Monday, August 18, 2008

State of the Homestead, part six the Solar

Warning: having just run this post past a Solar Expert, he advises me that the information below does not demonstrate the proper understanding of the nuts and bolts of solar power. In other words: Don't try this at home. And be very suspicious of anything techie you read here. Tis best to learn from experts. Take a seminar. Buy a magazine. Read a book. I'm just learning this stuff too. I'll see you in class.

It's been an education learning about solar electricity. Here are our panels. Only 204 watts. Forces us to conserve...but we will add more. With all the particles in the air from the fires, it's been a little like a "nuclear winter" here. Air particles definitely decrease performance. Yet another argument for clean air: it's necessary for a PV Revolution to occur.

We had one of our batteries melt due to neglect. Lesson learned. I added 8 Gel batteries to the matrix. We kept 7 of the old lead/acid batteries they are still good (but ten years old). As a gentleman told me up here: "You learn as you go". I don't know about mixing lead acid with Gels. My solar consultant (whose name, I kid you not, is: "Oak Leaf") says it's fine. Just set the Inverter on the Gel setting.

The two pumps. The white one is the well. Puts out about 1/2 a gallon a minute. The water is cold, refreshing and tastes really great. The yellow and black pump is for the house. I don't know why they built the well below the that we need to pump it to get there. Design flaw.

This monitors how much juice is in the batteries. It also gives information as to how much juice is flowing from the solar array. Nifty little thing. It keeps score for you...

And the inverter. Turns DC into AC.

Solar living for dummies.

What I'm figuring out is that the batteries are nothing more than an electron storage unit. The better your batteries, the more storage you get.

After the sun goes down, you get a "score" as to how many electrons you've saved that day. It's like the batteries have a "sticky substance" that holds the electrons. The better the "sticky substance", the more electrons you hold. Now electrons don't really want to attach to the sticky substance. They want to run wild and free...hence the loss of voltage as soon as the sun goes down. The more electrons you throw at the batteries (and the better the batteries), the more power you have in them.

We need more solar panels so that we can barrage the batteries with more electrons. That way, some will stick and the "score" will increase. With a family of four, with only 200 watts of panels, with a seven year old and eight year old who want to play various electronic games and watch TV; plus Joni and me who like to write and communicate: It's a challenge.

The goal is to keep the "score" in the battery above 12.0. If you do that, then the batteries will continue to have the sticky substance that holds those rascally electrons. And the batteries will last much longer. Ten to Twenty years, Oak tells me.

However, your battery pack is only as good as your weakest battery. So they need to be monitored quite often. The lead acids need a drink now and then (water, not scotch). The battery series is your baby. Love it. Treat it right. Sing to it. Don't abuse them. Try to keep them at the right temperature. Hopefully, all of this will lead to a long, long life...

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