2016 Tiny House Jamboree

John at TinyJam2016Tiny House Jam imageAt the beginning of August 2016, John O’Hara and Krista Miller from Backwoods Solar attended for the very first time, The Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs, CO. The event was held on a Friday through Sunday on the field just west of Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. Tiny House people of all types from builders, dwellers, vendors, and tiny living enthusiasts came for inspiration, ideas, and perhaps even to buy a tiny house. John said, “There were lots of different people with different life experiences heading toward a similar goal of living with less. Also, people seemed interested in the personal/financial freedom that went along with a Tiny House movement.”

Last year’s inaugural event attracted 40,000 attendees and increased in size so much this year causing the organizers to choose a new larger site or face being shut down. “The incredible attendance numbers showed us that the tiny house movement is more popular than anyone imagined,” says Coles Whalen, president of Tiny House Jamboree and event lead coordinator. She’s also the vice president of marketing for EcoCabins. “We had supporters from all over the nation – people from every state. Tiny house enthusiasts have been under the radar – they prefer to be under the radar – but they all came out of the woodwork for this event.”

Tiny house systems
An example of the tiny house systems we can design

The Backwoods Solar booth experienced a large number of attendees stopping by on their way to and from the speakers or tours of the houses. “We had several hundred people come by our booth to check out how to power their tiny houses with solar, micro-hydro, or wind. They were very interested in our flyer showing some example systems that we can design for people,” said Krista. And, “We pointed out to folks that Renewable Energy of a Tiny House can vary as much as the homes themselves do,” said John.

Mandi Kinder from Primus wind, manufactured in Colorado, joined us in our booth for one of the days to be on hand to answer questions about wind power systems specifically for tiny homes as well as general questions regarding wind power. “It was a joy to represent Primus Wind Power and to interact with so many different people.  I loved being able to discuss the benefits of combining wind and solar ultimately creating a smart hybrid system.  Tiny house people are so cool!” said Mandi. We were thankful to have her there to help.

The event featured 50 tiny buildings ranging in size from 150 to 308 square feet, including a handicap-accessible house, a tiny tailgater house by the Air Force Academy and a mini chapel by EcoCabins. Nearly two dozen speakers lead informative talks, question-and-answer sessions and book signings. Completing the picture were 40 vendors including Backwoods Solar, a kids’ corner, food, beer and wine. Friday night featured live music, and on Saturday night one of last year’s tiny house speakers was married in the tiny chapel.image - Tiny Home Flyer

“Tiny houses are a way to build equity. They’re easier than traditional real estate. Also, people are looking for a home they can own that is relocatable – they can take their whole lifestyle with them. They don’t have to settle down in one place”, Coles said.

Backwoods left the 2nd annual Tiny House Jamboree event feeling exhausted from the excitement of thunderstorms and a very engaged crowd, but looking forward to next year. John remarked that, “It’s neat to see so many people engaged in DIY on such a human scale. On a personal level – I enjoyed helping people – all at various stages of the process – continue to move in the direction of their dreams. The process is filled with excitement for a new future and it was fun to share that with them!”

InterSolar North America 2016

Solar Trade Show
2016 Crowd at Intersolar NA
Happy Birthday InterSolar
2016 Celebrates 25 years of InterSolar North America









Having just returned from Intersolar North America, the largest solar industry event in the northern hemisphere, we are energized by all that is transpiring in the world of solar.  Leaving our remotely located homes for the city to mingle with a crowd of more than 18,000 people from over 80 countries is one of the ways we strive to bring our best to customers, vendors and employees.

Socializing at Intersolar NA 2016
From L to R, Bryan Norkunas, Annie Katz, David Katz, and Jason Austrus

The relationship building that occurs during the many meetings and social events is essential to our ability to stay up to date with the industry.  Our time is filled by engaging with new and established vendors and manufacturers; such as companies building solar modules, battery storage developers and project contractors.  It is always rewarding to meet face-to-face the people we know from our long-distance phone based relationships.  We share stories, get to know each other, and talk business.  These relationships shape the backbone of our ability to bring you the “latest and greatest” best equipment and service possible.

There are a myriad of ways to participate in InterSolar and we love to get involved wherever possible.  Over the years this has included: conference presentations about off-grid solutions-domestically and internationally, best practices to ensure the sustainability of the solar industry, and battery storage technologies, as well as; sitting on the InterSolar planning committee, serving on industry and advisory boards and sponsoring co-located events such as the Solar 2016 conference presented by American Solar Energy Society (ASES).

Happy Birthday SEI
Happy Birthday SEI

The highlights from this year’s event for us here at Backwoods Solar were; celebrating Solar Energy International’s 25th year, meeting with potential partners on projects located in Africa, checking out a cool new heliotropic tracking device, and as always strengthening relationships with our network of system manufacturers to ensure consistent supplies, pricing and customer service.

image - Backwoods Solar CEO Sequoya Cross
CEO Sequoya Cross

While both Sequoya Cross, CEO and David Katz, Corporate President of Backwoods found the event to have many of the same technologies presented as in previous years, David did find it interesting to see an ever increasing amount of storage companies in attendance. Further showing a shift back, with a renewed emphasis, to where the industry started when David founded his solar company some 40 years ago. Sequoya also commented that it would be fun and informative to have more participation, “nuts and bolts”, type demos of the equipment such as what QuickMount and IronRidge show in their booths with their product lines. “Having complete balance of energy systems that integrate these new technologies from multiple manufacturers in a hands-on approach would give depth to their use and compatibility in all types of system scenarios”.

Backwoods looks forward to sharing more from future InterSolar experiences. Until then please find the “nuts and bolts” information we produce for you in our Learning Center or give our technicians a call to ask about the latest upgrades you can make to your system.

2016 Mother Earth News Fair

168 188For the last four years the crew at Backwoods Solar has been tending a booth at the Mother Earth News sustainable living fair. This year Sequoya Cross and Krista Miller packed up three wooden crates full of components, giveaways, and information for the thousands of attendees that pass through the Linn County fairground gates.

Even the heat wave didn’t stop dedicated self-reliance folks from venturing out into the sun to find the Backwoods booth. And they were rewarded with our DC Fan and double shaded space which we shared with our favorite Primus Air representative, Ken Kotalik.  The searing heat encouraged questions about the effects on overheating solar panels efficiency, as well as, inspiring a brilliant D.I.Y. AC invention to take place right in our booth!

As people came in to our space they were greeted by us and a table full of components showing an example of what an off-grid or grid-tied system generally includes. This year we had informational title cards explaining each piece of the system from the solar module and mounting options to the battery bank and everything in between including various loads like water pumps and lights.

Everyone seemed very engaged this year and asked great questions. The Primus Air Breeze drew a lot of interest as did our DC direct fan and of course the Sunjack solar charging system. The kids loved the solar flashlight giveaways generously provided by MorningStar and waterproof cell phone holders provided by Roof Tech. We were really impressed with the amount of time people spent in our booth checking everything out.

We would like to thank our old friends Roger with Unforgettable Fire and Angela. We can’t wait to see you in August for the Tiny Home Jamboree and thank you for introducing us to Thomas and his father of Eagle Log Cabins!  Of course Ray and David of Outback Power for being very supportive and sending many folks our way during those hot hours following their presentation on the Solar Stage.

Check out our new friends John and Nathan with Alpha Electric Scooters. Thanks guys for keeping us smiling during the heat. Also, our neighbors Barn-to-Door and Sow1Farm were truly super cool. A special thank you to Kevin with Fire Mizer who created a D.I.Y. bucket style AC unit for his booth and in chatting with us on his rounds discovered the Sunjack battery pack would run the USB fan that pushed air through the unit. It was truly an instance of necessity being the mother of invention!

In addition to our old and new friends, our regulars came by to visit and many of them went away with one of our Backwoods Solar T-Shirts. We had a winner for the Sunjack Solar charger who happened to not answer her phone because it had died. She was very excited and said that she was really lucky to win the Sunjack so that won’t happen again!

Finally a huge thank you goes out to all of our vendors who generously provided demo units, information sheets, freebies, and products to showcase at this year’s fair. Without your support we wouldn’t have been able to do this.

Participating Vendors at our booth

Backwoods Summer 2016 Road Trip Report I

OSEIA 2016

By Erika Karnitz VP of Wholesale

I attended the 2016 Oregon Solar Energy Conference (OSEC) on May 4th and 5th in Portland Oregon. The conference drew 380 attendees this year, as opposed to last year’s 251. Each day was chock full of training’s, policy round tables, and networking opportunities.

Tuesday May 3rd kicked off the event with a “solar soiree” in the evening featuring drinks, snacks and a chance to say hi to everyone before we got down to business. Jeff Bissonnette, Executive Director of OSEIA gave an opening speech about the bright future of solar in Oregon.

Wednesday morning started with a keynote address by Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). He took a poll of the room and it was interesting to see that many of us had Customer Owned Utility round tablebeen there 5, 10, 15, and even 20+ years. He talked about Oregon Senate Bill 1547, which set as 50% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2040 and requires the elimination of coal-generated electricity in the state power mix.  The bill also creates a community solar program, allowing Oregonians without solar suitable roofs to own a portion of a larger central array and have credits applied to their electricity bills. SEIA expects Oregon have one of the fastest growing solar industries in the country in the coming years.

Wednesday I attended some interesting training’s. The first was a product and technical training by Solarworld. They talked about their new line of high efficiency monocrystalline modules, which are 60 cell and 300W. They are using a 5 busbar technology, which in conjunction with high quality mono cells is enabling them to reach 300W in the same footprint as they have used in the past. Per Solarworld ” By moving from three to five bus bars, the primary electrical contacts that stripe photovoltaic cells, SolarWorld can manufacture cells and modules in which electrons travel shorter distances from grid lines to bus bars and thus enable more to reach the bus bars. The advance lifts module power by 2 percentOB training Sandraage points. “

Another interesting new product being offered by Solarworld is the “Bisun” module, which is a bifacial solar module. Bifacials have been offered in the past by companies such as Canadian Solar and Sanyo, but the Solarworld will be the only one currently in production to my knowledge. The amount of additional power generated by bifacials depends greatly on the reflectivity of the surface that they are installed on and the method of install. An ideal install would be elevated and on a white membrane roof. Solarworld claims up to a 25% increase in power generation compared to a standard module of the same wattage. They are currently testing outputs at an install in VA.

The next training I attended was “Inverter Best Practices”, taught by Jeff Laughy from Solar Edge. It was a good overview of different inverter types, with a focus on SolarEdge inverters and optimizers. He discussed the significant impact recovery from shading that is possible by using MLPE (module level power electronics). Rhone ReschMLPEs include microinverters and power optimizers. Tests have indicated that if you are in an area that receives shading, you can recover 25% of the lost power by using MLPEs. According to SolarEdge, 60% of residential installs are currently using MLPE technology.

Jeff also spoke about SolarEdge’s partnership with Tesla in making a storage solution for grid tied systems. The StorEdge 7.6kW inverter and appropriate optimizers can be used with the Tesla Powerwall to create a grid tied solar system with a 6.4kW storage capacity.

The last session I attended on Wednesday was “Preparing for Disaster Resiliency”. Rick Williams, Director of the Columbia Region Leidos Maritime Solutions, has been working with Portland State University and others to come up with solutions to make the PV installs in the area more ready in the case of a large grid outage. They have been discussing establishing community centers that would allow residents to shelter in place.

Thursday I attended the “Grid Tied Battery Backup Systems” class, taught by Sandra Herrera and Brian Lawrence from Outback. We learned a lot about Radian system design and implementation. We also talked about the other products in Outback’s lineup that are suitable for grid tie with battery backup.

The 2016 OSEC was a whirlwind of learning, networking, and fun. There were several after-hours opportunities to mingle with other solar professionals, and it is always a pleasure to see the faces of my northwest solar friends. OSEC remains one of my favorite conferences because of its smaller size and ample training opportunities. See you there next year!


Hybrid Solar Wind Power Solutions

Backwoods Solar is proud to offer hybrid solar-wind solutions for off-grid power use with Primus Wind Turbines. When considering off-grid renewable sources of energy to power your home, there are many options available. Solar panels for your home is the most obvious choice due to low cost and readily available products but what happens when that first storm comes and the wind is blowing and the sun isn’t shining?image - primus wind power turbine

Many homeowners are looking at supplementing their solar panel systems with a secondary input source. With the availability and decreasing cost of small, off-grid wind turbines that operate in even modest wind conditions, many people are choosing a hybrid approach.

Hybrid Off-Grid Power Systems
Hybrid systems that incorporate both solar panels and wind turbines to form a perfect complementary relationship with each compensating for the weaknesses of the other system. Where solar is best during the daytime, wind power works throughout the night. Where solar is better through the summer months, wind power can be better in winter months.

Balancing Solar Panels for Homes

Solar power, though relatively inexpensive, is not always as reliable or efficient as possible in times of low sun. To generate power, solar panels must collect sunshine at sufficient intensity and at the right angle. This does not occur at night, or when it is cloudy and overcast. If snow covers the panels, power is not generated until the snow melts or the solar panels are cleaned off.

This can cause charging issues in battery-based systems that rely only on solar power where storms occur often or are in parts of the world where winters are extremely short. Adding a wind turbine to a solar-powered system can lengthen battery life by reducing the depth and frequency of discharge. Since these off-grid systems are powered by wind when solar power is unavailable, it avoids drawing down the system’s batteries and increases battery life.image - array of solar panels

Balancing Wind Turbine Systems

It is easy to see that wind power can complement solar in many instances because it often produces the most power precisely when solar power is reduced or unavailable, such as at night, in inclement weather, and during winter. Wind often blows during long winter nights and is, on average, actually stronger in inclement weather.

During winter, average wind speed is highest, as is air density-both factors that contribute to wind generating more power when solar power tends to be least available. To enhance power reliability and build in redundancy, many off-grid homes are now being retrofitted with small, off-grid wind turbines.

Primus’ turbines are designed to generate power at wind speeds as low as 6 mph, and can generate as much as 40 to 80 kWh a month per turbine depending on conditions. They are available in several models for areas with different wind speeds and climates. Each turbine measures about four (4’) feet in diameter, weighs about 13 pounds, and costs only around one thousand dollars per unit.

A single wind turbine is able to provide an additional renewable energy source for charging batteries. If more power is required, several turbines can be combined together. Far from a new concept, small off-grid turbines from Primus have already been installed worldwide with over 150,000 units currently operating in the field.

If you’re interested in setting up a hybrid wind and solar off-grid power system, Contact Us today at Backwoods Solar online or by phone (208) 263-4290 to discuss customizing your project for your home or business today.
ref: Del Williams

Solar Panels Powered Water Pumping

Solar panels that power water pumping systems are an excellent solution to the water and water storage issues on our minds. As availability to solar energy becomes more affordable and much more efficient, the choice to change to a DC solar-powered water pumping in remote applications becomes clear.

There are many remote situations where a solar-powered water pump just makes more sense compared with a conventional grid-connected AC pump. Using solar panels to pump water can greatly relieve the work load and expense for many rural people.

AC vs. DC Pumps

Depending on the application-irrigation, ponds, livestock, deep well water storage, or for an off grid water source-consider changing your existing AC pump and/or installing a new DC solar-powered pumping system closer to the water source.

The age old argument is that AC pumps are faster and can last longer. However, they use 4-8 times the amount of power per gallon than slower DC pumps. AC pumps can also be maintenance intensive and unpredictable at times, causing additional strain on inverters in off-grid systems when other loads are running.

Most DC solar-powered pumps use half the energy consumed by an AC jet pump and can be more cost effective due to location and/or fuel dependence. A solar solution is cleaner and now cheaper than it has ever been.

Things to Consider With A Solar-Powered Water Pump

There are some basics you will need to know before you make the move to a solar direct water pump. We have also included a diagram near the end of the article that defines some of these terms further.

  • How deep is your well or other water source? “Water source,” can refer to any well, spring, creek, or storage tank. Depth is a crucial measurement and is usually measured in feet and is incredibly helpful when communicating with manufacturers or distributors. The depth of your well or water source determines the type of pump you will need. When pumping from a storage tank, cistern, spring, or creek you may need a shallow level submersible pump or surface pump.
  • What is the Static Water Level or Static Head in the well? This is the measurement from ground level of the well to the top the surface of the water rises within the well on its own with the natural production of the underground spring or stream.
  • If you have an existing well, do you know how many gallons per minute your well produces? Usually your well driller can provide you with this information, you might have it already, or you will have to estimate how much “draw-down” the well will have during pumping.
  • How many gallons per day will you need?
  • Are you planning on pumping to a non-pressurized holding tank or to a pressure tank?
  • How many feet above the well head is the tank located?
  • If you will be using a pressure tank is how many pounds of pressure will you need from the pumps performance?
  • If PV direct, without batteries, how many feet from the array to the well head (either of the surface pump or a submersible pump deep in the well? Some of the finer details that are often overlooked in the planning stage are the distances that the wire or conduit from the PV modules will need to be to get to the well head. If there is a battery bank, the distance from the well head to the battery system will have to be measured.

Utilizing a Storage Tank

Adding a storage tank and increasing the size of the pumping system means that you can have excess water stored for continual use during the night or when it’s cloudy and the pump is off.

The purpose of a storage tank or drinking trough is to allow a very consistent trickle flow of water constantly pumping throughout the day building up a large volume of water to supply brief periods of high water use. DC powered submersible deep well pumps may be the best choice because they do not require large bursts of power or use the inverter at all.

As touched on previously, DC submersible pumps only use 20% to 50% as much energy per gallon pumped as an AC centrifugal pump. Most of these pump very slowly and have less of a chance of depleting the water level in a slow recovery well.

They can be powered direct by solar modules, without batteries, or they can be powered by the same battery bank in an off-grid power home like any DC appliance as long as the well is within about 200 feet from the house. These submersible pumps will not freeze or lose their prime.

Designing a Solar-Powered Water Pump

Technical drawing of an example solar powered water pumping
An example diagram of a solar powered water pumping and storage solution.

So, this leads to the next couple of questions to consider as you design your system.

Do you want to power the pump directly from a PV array, which implies that you will only get water when the sun is shining unless you have a storage tank?

Or are you considering that you would need to have your pump powered by a battery bank for additional pumping in times of little to no sun and into the evening? Batteries are also sometimes desirable to provide sufficient surge power for starting the pump.

At this point, drawing a rough diagram of your proposed system is a good idea so that you can indicate which measurements you will need and identify sources, storage, final discharge points, and required components to go solar. A solar-powered water system is one of the easiest solar power systems to install and will ultimately save you time and money.

As with any system, Backwoods Solar is here to answer any questions and help design the perfect solar panels off-grid power system to meet your needs. Contact Us for help with your off-grid power project today.

Making Your Home “Solar Ready”

By Sequoya Cross of Backwoods Solar

Studies have shown that for every dollar invested in making your home more energy efficient, it reduces the expense and size of a solar panel system multiple times over for living off the grid. Some of the most significant ways to reduce your electricity use is to evaluate the age of your major appliances and heating and cooling methods.

Improvements to Reduce Energy Consumption

Anything over 10 years of age should be replaced and Energy Star and gas appliances installed wherever possible (although this increases your gas bill). These methods will further decrease your draw on the grid or your batteries. Weatherize your home, and if you are in the process of building a home or renovating an existing one, use passive solar techniques and wood heat to help cut down on the use of heating and air conditioning appliances, which are some of the largest draws of electricity.

Minor Changes for Energy Use

Rather than major life-style changes, people can keep most advantages electricity offers while consuming only a small percentage of the power others use. The amount of power your system generates depends on the natural energy resources at your location and on how much equipment you install to gather that energy. The amount of benefit you receive from that energy depends on careful selection of lights and appliances for maximum energy efficiency and on your conservation habits. That means using special lights, refrigerators, and freezers that use about 1/4 as much power. It also means using natural gas or propane for major heat production in cooking, water heating, clothes drying, and home heating.

By installing extra switches and smart power strips to cut power off phantom electric loads, that is, things like stereos, TVs, garage door openers, and office equipment, all of which consume power even when turned off can save a considerable amount of energy over time. Use motion sensor and timer switches for outdoor lights whenever possible and heating systems that distribute heat without pumps or blowers and cooling by evaporative methods instead of air conditioning.

Major Changes for Energy Use

By really evaluating and being conscious of your energy use, we learn how to get the most benefit from the fewest kilowatt-hours. In short:

  1. Design the whole house (water, heat, power) for low energy use.
  2. Carefully select very special low energy lights and appliances.
  3. Eliminate energy waste in appliances and from human carelessness.

At Backwoods Solar, most of our employees live in off-grid or grid-connected homes that get some or all of their power from renewable energy methods. We are constantly adding to and improving our efficient systems in order to maximize the benefits and cut down on the carbon footprints we have.

Shawn incorporates several methods, using solar and wind to power his home. Scott and Tracey live completely off-grid with a year round micro-hydro system that powers their home built from timber they milled on the property. Tom uses solar to run his growing off-grid house (which he is working on an addition very diligently before the rains come). John powers his off-grid cabin with solar and Alan is designing his off-grid system for his own home and currently supplies back-up power to a grid-connected deep well submersible pump.

Sequoya is slowly growing into a grid-tie system for her small home that utilizes Enphase micro-inverters. The added benefit that micro-inverters have made in the industry is that they allow a homeowner to grow into a system over time, slowing adding to it as their budget allows. Instead of making the expensive investment all at once, a homeowner can start smaller and take the savings they realize on their utility bill and invest it back into the growth of their system.

If you’re interested in getting your home “solar ready” and customizing an off-grid power system with solar panels for your home, Contact Us today at Backwoods Solar for help today.


Efficiency & Energy Conservation for On & Off Grid Living

Efficiency and energy conservation? When we speak of efficiency and energy conservation, we usually tell you that there is much more to living an energy-efficient lifestyle besides getting solar panels for your home or business. The use of energy-efficient appliances and lighting, as well as non-electric alternatives, makes solar electricity a cost-competitive alternative to gasoline generators and, in some cases, utility power.

Here are the typical energy consumption values for various appliances and lighting as well as what you can do to be more efficient:

Cooking, Heating, and Cooling

  1. Each burner on an electric range uses about 1,500 W, which is why bottled propane or natural gas is a popular alternative for cooking. A microwave oven has about the same power draw, but since food cooks more quickly in a microwave oven, the amount of kilowatt hours used is typically lower.
  2. As far as space heating goes, propane, wood, or solar-heated water are generally better alternatives than electric baseboards which can use from 10 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts. Good passive solar panel design and proper insulation can also reduce the need for winter heating.
  3. Evaporative cooling is a more reasonable load than air conditioning and in locations with low humidity, it’s a great alternative with approximately  a 700 W demand.

Off-Grid Electricity & Lighting

  1. Lighting requires careful study since type, size, voltage and placement can all significantly impact the power required. In a small home, an RV, or a boat, low voltage DC lighting with 7-25 W LEDs are often the best choice.
  2. DC wiring runs can be kept short, allowing the use of fairly small gauge wire. Since an inverter is not required, the system cost is lower.
  3. In a large installation or one with many lights, using an inverter to supply AC power for conventional lighting is often more cost-effective. AC compact fluorescent lights are common and efficient, but it is a good idea to have a DC-powered light in the room where the inverter and batteries are in case of an inverter fault. Also, AC light dimmers will only function properly on AC power from inverters that have sine wave output.


  1. Gas-powered absorption refrigerators can work well in small systems if bottled gas is available. Modern absorption refrigerators consume 5-10 gallons of LP gas per month.
  2. If an electric refrigerator will be used in a standalone system, it should be a high-efficiency type. High-efficiency DC refrigerators at roughly 750 W per day are also available and can offer significant energy savings.

Major Appliances

  1. Standard AC electric motors in washing machines, larger shop machinery and tools, swamp coolers, pumps, etc. (usually ¼ to ¾ horsepower) consume relatively large amounts of electricity and require a large inverter. Often, a 2,000 watt or larger inverter will be required. These electric motors can also be hard to start on inverter power, due to large surge loads at start-up, and they are very wasteful compared to high-efficiency motors, which use 50% to 75% less electricity.
  2. A standard washing machine uses between 300 and 500 watt-hours per load, but new front-loading models use less than ½ as much power. If the appliance is used more than a few hours per week, it is often more economical to pay more for a high-efficiency appliance rather than make the electrical system larger to support a low efficiency load.
  3. Vacuum cleaners usually consume 600 to 1,000 watts, depending on how powerful they are, but most vacuum cleaners will operate on inverters as small as 1,000 watts since they have low-surge motors.

Small Appliances

  1. Many small appliances with heating elements such as irons , toasters (1200 W) and hair dryers consume a very large amount of power when they are used but, by their nature, require only short or infrequent use. With a sufficiently large system inverter and batteries, they will operate, but the user may need to schedule those activities with respect to the battery charging cycle – for example, ironing in the morning so that the PV system can recharge the battery bank during the day.
  2. Electronic equipment, such as stereos (40 W), televisions (140 W), VCRs , DVD players and computers, draw less power than appliances with heating elements, but these loads can add up as well (see our article on Phantom Loads), so opt for more efficient models, such as an LCD TV instead of a plasma or CRT design.

If you’re interested in setting up or upgrading to a more efficient off-grid living power system with solar panels for your conserving home, Contact Us at Backwoods Solar at 208-263-4290.  Get our Planning Guide and Catalog to help you design a customized renewable energy system that works efficiently and saves you money.

Getting Your Wind System Ready for Winter

Getting your wind system ready for winter means preparing your wind turbines and components to ensure continual harvest of energy when the weather is icy.

Large wind energy producers install Condition Monitoring Systems (CMS) to secure the performance of their systems throughout the year. To do that would be costly for a smaller home energy producer and not really necessary.

However, by implementing a simple monitoring and preventive maintenance system of our own we can benefit from the same principles of a CMS. That means we save money and our system stays efficient.

Preventing Wind Turbine Failure

Wind turbine failure is especially expensive and worrisome during the winter for several reasons. First, November through April is peak wind energy production time. Secondly, and most obviously, winter is not the most enjoyable time to perform maintenance, nor is it cheap usually due to conditional constraints on time, access, and potential expense for special equipment or technicians, etc.

So how does one set up their own CMS to keep their wind energy system performing through the winter and through its expected life? Beginning with your systems user manual, follow the Preventative Maintenance chapter recommendations. Commonly, those have you inspect your turbine and tower 30 days after installation, and then again 180 days after installation.

It’s a good idea to have a system note book to write the results of your inspections in. These would be your reference measurements to be compared against subsequent inspections. Inspections are only recommended when the wind is below 16 mph and need to be performed especially after severe weather.

If you have had an operational system and never have performed regular inspections, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start. Better to start now though before that real cold snap comes.

Here is a check list you can use for inspections:

Inspect Blades

  1. Cracks, chips, leading or trailing edge damage, or nicks? Replace blades if damaged. Do not operate the turbine with chipped or unbalanced blades. This will cause severe wear, damage, and possible failure. Operating the wind turbine with unbalanced blades may void your warranty. Do not install individual blades as they are balanced as a set.
  2. Every five years, replace the blades regardless of their condition. The blades usually contain UV inhibitors; however, the sun will eventually erode the composite material. New blades enhance safety and performance.
  3. Clean off dirt and debris for optimal performance.

Inspect Bolts

  1. Check blade bolts, nuts, and hub nut for correct tightness or torque (see specifications).

Check Bearings

  1. If bearings are a part of your system, check bearings for seal integrity and grease loss. Generally, it is recommended that bearings be re-packed (re-greased) every 8-12 years.

Inspect Other Hardware

  1. Check nosecone fit, mainframe, tail boom, bushings, and/or fin for cracks or any loose hardware. If your system has a tail pivot pin, check its fasteners.


  1. Check connections to make sure they are tight and free from corrosion.
  2. Some systems require you to disconnect the alternator shorting connection. Check the disconnect switch.
  3. Inspect the wire run.
  4. Check the condition of all wiring.
  5. Every seven years replace the circuit board. Some components on the PCB require periodic replacement due to stress from temperature and voltage fluctuations seen under normal operating conditions. While changing the circuit board, check the condition of the brushes and slip rings. With the turbine open and the yaw shaft removed, observe the brushes and slip rings for grooving or other signs of wear.

Leaning Tower?

  1. Check to see that your tower is plumb. A leaning tower will decrease energy production.

Good luck and here’s to a energy productive year! Browse our selection of windpower products and books. If you need help updating your wind turbine system or improving it, please Contact Us at Backwoods Solar online or at 208-263-4290.




Bogart Engineering’s Solar Battery Charge Controller

The  solar battery charge controller, SC2030, is manufactured in the U.S.A. and presents unique advantages for solar.

The SC-2030 higher voltage finish charging is intended to compensate for this by boosting voltage towards the end of charge when the current declines. It is then important not to go too far or too long at this higher voltage (107% overcharge” does not mean 107% of the total battery capacity. It means 107% compared to the previous low discharge point during the last discharge cycle).

If the previous discharge was very shallow, it may be only a small number of amp hours extra, compared to what was removed last time. This is why measuring the percent overcharge is important to keep from overcharging; a function that is monitored by connecting with the TriMetric-2030. Also regulating the charge current when the voltage is high is important. The SC2030 doesn’t allow the voltage to go above 14.3V until the current drops to 2%of C.

The SC-2030 is a precision, high efficiency PWM (pulse width modulated) Solar Array Battery Charge Controller. The objective of this design is to maximize the life of your solar panels batteries by allowing the flexibility to adjust solar charging specifically according to the way your battery manufacturer has specified. The success of its high performance depends on being connected to a TM-2030 (TriMetric Battery System Monitor). This controller is only recommended for use with 12V or 24V solar panels.

Many people believe that MPPT type chargers are always better than PWM chargers, however when Bogart compared theirs to at least one commonly used MPPT charger they found that under very ordinary conditions the SC-2030 delivered more charge to the batteries. The conditions in which the SC-2030 was measured and tested were: at an ambient temperature of 70 F degrees in full sun, and when the proper panels were matched to the batteries and charging was over 13.0 volts (the most common charging range with lead acid batteries).

The SC-2030 Solar Charger, working with the TM-2030 battery monitor has never before seen benefits that can extend the life of your battery system. Made in the U.S.A. and available soon!

 For more information please visit:


Sales brochure is available here (page 2 lists the SC2030):



For more detailed information:


Here is additional information from battery companies on how you to decide when to go to float:

For Trojan, pay special attention to the graph on page 19. Caution: be sure to go into float when a specific amount percentage of overcharge is achieved– about 115% of overcharge (compared to last discharge). This is important to avoid overcharge. http://www.trojanbattery.com/pdf/TrojanBattery_UsersGuide.pdf

For Rolls AGM batteries, pay special attention to the graph on page 25. This chart, unlike Trojan, has the important information that tells when to go into float:  They call this “IUI” charging. Note this on graph: Termination: F= 2.5mV/Cell/hr or 105-110% recharge. http://rollsbattery.com/uploads/pdfs/documents/user_manuals/Rolls_Battery_Manual.pdf

For US Battery’s liquid electrolyte batteries, view page 2 and 3. “Constant current, constant voltage, constant current” charging instructions.  Charging at 20% C is OK up to 14.4V– but above  14.4 volts they suggest charging up to 15.3 volts provided  the charge current is limited to  3%C (at temperature of 77F) This is what they consider to be the optimum method–what they call the “three stage” charging method. This mentions a dV/dT criterion as well–but this is impractical for solar because it requires the current to be absolutely steady current, which solar isn’t; measure percent of overcharge instead. Also see the second paragraph on page 1 that mentions the overcharge percentage–but shows an unusually wide range. http://usbattery.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/usb-charging-recommendations.pdf

For Full River, see what they call IUIU charging characteristic for their AGM batteries. http://www.fullriver.com/products/admin/upfile/DC%20Series%20Charge%20Characteristic.pdf

For Concorde, they recommended 107% overcharge, with voltage going as high as 17 volts. It’s important to limit current to 2%C when going up to 17V. When charging current is higher, the voltage must be limited to 14.3V. See page 20  http://www.lifelinebatteries.com/manual.pdf

For Interstate, same as Concorde