Working With The Sun

When I tell people that I use the sun’s energy directly to run my office modem, router, WiFi, various hubs, storage drive, three laptops, a Linux box and four monitors, they often comment that they wish it was affordable for them to do the same.  My reply is always the same “But it is!”.

Then I have to explain that I don’t have a expensive grid-tie system, that in fact my system uses components sourced from eBay and Craigslist, often purchased used.  I don’t have an itemized cost, but I’m confident that I have less than $1,500 in the entire system, much less than all of the computer hardware I run.


The above photo shows system (minus the roof-top photovoltaic panels and VRLA batteries) with just enough power to run my business completely off the grid all day.  After sunset I can store enough juice for a couple more hours of work, and then have to switch to the grid.  The nice thing about re-using old interruptible power supplies (UPS’) is that they produce computer grade power from either 12 or 24 volts and with the proper cooling modifications can run continuously.  The two Back-UPS CS-350’s I’m using are split with one powering my Internet devices, and the other my laptops and monitors with spare capacity.

So was it worth spending about $1,500 and probably 8-10 hours building this system?  Aside from having the peace of mind knowing that I’m protected from power outages, I’m sure the financial aspects are subjective depending on how one looks at time and money.  Personally I look at alternative uses for $1,500 and don’t find many investments that can compete as reliably.  Another benefit is lower electric bills, and the satisfaction of seeing one’s electric meter stopped on a sunny day, while the office is humming along.

There will be maintenance costs which need to be taken into account.  The system has been working perfectly for the last five years with only one battery replaced, I can expect clean reliable power for the next 15 years through the UPSs, and charge controller.  The photovoltaic panels should produce most of their peak power for the next 30 years according to the Centre for Alternative Technology

So, free power, no more blackouts, and not contributing to the Climate Change controversy while posting this … priceless.



About sandiachris

I love the diverse people and cultures in the United States and especially New Mexico & Colorado. I enjoy exploring new trails, as the South West USA is amazing. I'm a small business owner and software developer. I've taught economics, built computers, vegetable oil powered cars, software, and like to write about things that could make our lives more meaningful, pleasant and less stressful.
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