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Details of the Solar Energy System used in this small, energy efficient, earth sheltered home.

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This efficient solar energy powered home uses six 80 watt solar panels (2 now on the house and 4 on the adjustable mount shown below), a Trace 60 amp charge controller, a Trace 2500 watt true sine wave inverter, and fifteen 105 AmpHour batteries. With a little conservation and replacing the power hungry appliances (like dryers, heaters, electric stoves, etc.) with gas or other alternatives, I have all the electrical conveniences of modern living without the electric bills and no connection or dependency on the utility power grid. In the winter, sometimes heavy snow takes down some power lines & I watch on TV that my neighbors are without power.    :)
   (click for larger view)
click for larger view Earth sheltered, energy efficient, solar powered home
click for larger view
click for larger view
click for larger view
With wood heat and no greedy electric appliances, this system runs a 10 cubic foot refrigerator, a desktop computer with efficient LCD monitor, a 27 inch Energy Star compliant color TV, a 1200 watt microwave oven, and assorted other lights and devices. In the summer when I produce more power than I normally use, I have enough energy to run a 5000 BTU Air Conditioner for the 1 or 2 hours a day that I need it when it gets over about 95 degrees F. The earth sheltered design (click the small pictures for more views) keeps it pretty cool most of the time. Usually, my ceiling fan is all that is required.
I have been using between 60 & 80 KWH (KiloWattHours) of electricity per month. When I was hooked up to utility power and did not really know anything about conservation, my KWH usage was closer to 500 ! Look at your KWH usage on your electric bills and you will see the results that conservation and more efficient appliances can produce. A family of 4 would probably require 16 or more panels but conservation would still be part of the equation. Check out About Solar Power for some examples of larger system costs. Also the System Sizing Estimator can calculate the number of solar panels and batteries needed for a wide range of configuations using simple one click choices.
UPDATE: The trees casting shadows on the house mounted solar panels (which is a no-no) have since been cut down and the panels remounted on the seasonally adjustable mount shown on the left. This has increased output over 25% with adjustments 4 times per year. Since the trees were cut down, I later bought 2 more panels and mounted them back on the house since I still had the wiring in place. With a total of 6 solar panels and 15 AGM 105 AmpHour batteries I have plenty of Get some Free Sun Power! !  
In eastern Washington state, from about mid February thru about mid November I receive more than enough power from the sun. During the worst winter months (Dec-Jan) I run a generator for 45-60 minutes a day on overcast days to bulk charge the batteries. If I was connected to the utility grid, I could actually sell power back to the utility company during the peak summer power production months. Check out the Solar Radiation chart to get an idea of the amount of sunshine you could expect for your area.
The cost for this system including a 7000 Watt electric start AC Generator, the new solar array mount, and the added solar panels & batteries comes to about $10,000 but could have been set up with less expensive components for around $6,500. That may sound like a lot of money but... NO electric bills! And energy independence!
Here is a full view of the battery bank. These are 12 volt 105 AmpHour AGM (absorbent glass mat) lead acid batteries designed for alternative energy applications, all wired in parallel. With 1575 total AmpHour capacity and using 125 to 200 AmpHours per day, I could run for quite a few days. However, lead acid batteries like to be fully charged so I usually don't use more than 300 to 350 AmpHours before I recharge. This is known as shallow cycling and will greatly increase battery life. With this technique I expect to get 10 years or more from my batteries. On overcast days with little solar energy, I can run the generator for an hour or so and bring the battery bank pretty close to full. I wait for the sun to top them off. 1575 AmpHour capacity  Concorde AGM Sun Extender alternative energy batteries.
Night shot of temporary power center components

This is the original installation of all the components in the temporary power center. Shown is the AC breaker panel, system monitor, charge controller, 12 volts DC power fuse blocks, inverter, and main 250 amp circuit breaker. Eventually I plan to locate all the equipment elsewhere and use remote control panels and monitor displays only. Although I am used to it now, the inverter does buzz a little when it operates.

I took this night time shot just to enhance all the led running lights. They make great night lights and are not really as bright as they look in the photo which I modified somewhat...

Design your system quickly with our Interactive Design Tools
(Note : These design tools require javascript to be turned on in your browser)
* Check out our easy point & click System Sizing Estimator to quickly & easily calculate the number of solar panels and storage batteries you'll need for a wide range of system sizes.
* Our Battery Bank Design Tool will take the confusion out of wiring up your battery bank. Use 2, 4, 6, or 12 volt batteries to build a system voltage of 12, 24, or 48 volts using series and parallel wiring with just 4 clicks. Battery bank capacities from 300 AmpHours to over 4000 AmpHours are displayed graphically so you can see exactly how to wire the batteries together.
* This Wire Size Calculator will allow you to quickly find the correct wire size in AWG (American Wire Gauge) based on the distance to your solar panel array & the amount of amperage your panels put out. No math required!

New Feature!  Check out our new feature Solar Projects where you can build easy, do-it-yourself projects for your solar power system to save money and have fun doing it!

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