This is an introduction to solar panels for newbie preppers to begin understanding energy independence and how installing solar panels in the home or wherever you need it can be a great asset to your emergency preparedness kit in case of a disaster. While many skeptics say solar may not be the answer for power generation for the world, solar can be sufficient for an off-grid family. Solar’s efficacy has 2 major drawbacks or limitations, your latitude and amount of sunny days versus cloudy days.
If you live in a sunny place, say south of Virginia (east coast) and central California and south, in a location generally fog free, sunny, and no extensive rainy seasons, you can live on solar as long as you can curtail the power hungry behavior that most Americans have – think use energy with restraint and keep energy conservation in mind. This means you may have to trade using air-conditioning for a fan, find more power efficient appliances and cook with propane or natural gas. You will have to find other ways of heating your home with other methods than electricity, IE wood burning stove ect. Having solar panels installed as part of your emergency preparedness kit and plan can save you and your family huge savings and that is a relief in today’s hard economic times.
If there is a disaster and electricity shuts down, you and your family can be self efficient as you are generating your own electricity by having solar panels installed for your emergency preparedness kit.
If you live north of these latitudes, if still sunny, you may have to have a larger more expensive solar array to compensate for your location. Remember the shorter days in winter and snow will also take a toll on your power production so you will need to compensate for that as well.
Solar panels come in many different voltages, outputs, and sizes. The traditional home installations that most Solar Outfitters have been marketing is called GRID-TIE setups that utilizes 110 dc panels that they invert into 110 V AC as shown in photo1curtousy of marvelgreenenergy.com
The over production runs your electrical meter “backwards” because it is pushing the excess electricity produced from the solar panels into the power company grid. When the sun’s/solar output power is less than the electrical demand of the house, the electrical grid reverses and then pushes into the house. This is a simplistic description, but it should be noted that this is NOT the recommended setup for the “preppers.”
A prepper who wants to be on an “OFF-GRID” home, meaning no outside power from the electric company, will have to have a setup that STORES the electricity produced during the day so he can have power available to the home at night. This setup usually requires sufficient solar for your day household usage and to be able to completely charge the most critical portion of your off grid setup, your battery bank.
The basic setup can be seen in diagram 2 courtesy of solarpanel.co.za.
Off-Grid solar for your emergency preparedness kit requires these main components. Solar Panels, Solar Charge Controller, Battery Bank, Inverter. Optional items could be a generator and a battery charger for your cloudy days.
The next problem is size of your system and your power consumption. You can’t power a house on one solar panel and 2 6v batteries. You must determine your power consumption, and figure out how many watts your solar panels array will have to be. If you are in a sunny place, have relatively smallish power consumption IE fridge, deep freezer, TV, computers, fan. You could probably get by on 1000w of solar and about 20 6v golf cart Trojan batteries. This setup will generally be sufficient for 1-2 cloudy days when a weather front rolls through your neighbor hood.
Photo 3 shows you 3 of the 5 solar panels on this off-grid setup on the boat I am living on. Our 5 solar panels are amazing and we could not live without them. They power our whole boat with a refrigerator and freezer and only on the rainiest and foggiest of days, do we turn on our wind generator (which is also a great energy generating unit for your emergency preparedness kit that I will later write about). I just love going green and being self sufficient.
These 3 “12V” 135W solar panels actually has an output of around 16v which they are wired together to maintain the 16v before being routed to the regulator.
Photo 4 is a photo of what this particular brand’s photovoltaic cells look like.
Photo 5 is the underside of the panels and its general wiring. I was not able to screw my own wiring open to show as it was stuck due to corrosion. Photo courtesy of hopefulhill.com
This wiring is then led from all the panels to the regulator.
Photo 6 is the solar controller/regulator.
Follow the regulators installation manual for correct connections and be careful not to hook it up improperly. This is the most sensitive piece of equipment and can be shorted and destroyed if not connected properly. When this regulator is tied in to the panels and to the battery bank and inverter, you now have a functioning solar powered off-grid set up.
You can always add a panel or panels to your emergency preparedness kit if you find your battery voltage is too low early in the morning, as long as you bought a solar regulator large enough to accommodate the panel wattage.
Having solar panels is a great way to be ready in case of an emergency where electricity is shut off for the whole block or city. And you and your family start saving right away as you can use it once it is installed – you don’t have to wait for any emergency. Being more self sufficient can save you a great deal of money plus it’s a great feeling to go greener by having solar panels installed as part of your emergency preparedness kit.