The Story of our Solar System!

Published by: Lisa Meissner

Hmmm... Where should I start?

We purchased our current home nearly 6 years ago. It had been sitting empty for quite a number of years and it has needed a lot of 'elbow grease'. One area that was desperately needing an upgrade was the power system. The solar array was very old and seriously insufficient, the batteries were half alive, and the equipment was ancient and 'Jerry-rigged'.

But a new system doesn't grow on trees, and ever since the time we purchased this homestead, we have been planning, saving, shopping, and scheming to upgrade this home to a larger, newer, and more efficient power system that will easily meet our family's needs.

Here's how we did this:

  1. Started by measuring our current power usage. Then we entered all our numbers into a calculator that Nick designed so we would know how many solar panels we'd need and how large our battery bank should be.
  2. We researched the different sizes and brands of equipment available and decided which route we wanted to go with.
  3. Keeping a close eye on the market for the items we wanted, we saved and jumped on each item as they went on sale or as we were ready to afford them.
  4. Once we had everything ordered, we installed the system and flipped the switch! Whala! Simple, right?

Well, in some ways it was that simple. In other ways... not as much!

First, the Inverter

When we moved in the first thing we did was change out the inverter (the piece of equipment that converts power from DC current (the 'storable' kind of power - think batteries) to AC current (the usable kind that your phone charger is plugged into right now). The reason was that the inverter produced 'modified sine wave' electricity. You can think of that as 'dirty electricity'. It works... well, for most things. But your more sensitive electronics, like all our office equipment (Computers, duplicators, printers, sound equipment, etc) don't work as well (or don't work at all, as with my Vitamix blender! Haha!).

So the inverter was promptly swapped out with a new inverter that produced 'pure sine wave electricity' and would fit into our long term goals. One piece of equipment was done.

Next, the Solar Panels

The next thing we got was all our solar panels. We already knew what we wanted and how much we needed, so when we saw a really great deal on our favorite solar panels, we jumped on it! AND... those lovely panels were stacked safely in our garage for a few years while we continued to save and shop.

And... Batteries!

Finally, the batteries bit the dust. Nick made a gallant effort to stretch just as much life out of those poor things as is humanly possible. And believe me, he has the patience of the saints!! I would have given up long before, but here's a little about what he did to eek every ounce of life out of them. Once we got every penny out of them that we could, we finally purchased the new, much larger forklift battery bank and installed it into our power system. That was a VERY happy day!

Pole Mount

Next was to install the solar pole mount. And yes, we did it ourselves. Pole mounts are very convenient from a number of perspectives, and for us, it was a perfect fit. But installing one can be a HUGE headache if you think about having to lift all those solar panels to the top of a pole! However, we found a pole mount that was designed to be assembled at ground level and then raised to the desired height after installation is almost entirely complete. And THAT was a game-changer for us. MT Solar has the best solar mounts and it was like putting together a puzzle with some really great instructions. More about that soon...

And the rest...

Last, we changed out all the inside equipment and wired everything together. Now, I'm no electrition (if you can't already tell)! But even I was helping Nick wire all the equipment together (scary, right?!). Honestly, if you have a basic understanding of how to wire a home properly, then taking on this task of installing your own power system won't be any problem for you. And it wasn't for us.

If we can do it, honestly, you can too!

What plans do you have for installing a system? Where are you at in your journey of setting up your power system? We would LOVE to hear them! Comment below and share with us your story.

1 Comment

  1. Beverly

    Hi I’m thinking to move into a 36’ RV soon. I have no idea how much it would use so I don’t want to buy too much product and definitely want to buy enough! The RV has washer/dryer combo and I will have a hi speed blender a smart tv and a new laptop. I think this is everything except the AC !! And a electric heater some time maybe in the winter if I choose not to use propane or don’t have any. Of course the cook stove will need electric I guess for the ignite and the hot water heater too... I’ve started looking at tinny homes for possible guidance. But I don’t know. Wondering if you could enlighten me?


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