MAILBOX: More DIY, Please

Do-it-yourself articles are high in demand.

I subscribed to Home Power when the first issues were printed on newsprint. I built an off-the-grid home in western North Carolina in the late 1970s in which I still live.

Though faded, the 6-volt used modules I first bought are still producing the same power as they did more than 30 years ago, and the 12-volt system with connections mounted on plastic breadboards still lights the house (now using mostly 12 V LEDs) and runs an automotive music system. The inverter has been upgraded to a 3 kW sine-wave model that powers tools, small kitchen and household appliances, and some electronics. The PV array has been expanded over the years and includes a motley collection of every type of PV—single crystal, multicrystal, and thin-film. The controller is a Xantrex C40. The battery bank is six Trojan L-16s. It has been replaced four times over the last 30 years. I have no other source of backup energy.

The point of this is that a PV system can successfully be implemented in a modest, homebrew, DIY manner. In the early years of Home Power, such systems were the focus. I realize that the solar industry is now mainstream and that today’s home applications are far more sophisticated.

However, I fear that the impression conveyed by the homes featured in recent issues of Home Power is that the era of low-cost DIY systems is over and that only professional implementations in high-end homes are acceptable. This is not true, and it seems to me that at least a section of the magazine should be devoted to modest DIY examples and instructions, or perhaps it is time for a new periodical devoted to such systems.

Paul Hoover • Burnsville, North Carolina

While it’s true that solar electricity has entered the mainstream, with grid-tied systems the most popular, Home Power hasn’t forgotten its roots. You’ll still find DIY content and smaller off-grid systems featured in every issue of Home Power. Here’s a sampling of the DIY and off-grid content we have offered just in the past few issues. There are many more articles we publish on energy efficiency and passive solar home design that apply to both on- and off-grid systems.

“Changing Fluorescent Tubes to LEDs” by Penny & David Eckert  •

“Inverter & Battery Cables” by Christopher Freitas & Carol Weis •

“Choosing a Battery-Based Inverter” by Zeke Yewdall •

“MPPT Charge Controllers” by Zeke Yewdall •

“Battery Maintenance” by Christopher Freitas & Carol Weis •

“Determining Battery State of Charge” by Christopher Freitas •

And, of course, in every issue, Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze regales readers with her tales of off-grid living.

Claire Anderson • Home Power managing editor

Comments (6)

Fred Golden's picture

Mr. Hoover,

You can write a magazine article about your installation, and how it has worked so well for you! It is interesting articles like one you can write up that keep the magazine interesting!

I recall reading about a motorhome solar installation many years ago, and considered writing about my system, but never had the time, or writing skills.

To Home Power, Keep up the wonderful work!

jpstewart19's picture

I also agree. I love this magazine but it definitely walks the line with professional install leanings, in my opinion. I would love to see more how to's for DIY solar installs, in particular navigating and experiences dealing with the grid-tie permit and rebate process.

lawrence abbott's picture

We need Home Power to stay true to it's DIY roots! I have been a subscriber since 2003, when my class instructor at Diablo Valley College- (PV Design And Installation) recommended this magazine. I could never have been able to afford the price of my PV system without learning how to do it myself. (Back then they were expensive)

Now PV is more DIY than ever, with many parts "plug and play". Your building inspector wont let you go wrong, and will tell you where you will need an electrician or other pro it you lack the skills. (Ten years ago we were educating the building inspectors. My system was the first one he had seen!)

Safety first! Roof tops and electricity are very dangerous if you don't learn and practice safety protocol.

Home Power has helped me in so many ways. It has inspired me to do more energy conservation and renewable energy projects for my home. I also loan magazines to others, and take them to public outreach meetings. The info and inspiration is top notch, and is helping in the fight to save our dying planet! Everyone has the right to participate in a just transition to clean green renewable energy! Thank you Home Power.

Britton Churchman's picture

I agree with Mr. Hoover. Many people are looking at alternative energy as a means of survival. I think that getting back to the "nuts and bolts" of interesting projects would make you magazine more attractive. Looking at typical "run of the mill" set ups, with perfect, high dollar set-up's is boring. You could, for example, interview Orlando Sanchez. He lives in a desert area of California and builds very powerful wind turbines that few know about. You can find him on YouTube.

Siegfried Snapp's picture

I too agree with Mr. Hoover. I subscribed to the earliest editions because I could relate to the small, off grid home systems. Articles included the basics on different types of cells and which worked best in low sun situations like mine. My small, two panel system with a basic controller and two 6 volt Trojans works well to give us lighting and music but I miss the articles that focus on low income, off grid systems. Thanks for speaking out Mr. Hoover and Mr. Berglund. My friends in town just installed a system that will allow them to sell power back to the grid which is great but they have 40 grand invested and this is a single family home application. There are lot's of contractors in our area that will sell me a system like that but that is not my need or interest. Thanks for listening.

Russell Berglund's picture

I agree with Mr. Hoover, I'm doing an off grid system and don't have the thousands of dollars to have it installed for me.Racking, wiring, options for building a system that is done by the home owner would be more geared for most "down home" solar owners.I understand that alot of the young owners are doing grid tied systems, and installed systems.As such, advertisers gear ads and their money towards the installed systems.......maybe just the natural progression of solar power..rsbhunter

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