Green / Eco-Friendly

solar panels at a remote cabin

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  • Apr 6th, 2010 10:14 pm
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Sr. Member
Oct 7, 2009
575 posts
canehdianman wrote: One more question regarding leaving the batteries up there over winter. Would they be ok? The temperature gets down to -40 or -50 for much of the winter, and I wouldn't want the batteries to get wrecked.
blainehamilton wrote: Nope, bring the batteries home, or they will be junk.
That is easily the worst part of taking advantage of solar - carrying those dang batteries back and forth and then maintaining them. They become like your additional adopted children. They can't be frozen so they need to be stored in a warm place, their charge needs to be regularly topped up when not in use . They're heavy and potentially dangerous (as an old tank commander who was scared of almost nothing told me: always wear goggles when charging & connecting them).

Batteries are the dirty little secret of solar power.
Deal Addict
Sep 22, 2007
4599 posts
121 upvotes
88 wrote: That is easily the worst part of taking advantage of solar - carrying those dang batteries back and forth and then maintaining them. They become like your additional adopted children. They can't be frozen so they need to be stored in a warm place, their charge needs to be regularly topped up when not in use . They're heavy and potentially dangerous (as an old tank commander who was scared of almost nothing told me: always wear goggles when charging & connecting them).

Batteries are the dirty little secret of solar power.
If the batteries are charged they won't freeze, only discharged batteries freeze. If you know that they will still charge, even slightly, they will be fine. A fully charged battery won't freeze until -71C. If the cells get covered then they won't charge and you could have problems.
Sr. Member
Oct 7, 2009
575 posts
spf1971 wrote: If the batteries are charged they won't freeze, only discharged batteries freeze. If you know that they will still charge, even slightly, they will be fine. A fully charged battery won't freeze until -71C. If the cells get covered then they won't charge and you could have problems.
By the sounds of it, the OP doesn't want to leave the panels and the batteries at the cabin, let alone continuously charging unattended.
canehdianman wrote: However, it needs to be either portable (and easy to set-up/take-down/transport) or very very very very weather resistant. It reaches -50'C in the winter.
There's no sense denying it - batteries are a PITA.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Jan 28, 2009
1964 posts
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Calgary
spf1971 wrote: If the batteries are charged they won't freeze, only discharged batteries freeze. If you know that they will still charge, even slightly, they will be fine. A fully charged battery won't freeze until -71C. If the cells get covered then they won't charge and you could have problems.
Yes, the batteries would definitely cover over with snow in the winter. Leaving the batteries up there over winter isn't really an option.

The batteries are definitely the biggest pain in the butt here.

I'll do some calculations before I plan any further to see if I could get by with a single battery, or even better, one of those eliminator charge packs from Canadian Tire.
Jr. Member
Feb 1, 2005
193 posts
28 upvotes
canehdianman wrote: Yes, the batteries would definitely cover over with snow in the winter. Leaving the batteries up there over winter isn't really an option.

The batteries are definitely the biggest pain in the butt here.

I'll do some calculations before I plan any further to see if I could get by with a single battery, or even better, one of those eliminator charge packs from Canadian Tire.
http://gizmodo.com/5433066/panasonic-ho ... for-a-week

One day gentlemen... one day...
Deal Guru
User avatar
Nov 5, 2001
10889 posts
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Edmonton
It's that time of year again!

http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/4 ... BPanel.jsp

40% off the Sunforce solar panels at Canadian Tire. The 30 Watt set is $149, $100 off. Pick up 2 sets of these. You can leave them at the cabin. Foldable and storable when not in use. 5 year over the counter warranty at any Canadian Tire.

http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/4 ... roller.jsp

$40 for a 100 Watt charge controller. Not a super price, but good enough for 2 sets of panels, capable of up to 3 sets. 5 year over the counter warranty as well.

Costco golf cart batteries are about the best deal you will find for storage. Much less expensive than true 12V solar batteries (start at about $300 each) vs under $200 for 2x 6V golf cart batteries. Plus you won't find a better warranty on these: money back.

Add a low power direct wire inverter (200 to 500 watts) and CFLs in all your lights and you are set.

Should be around $600 all said and done.

I still say building a small enclosure for the generator and buying one of those 100 foot 12/3 cords for $30 from costco is a better way to go, but the solar option is getting cheaper.
Sr. Member
Oct 7, 2009
575 posts
blainehamilton wrote: It's that time of year again!

http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/4 ... BPanel.jsp

40% off the Sunforce solar panels at Canadian Tire. The 30 Watt set is $149, $100 off. Pick up 2 sets of these. You can leave them at the cabin. Foldable and storable when not in use. 5 year over the counter warranty at any Canadian Tire.

http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/4 ... roller.jsp

$40 for a 100 Watt charge controller. Not a super price, but good enough for 2 sets of panels, capable of up to 3 sets. 5 year over the counter warranty as well.

Costco golf cart batteries are about the best deal you will find for storage. Much less expensive than true 12V solar batteries (start at about $300 each) vs under $200 for 2x 6V golf cart batteries. Plus you won't find a better warranty on these: money back.

Add a low power direct wire inverter (200 to 500 watts) and CFLs in all your lights and you are set.

Should be around $600 all said and done.

I still say building a small enclosure for the generator and buying one of those 100 foot 12/3 cords for $30 from costco is a better way to go, but the solar option is getting cheaper.
I'm betting this set-up with 60 watts input power (max only during the hours of direct angle, uncloudy sunlight) would provide a very optimistic overall average of about 1/4 kWh a day charge on the batteries during summer.

The average Canadian household uses 1,000kWh/month or about 35 kWh per day - - so you'll be getting about 1% of the power out of these Cdn Tire solar panels that you would be getting out of your mains at home. That's not completely impossible in the cabin situation the OP describes, but requires a completely different mindset as to what you can use this small amount of power for and whether the initial cost and hassles with equipment hauling and set-up is worth it.
Power consumption of some common household appliances

60W light bulb - 60W
CFL bulb - 18W
Toaster : 800-1500W
Microwave : 600-1500W
Dishwasher : 1200-1500W
Washing Machine : 500W
Vacuum Cleaner : 200-700W
Iron : 1000W
Electric Mower : 1500W
Clothes dryer : 4000W
Ceiling Fan : 10-50W
Table Fan : 25-100W
Electric Blanket : 200W
Hair Blow dryer : 1000W
Electric Shaver : 15W
Laptop Computer : 45W
Desktop Computer : 80-150W
TV (32" LCD) : 125W
TV (52" LCD) : 260W
Clock radio : 4W
9" disc sander : 1200W
3" belt sander : 1000W
Fridge / Freezer : 500W
Electric Kettle : 2000W
Power Shower : 240W
With a solar system of this low power, you really need to focus on cutting your demand for power, so you're pretty much down to a couple lights and a radio with this Cdn Tire system. That can be okay, but with the initial cost, the battery hauling, theft risk, etc. - - you've got to think carefully whether this novelty act is worth it.

Alternatively, you could just buy one of the excellent new crop of LED lanterns with regular old AA rechargeable batteries and a small solar panel to charge them for under $100 and you can carry this whole system in one hand.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Jan 28, 2009
1964 posts
521 upvotes
Calgary
88 wrote: I'm betting this set-up with 60 watts input power (max only during the hours of direct angle, uncloudy sunlight) would provide a very optimistic overall average of about 1/4 kWh a day charge on the batteries during summer.

The average Canadian household uses 1,000kWh/month or about 35 kWh per day - - so you'll be getting about 1% of the power out of these Cdn Tire solar panels that you would be getting out of your mains at home. That's not completely impossible in the cabin situation the OP describes, but requires a completely different mindset as to what you can use this small amount of power for and whether the initial cost and hassles with equipment hauling and set-up is worth it.



With a solar system of this low power, you really need to focus on cutting your demand for power, so you're pretty much down to a couple lights and a radio with this Cdn Tire system. That can be okay, but with the initial cost, the battery hauling, theft risk, etc. - - you've got to think carefully whether this novelty act is worth it.

Alternatively, you could just buy one of the excellent new crop of LED lanterns with regular old AA rechargeable batteries and a small solar panel to charge them for under $100 and you can carry this whole system in one hand.
At this point, all I would be concerned with running is 6 light bulbs (I will switch out for CFLs), and a small radio.

This all stemmed from the fact that I go up to the cabin to enjoy some quiet. My family likes having the lights on at night, so they run the generator.... Which quickly makes me want to stab myself in the eyeball with a fishing hook.

I've thought about a windmill generating electricity as well, but the moving parts lead me to believe that it would require more maintenance. However, after discussions with my family, it might be the better option - there would be little direct sunlight on the solar panels, and it is frequently cloudly.

I could bring the batteries up to the cabin fully charged though, and just use the panels to top up the charge throughout the week?

I think I'll have to do some calcualtions to see if the batteries would be able to power the lights for a week or two with only the 1/4 Kwh input you mention above.

I do want to thank everyone that has been contributing to this thread. I've been following it closely :)
Sr. Member
Oct 7, 2009
575 posts
canehdianman wrote: At this point, all I would be concerned with running is 6 light bulbs (I will switch out for CFLs), and a small radio.

This all stemmed from the fact that I go up to the cabin to enjoy some quiet. My family likes having the lights on at night, so they run the generator.... Which quickly makes me want to stab myself in the eyeball with a fishing hook.
Consider the LED lantern system I mentioned above - - they really are a cheap reliable portable lighting option nowadays. Here's this year's new model, the Black Diamond Titan Lantern which is waterproof, pumps out 250 lumens lighting a 14m circle, and runs for up to 156 hours on lower settings. You can use these at the cabin or for emergency lighting at home. You can have one bright one for the main area and a smaller one for each family member - - or better yet, our family's favourite: an LED headlamp for each person.

This approach is light and flexible and doesn't preclude solar options.

canehdianman wrote: I've thought about a windmill generating electricity as well, but the moving parts lead me to believe that it would require more maintenance. However, after discussions with my family, it might be the better option - there would be little direct sunlight on the solar panels, and it is frequently cloudly.
Be sure to read the small wind generator comparison test in this thread.



Overall, I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer about alternative energy, personally I find it fascinating, and it's certainly worth learning about by experimenting with it. It's just not always the best choice.
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Jan 28, 2005
3915 posts
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Toronto
How close are you to the river? I have seen some homebuilt water wheels used to generate electricity. One guy took a old squrrel cage blower from a old furnace placed it under a little natural falls and it works.

http://www.homepower.ca/dc_hydro.htm
http://ecoble.com/2009/09/10/alternativ ... potential/
http://diyenergy.blogspot.com/2007/08/h ... ctric.html
You say get high, I say hello!
[OP]
Deal Addict
Jan 28, 2009
1964 posts
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Calgary
Yeah, I thought of hydro power.

We are on the Churchill River, but we are about 5 miles upstream from a hydro dam, so the part of the river we are on is essentially a big lake. There isn't enough current to power a wheel or anything.
Member
User avatar
Oct 13, 2008
358 posts
26 upvotes
Calgary
http://www.dowsolar.com/products/index.htm

Later: Solar Shingles

Rather than laying solar panels across your roof, use them as your roof. Dow built thin-film photovoltaic cells directly into polymer shingles. They’re as protective as ordinary shingles, nail down in the same way and, in place of exposed wiring, hook together with simple electrical connectors at their ends. Some units go on sale later this year, with wide availability next year. Dow is also working on other building materials with sun power built in. —Arnie Cooper
Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles Price not set; dowsolar.com

http://www.popsci.com/environment/artic ... pler-sonar
Deal Guru
User avatar
Nov 5, 2001
10889 posts
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Edmonton
Solar shingles would be a bust in Canada.

The roof surfaces would likely be under snow 4+ months of the year, eliminating any generation. Mounted panels can be installed at a higher inclination so snow slides off, they can also be moved to improve generation during different seasons.

Add to that high winds and hail during thunderstorms, and you have an expensive disaster waiting to happen.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Jan 28, 2009
1964 posts
521 upvotes
Calgary
Solar shingles would like like putting lipstick on a pig.

Extremely expensive lipstick.

on an extremely ugly pig.
Member
User avatar
Oct 13, 2008
358 posts
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Calgary
blainehamilton wrote: Solar shingles would be a bust in Canada.

The roof surfaces would likely be under snow 4+ months of the year, eliminating any generation. Mounted panels can be installed at a higher inclination so snow slides off, they can also be moved to improve generation during different seasons.

Add to that high winds and hail during thunderstorms, and you have an expensive disaster waiting to happen.
I don't think they're a disaster, as they're a polymer based product, not glass. And it may be true that snow is on your roof in edmonton 4+ months a year, but here in Calgary it's more like 2 weeks. (chinooks). My roof was pretty bare all year round. If you were reading the popsci page, then you didn't scroll down far enough past the teflon article, to the actual description of the shingles. They install just like regular shingles. Nail down and go... not sure of all the details though, but I'm definately interested.

http://www.technologyreview.com/business/24383/page2/

[IMG]http://www.technologyreview.com/files/3 ... w_x600.jpg[/IMG]

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