**Delivered the week of July 15th 2022. **
My Off-grid Backyard Pond, Hydroponics, and much more.
I have researched Solar Power for the past 15 yrs and the concept has fascinated me as an option to provide independence as backup in case of emergencies and eliminating the need to obtain and store volatile fuels for generators. In addition, it protects all our perishable food during these emergencies. However, Lead-Acid Batteries were impractical, expensive, lasted only a few years before needing replaced, and were not all that safe. Then the much safer LiFePO4 batteries made a big splash and started becoming more affordable and I started planning. I looked at several of the major All in One systems and I was partial to the Bluetti Systems, since their battery chemistries were LiFePO4 (unlike some competitors) so, I dabbled by getting the Bluetti EB55 and a couple small 100w panels and boom, I was powering all my portable items (Laptops, Tablets, Phones, etc.) and that’s when I said to myself, I think I can power my entire backyard+ with a larger system. I decided to stick with Bluetti and picked out the AC300 and waited until it went on sale (which it soon did and then made the plunge into solar. In the meantime, I started mapping out the practicality of trying to put larger panels mounted in my backyard, so that I could run my pond pumps, fountains, Hydroponics, Lights, Fans, in fact the entire backyard. I am very strapped for space and did NOT want the panels on the roof of the house. So, I decided to build a new “Cover” for my Patio.
My One-year Journey to the Present
Fig 1: My Paper Napkin moment of mapping out Panels (could I do it?).
I fine tuned my plans (which I always find important instead of “winging it”) ALSO, it’s very important to save all your receipts in one folder (Physical or digital copy) and make a spreadsheet for everything that qualifies for the 30% Tax deduction. You will need it, if audited.
I looked for panels that maintained a VOC < 150 V and provided 1200 watts. Renogy offered a 450W x3 that was enough under the 150V Max and since Bluetti has TWO PV inputs, I ordered six panels to give me a max of 2400W Pv Input.
Figure 2: Top View
Figure 3: Side View
Figure 4: One of several delivered damaged 450W panel’s (expect and plan for this damage to happen):
Figure 5 (Photos x4): The Solar Panel Frame
Those silver pistons are electric actuators, so I can “Raise the Roof” in the Fall (about 35 deg) and lower it in late spring (about 15 deg). They are hooked up to the AC300 DC Output.
Figure 6: Panels Up (Photos x6)
An Aerial Image:
Figure 7: AC 300 Setup and Running
**Experiences in the past year:**
So, the week following the installation and having everything working, we had a solid 7 days in the row of lightning like I have never seen before (and I lived in the Tampa area for 2 decades). I have installed several PV Solar Isolation switches that give me a sense of well-being during storms that I can easily isolate the AC300 system from the Panels. However, on a sunny day with several small clouds, one bolt hit in my neighbor’s back yard, and I all I saw was an orange flash and smoke out of the corner of my eye! The AC300 and the Panels were fine, but it blew out 3 of my 9 security cameras and tripped both GFCI outlets that were plugged into the AC300 and connected to the pond pumps. I recommend both of those items, the switch protects the AC300 system (as long as you turn them off), and the GFCI protects you from getting shocked/killed etc e.g. if there is a short (especially if around water).
One Month in:
So, about a month and a half later, we had a hurricane stop by. We had 75mph+ winds and quite a few higher gusts, and the panels didn’t even budge. We had some big branches and yucca plants snapped, and we lost power for about 36 hours. All we did was run an extension cord to the Freezer (in the garage) and the Fridge in the kitchen and several fans. We never worried for a second about losing our food (several thousand dollars of Seafood/Meat). We didn’t even need to use our gasoline generator.
Here is the storm video:
Besides acting as a backup during a power outage, here is what I have the AC300 and batteries powering daily:
• 200W Pond pump, 24/7
• 50W Pond Aerators 24/7
• Pond Fountain Once in a while
• Outdoor Ceiling Fans (x2) Once in a while
• Pond lights and Various Canopy lights: Evenings
• Outdoor Speakers & Projector
• Hydroponic Air Pumps (x2) 24/7 about 40W
• Hydroponic Water Pumps x3 15 minutes 6x/day 60-100Watts
• CPAP (Nights)
• Router+ Yo-link device router and many other portable electronics (24/7)
• Re-Charge batteries when there are Opportunity Loads, Including Lawn Mower/weed eater/blower/ lots of power tools etc.
o So yes, I have a solar powered Lawn Mower and power tools.
Typical daily usage 300W-500W/hr.
Here are several photos of the items above:
**How this system all adds up $$**
Our Electric Company (TECO) has gone UP OVER 60% in cost since 2020 and 30% since last year, that is NOT the reason I went down the Solar Path, although the panels have helped buffer the cost increases. I have included a screenshot of the Excel Spreadsheet how our bill has been affected and how the Solar has helped, Note, over the past 3 years TECO added 4 additional NEW charges (based on usage) on top of Rate increases. Sneaky ways to get MORE money. Yeah, rates may only go up 10-15% but the charges make you bill go up twice that!
By assuming I am only using 252 kWh/month of Solar, I have shown the cost savings, below (and that doesn’t include future rate/price increases!). The amount of kW used are conservative, I could easily be saving more when considering higher usage.
**Now, Future & Reflection**
So, as you can see, Bluetti and their products, especially the AC300 have helped me step into the Solar arena and provides me with the peace of mind in times of emergency and to run my backyard pond pumps, hydroponics, and more without using extra grid power. Only several times have I needed to use grid power as a passthrough after several excessively cloudy days. And even then, the Grid easily supplies power without need to set anything on the AC300. Currently, thanks to a big Prime Day sale, I am setting up an additional set of AC300 + 2 batteries that will run my Bedroom Window AC Unit, at night. Due to space constraints, I am adding just 2x 550W Panels on my metal Corrugated Roof canopy to charge up the batteries. What is nice is that my current AC300 DC Out plugs into the extra set of PV inputs on the new system to supply 200W of extra power, when needed. If you are planning to step into solar, Bluetti has several systems and the AC300 seems to be the sweet spot for me (Power and price). For some of us, The DIY/Preparer, Solar becomes a hobby, a somewhat addictive hobby with the need (want) to expand. I am sure someday that my house will be self-sufficient 100% off grid, and I won’t need grid electric power at all.
Thank you for reading my Post,
Updated: Here are the two isolation PV MC4 switches that some have requested almost at half the price I paid at the time: Amazon.com
(The green tape is there in the photo due to recent repainting that I did).
Here is the recent purchase of another AC300 (1 yr later-now) with 2 additional B300’s to run my Bedroom AC unit every night! With the sale on the AC300+battery and an additional 30% off when I make the claim on Fed Taxes, WELL WORTH IT!
And yes, Bluetti Bucks from the original AC300 + 4 batteries purchase helped pay for that EB3a that we use for my wife’s side business during tent sales (along with the EB55).
Thank you for those with the kind words about my setup @Derceto and @Thorn and @BLUETTI