The Phaserl


Solar Power Crash Course

from Survival Blog:

First, this article is for entertainment purposes only. I have used all this equipment in the ways I describe, but I am not a licensed electrician. I am professionally trained in off-grid solar electric systems and have installed, consulted on, or maintained hundreds of systems, the most remote of which were in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I do not advise setting up your own PV system without consulting an experienced and knowledgeable source.

After perusing the survivalblog archives for new ideas and methods in off-grid solar, and finding very little at all in the way of solar power explanations, I decided to add a little to the survivalist community by writing my own article. I figured “it cant be that hard… after all, I have written 1000’s of emails explaining these principles to individual clients.”

But what I found is that it IS very difficult to summarize all aspects of solar power in one article, especially with an audience whose background and experience is as varied as this one. I am sorely disappointed in the outcome, but I do hope this article helps enlighten some of you to the possibility of off-grid solar, and saves others of you some costly mistakes. So forgive me for not being able to explain all the details, as that would be a book.

I do want to mention this article from survival blog as I agree with and have tried not to restate most of what was said.


For the sake of simplicity, I will use a specific set of equipment in the scenario described below. Obviously there are hundreds of different panels and charge controllers that can be used, but they are not all compatible with this example. In this example (and what I am currently using), we will use four UNI-SOLAR PVL-136 panels and one Midnite Kid charge controller.

Imagine you have arrived at your bugout or bugin location and have your KID charge controller connected to a 250 Amp Hour battery. You have rolled your flexible panels out on a south facing roof or lawn (provided you are in the northern hemisphere.) Now you will connect the panels. Connect the positive wire from panel 1 to the negative wire of panel 2. You now have one 48v string. Do the same to the other panels for a total of two pairs or “strings”. Connect the negative wires of each string together, along with up to a 30’ length of UV inhibited #10 wire. Do the same for the positive wires of each string. Bring two the #10 wires down to the PV positive and negative inputs on your KID charge controller and connect them (don’t reverse polarity). You’re done! You now have up to 30 amps of power charging your 12v battery.

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5 comments to Solar Power Crash Course

  • Craig escaped from Detroit

    I like the idea of the UniSolar 136w FLEXIBLE panel (it rolls up like a carpet runner, and is SO durable, that you can empty a 30 round clip of AK47 ammo into it and it still keeps working.)

    It’s like a roll of rubber sheeting, etc. But for permanent use, it must be attached to a hard surface and it is 18 feet LONG. (but is 15.5 inches wide for fitting between the ribs of pole barn metal roofing.) The fact that you can ROLL it up and throw it in the back seat, etc, is great for transport.

    On the other hand, todays “GLASS faced” panels, are typically from 2’X4′ to 3X4 and 4X5, etc.. power ranges from 120 watts, up to about 300 watts per panel. Aluminum frames, these are rigid and mounted to lumber or metal rails (unistrut / superstrut works GREAT & costs only $20/10Ft section).
    The rigid panels take up only 1/2 the square footage of the rubber sheet panels (glass panels are twice as efficient), but can be shattered and disabled with a single gunshot.
    The rigid panels can make a decent roof by themselves, blocking out the sun, but the rain will still fall between gaps of one panel next to the other.

    I find the best sale prices (I’ve bought from them several times), is at
    Good luck.

    Solar is SILENT and won’t attract the nomadic killers who will follow a gas generator noise for a mile to kill your family and take what they want.

    • Christine

      That is actually pretty good! What I still don’t know is… how to connect it my appliances and bypass electricity. Does it connect directly to the fuse box? Know how? Can you share DIY videos?

      Also… Do they have it in window length, to stick it to drafty, old windows? I’ve got 17 of them, all very well exposed to the sun, and 3 rooms I don’t use; big, old house. Kid moved out. Need to keep her furniture warm for when she deign come back from traveling the world. And I won’t replace windows ’til I win my fight against the bank. I’d gladly give up real sunshine and below-freezing for sun-powered electric light and… warmth in the winter! $130/mo electric bill is becoming such a racket, I’m not so sure I’m game any longer. Besides, those flexible panels seem more affordable to me than new windows altogether…

      • Craig escaped from Detroit

        Solar panels are not “see thru”. They catch sunshine and turn it into power because they STOP all the light. (as clear as a sheet of black plywood.)

        to run a normal household, most people will be able to be 100% off grid (free from all power bills) only with some pretty pricey outlays of cash. Likely about $15,000 – $20k.

        There are 2 main strategies. ON GRID is where you use your panels to “spin your meter backwards during the day”, and then it spins normal during the night. This SAVES the BIG costs of all the BATTERIES needed for the OFF GRID systems, BUT,, BUT,,, BUT,,,,, with the “on grid-power sharing system”, you’re still paying monthly METER FEES, and SOME jurisdictions, hit you with special EXTRA fees that eats up all your “sunshine profits” even charging some homeowners $50/ month for a special “solar sell back meter”, etc.

        And they hit you will all kinds of codes, inspections, expenses. In MY area, to sell excess power back, they BUY it at the “wholesale rate” of about 3-4 cents / kw-hr, but when I buy from them, it’s 12 cents. Ouch.

        OFF grid, the battery system will add about $3000 or more to the rest of the system, but you’ll be FREE from the monthly meter fees, etc. Fewer hoops to jump thru.

        Solar panels on the roof (I’ve found best prices, but of course, SHIPPING will hit you hard unless you can get them delivered to a BUSINESS with a LOADING DOCK and FORKLIFT to get the pallet of panels off the truck), best prices I can find, are at

        You’ll need at least 5k or 6k watts of panels (cost will be somewhere between $0.60 to $1.00 per watt.)

        You’ll need an INVERTER (not CONverter), to change the panel’s DC power output, into household Alternating Current. For a unit that can put out about 5kw continuous (10kw surge) the CHINESE models for OFF grid use on Ebay, are about $800 each.

        You’ll need mounting rails for the panels (SuperStrut at Lowes is $20/ section @ 10ft long). One pair of these will hold from 3-5 panels depending on physical dimensions.

        You’ll need “Combiner Box” and breakers, and safety shut off switch.
        All the wires and connectors. Lightning arrestors (to protect your expensive system)

        Battery Charge controller(s). Outback or Midnite Solar makes the biggest, Best ones. About $700 each. One may be enough, but be prepared to buy 2 of them.

        Batteries. Golf cart batteries will last for about 5-8 years. It’s important to set up your system, to be either 48 VDC or higher,, NEVER set up a system to operate on 12 or 24vdc.

        This “battery-DC current, goes OUT of the batteries, and INTO the inverter, which puts out 120VAC and/or 240VAC for the house breaker panel.

        The BEST batteries (very expensive) are the ELECTRIC FORK LIFT battery system. New they cost from $5,000 to more than $7000, but have a system life of about 20 years. Can weigh 4,000 pounds and need heavy equipment to move them. Golf cart batteries (6VDC) are about $130 each plus $22 “core charge”, and are just a bit heavier than a car battery.

        16 golf cart batteries, would cost about $2000 and give you enough power, to supply you with about 10kw-hrs of useable power at 50% “D.O.D”. (remember that acromym- Depth of Discharge, never go over 50%)

        Make sure your home is very energy efficient. Saving 1kw hour in efficiency, saves you a LOT more money in system sizes.

        Do a LOT of reading on line about solar systems.

        Combiner box, I prefer the Midnite Solar model that holds about 12 breakers or more. It’s only about $100? Breakers are extra. Call them up, they are GREAT at helping choose the right capacity breakers, for amps and volts.

        Inveters, make sure you NEVER buy the “Mofified sine wave” types,,, it’s a LIE. Only TRUE sine wave, or very near it, is the only way to go. Domestic or European made inverters, cost about $2,500-$4000 each. I prefer the cheap Chinese $800 models, but I’d be wise to have a SPARE one ready.

        You may STILL need a gas generator for emergency backup.
        Get rid of extra refrigerators, etc. Space heaters are stupidly power hungry. Heat pumps (DUCTLESS are VERY efficient).

        Today’s modern DUCTLESS heat pumps, (air sourced) can work well even in areas that go down to +10F, or even perhaps to zero “F”.
        My home, used to use a 3 ton (36,000 BTU heat pump) with ducts,, but when I switch to DUCTLESS, I got excellent results with just 24,000 BTU’s (2 tons).

        My heat ductless heat pump, uses only 1000 watts (1kw) to give me 12,000 BTU’s of heating or cooling. This actually does my entire 1000 square foot home, from +12F, up to +95F in summer.

        This will get you started.

        PS. be aware of “system losses” to create power, (even the power company has the SAME losses), which is about 35%.

        So, your solar system, has to be about 35% OVER size.

        • Christine

          You definitely know your stuff.

          Do you do consults?

          • Craig escaped from Detroit

            Not qualified to consult, but I have opinions of some varieties of retail gear out there, and read enough to bore me to sleep.

            You can start with a minimum of stuff, but always buy the stuff that is EXPANDABLE into a larger system without having to purchase the same items again and again.

            If there is a choice between something that can work with only 500w-1kw of panels, vs something that can handle 5kw or 10kw of panels, and the price is only a $150 more, then GET the BIGGER item.
            (Combiner boxes & Charge controllers are a PRIME example of this.)

            The big, high capacity charge controller (can’t remember if Midnite solar or Outback), but can handle up to 80AMPS of output (going into a 48VDC battery bank, perhaps higher voltage?), and the input voltage can be over 100VDC. (This gives the BIG advantage of wiring a LOT of panels in SERIES- a LESS complicated way to go.) These controllers are the MPPT type (more expensive but capture MORE of the panel’s power.)

            Even for a single small panel (20-60 watts) for a car, truck, RV battery charger-maintainer, you STILL need a CHARGE controller to prevent the little panel’s voltage (which is typically about 18vdc) from BURNING out your car’s battery (which is 12-13.8vdc). The charge controller takes the over voltage, and regulates it to the proper battery input requirements, and shuts down the charging when the battery cannot take anymore or would boil out the electrolite-acid fluid.

            Don’t waste valuable money on AGM batteries or Gel Cells (very pricey and gives FEWER Kw-Hrs!!!)
            The reason why SOME people like them, is NO maintenance (topping up with distilled water), and don’t spill acid if tipped over, etc. But about double the cost and less stored power.

            Look at your electric bills, and find the area that shows HOW many Kw-Hrs you consume each month, and SOME bills, show/track with a chart, how many Kw-Hrs you use each month during a full year. You can see what months you need more power or less power.

            A tiny space heater, on LOW setting, usually takes about 1kw (and there are 720 hours in the average month.) If you get a COLD month, and it never shuts off, and you are charged 12 cents per kw-hr, it means you multiply 12 cents X 720 hours= $86 BEFORE taxes and fees (will be about $95 on your bill, and this is the LOW setting. On the HIGH setting, the bill will be 50% higher, yes, $150.

            On the low setting, a space heater, ceramic or resistance heater, gives about 2300-3000 BTU’s per hour @ 1,000 watts of consumption.

            A ductless heat pump with an efficiency rating of SEER 20 or higher, will give you 12,000 BTU’s of heat while consuming the same 1,000 watts of power.

            This is WHY a good rating ductless heat pump can save you a LOT of money on the size of your solar system. Such a heat pump, is less than $2,000 (the cheap ones that cost only $900, will consume about 30-50% more power, run your batteries empty before morning, etc.)

            So, by spending an extra $600-1000 on the better heat pump (ductless), you’ll not have to spend an extra $3,000 on the size of your solar system.

            Ductless heat pumps, come in single or multi zone units. My 1000 sq-ft home, 2BR, 2bath, does great with just 2 zones, one at each end of the home. But a larger home would really need a 3rd zone, or some fans to blow the air around.

            (Regular heating/cooling systems going thru the ducts, loses up to 30% of all capacity from duct leaks, elbows and turns (resistance friction to the moving air). So by NOT using the ducts, you are saving up to 30% of what used to be lost.

            I bought MY “safety shut off switches”,, some at 2nd hand shops where power equipment was sold, or industrial surplus, and ALWAYS some on EBAY… but make sure they are rated for DC power.
            (you’ll be learning about AMPS, volts, overloads, etc.)

            On a normal circuit breaker, a load of 80% of the breaker’s rating, is considered MAX. Anything OVER that is an OVER LOAD and not allowed.

            Solar panels, (as ALL electric flow) slows down as things get hot. (Heat resistance). So, in COLD sunny winter days, a panel can put out MORE than it’s rated power. And as a cloud passes overhead, the sun can become FOCUSED by the edge of the cloud like a lens, (this is called “Cloud edge effect”) and will also make a panel put out excess power.

            My point, is that all the wires, breakers, fuses, etc, must be sized for these “over current” situations. (20% is about the normal amount of ‘over build” needed.)

            As panels get old, they’ll lose 10% or more of their new rated power. They can lose 10-30% just from getting dirty-dusty. They’ll need regular cleaning when you need every watt during the winter months.

            It’s common for solar companies, to rate their systems, based on the national ave. of 5 hours FULL output per day, 365 days/year. (this includes rain/shine/ summer/winter.)

            Summer you’ll get MORE than 5 hours of FULL output (panel rating), and winter, you’ll get about 1/2 of that. So make sure you build your system BIGGER for winter production needs.

            Some people get buy with just 1000 watts of panels, they are very frugal.
            An energy efficient fridge, uses 370 kw-hrs of power per YEAR (that’s just 1kw-hr per day in a 72F home).

            Side by sides are HOGS. Chest freezers are more efficient. To power just an efficient fridge (typically 18 cubic feet, top freezer), will require about 400-500 watts of panels.

            Forget about electric stoves & elec hot water heaters. Duh.
            It’s much easier to operate a 700w microwave than a 1000w or 1500w model. An electric 2 slice toaster, is about 800 watts,, some are more.

            Compact florescent lights are great, but STAY AWAY from the “warm white or Soft white” (they appear TOO orangy yellow). Get the Bright White or Day light. Very attractive quality of light.
            You’ll learn about lighting measurments known as “Degrees Kelvin” (it’s not heat, it is COLOR).
            2500K is Yellow-orange ugly light, as a tungsten bulb.
            3500-4000k is bright white, Very good, real white light
            5000k-6000k daylight, has more BLUE in it. Best for somethings, not for others.

            A C.F. bulb, which consumes 24 watts of real power, will give you the same amount of light as the old “filament bulbs” rated at 100w. And the CF’s will run from 8000-12,000 hours. Go shopping.

            (LED bulbs, are still a RIP OFF, because they use cheaper LED’s and OVER DRIVE them to get more light, but it kills the life span, instead of getting 100,000 hours of life, they die in less than 20,000 hours and cost a lot more than the CF’s.) When you convert hours of life per dollar spent, you’ll find the CF’s are more thrifty.

            You can buy SOLAR HOT water heaters, with a STAINLESS steel tank, etc, big enough for family of 4, workable in southern CANADA, for less than $2,000.

            Considering that a CHEAP gas or electic model is about $500, and is NOT stainless steel and will need to be replaced in 5-10 years, the big dollar solar stainless model sounds better and better.
            There are cheaper solar water heaters for about $700, but they are GRAVITY feed, will NOT take pressurized water supply. They are good for cabins without pressure.

            Do a GOOGLE search and look at the images for this stuff, and for SOLAR OVENS. You can make a SOLAR oven by yourself, with cheap junk,, for as little as FREE, and if done RIGHT, can get over 350F , even on a day that is COLD outside.

            You COULD carry a black water bag or bucket of water, put it into your car’s SUNNY window and warm it up on a winter day,, or in the house in a SUNNY window. It’s good in a bad situation.

            Swimming Pool Solar cover bubble wrap stuff (CLEAR, not blue and not silver), 10-16 mills, is a great green house top, or to close in your screen porch. It’s self insulated and will survive many years. I bought a 16ft X 32 ft for less than $150.

            Go on line, and read all the old Mother Earth News magazines, and Home Power magazines, you’ll learn ALL kinds of great things.

            Sometimes on Ebay, Craig’s list, etc, you may be able to buy a nice old, antique kitchen wood burning range-stove. Brand new, they can be more than $6,000.

            I found a pretty cool OLD one for $200, and it also has some GAS burners on it. SO when I hook it up, it can use WOOD, Coal or propane.

            Stock up on some extra propane cans for your BBQ grill. It’s portable, emergency cooking.

            I got myself some Kerosene hurricane lanterns from an Amish supply site, get the BIGGER bottom tanks as they won’t tip over. About $20 each (Dietz brand).

            I’d suggest the “Air Pilot” preferred by the Amish, and the JUPITER lamp,, has a VERY large fuel tank, will burn up to 72 hours between refills. (good to keep the pipes from freezing in a pump house, insulated crawl space, chicken koop use, etc.)

            kerosene oil lamps come in 2 wick sizes. the bigger one is 7/8th inch. They give off about 1,400 BTU’s of heat.

            So 2 of those lamps, would be as much heat as a small electric space heater on low. 3 lamps equals a space heater on high.

            This information should help a LOT of people survive and prosper with new ideas and old ideas as well.

            Those lamps, give off about

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