Prepper Garden Update 10-1-17

As the leaves are turning and beginning to fall, we’re very pleased with not only the successes (and a few failures) of the season, but that we are still getting some production. If you’ve been following, then you already know that we grew everything from seed and staggered our plantings in an attempt to extend our harvest.

Carrots and radishes have been a mixed bag, with some carrots still growing, while the last of the radishes went to seed long ago. The first planting of peas went well, but the second didn’t produce at all (possibly just too late in the season. The corn is long gone as we talked about in our last update, but will definitely be a great opportunity for us next year. Continue reading “Prepper Garden Update 10-1-17”

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Solar Project Update 6-25-17

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on the progress of our off-grid solar project. We originally set out with a goal to be able to run a few lights, electronics and hopefully keep our freezer and fridge from thawing during a blackout. We started with the Renogy 200 Watt complete system to get up and running quickly with the ability to expand later ( you can view that system here).

Fast forward, we’ve upgraded that with a new 80 amp MPPT controller, 2 more Renogy GEL batteries, and a 1500 watt inverter tied to eight 100 watt panels. The charge controller we purchased turned out to be quite ineffective and actually not even an actual MPPT as advertised; sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

MPPT 80

In addition to that, we have added a 2nd smaller system by adding 2 sealed AGM batteries to our original 30 amp Renogy charge controller and 500 watt Renogy inverter. Continue reading “Solar Project Update 6-25-17”

Prepper Garden Update

Growing your own food is hard work, but can be fun and rewarding at the same time.  You haven’t tasted fresh until you’ve eaten strawberries or blueberries you picked right from the garden and what’s more self-sufficient than growing your own food? So with that being said I thought I would give you a little update on how our first real go at gardening is progressing. Continue reading “Prepper Garden Update”

Gear Review: Comparing 4 Popular Solar Panels

When you’re starting out to either build or expand your off-grid solar system, how do you know what panels to buy? You read customer reviews and Amazon ratings till you’re blue in the face, but the fact is many  of those reviews are from 1st time buyers who have nothing else to really compare the product to. I have experienced this very same dilemma over the past 10 months and decided to share my results with you.

4 mono panels

I started my system by buying a prepackaged 200 Watt system from Renogy. (Read the review here.) The system came with two 100 watt monocrystalline panels which seemed Continue reading “Gear Review: Comparing 4 Popular Solar Panels”

Saving $$$ with Solar

Just a little update on our off-grid solar project: the electric bill arrived yesterday and…drum roll please…last month was $205, this month is $122. Now, with changes in the weather from April to May this isn’t a true comparison, so when looking at our bill for the same period last year (yes, I keep all that) it was $193. That’s $6.01 per day last year vs. $3.84 a day this year: a 36% reduction or a savings of $71.00. This was a result of switching to LED lights, unplugging unused devices and running some items on solar power only. If you’ve been following the blog you know that for this period of time we were still only running 2 100ah batteries and 4 100 watt solar panels compared to the 3 100ah batteries and 8 100 watt panels that make up our current configuration. We have now added our chest freezer and coffee pot to the list of ‘solar power only’ items so next month should give us a much clearer picture of how much we can save and how quickly we can recover our costs. In case you are new to the site, we set out to create an off-grid solar back up for emergencies, the cost savings is just a bonus.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

Off-Grid Solar Project Update 5-08-17

Our little solar project just got a little bit bigger, ok, a lot bigger. We’ve been a little slow getting this latest update in place as the Solar Controller we ordered from Amazon literally took 6 weeks to arrive (slow boat from China?).

 New Charge Controller

So here it is: 4 new solar panels for a total of 8, another 12v 100ah GEL battery for a total of 3 (yes we need more) and a new 80 amp solar charge controller.

 8 panels

3 batteries

Yesterday was bright and sunny and gave us a pretty good picture of how well the system was performing. The (8) 100 watt panels (4 monocrystalline, 4 polycrystalline) produced about 677 watts during peak sunlight for an efficiency of about 85%. We ran our modem, router, PC, fan, and several lights for a full 24 hours as well as the dehumidifier for about 3 hours without draining the batteries below 70%. Today we will see if the system can run our 15 cubic foot freezer for the day under partly cloudy conditions.

If you are prepping for a bug-in situation, off-grid solar might just be for you. I’ll be posting a review of the individual panels as I have purchased from 3 different companies so stay tuned!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Happy prepping!

Gear Review: Renogy 200 Watt Complete Solar Kit

It seems prepping and Solar Power often go hand in hand, so despite my long held opposition to alternative energy, I began to do some research (I will post some links at the bottom of the article.) There are a large number of players in arena, but thanks to some extensive reviews and recommendations over at the TinHatRanch.com we decided to take our chances with a Renogy kit. Aside from the positive reviews, Renogy had (at least on Amazon) the only ‘complete kit’ that was actually a complete kit. Yes, several claimed to be complete, yet require at minimum a battery to actually function. The Renogy kit cam with 2 100 watt monocrystalline panels, 30 watt PWM charge controller, 500 watt inverter, 12v 100ah sealed GEL battery and all the cables and hardware needed to hook it all up. Being skeptical I ordered a few extra cables ‘just in case,’ but wound up not needing them. Here is a link to the unit as we purchased it: Renogy 200 Watts 12 Volt Complete Solar Panel kit Monocrystalline with Charge Controller +Mounts+ 100AH Gel Battery+ 500W Pure Sine Inverter

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The panels seem well constructed and as I stated are of the monocrystalline variety vs. the polycrystalline as they are promoted as being more efficient particularly in low light. I guess I just have to take their word for it on this one.

charge controler

The charge control is a very basic 30 amp unit with only light indicators for battery type, battery status, and charging status. A upgraded version would be preferable, but the unit does it’s job as intended.

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The inverter is a basic 500 watt unit, nothing fancy, but a larger unit than is contained in most solar kits in this price range. At 500 watts it will run most small electronics and can easily run more than the 2 panels can generate.

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The battery is the biggest surprise here as none of the other kits actually came with a battery, none. This 12v 100ah sealed GEL battery is a little beast weighing in at nearly 70 pounds with a claimed 10 year lifespan. Oddly, the stats claim a maximum recommended charging of 20 amps in a system that is expandable up to 30 amps, but so far so good.

Set up

Surprisingly the kit actually came with all the cables, z-brackets, and fuses necessary to get the unit up and running in just a couple of hours. My only complaint is that the tray cables are not color coded for simplification nor are the cables on the back of the solar panels. Yes, this was easily overcome with some red electrical tape, but details can make a difference. The kit came with instruction manuals for each unit instead of one manual for the kit. However, their help line was extremely good.

Overall I am very pleased with the kit as an easy way to get started with solar. If you are well versed in solar, then you would be better off purchasing individual parts to better customize the system to your needs. However, this is a great way to get started without breaking the bank.

Update: we have added 2 more panels, another 100 watt battery and upgraded the fuses to meet those needs. Now 8 weeks into the project, I would still recommend this kit to anyone taking their first journey into solar energy.

Hope you found this helpful.

Here are 7 great videos on the subject from the TinHatRanch.

Solar Part 1

Solar Part 2

Solar Part 3

Solar Part 4

Solar Part 5

Solar Part 6

Solar Part 7