How To Cheaply Start Using Solar Power

A basic wiring diagram


START SMALL

An easy way to integrate solar power into your life is to start small.  Climbing a mountain is achieved one step at a time.  Let’s face it, the cost of powering a conventional house to solar is pretty steep.  One way to get around this, can be to place a small solar panel on the south side of your house to power LED lights to one room only.  A south facing room is best because the sun rises in the east, continues climbing and remains most of the day in the south then finally sets in the west.  So to get the most from your solar panel you will want to place it facing south.  That’s what we did in the temporary accommodations that we built in the barn in which we live right now.

OUR SMALL SYSTEM

Our solar panel measure about 12” X 14”and produces 15 watts per hours, in optimum conditions.  The panel cost about $80.00 and should last more than 10 years, more likely 20 years!  You will need a charge controller to prevent overcharging and overheating of the battery.  We paid $20.00 for ours.  Then you’ll need a deep cycle battery that resembles a car battery but differ in the fact that it can be charged and discharged within certain parameters and should last from 7 to 10 years and cost around $200.00.  You’ll need some black and red wires, fuses, a few tools and to build a support for the solar panel.  $30.00 for all of this should be enough.  Then if you have the skills necessary to jumpstart a car, you can wire the whole thing yourself .  As with anything else, the most difficult thing to do with solar power, is to get started.  You could use the LEDs in a room where you use intermittently the light for reading, for example.  Then you could add to your system as your desire and finance allows.

Welcome to solar power!

Our solar panel setup

THE SOLAR PANEL

We have a single 15 Watt solar panel that powers all five lights in our living space. It is mounted on a homemade tripod to tilt the panel at the correct angle to the sun and to withstand the high winds.  The wiring from the solar panel goes inside the barn to the:

The charge controller

THE CHARGE CONTROLLER

The charge controller comes as a sealed unit and all you have to do is hook it up.  The panel indicates if the battery is charging and when it is fully charged.

The deep cycle battery

THE BATTERY

We keep our battery in a protective box since it was under our motor home before we put it in the hayloft of the barn.  We have an “Optima” brand battery which is highly rated for reliability.

Homemade fuse box

THE FUSE BOX

We have a homemade fuse box into which I wired car fuses.  Another way would be to buy or scavenged a “fuse box” from a car or truck and use it to put a fuse between every component of the system.

Reading Light #1. Installed in a fixture made from a scrap 2 x4, screws, baling wire and chain. Switch optional.....

THE LIGHTS

We have LED (light emitting diode) in arrays of 30 bulbs.  The LED lights use 95% less energy than the same wattage incandescent lights so, if we are mindful about turning the lights off and on we almost never have to use the backup system.  LED lights come in a variety of colors.  We prefer the “warm white” LED lights.  The regular or “cool” white tend to have an unnatural, blue cast.

We buy most of LEDs from Empat Manufacturing II or if we find a good deal locally. Empat’s customer service is excellent.  They have an ebay store which you can access here:

http://myworld.ebay.co/1michiganger/

Reading light #2. Love that soft-white light

The lights don’t come with a fixture so we make a homemade support out of whatever we have on hand.  Our fixtures are not fancy but very practical.  I’m always on the lookout for pre-used light fixtures and switches to convert.  LED light is very directional so it is a good idea to hang the lights directly above where you want it to shine.

The Kitchen light with regular "blue" toned white lights. All installed in an empty humus container.

The bathroom light. Stylish humus container lid fixture.

The over the bed, reading, light with soft white LEDs.

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About thegreenlifefarm

The Green Life Farm welcomes people who are on a path toward sustainability, increased environmental consciousness and mindfulness. We are 80% food self sufficient, off the grid for lighting, have reduced our wastes by 90% and have become more and more producers instead of consumers. The Green Life Farm is a place to meet kindred spirits and experience how it could be to reconnect with people and nature. Our farm is always open to visitors interested in alternative energy, living, thinking, building, husbandry, forestry, cooking and farming. In summer, our place is open to campers. Our names are: Bonnie and Sylvain. Calling 902-665-2084 is best because we are not online, thegreenlifefarm@gmail.com, every day. You are welcome to bring your pet. Be ready to use an outhouse! All visits include harvesting (even in winter), preparing and sharing a meal…and good discussions
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