DIY Solar Power Is a Wise Choice

| 12/18/2014 11:10:00 AM

Tags: solar power, green energy, DIY, Washington, Doug and Jennie Ostgaard,

Are you wondering if solar power is a good choice for you?

The answer is yes, if you are a home owner with sun exposure. The question of solar power should not really be a question of cost – it is a renewable energy resource issue. With Photovoltaic (PV) panel technology you can tap into the amazing world of free totally renewable energy from the sun. The sun is the main source of heat for the entire earth in the form of solar radiation. So much energy that at times can oversupply energy. For example, when solar flares hit the earth and cause power grids to fail due to overwhelming their capacity. The NASA site and provides solar flare warnings for different areas of the country. In our book on DIY Photovoltaic Solar Power for the Homeowner now available on Amazon (and available through our website we talk about protection methods and details on a faraday cage).

Faraday Cage 

You generally cannot find a better more reliable source of power on the planet that solar. Even where we live, in the Pacific Northwest, we get an ample amount of power. As we discuss in our book, PV panels are even more efficient in cold winter environments than hot southern U.S. climates — up to 40 percent more power has been experienced - this more than makes up for the loss of sun energy in the winter. Our book gives real data on temperature effects and how this correlates best to PV panel surface (using a temperature gun) temperature, often 65 degrees Fahrenheit higher than outside air temperature.

Farday Cage opened 

Why use natural gas, propane or other irreplaceable resources? Once these are used up they are gone. You should leave these non-green energy sources for people that cannot go totally green with solar Also, burning fossil fuels is bad due to the hazardous exhaust emissions, transportation pollution and hazards of taking the fuel to market, explosion and fire hazards. Consider how the magnitudes of the problems multiply with millions of users.

2/12/2015 12:44:45 AM

All - We agree that batteries are a legitimate cost consideration. Batteries are a key component, in that they are the energy storage medium for the PV collector system. The battery sizing equations (which we go over in the book) show how to calculate the appropriate battery bank size for a system. A major factor is the energy requirements from the battery bank and the number of days it is needed. For example, if you need two 8 hour days of energy at a rate of 2000 watts an hour, the battery bank sizing needs to be 16 batteries at 6 volts (370 Ahr). If your actual needs are half of that, then you can get by with only one bank of 8 batteries at 6 volts (370 Ahr). This would lower your battery cost from $4000 to $2000. For a bare minimum, go to 4 batteries at 12 volts. This gives the required 48 volts - in that case you could use golf cart batteries for about $400 for all four – total cost. Replacement battery time for off-grid use is approximately 5 and 10 years. (upnorthmn is correct). However, if you run (as we do) on-grid with off-grid capability, the batteries should last 10 to 15 years if properly maintained and desulfited regularly. We are very impressed with LilacMoon installing a PV system with less than a $/watt panels. That is what we did and believe that everyone should do this, also. Regarding Manley’s comments – perhaps it does sound we are selling our book (we are of course) --- But, we are about 2 years into the install and book writing. It contains engineering data, solar calculations, wiring diagrams, and lessons learned. Our system is up and running great and making money. In fact, just last week (in the middle of winter in the Pacific NW – we were producing over 5 kw). We think the book is a great resource! If we had a book like it to use during our building project, it would have been much easier. So, we recommend it. Doug & Jennie

2/11/2015 1:01:24 PM

This article reads as if their only purpose is to sell a book; I want more than that from these articles!!!

2/11/2015 10:17:46 AM

In case anyone is interested in our place...we have a page dedicated to our homestead at

2/11/2015 10:15:45 AM

We've been living off grid since 1984 in an earth sheltered house we built ourselves of native materials. The freedom we have is amazing. Back then we limited ourselves to a work light in the kitchen, a reading light above the bed and 12 volt plug ins for a small JVC AM/FM/SW dual cassette, linear tracking turntable. It was our entertainment. Over the years we've added to the system and now even have an indoor bathroom, electric well pump and laundry facilities. We still use a hand pump in the kitchen sink, and have our sawdust outhouse. From 84 to 2007 the hand pump and outhouse were fine. We are spoiled, but then the last PV panels I purchased cost less than a dollar a watt. At that price, what's stopping the rest of you?

2/11/2015 8:50:33 AM

Expensive to buy and install, but remember you still have to replace those expensive batteries in 8 to 10 years.

1/23/2015 6:38:01 PM

Hi Cliffson - Thanks for your comment. We understand your concerns - but, we primarily have a mindset that says we need to capture free/renewable energy from the sun if at all possible and save the environment from using up unrecoverable fossil fuels. Almost everyone needs to budget for a solar system installation and try not to borrow if possible. Some lending institutions do have special ‘green-energy’ loans that could be helpful however. Our system ran $22,000 after the tax credit (we got a 6.2 year payback). But, if that is too expensive for you, downsize your system by such things as reducing the battery bank size, and go to a fixed mount support system on a post and pipe and channel system, and consider getting a loan for your project. Our system PV panels cost 99 cents a watt and everything including installation was about $4.00 a watt. Less expensive systems can be done – for example, see sundug below who did a great looking installation for $1.60 a watt with a 4.7 year payback. The drawback to his $1.60 a watt system (in our opinion) is that it won’t work when the power grid goes down because the mini-inverters require a consistent – response signal from the power company (as we understand this). Also, we didn’t see any battery backup with sundug’s system. But, it looks like a great system to us and we applaud his effort!

1/5/2015 7:01:59 PM

Cost is what stops me, yet you dismiss it. That seems a little insincere to me.

12/19/2014 11:02:53 AM

I installed my 4.6KW PV array myself, it was connected in January 2012 for $1.60 a watt. I have no electric bills, and TVA pays me about $800 a year. Payback in total of 4 years 8 months. Sundug Solar Electric tour-

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