October 25, 2019

The Solar Panels Are Up

For the past couple of months I've been sharing with you about our plan to put my chest freezer and second pantry refrigerator on solar energy. After finishing the updates and modifications to the back porch, Dan went to work building a rack for the solar panels. This was a weather permitting project, but we didn't mind the pauses because we definitely need the rain.

He's especially happy that he didn't have to buy a thing to build the rack! He was able to use materials and hardware that he already had.

Required spacing of the panels was specified in the installation manual. For these, a quarter-inch.

The angle will be somewhat adjustable.

The next step will be running the cables from the panels to the house, which is about 30 feet.

In the above photo, the corner of the house that you see is our back porch. That's where the freezer and fridge will reside. A battery box will be built next to the house under the windows. Options for the cables are putting up a pole and running them overhead to the house, or burying them in a conduit under the driveway.

It's hard to be patient about getting this project up and running, but it's important to take the time to do our homework and think things through. Every completed step is progress.

The rest of this series can be found here:

The Solar Panels Are Up © October 2019


  1. Something I've always dreamed of doing someday.

  2. Looks good. With your discussion on batteries, are you planning on going off grid? I like it as a way to reduce the draw on the power grid, but also having the grid as a backup.


  3. Dan is a Master Fabricator builder. That is such an awesome set up. We have a small solar panel and charger in the Utility building we charge small items with. It was here when we bought the farm. This system of yours will be life saver for sure.

  4. Great job Dan on the solar rack, it looks great! I think what you're doing is wonderful but it's also a necessity. At least I think so. You know we're moving next year. But if we were to continue living in this cottage rental (or one similar), sure, while we have our income, we can afford the electric bill (just barely)...it's about 3k a year. But what happens when we both retire and are living off half of our current income? 3k a year is outrageous for electricity and heat. We will be downsizing when we move, but I don't even want to pay 1k a year for that bill. I want to do what you guys are doing and start to gradually build our off grid system. I'm learning a lot from you two!

  5. Wohoo!! Another step closer. Well done, Dan on the adjustable array. Every angle counts with gathering solar power.

  6. Looks good. You didn't ask, but I'd think underground would be the way to go. In the event of high winds, the overhead line would not be in jeopardy from falling branches.

  7. Hooray, you're getting there! And there's nothing wrong with proceeding slowly. Often times you can see changes that turn out to be good ones if you don't rush through a project.

  8. Dan is amazing! So talented. I can only hope to have a 10th of his abilities.

  9. Gorges, we're hoping so!

    Ed, I'm guessing while you take time to heal you'll come up with a lot of good future project ideas. :)

    Sage, hello and welcome! At this time we're only looking to set up a backup system for the chest freezer and a refrigerator. Because we live where the summers are long and hot and winters are often mild, that's a concern since we produce and preserve so much of our own food. Trying to get the whole house off grid would be a much bigger project, and with lots of obstacles. That being said, the fridge and freezer take quite a large chunk of electricity! So we'll be a good way toward an off-grid goal if we ever get that far.

    Fiona, this is our largest project so far. Like you, we have a small solar panel on a cart, that we use for recharging, also our solar attic fan and solar lights in the barn. I'm glad we started small, because it could be pretty overwhelming otherwise!

    Rain, yikes! That's high for electricity! What kind of heat do you have? Surely not electric in Canada. Anything that makes heat or cold takes a lot of energy. Any kind of alternatives help there. I know you two are doing your research in preparation for a place of your own.

    Jo, I'm really proud of him. I can tell you he spent a lot of time out there sitting and thinking, and in the end came up with good ideas. :)

    FFG, that's exactly what he's decided to do, bury it. We found solar cable that's approved for burying, although he'll run it through a conduit under the driveway. That will be a job of digging, since the driveway is so compacted.

    Mama Pea, I confess I hoped for quicker progress, but slow and steady wins the race, as they say. A lot of that is spent in research, because we definitely want to get it right.

    Nancy, thanks!

    TB, Dan would probably give the credit to YouTube. :) Plus, he's always willing to give something a try, which usually makes for a good start.

  10. Hydro Quebec...electric. You'd think that water power wouldn't cost as much but it's a monopoly after all right? Crooks! It's the heat for us Leigh. We are renting a three floor cottage that is really badly insulated. The rent is low so we figured it would offset the heating, but every year it goes up a little more. We have a fireplace, but it's really just for ambiance, it doesn't heat at all, in fact, we seal it up most of the time because it sucks the heat right out the chimney! We installed an a/c in the bedroom but I can count the number of days on one hand that we used it last summer. We've been here going on 5 years now, and we thought about moving so often - just to save on the utility bill. But the cost of moving and the higher rent cost kept us stuck here.

  11. Getting up the panels is a big step, for sure! This is a great project - one that I wish I knew more about.

  12. Rain, yes, it's all about money. Sad but true. Of course we have to have it, so they've got us over the proverbial barrel! Dan and I have tried to cut back our usage of electricity over the years, and have indeed succeeded. But the electric bill stays the same!

    Hill Top Post, we're learning as we go!

  13. I’m sure you and Dan thought about where or how to run the wires from the panels to the batteries. Keep in mind the amperage loss over the overall length of those wires. You want the most amps possible delivered to your batteries. It may mean increasing those wire sizes/gauge to minimize the amp loss. The additional cost of the wire is worth it. Deliver every watt you can because over 20-30 years it adds up and may save you from adding more panels than necessary.

  14. Hi Leigh, What a great set up! Wishing we had solar polar! Nancy

  15. Mike, we were just discussing that very thing last night and decided to go with a larger gauge cable than originally planned.

    Nancy, thanks! I'll be glad when it's all set up!

  16. Big job. Bet your glad it is catching the sun!!

  17. Renee, :)

    RT, very glad! Now we just have to get them hooked up to use that electricity!

  18. A great bespoke fit. Modern technology, meets, lumber and iron. It looks as solid as a rock. I'm wishing we didn't have our panels installed on the roof, but it was cost effective at the time. When we have to repair/replace panels (within the next decade) we'll consider a different set-up. Good luck with the final touches though. :)

  19. Chris, we were originally planning to leave the freezer and fridge in the pantry and put the panels on the roof. But I'm so glad we kept brainstorming and came up with this idea. They probably don't get as much sun as on the roof, but they were easier to install and will be easier to keep clean!


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