Simple Solar System

solar panel arrayIf you have been reading in the solar energy forums and on the solar energy websites, you probably have the idea that solar energy is expensive and complicated to set up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the so called experts on the forums I read seem to be more concerned with impressing us with their knowledge than giving useful information. Sure, you can make a complex issue of anything but is it really necessary? No.

Many of the people I talk to seem to think that it takes thousands of dollars to get started with solar power. The fact of the matter is that you can build a simple solar system with one solar panel, one battery, one charge controller, and one power inverter. No, you are not going to be able to run your microwave oven or air conditioner with it, but you can run your laptop computer and some lights with it.

I know this to be true because it is exactly how I started sixteen years ago. I was curious about solar power so I traded for a used panel, bought a used car battery, used a Chevrolet voltage regulator for a charge controller, and had to buy the inverter new. The entire system cost me less than $75.00. I put it all together and learned the hard way, by trial and error. Looking back on it, the main thing that I learned is that you do not have to be an Electrical Engineer to build your own solar system that actually works.

The one thing you will not be forgiven is crossing polarities. Be sure that all your connections are positive to positive and negative to negative unless you are wiring them in a series to increase voltage. If you want to wire your panels or batteries in a series, make sure you know what you are doing before you actually make the connections. Use a little common sense about it and you should be ok.

One of the things I especially like about solar systems is that you can start small and build your system a panel or battery at a time until you have as large a system as you want. Of course, as you build your system up, you will have to upgrade your charge controller to make sure it will handle the amperage of more panels, and add more batteries to store more of the power you are collecting.

If you are the kind of person that will want to hire someone to design and set up a system for you, then you can expect to pay top dollar for it, but if you are willing to build it yourself, you can have a working solar system for little expense. Start small, according to your budget, and build it up over time. You can have as large a system as you want this way without a large cash expense. This is how I have built mine and I no longer need outside power.

You can purchase a complete starter kit from Amazon for $269.89. This kit comes complete with everything you will need to start out except the battery. It has 4- 15 Watt panels, PVC frame for mounting the panels, 200 Watt inverter, all the wiring and connectors to hook it up, and instructions to put it together and hook it up. It is theSunforce 50048 60-Watt Solar Kit . I have had two of these kits for 4 years. I use them to power lights, my computer and modem, radio and television. I use 6 deep cycle marine batteries to store the power and seldom have to run a generator except when I want to run the air conditioning in the heat of the summer. I did have to replace one of the inverters last year after 3 years of use. This kit is the easiest and best way that I know of for you to start out with your own solar system. You do not have to waste time and effort piecing your first system together like I did, it is all there from the start, ready to use.

7 thoughts on “Simple Solar System

  1. I bought the 30 watt solar sytsem from harbor freight, it cost $129 on sale, I have it hooked up in my shed to a 115 amp hour battery. My panels have about 6 hours of direct sunlight, which adds up to 240 watts of charging into the battery. This means that I can put another 115 amp hour battery into the sytsem. I want to use it to run the lights in the shed as well as an emergency supply of electricity to run cell phone chargers and a small digital tv sytsem to watch the news and weather.

  2. We’re running 235 watts of panels, mostly cobbled together from Harbor Freight stuff, 3 125 amp hour marine batteries from Walmart, a Xantrex controller and a very basic inverter. The cool part is that I pretty much built and fine tuned the system while my husband was off serving in the Army, first here in OK then in Afghanistan. I was a learning curve but certainly not beyond my capabilities.

  3. Hi Judy,
    It is not as hard, or expensive as some folks would have you think, and it doesn’t take as much wattage as most folks think. Sure, if you are going to run a bunch of power hungry appliances all at once, it will take a lot of wattage, but who runs everything at once? With very little planning and care in your power consumption, you can do a lot with a little. Jim

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