On Solar About
SOLAR HOME IS FOR SALE
After 31 years of living in our home in
Northern California, we are moving to a new location. We love living here
and wish we could take our home with us, but we can't. If you are
interested in living in an off grid home please click on the picture or
to see how you might become the next owner.
Back in 1978 I made my first solar water
heater for my house. It consisted of a solar collector made from copper pipe and
placed in an insulated frame and covered with the glass from a used
sliding glass door. I used an old 40 gallon water heater tank that I had
kept after replacing it with a new one. It was a thermo-siphon type system
that did not require any pump since the tank was elevated above the solar collector. It really worked well! That was my start in my solar adventure.
I began to experiment with different ideas
concerning solar. I used to put one gallon milk jugs in a South facing
window with a temperature probe inside and would graph the results every
half hour to see how hot the water got. I even painted them black and ran
more tests. I bought a cosmetic/defect photovoltaic solar panel and began
to tinker with how it worked. I bought a small wind generator and did the
same. After a lot of tests I figured it was time to do the solar thing all
We lived in the Mojave desert in Southern
California at the time, but wanted to move someplace where the sun still
shined regularly but there weren’t as many people sharing the same spot.
After finding a nice area in Northern California to move to, my wife and I
began making plans. I designed a passive solar house that would take
advantage of the South facing property that we bought. We bought eight 50
watt photovoltaic panels, a 2000 watt inverter, a 30 amp charge controller
and eight 6 volt deep cycle batteries just before our move. We bought a
5000 watt back-up generator shortly after arriving in our new town.
It took us a year to build our house - yes
we built it ourselves! In September 1989 we moved into our new home after
living in a 29 foot 5th wheel trailer for a year. Our solar system was
installed and we began to live "OFF THE GRID." Our youngest
daughter still lived with us so there were 3 of us at the time. We soon
discovered that 8 panels were not quite enough since the number of
non-charging cloudy days in the winter could quickly deplete the system.
We purchased 6 more panels after about a year and our system was set.
We soon installed a solar water heating
system using two collectors that we traded work for and a used 80 gallon
propane tank that was removed from a renovated house. The panels were
installed on the roof and the tank was placed in the laundry room next to
the 40 gallon propane tank. It uses a differential solar controller and a
pump to control and circulate the water. This was set up to preheat the
water entering the propane water heater. Most of the time the propane
water tank never comes on and just passes the hot water right on through
to the faucets.
It is now 2014. Our youngest daughter has
been to college and is now married, so it is just the two of us. We’ve
been off the grid for 26 years and loving it. It is not that difficult to
maintain the system, but it does take some work. Batteries last from 5 to
10 years depending on use. They need to have their water levels checked
and water added periodically. We are now on our third set. Solar electric
panels do lose their charging capacity over the years. The 50 watt panels
now generate around 35 watts. New solar panels are warranting that they
will maintain 90 percent of their rated capacity for up to 20 to 25 years.
Ours had no such guarantee but they have done well. We have added newer
panels to our system and have upgraded our charge controller and inverter.
We took advantage of some of the tax incentives that were available.
With the money that we have saved over the
years, we have taken several trips to Hawaii. It is nice not having an
electric bill waiting for us when we return!
You can also visit the Living
On Solar Blog to talk about all things solar.
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