How to Operate Your Solar Power System
It is liberating to produce and operate your own off-the-grid energy system, however it often takes an adjustment period to understand how your system works. This guide will tell you how to understand the basics of your power system and how to take care of your batteries. Your goal will be to bring your solar power system to “float” each day, or to 100% of it’s capacity.
To get started, what components do you have to your system? You will need to know the wattage of your solar panel(s) and inverter, and the type of batteries you have in your battery bank.
The charge controller will be where you monitor your system. The charge controller will tell you the current performance of your solar- the number of amps going to the batteries- and the current state of charge of your battery bank- the number of amps currently stored in your battery bank. These numbers will increase as your panels produce more energy.
The most basic way to monitor the state of charge of your battery bank is to view the voltage. You can determine the percentage of charge based on the number of volts your charge controller displays (see graph).
More advanced systems will give you the percentage of charge, which will be more accurate than reading the voltage.
Battery Bank: ____ Amp Hours
If you have deep cycle batteries, the suggested maximum usage is to 50% of your capacity. (Your batteries are deep cycle if they come with an amp hour rating.) For example, if your battery bank holds 300 amp hours, it is suggested that you only use up to 150 amp hours, which will deplete your battery bank to about 12.0V. By cycling your batteries above 50%, you are ensuring that your batteries have a reasonable life expectancy. Cycling batteries below this level will drastically shorten the life expectancy. If your batteries are not deep cycle, the suggested maximum usage is to 70% of your capacity. Cycling your batteries under 70% will be detrimental to the life expectancy of your batteries.
If you don’t currently have anything set up to monitor your battery bank voltage, go ahead and order up one of these handy little monitors so you can keep an eye on it:
Your solar panel(s) charge your battery bank. The number of watts of your solar panel is the maximum number of watts of energy that your solar panel will produce at peak sun conditions. Usually the solar panel will generate 50-75% of it’s rated power. If you are using energy through out the day, your solar panels will be able to replace the energy you have used depending on the amount of sun that they are exposed to.
Inverter: ____ watt max
The inverter is what runs your electronics. If you are using multiple electronics at one time, their combined number of watts must be less than the maximum number of watts that your inverter runs. Your charge controller should display how many watts are being used when there is a load on the system. You will also want to check the wattage of the electronics that you use.
Calculate the number of amp hours your electronics will use by dividing the wattage of the electronic by the voltage of your system (Amp Hours = Electronic’s Wattage/ System’s Voltage). If you are running a 1200 watt blender on a 12 volt system, the blender will use 100 amp hours per hour that it is used. Generally, you will not run a blender for an entire hour, so it may be beneficial to divide this number by 60 to find out how many amps it will use per minute. In this case, it will use about 1.7 amps per minute.
It is important to remember to keep an eye on your battery bank, especially as you are learning how much energy you use in comparison to what your system can handle. By doing so, you will be able to better maintain your battery bank, and ensure a long-lasting life for it.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us! Listening to your questions helps us to improve the information we put out there.