Keeping Up With The Preppers

Simple and easy to understand prepping ideas that just may save your life.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Emergency Power Alternatives Made Simple Part I


Part I

Solar Panels and Charge Controller

Building an off grid power source for your home or "Bug Out" location is not as difficult as you may think. Having power can drastically improve the quality of life during a long or short term power outage. After losing all of our food during a three day power outage after a severe storm, we learned quickly that taking the power grid for granted was not a good time.  

Please keep in mind that we are not experts and there are always dangers when dealing with electricity. 

HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel

The solar generator constructed at our home is basically the same as the generator constructed at our bug out location.  

First, determine what it is you wish power and determine how many watts you're going to need. As an example, I use eight 100 Watt panels and five large RV batteries to run my full sized Maytag refrigerator. My set up allows me to run the refrigerator throughout the night if I turn the ice maker off and settings down on the fridge and freezer sides. I turn them to setting "two." 

There are four major components to our 12 volt solar generator:

 Solar Panels
Charge Controller
Battery Bank
Power Inverter

Solar Panels and Charge Controller will be discussed here.

Solar Panels: 

Solar Panels generate power during daylight hours to charge your battery bank. I use eight 100 watt panels to provide up to 800 watts of power to my battery bank. Generally speaking, the power generated by the panels are less than the advertised or rated watt output meaning eight solar panels probably put out 10 percent less power than the full 800 watts as advertised.

While the panels do in fact still provide power on a cloudy day, they will not be quite as efficient as full sunlight.

The solar panels I used are found on Amazon for about $114.00 each seen above.

I have been impressed with them but keep in mind the technology improves almost daily so do your research and read reviews. 

These panels are very easy to connect. The male and female connections are clearly marked (+) and (-) for positive and negative respectively. You will also need Y branch connection cables to connect more than one panel for your system. You will need a long set of cables run run power to the controller. I used a 100 foot cable with a male connection at one end and a female at the other end. Cut the cable in half and expose the wires.  This will give you 50 feet of wire. Of course, depending on your situation, you may need a longer cable or shorter cable. The shorter the cable the better. The longer the wire, the more electricity you will lose in the transmission of the power going inside to your charge controller.

Solar Panel Cable 100ft - Mc4 Pv Extension - 10 AWG - 600vdc Sunlight Resistand and BTSKY Y Branch MC4 1 Male to four Female (M/FFFF) and 1 Female to 4 Male (F/MMMM) Solar Panel Cable Connectors

Charge Controller:


The charge controller simply regulates the amount of DC (Direct Current) coming in from the panels in order to keep from over charging the battery bank which could damage or destroy the batteries. 
Once the batteries are fully charged, the charge controller will cut off the power coming in from the panels.  This means that the panels are doing nothing until the batteries require more power whether under load or need more power to be completely full.

The exposed wires will plug into the charge controller. Please make sure you have the positive and negative plugged into the correct ports on the charge controller or you will have a bad time. The ports are clearly marked on the controller.

Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp Charge Controller, 12/24V 100DC Input

From the left, the first two ports are the ports for the positive and negative cables coming in from the panels.  The Next two ports (Middle) are where the positive and negative cables leave the controller and go to your battery bank. The two ports on the far right are for running a 12 volt load such as a light directly from the controller. I do not use these.
There are many brands of charge controllers, however, I do strongly recommend using at least a 40 amp controller that uses MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) technology for running electronics.  The MPPT charge controllers will provide a more stable current which is less likely to damage sensitive electronics and appliances including your refrigerator or computer. The MPPT controllers are more expensive, but again, you will thank yourself later.

NEXT POST: Building your battery bank and Power Inverter.

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