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Thread: Home Solar Power... Sorry for opening a can of worms!

  1. #1
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    Default Home Solar Power... Sorry for opening a can of worms!

    Hey all,

    I know this is a touchy subject among many in this group, but I was hoping for a bit of feedback to those who are using or have looked deep into using solar power at home.

    Before getting to deep into this question I should let you know my thoughts. I am not looking to necessarily get off grid, but now that I am living quite rural and because my property is vulnerable to power outages I need to come up with a solution to save me huge headaches down the road. I was originally trying to figure out the best way to get my home set up with a proper generator systems that is tied into the grid in as far as it having the ability to automatically kick in if the power were to go out as we do like to travel and are away from the house somewhat frequently. My biggest worry is the damage that would occur, especially over winter, if this was to happen with no back up. Frozen pipes, spoiled food, etc all come to mind.

    Well the cost of setting up a proper generator system like this is not cheap which has led me to ponder on solar and I am thinking maybe a guy could set up a smaller dedicated system that is intended to power the basics only. Can a relatively simple system be set up to power only the furnace, water heater, well pump and maybe plug or two to run the deep freeze? My thought would be to run these items only full time off of solar so you do not need to worry about a power outage as well as maybe cutting our energy bill back somewhat over time. Understand I am not doing this specifically to save money on my monthly energy bills but instead as version of a back up power system (or really eliminating the need for a back up system).

    Am I crazy to think this could work? If not, does anyone have any thoughts on alternative ideas?
    Bob Blakeborough

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    I'm thinking about getting some solar panels this spring as well. I live in a suburban environment, so mine would be a grid connected system. There are some good calculators online to help you figure out what size of a system you need and then it's a good idea to run those numbers through a spreadsheet to see how economical it is. For off grid, you'll need some kind of storage which makes the installations a lot more expensive and that part of the install is not eligible for rebates.

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    At the lake we just have a portable generator with a double male extension cord... when power goes down we flip the main, turn off all nonessential circuits and plug that thing in. Worked great till we got a bigger water pump and now we need 220v to run that. Not sure what you can buy to automate that. My uncle does the big commercial grade auto switching $$$$ setup at his place with massive propane tanks to power it. It is pretty sweet!

    Solar will probably still be more than a fuel burning generator. But you probably don’t even need the panels. Just a battery bank setup like a giant UPS for the house

    Also I wouldn’t worry about making it “dedicated” ...if things aren’t on then they won’t draw anything. Freezers do last a long time if you don’t open them. Especially if well stocked. One trick we do is leave some ice cubes in a bowl. If they are no longer cubes you know the freezer was off line and things thawed out and may have spoiled
    Last edited by ercchry; 01-21-2019 at 12:56 PM.

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    My dad had a 5 panel solar setup at his place in ontario. He was pretty rural as well. In the end, he didn't see hardly enough reliability out of the system and went with a generator. If you are looking for emergency power, a generator is the prime way to go about it. You'll spend $10k on a proper setup where is with solar, that might get you the batteries.

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    Solar is awesome, you won't hear any pushback from me about it. Let's discuss how much load you might be seeing.

    Quote Originally Posted by tirebob View Post
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    My biggest worry is the damage that would occur, especially over winter, if this was to happen with no back up. Frozen pipes, spoiled food, etc all come to mind.
    What's your heat source? what does your water heater run on? Is it gas/propane with electrical fan/ignition or a pure electric heat? You'd need insanely massive batteries to run actual electric heat for any length of time. If it's cold, and the lid isn't being opened, your deep freeze won't use that much because it won't run often. I don't know much about well pumps, but what happens if they loose power?
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    Do you have natural gas to your house? A natural gas automatic back-up generator is about $5000, add another $1000 for a professional electrician to wire up the basics on a sub-panel that only the generator runs when power is cut, you aren't going to find solar for anywhere close to that cheap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Solar is awesome, you won't hear any pushback from me about it. Let's discuss how much load you might be seeing.

    What's your heat source? what does your water heater run on? Is it gas/propane with electrical fan/ignition or a pure electric heat? You'd need insanely massive batteries to run actual electric heat for any length of time. If it's cold, and the lid isn't being opened, your deep freeze won't use that much because it won't run often. I don't know much about well pumps, but what happens if they loose power?
    I am currently connected to Electricity and natural gas but my water comes from a well and I have a septic system. I am not looking for an alternative to being on the grid but instead as a partial system to run a few things full time which in turn will not be affected by any power outage eliminating the need to a back up generator system. My hot water tank and furnace are both newer and quite efficient and are on natural gas hooked to the grid (electrical ignition/fan etc.) The rest of the house is electric (fridge, stove, oven, washer and dryer) and I have a woodstove as well so the furnace is not always cranking when we are home in winter.

    My thoughts were that it may be a less expensive set up if I am not having to run the entire house and am only running the items I would require in an emergency if we experience a sustained power outage. I don't care about operating the washer/dryer or the stove/oven or even the lights. I just want to know I would have operating heat and functional water (pump system for the well) and if possible a couple 110v plugs for a freezer if it goes longer than a day or two (I do know freezers will keep things frozen for quite while even without power) but I would like to know that worst case I don't need to think about it. If it can run these few things full time as well it would just be a bonus.
    Bob Blakeborough

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tik-Tok View Post
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    Do you have natural gas to your house? A natural gas automatic back-up generator is about $5000, add another $1000 for a professional electrician to wire up the basics on a sub-panel that only the generator runs when power is cut, you aren't going to find solar for anywhere close to that cheap.
    Even if I am not looking for a full house power set up? I was looking into the generator system and everything I was seeing seemed to end up costing over 10k. Granted that was full retail and I do have connections to get the electrical done for a deal, but still... I would have factored more than 6k.
    Bob Blakeborough

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    Generac natural gas with automatic transfer switch would be the way to go if you want just strictly back up power. This model is 40A which is more then enough to power the essentials in your house.
    https://www.lowes.ca/generators/gene...B&gclsrc=aw.ds
    I have just the basic manual transfer switch to a gas generator which is a pain in the ass since I have to be home to start up the generator and have to walk thru the trees to get to it.
    Last edited by Matty_10; 01-21-2019 at 02:05 PM.

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    For sure you'll need an auto transfer switch.

    Does anyone know how he could set it up to power only certain "emergency" circuits and not everything in the house? He'll go over 8000w pretty fast otherwise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    For sure you'll need an auto transfer switch.

    Does anyone know how he could set it up to power only certain "emergency" circuits and not everything in the house? He'll go over 8000w pretty fast otherwise.
    Just need a subpanel and the "essentials" connected to it.

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    Generator. Hands down.
    Also check with insurance policy on empty homes and damage.
    Used to check on neighbours houses when I lived rural and there was a signed contract that I checked weekly as to not void any policies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tik-Tok View Post
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    Just need a subpanel and the "essentials" connected to it.
    I see you mentioned that earlier too. Missed that. Seems simple enough.
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    The cheap and nasty solution I use to see in rural internet and cable sites was to put everything you want to power by generator on a separate panel, and feed that panel with 50 amp range plugged into a 50 amp range receptacle from the main panel. On power failure, you start the generator and plug the panel plug into a cord terminated with another 50 amp range plug from the generator. Often there were UPS's in line, but it made it easy to bypass the UPS as well.
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    Alright so my boss has a house on an acreage, we have a natural gas powered generator that kicks on during power interruptions and has a automatic switch. Works good over the years, it powers the essentials plus some servers and never had any major issues.

    They also have a 50 something panel solar array as well which is tied into the grid, it is sold back to enmax. During the summer I think they make about as much power as they use, so they pay mostly the BS transmission fees and other things and maybe like $5 for power. However, since they don't have a battery storage they are not allowed to use the power that the panels generate during an outage. That is in the plans for the future as it costs a lot of money for the batteries.

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    I could be wrong, but did Thaco on here not have a solar set up going..? Or am i getting him confused with someone else..?

    I watched this video of a guy that is off grid in the UK. His youtube name is (im not making this up)...*clears throat*..'Maximus Ironthumper'. His setup is interesting.
    Not sure if it covers it all. But it might give you some ideas Bob and its entertaining to watch. Hell.. you could be the Canadian version of this guy.




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