So crazy fact about physics and science. There is this huge 5 billion year old star that generates a massive amount of energy using nuclear fusion. In fact, you would not be reading this if it weren’t for the energy from this old star. I am no Stephen Hawking (God rest his soul), but I do not think any of us would exist without the energy from this star. We call it the Sun. No wonder ancient cultures worshiped it and some people still do, I see them on the sandy beaches of Southern California during the summer. If we continue to worship it for it’s power, we may all end up with free power for life!
The point here is that the Sun is actually the original power source of all energy we consume and use in various forms. And it has always been free. The awesome thing about emerging technologies is that we are getting to the point where we can use that energy to power our homes and cars, and besides the cost of the equipment, it is free. And the great news is that installation keeps dropping in price. From 2008-2012 the cost of installing solar fell 39%. From 2013-2017 it fell another 33%. You can imagine the way this is headed. It seems like every weekend in my neighborhood a new set of solar panels are being installed on roofs. These costs could continue to come down dramatically. Sure, the Tesla Power Wall and roof is expensive right now because it just came out, but as the years go by the cost of this equipment will drop drastically too. When I started getting interested in solar, I wanted to start small, learn how it worked, and then gradually expand my system until my entire home was covered with solar. I’m still not there yet! But making progress. Goal is to someday be completely self sufficient with solar power and enjoy free power for eternity. Or at least for another 5 billion years, that is about how much energy physicists predict is left in the sun before it burns out.
I started at first with a Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel. It was nice for charging portable electric chargers that could later be used to charge my phones and tablets. It was slow, and the devices I charged would often get hot, so it wasn’t a good long term solution. Later I invested in a 30 watt solar panel, a 12 volt 1 kilowatt sealed lead acid battery with a solar charge controller. The battery resides in a MinKota Trolling Motor Power Center Battery Holder case to protect from heat and water. It also has a cheap tester built in, which comes in handy. After I hooked it all up, the rig has been working really well for over 1 year. The battery is usually full and stays topped off. I can periodically charge anything I need with the cigarette lighter adapters on both sides. If there is ever a power outage, I will be able to power my radios, charge my devices, and use an inverter to plug in home appliances that can’t be run off of 12 volts (i.e. a housefan).
While the larger 1 kilowatt battery & panel was a larger up-front expense for me, I feel better knowing my family and I have a backup source for power should an emergency strike. You can get similar benefits from an off brand USB solar charger which is much cheaper, but won’t help you when the sun is down since it won’t usually have a built in battery.
If you have an installer put panels on your house, make sure to shop around and do your research. People who received multiple quotes usually paid at least 10% less. Like anything, competition can be great in gaining the best value. Let me know what solar gear you’ve built or used in the comments and if there’s interest, I’ll do a more detailed overview of how my current off-grid solar system works in a later post. The journey to self reliance and free power has begun. We would love to hear what systems are working for you.