Interested in Broadcasting .... OFF THE GRID?

Started by ttabs, November 18, 2012, 11:05:15 pm

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November 18, 2012, 11:05:15 pm Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 01:29:05 am by ttabs
This part of my preps started about three years ago.  SOLAR POWER for the retreat.   I was going to just keep all the components at the ready to install them when SHTF.  But I decided this last summer to install a portion of my Solar Sys to power my radio room I was building.  I had everything at my site, so I thought 'Why Not?'. Lets put them to the test! 

Solar Systems basically are composed of 4 components (well sort of as you'll see there are some cool bells and whistles - like our radios!). 

First you have the Panels that collect the energy. They come in a variety of sizes, voltages, watts, and so on. I stuck with a 12 v system because for my needs, 12v will work good.  I'll address that in a little bit.  I purchased my panels from Sun Electronics ( an outfit out of Phoenix (I believe).   They took the time to educate me on solar systems in general and it was through them I picked up all the solar components I would need (except the batteries which I bought locally).  Shop around and compare prices with these guys. 

So I purchased about a doz on these 12v 125w panels.  Since my shop had an exposed south facing wall, this was where I choose to mount 4 of the panels. (I can add more if need be)  That would be a starting point of 500 watts (on a good day) of power supply.  I designed my own brackets and mounting system that was not difficult using some aluminum angle iron I picked up at Home DeeePot. I hinged the corners of the panels to the wall using 2" cut pieces of angle iron and bolts.   The support arms are 1" angle.  Drill holes where you'd like in the frame of the panels to try and get a perpendicular trajectory to the sun. You'll have to adjust them at certain points of the year based on the season -  No big deal.   

Anyways - I was working on them this weekend to see what would be the optimum angle for the next several months.  The sun angle in N. Idaho is pretty dramatic between summer and winter.  Having them nearly horizontal is great for April - Sept (as you can see the others that were mounted there). 

Notice I drilled holes in the wall to pass each individual wire through to the inside of the shop.   There I wired all the panels together in parallel using AWG 8 wires sending the 12v pwr supply down to the charge controler. 

What I wound up doing is leaving them like this.  I'll get about 5' of standing snow this winter and these panels would not likely handle the load.  The sun angle is amazingly low on the horizon this time of year so we'll see how efficient they work this winter like this .....


November 18, 2012, 11:13:23 pm #1 Last Edit: November 20, 2012, 02:00:33 pm by ttabs
OK - so the panels are up and collecting the sun.  I have them wired in parallel for a 12v sys.  The next thing is to run this power supply to the charge controller.   Remember I'm using 8 AWG wire, 6 would be good too!  The main thing is to keep your wire runs as short (and thereby as most efficient) as possible. 

This model handles up to 45 amps 12v load.  They make one that can handle 60 amps also. It looks like there's a lot of wires coming and going, but it's not a big deal as the directions were fairly straight forward (sorry- I got some bad pics here).....


Anyway, I added a simple light switch between the panels and controller so I can cut power to the controller if I need to work on it for some reason.  It's a smart connivence thing. 


November 18, 2012, 11:32:25 pm #2 Last Edit: December 06, 2012, 05:12:16 pm by ttabs
From the charge contoller, next are your batteries. I would suggest purchasing large 6v batteries used for golf carts .... or BIGGER!  I picked up six of these Trojan BFB's a few years ago. (they weigh 100 lbs each!).  They are the L-16's holding about 380Ah each.  Yes I spent an arm and a leg on them and was simply float charging ever since I bought them.  Actually the solar system will take better care of them as they will get 'equalized' at least once a month now. 

So I have two batteries hooked in series to create 12v, and the three sets hooked up in parallel.  Take your time and carefully do the wiring here.  I nearly welded a wrench to a post when I wasn't paying close attention.  lol

What is 'equalized'?.  It's a process where the charge controller sends higher voltage for a specific cycle to the batteries and desulfates them for a defined period of time knocking deposits off the plates and re-energizing the batteries.  They stay in peak condition rather than slowly losing their capacity over time.  If you simply float a battery, yes they stay at peak charge but sulfide deposits can form on the plates reducing the battery efficiency.  This guy ( claims he has the cure for restoring old batteries, but I've read articles also how equalizing batteries using solar panels are another efficient way of restoring old batteries.  Here's a good article ...


Next, I ran some AWG 6 lines from the batteries to my radio room.  Here's where I attached the 4th component of the system - the inverter.  Now, you can spend what you like on these things and you'll get what you pay for.  The inverter I bought is a sine wave inverter - so I can run a computer off it if I choose. 

So I hooked this BAD A$$ thing up, tested it to see that everything works OK, then shut it down.  For me, it's there if I need it but my plan is to use it for convience items.  It'll come in handy I'm sure.   I can make a 'suicide plug' - that's an extension cord with two male ends, and back-feed my electric panel in a grid down situation.  (yes of course you'd disconnect the main) I could then use any outlet in the building.  I can power up tools, appliances or what ever but keep in mind that is not my strategy.

I'm thinking 12 VOLTS!


November 18, 2012, 11:54:33 pm #4 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 01:37:17 am by ttabs
So my story does not end there.  First a few side notes about bells and whistles which HAM heads apparently love.

I picked up this cool box that is a remote solar sensor that tells me in very simple terms the state of my solar system.   I mounted it right where my radios are and at a glance I can tell exactly how many volts my batteries are supplying, how much load there is on my solar system (down to 1/10th of an amp), and the energy state of my batteries in terms of percent - all with the push of one button!   SIMPLE DIMPLE EASY SHMEEZY....

Here my batts are 100% charged ...

And here I'm drawing -1.9 amps (see the minus sign there) with all my radios and scanners on (AFTER DARK) ....



November 19, 2012, 12:01:08 am #6 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 12:13:53 am by ttabs
So to install this gizmo, you'll need to add a shunt in your neg line coming off the battery supply which will measure - amongst other things - the draw of power your batteries are giving off.  With no load on the batteries, my meter says .1 amps.    Here's the shunt that I added ....

AH - but my story continues .......


November 19, 2012, 12:03:04 am #7 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 12:15:14 am by ttabs
Just to be smart about all this power coming and going, I also added a Serious Solar Fuse (SSF) on the positive side of the battery supply ....


November 19, 2012, 12:13:10 am #8 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 01:11:07 am by ttabs
Did I mention I want to be a 12v guy?  Well, with everything hooked up and working fine, I bounced some AWG 6 off of the back of the inverter terminals to run a 12v supply to this bus that I picked up on Amazon here:

this thing is cool cuz you power it up and then run independently fused components off of one source ...

(OK - I'm still under OFFICIAL radio room construction here so take it easy on me for the mess.  I'll clean it up)

NOW, this is where things get really cool. 

I'm powering all my radios and scanners off of 12 volts here ...

(LOL - notice all the 'cheater' manuals opened there.  I'm a newbie at this radio stuff!)


November 19, 2012, 12:28:23 am #9 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 03:13:28 am by ttabs
I can also power up a bunch of other stuff like:

- 12v recharging stations for the dozen or so handhelds I have
- a Grundig 750 shortwave radio
-  AA and AAA and CR123A battery charging stations to keep all the toys working including flashlights, NODS, scopes, and what ever else.  BTW- from what I've read, ENELOOPS are one of the best rechargeable bats you can buy:


Well - I picked up these stinkers on ebay.  They are LED's that put off 80 or so LUMS and are almost the size of a quarter ....

You can see them here (as of today's date, search ebay for 'G4 LED 24') ...

Here's how 4 of them perform  pulling just over .1 amp each ....

You'll also need to get the G4 Sockets depicted next to the quarter sized LED light above.  Search ebay for 'G4 Socket' ...


November 19, 2012, 12:39:38 am #10 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 01:44:00 am by ttabs
Since the lights and sockets weigh next to nothing, I found I can use a small piece of double sided foam tape and 'stick' these things anywhere I please, and then bend the LED wire terminals up to 90 degrees to point the light exactly where I need it. 

On a styrofoam insulated ceiling ....

or on an existing light fixture (that won't be working if the grid goes down) ....

Of course I'm going to get these all wired in - but the possibilities are endless.  I ordered a few hundred of these sockets/lights.  We hooked up 3 of these led lights in a remote building I have set up with a solar panel and battery.  The space is 12' x 20' and it's amazing how much light those three LED's cast.  They're the cat's meow!!!  I figure I can easily illuminate a 50 x 50 shop with 9 to 12 of these things.  (well, light enough to see what the heck your doing).  Imagine what you can do with these things in your place with no grid and a MINIMAL power draw! 


November 19, 2012, 12:49:18 am #11 Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 01:50:35 am by ttabs
Keep in mind fellas everything in an RV can run off of 12 volts as well.  A propane refrigerator, water pressure pump, ceiling fans (as well as 12v radiator fans), and much more stuff.  I have these old heating oil tanks I cleaned and filled with gasoline (we can talk how to stabilize gas for up to 12 years if you like).  I'm pumping from these tanks with ...  you guessed it ... 12v fuel pumps that work as good as a gas stations.  I even have a well pump that can run off of 12v (but it prefers 24v ... which I can do too!)  here ....


BTW - I just read this weekend about a device made by MFJ Enterprises that will boost the voltage of your battery to +13 v to maximize the power out of your radio transmitters  here ....

Mine's on the way .... Now ... would that be classified as another bell or whistle?   ;D

73's - out


Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing this.



UPDATE - I figured out (I think) how to run that well pump.  It can handle between 12v to 30v input and uses 2.5 amps to function.  I ordered up today a pair (cuz two is one) of 12v to 24v step up converters on eBay along with 400' of 6AWG wire.  I can attach the pos wire only to a pressure switch and have it cycle on at 30psi and off at 35psi.  Easy in theory except for the install.  now I can run my water supply off grid too.  Cool stuff.

I see lots of views and no comments. Hmmmmm......