The Land - The headache of setting up a solar powered cabin.

I'm not an electrician. I've never setup an offgrid solar system. So I'm no expert but I wanted to share some of the back and forth conversation and research as we tried to decide on what would work best for us.

The first idea was to run two separate power banks.

Kodiak Bank: Purpose, power a TV/projector, power entertainment system(xbox/dvd player), power miscellaneous appliances (vacuum, power tools). 

1 Inergy Solar Kodiak Lithium Generator, 2 deep cycle marine batteries (connected in parallel). This bank will be stored inside the cabin, in a woodmade, ventilated chest.  This bank does not need a standalone controller or inverter as the Kodiak has a built in PMW controller and 1500w pure sine wave inverter capable of surges up to 3000w. This bank will be powered using a 120w Foldable PowerFilm Panel.

Cabin Bank: Purpose, power interior/exterior lighting, power a ceiling fan, power USB plugs for charging electronics, and power a 2gpm water pump.

4 deep cycle marine batteries (connected in parallel). This bank will be stored inside the cabin, in a woodmade, ventilated chest. We will need a controller between the bank and the solar array. The solar array consists of eight 50w panels by Boss Watt Solar. We'll use a Solar Calculator to determine the best placement/angle. We have gone back and forth on if we should run a 12v or 110v system.

If we use 12v power in the cabin we will not need an inverter. I contacted Scott at Boss Watt Solar for his advice. At first we really wanted a conventional system so we could have standard wall outlets and plug and play stand house appliances. I brought this idea to him and he has shed a world of light on our system. 

Here's his suggestion on our desire to use the Cabin Bank to power the cabin so that we have regular wall plugs,

  • You will want to run 120v throughout the cabin, it will indeed simplify things. It is very easy to go from 120v AC¬†down to 12v DC¬†if you ever need to.¬†
  • For a one or two room cabin, you won't need a panel box or additional fuses.¬† Modern inverters incorporate breakers and overload features to protect everything.¬†
  • The inverter will waste about¬†5 to 20 watts just by¬†being on¬†depending on¬†its¬†size.¬† Many top-of-the-line inverters come with a remote on/off switch for powering everything down when nobody is home¬†and all¬†come with an on/off switch¬†on the device.¬†¬†With 8 batteries and our solar panes, you'll be fine to leave it on 24/7 if needed.¬† This "no-load draw" of¬†an inverter really only comes into¬†play with smaller systems.¬†¬†
  • You can hardwire outlets around the cabin as described.¬† A simpler option¬†would be¬†2 or 3¬†neatly routed heavy duty¬†extension cords and power strips from the inverter,¬†if you don't want to hassle with romex, bending conduit, wiring outlets, ext.¬† Generally I only suggest hardwiring in outlets if it's a¬†multi-room unit or¬†if it¬†needs to be formally inspected, but it's totally up to you.¬†All inverters that suggest to folks have the option for both wiring¬†methods.
  • I¬†agree that¬†having a¬†cabin power¬†system separate from the Kodiak is your best option.¬† Maybe¬†tie the critical¬†cabin equipment into the¬†deep cycle battery system¬†and then have smaller¬†comfort items running off the¬†Kodiak.¬† Just an idea.¬† That way you can keep the Kodiak mobile if the need arises and still have power back at camp.

So, yea we still had questions. Certain aspects left us wondering exactly what items we needed to purchase and what would work for our specific needs. Scott further went into detail. Now, listen below his his response and he hooked us up with direct purchase links to what we needed. He even provide spec sheets on the items and a diagram to help us put it all together. 

I attached a simple visual wiring diagram of the system I'm proposing for your cabin, up to the panel box.  All required power connections are shown.  Let me know if the wire sizes don't show up as comments.  Also attached is the equipment manuals for this gear.  I would highly recommend reading the transfer switch guide to determine if you want to go with that unit or a manual transfer switch.
Amazon purchase links for major components:
There are few items I didn't include in the diagram, but they are highly recommended:
As mentioned, you have the option of using a manual transfer switch as alternative to the Spartan Unit.  This will give you complete control over whether or not the system is using batteries vs. generator. 

Solar System 110v Power Setup with inverter and controller

So, this really summed it up. We knew what we needed to do but after working the numbers, we didn't think it would fit into our budget. Seeing as we already had a pure sine inverter with the Kodiak, we figured that a 12v system would be sufficient. Sorry for all the trouble Scott! He really did his homework to help us setup a 110v system but in the end, things change. Now we'll move forward.

Earlier I described our two batter banks, The Kodiak Bank and the Cabin Bank. That has not changed. I've said all this to basically end up where we started. I just really wanted to share that info Scott provided in the event any of you wanted to run a 110v system. So below is a diagram of how we plan to do things.

Solar Panel System for Offgrid Bugout Cabin

In summary: We have figured out what we want to do and how to do it. We have everything we need in our possession with the exception of the Boss Watt Panels which will be shipped out in a couple of weeks. The Cabin will be complete by end of week. Our next blog should have a lot of photos of The Land, the cabin, and the solar setup. Stay tuned for more. Comment below.