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Need advice for coordinating mechanical/electrical systems for an off-grid property

Cobra*7 | Posted in Mechanicals on

Just purchased an off grid property that needs updating. Has propane for heating, stove, refrig, some lighting, and water heater. Replacing tank heater with on demand tankless and need small amount of electricity to unit for exhaust fan. House has spring water gravity fed with no need for a water pump. We have a propane generator which I intend to use minimally.

Would like to install a few solar panels, a trickle charger to maintain several batteries in the basement, and an inverter. Electric to be used only for lighting, TV, water heater controls/ exhaust fan, and the occassional microwave oven. For running the vacuum, power tools, etc, will start the generator.

I want to tie the batteries to the main breaker panel and be able to charge the batteries with the generator as well. We are using this mountain property as a vacation home only and will be there for short durations throiughout the year. With the major appliances mostly run on propane, I need minimal electricty. Probably 1500 watts at the most for a hair dryer or microwave. Otherwise may start the generator.

Need assistance with what solar panels are good quality and how many should I buy. What sized inverter should I get and what size and how many batteries.
Thanks for your advice.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    I wouldn't worry too much about the brand of solar panels you buy. Photovoltaic (PV) modules have become a commodity item, and are just about interchangeable. It can't hurt to compare warranties, though.

    I would advise you to install a tank-style propane water heater that doesn't require electricity. If you follow my advice, you'll be glad you did.

    I had to chuckle when I read that you won't need much electricity except for "the hairdryer or microwave." Those two appliances were on our "forbidden" list for many years -- our family lives in an off-grid house -- although eventually we bought a small microwave oven. If you live in an off-grid house, I suggest you use a towel for your hair, not a hairdryer.

    You have a steep learning curve ahead as you learn about battery maintenance and off-grid living. Start small -- eventually, you can buy a bigger system if you decide you don't mind the hassles of battery maintenance. I suggest you get your advice from the good people at Backwoods Solar Electric.

    You may also want to read How to Design an Off-Grid House.

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