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 • homepower.com/163.16
“Inverter & Battery Cables” by Christopher Freitas & Carol Weis • homepower.com/163.72
“Choosing a Battery-Based Inverter” by Zeke Yewdall • homepower.com/162.44
“MPPT Charge Controllers” by Zeke Yewdall • homepower.com/162.52
“Battery Maintenance” by Christopher Freitas & Carol Weis • homepower.com/161.52
“Determining Battery State of Charge” by Christopher Freitas • homepower.com/161.66
And, of course, in every issue, Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze regales readers with her tales of off-grid living.
Claire Anderson • Home Power managing editor