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A (Really Tiny) Entry Level Cabin System

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  • A (Really Tiny) Entry Level Cabin System

    Hi all,

    I have a very small cabin in Colorado. There is very little going on as far as electrical consumption - a few LED lights, a ceiling fan and some plugins that will be used to charge phones/tablets. I'd also like the ability to use my computer for a bit to catch up on work if absolutely necessary. Currently, there is a distribution panel that is powered by an electrical cord which can be plugged into a 3500 watt generator ( I'd like to make a switch to solar, and I've been reading up on different posts, and was hoping someone could check my assumptions, and maybe offer some advice

    The nice thing about the cord to the generator was I was able to buy a kill-a-watt meter and plug it into the generator, then plug the cord into the meter. I turned on all the lights, the ceiling fan, plugged in our phones and started my computer. With all that running at once (which would almost never happen), I measured a max wattage of 165W. After estimating the amount of hours I would be using electricity I decided on a starter kit from Renogy ( and an extra 100w panel:

    2x 100W 12v mono panel
    30A PWM charge controller
    140AH AGH battery bank

    Unfortunately, I didn't do enough research and I also bought an Inverter from Renogy that was way to big. Luckily, I was able to return it after realizing my mistake. Trying to limit battery discharge to about C/10, I came up with needing an inverter around 150-200W (140AH/10 = 14A * 12v = 168w)

    I'm having trouble finding an inverter that small though, so I was hoping for some recommendations on that. My other question is about the plug coming from the distribution box. It be nice if I could just keep that, so I would have the option of unplugging the solar inverter and switching to the generator if I needed to run something bigger like a power tool. I know there are issues with just plugging the cord straight into a bonded inverter - the neutral bus bar in the distribution box is screwed to the casing. The generator does not have a bonded neutral, so it works fine. Is there a small inverter that would allow me to just use the plug, and allow me to switch to the generator if needed?

  • #2
    You will want another PV panel.
    For inverters, I really like the Morningstar Suresine 300 It's efficient. Hook it up to an outlet like the one on the generator, and you just move the cord to the source you want.

    When the current battery dies, you should look into getting a pair of 6V, 200ah golf cart batteries. That will get you through a cloudy day or two.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A



    • #3
      You could have a look at this Victron inverter 12V 250W (pure sinewave) for less than $100 on Amazon. It comes with a 5 year warranty which is pretty good. You could also opt for the next largest one 375W and that would give you some room for expansion later if you felt like it. I have the Victron 24V 1200W.


      • #4
        Awesome. Thanks for the advice!