Our Solar System

“We all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.
                                  John Lennon

When we are up on our future homestead, working our bodies to an over-exhausted state, it’s always nice to have a hot shower and an evening television show or two to vegetate over.

We set up a really nice “camping” spot on our property to live in while we are up working (click here to see) and are completely off grid, so unless we want to run a generator (noisy and pollutes with fossil fuels) or bring up fully charged batteries from home (very heavy to lug around), living comfortably in the trailer on work weekends would not be feasible!

The first solar panels we obtained were from our brother-in-law, Danny, who got two of them from his work.  They were solar panels that had fallen off one of those digital roadside signs you see in construction areas.  The glass had shattered but all of the inner workings were still intact.  These panels still work pretty well despite their damage and have helped supplement our battery system when we are “dry” camping.  This was our first dabble with solar energy and we were quite impressed, but it didn’t completely solve our energy problem on rainy days, when the panels didn’t work as well and the batteries got low. We would have to choose between watching a little television or taking a shower, and the shower usually won.  Then Ray found a small 45 watt system sold through Harbor Freight (see here) that had three panels, an adjustable stand and a battery controller for less than $150.  We set the new panels on top of the trailer and they worked like a charm.  This system allowed us to camp for more than four or five days at a time without having to use our generator, as long as we were very conservative with our energy use.  In the meantime, we switched all of the lights in the trailer from those little incandescent bulbs to LED, which saved a tremendous amount of energy.

Dish Network Satellite Dish
This picture shows the satellite dish we bought to go along with the receiver we have set up in our trailer. It is mounted alongside a 75 watt solar panel that energizes the tool shed/guest cottage.

This worked well until a few years ago when we had to switch from analog TV to digital.  Being off the grid and having no prospects of getting cable TV, we opted to use one of our digital satellite receivers from home and purchased another dish that we set up on a tall tree snag.  Unfortunately this brought another energy using appliance into the equation as the satellite receiver also uses energy – not a lot, but enough so that we again had to be very conservative in energy usage if we wanted to watch the news and an hour long program in the evening.

Ray fixed all that with an ingenious system.  We bought two more Harbor Freight 45 watt solar systems and instead of hooking them up to the trailer battery, Ray devised two more separate systems, one for each the TV and the satellite receiver.  The TV now has it’s own set of solar panels linked to two deep cycle batteries.  The satellite receiver also has it’s own system of solar panels and batteries.  Inside the trailer Ray installed a simple switch for each system, so now all we have to do is flip a couple of switches to watch TV.  Last Sunday we watched about 6 hours of TV (1 hour of morning show, 1 hour of news at noon, 1 hour of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and then a 3 hour movie) without any glitches in the power supply!  The best part is that our trailer has never run out electrical power for the lights and the water pump since this entire system has been set up!

  • Solar panels Solar panels On the trailer roof we have three sets of the Harbor Freight solar panels and two old damaged ones. One set of the HF solar panels and the two damaged ones energize the batteries for the trailer, which runs the water pump, fans and lights. The second set energizes two batteries for the television, and the third set is for the receiver!
  • The inside view The inside view This is an inside view of our set-up. You can see the receiver and above it is the TV. Each is plugged into an inverter which is then plugged into a wall socket, turned off and on with a toggle switch, which saves a lot of wear and tear on the 12 volt sockets and plugs.
  • Outside connection Outside connection You can see the electrical wire running from the outlet in the side of the trailer down to the batteries and charge controllers. The wires from the solar panels run down the other side of the trailer. through the charge controller and the power is then stored in the deep cycle batteries.
  • Batteries and Charge Controllers Batteries and Charge Controllers Under the trailer you can see the two charge controllers, each with two batteries. The power goes from the solar panels, into the charge controllers and then into the batteries. When the TV and receiver are turned on, the power goes from the batteries up into the trailer, through an inverter and finally to the appliance.
  • Trailer Batteries Trailer Batteries We actually have three deep cycle batteries for the trailer itself, run by one set of Harbor Freight solar panels and two free (though a bit damaged) solar panels courtesy of my brother-in-law, Danny. Since we have had this system set up we haven't run out of power, though on dark and rainy days we are still a bit conservative.
     

After a hard day of working, it sure is nice to sit in front of the TV and vegetate!  Besides, I truly think Ray would surely go through withdrawals if he wasn’t able to watch Wheel of Fortune.  I secretly think this was his motivation for getting this set up!  😉

We bought these solar landscape lights for $2 each at the local box store during an end of the season clearance!  They have been a very valuable light source, lighting paths from here to there on our property.

We bought these solar landscape lights for $2 each at the local box store during an end of the season clearance! They have been a very valuable light source, lighting paths from here to there on our property.

Our son, Matthew, gave this solar powered LED motion detector light that Ray mounted on our tool shed.  It works very well.  When we arrive at our property during the night, we always have some light so that we can see to unpack!
Our son, Matthew, gave this solar powered LED motion detector light that Ray mounted on our tool shed. It works very well. When we arrive at our property during the night, we always have some light so that we can see to unpack!

We are also using solar energy in several other places on our future homestead.  Our paths are lighted by small solar landscaping lights.  My middle son, Matthew, gave my husband a wonderful motion activated, solar powered, LED light that he mounted on our shed.  We also have another solar panel mounted above our satellite dish that charges three batteries in the shed, which powers the light inside the shed, a porch light, a small refrigerator, and a TV (not all at the same time, of course).Needless to say, we are sold on solar!  When we build our home up on our future homestead, we plan to use a lot of solar power!  We will use it to power the house (lights, fans, very energy efficient refrigerator, small water pump for upstairs) and also for heating water in a hybrid system with a propane tankless hot water heater.   If you haven’t seen our soda can heater, which uses the sun to heat soda cans that in turn heat a room, click here to read the post!  We plan to build a bigger, more efficient and 🙂 prettier 🙂 one that we will permanently attach to our new home.

Our ultimate goal will be total energy independence.  Only the future will tell how successful we will be in this goal!  Life is good.

Shared at: Healthy 2 Day Wednesdays; Frugal Days Sustainable Ways ; Wildcrafting Wednesday; Penny Pinching Party; Wicked Good Wednesdays; Transformation Thursday; Creative Timeout Party; Hooking Up with HOH; Home and Garden Thursday; Natural Living Link-up; The HomeAcre Hop; Cottage Style Party; Fabulously Frugal Thursday; Simple Lives Thursday; From The Farm Blog Hop; TGIF Link Party; Small Footprint Friday; Feature Friday Free-For-All; Little House Friday; Common Sense Preparedness

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13 thoughts on “Our Solar System

    • It really is awesome! We can watch TV all day long now and not worry that we won’t have enough energy for the lights or the water pump! You should come up and see it! Vickie

  1. Thanks for sharing this little solar journey. I have longed after the idea of being off the grid for quite sometime. I haven’t thought too much about it lately as many of the options where so costly. Maybe I’ll start making some baby steps in that direction again. I visiting from the Home Acre Hop.

    • Exactly! Baby steps! We didn’t buy everything at once, we slowly bought our panels and batteries as we could afford them. Now we can live comfortably – TV and all – without the grid! Our well is already set up to run on solar power with a nice panel and a pump that runs on either the panels, a generator, or two tandem 12 volt batteries! I took a peak over at your website – love it!!! I’m not a country song lover, but those that you posted on Monday Music Moves Me were great – especially Tony Rice and Freeborn Man. I think I may have to give southern/country music another try! The pictures of Jack are also great, especially the one at Lover’s Leap – beautiful scenery! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comment! Vickie

    • I agree! Especially if your grid supply isn’t always reliable. Just a small system can keep some crucial lights on and a radio or TV for important news broadcasts during power outages. I poked over to your website and saw your fresh asparagus salad – MMMmmmmm! Love it! Thanks – Vickie

  2. Well, when I’m ready to buy me some solar panels, I now know who to talk to! Looks like you have an awesome setup! I’ve been thinking about getting some solar panels to run our refrigerator and our water pump. I have no idea where to start and how many panels and batteries it takes. Did your husband have any solar power know-how when you received your first panels? (Found you on Commonsense Preparedness Link Up.)

    • No, he did not have any experience with our first set of panels. A little reading up was all that was necessary, however. When we build our home, we will need to do some more reading about how many panels, batteries, inverters, etc., before we actually do it. Some friends of ours have an awesome set-up. Their home is completely off grid and they love it! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I appreciate you sharing this – there’s a lot I don’t know about this and am quite interested. I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,
    Kathy

    • Thanks Kathy. Yes, there is a lot we are learning also, but the learning curve really isn’t that steep. Have a great week – see you again soon! Vickie

    • Thanks Jenny. It really works good and I must say that my husband is a very handy guy! Thanks for the comment and I will see you back again tomorrow!

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