The charge controller is a part of all solar or wind energy sytems. A charge controller is needed for your system. It is connected to your batteries and the panels. Our charge controller was mounted on our wall. Now it is downstairs in the cellar There are many different brands and types and it can get complicated. I am not the most knowledgeable person on this subject. I just know what we use and how it works. We have had all together three different ones.
The charge controller does just what the name says. It controls how much of a charge that goes into your batteries. It will stop the charge coming in from whatever power source you are using when your batteries are at full charge. It would ruin them to be overcharged. In the beginning with only two lead acid batteries and one 55 watt solar panel using this small charge controller was fine. At that time we used to charge the batteries with a car parked next to the window. I remember being able to do this myself. Using jumper cables.
As our system grew we added a better type of charge controller. It is made by Xantrex, which was a good quality brand. We used it for many years and still in fact, have it. This one was able to be used as our system grew. My husband always planned on adding a wind turbine so he kept that in mind when purchasing our various components. Each component is costly so you want to make sure that what you buy will be able to be used as you build your system larger.
Once we had the wind turbine up we had to make sure our charge controller could handle all the extra power. It took us a long time to get the turbine up. I will be posting about that on a future blog post. Once we got it up we had to do something with all that extra power. That brings us to our present charge controller which is a diversion charge controller. It does not mean it cuts off from the charging source when the batteries are at full charge. It keeps charging but will direct that energy somewhere else. It has a built in heater that turns on to use the power up so it won't over charge the batteries.
It was on our wall while the batteries were up here. Now they are downstairs in the battery room with the new the batteries. This controller will be hooked up to eventually sending the diversion load into our water heater that will heat the water instead of turning the heater part on. We have a brand new water heater and a pressurized water tank in the water room just waiting to be hooked up. I can't wait for that myself! That means that we will have running water in the house. I am promising myself that we will get it in this summer for sure. I have a brand new washing machine all hooked up and ready to wash.
Wasting electric by guests to your home is common if you have grown adult kids. Living with your own off the grid solar system, you soon learn that others coming to visit you or stay with you have no concept of how it works. They will be very wasteful with your power. It drives us crazy. We are used to being careful with how much power we use. I know for either of our sons, when they come here to stay overnight or more, they don’t understand if we don’t use lights all night long, we can be on our computers earlier the next morning. Or we can cook with the Instant Pot or use something else. I think when people pay an electric bill or as in the case of our sons, a landlord or someone else pays the bill, they think nothing of being wasteful. They think our power is free. It is. But if you use it up one night, you will have to wait for the batteries to recharge or the sun or wind to start charging our system before we can use anything the next morning.
In the beginning here we had only one solar panel and two fork-lift truck batteries. So we were limited with power use. Very much so. We didn’t have many electric items at that time. We used a television that had a VCR built in and was DC powered as it was the one we used on an over the road truck. That was the very first thing we used. We changed to other things over the years as we added more equipment to our system. Now the main thing we used during all these years has been a few lights, an electric mixer and our laptops and related to equipment like printer, digital scale and a labeler. Then we added chargers for cell phones, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, garden cart, MP3 players and a usb fan and my Kindle. We conserve as you can see from all the those things.
What makes people want to waste their power, or more to the point, their money? Or their landlord’s money? Or does it occur to them when their rent goes up, maybe it has to do with how much electric they use? Or don’t they care? In the case of either of our sons, I have to say they don’t care. I call them the “I don’t care generation”. That is a good name for them because they really don’t care. Yes, I am sure there are many who do care, but I don’t know them.
When someone like that shows up on your off the grid home, they try to take it over and change the way you do things. You have to stay strong. You have to be firm and say NO, it is MY home and we do it MY WAY here. On top of that, they don’t even have a clue on how to live this way. It is very technical and beyond the scope of either of them. Yes, I would have loved to teach them and have them follow us, but sadly, that is not to be. It is beyond either of them to learn this. For now, we will keep onto them every time they are here. Maybe they will learn.
Welcome to Solar Baby and take a peek at my husband’s and my life of living off the grid in this day of fast paced living centered around easy convenience. Larry and I have been living this way since 1999. It has not always been easy and I am not saying it is, even today. I previously began this blog back in 2008, but it was attacked and I lost all those previous posts. I believe the people who destroyed it are web designers, SEO people and hosting sites. I just don’t need them. And I am going to rebuild this site, but now with more information than before.
I have been trying over the years to share how to live with a small system. It is more affordable that way. So here I am attempting to teach the average people about solar energy. To the average person the thought of solar or wind power is way beyond their world. Yet they think nothing of throwing their hard earned money to the grid powered systems daily. Most people think you have to be making a six figure income to put one in their modest homes. I am here on Solar Baby to tell you that is not so. I know because I live with it….every day and have since July of 1999. Yes, it is a learning experience over time, but it is VERY affordable for the simple living folks like us.
Back when I started this blog, in 2008, we lived with 185 watts of power coming from three solar panels. In the dark days of winter, we had to use our generator more often. In the summer, it was a very different story. We only had to run our generator about once a week. In case you didn’t know, we have to run the generator to charge our batteries if the sun doesn’t shine enough to do it. I call our system a “add as you can system”. Meaning that we add a component as we can afford it. It is best to buy good equipment so you have to spend some money on each one. That is better than buying cheaper equipment that doesn’t last.
Right now we have 24 used locomotive batteries that we replaced our original fork-lift truck batteries with. A charge controller is essential to any alternative system as it controls how much of a charge is going into your batteries. Our controller is the Xantrex C-60 charge controller (60 amps, 12 volt) and back in 2004 it sold for $245. at Backwoods Solar. We have never had any problem with it at all. I would highly recommend it to anyone just building their system. A meter comes in handy for letting you know how much power you have going into the system and how much is going out or what you are using. The meter we have is the Tri-Metric meter made by Bogart Engineering.
The generator we use is made especially for off the grid systems and is sold at Backwoods Solar. It is a DC only generator and has made the biggest difference in our system. When we started out we used an old car for charging the batteries and not only did the exhaust stink, the car was noisy and the gas was expensive. The generator is not as loud as most generators, but you can definitely hear it. Works great and uses less gas than a regular generator. Some day when our system is built bigger, we will use our generator less and less.
My thought is that anybody can do this. How many people complain about the cost of their electric bill every month? Just start small. Hook up one 50 watt solar panel with a small charge controller and pick up a couple of the golf cart batteries. Then hook up an automotive inverter that can be bought at Walmart or any truck stop store to your system. Now you can run your lights and television without adding to your electric bill. Do you know what the best part is? You will not be without them during a power outage! Everyone else will be in the dark, and your house will be all lit up.
Be sure to check back here on Solar Baby as I rebuild my site. I hope to cover everything needed for anyone starting a new alternative energy system with a low budget. Thanks for reading!