Last info on "How long is a Piece of String"

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Jul 20, 2016
5:53 PM EDT
The title to this thread didn't come out: Last info on "How Long is Piece of String". Sorry....looks like inverted commas do terrible things to a thread title.

Hmmmmm......someone with more ability than I has fixed that title.....Whomever it was.....Thanks very much and appreciated.

For all those who are interested, the update to the article was in October 2015, however one more bit of info is worth recording. In March this year, there were definite symptoms that indicated at least one individual battery partial failure in the battery bank. Short heavy loads of up to 50 amps could no longer be sustained and so the entire bank of lead-acid cells was replaced shortly afterwards. My records show that the replaced bank had worked for us since 2005 which means we obtained a 10-11 years working life which is 3 more than the usual 8 that the bank is normally supposed to provide. Given that span of life and that the cost of battery replacement worked out to about $1750, a little arithmetic shows that the yearly battery cost is about $160 or $40 a quarter. Then of course, there's the usual gas costs for the fridge and petrol costs for the generator, but I cannot help but believe we are way in front of the local people attached to the power grid.

Another item that will shortly come up is the replacement of two very old solar panels at the end of the installation and they are at least 20 years old. I am fairly sure that they are 12volt, 50 watt panels and a single panel replacement can provide 24 volts at up to 160watts which is a dramatic increase in power output. The two old panels are starting to show brown patches internally at random cell locations within the panels and that indicates deterioration of the collection cells themselves. Our current checks indicate that the single replacement panel will cost about $350.....a dramatic drop from when the 12volt 50 watt panels cost about $700 each.

Hope that may be of interest and use to those working with solar power. Ridcully (Tony Young).

Jul 22, 2016
4:41 AM EDT
how much time is spent in maintaining your system as opposed to just getting power off the grid?

given that you are documenting your work here, allowing others to duplicate it, your time is certainly well spent. but i wonder in general, as this is a factor that needs to be included when figuring out if it is worth it.

greetings, eMBee.

Jul 22, 2016
8:52 AM EDT
Good question mbaehrixer........Okay......once every 10-11 years the battery bank is replaced. That accounts for a phone call and then about 2 hours removing, replacing and reconnecting the batteries.....And a trip later to the recycling unit about 4km away.

Apart from that, about 30 minutes every two months when I check the electrolyte levels in the battery bank and use distilled water to top them up to where they should be.......Apart from that.....Nothing. The solar panels that need replacing are at least 20 years old........ummmmmmm........about an hour's labour in 20 years. There's very, very little maintenance needed. If you want me to be more specific, which parts would you like me to detail ? The inverter just runs........the fuses and controller just run.......the cabling again, just runs.......Hope that helps.

Jul 22, 2016
11:06 PM EDT
oh it does. it is a lot less than i expected! in fact, practically negligible. you are going to do a lot more replacing in your house in 10 years than this.

as an aside, i cam across a statistic that showed that the price for solar energy is dropping so much that it will take care of global warming because everyone is going to switch to it soon enough simply because it's cheaper.

greetings, eMBee.

Jul 23, 2016
3:44 AM EDT
Solar power is really upsetting the power companies and state governments in Australia. Both the companies and the governments enjoy a cosy relationship which ultimately gives them "open access" to the consumer's wallets...It's all to do with royalties, coal mining etc. etc., and state governments are addicted to the coal miner royaties and profit taking from the power companies. I bless the fact almost daily that we are NOT on grid power and subject to its pricing structures.

Solar power takes the consumer off the network during sunny days and the only grid consumption is at night. Tesla is now stepping into that breach with its "wall power packs"....I don't think they are the absolute answer unless you alter how you consume power in a home.....and how many users will give up the clothes dryer, the dishwasher, the airconditioner, etc. etc......and don't forget hot water and cooking and the refrigerator. Remember we built this home as an alternative energy wood (which is plentiful where I live) provides cooking, hot water and to some extent, fact so much warmth that we tend to minimise stove use in summer, and only use it to the extent that we fire it up at night and let it slow combustion burn overnight to keep the hot water tank hot.

An alternative would be a solar hot water system......we toyed with that, but the stove produces so much hot water that it's totally un-necessary.

Oh, there are other small "necessary actions" for instance I keep a carefull monitoring of the battery charge percentages using the remote access unit in the study and the aim is always to keep the batteries in the 80-100 % range.....sometimes that's impossible, but generally speaking we manage.

Once you start down this road, keeping the system happy and productive is a pleasant challenge. I've just finished a couple of very happy hours chainsawing a lovely red ironbark log about 30-40 years old, loading it onto a rideon trailer and travelling back to the woodheap on the rideon mower (with the trailer behind) over bush tracks for a distance of about a kilometer. Sheer bliss on a beautiful sunny afternoon with birds and animals around you. Red ironbark is the common name for a variety of eucalypt that has very craggy and hard bark - hence the name. It gives one of the best burning woods for a slow combustion stove and if you can get it like this straight grained log, you get large rounds which split incredibly easily along the grain into small pieces for the stove. Good exercise too.

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