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Survival and Preparations Long and short term survival and 'prepping'.

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  #1  
Old 04-20-2016, 6:41 PM
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Default Utilizing Your Home Solar Panel System During a Long Term Power Outage

While a generator easily bridges the gap during a short term outage, what if the outage lasts weeks or months? If you already have a solar panel system, what are the options, banks of batteries with an inverter? Does anybody have setup they can share?
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Old 04-20-2016, 6:50 PM
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Originally Posted by riprap View Post
While a generator easily bridges the gap during a short term outage, what if the outage lasts weeks or months? If you already have a solar panel system, what are the options, banks of batteries with an inverter? Does anybody have setup they can share?
I'm interested in this myself. Tagged.
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Old 04-20-2016, 8:51 PM
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You are going to need a control panel, Lots of very big batteries and some very expensive power inverters. Also a generator that is capable of running everything and charging the batteries.
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Old 04-20-2016, 9:30 PM
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When I worked for one of the solar companies that was doing grid tied systems I asked about this from the techies. It's not super easy, and I wish they made a magic switch but they don't. You probably need to study the wiring, learn how to reroute the juice to a battery array and have that battery system feed into your house. I'm no electrician. Those who are would make a fortune in a long term black out helping folks make use of their panels.
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Old 04-20-2016, 9:46 PM
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You have to have the right inverter/controller first, all the inverters sold with solar systems are designed to shut down if utility service goes down. Reason is you would back feed power to the grid if they didn't shut down. Then there is a big bank of batteries ($$$) to contend with. It can be done but at a high price.
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Old 04-20-2016, 9:49 PM
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Most solar systems are designed to shut down when power goes out (to avoid backfeeding the grid and injuring utility workers on what otherwise would be a dead line). Some systems being offered now are designed to work even when power out (shuts off the grid tie but keeps feeding the inverter and thus your panel)
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Old 04-21-2016, 3:28 AM
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Originally Posted by SWalt View Post
You have to have the right inverter/controller first, all the inverters sold with solar systems are designed to shut down if utility service goes down. Reason is you would back feed power to the grid if they didn't shut down. Then there is a big bank of batteries ($$$) to contend with. It can be done but at a high price.
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Most solar systems are designed to shut down when power goes out (to avoid backfeeding the grid and injuring utility workers on what otherwise would be a dead line). Some systems being offered now are designed to work even when power out (shuts off the grid tie but keeps feeding the inverter and thus your panel)
We use "break before make" ATS switching on the utility tie-ins we design for most of the plants we build to accommodate the backup generators for this reason. Small manual switches are not very expensive, but would require some wiring home runs to be rerouted. The automatic switches aren't cheap, but the real expense on that side would likely be the labor, since several locations require a licensed electrician to do the work, a permit has to be pulled, and the system has to be inspected by the local building authority. That might be a workable solution for that issue, since it would keep those systems separated.

I'm currently rewiring my home because the original service entrance was placed in the wrong location (behind the wood stove) and needs to be moved, so I'm adding in a generator tie-in with a switch. Might have to pre-plan for a secondary switching system so a solar system could be handled as well.
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Old 04-21-2016, 7:40 AM
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At the ranch we have a non grid 14 KV solar system. When the power goes off we throw a manual switch to go just to solar. We have 5 48 volt forklift batteries and they weigh about 3500 lbs each.

The inverters were about 3 grand each, 4 of them. I can't remember what the chargers costs but there is 5 of them. We have a Multiquip 12 KV gen set and a 6500 propane onan that runs the well and pressure system.

You don't even want to know what good copper cable costs per foot let alone the fittings.

This all sits in the power shack as we call it, 20 by 24 building that is almost as big as a garage.

PG & E said we cannot be a grid tied system to sell them power.

Making my own power still cost twice what I can buy it for from grid.
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Old 04-21-2016, 7:18 PM
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Many thanks for all the good ideas and insight. I should have clarified the demand in my op. I'm interested in a relatively low profile power demand/existence; refrigerator, minimal LEDs in the PM, recharging phones, radios, cordless tools, laptops, and likely an every other day well pump to fill a storage tank. I have no interest is a seamless transition to maintaining a luxuriant demand existence. Please keep the ideas coming.
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Old 04-21-2016, 7:26 PM
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My buddy/Neighbor down the block did this.

He has solar panels that tie into a bank of batteries.

He has a remote control tablet and can run the front half of his house off the batteries.

It looks soo easy.
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Old 04-21-2016, 8:00 PM
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Originally Posted by sfbay View Post
My buddy/Neighbor down the block did this.

He has solar panels that tie into a bank of batteries.

He has a remote control tablet and can run the front half of his house off the batteries.

It looks soo easy.
Any details are most appreciated.
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Old 04-21-2016, 8:15 PM
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Sunny Boy makes an invertor which is grid tied, but when the power is out you can throw a switch and plug in some extension cords. I think the max power is like 1500 watts. Of course it does not work at night, but it would be enough to keep your devices charged and the fridge cold.
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Old 04-21-2016, 8:20 PM
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I'm not handy.

He has solar panels on his roof that just charge the bank of batteries.

The batteries look like large car batteries but he may have said they were marine?

They are connected together to form a loop?

He made a control board like tablet and can just switch to the battery bank.

He changed everything in his house tof LED and it works great.

It gets foggy in our part and he did mention the batteries don't charge well at night or during the fog.

I think he pays around $20 a month for electricity, family of 4...
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Old 04-21-2016, 8:22 PM
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Oh ya, he got the solar panels at the flee market or a business going under. He drove them home and installed the whole thing himself.
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Old 04-21-2016, 8:29 PM
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Tesla is coming out with a product that might solve this problem. Forgot what's it's called but you can google it.
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Old 04-21-2016, 8:49 PM
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Um, got Solar City panels. Added their Tesla battery, powers about 1/3rd of the house. 13kwh, will recharge daily. Grid down, we're ok.
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Old 04-21-2016, 9:17 PM
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First realize you will not be able to power everything like when your main breaker is on. No coffee maker, blow dryer, microwave and TV at the same time running a load of laundry.

I built a standalone back-up a couple of years back; Siemens panels, MidNite Kid charge controller, Xantrex 1800W Pure Sine inverter and four new good sized Crown deep cycles. Quality stuff. 12v configured for a 48v system. I've since added a converter down to 12v to power/charge anything in the house.

My house is gas with millivolt appliances and that helps. I spent a year configuring my build. The charge controller and inverter take up no more space than a few shoe boxes.

Honda 2000 and plenty of juice with a couple of gondo power cables just in case.
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Old 04-21-2016, 10:03 PM
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I'm not an electrical engineer and I have yet to study it in depth due to lack of cash, but I believe that manual switching on a grid-tied system is the easiest and initial way to go, before you can afford the controllers and batteries. As stated, you would only get power during daylight hours in an outage and would have to have made the manual switch, but it could keep your fridge running and lantern batteries charged. Just don't open the fridge too much at night.
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Old 04-21-2016, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
but I believe that manual switching on a grid-tied system is the easiest and initial way to go,
Sure it's easy -- it will never pass an inspection and never meet code. If you happen to fry a lineman, your life just got much tougher.
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Old 04-22-2016, 10:10 AM
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Sure it's easy -- it will never pass an inspection and never meet code. If you happen to fry a lineman, your life just got much tougher.
Totally agree, but I'm thinking two new switches, first open one new switch to disconnect panels from grid, second, open existing household main breaker to disconnect house from grid, third close another new switch to connect panels to household side of existing main breaker.

Again, I haven't even sketched this out, just pondering. I have the advantage of a sub-panel (with a 30 amp breaker in the main panel) in my detached garage, where I have a spare refrigerator. I can disconnect the sub-panel from the grid easily. My panels would be on the roof of my garage, so the two new switch plan would be a bit easier than some instances.

And yes, probably not to code, but home owners install structural, electrical and other improvements themselves all the time without permits/inspection.
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Old 04-22-2016, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by MotoriousRacing View Post
Totally agree, but I'm thinking two new switches, first open one new switch to disconnect panels from grid, second, open existing household main breaker to disconnect house from grid, third close another new switch to connect panels to household side of existing main breaker.

Again, I haven't even sketched this out, just pondering. I have the advantage of a sub-panel (with a 30 amp breaker in the main panel) in my detached garage, where I have a spare refrigerator. I can disconnect the sub-panel from the grid easily. My panels would be on the roof of my garage, so the two new switch plan would be a bit easier than some instances.

And yes, probably not to code, but home owners install structural, electrical and other improvements themselves all the time without permits/inspection.
This "improvements" are mostly illegal without a permit and inspection at best, an electrocution and fire hazard at worst.
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Old 04-22-2016, 10:37 AM
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Yep Mike, my little city has really started cracking down on homebrewed builds.

Again, this is the kinda crap that requires new rules and laws.. like we don't have enough already.
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Old 04-22-2016, 10:46 AM
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I have a very small system. Built it myself.

Started out with Harbor Freight 15w x 3 (45w) and two 6v x 2 deep cycle golf cart/forklift batteries.

Then I upgraded to two 140w panels, taking the old HF panels out of the loop (still have them in storage).

Then I upgraded to two additional 140w panels and two additional batteries of the same rating and brand.

Eventually all the batteries and 3 of the panels were relocated to my travel trailer. One of the panels stayed at home on the roof, charging the two deep cycle batteries (originally from the trailer) I keep for an emergency.

There is a 2kw inverter. It's not nice to the electronics, so I use it primarily for large appliances. I have a smaller inverter that is pure sine wave which works for light electronic loads.

I did a whole thread on it here a few years back if anyone cares to look.

None of my systems have ever been grid tied. And they are not intended to power the house just like normal on an ongoing basis. I have refrigeration for a couple of days, or basic power for a shorter period.

ETA: It's here, not sure why photos are not showing:

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...d.php?t=828643
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Old 04-22-2016, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by bruss01 View Post
I have a very small system. Built it myself.

Started out with Harbor Freight 15w x 3 (45w) and two 6v x 2 deep cycle golf cart/forklift batteries.

Then I upgraded to two 140w panels, taking the old HF panels out of the loop (still have them in storage).

Then I upgraded to two additional 140w panels and two additional batteries of the same rating and brand.

Eventually all the batteries and 3 of the panels were relocated to my travel trailer. One of the panels stayed at home on the roof, charging the two deep cycle batteries (originally from the trailer) I keep for an emergency.

There is a 2kw inverter. It's not nice to the electronics, so I use it primarily for large appliances. I have a smaller inverter that is pure sine wave which works for light electronic loads.

I did a whole thread on it here a few years back if anyone cares to look.

None of my systems have ever been grid tied. And they are not intended to power the house just like normal on an ongoing basis. I have refrigeration for a couple of days, or basic power for a shorter period.

ETA: It's here, not sure why photos are not showing:

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/s...d.php?t=828643
Nice. I'm doing a non grid barn soon. Will reference this when I do that.
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Old 04-22-2016, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by MotoriousRacing View Post
Totally agree, but I'm thinking two new switches, first open one new switch to disconnect panels from grid, second, open existing household main breaker to disconnect house from grid, third close another new switch to connect panels to household side of existing main breaker.

Again, I haven't even sketched this out, just pondering. I have the advantage of a sub-panel (with a 30 amp breaker in the main panel) in my detached garage, where I have a spare refrigerator. I can disconnect the sub-panel from the grid easily. My panels would be on the roof of my garage, so the two new switch plan would be a bit easier than some instances.

And yes, probably not to code, but home owners install structural, electrical and other improvements themselves all the time without permits/inspection.
You really need to do your research before you blow something up. A clue for you. Learn what a transfer switch is and what it does. Then get a UL approved transfer switch and figure that into you system. You're welcome.
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Old 04-22-2016, 12:12 PM
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Thanks. For some reason I thought all transfer switches were automatic switches and those are quite expensive and not really needed for home use. I found some manual transfer switches at much lower cost.

Last edited by MotoriousRacing; 04-22-2016 at 1:06 PM..
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Old 04-22-2016, 12:39 PM
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It really isn't too tough to do as long as you start out with the right components. If you want to retrofit an existing grid-tie-only system so that it can operate during power outages, it's not going to happen...

If you start out with a good grid-tie system with battery backup (I have Outback GVFX3648 inverters), it's quite easy to do. When the power goes out, you don't even notice a flicker on the lines that are backed up by the battery side.

The hardest part of it is installing a separate load center for the backed-up loads. I did mine when I was doing a complete re-build of the house, so I just picked the circuits that I wanted backed up, and wired accordingly. If you already have separate load centers for various systems (many houses have a separate load center for heat, kitchen, hot water) it's reasonably easy to just detach those centers from the main panel and run the solar backup line to them.
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Old 04-24-2016, 6:33 AM
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Originally Posted by njineermike View Post
Nice. I'm doing a non grid barn soon. Will reference this when I do that.
Here is my thread on another site for pics and better description.

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Old 04-24-2016, 6:59 AM
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Originally Posted by MotoriousRacing View Post
Thanks. For some reason I thought all transfer switches were automatic switches and those are quite expensive and not really needed for home use. I found some manual transfer switches at much lower cost.
Another option is a generator interlock for your main panel if one is available. This uses a generator breaker to backfeed the panel, but mechanically prevents the generator breaker from being 'on' unless the main breaker is 'off'.

This company makes them for many different panel models.
http://www.interlockkit.com/?gclid=C...FZFcfgode3QBLg

I have Square D panel and bought the OEM interlock that was available, UL stamped etc., for liability reasons.
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Old 05-06-2016, 2:56 AM
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Another option is a generator interlock for your main panel if one is available. This uses a generator breaker to backfeed the panel, but mechanically prevents the generator breaker from being 'on' unless the main breaker is 'off'.

This company makes them for many different panel models.
http://www.interlockkit.com/?gclid=C...FZFcfgode3QBLg

I have Square D panel and bought the OEM interlock that was available, UL stamped etc., for liability reasons.
Thanks.
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