Solar was one of our first considerations when it came to thinking about how to power our Tiny House of Steel. It seemed obvious that we would try to be as independent energy-wise as possible. We’d seen so many examples of full-time RVers and Tiny House builders who’d done amazing things with their solar systems. We’d been thinking about this all winter, basically going back to school on Watts, Amps and Volts. Well, now spring has finally sprung so it’s time to get our solar panel array up and running!
Anybody remember this old school video? It was pretty useful in explaining the basics of electricity!
We’d considered the idea of buying flexible solar panels but since the curved roof of the SteelMaster doesn’t offer a lot of real estate, we settled on flat panels. We bought four 120-Watt Polycrystalline panels that measure 26 x 45 inches. When set vertically in a row, they fit perfectly on the front bracket of the SteelMaster stabilizer bar. The THoS happens to be facing directly south right now so we’ll see what kind of results we get with this installation.
With the four panels bolted to together and to a steel frame (18 gauge angle iron), the whole rack could be hinged to tilt into the sun’s path.
The panels are pretty hefty (25 lbs. each). The total weight of the rack is holding nicely thanks to these heavy duty strap hinges:
Now the really hard work begins! Wiring a solar circuit is exhausting! But with a trusty friend and a handy multimeter, you can troubleshoot just about anything.
There were a lot of things that I had to learn about DC currents which differs from wiring your average AC circuit in some significant ways. For example, deciding whether to hook up the panel in series vs. in parallel. The folks at AltE Store have a fantastic YouTube channel which has possibly the BEST explanations for stuff like this. We got our AIMS MTTP charge controller and 3000 Watt inverter from The Inverter Store which we’d heard really good things about. They were also really helpful with putting our kit together and providing wiring diagrams and so on.
Want to know what the madness of putting together the wiring looks like now?
So the challenge facing us is to get this crazy mess of wires from:
a. the PV (solar) panels to the charge controller to
b. the 12V battery bank (2 x 225 Amp/H 6 Volt batteries in series) to
c. the inverter to
d. finally, our main AC panel.
Then, how do we get that all neatly wired and nicely tucked away? (More on that soon.) Possibly the best thing I’ve found so far for this solar kit is the Midnite breaker box which I highly recommend in order to keep the entire circuit organized in one centralized location. Also with a wiring diagram included, this saved me from figuring out how many switches and breakers I needed to be able to run the circuit with enough fail-safes to operate everything in its proper sequence. WELL worth its price!!
I’ll admit we’re still totally and excitedly at a test stage here so I will be posting some updates as our charge cycles begin with hopefully many sun-hour filled days ahead of us! So far, I am so tickled just at the thought of electricity falling from the sky and into our batteries. I’m sure anyone else invested in solar feels the same way!