Newbie solar questions

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Newbie solar questions

Postby Mark CH » Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:19 am

Hi All,
My wife and I installed a small (1.5kW) solar system back when the rebates and FIT were high. We've been very happy with it and it has paid for itself many times over already, even after having to replace the inverter last year!
I love the idea of solar and I would like to set up a small, portable, stand-alone solar system for a couple of different uses as below and need some advice;
1. Outdoor feature lighting in garden/driveway. Up to 10 6-10W LED lights to turn on via sensor at night. Preferably to run for up to 6-8 hours. Happily go down to lower watt lights, just haven’t found ones that I am happy with.
2. Camping lighting and phone charging. 3-4 lights in the tent used a maximum of 3 hours per night (cumulative). Not sure how powerful but they would only need to be bright enough to move around in the dark without tripping over! Ability to charge 3 smart phones on a daily basis as required (probably during the day whilst panels are out).
3. Run a small clay target thrower for 2-3 hours on an irregular basis (month at most). I’m not what the draw would be but did see someone saying that it is around 9.5 amps for about 1 second whilst throwing. I have also read that an 18Ah battery will suffice for a day’s use but not sure on that.
I have a spot on my garage roof to put the panels to charge the battery and there is good access into the garage for the battery to sit and then a good point for external connection for the outdoor lighting. I understand the ‘mechanics’ of the system but am unsure of how to work out what I need to buy to put the system together. So, I guess my questions are essentially;
1. Can I put together a system that will be variable enough to handle the three different uses?
2. What specs do I need to be looking at for portable panels, regulators and batteries?
BTW I live in Melbourne for hours of sunlight calculations. I’m not sure if I’ve put in enough information, or too much! Any advice would be most welcome.
Cheerio,
Mark CH
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Wed Jan 21, 2015 1:38 pm

Welcome to the Energy Matters Forums Mark :)

Your small system would probably only need to have about 1.5kWh of storage if you used a LiFePO4 battery, and perhaps 3kWh if using Lead-acid battery to cover the driveway lighting, which is the largest load. A Lithium battery would be far more portable too, Lead-acid is too bulky and heavy for easy transport.
One or two 200-250W panels would probably be sufficient, but if mounted on your roof, wont be much good for camping ;) See the 2nd hand section for some good quality Solar Frontier 150W panels we have on clearance ATM.
A single 150-200W panel would probably cover your camping needs, even in fairly cloudy weather.
A small 20 or 30A MPPT charge controller would be all you need. A Lithium battery would need to be about 120AH@ 13V (well under 20kg), or about 250AH @12V for a Lead-acid battery (very heavy!)
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Mark CH » Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:01 pm

Thanks for the response, extremely helpful and informative.
I have the ability to mount a frame on the garage roof so the panels can be secured when at home but then removed when we head away or up to our small property. Looks like I've got enough information to start shopping! let me know if you (or anyone else) have any other advice.
Cheerio,
Mark CH
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Cherokee Solar » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:49 pm

Hi Mark,

Mark CH wrote:Up to 10 6-10W LED lights to turn on via sensor at night.


Many charge controllers can switch on a load at night when they sense the sun has set (i.e. The solar panels produce < 1V). I run that sort of system here for garden lights. I also recommend Crompton stainless steel bollard kits with 12V G4 warm LED's. They look great. Should be about $110 for six bollards and you can get the 12V G4 warm LEDs on ebay. The warm LED's give a more yellow light than the cool LED's which are a bit blue for garden lights.

I'm just north of Melbourne and you should expect to see about 1 to 2 hours per day of the rated solar panel output during the depths of winter.
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Mark CH » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:47 pm

Thanks Cherokee,

I've been looking at some small spotlights for the driveway. I'm looking at putting in some fruit trees espaliered along the fence and wanted to have the spots shining up on them from below which would highlight the trees but also provide some general lighting along the driveway. The bollards sound like a good option too! Might have to think a bit more about what we want to achieve. :shock:

We are in Melbourne so will probably have a similar solar profile to you. Still trying to get my head around all the solar stuff but its starting to make more sense to me. In reality I probably won't need the lights on for 8 hours per night. I wonder if a motion sensor would be a better bet so when visitors come (or go) they come on for a set period of time and other wise are off?

More research to be done, I guess!

Cheerio,

Mark CH
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Cherokee Solar » Tue Jan 27, 2015 4:35 pm

Mark CH wrote:In reality I probably won't need the lights on for 8 hours per night.


Oh yeah, the controllers have a set off time too. I tend to get them to switch them off by about 11.30pm.

There are also 12V digital timer switches which can switch 25A and have about 16 time and day programs. I use one of them too.

As to the lights if you want to uplight trees some of the 12V CREE LED lights pump out some serious light.

CREE LED Light.jpg


That's one installed on a shed here. Good stuff as it will throw light at least 20m.
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Jaksbak1963 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:20 pm

Hi Cherokee.

I'm interested as to where you can get those 12 timer switches you are talking about? I have been looking for a while now and have only found the HPM Garden lighting range, which has served well over the years but is struggling now. Any info would be greatly appreciated - we are running dozens of LED lights now and reliability is becoming a key issue. We have been able to source "under-car" LED's which are built very tough. We even tiles a few into the pool, which look great.
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Cherokee Solar » Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:11 am

Off grid solar + hot water. Heavily insulated + owner built flamezone house BAL-FZ. 300 mixed fruit trees + herbs + flowers + vegetables. Bees + heritage chickens. High up in the mountains north of Melbourne. http://ferngladefarm.blogspot.com.au/
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Jaksbak1963 » Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:28 pm

Many thanks Cherokee. I have not seen these before, or have been shy due to their country of origin. The prices seem 'too good to be true' so thought they would be #%%*^&*@. Your referral helps and I will try a couple to see how they go.
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Re: Newbie solar questions

Postby Roundsole » Mon Jun 15, 2015 9:27 pm

Gordon-Loomberah wrote:Welcome to the Energy Matters Forums Mark :)

Your small system would probably only need to have about 1.5kWh of storage if you used a LiFePO4 battery, and perhaps 3kWh if using Lead-acid battery to cover the driveway lighting, which is the largest load. A Lithium battery would be far more portable too, Lead-acid is too bulky and heavy for easy transport.
One or two 200-250W panels would probably be sufficient, but if mounted on your roof, wont be much good for camping ;) See the 2nd hand section for some good quality Solar Frontier 150W panels we have on clearance ATM.
A single 150-200W panel would probably cover your camping needs, even in fairly cloudy weather.
A small 20 or 30A MPPT charge controller would be all you need. A Lithium battery would need to be about 120AH@ 13V (well under 20kg), or about 250AH @12V for a Lead-acid battery (very heavy!)


With your suggestions, what fuse would be needed between the battery and the charge controller and would it need to be fused between the charge controller and the 12v lights.? (Sorry hopefully not to much of a newby question)
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