We got this solar thing… I think

I would be lying if I said I was happy about the power verdict.  If I am really honest, I am currently not all that thrilled with the Lord’s “It’s for your good”.  It was much easier to be positive about it last week.  You know, when we had a freak cold front move through and it was low humidity and in the 80’s during the day with 50’s and 60’s at night.  In July.  (Compare that to the same time last year when we were hitting 107 with heat indexes in the upper 110’s!  Crazy!)  It was glooorious!
Alas, the heat is back because well, it is summer.  We are back to hiding at the Mother-In-Laws during the day, forced to “be productive” and go through crap I am tired of looking at but can’t just throw out because there might be something I want to keep in the heap.  Thus it’s much harder to be all “screw you electric company, we’re totally going solar!”  Testing our resolve I suppose.  Praising Him for the relief we are able to get, praying more fervently for His next move, even more aware that we can do little without Him.
Be forewarned – it’s about to get all technical amongst the rambling.
After calling multiple local solar companies to see what we are looking at, I began to get a bit down about that even.  I explained that we had been off grid for a year and simply wanted to run a couple of box fans at 100 watts each.  Nobody was willing to talk about anything less than 1kW system… for $15-18k!!  Let’s put that into perspective. 

1kW = 4 – 250 watt panels which run about $1/watt = $1400. 
Charge controller (to charge the batteries), about $140, good one that would not have to be upgraded later. 
Inverter (to change the DC to AC power) = a wicked overkill good one that would handle every addition we would want, about $1000.  
Batteries (they wouldn’t tell me how many, it’s the heart of the system, but let’s start with 2 since that’s what we would need to run 2 fans) at $200/each. 
Even if we threw in $1000 for miscellaneous other stuff (wires, capacitors, whatever), we are still under $4k if we purchased and pieced together a system with quality products (minus of course the 30% solar tax rebate!).   

And this is what “they” say we “need” to run 2 box fans for 8 hours a day.  Yea, I’m not sure where the other $14k is going either.  But I digress.
For those of you that haven’t been testing the limits of brain capacity, pouring over every solar site for the last few months and are unsure what that means.  It means that we would produce 1kW of electricity every hour the sun was shining high in the sky (about 5 hours in our location), and about half that (500 watts) for a few hours, tapering off quickly to nothing with bad angles/nightfall.  So conservatively speaking, we would be producing 5,000 watts (or 5kW hours) every day.  To run fans that will only use 800 watts a day.  Overkill much?  Even when you factor in the “always double for blah blah and somein somein”.  That’s half of what our ultimate goal is!  For a couple of fans?! 
One guy even told me that if we use the batteries “more than a few times a month, we drastically kill the life expectancy to a year or two and will have to replace them.  With a grid tie system, you don’t actually use them.”  (So why do they install them exactly??)  Don’t think so Jack.  Thanks to YouTube and Google, I know that’s not entirely true.
No wonder folks think solar is expensive and pointless!  When you have stupid folks like that making insane claims and demanding huge arrays, it makes solar look really bad.  When it reality it is super easy and within the realm of affordable!  True, it’s not as cheap as grid power (yet) but it has its advantages for different reasons.
Finally, I talked to two guys that were so very helpful, very encouraging and totally made me remember – we got this far and have done pretty well – we can totally do this! Check out Bill over at Stellar Sun and Chuck over at LibcoSolar if you have any questions about goin’ solar!  Each of them stayed on the phone with me for about a half hour, answering all my “I’m freaking out cause I think I understand but am not quite sure and lets not even get started about ordering stuff I know nothing about online” questions. Which you know, means the world to me!  Glee!
Now Plan F (or are we at G) is to start small.  Like really small. Like a little cheap Harbor Freight 45 watt, $150 kit and see what we can screw up do.  Won’t be much – charging phones, maybe run the TV for our “hour a day”.  And then begin to build up an actual system as needed, piece by piece.
Can I just add, I am shocked that a simple box fan (100 watts) uses MORE power than a 4.4 cu ft *refrigerator* (around 90 watts – we can even upgrade that to a 14.8 cu ft for only 122 watts) or a 48” ceiling fan (at 75 watts)!  ‘Splain that one, cause I don’t get it either.  Essentially, if we could power a box fan for 8 hours a day, we can also run a fridge.  So I plug it into a handy dandy online calculator and am told that with 1 (250 watt) panel and 2 (110 amp hour) batteries we can.  Then the question becomes is it worth $300 to power a fridge (or fan or whatever) for the next 25 years and never have to worry about brown outs or outages or spoiled food?  Uh, yes!  (Sidenote: I didn’t include the charge controller or inverter because we will purchase larger ones that would run more than just a fridge.)   
Whew, what a ride this power thing has turned into!

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Comments

We got this solar thing… I think — 2 Comments

  1. Your paving the way to the truth of living off grid. It isn't as simple and easy of a switch as many would have us believe. You'll find a solution. God will provide. Why box fans and not cieling fan? Don't forget you are free to be as creative as you need for comfort, it is your home! Love nad respect for chasing your dreams. Miss ya'll

    • It certainly can be that easy – if you hire it out and blindly trust what the "in it for the sale" solar companies want to sell you! They would be out here next week and have us up and running… for a very hefty price! Thankfully I am hardheaded enough (and "oh I can't, watch me" LOL) that I kept calling and found folks who openly say its not all that difficult and is

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