Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Solar Solutions

Our solar power generating solution includes separate systems for specific functions. That way our power needs don't have to rely on one source. Our main cabin system has two solar panels. Our oldest one is 125 watts and the newer one is 200 watts. They both feed into our electrical panel at the back of the cabin to charge six 6-volt batteries. The 6-volt batteries are wired in serial pairs to produce the necessary 12 volts to run our cabin systems.

Rather than adding to our cabin array, we chose to start a separate system on Wayne's floating writer's retreat (boat) called Gemini. On her cabin roof is a 300 watt panel that charges another six 6-volt batteries. This system provides power to the Gemini for computer charging, radio, and lights when needed . It is also connected to our cabin via a battery switch in the electrical panel.

Through our electrical panel at the back of the cabin we can choose to use either our boat or cabin power source. For example, during the day we use Gemini's power and leave the cabin's system charging throughout the daylight hours. Our daytime electric needs are minimal, so the Gemini can charge and supply our simple daily needs at the same time. Then after dark, we change over to the cabin source. That way we never deplete the batteries at either source.

We have two other solar solutions in place. Each one has a specific purpose, neither of which are to power our cabin proper. The first is on my garden float. A small 15 watt panel gathers enough power to keep a 12 volt battery charged. It is connected to a boat bilge pump that I control with a switch. The result is a garden hose with enough water power to keep my garden moist throughout the warm summer months.

Our newest solution involves a Blue Planet 60 watt set of panels from Canadian Tire that we use for two specific purposes. It came as a package complete with three 20 watt panels, frame, connectors, charge controller, and inverter. We waited to get ours on sale of course. All year long it provides power for the fan in our compost toilet. In winter, it powers a water pump for our thermoelectric generator. I'll tell you more about this sub-system next week.

Our separate systems work well for us, especially in the winter when power generation is limited. What are some of your solar uses and solutions? We'd love to hear about them. -- Margy


  1. Margy, your improvements re sustainability are incredible and extraordinary. How different from when you began! I love reading about this as I am soon to embark on another path in life and one of our goals is to live just like this. Great post...a keeper! xx

  2. Electrical power - it's hard to do without, and you're going to quite some lengths to get it.

  3. This is fabulous, Margy. I want so much to have solar panels. We live in the sunniest part of Canada, but have no solar power. Our neighbor has panels now, and I keep forgetting to ask him about it. Seems to me he's had them more than a year.
    Twenty-some years ago, my parents used solar panels in San Felipe. They had moved from town out to a campo where Dad taught some Mexican fellows the principals of wood frame construction, and they built a house. Even after town power came out to the campo, Mom and Dad were happy with their solar-powered fluorescent lights in the evening, and Dad had power for his electronic typewriter.
    We are embarking on a total kitchen reno here and I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate solar power into the deal. For the stove fan, maybe. For under-cabinet lighting, perhaps.
    I need to ponder on the subject, now that you've got me going.
    Meanwhile, I had been wondering where Wayne did his writing. I didn't know about his office boat. Looks great and I love what you did with the curtains.

  4. This is all so interesting and educational at the same time. I love reading about how differently you use power compared to what I have taken for granted all these years. Though I am very conscious on we use electricity here in the house. Rarely use the baseboard heaters. We bought those radiant oil heaters which cuts the hydro costs down considerably. We wear sweaters, warm slippers through the winter months and use the gas fireplace in the mornings and evenings.

  5. Marion - You are used to living in a less populated area already. One reason we can do it year-round is our weather. I'm not sure I could handle all the snow and cold for so many months of the year.

    Paul - Got to keep the laptops going. Books and blogs demand it.

    Kay - Living in a sunny place sure makes it a better way of generating electricity. Mexico was a favourite place for Wayne and me to visit, but in the last 20 years it has been a pretty scary place with all the drug violence. Wayne does write in his boat retreat, but to be honest, the most writing occurs on the sofa with Goat Island for inspiration (and me for company).

    Stephanie - We are so good at the cabin because we have to monitor our capacity. When we get to town we are as bad as the rest.


  6. Nice Info! Once you select to have a solar energy system installed at your home, the first thing which you require to do, in conjunction with a solar system engineer is to decide on the good location for the panel.

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