I have had a number of interesting conversations with RV owners who would like to add solar power to their roving homes. In many ways a solar powered RV is like an off-grid cabin or home. The owner would like to be able to recharge batteries when the sun is shining and probably has a secondary or alternative power source for multiple cloudy days in a row or when they want to use a more significant source of power.
For an RV owner, the alternative can be a small mobile generator, or they can find a camp ground with power hook-up. If they want to cook or microwave the dinner while watching the game on TV or power wash the van, they will find an additional source of power to supplement their batteries. Most of the time they can live with the power that the sun can provide in a day.
If you have been trying to keep up with what is happening in the world of solar photovoltaics (Solar PV or solar electric systems), you may have heard about microinverters, or small inverters.
In a traditional solar electric system the solar panel produces a DC (direct current) signal when the sun shines on it. Our homes are generally wired for AC (alternating current). The Inverter is the device that converts the DC signal to AC.
The simplest solar electric system consists of an array of solar panels all wired together and then wired to a central (fairly large) inverter which converts the DC to AC and “ties” that signal into your utility company’s grid connection.
Microinverters are small inverters that are attached to each solar panel, so that there is no need for a large inverter. Also, each solar panel acts independently so if one is shaded, the others are not affected. In a traditional system, the solar panels are wired together in series (typically 8-12) and if one module of that series gets shaded, the output from the whole series is reduced.
It has been a very busy couple of weeks with a number of interesting solar installations … but I found a moment this weekend to do some catching up.
One install we have been working on is for the Hartford Emergency Services Building (Police and Fire) on the VA Cutoff road in White River Junction, VT. This project calls for 13kW solar array on its flat roof, which was recently resurfaced with a white membrane material. Since it was a new roof with a warranty, we had the roofing company do training, inspections and repairs for us in order for them to uphold the warranty.
Starting this spring I have been experimenting with using a reel mower to cut my grass. With all the rain we have had I have been using it just about every weekend and it’s been a lot of fun (and a lot of work).
The obvious benefit has been not spending money on fuel for a traditional gas lawn mower. Because this type of mower takes considerably more effort I have also gotten a nice total body workout. Additionally it is much easier to store, and can even be kept inside your home as there are no hazardous materials involved.
I’m at that point in our house renovation (78 Main St
) where the end is just around the next corner… I think. And then I get another barrage of decision requirements: what color for the second floor bedroom walls? What is the trim in the downstairs bathroom? What counter top did you pick out for the kitchen? What ventilation hood? Which carpet is going in the master bedroom? What tile is going around the tub? … If you’ve done a renoation, you probably get the picture.
I have been to the tile place, the counter top place, the carpet place, the granite place, and the bathroom fixtures place quite a few times in the last few weeks and one day I think I hit three or four in a 1 hour period.
We are finally making some good progress on our house renovation at 78 Main St
, and the electrician is finishing up his rough work while the walls are still open. So last week I did some research on kitchen appliances to make sure we were meeting the electrical requirements.
Two of the goals for this house renovation are: Zero Energy Building and no combustion. A zero energy building gets all of its energy needs (heating, hot water, and electricity) from renewable sources; and no combustion means I don’t want to burn anything in the house — no oil, no gas, no corn, no pellets or wood. There are many sustainable ways to forest wood and pellets and corn are becoming a popular alternative to fossil fuels, but it is a goal for our renovation for personal reasons to help keep fumes down and allergies under control.
Pole Mount PV
We’ve had a pretty good summer for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in the Upper Valley of NH/VT. A typical PV system consists of a number of solar panels and an Inverter to change the DC (direct current) from the panels to AC (alternating current) which is used in our homes.
Often the solar PV system is tied to the grid, which means the energy produced goes back to your electric company reducing the amount of electricity you have to buy from the company. With this ‘simple’ system, if there is a problem that causes an electrical outage, your house’s electricity must also shut down in order to ensure that you don’t electrocute the technician trying to fix the outage.
I have been interested in weather-related data for a while, and once I went into the renewable energy business, it has become even more intriguing to me. I like to know how much sun, rain, wind, and humidity we are experiencing. I want to know about the inside temperature, the outside temperature and the highs and lows for the day or the month. How many sunny days did we have in November? How many inches of rainfall in April? How high were those gusts of wind we just experienced, what is the wind chill factor, and what do the barometer do when we got that sudden 20 minute white-out blizzard where the snow was blowing sideways.
The device I got is a Davis Vantage Vue. The measuring components all mount onto a solar powered station, which can sit on a 1-2″ pole. This station sends data wirelessly to the display inside our house, which gets its power from the wall outlet.
There is a lot of buzz these days about On-Demand hot water systems. “On-Demand” means the water is heated as it is needed.
Most people have a hot water tank, where the water is heated and kept hot in a tank until it is needed. Generally the tank has been sized to provide about 20 gallons of hot water per person in the household. If the hot water is used up (by taking shower after shower, for instance), then you have to wait until the tank has a chance to heat up the tank again.
On-Demand hot water turns on a burner when you first start the shower or hot water faucet. You have to wait a little longer because the first water that gets to your faucet didn’t have time to get hot. Every few seconds after that it gets hotter and hotter. The two important benefits of On-Demand are:
Since I opened my store one of the products I have been thinking about is an electric bicycle. I have been an avid cyclist for about 6 or 7 years now. My husband and I try to get in a one long bike trip each summer. (We just completed New London, NH to Boston, MA this weekend — it was great!)
The problem was that I couldn’t find an electric bike that people really liked. I do sell an electric scooter that gets a lot of attention and has a good reputation. But it is cost prohibitive for some (at about $3000) and opens up questions about whether it is a motocycle and requires special registration and special driver’s license, etc. Each town has its own rules they apply to moped or scooter class of motorized vehicles.