diy solar

diy solar

Power for the Homestead

50ShadesOfDirt

Solar Enthusiast
Joined
Jan 8, 2021
Messages
429
We "chose" to go off-grid, on our 40 acre homestead in southern colorado, and wanted to pass on to the readers of this forum both our reasoning for doing so, and the approach we took.

Reasoning:
  • We are off-grid by necessity; at the time of land purchase, we had no nearby power lines, and utility company wanted about $30k to bring the power poles over to our area. Nothing forces diy faster than an ante-up in that price range.
  • We needed power to get the homestead in shape; roads were getting built, home and outbuildings going up ... everything needed power *now*. So, we had propane brought in (our fuel of choice for the homestead), and added a generac 22kw "standby" propane gennie. Now we had power for any big need (construction tools, etc.), and as structures came online, we just wired them in as well. First outbuilding in place ... the "utility" outbuilding (8'x16' shed, insulated, etc.)
Nobody wants to run on a gennie 24x7 (except the propane delivery company), so next up was an inverter and battery bank:
  • we purchased a Magnum MS-4024PAE assembly, consisting of 24v inverter/charger, wiring panel, midnite solar mppt, and other elements ... all prewired at the factory (no assembly req'd by us). we just mounted on our electrical plywood mounting base, and started wiring everything else up (distribution panels, etc.) to it.
  • we purchased 4 x 6v rolls-surrette FLA batteries, and had our "buffer" now in place for the gennie. inverter powered everything now, and when gennie came on (automatically), battery bank was replenished.
Nobody wants to run on a gennie, even in automatic mode (except the propane delivery company), so next up was solar panels.
  • As we had an outbuilding up, with all the gear inside, next to one wall (south-facing wall), we added panels to that south-facing wall (basically an angled carport), and wired them into the mppt.
All told, about $12k or so, including the usual suspects in bits and bobs. A far cry from $30k, and ... fully automatic. We don't really do anything except scheduled maintenance on various components. Oil, filters, valve-adjustments on the gennie; fla battery maintenance ... which *is* a pain; and dusting off of the solar panels ... did not realize this was a maintenance requirement, but dirt roads and such ...

When the homestead came online, we just wired it in as well ... all electric, with the exception of propane appliances where appropriate (water heater, furnace, stove). no sizing of electrical stuff (wife and daughters wouldn't stand for limits of any kind), and I'm tech-heavy as well, so if the solar panels can't refill the bank, the propane gennie will. Again, automatic ... our only adjustment was to "do all we can when gennie does run", so extra power loads occur at those times, and the 22kw gennie had no troubles.

Been running this way about 5 years or so now; with FLA bank replaced once (due to our heavy load use ... it was the women or the batteries, and the batteries lost that battle). Only improvement needed was a tech upgrade to replace the FLA battery bank (4 x 6v) with LiFePO4 (2 x 12v @ 300ah), and we get to use pretty much all of the power, vs 25% or so with the FLA. It was a big cost, but as we were mortgage-free from the start (paying as we went), the government again kicked in with various stimuli, and so we sent a good chunk of the stimulus to the lithium folks (and gladly).

With FLA maintenance out of the way, the system is even easier to operate ... the daughters do most of it, along with feeding the chickens and such. The stupid FLA batteries weigh more than my daughters, so I'll be stuck with loading them into the truck and hauling them off ... but, it's a good "stuck"!

Not the normal progression to off-grid, but we got there ... propane is our only expense to the outside world, and it is such a clean fuel that we doubled-down on tank size and increased the capacity; our current vendor "has no fees" (not sure why). It lasts forever, and we added the self-fueling assembly (wet leg) to the tanks to refill our own propane bottles and such. No gas, no diesel. As our acreage is wooded, and as wood-burning furnaces and other improvements come online, we think propane use will reduce to near zero (although we love cooking on gas). Even wood cookstoves are making an appearance (as we find them), and they will be worked into the homestead kitchen and such ...

We are also off-grid by choice; do I miss my utility company, or the insane electric bills, with fees for things I've never heard of? Do I miss the brownouts, blackouts, and such? Not really ... it all fits into our getting more off-grid, more self-reliant, and so on ... not only are we mortgage-free, but off-grid enough that no utility company or government entity is telling us what to do, while harvesting our data. We are more private, more secure ... no solar restrictions on what we run, as the gennie handles the welder and other heavy loads.

I hope this helps others, trying to figure out how to power *everything*, from zero to homestead with every reasonable electric device ... especially if you have 3 (or more) "goddesses of the universe", as mine are want to say ... it all just works, and everyone is happy (except the propane delivery company).
 
Welcome to the Forum, nice to see you drop in from the HSToday Site and share your offgrid adventure. Yep, I am the Steve_S from over there too... More in my signature here LOL.
 
Nice read. Solar surely is not less expensive than utility power but as you’ve shown it can be a whole lot cheaper than utility power :)
 
... propane is our only expense to the outside world, and it is such a clean fuel that we doubled-down on tank size and increased the capacity; our current vendor "has no fees" (not sure why). It lasts forever, and we added the self-fueling assembly (wet leg) to the tanks to refill our own propane bottles and such.
I purchased a 1000gal tank 20 years ago and only see my propane supplier once a year and I never fall below a year's worth of propane in reserve. Had that withdrawal hose installed at the same time. That's been a huge money saver and the convenience is priceless when you live out in the woods! They don't charge a delivery fee on deliveries 200gal or more and we always get +-400gal at a time. That might be why you don't get charged a fee either?
It was a big cost, but as we were mortgage-free from the start (paying as we went), the government again kicked in with various stimuli, and so we sent a good chunk of the stimulus to the lithium folks (and gladly).
My Enphase system took every penny of our stimulus money and would have taken more had there been more. It seemed like a no-brainer? The stimulus $ continues to stimulate too! ;)
 
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