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Majoor Doppies

Servicable years of a good solar home system?

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Good day all and thanks for allowing me to pose some questions at times. I am retired and reside in Groblersdal.

I would like to know what type of life expectancy one can experience if one goes totally off grid? Looking at prices for installations I would expect to have a good lifetime from my initial installation before having to replace batteries and other items..

No doubt more questions will arise if I should decide to go the whole hog.

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1 hour ago, Majoor Doppies said:

what type of life expectancy one can experience if one goes totally off grid?

Depends entirely on what you buy.

Typical lifespan of a high end inverter is ten years, the cheaper ones is about half that. This is pretty much a thumb-suck, there are lots of people here with the cheap Taiwanese inverter that's had them for 5 years. Let's just say the higher end ones come with a 5-year warranty and the others with a 2-year warranty, which is an indication of how willing the manufacturer is to carry the risk.

Warranties are interesting: What manufacturers do is build stuff that is good enough so that 95%+ lasts more than the warranty they slap on. They want a come-back number below a certain comfortable figure.

Batteries, again... cheap lead acids, maybe two years, good lead acids working hard, 5 years, good lead acids not working hard, 10 years. Lithium cells (LFP) promises 10 to 20 years.

Solar panels should last 20 to 30 years, again depends on the quality. The cheap crap will delaminate and fail in under 10.

Regarding the "off grid" part of the question: High Voltage Grid tied systems (SMA, Solar Edge) tend to be less stressed, have better warranties and last longer. Solar Edge has a 12-year warranty for example, and Fronius comes with 5 and can be extended past 10. So adding "off grid", again, tends to about half the life expectancy because such systems have a boost stage that is significantly more stressed.

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Adding to what Plonkster said, you also need to decide your "NEEDS" vs "WANTS"

"NEEDS" on solar are seriously cheaper than "WANTS".

Then the question: Predominantly day or nighttime use?

Daytime savings are immense (fi you have a lot of sun) vs evenings where you need batteries = biggest cost on a solar system.

All the above has a huge impact on the system costs, maximum savings and therefor the biggest ROI.

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14 hours ago, plonkster said:

Depends entirely on what you buy.

 

Thank you aplenty. I appreciate but would, as far as the page is concerned, like to know what the "signature preferences" at the end of replies are. Are they suggestions?  Also another question: Does it make sense to buy a 5KVA inverter initially and in due course add batteries and panels as finaces allow?

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1 hour ago, Majoor Doppies said:

signature preferences

We have a long running semi-friendly war here. Well, perhaps it is not fair to call it that, let's rather say there are a few brave souls who venture off the beaten path but we're grossly outnumbered here. Most people here have the Voltronic inverter. It's an "okay" inverter, in the sense that there are many many much worse options on the market. The firmware is often buggy and you have trouble finding such firmware in the first place, support is poor, and quite a number of them fail within the first two years. I will be honest and tell you outright I won't recommend that one, even though the purchase price is hard to argue with.

But in fairness, I bought my inverter about 5 years ago when it really was the only inverter on the market that could be programmed to do self consumption (the Voltronic wasn't widely available yet), and since then the landscape has changed, I am now employed in a manner where my advice could be called very biased (it is!)... even if not wrong :-)

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I agree with previous posters regarding want's & need's. 

I suppose (for me in any case) that it depends on the situation. Not all solar installation are equal. Each have their own +'s & -'s. In my are, due to very old infrastructure, and poor maintenance, we suffer from numerous outages, hence my system does cater for this, albeit not with enough capacity to last me the night, should I want to have a nice hot shower in the morning!

For e.g. if your suffer from an unreliable grid that goof's you off, then a system to negated that i.e. +batteries is a requirement. If budget is a factor - meaning you like to have a fairly large reserve capacity, but like to start small, then focus on getting Lithium type batteries, as they can be expanded at any time, without killing the new ones.

The rest, e.g. capacity, etc. is all down to what you can afford. Within your "NEEDS" real. Not your wants,....'cos that will slurp up a lot of dough very quickly.!

I would prioritise it as follows:

1) Invertor - Get the correct size/features etc for your needs.

2) Solar Panels - Here you can start snall and add as and when

3) Batteries - Start small with Lithium & add when needed

And don't forget/neglect safety items, (fuses/isolators), as well as reporting features. You must know what your system is doing at a drop of a hat, else things like batteries can fail prematurely.

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On ‎27‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 8:01 AM, plonkster said:

... we're grossly outnumbered here.

And a few whom have converted from Voltronic to Victron, have gone quiet. :-) 

Bought the inverter new and the rest 2nd hand on Gumtree over time. Will buy 2nd hand Victron equipment anytime as the warranties follow the parts, not the original owner or invoice. And, if you have a problem, local Victron suppliers can fix one up quick OR go straight to their HO in the Netherlands. 

Victron is solid equipment backed by a solid company - not cheap - but as I said, there are times when one can pick up what one needs 2nd hand for a very good price.

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17 minutes ago, The Terrible Triplett said:

And a few whom have converted from Voltronic to Victron, have gone quiet. :-) 

Not much to talk about when it just works? Other than get into those endless debates :-)

21 minutes ago, The Terrible Triplett said:

baked by a solid company

Sounds like a bakery! :-)

This has always impressed me, even before I got more involved in this business when I was just buying my first hardware. The MD himself, or at least someone in R & D engages with customers. The usual triangular structure is a very flat one. Of course, the company insists that you follow the right channels: You talk to your reseller first (who has received training, something they provide as well at very reasonable fees), who then escalates it to second level, and finally it ends up with someone in their R & D department, but the point is this channel exists. All the firmware is in one place, and a lot of the software is open source and available on github. Integration into other products such as this, or what people do for themselves, is a really strong point. I think what I liked the most is those extra Christmases you have every now and then, when a new firmware revision makes something new possible and you get it for free because you already have the hardware.

But I do understand that cost is an issue with people, especially in exchange-rate-challenged countries like ours. So essentially it is up to you. Of course, as South Africans, we tend to have a high make-it-work ability and we are somewhat willing to accept rough edges for a bargain price... and as I said already, these other inverters are not complete crap, in fact they are troublesome and worthy competitors, at least for as long as they last!

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You can follow what I’ve have posted and all the replies to it.

Buying equipment is really the last step to do before installation.

You need to determine your power requirements first and also what state your house wiring is in. This has a huge impact on later decisions. You may even find that replacing your home washing machine, dryer, stove, oven, geyser etc with gas or energy efficient items might change the scenario and capital outlay totally.

And when retired our lifespan is too short to worry about how long stuff will last. Provided of course it does not fail in a short time.

You will never make your money back over the years. It really is a question of convenience as Eskom is sure to fail.

I went with a 8,8kw lithium battery setup (very expensive but fiddling free) and a 4kw hybrid (very necessary) inverter and they work well. Gone are the days of power interruptions and inconvenience. I did it myself and the very steep learning curve (and hard work) was worth the pleasure I have now.

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