A Small Affordable Solar System

Solar Panels on Barn Roof

If you would like to live “off-the-grid” there are many ways to get started. Moving to a home that does not have the power companies’ electric lines coming to it makes it much easier. It is already done for you. All you have to do is to move in. That is when the fun starts. At first you can live with no power, but nobody wants to live that way for very long. Everyone eventually, grows older, gets tired of the work involved with doing all those chores using their physical energy. So what to do next?

 

Meter and Charge Controller


Set up your own solar system of course! Everyone has some sun sometime. Free power from the sun is nice. But there are somethings you need to know first. A solar system does not have to cost a lot of money. At least not to get started. In the beginning, when we first moved here we started with one 50 watt solar panel, a tiny charge controller, two fork-lift truck batteries and an automotive inverter bought from a truck stop. When the batteries needed to be charged and there was no sun, (after all, we live in NY state which is the state with the least amount of sun!), we pulled our vehicle up to the house and charged the batteries that way. It is not the most efficient way to do it, but it works.

Cleaning Snow Off Panels

 

Over the years our system has grown. It still is not a big system like you see on all the fancy houses, but it keeps us happy. Truthfully, as long as I can use my computer that is all I care about powering. Our system now has five solar panels and they are on the barn roof. My husband studied our sunlight over the years as to where the best place to move the panels to would be. On the barn roof, they get the most sun for the longest periods of the day. During all seasons. There are periods that the sun moves and there are periods where they get the sun longer in the afternoon than real early in the morning.

 

Xantrex inverter

 

Our inverter is where the DC power is converted to AC for use. A charge controller controls how much power comes into the batteries. Overcharging the batteries ruins them. The meter is another important component of our system It tells where our power is at and whether we need to charge the batteries, or how much power the sun is bringing in. The meter is also used to check how much power electric gadgets or appliances use.

 

Solar Panels

 

You do not have to be “off-the-grid” to use an alternative energy system though. One way you can learn to use one is to set up the small system and power just your lights, televisons and computers. Then add to the system as you can afford it. It is a good way to learn how to use one as well as keeping your house powered during power outages in your area. My blog, Solar Baby is full of information on how to do this.

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole

 


An Off The Grid Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

An off the grid homestead is something many people wonder about. I have been asked many times over the years, what it is like to live “off-the-grid.” In the beginning, to be honest, it was like being on vacation. I remember our first morning waking up in the forest, hearing the birds singing, it was all so new to us. The house had a gas stove, so we made our coffee and walked around outside.

House in forest

Surrounded!


A
t that time the house was surrounded by thick brush, mostly blackberry bushes and other such things. Then the thick forest surrounded that. Our driveway had woods right up to it. There was no cleared land where the barn and paddock stand now. The side yard also was thick, thick berry bushes and small trees. At first, we were a little nervous about  what kind of wild animals were out there. Hearing the coyotes howling as they run along the creek at night, didn’t help! I figured to make this our off the grid homestead, I had to overcome all those fears. 

Lamp Light

Lamp Light

We ate a lot of meals cooked on our charcoal grill or campfire, as well as the little propane gas stove. We used our kerosene lamps for light in the evenings and loved them. Our food was stored in the propane refrigerator that came with the house. Pumping the water from our pitcher pump seemed like fun. Our house has an outhouse, still does, but my stepdaughter, Hollie, and I didn’t relish going out to it in the middle of the night. We had bought a SunMar composting toilet before we moved here, and my husband hurried to get it installed for us.

Front Yard 1999

 That first year I planted a pitiful garden in the front yard since there was no area cleared. The year before at our other house, we had an awesome garden that produced a lot of food. I can’t even tell you how many jars of food I had to carry downstairs to our root cellar. It was all food produced from our garden. I picked blackberries like crazy! Making desserts and muffins almost daily. I canned jars of blackberry juice, jelly and jam. That is not even counting the ones we ate fresh in cream. Back then, there was not as many birds here as now, probably because it was not opened up. Now we have many, many birds. Changes have taken place since then. Our off the grid homestead was a good choice for us and we are happy here.

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
Updated 2015