Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Adding a Solar Array

In 2019, a proper solar array was added. The solar array was installed on a south-facing ground mounted pedestal. Pedestal was 4 feet high to allow for local snow conditions. A hinged wooded frame with metal rails was installed to hold the 12-315W solar panels. Panels were wired into 4 strings of 3 panels connected to a 4-string combiner box. A 100 foot run of PV wire was run to the cabin and connected to a Midnite Classic 150 Solar Charge Controller.  A backup battery bank consisting of (8) 190AH sealed AGM batteries were installed for a 48VDC system. This is a backup up battery bank to the existing 1600AH 48V battery that is currently installed and will be replaced or reconditioned in the spring of 2020.

Solar pedestal starts with 12 4x4x8 pressure treated posts

2x6 boards and strand board added for floor and roof

Hinged wood frame with metal supports for panels

12 Solar panels (315W) added to frame

plywood sides and doors added to enclose pedestal

Solar panel array working as designed.
Will adjust angle in spring.

The solar array project was a complete success. The pedestal provides a strong base for the solar array and will keep the panels up out of the snow. The pedestal provides much needed storage for lumber and other construction materials. The angle of the array can be adjusted as needed. I am planning on using wall jacks to lift up the wall of solar panels to the desired angle in the spring.

With the solar panels now in place, I am able to leave the power on in the cabin all of the time, which allows me to keep a refrigerator and security system running at the cabin.   The next and final piece to the power system will be to add an automatic generator start (AGS)  which will start the generator automatically to charge the batteries should the voltage drop in the batteries to a preset level. This will help offset periods in which the solar panels will be covered by snow.

Adding a Bunkhouse

In 2019, we were still working on finishing after cabin after 4 years, we decided we needed to make some changes in our building/finishing plans. We have been working part time to complete the cabin, while still trying to utilize the cabin as we build. This has been a real challenge.  The cabin has most of the infrastructure in place, water system, plumbing, electrical and off grid power system. We are able to utilize the cabin as we are building but it is far from complete. We still have to complete some electrical, plumbing, propone, drywall, tongue and grove and interior finishing. We are to the point that the cabin is functional, but not yet 'comfortable', especially in the winter months.  So we decided, that we should not be trying to live in the cabin at the same time as we are trying to finish building the cabin.

We decided to add another structure near the cabin that we call the "Bunkhouse'. This will ultimately serve as some additional guest quarters, and more importantly will serve as some finished space for us to stay in as we complete the main cabin build. The bunkhouse is a 12x24 structure with 2 lofts. It has a wood stove, Futon folding bed, bunk beds, shower, toilet and sink and is fully insulated and finished so that we may stay there in both summer and winter comfortably as we complete finishing out the main cabin. We went with one of those 'prebuilt' style structures, but had it built on-site rather than trying to bring in a fully built structure given our remote location and the narrow dirt roads leading to our property.

The structure is set on 20 concrete piers. It has a an electrical sub-panel and plumbing system that is tied to the main cabin and septic system. It will have its own rain collection system, water purification system and on-demand hot water system.

Setting the bunkhouse floor joists on concrete piers

Bunkhouse is about 75 feet from main cabin

Builder's completed on-site construction in a single day

Bunkhouse exterior stained and stairs added

Bunkhouse interior fully insulated and finished

We still have some things to complete in the bunkhouse, but it is already a noticeably more comfortable stay than in the main cabin, especially in the winter. For example, as the main cabin is not yet completely sealed in, it can still get down to 40° even with a wood stove running in very cold weather. The bunkhouse on the other hand, is a much smaller space to heat and is very easy to keep between 60°-70° with a very small wood stove even in the coldest weather.   This will make it easier for us to work on the cabin in the winter months and provide a more comfortable stay during these colder periods.