This past weekend I head up to the ranch alone. Sheralee had her work seminar weekend in town, so I decided to head up Thursday afternoon. I would work from there on Friday and still be able to get a good amount of work done.
My goal for the weekend was to finish the utility shed doors, securing the shed basically, and install the solar components. Big undertaking for a weekend, well turned out to be bigger than I had planned! ha I thought I would have a ton of time left over on Sunday to do some other cool things, but that wasn’t the case.
I arrived Thursday afternoon and started digging the trench for running the solar cables from the panels to the shed.
I got that dug, and then started the weekend long ground rod driving into the ground. Once I got some good action on that, I decided to head into town to get some water. Man, the tourists that flock to the old Rt. 66….still amazes me. Got back and did a couple more rounds on the ground rod, which is basically driving an 8 foot long copper rod into the ground. Goes ok, until you run into a rock.
On the way back from getting water in town, I was driving up ranch road and saw these two jump off the road and head a little ways back in between some trees.
A doe whitetail and her fawn.
Friday morning, I got up and did some work. Once that winded down, I started on the panel install. First had to add a cross support 2×4 and some lag bolts at the bottom for stability.
Once this was in place, and the bolts put on, I could start the panel installation. If you didn’t know, these suckers are not light. Individually not overwhelming, but all four at once…man oh man. After adding those, I started the first panel install. Went alright actually, except I forgot to drill the hole for the grounding clamp, so I had to do that after the fact. Not sure that was the best thing, but once it was up, I didn’t want to take it off.
You can see by the shadows, it took me a little bit to tie the four on there, but after Installed the first two I realized I could leave room for two more panels if we ever need them.
Rebel Ranch Solar Setup (WARNING: Technical stuff to follow)
I will list out a couple things here that are relevant to the solar system build. I had been researching solar panel kits for quite some time, well a year probably, and what I came up with was a 400 watt panel kit from Renogy, that I bought off of Amazon (Prime shipping is the best).
Renogy 400 Watt Solar Panel Kit on Amazon
Batteries: We did four 6v golf cart batteries that we tied in series to double the voltage to 12volts and then parallel to double the amps out. The Duracell batteries we bought will supply with 460 amp hours, meaning you can run a 1 am device for 460 hours. Truly you don’t want to ever go lower than 50% on the batteries (lowers the life span), so 230 hours at 1 amp is more realistic.
We also started with a 3500 watt DC to AC power inverter. This means that 3500 watts divided by 120 volts (house power) give us roughly 29 amps of power at one time. Put into perspective, the coffee pot and toaster run about 8 amps each when doing their thing. Our new refrigerator runs about 1 amp when on and cooling. So, we have amps to spare, just like Jimi Hendrix…but not really.
I based a lot of what I did off of this guy’s solar setup at Tin Hat Ranch
Ok, back to my weekend fun in setting up our system. After mounting the panels on their new ground mount home, I had to physically wire in the panels together, ground them, and run the cables through the conduit. I tied my panels together in parallel so that I didn’t raise the voltage higher than my charge controller could handle, since I am just using a 30A PWM controller. Also, since my panels are so close to the shed, < 20 feet I was not worried about the voltage drop from panels to charge controller.
Anyways, here is how they connected together.
The left view is from our loft deck, and the right is where I ran them underground to the shed.
This basically finished my Friday. Took me longer than anticipated, but what doesn’t? I have learned that everything takes longer. ha.
Saturday morning I was up early and running. Lets say, I got to see the sun rise two three morning in a row. My goal for Saturday was to get the solar wired in and running. Mission accomplished. I first started by finishing my battery box. This will house the four 6v golf cart batteries listed above. NOTE: Batteries are NOT light! These guys are roughly 65 lbs each, and after I got them put in the box I created, I realized I need to raise them off the floor…so out they came again.
I sealed in the box, air tight…as much as possible, so I can use passive venting of the batteries. I used a 2″ hole saw for three locations at the base of the box, this will allow air intake, and the lighter hydrogen gas (by product of the led acid battery) to expel through the top hole in the box. Passive ventilation.
After getting the batteries situated, I tied in the solar panel cables to the charge controller, wired in the batteries for series and parallel, and then tied the batteries to the charge controller.
Then I installed the power inverter and tied the batteries to it, and this is my completed solar setup, pretty much
Right now I have two extension cables running through the container wall, which will be the bathroom eventually, into the container to run the refer and maybe some temp lighting.
This is with the box shut. NOTE: Check out the Amish hat, donated by a ranch worker a little while ago.
While daylight was winding down, I really wanted to get our new refrigerator unboxed and plugged in. I rushed around to get this done, but finally got it plugged in. Now, it is not in it’s permanent place, but it will definitely beat hauling ice and the big cooler each week. Very exciting.
This is a Vissani 9.9 cubic feet refrigerator. Not too small, and not huge. Perfect I think…actually bigger than we had originally thought about, but it is going to be great. When running to cool down, it draws roughly 120 watts (1 amp) of power. So cool! My power inverter doesn’t even know that thing is there.
Vissani 9.9 cu ft refrigerator
This ended my Saturday, time for a shower and dinner. Sunday morning I had to start work on utility shed doors. I needed to secure our new investment. The doors is something I knew would not go as smooth as the video I based them off of, but what has? ha.
I used osb backing, 2×4 framing, and then siding for the fronts of them. While I was at it, I insulated the doors with the Styrofoam that came in the solar panel boxes. Worked like a champ. I finally got them built, and carried over to the shed. They were heavy, to be sure. I first installed the left one, the inside door as you would have it. Then the right one, which overlaps the left door. The left door has a sliding bolt at the bottom to tie it to the floor, and then a hidden latch on the outside door to lock it.
It turned out alright….after some frame shaving and slight modifications, but overall…..it could be worse. They lock and everything. It was just about time to go home, so I didn’t get all I wanted done, but got most of it done and now we have POWER! This coming weekend my brother and sister in law come to visit, so they will have to listen to the refrigerator hum while they sleep. Plus side is, they have mustard and mayo to keep them company.