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Get Off the Grid Now #1: Build Your Own Expandable Solar Power System

Updated on March 15, 2010
The system I'm providing doesn't include wind or generator, but you can add these things later
The system I'm providing doesn't include wind or generator, but you can add these things later

The above is a demonstration of a basic solar/wind/generator power system that clearly shows how to put the components together. To build your beginner's expandable solar power system, you will start out with your solar panels, charge controller, battery bank, and power inverter. You can add additional solar panels, batteries, wind turbine, and back up generator later...

It is not nearly as hard to put together a small solar power system for backup electricity for your home as you thought it was. Nor is it as expensive as you thought it was, either. Don't let lack of technical knowledge or money deter you from getting started on your dream of getting off the grid! And don't fall for scams and big out of pocket layouts. You can do this yourself, and you can do it easily and cheaply.

This basic expandable system is a result of many months of research which I conducted, because I refused to be swayed from my desire to get off the grid. I was determined to "do it myself" and to find out how cheaply it could be done. What I discovered is that not only can almost anyone build a basic solar power system, but that it does not have to be nearly as expensive as most people think it does.

The following is a quick list of what you will need to put together a small-scale solar power system for your home, which you can expand later on. It uses an 80-watt solar panel which is linkable to more panels if you want to add more later. It uses a 1500 watt inverter and a 30 amp charge controller, which leave lots of room for you to add more solar panels and more batteries.

You won't be able to do a whole lot with this little system. You won't run your central heat and air off this, nor any major appliances. But you will be able to run some lights, your laptop, radio, cordless phone, charge cell phones, watch TV, and use some of your smaller appliances. You will want to research about how much electricity your appliances use, and how you can reduce your energy use. As you move towards total energy independence, you will benefit by finding energy-efficient appliances, which may be more expensive, but well worth it for the return in savings on your electricity usage. Some quick tips: Beware coffee makers, they use lots of electricity! So do hair dryers! And laptops use much less electricity than desktops.

It is a good little system to get started with, and is expandable to large enough to where you could power a small dwelling or cabin with it, by adding batteries and panels. If you add more batteries, you will need to re-calculate the gauge of your wire to accommodate the new power load.

Another addition you could make to improve this system would be to add a Kill-a-Watt to it, so you can see a read out of your power usage.

I found all the components of this system at one place. This will make it easier for you to get it all at once. (But not necessarily cheaper. The same solar panels can be gotten elsewhere for a substantially lower price!) I am saving you the work of having to learn what size charge controller and inverter to get. Don't get smaller. These are way too big for this system. That does not hurt anything. But that way, you won't have to go out and buy bigger ones when you expand your system. If you get these items too small, you are going to have problems. May as well go ahead and get the right ones from the start.

Then all you will have to do is add more panels, add more batteries, or more components like wind or generator, more inverters, and adjust the grouping of the batteries, and gauge of the wiring to accommodate to the adjustment of the amp differences.

As you get into this, you will learn more ways of improving your system and adding more things to it to make it more efficient and powerful.


Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels - collect daylight and converts it into electricity
12v Deep Cycle Marine/RV Batteries - store the electricity for use later on
Solar Charge Controller - stops the solar panel from overcharging the battery
12v - 240v Power Inverter - converts the power in the battery to 240v AC

Some useful bits of knowledge:

*A 12v 80 amp/hour battery stores 960 watt/hours of electricity (12 x 80 = 960).
*960 / 2.5 hours winter charge = 384
*384 / 15 days = 25.6 watt solar panel


Average Power Consumption of Common Appliances:

19" color TV 120 Computer monitor 55
Stereo 50 Computer printer 20
VCR 25 Hand mixer 100
Satellite Receiver 20 Blender 350
Heating pad 50 Toaster 1250
Electric blanket 150 Microwave 650-1000
Electric drill 500 Coffee maker 1250 brew, 200 warm

13" color TV 50 3 hr. 150 15
Satellite Receiver 20 3 hr. 60 6
Computer/monitor 125 2 hr. 250 25
Coffee Maker 1250 20 min 417 41.7
Microwave 1000 15 min. 250 25

Blender 300 Refrigerator (20 cf.) 150
CB radio 5 Satellite dish 30
CD player 35 Sewing machine 100-500
Ceiling fan 10-75 Table fan 1-25
Clock radio 1 Toaster 800-1500
Coffee maker 800-1200 TV: 25" color 150
Computer 80-150 TV: 19" color 70
Dishwasher 1200-1500 TV: 12" B&W 20
Dryer (elec.) 4000 Vacuum cleaner 200-1200
Dryer (gas) 300-400 VCR 40
Elec. blanket 200 Waffle iron 1200
Elec. clock 3 Washing machine 500
Evap. cooler 300-1000 ½" Drill 900
Frying pan 1200 71/4" Circ. saw 750
Furnace blower 300-1000
Garage door opener 350

Garbage disposal 450 100W Incandescent 100
Hair dryer 900-1500 60W Incandescent 60
Iron 900-1200 25W Incandescent 25
Laptop 20-50 25W Comp.flourescent 28
Microwave 600-1500 15W Comp.flourescent 18
Printer: laser 300-475 42W Halogen 42
Printer: ink jet 60-75


Tractor Supply Co.
877 - 872 - 7721
Tractor Supply Store Customer Service
Hours: 7am - 5pm Central Time Monday - Friday

You will be able to find your local Tractor Supply Store from the main site, to pick up your order at your store and thus avoid paying shipping!


(You can see Photos and Descriptions of all these items by typing the name of the item into the search engine bar at Tractor Supply:)


1 - 80 Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panel with Sharp® Module
PRICE: $629.99 (you can substitute this for a better 100 watt panel if you want)
1 - Schumacher 1500w Inverter
PRICE: $179.99
1 - 30 amp Digital Charge Controller
PRICE: $149.98
3 - Stowaway Deep Cycle Marine/RV Battery
PRICE: $79.99 X 3 = $239.97
SKU Number: 4001105
1 - Lynx Battery Terminal Top Heavy Duty Red Black
PRICE: $4.99 X 6 = $29.94

SUB - TOTAL = $1229.87
TAX = 73.79 (KY .06)
TOTAL = $1303.66


Conduct-Tite Battery Cut-Off Switch, 300 Amp, Battery Isolator
PRICE: $13.99
200 amp class "T" fuse
10' # 2/0 inverter cable
6 position fuse block

You may need additional help in choosing wire gauge, setting up your batteries and wiring them correctly, and verifying that your components are correctly installed.

Please consult with someone who knows what they are doing and make sure that you handle the equipment safely and that it is properly connected and installed before you even get started on this. It is essential that the battery bank be properly wired and you will need an electrician's help with this.

See? It is not as hard as you thought it was, is it?


(Now, tell me THANK YOU! LOL!)

Small DIY Home Solar Power System

What do you think?

Do you now feel more informed and comfortable about installing your own home solar power system?

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Please Don't Leave Without Your Comments!

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  • MagicStarER profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from Western Kentucky

    This video is actually not mine, but I found it on YouTube. So I don't know about the refrigerator.

  • V4U profile image


    3 years ago from Gwalior

    Well, this is perfectly explained. A nice hub to go through. Geothermal is the another option as renewable source of energy. You should go through my hub on geothermal energy. I hope you would find it interesting.

  • Sherry Hewins profile image

    Sherry Hewins 

    5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

    I see a refrigerator in your kitchen, but you did not mention it specifically. Are you running your refrigerator off of this system?

  • profile image


    7 years ago from NY

    Nice hub! I'm looking into building a small off grid solar system. I mainly want it to run my lights first and hopefully build up from there.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Nice hub. Solar power systems are really great. I hope that many people will use it in generating power to their homes.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    That's nice one. Also this solar power generator . You can read a lot about solar power generator. :D

  • amillar profile image


    9 years ago from Scotland, UK

    Very interesting - thankyou.

  • JON EWALL profile image


    9 years ago from usa


    Before constructing your own solar system, check with your local building department.Building codes will establish regulations and permit requirements that may restrict the location of your panels Check my site for additional information.

  • MagicStarER profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Western Kentucky

    :) You are so very welcome - I hope it will help someone!

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Thank You!!!!!!!! LOL

  • MagicStarER profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Western Kentucky

    To Has_awaywithwords: I know exactly what you mean about those spammy articles! "Build Your Own Solar Energy for $300", Green4Living stuff: Beware! They either want you to build your own solar panels, or include chintzy, cheap stuff that blows out within a couple months. And they definitely do not want to teach people any particulars of how to set up a system yourself. Do it the real way, people!

  • MagicStarER profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Western Kentucky

    To Quill: Thanks for reading. Yes, it really is a "doh" moment. Why should we be tied into the grid system and pay all that money, money we don't have and need for buying food, paying rent, and other things? Also we are subject to being "cut off" if we don't pay on time. Utility companies are monolithic monopolies who are choking every last penny out of us. Kiss them goodbye and live free.

  • Has_aWayWithWords profile image


    9 years ago from United States

    It is nice to find a hub about renewable energy that is informative rather than some of the really lame and spammy ones I have found. I have been writing these types of hubs and blogs as well. Green energy isn't as hard as people think and it is becoming more affordable.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Thanks for the great Hub Magic Star and the info that you have gathered...better to be independent in what ever ares we can...I support the renewable resources we have at hand such as the sun and the wind...its a Da moment when you think of it.


  • MagicStarER profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Western Kentucky

    Thanks for reading Micky Dee, and you are very welcome. Most people are prevented from getting off the grid, because they are limited by a lack of technical knowledge and because they think it's too expensive. Actually, it is not hard to install a solar system, and if you start out with this small expandable system, it will only cost $1300 and probably lots less.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    9 years ago

    This is such a great hub. Thank you for helping so many become more aware of alternative energy. Great hub.


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