Designing and building a solar power station

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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#81  Postby theropod » Sep 26, 2017 6:31 pm

Good stuff Jesse!

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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#82  Postby The_Metatron » Sep 26, 2017 10:42 pm

theropod wrote:Good stuff Jesse!

RS

Thanks, man.

I can tell you, that chilled air that thing can produce will feel very nice indeed next summer. That mechanical room is off of the kitchen. All I really need do is put some big louvers on the door to that room to get the cooled air from the water heater's heat pump into the kitchen, typically the hottest room in the house.

Still, I will build the ducting to vent the heat flow how I need it. For the heat pump intake, from the unit to a tee, one side of which is vented through a manually operated damper to the outside, the other side of which is connected through a similar manually operated damper to a warm air return grating in the kitchen.

I'll need a similarly configured stack for the water heater's heat pump cool air exhaust, only I'd just let the cool air fill the mechanical room on its way out the louvers on the door.

If I'm clever, I can devise a physical means to interlock the dampers so it's not possible to take outside air in and vent it after taking its heat away into the living space, or to intake warm inside air and exhaust it, chilled a bit, to the outside. That would create a negative pressure differential in the whole house, in winter, to suck cold outside air into the building through the cracks. Sure, clear labels are one thing. But, stupid-proof is better.

As it's now installed (no ducting), the heat pump removes a good deal of waste heat from the mechanical room, including the waste heat from an upright freezer. From an energy perspective, I'm a little better off now than I was with that old water heater. I can make that better with clever ducting.



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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#83  Postby theropod » Sep 26, 2017 11:07 pm

Such a sweet machine! Our propane fired water heat works exactly opposite yours and pumps heat into the house continuously. Seeing as it is stupid hot here right now, and our AC is running, we are fighting fire with gasoline. Perhaps when we expand our solar array we can get one of these. Envious!

It sounds like your plan is coming together nicely. A simple Arduino micro controller and a temperature sensor on each side of that door to the room housing the water heater could control opening and closing a duct. Coding would be simple as all you would need to do is set parameters under which the duct is open or closed. The Arduino can operate from 3.3 volts DC and a simple low voltage/low current latching solenoid could operate the duct flap.

Again, good stuff Jesse. Good stuff!

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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#84  Postby The_Metatron » Sep 27, 2017 7:55 pm

I'm reading a self published book now written by some guy who summers in Montana about solar power on the cheap. He cooks, heats his house and water, and refrigerates with gas, though. While that is off grid, it isn't energy independent. I'm trying hard to make each step count toward energy independence.

I wonder if anyone sells a wind survey dynamo. Something that would work like a weather vane keeping its nose to the wind, but equipped with an impeller of known performance, and a known load. If I had such a thing that would log the power it generates, I'd stick it up on a pole this winter to see if it's worthwhile to add a few hundred watts of wind power to my plant.


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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#85  Postby The_Metatron » Sep 28, 2017 8:18 pm

All this physical work isn't without consequence. While installing that water heater, I must have been using gripping force on tools I don't normally use. My god damned forearms are killing me today. My grip strength is dramatically low now.

I was demonstrating throwing a rock with a sling to Primus, and the force of that rock swinging around really zinged my forearm muscles. I should pay attention.

But, this afternoon, it's supposed to be the warmest day this week, maybe for the rest of the year. I still need to rotate that drain pan underneath the new water heater, so I think today I'll simply disconnect power at the disconnect box on the wall, isolate the water heater from the plumbing, connect a hose and drain that hot water. Maybe treating The_Metatrix to a hot bath with it would be better than dumping it.

I can use the cooling in the house, as the water heater heats another full 60 gallons (227 liters) by taking some of the heat from inside my house later this afternoon when it's heating up.

I have no ducting installed yet on it, but all I need do is open the door to the mechanical room to get it to cool the kitchen.
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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#86  Postby theropod » Sep 28, 2017 9:38 pm

Tell me about it! I have been attempting to get my 1937 Allis Chalmers model B tractor to run, and it hand crank only. My right arm from shoulder to wrist is a mass of knots that hurt.

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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#87  Postby The_Metatron » Sep 28, 2017 10:41 pm

theropod wrote:Tell me about it! I have been attempting to get my 1937 Allis Chalmers model B tractor to run, and it hand crank only. My right arm from shoulder to wrist is a mass of knots that hurt.

RS

I'm not 40 years old any more, apparently.


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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#88  Postby The_Metatron » Sep 28, 2017 11:10 pm

Success draining the new water heater to let me position the drain pan underneath it properly:

Image

I wanted to show off my new appliance disconnect box, in operation:

Image

How about that lock, eh? It enables me to disconnect power to the water heater right there at the appliance. Further, it lets me lock it out after I do so. This positively prevents a dry fire of the water heater while I empty it and work. Dry firing an electric water heater is usually fatal to it.

And, it keeps me from dying while I work on the wiring connections to the water heater. Bonus.

The rest of this project requires holes in my house. I dread crawling around under there to plumb a drain pipe from that water heater's drain pan to someplace outside the building's foundation. I'll need a Tyvek hazard suit and some elbow and knee pads. I have the particle filter mask. It's a goddamned expedition just to make two elbow connections on PVC pipe.

I'll finally need two HVAC exterior vents through the exterior wall, one interior vent, and all of the rigid ducting in the mechanical room to make that work (tees, dampers, elbows, etc).

More to this project than I realized. And, I can neatly tie that idea into the topic title. I bet it's a good idea to factor a percentage of underestimation into the solar station installation phase of the project.

I've found with this water heater project, that there exist new materials and techniques which I've had to learn as I needed them. That's the main contributor to adding significantly to my build time. This ducting problem, for example, will take some time to solve. I have an idea in my head what I need it to do, and I have to match that against what is available at the local hardware stores to see what I will actually build.

Having never done ducting, I sort of have to engineer it from scratch. Takes a long time. Back to those six "p"s, eh?




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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#89  Postby felltoearth » Sep 29, 2017 1:30 am

Good work! That's a pretty amazing water heater.

You were asking about a mechanical engineer. Hugh McB is one though he doesn't come round much anymore.
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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#90  Postby The_Metatron » Nov 22, 2017 4:07 am

The_Metatron wrote:I've started a small scale test for September. I'm going to run my mobile phone and my tablet entirely off of grid power. They use so little energy, that really isn't the point. What I want to exercise is the concept of keeping my little 28 Wh power tank topped off every day with my solar array. Since I have multiple USB ports on the array, I can charge one other device at the same time as my power tank.

For example, my power tank is fully charged right now. So, I have both of our iPhones charging with it. They have room in their batteries, the sun is shining, and we can sit on the terrace with them while they charge. I want to sharpen the habit of collecting all the watt-hours I can use and use the ones I'm collecting.


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Approaching December now. There’s no fucking way I could keep my iPad running with only that little portable solar module. I can’t just hang it out of a window, it’s not weatherproof. And, it doesn’t have the power capacity to produce enough when the sun does occasionally shines.
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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#91  Postby The_Metatron » Nov 22, 2017 7:23 am

A good friend tells me it’s far more desirable to save a kilowatt hour than it is to have to make one. The water heater discussion served as an example of saving quite a few kilowatt-hours that I won’t have to make.

So, back towards more direct solar power things.

Limits to the size of my treasure dictate I start up my business before I install a huge solar power plant. But, I’m still proceeding with my prototype solar power station:

The_Metatron wrote:...

I ordered three things today from Iron Edison: a Canadian Solar 260 watt Quartech series solar panel, a MidNite Solar Classic 150 charge controller, and a 12 V bank of ten TN300 1.2V NiFe cells.

...

The charge controller arrived yesterday, and the other bits are on the way. Apparently, they ran out of the solar modules I ordered, so they substituted a 285 watt model instead of the 260 watt model I originally ordered.

I’d actually hoped to be able to use those nickel iron batteries in my service van. But, they aren’t built for that. My original intent was to power my amateur radio transceiver. Since then, The_Metatrix has mentioned that she’d like a small studio in our back yard. I may very well add a small inverter to this little station to send 110 VAC to her studio for lighting.
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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#92  Postby laklak » Nov 22, 2017 11:39 am

I've been thinking about 12 volt DC lighting in the house, like on the boat. LOTS more amp hours at 12 volts, and I can't tell the difference. Power was off this morning when I got up at an ungodly 6:45 and just came back on half an hour ago, so alternative power is a must in Swaziland, even here in the city where the grid is supposedly solid (been out a total of about 30 hours in the last week). Once we're out in the bush it will be critical, they sometimes go a couple of days without mains power.

Actually thinking of 12v DC for other stuff too, USB charging, fridge, motors for the remote control awnings I'm thinking about for passive solar heating/cooling, anything else I can come up with. Still need an inverter for TV and satellite internet, but the more 12v stuff I can use the better, I think.
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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#93  Postby The_Metatron » Nov 22, 2017 3:48 pm

I thought about running DC to the studio. Probably going to be a 30 meter run. I can probably get away with that as long as it’s only for LED lighting. I’ll have to work the math and see what the power loss in the wire would be.


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Re: Designing and building a solar power station

#94  Postby laklak » Nov 24, 2017 6:16 am

It would take a bit of design work, I imagine, to insure the wire runs are short enough to avoid a significant power loss compared to the loss of running through an inverter.

I want the house to be on an uninterruptible power supply. We get a lot of transient power outages here, from a few seconds to a few minutes. Plays hell with the electronics and is a real pain in the ass as everything starts beeping and rebooting and what not. I guess that would mean I'm always running off battery/inverter, at least for some circuits. There will be at least one A/C unit, that would probably be directly wired to the mains. Same for the water heater, which will be solar but with an assist. But I'd like to wire the rest of the house separately so it never loses power.

ETA then I could have a small generator that would run the A/C and hot water in a prolonged outage, but I wouldn't have to run it all the time like some folks around here do. Most of the houses around us have whole-house automatic gennys, they're pretty well muffled but there's still a constant background noise. If we keep this house, which we'll probably do to have a rental income, I'll likely put in one of the big whole-house jobs. Gotta keep up with the Dlaminis, and to rent to embassy or NGO personnel (the gold standard in renters as they pay their bills) a generator is usually a requirement. But we want our bush house to be as unobtrusive as possible, so solar with a small, well insulated and muffled generator is ideal.
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