Solar: the good, the bad, the cutting edge and the bare bones

Could you get away with a shipping container? A flat mount array on it’s roof and a vertical on the southern wall would be pretty discrete., Plus storage. Second hand panels are going for 30 cents a watt…


Does anyone have any experience with the Reliance Controls Manual Transfer Switch?
The instructions say to use wire nuts in the sub panel to join the load to the transfer switch…I am skeptical of filling the box up with loose wires. What about another sub panel with a Wago line connector? Something solid?

Anyone using Lifepo4 batteries off-grid, in cold climates? How are you heating them? What about a 12v egg incubator?

Happy New Year!


Bruce, there are a lot of packs that are offering a heated variety. I have also set up an insulated box with a 48 volt telecom heater in it and a mechanical thermostat.


New ones are going for 30c/watt if you order directly from China. I assume you need at least a pallet, maybe a shipping container full though.

A shipping container isn’t on wheels. I assume he is in an area, where he can get an old camping trailer for free or very low cost if he hauls it away. A lot of people don’t know what to do with them when the interior gets torn up. He MAY not want to deal with it either nor would I blame him. But it is cheap especially if there is some sort of free disposal, or material recycling nearby. Im cheap about that though. If I have a bunch of crap I top off the weekly collection bin with it for months if I have to. :rofl:


Sorry, 30 cents Canadian so less that 25 cents US. When the solar farms upgrade their panels they flood the market. You can get new for slightly more but as mentioned you are usually talking pallet load. Also when the standards change the old stock gets liquidated.
Cheers, David


The only issue is the newer ones usually are higher wattage per panel. The savings in the panels can be eaten up in mounting hardware and wiring costs. I think Matt is pretty space limited as well. The used panels are great if you have space and can skimp on mounting costs like Menke does.


I would tend to agree with you. The power density has increased by about 50 percent in the last decade. It comes down to need and cost. Steel u chanel pieces or angle iron welded to a container would be pretty cheap for Matt who fabricates.



Not a new company, they just started activity on their YouTube channel. Might be good? I just subscribed, we shall see. Someone on this forum brought this company to my attention a few years back. Seems like a good thing, Your Mileage May Vary! :cowboy_hat_face:


Yes, they are solid. And even ship abroad. We ordered some. One of the kids rebuild his mountainbike with it. Haha , I was angry :grinning: when I saw him doing 48 km/h in the city. Well, that was not the topspeed, he said and clocked at 72 km/h, 45 mph :grinning:. Later the batery pack exploded. Since then no diy Li ion, only LiFePo4.

Return on investment is less then two years overhere. Sweden has some other rules. I think there is a business model for a batt pack.

If you want to go off grid you cant go around LifePo4.

I follow that German drizler guy. He measured that PV vertical mounted is giving nominal output in the winter. Haha, cleaned the shop and found another five pieces. Another 2000 Wp is going against the wall. :grinning: no room on the roof


Hi All,
Just so you-all do not think I am a lead acid dinosaurs stuck back in the 20th Century here is that Will Prowse fellows’ recommendation for the simplest bare-bones all-in-one PV solar system:

I am viewing his and other for recommend hardware’s.
Seems to be good recommendations for fellows starting with nothing. He says ~$2,800 USD for a 600 watt system as of a year ago. $1,500 USD being the 10-20 year battery.
And still . . . I’d say with make-do beginning foe a few years with Max $500. USD worth of new lead acids. Break down that $2,800 to $1,800.

My situations different.
I already have a big’ol Trace 2500-12 watt inverter.
My 12v lead acid flooded batteries.
And 50 years comfortable working with DC watts in thousands, cabling making up, and such.
Got the big 24" handles rotating heads cabling crimping tool as proof.


Hey Steve. In your situation your big cost will be a charge controller. Stay away from any kit that is using 12 volt panels and a cheap pwm controller as in your cloudy clime they will lead to disappointment. Anything 200 watts and over it’s cheaper to buy the higher voltage panels for low costs per watt and spend a little more on the controller. Often time you find 10 year old 250 watt panels even cheaper. The epever is an ok basic model controller I’m liking the victrons these days for smaller ones: built in programming via your phone. Those all in one units are hard to beat as the higher voltage makes everything a lot easier. I just sold one to a client recently and am looking forward to seeing it running. I’m thinking about an srna unit myself to replace my magnum Ms 4024. I sold off my last trace 2412 five years ago. Still a great unit though it’s battery charging algorithm did not do absorb charging well, fine for bulk still. The modified sine wave does play havoc with a lot of power tool chargers, some fridge electronics, washing machines and unknown other things.
Cheers, David


Yes. Thanks for this feedback DavidB.
It had been over 10 years since I’ve actually used the old Trace. I’d forgotton it was a stepped modified sine-wave output. Back then we were still with CRT televisions. Older microwave ovens, and even older twist knob timer cloths machines. And had no in-house wi-fi for TV, internet, satellites receivers and such.
These all have powered back up fine; and ran fine on any of the four inverter-generators.
These oscilloscope out as having very good emulated smoothed sine-wave. Meter out as having very good voltage and frequency control; and stop outputs, cut-off’s.

Yeah. Best for me to park-store that old near 200 pound Trace inverter permanently in storage with those old CRT TV’s, cassette video players.
Be my ultimate world-gone-to hell long-term fall-backs.
Take your advice and purchase a newer more user safe capable inverter.
Steve Unruh


It’s been a long time and I don’t remember the details anymore but I once read that the US has a stock pile of all the old, now obsolete machine tools and manufacturing equipment stuck away in some mountain, (Wyoming rings a bell) so that in the event of a nuclear war when all other infrastructure was inoperable, they could at least have something to drag out and get operational. Makes sense on some level, even for us regular folk. The question is how many people are still around that can run a manual machinist lathe or bridgeport mill?


I’m sure it has technical manuals for all that.

Or maybe they have a monastic order of old-timers that train the next generation.

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At the Hydro PUD where I worked for 35 years we were always training our workers to take the places of the older workers in all the crafts at the job, and it was the older that trained the younger workers. One of my Chief Operators Bob Nacke did the survey work at the Dam when it was being built. And then he became a Operator through the state apprientiship program. Later he trained me in the Operations Dept. And I took his place when he retired as a Chief Operator. He was just one of the many men that trained me. And then I trained many men and women after me before I retired in the 35 years of working there.


Ha! I had to dig this picture out Steve. This would have been the last time I used the DR in the house. This one was a code compliant inspected installation. The fact that it has an outback fm60 installed and not the original trace c60 charge controller tells me this is 2007-8… Soon after this one I moved on to the magnum pure sine inverter. Still running strong. The trace was bought used third hand by me, sold to someone else who turned around and sold it again. still running. Good old solid state heavier than S?$& equipment.


Sometimes I get to visit some really cool places. This one is a biodynamic farm in central Ontario who’s main house is over 140 years old. There has never been power pole near it so there is generations of off grid infrastructure built into the place. the well is actually in the basement so it had a hand pump. At first it had a 12 volt only system for a few basic lights usually with batteries recharged mostly from a generator. Then came the solar revolution and the rise of the first charge controllers and inverters. Small arrays by today’s standards but there are 2 60 amp charge controllers on the wall most likely for the wind turbine as they are much too big for the old array. Notice the analog meters on the wall to keep track of solar production wind production battery gain or drain etc; someone put a lot of love into that wiring. Next the previous owners invested in one of the first trace inverters the black ones that looked like an amplifier but it eventually died. Next came the true workhorse of the older off grid world; the venerable DR2412 inverter. There are still a lot of these kicking around but this one while still running when replaced is more of a tribute to the house’s past now. There was an owner built wind turbine and an impressive tower in place but the turbine shook itself apart years ago. The current owners inherited a lot of this stuff when they bought the place but kept up the systems already there. They moved over to a 24 volt outback system a number of years ago and a 2kW array but still run all the 12 volt systems in the house via a 24 to 12 volt converter newly installed to replace a very inefficient AC 12 volt power supply pictured below; that alone is probably saving them 300-500 watt hrs per day which is huge on a small system. The hand pump moved to an ac pump, the gas fridge moved to an electric one. The gear gets better and more affordable as time goes by. There is life after 12 volts even if you have invested heavily over the years in it. I just have a lot of fun in these ones trying to make things work without bankrupting people or tearing everything out. Thanks for walking through my off grid historical tour!
Cheers, David
This is one of the original trace charge controllers; you can tell because it has the black case before they switched to the green white cases. This ran the original roof mounted array

What can I say those Trace dr2412’s are everywhere was working but disconnected now

These C60’s are newer so I think they were for the owner built wind turbine which shook apart

This is what used to be a combiner box before there was combiner boxes, its dead now don’t worry

Analog meters! measuring amps and volts of the solar arrays and the wind turbine, all dead

This was the surrette S530 battery bank we replaced

The dc and ac breaker boxes side by side. the lower grey box has the 12 volt power supply for running the DC loads. A huge power waster replaced it with a 24 to 12volt dc to dc converter


I would be very careful with battery hookup.

I ordered two cases of these “new” batteries. They were ventilator powerpacks. I ripped a few open and found that the “new” batteries were dead 0.0vdc and their date code was 0314 or March 14th 2010. So these “new” batteries were 13years old.
When I tried to contact customer support, my only option was texting some non-english speaker who refused to understand what I was discussing and finally stopped responding. I called the Pittsburgh office and found that they don’t answer the phone.
I read the terms and conditions. They said there was a money back guarantee of some duration. I had an unopened case I had intended to return. I realized the text contact was merely counting down the clock, until the warranty expired.
The result was net zero savings on my purchases from Battery Hookup. I relearned the lesson, buy new, buy from a reputable dealer, check those details before sending money. Even then, be prepared for a good shellacking.
Our local Remy dealer owes me a warranty battery and they are going to close their store.


They are not in Pittsburgh Pa, they are in Bensalem Pa. That is not their phone number.Contact us – Battery Hookup