN 23. These are the 3 wires that are standard on any gas or diesel generator. Since I’m using an electronic inverter (Magnum MS-PAE 4024), such signals were not available, so I came up with a little box that has 2 relays in it. One is standard and the other is a 5 second delay unit so the system won’t “chatter” if power drops in/out rapidly. If you’d like the details on how to build one, I’ll be glad to send you a schematic. Just drop me a line at: Joe@cincihomesolar.com

back up system Battery Bank

ROLLS 520 AH 6 volt batteries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the batteries I chose. Since I’m on a tight budget, I chose the best bang-for-the-buck, and it ended up being the Rolls 6 volt 520AH model. I splurged on the funky looking RECOMBINATION CAPS, rather than the normal vented caps that come with the batteries. By installing the RECOMBINATION CAPS, the hydrogen gas generated during charging is sealed inside the battery 99%, and the battery loses MUCH LESS liquid over time than a VENTED battery would. A box and vent fan are still required for safety though, and I will add this to complete the project very soon. Without these special caps, in just 30 seconds of charging at 90 amps, the hydrogen gas coming from the batteries would reach 4% concentration and become highly explosive, so this is nothing to fool around with! VENT YOUR BATTERY BANK TO THE OUTDOORS!

This is a good time to be shopping for solar panels

Check out this 1 page report regarding current market interest in solar panels. Solar Panel Market Survey It shows the interest falling off slightly for this time of year, but it mentions that China is working to provide buyers with incentives (read that to be even better pricing!!). Just thought I’d share this with my followers. Now is a great time to buy panels. 235 to 245 watt mono and poly panels are selling between .80 and .90/watt in pallet quantities. Pallets usually hold between 24 and 29 panels, depending on supplier and brand of panel. Sellers don’t like to “break” pallets, since they don’t have a good way to store or keep track of loose panels in their warehouses. You can always sell extra panels (at a markup!!) on Craigs list, or partner with a neighbor and split the shipping costs. Shipping (truck freight) can run anywhere from $200 to $450, so don’t be afraid to ask for a BETTER DEAL on freight when you are making a purchase!

Video interview at the Enphase booth at SPI in Orlando

I had the good fortune of getting invited to the Solar Power International trade show in Orlando Florida a few weeks ago, and while there I did a few interviews with the great guys at Enphase. In my off-time, I was able to see the show, visit all the manufacturers of the products I use when helping my DIY customers, and get lots of questions answered. Specifically, I was researching GROUND MOUNTS which range from small and affordable to massive and huge for utility size jobs. There are an amazing number of ways to fasten an array to the ground!! More than I ever imagined! Anyway, here is a link to one of the interviews I did for Enphase. Enphase Interview with Joe

EERE Residential PV Inspector training

Just finished (and passed) the new EERE Residential PV Solar inspector training program. It’s FREE, for now, at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/index.html and it’s very educational. It covers every aspect of a residential solar install and not only instructs on the backing materials, but offers a chapter by chapter self assessment (test) to see if you learned what they were trying to teach! All but ONE chapter was a breeze for me, and the tough chapter was on equipment. I think the questions/answers could be a little more clear in this chapter, but HEY, this is a BRAND NEW TRAINING AID, and I recommend that ALL installers take it and PASS it, just for the sheer value of knowledge!!

Back up system going in soon!

I’m stoked! My solar buddy, Brock, is going to help me pull new wires in from the meter outside the house down through, and to, the whole house smart switch, breaker box and Magnum backup inverter & battery bank this coming week! Will take a bunch of pictures when it’s done. Working with 3 other clients now on similar systems. One will even have a generator tie in! I can’t tell you where it is, but maybe I’ll be able to post some equipment pictures of the gear when we get that far. Right now it’s all in the planning stages. He’s going ALL the way off the grid! Me, I just want to get through a couple days of zombie armageddon… (just kidding!)

Mother Earth News Fair 2012 Solar Presentation

These are the slides that backed up my solar presentation at this year’s MEN Fair in 7 Springs, PA last weekend. There’s some text in the basic solar section, but they’re mostly slides. Primarily examples of things you’ll need to do/file/apply for if you are contemplating a DIY solar project. All the things I help out with if you sign up as a DIY solar client!! Also includes some great pictures of a variety of ground mount systems that I researched 2 weeks ago while attending the Solar Power International trade show in Orlando Florida. Please feel free to download and pass this around. No problems with that at all…
Mother Earth News Fair 2012 presentation

What it takes to keep your power UP when the grid is DOWN!

It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been hesitant to make the investment, but recent power outages caused by the weather, combined with the state of affairs around the globe, have given me the motivation to finally make it happen. Please come back here at least twice a month to check my progress on this project! I’m doing this at my “bunker” in the mountains of Ohio. I’ve already got a 2400 watt system running using the older Enphase M190 micro-inverters along with 12 assorted PV Panels, and it’s covering 90 to 100% of the electric bill. But, I lost a refrigerator full of food when the power was down for too many days… so, I’m adding all the parts to keep the power flowing when the grid is down! Here’s a list of the parts I’ve got on the way:

  • Magnum Distribution panel 250/30A-2P
  • Magnum MS-PAE 4024AE 4kW 240VAC Pure Sine Inverter
  • Magnum LCD Remote Panel (for programming and monitoring inverter status)
  • Magnum BP-MMP Metal Mount for MMP enclosure and inverter
  • ROLLS 6V 530AH Wet 40000S EKG Battery (X4=24 Vdc)
  • Battery Box fan 24volt, 6 CFM
  • ROLLS R+ Recombination Caps (X12) keeps battery watering to a minimum
  • Outback Spill Control Tray for the batteries – in case of a case crack or acid spill
  • #4/0 gauge flex wire with lugs for battery interconnections and inverter hookup

There’s also a whole house SMART SWITCH and some other parts to modify the incoming service wiring…

That pile of parts is worth about $4500 if you’re considering doing this. Well worth the price if the grid goes down for ANY reason! I’ll take pictures as I go and do updates to describe my trials and tribulations!
DIY Solar is affordable and reliable ( and a great way to prepare for Zombie Armageddon ) just kidding… and have a SUNNY day!

POLLEN can reduce your solar output!

I’ve not been on the roof to clean my panels since I put them up last July. This past Spring, I had to wash my car twice to get rid of a sticky yellow buildup of pollen, but it didn’t occur to me that this same pollen could be on my panels. Imagine my surprise when I went up there and found the entire surface of all the panels to be COVERED with pollen – it was like 150 grit sandpaper! This most certainly caused the light to diffuse and reduce the amount of solar energy impacting directly on the solar panel glass!! About 15 minutes with a bucket of soapy water and a cleaner/squeegee made them good as new. Solar output increased immediately by about 5% compared the the day before (both days equally sunny with no clouds). Moral of the story: if you want max power, you need clean panels! If you can reach them with a stream of water from a hose, do this regularly to prevent buildup of dirt and pollen!

Cinci Home Solar DIY Assistance job chosen as Array of the week by Enphase!

I was honored to hear from ENPHASE that one of my recent solar consulting installations was chosen as ARRAY OF THE WEEK! Check out the link and photos at:Enphase Array of the Week Truly an honor – and good demonstration that with my SOLAR DIY assistance you can end up with an array that is professionally designed, installed, commissioned and functional! If you’re suffering from commercial installer sticker shock when getting your special project quoted, just give me a call at Cinci Home Solar! I cover the Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania area, and will go farther if the job warrants!!

Electric Vehicle Seminar at IBEW training center in Cincinnati

I went to the GEO (Green Energy Ohio) EV Seminar at the IBEW Training Center on Cincinnati’s West side yesterday and it was a relaxed, fun time. I got to drive the worlds 1st and only 100% electric Jeep Cherokee as well as several different Chevy Volts!  Several speakers gave great presentations and there was a great deal to absorb in a short time. I did meet the admin for the EV program at the center, and I made the decision right on the spot to sign up for the fall class in EV Technology and to get my EV Certification by the end of this year! I’m already NABCEP certified for PV Solar installation and Technical Sales, and the electric car market is a good BLEND with solar, so I feel this is a great direction to grow in!

Chevy Volt in full advertising paint job

Fully decorated Chevy Volt is a rolling billboard!!tion to grow in!!!

Owner and DIY Solar Consultant prepares for test drive of Jeep Cherokee Electric Conversion

Joe prepares to test drive the new 100% electric Jeep Cherokee for the 1st time!100% Electric tag on this Jeep Cherokee