Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Solar power: the first components installed

Last week I received a few more of the components for our solar power system. There are only two more components I have yet to receive. They’ve been ordered and should arrive soon. I’ve made one change in the plans: we’re not going to use two inverters. I already purchased a 3,000 watt inverter off of Ebay and was going to buy a 600 watt inverter also. Well, somehow my order for the 600 watt Samlex inverter got ‘misplaced’ during the holidays. That was actually a good thing because I had pretty much decided not to get it. So, I cancelled the order.

I realized that I do not have a need for a 3,000 watt inverter. There won’t be enough times that I need enough power from the system to justify having an inverter of that size. So, I’ve listed it on Ebay to sell it, hopefully getting my money back out of it. I also had decided that I wanted a different Samlex inverter/charger. This unit would provide AC power and allow charging of the battery bank from a generator during extended periods of cloudy weather. It was in favor of this unit that I cancelled the order for the 600 watt inverter. Then, I found out that the inverter/charger I wanted was no longer available. Samlex discontinued that model because they were coming out with a new one sometime this spring or summer.

This situation prompted me to consider other choices. I was interested in the Xantrex Trace series of inverter/chargers. I really like their power saving feature where the inverter can be put into sleep mode, during which it consumes very little power while sending out a pulse every few seconds to check for any loads. If there’s a load, it powers up. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was that it is a modified sine wave inverter.

There are many inverters out there which are modified sine wave, and people run all kinds of things with them. There are a few things that can have problems with modified sine wave. For instance, certain electronic devices don’t like it and some motors can run hotter and less efficiently with them. As I considered the pros and cons (the pros mainly being price), I finally decided that we would be best served with a relatively small true sine wave inverter.

At this point, I was ready to order a 1,000 or 1,500 watt Samlex inverter which would provide all the AC power we would need 99% of the time. But, I didn’t like their no-load power consumption, and I wasn’t completely sure about the quality and longevity of an ‘inexpensive’ inverter.

Anyway, I ended up ordering an Exeltech XP1100 true sine wave inverter with a power saving option. These are American made and of good quality. I’m pretty confident that it will do all we want and need very reliably. It did cost a bit more than a cheaper model, but if it lasts longer it will be worth it. I also ordered a battery charger since the Exeltech is only an inverter. Iota has a nice model (DLS 27-40) which I’d been considering. In the corner of the storage roomSo, since it may well be necessary at times, I ordered it. These are the two components I’m waiting on.

This afternoon I went to a local electrical supply store to buy some wire and other supplies I need for installing everything. I started the installation by getting the knockouts ready on the disconnect box. Then, I attached it and the solar charge controller to the wall. When other projects allow, I’ll start wiring the inside components and will then mount the solar panels and connect them. At that time, we’ll be just about ready to throw the switch on our alternative energy system.

In the first photo, you can see the first two components on the wall. I’m installing it in the corner of the small storage room I closer view with the box openbuilt on to our mobile home a few years ago. The battery box is on the floor below the solar charge controller and disconnect box.

The photo at the left is a closer view with the cover off the box. The battery cables will enter from the bottom. The conduit to the left will route the wires to the inverter. The Xantrex XW-MPPT60-150 solar charge controller is on top. This controller has some very nice features and should help harvest as much energy as possible from our solar array.

Inside the disconnect box are breakers. These are for the PV array input, the solar charge controller output, and one for a separate DC only distribution box for any DC loads that we may wish to run in the future. There will be a larger breaker installed for the inverter in the empty slot above the other breakers. You can also see the shunt I installed inside the box. combiner boxThis will allow for accurate battery monitoring with the Trimetric 2020 battery monitor that I bought and will install.

I bought a weather tight junction box and two bus bars today. I installed the bus bars inside the junction box (photo at right) for attaching the positive and negative leads from the solar panels to. I didn’t want to use wire nuts. The negative leads will be on the bar to the left and the positive leads will attach to the bar on the right. The positive and negative wires going to the house will also attach to the bars. This will allow me to combine the three sets of panels I’ll have wired in series in one neat, clean box. I think it will work well.

I think we’ll end up with a very nice system. It’s cost more than I intended – it’s easy to spend a lot of money on solar power. We wouldn’t be putting this system together if it wasn’t for taking an early disbursement of my retirement money (I don’t believe it would be there by the time I reach retirement age if I left it along) to fund our house building. Lest you think we had a great sum of money to withdrawal, let me assure you that we didn’t. It ought to be enough to finish the house, including a solar power system, without extravagant spending. My conviction is that it is better to have that money in something tangible, like a house, than to leave it subject to unstable market forces.


  © Blogger template 'Minimalist G' by 2008

Back to TOP