Solar power is an affordable, effective way to supply energy to your farm, no matter what mother nature throws at you. But if you’re a solar newbie, it can be overwhelming trying to understand what equipment to purchase and how to install it.
While this is by no means a definitive guide to solar, we’ve broken down how you can install a portable solar system on your homestead without spending a lot of money.
Why portable solar panels?
This guide focuses only on small, portable solar panels designed to fit on a boat, RV, or small cabin. This is because portable panels are more manageable for solar first-timers.
If you want a more permanent solution for your home, we recommend going with a professional solar company to install the system correctly.
But if you’re looking to harness the sun’s energy without spending $10,000, a portable solar system could be right for you.
What you’ll need
There are so many pieces of equipment and bells and whistles that solar power seems really complex. In reality, you just need to know what equipment you need and what it does.
Solar starter kit
We recommend starting with a solar energy kit, like this Renogy kit on Amazon. It’s perfect for beginners, easy to install, and doesn’t come with too many moving parts.
The kit includes:
One 100W solar panel: This is the panel that will sit outside and absorb the sun’s energy.
Charge controller: This critical piece of equipment protects your battery and prevents the system from failing.
Mounting brackets: To connect the solar panel to your roof, if you want.
Adaptors and cables: These carry the power collected by the solar cells to your charge controller.
The Renogy kit doesn’t include a battery to store the collected energy, so you’ll need to purchase this separately. The battery is what makes the whole system run smoothly, so be sure to invest in a quality battery!
We like this pure gel 12 V battery from Renogy. It’s specifically designed for going off-grid with the Renogy starter kit, so you don’t have to worry about all the parts fitting together.
Yes, the battery is an additional $250 to your solar setup, but this is still more affordable than installing a full solar array. This is an investment in your homestead; remember that the benefits will be worth it!
Depending on your battery and your electrical devices, you might need an inverter. This converts DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current). This tool essentially makes sure that your appliances match the solar panel system.
We like this option from Renogy, which is compatible with the above battery and solar kit.
How to install
Now, how in the world do you put these components together? Here’s a quick overview of how to put together your solar panel kit.
If you get stuck, Renogy provides a great 5-minute tutorial on how to install this solar starter kit, too.
- Take your charge controller and attach it to the tray cable. The red wire goes into the positive area and the green wire goes into the negative area. Then you screw the wires into the charge controller.
- Pick up the other end of your tray cable. Now’s the time to connect the cable to your battery, minding that red is the positive side and green is the negative side. Connect the wires to the corresponding positive and negative areas on your battery.
- Look at your charge controller. You’ll see that the battery light is on. This means you have power going into the charge controller.
- Next, you’ll need to connect your solar panels to the charge controller. You may need adapter cables to add more length between the panel and the charge controller.
- Match the corresponding negative and positive ends of the solar panel wires to the charge controller and screw them down. At this point, you’ll have the panel connected to the charge controller and the battery.
- Press the red button on your charge controller to turn it on. Attach a small load to the charge controller to make sure it’s working correctly. Refer to the Renogy tutorial to see how to do this safely.
- Now that you know everything works, it’s time to put your panel outside and let it collect sunlight!
The bottom line
Enjoy greater off-grid independence with a solar panel setup. Instead of dropping $10,000 or more on a solar system, give it a try with a portable solar panel first. Follow this guide to buy the materials you’ll need to have energy no matter what nature throws at you.