If you read my last post on off grid power and viewed the video on simple solar projects, you now know that some of these projects are in fact very easy to put together and require only some very basic knowledge of solar energy, wiring, and appropriate safety precautions.
After I put together that post, it occurred to me some people might be wondering about simple off grid power systems that come pre-packaged and ready to go. In the that post, I built a 200 watt solar array from scratch. However, there are many basic systems on the market that are “plug and play”. This simply means that you order a complete system, unpack it from the shipping boxes, follow the simple directions on how to plug things together, and you have a ready made source of off grid power.
While these simple off grid power systems are readily available, they are more geared toward mobility. This means that these systems are easy to pack up and relocate. Obviously this is advantageous if you are on a road trip or camping somewhere short term and you want basic lighting or to power up mobile devices such as cell phone, iPads, and laptops. However, I have learned from experience that these systems also have disadvantages.
The clear advantage to these off grid power systems is that they have a power supply box that is all in one. What this means is that you plug the solar panels into the power supply box which contains the charge controller, batteries, inverter, and electrical outlets. In fact I used to have a power pack that I charged with a small 60 watt array.
The problem that you will encounter is if part of that system fails, as was the case with my power pack, then you have to replace the entire package. As I soon found, it is almost impossible to purchase spare parts for these plug and play off grid power systems because the manufacturer of course wants you to purchase a completely new one. Or they simply will not sell parts to an individual. I finally gave up and disassembly my power pack and salvaged as many parts as I could. In fact, the inverter I used in my solar project at the green house is a part that I salvaged from that power pack.
The reason why I put together this simple off grid power system was for emergency lighting and any other charging needs. Several years ago I actually had to take my primary solar array off line due to an inverter problem. I sent the inverter out for warranty work and did not get it back for 3 weeks. This was when I realized that I did not have a good back up source of electric lighting. That was when I put together this small system.
I started with two 100 watt solar panels, the same type I used on the green house. It was convenient to attached these panels at the bottom of my primary array
I then ran the wiring through a small 12 volt DV loads box. This offers surge protection and enables me to turn off the electricity to the battery bank if I want to change out the batteries.
These batteries are small and light weight enough that they easily sit on the window seal of the cabin and I clip on DC lights. This enables me to have back up electric lighting without having to use my propane lights or kerosine lanterns. Additionally, the two 100 watt solar panels provide enough charging capacity that batteries are quickly recharged when needed.
The other advantage is that I can use this small system to recharge any battery of my choice. It is simply a matter of running leads from the charge controller and clipping those leads onto the battery of my choice.
So, as you can see, some of these solar projects are truly very simple.
Go off grid and live well,
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