We did it! We finally have a bit of solar power on the homestead. It is a small test system to see how it works, but we now have solar electricity. My son-in-law, grew up in a ranching family and learned how to set up solar powered systems on the ranch. The method is very simple and we found everything we needed at Lowe's and Walmart.
At Lowe's we found a solar power trickle charger panel that you hook up to a 12 volt battery. This panel is sufficient for charging up the cell phone and netbook batteries and comes with all necessary wiring. At Walmart, I bought a 12 volt battery and a 410 watt power inverter. This is enough to be able to charge up both the cell phone and netbook at the same time.
$ 46.97 5 watt solar charger
45.00 battery (26R-5N)
39.94 410 watt power inverter
6.94 battery box
Total Cost: $138.85
As I mentioned, this is a small test system to get a feel for how it will work. Having lived without any type of electricity for going on 3 years, we don't have a need for a large system yet. We have been using a small inverter plugged into the 12 volt (cigarette lighter) outlet in the car to charge up the cell phone and netbook. This system will take over that task. After the house is built, we will have a larger system in place to give us what we need for additional electric items such as lights, slow cooker, stereo, and a small DVD player. This smaller system is basically to help charge the batteries of what we already have. It also gives us the chance to test it out and see how easily we can put it together.
My son-in-law knows how to build the larger panels. We are checking prices to see what it would cost for the solar cells needed to build the size panel we need. I will post more on that when we reach that point. For now though, this system will work fine for our needs.
This is a big step for us. We have been wanting to set a system up but never thought it would cost so little. The trick is to be creative. Instead of looking at the larger systems built and installed by a solar power installation company, check your farm and commercial supply sources. Farms and ranches have used solar for years to power electric fences, pumps, and various other needs. Limiting your electrical needs can make the smaller systems very viable option. We have learned over the past few years that it is easy to live without electricity. Now, we are able to prayerfully and with a lot of thought, decide what electrical items we are willing to bring back. Each item must have a purpose that benefits the family, not just serve as an entertainment resource. Having a portable DVD player will eliminate the need for a TV as we can rent/buy educational and wholesome DVDs for the family. The DVD time will be strictly limited. Our goal is to remain as unfettered by electronic "stuff" as possible. I am looking forward to this new step. I am seeing the solar electricity as a tool that we can use to benefit the family.
Recently, we were gifted with an old Maytag wringer washing machine. A neighbor had it sitting on his front porch for many weeks and I asked if he was willing to sell it. Much to my surprise, he said that he wanted to give it away to someone who can use it. It needs minor work. They had painted it years ago and it looks nice. The engine is electric and is missing the belt that powers the agitation. We have an old lawn mower engine that runs great. My son-in-law, JR, is cleaning the mower engine to use to replace the electric engine.. This simple change will allow me to machine wash laundry at home without having to use the solar power system to power the machine. I will have the clothesline to dry the laundry in good weather. For next winter, we will save up for a gas dryer. I will still have my washtubs and wringer as a backup. Often, there may be times when I simply want to do laundry that way if I only have a small amount. I enjoy doing laundry by hand. There are some things that I prefer to wash that way. For most laundry though, the wringer washer will be a wonderful blessing.