Solar Power Kits for Camping/Tailgating

There’s nothing like a good camping trip or tailgating party to make for a perfect summer day. With the addition of some sun and a solar power kit you might improve on it yet! Even while enjoying the quite peacefulness of a good camping trip there are times you want to kick up your heels and do some boot scootin’ to some good tunes.

To do this you just need some power, a stereo and your favorite tunes. You can pick the tunes and a stereo but for the ultimate party you need the ability to go where there are no plugs. For that you’ll need a couple of good solar panels, a solar charger, a battery or two and a power inverter.

With just a couple of 40w solar panels wired in series and connected to your solar charger and battery pack you should be able to get enough power to handle a couple of nice speakers and your MP3 player.

Start by wiring your two solar panels together following the instructions provided and then connect those to you solar charger. Face the two solar panels at the sun for optimum charging. You can use a cheap art easel for this; they work great and are really cheap. Attach the leads from the charging unit to your battery pack and let them get charging.

You can pick up a cheap volt meter to see when the batteries are charged and ready to go. Hook up your inverter which will convert the 12 volt DC to 110 AC and you are ready to go. Just plug in your speakers to the system, open up the tailgate or get the marshmallows out for the smores and you are ready to go.

If this is a regular occurrence you can mount the solar panels to the top of the truck or car using a simple luggage rack strap set and then you’d have the batteries charged up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

You can find complete kits ready to go on Amazon or other shopping sites. For this kind of application you’ll probably want anywhere from 40 watts to 240 watts depending on your budget and power needs. For the power inverter you can probably look for something that handles like 1000 watts unless you really plan on cranking out the decibels from a bigger stereo.

Sunforce makes many great solar kits that all you need to add are the batteries and range from around $100 to around $400 for a bigger setup. For the batteries you’ll want good 12 volt deep cycle batteries.

Have fun!

Source by Steve McDaniel

Solar and Wind Energy Together Create Hybrid Energy

Hybrid energy is the combining of two or more renewable energy systems to provide the energy for one consuming source such as a home or small business. For purposes of illustration we will use a solar power system and a wind power system, as the energy sources generating the electricity.

For a clearer understanding all renewable sources generate voltages and the voltages will vary from source to source. Solar is usually 35 to 45 volts incoming while wind, because of the nature of wind, can be as high as 160 volts and lastly hydrogen fuel cells can reach up to 95 volts. As an example, let’s use a 5 KW (5000 watts) solar array that is affixed on a home roof. The other source is a 2.5 KW (2500watts) turbine-free wind system that also is affixed to the roof. The advantage of a hybrid system such as this is that the consumer is now producing energy 24/7.

If the sun is out but there is no wind, then electricity is being generated. If it is a windy but cloudy day, then electricity is being generated. If it is raining and no sun, electricity is being generated. At night when there is no sun but it is windy, electricity is being generated. A renewable hybrid system is truly a unique way to generate electricity that will move renewable energy to a higher presentation platform for the power demanding consumers.

The tricky part is handling the electricity after the two power sources have generated their respective voltage. The solar system requires an inverter to invert the lower voltage to higher voltage, but also to change the incoming DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) so that the electricity can be used in a home or small business application.

The wind system requires a converter which converts the higher voltage into lower voltage while also changing the incoming AC (incorrect form) into DC and then back to AC (correct form). In the illustration we have chosen, a 5 KW solar array and a 2.5 KW turbine-free wind system would normally require many pieces of electronic support equipment that would probably cover a 4X8 foot metal backdrop (required to be metal and not a sheet of plywood). The other drawback is the loss of total energy, called lossiness, as the electricity works its way through all these pieces of equipment and on to the grid-tie inverter, the storage batteries, etc. The energy efficiency of the system is reduced therefore the total outgoing energy is definitely lowered as opposed to the maximum amount of energy being generated and retained.

Source by Richard Pocock

How to Choose Between "Off-Grid" or "Grid-Tied" Solar and Wind Power

I am using solar power to write this article, as I sit working in my off-grid solar and wind powered home office.  What does “off-grid” mean and what’s the difference between “off-grid” and “grid-tied”?

Off-Grid Solar and Wind Power Systems

Living off-grid means you are on your own. You produce all of your own power using solar panels and maybe also a wind turbine.  You are not connected to the power utility so there is no power bill but neither do you have it to fall back on. This means you will need a large battery bank to store some of the electricity you produce so that it will be available for times when there is no sun or wind.

You will need to plan your energy use using a load analysis so that the solar and wind power system and the battery bank are large enough to meet your needs. Heating your home in a cold climate can also present some challenges. Some heating systems are too expensive to run with an off-grid system. For example, a geothermal system has large pumps and compressors that need more energy than would be available with a reasonably sized off-grid power system. Passive solar design and an in floor heating system are usually the best way to heat off-grid homes.  You will also need a backup generator for long periods of cloud or calm when your battery backup is simply not enough.

Grid-tied Solar and Wind Power Systems

A grid-tied system is connected to your electrical utility company’s power “grid”. The utility company will provide your power but whenever the sun is shining or the wind is blowing hard enough your solar panels or wind turbine will be producing power for your home.

A grid-tied system often includes a net metering agreement. This means that when you produce extra power on sunny or windy days you can feed it back to the grid and receive a credit on your power bills for those times when you still have to use grid power. Some utility companies may also offer a Feed-in Tariff where you will be paid for the solar power that you produce.

The advantage of this system is that the grid now becomes your battery bank. Because you feed back your excess power for a credit, it is “stored” for you until you need it. This means you do not need to buy and maintain a large battery bank.

What is the Best System for You?

A grid-tied system is much less expensive to set up and maintain. Since you do not need a battery bank or generator you can spend most of your money on what you really wanted to buy in the first place – solar and/or wind power. This makes a residential grid-tied system at least $15,000 less than an off-grid system. The components for a grid-tied system – the solar panels and the inverters – have a 25 year warranty and an expected lifetime of 35+ years with negligible maintenance.  If you have power readily available this is the most cost effective and convenient choice.

Off-grid systems make economic sense if you live far from the closest grid connection where bringing power in costs as much as the batteries and generator required for an off-grid system. Then an off-grid system quickly pays for itself, especially since there will be no ongoing power bills. The batteries and generator do, however, require maintenance and have a shorter warranty and lifetime (10 – 15 years) than the panels and inverters. On the other hand, you have no power outages and the satisfaction of being self sufficient on a clean, renewable energy source.

Source by Angelika Ortlepp

14 Common Misconceptions About PV Inverters

PV inverters are not strange for the PV industry professionals, while they are possibly strange to outsiders who need solar power. So they may often have misconceptions about these products, and the following 14 misconceptions are very common ones among the many.

1. PV inverters are not that important in the entire solar power generation process.

According to today’s technology, PV inverters serve as the bridge between direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The DC coming from solar panels cannot be used in an average family, and only AC can be used. Thus, something that can convert DC into AC is needed, and so inverters were invented. They are extremely important.

2. The cheaper their prices are, the better my life will become.

Everyone loves cheap products with high qualities, while the truth is always the opposite. One shouldn’t believe the most expensive inverter is the best inverter, while one shouldn’t always highlight cheap price but ignore quality and other important functions. Cheap inverters are various, but you need to compare their functions and long-term benefits they can offer to you.

3. Those made in Asia are the cheapest.

This is an obvious misconception people usually have. Although Asia’s average living standards and labor costs are not as high as those in Europe or North America, their prices differ from one another in brand, size, function etc. Many of them are the cheapest but not all.

4. Those made in China are always problematic.

China’s cheap inverters are well-known by the whole world, but this doesn’t mean these products are always problematic. Probably the standards Europe, North America and Australia adopt are different from those used in China. We know some business men are cutting costs by sacrificing quality, but not all.

5. I can avoid employing professionals to install an inverter.

You can do this unless you yourself are a professional. Each inverter installation needs correct wiring to the solar panels, batteries and power meters. If you are not a professional, you may often make mistakes, which may lead to mis-connection, power failure or even electricity leakage in the future.

6. Maintenance costs a lot.

After installing PV inverters at home, in a factory or in a power plant, maintaining them becomes top priority for each user. These devices rarely go into trouble, and you don’t even need to care about them even once a month. But you need to learn the simple ways for their maintenance. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about too much extra cost.

7. Products from SMA are now not good anymore.

Although the company’s market share has fallen drastically, its products’ qualities are still good enough for installation. Sunny Boy inverters can still meet different kinds of needs of customers.

8. Only microinverters can be installed in a rooftop PV system.

Microinverters are specially made for rooftop PV systems, but it doesn’t mean they can only be used in these systems. In fact, string inverters are usually considered effective products for consumers. Their nuisance is the whole system’s voltage is usually higher.

9. PV inverters cannot be installed outside your house.

Maybe this was correct many years ago, but this is totally incorrect today. Today’s high-tech inverters have IP65 protection, which makes sure they can be installed both inside and outside a house. Rainwater cannot run into them, and average high temperature from the sun cannot damage them.

10. Only a garage is the best place for inverter installation.

If you install a solar PV system at home, you may install it inside your garage, but this is not a sure thing. People usually choose a garage because this place is often free from dust, moisture and disturbance. If your garage is not such a place, you may consider installing it in another better place.

11. PV inverters cannot report problems automatically.

An inverter is not a robot, it cannot report problems automatically for sure. In fact, this idea is not true. Many of today’s inverters have one chip inside, which helps monitor their own functioning and report problems automatically when they run into them.

12. The PV inverter manufacturer’s influence in the industry is not important to me.

I just buy inverters, why should I care about manufacturers? However, I think you should pay some attention to them, for their technologies and service attitudes must influence you a lot. Buying a product from a nice manufacturer must be better than from a terrible producer.

13. Different types of inverters can be mixed to use in a PV system.

This is obviously incorrect. PV systems can be divided into grid-tie, off-grid and hybrid. They all need specific devices to make them work in correct manners. For an off-grid inverters cannot be used in a grid-tie or hybrid system. And vice verse.

14. Warranty is not important.

This is a terrible idea. Warranty means the supplier promises to you his products can work effectively in a certain period of time. If something troublesome occurs during this time, your inverter can be repaired or changed for free according to different conditions. This also shows the supplier’s confidence, which is important for every customer.


Buying a PV inverter is not so complicated a process, but avoiding these misconceptions can help you buy a better and more effective product. Also, avoiding these misconceptions can make your life in going solar easier and more interesting.

Source by Ampra Xu

3 Types of PV Inverters

PV inverters (also called solar inverters) are designed to convert direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). There are three major types of PV inverters but each plays a similar role of transferring a charge to help power utility grids and home appliances. One negative of the inverters is the much shorter lifespan compared to the actual solar panels. This means it is necessary to install a new inverter when needed to ensure the solar system is able to continue running at full capacity.

Here are the 3 types of PV inverters:

Stand Alone

The stand-alone inverters are an independent piece of equipment because it does not need to be connected directly to the solar panel setup. This type of inverter is able to draw its source of power from one or more batteries which are recharged via a solar powering unit or alternative energy sources, such as wind turbines, hydro turbines, or engine generators. A major positive about this stand-alone system is not being affected by power cuts because it is completely separate from the main power grid.

This type of inverter is more practical for the off-grid solar array units. A practical use for these inverters is the portable solar chargers that are used for water pumps, cell phones, laptops, and car batteries. Plus, this setup is also preferred by those that wish to live in remote areas that aren’t serviced by the energy companies.

Grid Tie

The grid tie inverter is the right choice in situations where the home solar installation is connected directly to the local power grid. This type of inverter is the preferred choice for property owners that wish to benefit from net metering and the most popular in urban areas because it is more cost-effective to install due to not requiring a separate battery. Plus, this setup must be connected to the home electric meter to make sure the electric company is aware of the total amount of energy that you have been able to produce.

Battery Backup

The battery backup inverters are preferred on the multi-functional solar setups and any of direct current produced gets sent first to a battery. The stored power in the battery is then passed to the inverter that has the ability to convert the energy into the preferred current. Also, once the battery is fully charged the excess direct current is stored and passed to the local grid. This type of inverter is generally a combination of the stand-alone and grid tie system and is a highly reliable option that has the potential to generate money because of the amount of energy passed to the local power grid.

Source by Leo Eigenberg