Learning Center

Electronics Guru Goes Off-Grid with Solar in Baja, Mexico

Bob, an electronics aficionado from California, has enjoyed the world of electronics using ham radio and being involved in computer networking software and hardware. He worked in the hospitality management industry. Given his love for electronics and knowledge obtained over the years, he designed and installed his first home solar system that paid him back in just over three years thanks to the early credit incentives available in California at the time.

Read more

Alaska Off-Grid Resident Harnesses Energy from the Sun

Living off grid presents several challenges even for those that make pre-calculations for every possible need when you’re in a remote area. Whether it’s determining a water source, developing emergency plans or deciding on a power source - most come with their own unique problem to solve and everyone’s situation is different.

Read more

Northern Utah Residents Outfit Shelter with Solar Power

Tom and wife, Debbie live on 25 acres of alfalfa farm in Northern Utah. Joining them are four dogs and twenty-three cats. Yes, you read that correctly. Both Tom and Debbie grew up on small family farms, she in Indiana and he in New Jersey. Tom joined the US Navy in 1971 where he spent six years as a computer repairman on the USS Long Beach CGN-9 which was a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser which is now decommissioned and scrapped. Tom learned invaluable skills such as programming and electrical engineering while floating around the Indian Ocean...

Read more

Couple Converts School Bus into Solar Powered Skooly

Mike and his wife are in their late 20s and have lived in Flagstaff for nearly 10 years. Flagstaff is the largest northern-most city in Arizona. It’s not the typical Arizona landscape you immediately envision. Full of ponderosas and aspen trees, Flagstaff is an outdoor haven for adventure seekers or those trying to get away from the rat race. It’s a short drive up from the Phoenix metro area and is popular weekend destination for those that are weary of the summer heat. 

Read more

Retired US Navy Mechanic Deploys Off-Grid Solar Power

Larry is a retired US Navy aircraft mechanic. He and his wife currently own a boat transport company and have been mulling retirement in recent years. Settling down in a quiet place is the dream of many retirees. They had the same dream which prompted them to buy property in Northern California. Like many vacant properties, there are obstacles to overcome. Grid power can expensive if there isn’t a transformer nearby – in this case, it was 2000 feet from Larry’s property. 

Read more

Solar Power Untethers RVers from Grid Power

There is a growing trend of Americans wanting to down-size and sell their homes for a different lifestyle. Huge mortgages and the burden of living in substantial debt has led people to reassess their situations. With a large portion of jobs now being done remotely due to COVID-19, people can now work from anywhere if they have an internet connection. Despite the overall economic impacts of the virus, the RV market is hot and showing no signs of slowing down.

Read more

Customer Stories: Retirees Boondock 45-Foot Freightliner Outfitted with Solar Power

Scott and Susan have been adventurers together since 1978 when they married at age 20. Much of their adventure came in the form of sailing. Living in the Pacific Northwest for many years gave them the opportunity to sail the Pacific Ocean as far as Maui and up to Alaska. After retiring from Microsoft and spending the bulk of their time on the west coast, they found themselves wanting to explore places east of Seattle which led them to moving their adventures from sea to land. Their first step was finding a vehicle that could get the job done.

Read more

Customer Stories: Rural Indiana Resident Installs Hybrid Grid-Tie System

Greg was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Engineering and Science. He’s currently an Electrical Engineer and leads a small team of engineers while mentoring and coaching young go-getters. Recently, in his spare time, he’s spent many hours researching solar power. Being involved in the electrical field automatically gives him leveraged insight into solar electric technology.

Read more

Customer Stories: Hurricane-Stricken Bahama Resident Relies on Solar Power One Year Later

We have a variety of people that reach out to us needing a solar power system. Their applications may vary drastically, but the common denominator of needing an independent power source remains the constant when it comes to deciding on solar power. This week’s customer story is no different, but the motivating reason for needing to be off-grid is much different. 

Read more

Customer Stories: Solar Power Enables Part-Time RVers to Boondock with Confidence

Lloyd, a retired aerospace purchasing agent travels with his wife and dog in a 30 ft travel trailer. They travel part-time but usually stay on the road for months at the time. Lloyd is a DIY like many others doing his own mods and maintenance on the travel trailer. For them, traveling on the road has become a way of life that required learning how to adapt, especially when it comes to a reliable power source.

Read more

Customer Stories: Off-Grid Farm in Northern Arizona Utilizes Solar Power

Comfortable off-grid living is achieved by many, thanks to solar electric technology. Joel and Amy who reside in Northern Arizona, not only live comfortably using solar power but they thrive by raising their own food, pumping their own water and sustaining a homestead that provides organic food to their very own customers. Without solar power, it would have been nearly impossible to realize their dreams of being self-sufficient.

Read more

Customer Stories: Solar Power System Design and Install for Grand Design Solitude RV

Robin from Creativity RV – you may have heard of her. If not, she has a large following on YouTube that chronicles her life living on the road. Following in the footsteps of many others before her, Robin grew weary of living the corporate life to pay for a huge mortgage while life passes by. She was in the corporate world for over 20 years before deciding to take the dive into nomad living.

Read more

Customer Stories: Digital Nomads Work Remotely Using Solar Power

Getting away from the complexity of the traditional American Dream and trying a different approach at life is the desire of many. Trends indicate that Americans are transitioning into smaller homes or taking their life on the road. A couple from Austin TX is living their new dream traveling the USA with no regrets. James and his wife sold their home in Austin to live on the road in their 39’ fifth wheel. Both being able to work remotely gives them the perfect opportunity to travel the country with their three border collies. Their passion is exploring nature and trail running in new locations along their travels.

Read more

Why Do Grid-Tie Solar Systems Shut Down During Power Outages?

A common misconception about grid-tie solar systems is that during a power outage or grid failure, the solar system will continue to provide power to loads. Due to the nature of grid-tie solar systems and how they are designed, all power output to the grid must cease during an outage unless other backups are designed into the solar system, which basically changes the nature of the system entirely.

Read more

Customer Stories: Remote Couple Stays Close to Nature with Solar Power

This week’s customer story features Jody and Shelle who spend their life on the road as full-time RVers in their 40’ Fifth Wheel. Both Jody and Shelle have jobs that allow them to travel the country with complete freedom. Jody is self-employed Solutions Architect and Shelle is a nature / travel photographer. The couple stays active on social media and vlogs about their experiences traveling on the road which helps keep their friends and family back home informed about their whereabouts.

Read more

Customer Stories: Retired Couple Seeks Advice For Solar Power System

Our solar power project of the week features Les – a fulltime RVer. Les worked in the Commercial Glass and Glazing industry as a Senior Project Manager specializing in custom curtainwalls for skyscrapers in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Since retiring from the glass industry, Les and his wife Sue have been on the road fulltime in their RV. They enjoy off-grid living and boondocking which requires an independent power source.

Read more

Customer Stories: Landowner Utilizes Off-Grid Solar Power System

This week’s solar project takes us westward down Interstate 40 to Williams, Arizona. Known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, Williams is a bustling tourist stop for those making that last pitstop before the northward trek to the Grand Canyon. Tourists are so excited and focused on seeing the Grand Canyon that no one notices the endless acres of ranch land on the way. Many of those subdivided ranches depend on solar power as their source of energy due to the remoteness of the area.

Read more

Customer Stories: Solar Power Allows Adventurous Couple To Work Remote

Living in a digital age, many people are abandoning the idea of burdening themselves with a mortgage and everything else that comes with homeownership. Working remotely over the web makes it easy to work from anywhere and see everything the world has to offer in the process. This is the case for Megan and Garrett who recently decided to move into their rig full time and travel to Arizona.

Read more

Customer Stories: Solar Power Prepares Resident For Natural Disasters

Our customer story this week features Susan from Ohio. Susan's neighbors have family in Puerto Rico. Back in 2017 Hurricane Maria devastated the entire island leaving their family in the dark. They lost the first level of their home and all electric power for several months. The realities of a natural disaster are a stark reminder of how everyone should be prepared and how the modern conveniences of everyday life can be taken away quickly.

Read more

Customer Stories: Solar Power Gives NYC Mobile Gaming Unit Enough Power

Our next solar project feature takes us out to the East Coast to the Big Apple. Jesse, the owner of a MT45 Freightliner is needing solar energy for a unique venture. Dubbed the “M.G.U.”, this vehicle is a Mobile Gaming Unit taking to the streets of New York City. The vehicle was chosen specifically for its correlation to an ice cream truck, only this time it’s serving up delicious new games to hungry gamers in Times Square!

Read more

Customer Stories: Full-Time RVer Finds Freedom With Solar Power

This week’s article features Ed, a full time RV’er. Ed is a retired commercial industrial HVAC service technician that worked in Denver providing service to everything related to heating and cooling. After leaving the workforce, Ed started living in his RV fulltime in June 2017. He sold his 29’ travel trailer and purchased a brand new 39’ fifth wheel as his home in January 2018.

Read more

Customer Stories: Family Utilizes Residential Off-Grid Solar Power

Customer Stories: Family Utilizes Residential Off-Grid Solar Power

Our solar project this week features customer David G. of Northern Arizona. David and his family purchased property in the high desert of Northern Arizona to be closer to extended family. Their intention wasn’t necessarily to go off-grid with their power needs, however, the location where they purchased their property dictated solar to be their only power option. That’s when David researched solar power and ultimately contacted our team at Northern Arizona Wind & Sun.

Read more

RV Solar System Design for Full Time or Extended Dry Camping

RV Solar System Design for Full Time or Extended Dry Camping

When looking at what is an ideal full system configuration for an RV, typically one would want to consider the expectations of a system and limitations of the RV, and then build the system around these expectations and limitations. In most cases you want to start from the roof and work your way down. 

Solar for Roof

Roof space is usually the biggest limitation when considering solar power for an RV. Being that solar panels are one of the least expensive aspects of a complete system, maximizing production value for a given space is the most advantageous plan. In most cases putting as many panels on the roof as will fit is the best idea. Measure or use pieces of cardboard, targeting a sixty-cell panel format (~67”x40”). These are technically the best panels and the cheapest, due to the volume of sales these panels enjoy. Other panel sizes are available. Mixing sizes and shapes is complicated so plan wisely. We’ve never had a customer complain about having too much power (because this isn’t possible) but having too little power can result in too little energy production which may not meet your expectations. This can be frustrating and could lead to premature battery failure or other system wide issues. 

Inverter Integration 

Next you need to plan for an inverter if you need to run AC appliances and devices. The inverter converts power from the batteries to your basic household outlet AC power, 120VAC or 120/240VAC. You need to decide whether you want a fully integrated inverter system or a simple stand-alone inverter. In most cases, this decision will be dictated by what you want to power from the inverter. If you simply want to plug in a laptop or charge a phone from time to time, then a stand-alone inverter should work fine. Most of these smaller inverters will have an outlet on the front allowing low power devices to be connected. Anything more demanding than this requires a fully integrated inverter/charger.  These inverter/chargers have a built-in transfer switch and the ability to charge the batteries at a much higher current than a typical converter. These are advanced inverter/chargers with powerful features and thus are usually the best solution for medium to large installations. The inverter/charger is typically placed between the shore power input and the main electric panel, the output from this inverter would go to the main electric panel. This essentially will power up all or most of the electrical circuits within the RV, depending on the configuration of the electrical panel. When AC input power is present from either shore power or generator, the inverter/charger will qualify the input (making sure it’s acceptable) and transfer that power through. It will pull from the AC input dynamically depending on certain limitations to charge the batteries. When shore power or the generator are not present the inverter uses energy from the batteries to power the AC loads. There are many more advanced features available from this type of inverter/charger, but in general if you power to all the outlets and appliances like the micro wave or the air conditioner then an inverter/charger is the way to go. Special care needs to be taken if you wish the inverter/charger to power air conditioners. Air conditioners consume large amounts of energy and need careful planning. 

Battery Bank

The final step in a design is sizing the battery bank. An RV is a terribly abusive environment for batteries. It’s common to have significant deficit cycling (infrequent full charges), over discharge is very likely, and temperature can vary significantly. There are two types of batteries that work for an RV system; lead acid and lithium-ion. Lead-acid batteries include flooded batteries (AGM), or Gel. However, gel lead acid batteries are not designed for the demands present in a typical RV system.  

Lithium

Advantages

  • No maintenance

  • Lightweight

  • Can be placed inside the living space

  • Smaller size

  • Battery bank can be added to over time

  • Low chance of damage if left uncharged

  • Higher level of efficiency

  • Charges faster

Disadvantages

  • Cost- Lithium batteries are more expensive, however, over the life of the system Lithium is cheaper. 


AGM

Advantages

  • Low cost

Disadvantages

  • Larger and heavier than Lithium

  • It’s not recommended to add to a lead acid battery bank after it’s installed

  • Life is significantly reduced if they are left uncharged for any length of time


Flooded

Advantages

  • Cheapest battery option

Disadvantages

  • Must be placed in a vented enclosure designed to handle the gas fumes they create

  • Extremely heavy - it’s important to make sure that the location can handle the weight

  • Poorly suited to handle the abuse present in an RV system

  • Not recommended to add to their battery bank.

It’s important to have an accurate battery monitor installed in the system, one that uses a shunt. This will allow for accurate tracking of the battery state of charge. Regardless of the type of battery bank, this accessory can really help prevent excessive discharge and confirm regular recharging.

Talk to a Specialist

You can do all the research you want but some of the best recommendations you’ll get are going to come from experts in the industry. Northern Arizona Wind & Sun has several engineers on site happy to consult and design a system to suit your application, no matter how unique or complicated. Feel free to give us a call to discuss your project today. 


AC Transfer Switch Graphic

Do I Need an AC Transfer Switch for my Off-Grid System?

A lot of people assume they need a transfer switch for an off-grid system when they are using a generator to charge the batteries or power loads. If you are using an inverter/charger there is an internal transfer switch to select between the inverter’s output and an incoming AC source. Most inverter/chargers will remain in “Invert” mode unless they see an acceptable AC source coming through (Shore / Grid Power or Generator Power). Once the inverter/charger accepts the AC voltage, it transfers over to supply power to loads and dump excess power into the batteries. Once this AC source is disconnected, the inverter will transfer back to “invert” mode and use battery power to run the loads. Some inverter/chargers will accept two AC sources and transfer between either of those and the inverter’s output. So if this is how your system would be set up, then there is no need for an external transfer switch.

You may need an external transfer switch if you have an inverter/charger with only one AC input and you want to switch between two AC sources like a generator and shore/grid power. This is the case in most mobile/RV applications. Another scenario is when you have a generator that can deliver more power than the inverter/charger can pass through and you want to power some heavy loads. The inverter charger is limited by the rating of the internal transfer switch. For example: Let’s say we have a Schneider 3.8kW inverter/charger with an internal 30A transfer switch with a split phase 120/240VAC output. The max load we can run by passing the generator power through is 7.2kW (30A x 240VAC = 7200 W). If we had a load that exceeded this 7.2 kW, and we had a generator that was able to satisfy this load, we would want the inverter/charger to be bypassed, allowing the generator to power the load directly. In this event we could use an external transfer switch to select between the inverter’s output and the generator’s output. If the inverter/charger is properly sized, this scenario does not occur often.

For more info on this call Northern Arizona Wind and Sun 1-800-383-0195 or email sales@solar-electric.com.

Federal Solar Tax Credit

Federal Solar Tax Credit

The 30% credit will only last only through 2019. In 2020, it drops down to 26% and down to 22% in 2021 and in 2022 there will no longer be a tax credit for residential systems. However, there will still be a 10% credit for commercial projects only.

Read more

Solar Energy Tax Incentives by State

Solar Energy Tax Incentives by State

If you’re looking to go solar for your home or business, you should know that there are incentives that help offset the investment. These are both at the national and state level and include tax incentives and favorable policies that make it easier for residents to adapt to solar energy. We’ve put together a few examples for each state, with the total number of incentives listed in parenthesis. For a comprehensive list visit http://www.dsireusa.org/.

Read more

LG NeON 2 Solar Module

LG NeON 2 Solar Module

LG’s NeON™2 solar panel is one of the most efficient commonly available 60-cell modules on the market. LG considers the fact that the amount of energy generated by solar panels differs from day to day due to factors such as weather, temperature, and shading. This is why they create their solar panels with quality and efficiency in mind.

Read more

Solartech Power Products

Solartech Power Products

Solartech modules employ the best quality cells from Solartech's own cell lineup. Combined with superior material and Taiwanese workmanship, Solartech modules will meet and exceed the durability and performance requirement whether they are for residential, commercial or utility projects. Solartech modules are TUV, ETL, and UL certified.

Read more

E Panels

E Panels

The Magnum E-Panels made by Midnite Solar come with an inverter breaker, 2/0 inverter cables, pre-wired AC input and bypass, 500amp 50mV shunt, AC terminal blocks, 100 amp DC positive and DC negative bus bars, PV input bus bar, din rails, 3 panel mount breaker knockouts, Ground bus bar, DC wiring cover, top shield, remote display mounting bracket, wall mounting brackets, charge controller bracket and lots of hardware and grommets.

Read more

Exeltech Sine Wave Inverters

Exeltech Sine Wave Inverters

Exeltech inverters have an MTBF (mean time between failure) in excess of 20 years and offer the most competitively priced ultra-reliable true sine inverters available anywhere. Exeltech provides back up power for the communications room in every U.S. Embassy, worldwide.

Read more

Samlex Sine Wave Inverters

Samlex Sine Wave Inverters

The Samlex America name is synonymous with power supply value. Since 1991, Samlex has manufactured and distributed power supply products to more than 90 countries worldwide. Innovative product designs, strict quality control, and responsible after-sales service provide customers with high-quality power conversion products at extremely competitive prices.

Read more

Fronius Grid-Tie Inverters

Fronius Grid-Tie Inverters

The latest and greatest Fronius grid-tie inverters are the IG Galvo and Primo lines, which are fully NEC 2014 and UL compliant. They come with built-in ground fault protection, DC reverse polarity protection, islanding protection, over temperature protection, and arc-fault circuit protection.

Read more

Enphase Microinverters

Enphase Microinverters

The Enphase Energy Solar Micro-inverter system is a set of small units that connect directly to each solar module to convert DC power into grid-compliant AC power and transmits valuable performance data on each module to the system owner.

Read more

Conext XW+ Sine Wave Inverters and Accessories

Conext XW+ Sine Wave Inverters and Accessories

A Conext XW solar system provides up to 36 kW by using modular components. All components communicate with each other with out‐of‐the‐box network capability. They include the Conext XW Inverter/Chargers, the Solar Charge Controllers, the Conext XW Automatic Generator Start (AGS), and the Conext XW System Control Panel (SCP).

Read more

What are MC Connectors and Cables?

What are MC Connectors and Cables?

MC connectors are specially designed for low contact resistance and good stable connections under a wide range of conditions. MC means "multi-contact." The term "multi-contact" comes from the fact that the connectors have a bunch of little spring loaded gold plated fingers that ensure good contact.

Read more

RV Solar Power FAQ

RV Solar Power FAQ

Numerous charts and lists have been published with long lists of appliances and how much power they draw. You are then supposed to add up all the watts, then find out how many hours of sun you get, etc etc.

Read more

Inverter Basics and Selecting the Right Model

Inverter Basics and Selecting the Right Model

We carry many types, sizes, brands, and models of inverters. Various options are also available. Choosing which one is best from such a long list can be a chore. There is no "best" inverter for all purposes - what might be great for an ambulance would not be suited for an RV.

Read more

Preassembled & Tested Inverter Systems

Preassembled & Tested Inverter Systems

Northern Arizona Wind and Sun can custom build almost any kind of off-grid or grid-tie inverter power panel. We can also mix and match different brands of equipment if you prefer something different than what we specify. These systems are very easy to customize to your specifications.

Read more

What is Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)

What is Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)

An MPPT, or maximum power point tracker is an electronic DC to DC converter that optimizes the match between the solar array (PV panels), and the battery bank or utility grid. To put it simply, they convert a higher voltage DC output from solar panels (and a few wind generators) down to the lower voltage needed to charge batteries.

Read more

Solar Charge Controller Basics

Solar Charge Controller Basics

A charge controller or charge regulator is basically a voltage and/or current regulator to keep batteries from overcharging. It regulates the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery. Most "12 volt" panels put out about 16 to 20 volts, so if there is no regulation the batteries will be damaged from overcharging.

Read more

What is Lithium Battery Technology?

What is Lithium Battery Technology?

Lithium batteries stand apart from other battery chemistries due to their high energy density and low cost per cycle. However, "lithium battery" is an ambiguous term. There are about six common chemistries of lithium batteries, all with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Read more

Deep Cycle Battery Types Comparisons

Deep Cycle Battery Types Comparisons

There is more to comparing batteries than just cost or amp-hour ratings. For example, based only on cost, the Concorde AGM's do not look so good. On the other hand, you probably would not want to store a flooded battery in your computer room. There is no one best battery for all applications.

Read more

Deep Cycle Battery FAQ

Deep Cycle Battery FAQ

The subject of batteries could take up many pages. All we have room for here is a basic overview of batteries commonly used in photovoltaic power systems. These are nearly all various variations of Lead-Acid batteries. For a very brief discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of these and other types of batteries...

Read more

Solar Power Technical Tips and Nice to Know Information

Solar Power Technical Tips and Nice to Know Information

You often see inverters rated in volt-amps (VA or va) instead of watts. For a perfect resistance, such as a heating element, watts and VA are essentially the same. However, many appliances, especially motors, are not a "perfect" load. Thus, the watts actually used may be less than the VA - but the inverter sees the VA. The motor or appliance may be using only 100 watts, but the inverter sees an "apparent" power of 150 VA.

Read more