Off Grid

Battery Bank Equalization

December 3, 2016

Routine equalization cycles are vital to the performance and life of a battery — particularly in a solar, wind or micro-hydro power system. During battery discharge, sulfuric acid is consumed and soft lead sulfate crystals form on the plates. If the battery remains in a partially discharged condition, the soft crystals will turn into hard […]

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The Evolution of the Solar Charge Controller

December 3, 2016

A charge controller is a piece of equipment designed to prevent the batteries in your system from overcharging. It is similar to the voltage regulator in a car. However, unlike a voltage regulator in an automobile, charge controllers have advanced in ways never even imaginable to the hippies in Northern California, USA in the 1970s… […]

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The MPPT Charge Controller | How it has Changed Everything!

July 23, 2016
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The maximum power point tracking… MPPT charge controller … has got to be one of the most innovative, game changing and misunderstood components in the solar industry. There is so much misinformation, it is time to clear up the myths of the MPPT charge controllers, explain what they do and explore what they cannot do. […]

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Choosing the Best Well Pumps for Off Grid Homes

July 13, 2016
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If you are not careful when designing your off grid water pumping system, your pump can be the single largest load on your solar, wind or micro hydro power system.   The best way to provide water to your off grid home is to not use a pump, if possible. But since that is not […]

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Making a Dump Load with a Hot Water Tank Heater

September 18, 2015
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Can a standard off-the-shelf tank style electric hot water heater can make a dump load? Electric tank water heaters are an excellent choice to make a dump load for your solar, wind or micro hydro power system as they are easy to get, cheap, already insulated and have holes to mount low voltage water heating […]

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The Difference Between AC and DC Fuses

August 17, 2015
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It saddens me that folks are risking their lives, family member’s lives and personal property by trying to save a dollar by using off-the-shelf AC (alternating current) fuses (or circuit breakers and switches) in their 12, 24 or even 48 volt battery systems, not to mention their 120, 150, 200 or even 600 volt DC […]

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What Voltage Should My Battery Bank Be? 12, 24, or 48.

August 14, 2015
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The most common question I get as a solar consultant is… What voltage should I use for my battery bank? And Why? Almost everyone who is new to solar, wind or micro-hydro assumes that 12 volts is the way to go. It seems obvious. You can buy 12 volt lighting, 12 volt coffee makers, 12 […]

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Why Renewable Energy Isn’t For Everyone | In Fact Almost No One!

August 13, 2015
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In the developed world we have become accustomed to having unlimited electricity. We turn on a light switch and a light turns on. We leave the light on for two weeks straight and the light stays on for two weeks straight. Even if we do leave a light bulb running for two weeks it affects […]

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Making a Solar Electric Water Heater | Can it Be Done?

April 1, 2015
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As the price of photovoltaic modules (solar modules, solar panels) continues to drop there are many discussions about using solar electric modules to heat water. No more leaks, messy and complicated plumbing, heat exchangers, controllers to fail, pumps to maintain and fluids to freeze. Solar hot water has been plagued with leaks, freezing (or poisonous […]

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Why 120/240 Volt 60hz (or 230 Volt 50hz) Generators Are Not Great Battery Chargers

January 13, 2015
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Using a 120 volt or 120/240 volt (or 230 volt) single phase generator to charge your batteries is very common, inexpensive to purchase and horribly expensive to operate. BUT you must expect to pay anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00 per kWh when using a single generator to operate your home and charge your batteries. If […]

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Our Steam Engine / Battery Charger

December 8, 2014
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We bought a stream engine in 2011 with the hopes of someday using it as a backup for charging batteries if gas and oil were ever to become in short supply. Our biggest problem has been to find a wood boiler that can produce enough steam to operate the engine for long periods of time. […]

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Using Your Generator to Charge Your Batteries

September 28, 2013
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There are going to be many times when the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing and your batteries are low. The only choice you might have is to charge your batteries using your fossil fueled generator. As you may already know, there is not a more expensive method of battery charging than using a […]

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How to Find the Defective Battery in Your Battery Bank

September 24, 2013
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It only takes one bad battery to bring your off grid power system to a complete halt. Even in systems that have 8, 16, 24 or even more batteries, one defective battery can drain every good battery and leave you powerless. Unfortunately it is not always easy to find the battery causing all the trouble. […]

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The Best Choices for Your First Solar Battery Bank

September 18, 2013
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You will make a lot of mistakes in the beginning of your “off grid” adventures and your batteries will pay the price whether they are deluxe and expensive models or decent quality and cost effective. If your solar installer/designer tries to sell you a “high end” (and very expensive) battery bank for your first energy […]

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How To Make Your Batteries Last as Long as Possible

September 12, 2013
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Your battery bank will likely be one if the most expensive components of your “off the grid” energy system. They are also the only piece of the system that will need replacing on a regular basis. Every extra day you can squeeze out of your battery bank will reduce the overall cost of your renewable […]

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Battery AH Ratings. C5, C20 and C100. What Does This Mean?

September 9, 2013
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Why Are Batteries Rated in Amp Hours (AH) and How Can One Battery Have Different AH Ratings? Part of designing an independent power system is calculating the amount of amp hours (AHs) your battery bank will need to keep your system operating between charges. All manufacturers provide amp hour ratings for their deep cycle batteries […]

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Are My Batteries Really Full? How Can I Be Sure?

September 5, 2013
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You would think that knowing your batteries are completely charged is straightforward. However the state of charge a.k.a. SOC of your battery/battery bank it is not even close to being simple. This short article will explain why. Here are some of the common industry practices: BATTERY “AT REST” VOLTAGE Using the common “at rest” voltage […]

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Dump Loads for Solar, Wind and Microhydro

May 2, 2013
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Dump loads a.k.a. diversion loads are are an important part of the off grid electric system. Almost all wind and water turbine installations will require them and most solar installations can benefit from a dump load. As we discussed in the dump load intro, a dump load is simply an electrical device (load) to send […]

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Solar Module Efficiency

April 25, 2013
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As manufacturers improve their processes, solar module efficiency increases. But the real question is “Who cares?”. A solar module’s efficiency is stated in a % (percentage) of how much energy is captured per square meter of solar panel. The module on the right is considered high efficiency with a rating of 20.2%. Solar modules are […]

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Skystream Automatic Disconnection

April 22, 2013
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Southwest Windpower’s Skystream can be used to charge batteries but a circuit must be present that will shut the turbine down as the batteries reach a full state of charge or a circuit to dump the extra power. If you could hire someone inexpensively to shut the breaker off as the batteries “top off” that […]

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