Are there cheap DIY methods for producing solar power?

Announcement - Help us fight the BOTS! Please report all spam including stuff in your inbox!

GenieJane

New member
Joined
Jun 8, 2020
Messages
4
:) Hi! In your experiences, have you seen any DIY projects, starting from scratch, that successfully created solar power? That are capable of producing enough power to run small electrical heaters (for home) with, for example? And that were inexpensive, as much as is possible? Thanks!
 

hermitdave

Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2018
Messages
254
I'm doing a DIY install if that counts.
Purchased used panels
Installing brackets to mount 4 panels to start with.
1.5kW inverter + brackets cost 300 so far.
Panels 200 for 14x 250w
We shall see how it goes beyond phase 1
 

owitte

Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2016
Messages
245
I also started from scratch, just with the sun above me ;-) After 3 years and roundabout 5000$ for mostly used components later, I have a solar system with almost 5kWp and a battery with 27kWh capacity running my house completely off-grid from march to october. The only things you need besides money are time, willingness to learn, open eyes and your hands... and maybe a little help from all the nice guys here ;)

Have sun :)
Oliver
 

Redpacket

Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2018
Messages
1,341
Electric heaters are one of the harder things to run.
Think reverse cycle aircon if possible. The heat is "free" you just have to pump it indoors....
You can also capture heat from sunlight in many creative ways. Eg a black painted wall with glass cover.
+1 for used panels.
 

OffGridInTheCity

Active member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Messages
1,862
I also started from scratch and after 3 yrs I'm off-grid producing 16MW/year... but it hasn't been 'that cheap' :)
Heat Pump is the most effective technology that I've found to go with solar.
- 160 (summer) -200 (winter) kwh/month = Reheems 50gal Hybrid Hot Water Heater for whole house - works really well.
- Just installed a LENNOX whole house heat-pump/AC with one of the highest efficiencies - and its fantastic, very low power compared to old/traditional sytems.
- My Electric Dryer is like a hot plate - turns on/off but when on uses 5000w! So I wish I had bought a heat-pump Dryer.. these are more in the 1000w range I read.

How many square feet do you need to heat and what are your weather extremes? If you share this we could get a 'power requirement' and then advise on an approximate solar size (and cost) you would need.
 

GenieJane

New member
Joined
Jun 8, 2020
Messages
4
OffGridInTheCity said:
I also started from scratch and after 3 yrs I'm off-grid producing 16MW/year... but it hasn't been 'that cheap' :)
Heat Pump is the most effective technology that I've found to go with solar.
- 160 (summer) -200 (winter) kwh/month = Reheems 50gal Hybrid Hot Water Heater for whole house - works really well.
- Just installed a LENNOX whole house heat-pump/AC with one of the highest efficiencies - and its fantastic, very low power compared to old/traditional sytems.
- My Electric Dryer is like a hot plate - turns on/off but when on uses 5000w! So I wish I had bought a heat-pump Dryer.. these are more in the 1000w range I read.

How many square feet do you need to heat and what are your weather extremes? If you share this we could get a 'power requirement' and then advise on an approximate solar size (and cost) you would need. My reply to you: My husband said we have 960 square feet in our house to heat. And that winter temperatures are from 10 degrees to 20 degrees below zero. The cost of heating our house (using several small electric portable heaters -including the costs of running our electric hot water heatermake a total cost of about $250 - $300 per month. We don't use a clothes dryer. I hang them up. But use an electric washing machine - about 1 load pera week. We also have a refrigerator. We live in a woodsy area - our yard is about 3/4 percent trees. We live in Traverse City - the climate zone here is 5.
 

OffGridInTheCity

Active member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Messages
1,862
GenieJane said:
My husband said we have 960 square feet in our house to heat. And that winter temperatures are from 10 degrees to 20 degrees below zero. The cost of heating our house (using several small electric portable heaters -including the costs of running our electric hot water heatermake a total cost of about $250 - $300 per month. We don't use a clothes dryer. I hang them up. But use an electric washing machine - about 1 load pera week. We also have a refrigerator. We live in a woodsy area - our yard is about 3/4 percent trees. We live in Traverse City - the climate zone here is 5.

>total cost of about $250 - $300 per month
Do you know how much you pay per kwh?
Google suggests "The average residentialelectricityrate inTraverse Cityis 9.62/kWh...[size=medium]Traverse Cityis 31.92% less than theMichiganaverage rate of 14.13/kWh."[/size]

$300.00 per month / $0.0962 per kwh = 3118kwh / month -$250.00 per month / $0.0962 per kwh = 2598kwh / month

We're talking 2600-3000kwh/month. That's pretty hefty for solar - especially in winter.

There 's a web site called PVWatts thatI use -https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php- that will show you pretty accurately the power you can produce for your location. For example, if I type in Traverse City, MI and go with a 7kw PV array (25 panels) and just use the defaults...

image_cjbdrw.jpg


You get this estimate of kwh/month:

image_pghfvl.jpg


For example, you can see in December, with 25 x 290w panels you could expect ~300kw (292 to be precise). To do 3000w of solar in thewinteryou would need 'on the order of'250 panels OR you need to cut your electricity consumption by 90% to make it work with 25 panels.

You can do a lot with high efficiencyheat-pump but they only work down to 25-30'ish F and then you need secondary heat. You could consult on hvac specialists onthis - but just personally (off the cuff) I would say you could reduce 3000 down to 2000? with high efficiency stuff. Then for hot water - maybe another 300-400kwh/month?

One problem with all this is you have insanely cheap electricity prices. Mine are low at 11.5c/kwh but you'res are even lower. Not sure you can get Solar to pay off any time soon with prices that low. Of course I don't do mine just for $ but out of interest.

Are you interested in DIY? Like Home Depot has great heat-pumps (Heat/AC + Water Heaters) and they're not that hard to install if your handy. And maybe gas or wood as a secondary heat source.
 

GenieJane

New member
Joined
Jun 8, 2020
Messages
4
Hi! You mean that's a pretty hefty price for heat or electricity produced by solar power in winter?
 

OffGridInTheCity

Active member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Messages
1,862
GenieJane said:
Hi! You mean that's a pretty hefty price for heat or electricity produced by solar power in winter?
With your climate - yes.

In my case, the low in winter istypically 35F with only 2 weeks/year below- so the heat pump will work mostof the time for heat. Just got it installed in Mar but forApr it was only 299kwh ($34) for heat for whole month.May was 382kwh for heat+cool ($44). And that's a 2600sq ft house in moderate climate.

However, we heat during the day and let the house drift at night till next morning - so the temps are warmer (daytime) when we heat. This maximizes heat pump efficiency as the temps are easily 45F by mid-morning.

I believe (just me personally) thata heat pump for a1000sq ft home would greatly lower your electricity usewhen temps >35F (maybe many of your days?). And a hybrid (heat pump) hot water heater also lower's electricity use significantly in my experience. Maybe go that route - see where you get to and then revisit solar?
 

floydR

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Messages
1,356
hi the first thing you should do is do an energy audit to determine where the power is going. The space heaters seem to be the biggest items
Many utility companys will take infrared snapshot of the house to determine if heated air is escaping and may have programs to insulate,fix air leaks, windows for low cost.
How old is the house? Type of construction? About the size of my house - the addition. All electric? I have gas heat which saves me about $50-$100 a month dec-feb/march.
Inexpensive stuff that can really add u weather stripping doors/windows, can of spray foam for cracks. When I lived in Montana my parents had storm windows which went over the regular windows sorta like a dual pane window. I have a friend outside of Spokane, WA who applys clear heavy plastic on the inside of the windows, again sorta like dual pane.

later floyd
 

hermitdave

Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2018
Messages
254
floydR said:
hi the first thing you should do is do an energy audit to determine where the power is going. The space heaters seem to be the biggest items
Many utility companys will take infrared snapshot of the house to determine if heated air is escaping and may have programs to insulate,fix air leaks, windows for low cost.
How old is the house? Type of construction? About the size of my house - the addition. All electric? I have gas heat which saves me about $50-$100 a month dec-feb/march.
Inexpensive stuff that can really add u weather stripping doors/windows, can of spray foam for cracks. When I lived in Montana my parents had storm windows which went over the regular windows sorta like a dual pane window. I have a friend outside of Spokane, WA who applys clear heavy plastic on the inside of the windows, again sorta like dual pane.

later floyd

Energy audit is always good idea. I was asking about air source heat pump and was told I need energy efficiency certificate. In UK, if you install heat pump, the government pays renewal heat incentive which equates to the cost of the system installed after 7-10 years.

If the surface temperature is below freezing for big chunk of winter, I would suggest looking at Ground source heat pump rather than air source as ground is typically warmer even in winter.
 

not2bme

Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2017
Messages
493
Having a $300 electric bill for a small 900sqft means there's a lot of inefficiencies elsewhere.

Michigan is cold and has high snowfalls. It's a challenge for solar during winters when panels are covered by the sun and have cloudy short winter months. I use a 12000btu mini-split heat pump that costs around $900 (self-installed), and it replaced electric baseboards. Works great on temps 40F and above. But if it goes below 30F, especially 20F it barely turns any heat at all yet using a lot of energy. At that point it will use the same energy as a space heater. Otherwise at 40F or above it's about twice as efficient. Natural gas heating is the most efficient.

I second all the above comments about insulating. Double insulate your attic. This is the easiest thing to do. Caulk or great-stuff any holes. Lower your thermostat. Most houses are comfortable at 70F. Also if you're quite DIY and have a basement, possible looking at radiant floor heating using hot water tubing under the floors like the living room and bedroom. Hot air rises so most of the time the room is hot at the ceiling but when you are low on the couch or bed, you feel cold because the heat is above you.

Bottom line is solar will not magically bring your electric bills down by just throwing a few panels and hook it up to a space heater. In fact, even with DIY, the return on the investment is measured in years (unless of course you get the materials for free!).
 

ajw22

Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2018
Messages
641
not2bme said:
Hot air rises so most of the time the room is hot at the ceiling but when you are low on the couch or bed, you feel cold because the heat is above you.

Totally recommend putting a circulator fan in every cold corner of the house. Put it on the floor, as low as possible, and point it up towards the ceiling. Get big ones and run them in the slowest(quietest) setting 24/7. The cold air blanketing the floor will get blown up and mixes with the hot air collecting at the ceiling. The rooms will feel MUCH warmer, allowing you to lower the thermostat by several degrees... and that saves much more electricity than the fans consume.
 
Top