Solar power

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Notes on putting together a solar power system on a low budget


  • Need really substantial battery backup for when the mains go out
  • Need to be able to keep power going when mains are out for extended period by charging batteries
  • Minimizing regular expenses, wherever possible


  • continuous AC-to-battery-to-AC setup
    • keeps power continuous
    • allows charging from essentially any source, including:
      • Existing gasoline-powered portable generator
      • Solar panels

We have no solar panels yet, but they are worth adding to the system once there are batteries because they:

  • are silent and have no emissions
  • can be set up incrementally as budget permits
  • do not cost anything to operate
  • can be left "on" to help lower power bills when mains are on (because of the above points)


It looks like a good starting strategy would be:

  1. Get a medium-small charge controller (7A/150w, for 12v batteries - $30 + $6 s/h
  2. Get a single unit of whatever delivers the most wattage per dollar -- currently this panel (15w, on sale for $60, normally $100) (similar panel)
  3. Get a single deep cycle 12v battery
  4. Dismantle a partly-working UPS to use as an inverter (bank these to provide more wattage as batteries are added; eventually switch to purpose-designed units)

Compare this kit -- maybe the price works out better.


Useful documents:

Local companies:

Online stores: