This past weekend our team attended the Muskoka Boat and Cottage Show. We had the chance to speak to many people about their experiences of Solar Solutions and how they planned to live off-grid, as we know the hydro bills up in cottage country is getting ridiculous.
Check out the team that attended the show, don’t we all look happy? From left to right (Johnathan, Michael, Marc, Ken)
These guys were our neighbors for the passed 3 days over our show, Fast Forward Audio – Video. It was an enjoyable time talking to these guys and jamming out to their music beats.
We also had the opportunity to check out the Ribfest that was just around the corner. We got ribs from two different vendors. I would advise to check out Silver Bullet, their pulled pork was the best in my opinion. We also got corn bread that was a little dry for my liking. It also included some beans that were quite tasty.
Looking forward to reconnect with all the people we spoke with and to see what they have planned in their future green-living.
Also check out our Youtube video. It was captured on a Drone! By our associate Ken.
You’re deciding to go off-grid, great! The next question you may be asking yourself now is “What kind of solar system do I need?”. Have no fear, I will try my best to explain to you on how to calculate a system based on what your usage is.
Firstly, let’s get some terms out the way so we can have a better understanding as we proceed.
- Load – Power consumption within a day of what you are using such as appliances, lights, and charging your phone or laptops. For our instance, we should use Amperage as it is easier to use than Watts.
- Amperage – The strength of the electric current.
- Voltage – The pressure electricity is moved. Usually it is supplied by a battery or generator.
Now for our situation let’s use our DC solar optimized refrigerator, the Voltray 11.1 CU. FT. The load/energy rating for this appliance is rated at 55.1 amps on a 24-hour consumption. Let’s factor in an extra 10 amps to this because the values are achieved by industry standard are done with doors closed settings. It’s because people are actually meant to use the appliance. It’s not art, it’s functional and mechanical, which is why we factor in extra amperage draw. Every time a door is opened, the cold air dumps out from any refrigerator, forcing the compressor to kick on and compensate for the energy loss. Which is why, the more you open a refrigerator, the more it has to run and the less efficient it becomes.
Now that we have the amperage which we calculated to be approximately 65.1 A, we can now move on to the math portion of this post. So, what kind of battery will we need? For the sake of this entry, we will be using a 12-volt golf cart battery system.
To calculate the wattage, we will use this formula: Amps = Wattage / Voltage. So, we have our Amperage and Voltage but we are missing our Wattage. To get the wattage, which would be our amperage times our voltage, we get 65.1A x 12V so, it results in 781.2W.
If we factor that in most places around the world we would not have optimal daylight for more than roughly 4 hours for the worst places. So, let’s divide our total wattage of 781.2W by 4 hours which gives us a consumption rating of 195.3W/hr of real world usage (opening and closing doors). This means we would need a 195.3W minimal of wattage to recover our daily load.
Now that we have all our total numbers we know that we need a minimal of 195.3W that we usually like to round up to factor in instances that can be unforeseen. We put these numbers to have 3 days of autonomy which allows for downtime to repair a system if something comes up or if you have the nastiest weather such as rain for 3 days.
We would need to at least double the 65.1A rating because we do not want our deep cycle batteries to drain any lower that 50% as this will damage the life cycle. We will need at least a 130.2Ahr battery system per day. In order to compensate for day to day usage, we usually scale our system for 3 days of autonomy. It’s just in case if you had a stormy/cloudy day or two. In order to scale up for three days, you can either take the daily system and increase it 3 fold, or take the consumption of the unit and increase it by a factor of 5-6. This is to factor in the 3 days of autonomy. This will give us roughly 325.5 – 390.6 Amp/Hour 12V battery system. This is the total amount of battery power we will require to run this system for 3 days without damaging the battery.
To conclude you would need a solar panel or solar panels that will equal to 220ish Watts, 200 if you are really trying to save which I would not advise. Also, you would require a battery or equivalent to 325.5 – 390.6 Amp/hour 12V battery system.
So, we went to Japan earlier in the year! We were on really a trade mission with Canada. There were many things for us to do there and I’m sure that there will be many more things to do in the nearby future. Japan is one of those countries that really leaves a lasting impression that really makes you want to go back and to go back soon. Which, to be fair, is probably going to happen because, come on, it’s Japan. There were sights, there were sounds, there were opportunities all around. So, follow my lead!
This is the convention centre. It can be quite spectacular when convention season come around. Thousands up thousands people would show up in and stand in queue for the different types of shows
This is the booth that we took part. Can you spot which one we were? That’s right, we were the ones mimicking the Canadian/Japanese colours. I thought our colour scheme was pretty on point! Trust me, the event got a little hectic, and If I can tout my own horn a bit, my poster got a lot of attention and compliments.
This is the poster I designed/made! I think it was a pretty awesome Poster! Nothing say Canada and Japan, like red and maple leaves. I had a friend help me translate the text! Kudos for the wonderful translation. I hope you guys like it too. One of my posters are on the table as well.
Another look at our booth and setup! High fives to our fellow Canadians, putting themselves out there and raising awareness and presence. That’s right, we are Proudly Canadians!
Here’s a group shot of the lot of us that were able to attend.
A big thank you for all the support staff there, the opportunity to go on these missions and the ability to move forward in different jurisdictions.
The magic of a 12 volt freezer is that they operate on the joyous tears of the sun. Well, if you insist on a more elegant response, I can humour that as well. A 12 volt freezer is not all that different from any other 12 volt appliance. They run on DC energy as opposed to standard AC energy we get in our households. You’ll find that they’re usually used when utility power is hard to come by, when there are mobility issues (portable units!), or in remote areas.
Systematically, there are about 4 types of freezers that can be made into 12 volts. There are absorption variants, which you’ll most likely find in RVs. The costs are fairly similar to a comparable compressor driven unit. They tend to be more finicky and require a little more attention. Over time, with wear and tear, they are prone to damage and ammonia leaks. They are also not as efficient and often come with an AC option because it’s borne of necessity.
There are also thermal electric units. You usually find a thermal electric 12 volt freezer in smaller portable sizes. They are generally meant to be taken on the road and plugged into your cigarette lighter. These units don’t have compressors and are inefficient and ineffective. Their main drawing point is price. When the ambient temperatures are too high, most consumer grade thermal electric freezers will struggle to keep anything cool, let alone cold.
Then there are compressor driven portable 12 volt freezers. These units are nice, because they are often outfitted with a DC compressor for operation. This helps with efficiency and keeping the entire 12 volt freezer at a stable temperature. The downside is that they have to maintain a pitch of no more than a 30° elevation. The gas in the compressor needs at least that much for proper operation, for the most part. DC compressors are also not cheap, so it drives the price of the units up. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground between these and the thermal electric units.
Last, but not least, is a standard DC compressor driven full-size 12 volt freezer. So long as it has a true DC compressor and not an inverted AC compressor (use price as your rule of thumb here). They operate almost exactly the same as your regular household variant; with the exception that they operate on 12 volt DC power. Like most freezers, they could be left to run autonomously without much concern or care. Just a manual defrost once in a while would be more than enough in terms of maintenance. The cost is also are a little high, but they are more efficient and stable in terms of flawless operation.
When people look for a 12 volt refrigerator they end up finding portable units or cooler units. They are excellent for what they’re meant to do, which is to act as a portable and mobile vehicle for cold food storage. Why? When we work with mobile or portable power sources, we tend to like the voltages that won’t kill us. AC, which is alternating current, runs at 110v as the North American standard, and 220v for the European standard. Both of those voltages are enough to kill us on contact. DC, however, uses primarily 12v/24v, and is an entirely different story. Our skin has a natural resistance to lower voltages. We might feel a little tingly, but that built in resistance keeps our hearts beating. So that’s why we have safer voltages to travel with. Makes sense right?
However, most manufacturers are still spoiled with higher voltage operations, so there was never really a need to work on efficiency. Due to this lax attitude, most DC appliances are smaller in size and operation. It gets a little more complicated when scaling up to a larger 12 volt refrigerator. RV’s will most likely run a 12 volt refrigerator as it is easier and more efficient for a mobile vehicle to operate. In a household, a 12 volt refrigerator will have to withstand the wear and tear of daily operations and use. It has to function as any regular household unit. So, a 12 volt refrigerator has to then be a functional appliance, efficient, and operable in nearly any situation.
This is where we come in. Here at C4P Inc., we pride ourselves in our technical know-how. We put in the hours, creative mindset, and ingenuity to create our Voltray line of DC solar refrigerators and SunStar DC solar freezers. They are outfitted with our specially designed in-house compressors that have blown away the competition. Contact us to learn more about how we can help with your 12 volt or solar needs!
Hello, welcome to the world of the solar freezer, and all that fun stuff!
So, let’s get down to business. What would you need to look out for when buying a solar freezer or 12 volt freezer? The answer is simple, quality! But hey disembodied voice of reason, how can I know the quality of the product without knowing anything about it? Ahhh… yes, let me explain.
You follow the golden rule. Well, the retail golden rule. If it sounds too good to be true… it is! There’s a price range associated with these kinds of products. They tend to be very similar and I’ll explain the particular why in a bit. However, anything outrageously discounted should be met with a wary eye.
The usual cost of a solar freezer is well over the $1000 marker. Why though? What makes a 12 volt freezer so expensive? It all comes down to the fact that DC appliances are wired differently. Solar generates power in 12v/24v in a DC current as a standard whereas your standard freezers take an 110v AC current. DC energy requires a thicker gauge of cable for optimal use. So let’s say if you take a normal freezer and just swap the compressor for a DC compressor, you would save a whole boatload of money, right? Wrong! The wiring inside your standard freezer is thinner and swapping parts to operate on 12v/24v would cause the unit to fail over time. After prolonged use, the wiring would burn through, effectively turning your modified solar freezer into a over-sized ice box.
Though, it’s not wrong. All you would need is a DC compressor and module (which is fairly expensive). That and maybe some technical know-how to swap out the parts and some Freon gas for the unit to function temporarily on DC. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few years out of it before ultimately having it burn out. Smaller companies will do that. They’ll buy a standard shell from an AC freezer and then swap out the compressor. Due to the prevalence of AC freezers, it is easier to and cheaper to get AC shells in large quantities and modify them.
The better way of doing this is of course making it from scratch. That way every component is meant to work together in cohesion. The wires are meant to take DC power, the insulation matches the device, and every part is essentially speaking the same language. It makes the entire freezer more efficient and gives every part a functional purpose. So of course, making a product from the ground up is an expensive endeavor. However, when we make a true DC appliance, we make sure they’re designed for actual people and their lifestyles.
What are DC appliances, you ask? They are simply normal appliances (refrigerators and freezers) that run on DC power, which, of course, leads to the question: what is DC power?
DC power has some complex technical definitions. For the purposes of solar, we’re just going to say that it is basically low-voltage electricity that can power DC appliances such as a 12 volt refrigerator or a 12 volt freezer. This is important because the energy that solar panels generate comes in the form of DC, as opposed to AC. Many solar setups use expensive inverters to change the DC generated power into AC. This is generally done in grid-tied installations, where the DC power is inverted to AC, because the rest of your house would be wired on AC. However, when you’re doing an off-grid installation there isn’t that same need to invert the power to AC. There are three basic options:
- Invert the power to AC and function as a grid-tied installation would
- Invert the power to AC, but take some of the power load and leave it running on DC in order to reduce the number of panels/batteries you need, and reduce the strain on your system
- Don’t invert and keep the power as DC, and use it to power things that run more efficiently on DC such as DC appliances
Options 2 and 3 are where DC appliances come in. In option 2 the marked advantage to using a DC appliance is the reduction in solar panels and batteries that they require as opposed to a traditional AC variant. Not only do you save on the cost of the panels and batteries, you save on the space they would have taken up as well. In option 3 you save on buying an inverter, which are generally quite costly. You also save again on the batteries and solar panels that would be required to run AC variants of the DC appliances that you use. Option 3 is generally only used in something like a hunting camp or cottage, and not something used daily such as an off-grid home; there options 1 and 2 are much more common.
Want to know more about DC appliances? Feel free to contact us!
So what is the difference between a traditional RV refrigerator when compared to a solar-powered DC refrigerator?
I’m glad you asked. An RV refrigerator, for all intents and purposes, is essentially the same as in terms of function as a regular household fridge or a DC solar refrigerator. The main difference is in how the products operate. An RV refrigerator uses absorption as the main method of cooling. That is to say, there isn’t a compressor, which you would find in a regular or solar refrigerator. It works by using an absorber and an evaporator as a method of cooling. It’s decent for campers and RV’s because they can be easily outfitted and it’s in between a regular fridge and a solar fridge in terms of efficiency.
However, it isn’t always sunshine and unicorns. The biggest problem an RV refrigerator will have is that the materials used for cooling will sit in the coils when it’s not in prolonged use. Unfortunately, when that happens, the sediments in the cooling materials will settle and harden, and over time, you’ll be left with a non-functioning RV refrigerator.
This is just a problem that regular compressor driven refrigerators don’t encounter. This is mainly because regular AC-driven refrigerators and DC refrigerator models never really turn off. Even if you end up turning them off, they have a much longer shelf life because the Freon gases (coolant that is used in every compressor-driven refrigerator and air conditioner) don’t settle and harden the way the sediments in absorption-based fridges do.
That’s pretty much the 30,000ft overview. Absorption-based RV refrigerators are good, but they tend to have a high failure rate because of poor maintenance. A DC solar refrigerator is poised to be a much longer lasting and sustainable method for the future. It’s really a set it and forget it solution. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a camper or RV, the next time you plan out mobile outing, consider a solar refrigerator.
This solar DC refrigerator versus an AC refrigerator debate has been discussed previously, and there seem to be several ways of answering this question. I believe that the real answer comes down to needs. I’ll attempt to break down my answer so that people become more informed when faced with decisions like this.
Okay, so, the most common answer to the AC refrigerator or DC refrigerator debate is AC. Why? This is usually the answer because of familiarity. We’re used to the refrigerators that we already have and/or know of. Additionally, the power consumption of energy efficient refrigerators are almost the same as solar powered DC refrigerators. The models are also cheaper. So, wow! Why wouldn’t you just stick with AC?
Okay, let’s play ball then. Let’s talk from a comparable scenario. You, the user, don’t have solar or a refrigerator, but would like both. What should you do? You’ll need panels, you’ll need battery packs, and you’ll need the little bits and wires. For the sake of comparison, let’s also say you’ll be looking at an 11 cubic foot upright refrigerator. So what will you need. Let’s look at costs of the units first. The current cost of a solar powered DC refrigerator is about $2400, and a comparable AC model costs as low as $700. The Voltray line of 12/24 volt solar refrigerators only require about 150 watts to boot up the compressor and recommend at least a 12 volt battery setup in 420 amp-hour. It would give you enough capacity to operate for 3 days. The cost for the kit with a solar panels, battery, all the wires and switches would cost $3965 with the appliance. When you look at getting an AC unit operational you need to remember that AC compressors usually need about 500-600 watts or more to get the compressor booted up, then although comparable, you’ll still need at least double the battery power. On top of that, you’ll also need to buy an inverter to make sure you can plug it into something. The total cost for the AC unit, panels, and the rest of the setup would be around $3500. You’ll need at least 600 watts of panel space on top of your roof and an 820 amp-hour battery, if not more, that would still be taxed heavily by consumption of AC refrigerators and their initial power draw when the compressor kicks in. Unless you’re installing these things yourself, more parts usually results in longer install times. Longer install times usually results in more to pay the contractor to install on your behalf. In an apple to apple comparison, if you compare MSRP costs without taking into account installation, AC is still cheaper by a bit. After installation is factored in, they become even more comparable in terms of cost. Going with AC at this point causes you to lose out on both panels and battery economy. The extra bit money going towards a DC refrigerator would result in much simpler system and a much smaller placement of solar.
If it was an issue of costs and you’re looking to grid-tie, then perhaps your standard AC refrigerator is your best bet. It’s harder to justify a solar DC refrigerator or a DC chest freezer when you’re tied up. If you want something powered independently from the grid, then absolutely choose DC. They’re incredibly efficient, take up less setup space and are essentially blackout proof and autonomous after you set it up.
If you’re off-grid or the place is remote, then absolutely go DC. This is where a solar refrigerator truly shines. You’ll always need food, so you need a place to store it and it’s just less of a hassle to implement a smaller system that is easily maintained and expandable. When you have fewer components, there are more consistent results and less chance of error. These units were made for solar!
What about in a situation where you already have a battery bank and solar setup? What would you choose then? I would still say DC would be the better bet. If you’ve already got a system, then you should know how energy consumption can disappear in the blink of an eye. A DC model is less likely to sap away your battery because of that smaller initial power draw every time the compressor kicks in. Also, they’re still more efficient.
On the side of caution, I should probably add this as a PSA. When looking to get solar DC refrigerators and chest freezers… when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some companies take regular AC refrigerator shells and plug in a DC compressor. It will work for a bit, but, DC requires thicker wires. So as a result they eventually burn through the wiring which causes the appliance to fail. Make sure the unit you’re looking at is built from the ground up for DC operation to ensure that you’re getting an authentic DC refrigerator and not some cobbled-together cheap fridge.
So, what exactly is a solar refrigerator?
That’s a good question friend! Why I’ve got an answer just for you. A solar refrigerator is… well… exactly what it sounds like. A solar fridge. Ta Da! Okay, fine, I’ll explain in greater detail about the differences between a solar refrigerator and your regular run-of-the-mill refrigerators.
So let’s talk refrigerators first. Like most appliances you have in your household, they draw from an AC (alternating current) power source to operate. AC power sources function at higher voltage levels than their DC equivalents. A 12 volt refrigerator would be a DC product; an AC unit generally functions between 10-20x that voltage. The increased voltage allows for power-hungry appliances to operate. With such a readily available amount of energy at 110 or 220 volts, there was never a need for most manufacturers to make their products more efficient. However, DC (direct current) is still how a lot of plug-in products operate so they won’t blow up from the constant surge of power. That is the reason why you see power bricks on so many products.
They’re also terribly inefficient at converting back to DC, which is why they’re sometimes hot enough to cook an egg on. It wasn’t until the last decade or two that efficiency and sustainability became a mainstream topic.
Back on topic with refrigerators. Most refrigerators are compressor driven. The compressor pushes hot gas into the coils of the refrigerator (the coils in the back) and the gas cools down from the colder room temperatures. When it cools, it changes back into a liquid state and flows through the coils inside the refrigerator and in turn absorbs the heat and cools down the air internally. It flows back into the compressor as it warms up back to a gaseous state.
Great, now we’re getting to it. So an AC compressor is usually incredibly inefficient at what it’s supposed to do. It takes on average 500-600 watts for a medium sized refrigerator to operate. The compressor needs that much power as an initial jolt for it to even power on. “But what about all those energy efficient models they sell now?” Good question. It doesn’t mean much as the compressor will always need that boost in order to start. Energy consumption will drop drastically after that initial burst making it “energy efficient”.
Now we understand a little more about how refrigerators work. So what about solar refrigerators? Well, DC compressors are a bit finicky. They’re hard to make and tend to be more expensive. However, they are a great deal more efficient. The compressor we’ve designed for the same sized solar refrigerator only needs about 150 watts to power up. The nature of DC also requires a thicker gauge of wires too. So, more than just the compressor, a solar refrigerator needs to be wired to operate on DC on a thicker set of wiring, otherwise it would just burn through the standard AC cables over time. What I’m trying to say that you can technically swap out an AC compressor for a DC compressor in a refrigerator to make it operational for solar. Just don’t expect it to have a long life cycle. So a true solar refrigerator should be designed and wired for DC usage.
Solar panels will generate energy in PV (photovoltaic), which naturally derives into DC. Taking that energy and inverting it back to AC is where you’ll encounter a loss of power in the conversion, not to mention the increased panel array and battery pack needed to operate it. A solar refrigerator will take a much smaller array and battery pack, making it at least 2-3 times more space efficient. A solar refrigerator will take DC power directly from the battery without any needless conversion or inversion.
A solar refrigerator easily becomes an item that can be taken and installed either in homes, remote locations, or even as an RV refrigerator without much of a hassle. The requirements are low, it doesn’t take a lot of space, and it’s a self sustaining system. It’s the one appliance you don’t turn off, so why aren’t you making the switch?