Solar Power Sucks: Powering a Home?

I suppose this is a continuation of my solar phone charger post and my broken solar panel post.

First let me digress on how this quarantine is making people crazy. It’s a subtle kind of crazy — nothing too obvious — but everyone seems so damn anxious being trapped inside. Knowing you can’t do random trips to the stores or grab a bite to eat at a sit-down restaurant. Being off of work and stuck at home. Hanging out with your friends has been put on hold. The entire world is in limbo and everyone is waiting for that unknown time in the future where we can get back to normal.

Everyone is coping differently (spiraling into alcoholism, doing home improvement projects, gardening, lawn care, reading, binge watching Netflix, etc.) but my mode of coping seems to be gaming and doing stupid random projects more than usual. I’m thinking about making hand sanitizer for my work buddies. I’m thinking about selling vape juice online. I’m making random purchases of things on Amazon to give myself projects to do. I was thinking of brewing wine to give to my friends. In the past week I’ve made five gallons of window washer fluid for the cars; I should be stocked up for nearly a half-year. And as I’ve written in the previously cited two posts, lately I’ve been fucking around with solar power.

At first I wanted to charge my phone with solar power, but these projects take on a life of their own once you get started. My tiny 10 watt solar panel wasn’t charging it fast enough so I purchased a big 100 watt panel. The one I received was defective and didn’t provide any power, so I returned it and got a replacement panel last Sunday. This one works like a champ and I charged my vape using only solar power for three days straight. It’s not like it’s saving the house electricity really, but it’s still fun to think about. The only problem I’ve had with vape charging is I cannot leave the vape on the charger long enough to top it off.

The panel being 100 watts is a bit overkill for phone/vape charging and the natural question to ask is “What else can I do with this?” Well, power as much shit as I can with it, obviously! Consider this panel can rake in about ten hours of power per day: this will give me 1 kilowatt-hour of energy in a day. Also consider the shitty 10 Watt LED bulbs placed around your house: each one of these ran for 10 hours requires 100 watt-hours. I should be able to run ten of these fuckers per day. Since each room has a most three of these, I should still have power to spare.

And how much power does our household use anyway? I was bored enough thanks to the quarantine and it being Saturday that I looked: about 2,000 kWh per month: this is an average of about 65 kWh per day. Shit, that’s a lot of power. I blame most of this on our shitty 240 Volt electric clothes dryer. Anything that makes heat from electricity is notoriously bad with power consumption so if we stopped using this bastard and air-dried our clothes I bet we could cut this in half. Anyways, since each panel can provide up to 1 kWh per day, I’d need like 65 of them to power the entire house along with enough car batteries to store all the power. Fuck. Each panel is about $100 (everything being around an even number makes the math so much easier) so it would cost about $6,500 to buy all the panels! Jeez. But since our electric bill is about $300 this investment would pay for itself in under two years.

I’m not really trying to power the entire house off solar — that’s too big of a project — and am just trying to get some numbers to get a feel for how much a solar panel can do. I do think I’ll try to power a room or two though and if this works keep upgrading the system as my boredom allows. My plan is to hook an extension cord into an inverter (which takes 12 Volt car-battery stored power and turns it into 120 Volt AC) and plug that into the wall via an extension cord. By turning off the room circuit breaker I can isolate the room from the main power supply while supplying 120 Volt power to the room from the inverter. ElectroBoom did a video with this general idea (without solar power but the idea is the same): check it out if you’d like. Not that there’s anything else for you to do now, right?

And appreciate the fact how all of this started by me trying to charge my phone with solar power so I could go hide in the woods for a week. And now I’m seriously considering powering part of the house with a fleet of solar panels. This is my madness during the quarantine. This is how I’m spiraling. But considering some other ways to cope I think I’m doing pretty damn good indeed. I’m still only drinking on Sunday. If only Amazon would hurry the fuck up and ship my goddamn inverter…

3 thoughts on “Solar Power Sucks: Powering a Home?

  1. ceponatia

    There was a company around for a bit that let you use solar power from other people’s arrays but I think the idea didn’t catch on and they went out of business. Solar power is a great idea and I’m very into renewable energy, personally, but it’s not feasible in Michigan where it’s cloudy for 3 quarters of the year. That’s where the beauty of that company came in… sure states in the midwest might not be able to generate efficient solar power but if enough people in the southwest have it and there’s an excess, you can send it to the states that can’t produce it as well. That’s the future of solar, in my opinion. That company was just too ahead of its time, unfortunately.

    I think charging your stuff with a portable panel is cool even if it’s only saving you pennies on your bill (if even that). For one thing, as long as the sun is out you are always able to charge your stuff and don’t have to hunt for an outlet. Could be very useful for camping or if you have a panel attached to a battery you could even run a radio or something off of it at work.

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    Reply
    1. TheBlackhairedGuy Post author

      I just wrote a reply explaining the ‘solar powered computer’ part of my last post. Like you said, yeah I’m not saving money with this panel really, but damn if it isn’t cool to say that I’m typing this right now on my laptop powered by stored solar power, and at 1:30 a.m. nonetheless! As for my original goal of powering my phone via solar to live in the woods for a week: mission accomplished. I feel comfortable knowing I can haul my panel into the woods (along with my three giant 12 volt batteries) and power a slew of devices for free. Now if I get around to living in the woods is another question entirely.

      I think the issue with the solar company you described could be the transmission between homes which might be a tricky point to deal with. The power companies own the power lines in Illinois, and I could see them being total dicks about transmitting solar power between homes by totally cutting the electrical company out of their monopoly and their profits.

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      1. ceponatia

        The way I understood it, which isn’t well by any means, was that the solar company exchanged solar “credits” from their users who had excess solar power for electricity to their non-solar users through whatever utility company owned the lines. That way everyone was still getting paid.

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