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20W Solar Panel Kit w/ Lithium Ion Battery $132 - 50% Off!

Deal Fanatic
Nov 19, 2003
5290 posts
3000 upvotes
A Place to Stand
torontotim wrote: Does anyone have recommendations for a company to work with on putting together a small kit for an off-grid cottage? Something in the 500w-1000w range to run lights, charge laptop/phones, maybe a 32" LCD (LED) TV for a couple hours etc. during the evening when the sun goes down.

Thankfully I've got propane service to run the fridge, stove and water heater. I have a 4kw Yamaha generator currently, and the cottage is totally wired up for power with a 100A panel, outlets, light switches etc. The cottage just plugs into the generator. So I'm looking to run it through a solar/battery system, and use the generator to top up the batteries if needed so I don't lose all the extra power I'm creating and will use the generator to run the lake water intake pump a couple times a day to fill the pressure tanks.
I have a pretty ghetto set-up for my off grid cottage and will likely look into something better in the future, but I'll share what I do as it sounds like you and I are almost in the exact same boat. My set-up is not the best but works pretty well for my current needs (pardon the pun).

I have a 40 watt panel that I bought at CT for ~$80. I have a large, wheeled toolbox that I have drilled vent holes in that contain 2 x 12V Deep-Cycle Marine batteries @ 115AH each. Since my cottage is for the most part used as a weekend getaway only for the most part, when I leave to go back to the city, I leave the panel on the dock and it runs up to the shore to the charge controller. The controllers connect to the batteries that are wired together. I have yet to purchase a meter to show me how much juice is left in the batteries, but I am going to buy one this spring, similar to THIS . When I arrive at the cottage, the batteries always seem full of power and ready to go, but I need a more accurate way to measure.

Those batteries power the small electronics. Plenty of power for phones and laptops, to charge iPod docks for music, recharge Eneloops, and to power a 32 inch LCD TV. I have a 4000W Generator that I use very infrequently. I use it only when I need a power tool, or to power the microwave. It has an electric start so it is easy to power on and I use the microwave infrequently as well. I also like having the genny in case I need power in a pinch, its always there. I also have 2 battery chargers that I use in a pinch to get the batteries charged up in a hurry if need be, however one just went tits up this summer and overall, I find the 10A charge speed too slow to make them much use. I need to buy a charger with a rapid charge setting, but that is not a good way to charge the batteries and will shorten their life, so sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place there.

When I arrive at the cottage, if I am only staying there for 3 or 4 days, the 2 batteries are sufficient to power all the electronics. My problem is that if I stay for longer, the batteries drain and I am sometimes left high and dry. Charging the batteries while I am there is not always an option because with kids and dogs running around, I don't like the solar panel on the dock for fear it will break, and my property is covered in thick pines, so the dock is the only place the sun is strong enough. And even if I was able to leave it out, a 40 watt panel does not recharge them at the rate that I use them. I need to be gone for a longer period like a week. Then they are fine.

My plan this year is to buy another battery (Costco, $90). It seems that the time I am away from the cottage is sufficient to charge the batteries. A week or 2 seems like a good amount of time to charge 3x12V batteries well. I'd also like a couple battery chargers with a quicker charge rate. If I am at the cottage for a longer period, I could just run the genny for an hour or so and charge them up and I am back in business. Also, getting the battery meter will allow me to better monitor my consumption.

As far as lights, I just use lanterns and flashlights for mobile lighting. I use the puck lights they sell at Costco for the main room. They have a wireless switch on the wall, and a few stuck on the ceiling, and they are just like dimmed pot lights, but more than enough light. All the bedrooms and bathroom have small LED lights that run on batteries installed beside the door that give plenty of light as long as they are switched off when not in use. I have motion detector enabled LEDs in the hallways that are great. I usually only change the batteries maybe twice a year (AA's) So for the most part, all my lighting is battery powered, either disposable AA's or Nimh rechargeable AA's depending on the use. You probably would not want to shoot a late night talk show inside, but the lighting is more than adequate for what I find we need. And if I was inclined, I could always add more lights.

I have a propane fridge/stove and a small hot water heater. The cabin is also hardwired like yours, and has light fixtures, but I don't use any of it. I don't find the need too. I have a Honda gas pump for the water that I use to fill a cistern on the roof, and only have to run it for a few minutes every couple of days to provide water to the sinks/shower etc..

Its really nice not getting a hydro bill. If I keep the cottage, I'd like something better down the road. But right now, its working out OK. Its just not as convenient as it could be, but a couple extra steps. However there is a certain feeling you get knowing you are self sufficient and have to do it all yourself. And when the power goes out up there (which happens a lot I'm told), I'm none the wiser!
Deal Addict
Nov 17, 2012
4726 posts
4225 upvotes
Toronto
Really appreciate the detailed response. You've done what I was thinking of doing, but I'm leaning towards a more permanent sort of setup. Luckily I have a clear South exposure on the cottage roof and plenty of space for panels, either on the roof or on some structure I build beside the cottage. It is definitely nice knowing you're never going to be charged for debt retirement or other nefarious charges that come regardless of how much or little hydro you use.

I'm talking to the people at Solar Direct in Acton at the moment. There's no shortage of solar shops, but they seem to know what they're talking about and aren't afraid to put it online with basic pricing. For $1,100 they have a kit that includes:

1 Sharp 235watt solar panel
2 East Penn 100Ah AGM (absorbed glass matt) batteries
1 Morningstar ProStar 30M Charge/Load Controller
1 400 Watt PowerBright inverter
1 Set of MC4 extension cables 30’ long

I might go with something bigger than this, as I want to be able to expand on it in the future with additional panels and batteries. This kit can apparently support up to 3 235w panels and 4 batteries, so even this size kit can be built up from.

For $3,500 they up the ante to include:

4 Sharp 235watt solar panel
4 Surrette S-530, 530Ah FLA (flooded lead acid) 6v batteries
2 Morningstar TriStar 60A Charge/Load Controller
1 1500 Watt PowerBright inverter
1 Set of MC4 extension cables 30’ long

So I might work with them and find a sweet spot in between, with perhaps the higher capacity controller and inverter but fewer panels and batteries given the ease of adding panels and requirement to replace batteries over time.

My water system is a typical jet pump/pressure tank setup. So for me, I'm going to add one or two more pressure tanks to increase my draw-down. I figure I can increase it to a full day's worth of water, so I just run the generator/pump once a day or so. First thing I did was rip out the 13 litre flush toilet and put a 4.8 litre Toto in. Can't believe they've been filling a 13 litre toilet for 20 years off grid.

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