Chaz Peling: Backup Power Solutions

Over the past month, the Americas have sustained extensive damage from 3 major Atlantic hurricanes and 2 major earthquakes in Mexico. In terms of destroyed houses and businesses, ruined cars, and lost lives, it has been an extremely costly couple of weeks.

One common factor present in the aftermath of each of these disasters has been the loss of electrical power. Harvey knocked out power for 250,000 people. Irma topped 4 million. Maria has deprived 3.5 million people of electricity in Puerto Rico alone. The earthquakes in Mexico City and Oaxaca resulted in blackouts for well over 5 million.

Without electricity, our capability to conduct our modern way of life becomes immediately and severely curtailed. Communication instantly stops. Food quickly spoils. Sundown puts an end to all activity. Air conditioning and water well pumps no longer function.

And as prolonged blackouts often go hand-in-hand with gas shortages, disaster victims are often truly forced into a "dark ages" lifestyle.

This week, Chaz Peling, founder of Sol Solutions, joins the podcast to share his expertise on residential backup power options. The good news is that recent technology advancements offer more robust and affordable solutions than ever before. The bad news is, you have to invest the effort to procure an install them in advance of the next crisis for them to be of use.

Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Chaz Peling (47m:15s).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Here are links to the resources mentioned in this podcast:

As someone who has lived with off-grid solar power systems for several years now I thought I’d chime in with a couple things. I basically have the three sizes of systems Chaz is talking about in this podcast. I have a 4.4 kilowatt system that is my main system powering the house and most of my outbuildings. About 4 years ago I disconnected from the power grid and have been using this system for my primary needs. I also have a mid-sized system of 520 watts that has been the sole source of power for my small art studio for roughly 10 years now. I see it as a backup for essential functions in the main house if something goes wrong with my large system. I’ve also got my “camping” system which is quite small, simple, and inexpensive. A flexible 100 watt panel, a 55 amp/hour AGM battery, and a smaller charge controller which also has 12 volt dc and 5 volt USB outputs. I’ve got a tiny inverter I can hook up to the battery for AC power too.
Adam and Chaz mentioned that getting energy efficient devices/appliances is a very good thing and I will second that. Before I went to off-grid solar for my home this was my first project to tackle. I was able to get my monthly power usage down to consistently be below 100 KWH. Even without going to solar this effort made my life better and cheaper. When the needs are less everything is easier.
A major saver for me was getting a new refrigerator. I took a long time studying what was available and was shocked to find the size of the unit doesn’t always correspond to power usage. I saw tiny dorm room cube fridges that used nearly as much power or more than better full sized ones! Even within the lines of the same brand there were huge differences in energy efficiency. There were also wide swings in price for efficient units. At the time I bought mine the most efficient rated unit on the market was about $2400. I ended up buying a unit that had similar capacity and was rated only slightly less efficient for just $250! Plus it was locally available at a big box store instead of a special order shipment. The last time I checked mine for real world power consumption with a kilowatt meter it was using 3 tenths of a kilowatt a day. This makes it MUCH easier for me to maintain refrigeration with solar power, or any power for that matter.
Living alone I also reevaluated whether I really needed a 30 gallon electric water heater, even though at that point my system was already able to handle this. I’ve since gone to a 15 gallon water heater with no issues at all, making it easier on my battery bank around the winter solstice when light is scarce. I realize going to a straight solar water heater might make more sense, but there are physical issues with my home space that make this a challenge. Something I do with my hot water usage, and most major power usages actually, is a bit of load shifting. Essentially I try to do things that use lots of electricity when the sun is out so I’m pulling power right from the panels rather than draining the battery bank down. Some tasks like running the electric wood chipper or chainsaw get saved for sunny days.
One other thing I wanted to bring up was regarding back-up generators. I did get one for my solar system, again for that time around the winter solstice when it might come in handy to keep the battery bank from getting too low if there is a lot of snow and cloudy days in a row. I thought about a gas generator but in the end decided to get a small propane generator. I liked the propane option because I don’t need to worry about it going bad if it sits around unused for a long time. I’m also more likely to be able to still get propane from a tank exchange at the gas station if power is out widespread. For me personally it also just makes more sense since I use propane regularly in my work and thus always have several tanks around I can put into service on the generator if need be. There is a major downside to propane generators though if you live in a cold climate like I do. As gas gets pulled from the tank at the high rate the generators use it, the tank gets colder. If it’s cold enough outside already then eventually the tank becomes so cold the liquid propane will no longer convert to a gas state thus shutting down the generator. The solution I’ve found is to have two tanks to use and swap them out as needed, letting one warm up while the other is in use. This works for me since I’m not trying to run the house directly from the generator. Rather I’m using the generator to recharge a battery bank which is what my home is really running on. So when I’m switching tanks the power is still on. It’s a bit of a pain this way, but for me the generator is a very rarely used thing, so this extra hassle is easily off set by the other benefits I get with propane as a fuel source.
One final thought, when considering where to locate my large solar array for the main system I decided to NOT locate it on a roof. As I noted before I live in a cold snowy climate so I wanted to have them more readily accessible to clean snow off. Eventually snow and ice would melt off, but when sun is scarce and power is tight I want to be able to get all the extra generation capacity I can.

Darn, David Huang, that is an awesome story.
Could you please give us specifics on a number of things:

  1. what refrigerator did you find that was cost effective and low energy use. (Link?)
  2. how did you mount your solar panels? Pole? Rack?
  3. can you show us your charge controller, how many and what sized panels, specific batteries.
  4. your water heater.
    Has anyone run a washing machine on a solar set-up?

sand_puppy, I’ll see about answering your other questions as well before too long. I’ll have to dig up some info, take some photos, and see if I can figure out how to post images here.
As for the water heater though what I got was a Marathon 15 gallon 120 volt unit. Here is a link to it on Amazon: Unfortunately it looks like it’s no longer available. :frowning: I’m sure there are other brands out there for smaller size water heaters. Older mobile homes, which is what I have, often came with small water heaters. In fact, my old trailer had a 10 gallon one which was a bit too small, at least in combination with the shower head I had back then. It kept me from lingering too long in the shower though! I was a bit worried 15 gallons wouldn’t be enough, but with my current low flow shower head it hasn’t been an issue at all, though if guests are visiting overnight we would have to plan for a bit of recovery time in between showers, say 30 to 45 minutes.
I did go with the Marathon though because the tank isn’t metal and thus has a lifetime guarantee since it won’t rust out. It certainly wasn’t the cheapest option for a water heater. I also liked the fact that it runs off 120 volt instead of the 240 volt my old 30 gallon one was, and what most electric water heaters are. While my inverter for the whole house solar system will do 240 volt just fine this new water heater means I no longer have anything that requires 240 volt. Thus if I had to I could probably use the inverter in my mid-sized solar system to power it which only does 120, though I’d likely be pushing close to the wattage potential on that one which is rated for 3000 watts.
A very handy addition I did for my water heater was putting in an easy to access on/off switch. Thus, when I really need to conserve power, such as those 3 weeks to either side of the winter solstice, I can just turn my water heater off unless I need hot water. That way I’m not trying to keep it hot 24 hours a day. The Marathon water heaters are good too in that they hold heat for a long time, so unless I’m using a lot of hot water, and thus mixing in a bunch of new cold water into the tank, I can have hot/warm water all day at least for washing my hands even with the heater turned off. This switch is also very handy for power management on my off-grid system. If I’m going to be using power hungry things, such as major power tools, I will generally make a point to turn off the water heater. This way I’m not stressing the inverter as much if the water heater happens to decide to turn on at the same time. I did have that happen once while I was running my wood chipper. It took me a bit to figure out why it suddenly seemed to be acting a bit starved for power. I think the water heater, and fridge happened to power up at the same time, which in combination with the wood chipper was maxing out what my 4400 watt inverter wanted to do. I do wish I had a bit larger inverter on the main system, but with some power management it all works fine.

Those two posts have a great level of detail. Thank you for sharing.

I presently live in Tucson, so there’s plenty of solar power available. I had a 5kw PV system and hot water heater installed about 8 years ago My 1st solar hot water heater was installed back when Jimmy Carter’s tax credits were available. It would probably still be working if some idiot plumber didn’t blow it out during an unrelated repair. If I was going to stay here I would replace my grid tied inverter with one of those hybrid ones. If the grid goes down during one of these increasingly hot summers I could survive by chilling the house down as much as possible during the day.
I like to read RVing web sites. They have to be really energy efficient. There was one guy who bought a van and installed his own equipment. He had room for a couple of roof mounted PV panels. They provided enough power to keep a freezer that opens from the top cold, and he had no battery backup power. Cold air does not escape when opened.
I should get my friends who live on a remote MT homestead to write up something about the hydroelectric system that they designed and built. They get 4kw of continuous power. Keeping it running takes a lot of work.
I wonder what future generations will do when there isn’t enough fossil fuel energy, rare earths, etc to build PV panels and everything else.

Great podcast and very helpful post by David. Just like managing your own health, knowing the details of your power needs and then managing them to an optimal level is very personal. David, your posts show that so well. Most of us are using way too much power to start with. The very first thing should always be the discipline of minimizing your usage and then managing the flow after that.
It seems to me that if every household could do the management that most of us could live off grid comfortably… The medical industry really doesn’t want us all living healthy lifestyles. The power generating industry doesn’t want us being frugal and efficient with power. Just like the penalties for not having health insurance, we are also seeing some power utilities charging grid tied solar houses a distribution grid ‘tax’. Some areas won’t give you an occupancy permit if you are not tied to the grid.
David, your detailed explanation gives me hope that many of us regulation shackled citizens might still have a chance by just minimizing our usage. I also was glad to hear that grid tied systems could be configured to stay up during grid down events.

You are welcome NickAdams10.
Ok, I’ve found the model details for my refrigerator. It is an Avanti RM806W. It’s an 8 cu/ft, free standing, top freezer, manual defrost refrigerator. Here is a link to more information about it:
Unfortunately as I feared, it is no longer available. sad I bought mine back in 2008 and it has given me flawless service ever since so I’m kinda bummed about this. Of course, because it has given me flawless service I have not looked at what’s out there now so maybe there are better models. To try and give some details that might be of help to others who might be looking for an efficient fridge today I’ll offer up some of what I learned/was looking for when I went searching.
First though in addition to the low cost and fabulous efficiency this model had, I discovered one other feature I had not expected but would without a doubt be looking for in any future fridges. It is the incredibly simple yet smart design for defrosting the freezer. Once I moved out of my parents home where we had an auto defrost type fridge it seemed that everywhere I lived had manual defrost types. I experienced many models and had come to expect that defrosting was going to be a massively annoying chore. Sure it probably could go easy if I did it on a regular weekly basis as they tried to make us to in the dorm room of my first college. My personal reality though, and I suspect that of many others is that defrost time really only happens with the ice blocks build up so much you can’t fit in the food you want anymore. (Sure I realize refrigerators run more efficiently when regularly defrosted, but I still don’t do it.) What I would normally have to do was turn off and unplug the fridge, load all the frozen food into a cooler along with as much of refrigerated stuff as I could fit. Then it was hours of waiting, perhaps chipping away at the ice with sharp objects I really shouldn’t have been using. Pots of boiling water were often used to try and hurry it along. Water dripped everywhere and it was just a mess. What the design of this Avanti fridge has shown me is that the standard designs were horrendous with all their ridges and undercuts. The last one I had came with a defrost tray meant to be helpful in collecting melt water during defrost, but in reality made a huge undercut which forced me to almost completely melt all the ice before I could remove it. With my current unit the freezer is designed completely smooth. It’s just a clean walls of plastic with absolutely no undercutting or textures to hold ice. So now defrosting goes like this: I turn off the fridge. I also unplug it so the light goes off, but I don’t really need to do this. Then I put all the frozen food into a cooler. These days I don’t even bother doing anything with the refrigerated items because the whole process is so quick it’s not worth the effort. Next I ignore it all for a little bit. What happens is that the body of the refrigerator seems to heat up a bit and naturally conducts that heat to the smooth panels that line the freezer. This results in a thin layer of water forming between the panel and built up ice. Because there are no undercuts or textures to hold this in place I can go back and with a very small amount of effort to break the surface tension I can slide out large sheets of ice in very short order. Then it’s just a matter of wiping it down with a rag, turning it back on, and replacing the food from the cooler. Generally this is a 30 minute process in total with the vast bulk of that time spent just waiting until the sheets are ready to slide out. There is very little mess and melt water to deal with. If I had to get a new fridge today I would DEFINITELY look for a unit with this sort of smooth interior surface!!
Ok, here are some of the things I was looking for when I went hunting for a fridge. First, just because this Avanti model is great don’t assume they all are. As I recall there was another much smaller Avanti fridge, a 2 or 3 cu/ft cube type that used double or more energy to run than this 8 cu/ft one I got! I really looked at and compared the data on power use/estimated yearly kilowatts from a lot of different brands/models. Generally speaking the simpler the fridge the more durable and energy efficient it was. Therefor, manual defrost is pretty much always going to be more efficient, and if the fridge is designed right this is not a major task. Automatic ice makers and water dispensers just make for more complex systems that cost more, use more power, and have more points for failure. Personally I don’t use much ice anyway. If I want some ice cubes I find the ice cube tray to be a very effective low tech solution that has worked wonderfully for decades. If I want chilled water the similar low tech, time tested device would be a jug/jar/pitcher/bottle.
Having a freezer on the top tends to be more efficient because cold air naturally falls, as opposed to side by side units or freezer on the bottom.
Smaller units should be more efficient, though sadly they aren’t always. When I went to get a new one I spent time considering just how much space I really needed. I live alone and don’t eat much frozen food. Most regular sized ones would be cavernous for me. I’ve found the 8 cu/ft size to work well, and think it would probably work well for a couple that didn’t rely on a lot of frozen food. If I find when the fridge is getting too full it generally means I’ve bought too much produce or it’s really time for me to clean out some “science experiments”. To get a sense of size I went to appliance stores and looked to see just how big 8 cu/ft really was. If you are thinking to buy something on-line I would recommend going to a store to get a sense of actual sizes first.
Even given all this what makes one model so much more efficient than another with similar features and layout? I really don’t know. I’m sure the level of insulation matters, but I suspect there are other factors. Mine does make very unique noises causing me to think it has some different compressor design or something. In fact, the owners manual made a point to note that this model makes strange sounds, and that is normal.
One other tidbit I can share regarding efficiency, if you don’t use your fridge much, leaving it empty much of the time, it can help to toss in jugs of water. The water will give some thermal mass, which is like a temperature battery. It will help to hold whatever temp it is at. So when you open the door and all the cold air falls out the mass of cold water will maintain the cool temperature so the whole system doesn’t have to work as hard to return to it’s cool temp. once you close the door.

Aggrivated, I had seriously considered doing a hybrid grid tied system so I’d have power when the grid is down, which happens often enough here due to storms. I wanted to be able to share my extra power with the grid. Here where I am there is net metering where I would get credit for the kilowatts I feed in, allowing me to take that same amount of power out. That’s not a bad thing, but because I already used so little power I would really never be using those credits. What they don’t allow is for me to utilize these credits toward a basic monthly “line charge” my power company instituted just to have the power line connected. This I would have to pay each month. So the reality for my personal situation would have been a cost of $400 to $500 a year to give them free power. Thus I chose to go completely off-grid. Now in all honesty what I did was the most expensive way to go and might not really pay for itself at current power costs in this area, depending on how long my battery bank lasts, and how much it will cost to replace that battery bank. When I was still connected to the grid, because I had gotten my power usage down so low the vast bulk of my power bill was the line charge and all associated taxes based on that cost. Before they instituted this line charge my monthly electric bills were between $10 and $20 most months.

Editd – the pictures shw on previw and not now ! – Well, the picture of the panels is on a hosted site and I cant seem to link it here, these others I have of the inverter, charge controller, and the 3 large towers are the Aquion batteries ( total of 7.8kW stored). These are not sideways on my computer desktop !

I have read on a off-grid homesteading web site that a good energy-efficient fridge is this one: a horizontal freezer.
What the person did is this: First, freezers a much more insulated than fridges (Just look at the thickness of the walls), so they are more energy efficient than fridges. Second, a horizontal freezer is more efficient than a vertical one, especially if it is frequently opened. The person replaced the original thermostat by one for a fridge. Being more insulated than a fridge, the energy saving will allow you to more easily us it off-grid.
People are saying it is easier to use than a regular fridge.

Aloha! Once again I do not get it! When I lived in Perth, West Australia back in the 1970s our house was so old it still had a “slave quarters”. Essentially a smaller detached house in the back of the main house. Both my brother and I fought over who gets to live there because being teenagers we wanted out from under our parents even if it was only 30ft away!
Anyway, both houses had passive solar hot water units. To this day I have yet to experience any hot water systems that provided hotter water than that very simple basic set up.
Onto solar panels …
Solar panels were invented by Bell Labs in 1954, but solar technology was used way before that …

When I moved back to the USA in 1975, to Southern California, I was surprised that none of the houses had solar anything at all, not even the passive solar water system we had in Australia. It was like America was totally oblivious to any kind of solar design systems that would save on energy consumption, even after the 1973 oil embargo. Certainly none of my friends drove energy efficient cars, maybe a VW bug, but as far as housing went … NOTHING! And that was California … supposedly the most liberal and environmentally friendly state in America. Why is the USA of today so far behind eve the 1970s Australia?
Having come out of the Silicon Valley world of technology I have noticed there is almost no mention of the darkside of solar or the batteries that drive the electric car phenom. Certainly not in the mainstream media and certainly not from politicians that subsidize the industry. Like everything on Earth there are always two sides to a coin.
If anyone would research what is going on with the manufacturers of solar panels you would discover it looks a lot like oil companies and their exploitation of cheap Third World labor and the destruction of the environment. Just to be clear there is a Third World environment, not just the US EPA and Standing Rock. The Third World is where we hide our massive pollution from our massive addiction to consumption of everything “green” and “not green”!
For this purpose there is an entity out of Silicon Valley that researches and grades solar panel manufacturers on their abuses in manufacturing. This site can be found HERE and they put out a “scorecard” on polluting solar manufacturers and as we all know China is one of the biggest solar panel manufacturers as well as Korea and other Asian countries. Do the Chinese manufacturers employ North Korean components?
Many of the solar manufacturers are involved in using such notable Third World practices as “prison labor” and “conflict minerals”. Also make note of some of the toxic elements employed in solar panel manufacturing like arsenic and cadmium and lead as well as hazardous waste, heavy metals and air pollution at their factories.
You have to consider what happens to the backend of panels at the end of their useful life. Where do they get dumped? Are they recycled or do they end up in a landfill? If they are recycled what percent of the panel is actually recycled?
Any metal or plastic components in your solar panel have to be either drilled or mined from the Earth. Has anyone here ever visited a lithium mine? Point is if you are going to go off grid make sure you are using solar panels from responsible manufacturers. If you look at the 2015 scorecard at the link the entire solar panel industry has an overall score of 48 out of 100 on their pollution and labor practices. That is below average. Some of the top names in electronics, mostly Asian based are some of the worst performers. The paradox of going green!

Refrigerators do not save much power by going smaller, as has been mentioned. In researching this, it seems that these days you can easily get consumption down to 295-344 Kwh/year for 10-15.6 cu ft. Like this,… . The enervee site can show you good options for power useage. You can see that cutting 1/3 of the cubic feet out of the refridge space only saves 1/7 of the power. 344Kwh/year is very low for a household sized refrigerator, used to be, we thought it was amazing to get below 500kW/year. 344Kwh/year is less than 1kWh a day. Or, to put it another way, 15-20 minutes of sun shining on my solar panels to power that fridge all day. I actually bought a sunfrost ( expensive over $2,000 'fridge) once, sent it back for noise, but it does not reduce power consumption enough to be worth that price jump compared to energy savers you can buy now for around 500.
I run the washing machine off of my solar system, and can run it off my inverter/batteries, and have done so, but generally do not. I do run my well pump more routinely, which has more motor surge than the washing machine. Washing machines do not use much power, but since I only do a few loads of laundry a week, I would more likely pick after a storm, and daytime, to do laundry.
I have had a hybrid solar system for about 18 or 19 years. I have 2.6 Kwatts of panels on the roof. I have a Trace (Xantrex) Inverter, SW4048, with 2 different charge controllers, a basic one for most of the panels (2kW) and a fancy Outback power point tracking one on the newer, smaller string of panels. I have new batteries for the system, a bit more than a year on these, I am very happy with them, unfortunatelly the company couldnt secure funding and you cant buy any right now. Hopefully someone will rescue the technology as it has many advantages over Lithium Ion for home use. Batteries are Aquion S-Stacks, 3 of them, so 7.8kWh of stored power. . These batteries do not use rare metals or materials and have a very good ecological footprint.
I am still connected to the power company, although I get tempted to disconnect. I pay about $11 a month to keep that connection. Keeping the line connection means that I do not need to buy more storage or buy in gas/propane, which would cost me more that $11/month. So, my house is all electric, no propane cooking stove, heat, etc…
I have a solar hot water system, too, but it is currently disconnected as I have a broken panel. The solar hot water here is closed loop. I also put a timer on the electric element that is backup hot water, so it is not on all the time, just when hot water is needed.

Is a good consideration. I would recommend buying American made panels, which you can still do. Unfortunatelly, we have let this unsavory competition from third world destroy most of our domestic production.
My original panels ( 18-19 years ago) were made in America, and the solar cells were made from reject silicon wafers from semiconductor manufacturing. My few additional panels bought many years later were also made in America, but both of those companies no longer exist due to price undercutting, unfairly, by China and the support from the Chinese government.
Batteries are very much a problem, especially Lithium Ion, which is why the Aquion batteries were developed which work on carbon/salt water materials. The Aquion battery technology is not suitable for cars or electronics, but is very good for non-mobile applications like home power back-up. This is a TED talk from the developer. And, I own and use these batteries, unfortunatelly, they couldnt secure funding fas enough and currently you cannot buy them and all anyone talks about is lithium ion.

Another way to have backup power, for after a storm or such, and it is easily mobile, is to recognize that your car is a generator, and it actually is an efficient one, does not use much gas when idling. While we all know we can recharge smaller devices using a car cigarette lighter adaptor plug, getting power out of that is limited by the size of the wiring from the cars battery to the outlet.
Much more power can be had by having a 12V to 120V inverter connected directly from the cars battery to a good, thick, extension cord. I have this kind of setup for back up to my backup. This is cheaper than a seperate generator, and the gas is already stored in a safe recepticle, your cars gas tank, it uses about 1 gallon for a couple hours of idling and producing power, it will power your refrigerator, a few lights, your gas furnace blower if its cold, or a fan or 2 if it is hot.
Steve Harris podcast can be irritating to listen to for any length of time, but his facts are correct, his recommendations are very tested and sound. You can go here, and listen to hsi podcast to run household appliances off of car, , and/or just scroll down and buy a few of the products he has tested and recommends. I would not take a chance on a 800W car to 120V inverter he ( or someone else reliable in this ) has not recommended. Right now, his 2 recommended inverters are out of stock on Amazon, due to the recent storms. I own the duracell, and this one I bought for a friend…
Make sure to get a thick enough extension cord, you can buy that locally, but must make sure it is thick enough. Scroll down on his solar123 site to see the guage needed for the length. Do not plug 2 shorter, thinner ones together, when it is longer, you need the thickness.

Edited to add, sorry it seems my efforts to attach photos failed.
I’m not sure if my attempt to add images will work here or not, but here goes…
My mid-sized system is really a cobbled together affair that I did 10 years ago, learning as I went. It is by no means an example of the best way to do things! It’s been working fine though for a decade now. I had started with six 45 solar panel kits that Harbor Freight sold. I think they still sell them, but the last time I saw them the price hadn’t changed much, meaning now they are WAY more expensive than they should be compared to what you can get elsewhere. Anyway, I used the painted steel mounting frames that came with the kit and set up a larger mounting frame made with treated 4x4 posts. A bit later I added the two larger panels you see in the photo. With these I made a frame from scrap aluminum which then attached to another 4x4 post construction designed to let me change the angle of them from a winter to summer position.

The summer position.

The winter position. In the background of both these photos you can see the larger array for the large solar system.
Anyway, these panels are all a 12 volt type totaling 520 watts when combined. The charge controllers that came with the Harbor Freight kits were only designed to handle the 45 watts for each kit so I couldn’t use them when combining everything. I got a fairly basic Xantrex charge controller that could handle the power with some to spare. This got crammed into a small space with 5 100 amp/hour 12 volt AGM batteries as seen in this photo.

There are circuit breakers and fuses in the mix as well. Here’s a shot showing the small space it’s in with the 3000 watt pure sine wave inverter mounted below.

The inverter is new this year, replacing the old 1500 watt one which began giving erratic power after 9 years.
If I did it over again I wouldn’t try putting all that stuff into such a small hard to access space. It’s difficult to work on, and any future batteries might not fit into the space. I also wouldn’t mix the types of panels. I’m sure I’m losing power as a result of this. It was all a learning project for me. If you aren’t at all familiar with this sort of work I’m sure the sort of ready made mid-sized system Chaz offers that is mentioned in the podcast would be much better and easier to set up. One other problem I’m noticing is that the painted steel mounting frames the Harbor Freight panels came with now have the paint pealing and the frames rusting. I’m going to have to do something about that before too long lest they rust through. It really makes more sense to have your mounting system designed to last at least as long as the panels should.

David -
It looks like your photos didn’t come through.
Hopefully, this tutorial on how to post photos to this site helps you load them successfully:…
But if not, just email them to and I’ll post them for you.

David, thank you for all the information. Do you have at least a rough estimate of how much KWh per year you use for Marathon heater? Thank you.

Thanks for the link to helpful instructions Adam. Hopefully I can make this work now.
Here are images for my post about my mid-sized solar system. First is the array with the adjustable panel section in the summer position.

Next with the winter position. I calculated these position based on my specific latitude.

Here is the shot of the charge controller and batteries crammed in their small space.

Finally a wider shot to give a better sense of the space that I should have made larger.

I’ll try to get a post about my main system done later, as well as answer Mr Pei’s question about my water heater.