Solar power tips and tricks

Battery charging voltage for any 12V battery should never exceed 14V. In automobiles the charging current is 13V as the battery is more often than not located in a hot environment.

I had the following experience with a 7Ah battery keeping going on the fritz - and eventually discovered with the assistance of a multimeter that the dang regulator is zapping the battery with 18VDC instead of 14VDC.

A friend of ours donated a larger panel with 17Ah battery, this helped a lot as we can now charge most of our electronic devices and stuff during the day.

I plan to get a second PV, connect it in serial to the first PV so that the voltage is 24VDC+ , connect two new batteries to the wonky regulator and see if it will be better suited for a 24V system instead of a 12V system. If it works, then I’ll only need a DC-DC converter to convert 24VDC to 12VDC for lights and tablet chargers for the kids bedrooms.

Quite interesting this solar stuff. Free once it paid for itself, and you sorted out the niggles.

I still want to look at obtaining a windmill for charging esp during inclement weather and at night.

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I need to set up something on my chicken coop. Just need to stash the cash and read a bunch of really dry websites to find the solution. I may cheat and check RV sites as well.

All I need to power is a couple bulbs, one 24 hours a day in the winter as a water heater. And then the others as lighting in the coop. So I won’t need much, but I’d rather overbuild a bit so I can get the practice in.

My neighbor put up panels a couple years ago but I haven’t asked him how it’s working for him. My gut feel is that even though we have a perfect southern exposure, it’s likely not going to produce enough juice to pay off for close to 20 years. We’re not home much during the day so our usage would be relatively low and with no storage & poor prices paid by the power company to feed back into the grid, what’s the point?

Although if summers keep being as hot as this year, maybe…

Or, we get a Tesla and a battery system for the house, charge the batteries during the day and then charge the Tesla off that.

Water heating is not a problem, you have two ways of doing this :

  1. Traditional solar geyser that heats the water. In winter you’ll most probably use either gas or electricity to “top up” the temperature of the water. FWIW we had a solar geyser at our previous domicilium, and I found that in summer the water’s boiling hot, but in winter it need a “topping up” especially when it’s colder than usual.
  2. Install enough PV panels to power a small 12V/24V element for a geyser. If there’s enough PV panels, you can do a standard 240V 3000W element. (Yes, you do get them. 60W IIRC)

Or discard water heating by solar and go for a small gas geyser.

As for lights, how much W is those chicken coop lights (those red ones used to keep the chicks warm). Another alternative is to use an electric blanket for heating. FWIW you will need to think outside the box - look at traditional methods, then look at alternative means of heating the environment that will not use up too much energy.

Actually we’re talking old school 60-100w incandescent light bulbs. The heat lamp puts out too much heat, the chickens are better off in the cold, I keep a bulb under a ceramic pot and the water sits on the pot.

1x100W will be peanuts for a 600W inverter and some chunky batteries + PV system.

You’d better stock up on them oldstyle bulbs…

FWIW why do these energy saving bulbs last a few months before dying? Whereas an oldstyle bulb just lasts far longer…

Newer design with planed obsolescence baked in from the start instead of tacked on the end. Also lower QA standards and made in lower standards countries. Since the newer bulbs are toxic no one wants them in their back yard.

Edited: I know at least three people that use the old bulbs for their heat and are freaking out about the change. One for her “wine cellar” (It’s a closet in her garage), one for his plants, again in an unheated space, and tons of people for chickens and rabbits and that, as well as various outbuildings. A couple 100w bulbs won’t warm an old shack to 70 degrees, but they’ll take some of the chill out and keep some things from icing up.

@dakboy and I commented on this in another thread: the CFLs need to be cool, or they burn out fast. So stuffing one in a recessed ceiling mount in my basement meant fast burn through until I pulled off the cover. Uglier, but the CFLs last longer.

Applicable to your environment, @Ook?

I have a CFL in a lamp in my living room on a timer that comes on for six hours in the evening. It is a traditional lamp with a lampshade (open top & bottom), so it has plenty of convection airflow available. Even though it gets flippin hot in my house in the summer (>80F), that sucker has lasted a looong time. I can’t remember the last time I changed it; I wonder if I wrote the date on the CFL base.

LED bulbs last longer, give better light, and use less power.
Just saying :smile:

I have some LEDs, too. Some can also be prone to overheating if in enclosures. And some of them produce harsh, not better, light. I think they’re getting better, though. The last ones I bought didn’t have as much of a problem producing even coverage.

EDIT: But I’m loving both the lower power use and anticipated longevity!

I’m replacing with LED everywhere I can as the need arises, especially on hard-to-reach lights outdoor floods and the garage where one needs a ladder to get at them.

I agree the light can be a bit harsh and bluer, but it’s getting better.

Yep, you’ve got to pick what sort of light you want.
We have a mix. The laundry and garage have a harsher, brighter, whiter light. The rest of the house has a warmer, more yellow light.

We had the CFL bulbs, but they never lasted anywhere near what the promised lifespan was. So, as the burned out, we replaced them with LED lights.
The last couple of CFL bulbs though we just tossed even though they were still going. They were ugly and didn’t match the rest of the house.

I have a mix of incandescent, CFL, LED and even the odd hybrid - halogen in an incandescent style bulb form. I really like the halogen hybrid… lower power than ye olde bulbs, nice light, and they work with my bedside lamps with lampshades that clip onto the actual bulb, so round bulb shapes are required.

My porch light is on a timer that requires the bulb to be incandescent, so it completes the circuit - the timer doesn’t have a separate path to ground. The pluses are that it fits in the space of a standard paddle switch (doesn’t stick out two inches like the gawd-awful one my brother-in-law has), is programmable for 4 cycles, and has a random setting. The drawbacks are that it has to be reprogrammed after replacing a burned out bulb, and it won’t work with a CFL (nor an LED, I suspect).

On the plus side I can use 12VDC LED lights at my domicilium. Now that I have a new job with a better income, I’ll look at getting some 12VDC LED flood lights for outside.

If I can bake a motion sensor into them, bonus.

FWIW an inverter have a certain % loss - if I can cut out on that % loss and have the same amount of lights but for longer & cheaper, then why not?

Still too early to say. Will report back as I go onwards.

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OK, so I read the title of this thread as ‘solar powered lipstick’ and immediately wanted to know where to get it. I don’t go out into the sun and I don’t wear make up but come on, who WOULDN’T want solar powered lipstick?!


I have a solar clothes dryer… :wink:


Ours is a combo one - solar and wind powered.

The best part of the solar/wind dryers is that you can make them with stuff you already have on hand if necessary!

Mmmm, freshly naturally roasted sheets.

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