Sizing A Solar Off Grid System

After we have a full model of what we’re looking to achieve in designing solar power systems and have a little background on electricity it is time to do some contemplating and a little arithmetic to turn that into reality. That takes place in 2 pieces. One, we need to know what we’re attempting to control and how much energy that’ll use. As soon as we decide on that, the next thing to do is understanding what quantity of panels and solar batteries will meet our requirements when the setup is built.

For an off-grid system like the one I built, I am only running a subset of ordinary household items and appliances. This includes a music player, a PC, lighting, a water pump and a few others. The first step is to jot down a listing of everything you anticipate powering.

The next step actually requires multiplication, just so you’re warned in advance. Understanding what you’re planning to run is fine, knowing the exact quantity of electricity that takes is what you actually want. You can find several resources on the web for that at a high level. Make a spreadsheet detailing each item, its energy consumption and the number of hours a day it’ll have to be on. Multiplying watts by hours for every component results in a daily watt*hour total, then adding all the pieces as a whole gives the overall daily amount. This is what we are interested in, total electricity usage as one value, after we reach this point each discrete component being run does not matter anymore, although you will probably go back and tweak that list a couple times.

Once we have our absolute daily power usage amount, we’ll have to be able to generate it. The number one and most important variable is going to be in what location your system is geographically. In the middle of winter at the North Pole, there isn’t any sunlight at all, but there is of course a fair bit in the Arizona desert. Because I’m planning to be in the southern US in the middle of January, I ran with the rough guess that I will be harvesting five hours of peak daylight on a normal day.

On top of this we have to take into account rainy days. I decided to use a rough worst case that it could be cloudy for three days in a row, and that clouds lessen panel input by fifty percent. This is not an exact science, and depends on your number of batteries how much you can drain them through stretches of reduced light, but basically round numbers are easier.

In a DIY solar setup the deep cycle batteries are actually equally important to providing energy as the panels themselves. When the sun sets, you have to be able to drain all the solar energy accumulated during the daytime to power your electronics. A battery bank that is not big enough will cause a couple issues. One is that it can lessen the overall life of the deep cycle batteries. Try not to drain your deep cycle batteries under half of their overall capacity. A continual usage of three quarters of the total capacity can cause the deep cycle batteries to lose capacity, not store as much charge and have to be changed a good deal earlier. Another concern with a not big enough capacity is not harvesting the total amount of free solar power. If it’s nice and sunny and you always fully refill the battery bank by mid afternoon each day, from that point until sundown you’re not getting any more power, it’s nothing but waste.

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