There are lots of guides that lay out a step-by-step process for building solar energy systems. But there isn’t a lot out there that explains what to use the technology for. You see, it’s not as easy as just plugging in appliances like you would at home.
I wrote more about the conventional way of going solar in my article ‘The Conventional Approach to Going Solar is Flawed and Expensive’. If you want to use simple solar energy systems, then you need to figure out how to use 12-volt, direct current (VDC) appliances.
My first solar project was a solar water pump. After I figured out that I could use solar energy to do more work on the farm, I started looking for other appliances I could employ to get my farm tasks completed.
I found out there is actually a lot out there. Automotive parts, recreational vehicles, and lots of off-the-grid equipment are 12 VDC. There are remote control components, power consumption meters, and even units that allow you to control appliances through wifi. With small transformers you can run small computers like the Audrino or Raspberry Pi.
I didn’t expect to put so much effort into finding these appliances, and then applying them to farm applications. On our farm, we have been able to reliably source the components to put a water tap anywhere, to run electric fencing and work lights, and to keep equipment batteries charged.
But we are still in the experimental phase. We have remotes that we can use to control things from a distance. We have an automated chicken door to let the birds out in the morning. It takes time, but the rewards will be long-lasting.
So, don’t be like me starting out and think that it’s just about the solar energy system. Budget time and money to find DC appliances that work with the energy you get from the sun. If you don’t, you will need a lot more panels, batteries, and inverters to make it work, and those are not cheap to come by!