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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone,

I still lurk, but rarely post. I'm looking for direction on where to begin slowly building up at least a 10KW system to move some things like my fridge, freezer, and hot water off grid.

What I really need is a starting point. Where do I look to learn how to start working on a system that I can add a little too each month and slowly build it up and slowly move devices over to it?
 

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I would get in contact with a local, reputable electrician. I haven’t done a solar get-up yet, but there’s a lot that goes into it. For tbe cost and involved work, you won’t see a return for a number of years. And the reason I say a reputable electrician is that a lot of the big solar outfits have the reputation of being hacks. Their work passes inspection by code, but it looks like hell.

What’s your end goal? Are you wanting to be self sufficient for energy, or is it more for back up power?
 

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Read about this company and their new modular batteries.
Also, know your energy demands and figure out exactly what you want to power to get you through a short, medium, or long power outage. Also, if you have a second source of heat that does not require electricity or utility service/propane...you can weather a crisis much better.
 

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Hey everyone,

I still lurk, but rarely post. I'm looking for direction on where to begin slowly building up at least a 10KW system to move some things like my fridge, freezer, and hot water off grid.

What I really need is a starting point. Where do I look to learn how to start working on a system that I can add a little too each month and slowly build it up and slowly move devices over to it?
Get at least a 5K generator and keep about 25 to 30 gal of gas handy for outages! The service live of solar, is at best, 15 to 20 years and VERY expensive. If you get a bank of batteries, which have a service live of about 5 years, and an invertor and some smaller solar panels to keep them charged you you can get by for under 1K, but you will be replacing them regularly and you will still need a generator for back up. Off the grid is way over rated. I have friends who live in AK who have no choice but to live off the grid and they have what I described above and they MUST still burn wood or fossil fuel to stay warm!!!
 

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I have a 3500 watt generator and have used it for a number of years when adverse situations arise and power is down. I don't run it continuously but only for a few hours a day and luckily it's been during warmer weather (not below 50 degrees). The only thing about generators, they will breakdown at some point. It's easy to get complacent. Have a back-up plan.
Do your Risk Assessment on your equipment, on availability of fuel, will some utilities be working, what if no utilities are available. Can you get to the grocery store or gas station?
 

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If it was me, I’d be looking at back-up power via generator. I could do either a little guy that powers the 3 F’s (Fridge, Freezer, Furnace) or a whole home generator with an ATS (auto transfer switch). I’d prefer a whole home that runs on propane; it keeps better than gas, and a 500gal tank is really hard to steal.
 

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I thought propane when I first started down the whole house genny but now that we have NG and not having to mess with trying to find a decent tank to buy or renting from some propane company that is what I have decided to go with is NG for now. Solar living in TN has me of two minds but that is just me.

Also look on homesteading forums there is usually a pinned or live thread that is all about solar and offgrid living.
 

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Did you say solar? Your number of panels should match your needs in the middle of winter when you get the least amount of sun. Figure in cloudy days too. Go ahead and price that.

If you have a number of acres you might be allowed a wind turbine. Wind turbines can't be placed near buildings because of a thing called "throw distance". That's how far a blade might fly if it breaks off. Go ahead and price that.

You will need an array of storage batteries to have 24/7 power for either system or a hybrid of systems. Go ahead and price that.

Then price the installation and maintenance, because nothing "renewable" is installed and just works forever.

If you're going truly off-grid you need a lot of money, a fair bit of land, or get used to not having refrigeration. Hot water you can have anywhere that there's something to burn. Think 1890s hot water.
 

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Hey everyone,

I still lurk, but rarely post. I'm looking for direction on where to begin slowly building up at least a 10KW system to move some things like my fridge, freezer, and hot water off grid.

What I really need is a starting point. Where do I look to learn how to start working on a system that I can add a little too each month and slowly build it up and slowly move devices over to it?
I have two questions...

1. When you say "off grid" , just how far off the grid do you mean?
2. How did you arrive at 10KW as the minimum and do you expect to have additional loads in the future?
 

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When you talk about solar, consider the number of days you will get sunshine. If you live in a northern climate how are you going to get the snow off the solar panels. Here is south central New Mexico we get about 330 sunlight days a year. Here is a photo of the solar system I designed and built for my friend. This system used a 5KW pure signwave inverter, 5 300 watt panels and a charge controler. His cabin was about 1/4 mile from the power coop and the $5000 cost was about the same for the charge to connect to power coop. Sky Cloud Window Building Wood
Wood Electrical wiring Gas Electricity Electrical supply
Wood Electrical wiring Gas Electricity Electrical supply

Sky Cloud Window Building Wood
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I would get in contact with a local, reputable electrician. I haven’t done a solar get-up yet, but there’s a lot that goes into it. For tbe cost and involved work, you won’t see a return for a number of years. And the reason I say a reputable electrician is that a lot of the big solar outfits have the reputation of being hacks. Their work passes inspection by code, but it looks like hell.

What’s your end goal? Are you wanting to be self sufficient for energy, or is it more for back up power?
No one local seems to know SQUAT about off grid. I know a few good guys though, I'll see if they can point me at all.

My goal is to never worry about loosing my fridge and freezer. Whenever there is a major storm our block is the last in the county to get power. The goofy city runs this one line a mile down poorly maintained/abandoned alleys to power 6 houses that all have lines in front.

I have a gass genny but keeping a 5hp v twin running that only gets used every 3 years is always a gamble. Getting it to a decent mechanic is more than the genny is worth! And storing/rotating a 2-3 days worth of gasoline. . .

I may certainly sell off the one I have (estimated $300 value) and get a dual fuel one as propane is stow and forget. There are some out there now I could get for $5-600 that would be comparable in power, quieter, and smaller.


What I really want though is a system I can set up and add the Fridge to, then the freezer, then the hot water heater, etc. I can buy and add expanding components as I can afford it without paying $120/trip to a professional and then it's always there and I am getting something from it all the time unlike the genny and fuel that are wasting space 99.9% of the time and a considerable liability in the case of a fire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Did you say solar? Your number of panels should match your needs in the middle of winter when you get the least amount of sun. Figure in cloudy days too. Go ahead and price that.

If you have a number of acres you might be allowed a wind turbine. Wind turbines can't be placed near buildings because of a thing called "throw distance". That's how far a blade might fly if it breaks off. Go ahead and price that.

You will need an array of storage batteries to have 24/7 power for either system or a hybrid of systems. Go ahead and price that.

Then price the installation and maintenance, because nothing "renewable" is installed and just works forever.

If you're going truly off-grid you need a lot of money, a fair bit of land, or get used to not having refrigeration. Hot water you can have anywhere that there's something to burn. Think 1890s hot water.
That's WAY bigger than what I need. Don't need climate control or video games to get me through an outage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have two questions...

1. When you say "off grid" , just how far off the grid do you mean?
2. How did you arrive at 10KW as the minimum and do you expect to have additional loads in the future?
1. I have city power, I just can't rely on it. The fridge and freezer are the two things that would cost me DEARLY if the power goes down for more that a couple/3days and the hot water heater's average consumption isn't that much on top of the other two.


2. 10 KW was the number provided by a semi-local professional for fridge, freezer, and hot water, and a little extra to charge battery operated power tools to repair the house/fence if needed after a storm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
1KW (at 120v) = 8.33 amps Multiply this times the number of KW you want to produce.
So, is that going to be what you want to produce in one hour or one daylight cycle?
Then figure out how much you're willing to spend to get there.
I'm probably mixing terms. It has been a few years since I did my calculations. The peak charge for the wind/solar array doesn't have to be 10KW I think 10KW/day was ehat I needed for my appliances. And a battery bank to compliment that.

But that doesn't obscure my point too much, which is really something I can start small and ad to until it is as big as I need. No way am I doing this all in one go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
When you talk about solar, consider the number of days you will get sunshine. If you live in a northern climate how are you going to get the snow off the solar panels. Here is south central New Mexico we get about 330 sunlight days a year. Here is a photo of the solar system I designed and built for my friend. This system used a 5KW pure signwave inverter, 5 300 watt panels and a charge controler. His cabin was about 1/4 mile from the power coop and the $5000 cost was about the same for the charge to connect to power coop. View attachment 181752 View attachment 181753 View attachment 181753
View attachment 181752

That seems reasonable, so long as I can basically make an initial purchase, like with a tax return, for a small number of panels and batteries, and controller/inverter, and add batteries and panels as I can afford to.

I'll do my calculations again, but I think what I actually need is 10kw/day nowhere near 10kw peak. I remember 1-2kw peak draw, like if the fridge, freezer, hot water heater all kick on at once while I am charging my tool batteries.

I must admit though, getting straight answers on what I actually need was pretty difficult the last time around. Peak is easy to calculate. How much power my appliances draw without climat control vs how much I can generate on a cloudy day was NOT easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The ridge if my roof runs roughly east/west with no gables and only two pitches on the south side. So I have a lot of south facing real estate. I would estimate almost 1k square feet.. Eventually, I would love to build a big porch and covered walkway on that side, also.
 

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Having wasted both time and money on small systems let me throw out some ideas. Three rules. It takes far more equipment than you would think, it will cost far more than you think, and it will never, ever break even compared to electricity or using portable generators.

When you talk about off grid, that never means having the luxury like you have in a regular home. I understand your concern is fridge and freezer, your ultimate play will be to run the fridge 7 hours, shut it off and run the freezer one hour. Every spare inch of your freezer will be filled with ICE, frozen gallon jugs is good, it is water if you need it, and it keeps the mass colder than air will. Some considerations have played with it for years.

First, do not even think about using the battery, solar or wind power to heat anything. It takes too many BTUs. You mentioned heating water. Bad idea. Electricity supplied by batteries should never be used to heat anything. If you are talking about an electric home water heater, they will zap your batteries. Even when calculating the power needed to run one on a portable generator the general rule is: A 5,000 watt generator is capable of running a electric water heater, but caution should be taken not to exceed the generator’s total 5,000 wattage rating. A electric water heater needs 4,500 watts to start the appliance and 3,500 watts to continue powering the heater. So, if that is the plan, it too should be put on a timer and the fridge and freezer turned off while it heats up.

One suggestion I have for off grid water, is the propane heated instant water heaters. Usually called the tankless water heaters, you still must have water pressure, a small propane tank and batteries, then hoses run to a portable shower. They could also be piped right into the plumbing side by side with the existing water heater

Second, batteries are not what you think. The only rational batteries at a decent cost for your planned use are golf cart batteries. Let me talk just a second about the whole concept. You will need deep cycle batteries, do not get stuck with the new technology yet. You need to know exactly how much draw your older appliances draw. You mentioned a 10KW system, that is a lot for the cost compared to alternatives.

Do not trust any of the articles you read about how much power your fridge or freezer will use and do not believe the label on them. For about $40 you can buy a device called the "Kill-o-Watt" that you plug into the wall and your appliance into it, and it tells you exactly how much power your unit it using. Most will use more as they age, seals leak, etc. You have to measure everything you want to put on the back up power, everything. Alarm systems, motion detector lights and everything draws electricity, if it is plugged in.

Your refrigerator takes up to 1,200 watts to start the frig every time it starts, but then may only use 500 watts or less to run, assuming Energy Star everything. The freezer the same way. In an emergency, you should plan to put them on timers, the freezer only needs to be on every few hours, you do not want both of them trying to start at the same time, so you put the on timers.

When you say a 10KW system, I assume you are planning for things like a weather outage? If so, you can never plan on having solar when the weather is bad, bad weather means clouds, rain, snow or other, but not bright sun. So, if solar and batteries are for bad weather, you will need enough battery to run 4-5 days with zero sun. Then if they get to zero, it may take a day or two before they have the start up power needed for each appliance. Like the has water heater, it take a lot.

We live at the dead end of a rural line and use the generators 1-3 times a year, sometimes several days. The smartest and most cost effective thing is a generator, a multi-fuel is great. That way you can buy a couple 40 gallon propane tanks and 5-10 gallons of gas and be set for a very long time. You never worry about the wind or the sun. Generators are easy to maintain and cost zero 99% of the time. A solar system has batteries that are losing their value every day and about year 5 will have to be completely replaced. Small portable generators will last a lifetime. I have 4 generators and use them for many things. The little 4,200 watt from Cabelas and the 3,800 KW Champion just run and run and run. The Champion is over 20 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. Just change the oil every few years and filter and run clean gas in them, and will last a lifetime. I actually run a couple 50 foot coords from outside thru my house when needed. I alternate the fridge and freezer and run my whole house central heat with no problems. It will run the AC summer or winter, I have propane heat.

I put together a system using Harbor Freight 45 watt panels. I only use them for lighting and radios and light duty stuff, the cost of batteries is just too much. To give you an idea of cost, Lowes sells a plug and plan solar kit, it supplies 1,240 watts, nothing close to your 10,000 watts. The cost is $6,700.00. Here is the kit.

OVERVIEW
Plug and play solar.
  • Off grid plug n play solar system with 1500 watt supply inverter ideal for small size remote cabin
  • Includes 2 batteries and additional batteries can be added later
  • Pure sine wave inverter
  • Adaptable installation that can be mounted on the roof or on the ground
  • Quick tilt adjusting mechanism for maximum solar energy production and easy snow removal
  • Smart finish, aluminum and galvanized steel for that elegant and efficient look
  • High energy production at low cost
  • 4 solar panels with total solar power storage 1240 Watts or greater
  • 25 year manufacturers limited warranty on solar panels and 1 year on inverters,1 year on workmanship
Installation ManualPDF

Sky Cloud Light Solar power Solar panel



SolarPod Portable Solar Power Kit in the Portable Solar Power Kits department at Lowes.com

Anyway, my take is there is no cost effective way for us to use solar for short term emergencies. It is just much more cost efficient to let the food spoil. I actually had a freezer go bad while gone once, it was full of elk and venison. My insurance did reimburse me a bunch on it. I had to throw away 80 pounds of elk. Pretty sad deal for sure.
 
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