Hi, I have found a very cheap and very remote shack in the mountains of the south west of France.
I would like some advice from someone who has actually got solar panels, how many I would need to run lights, laptop, tv, fridge, freezer, is a washing machine possible ?
It is too far and too expensive to get on the grid.
It has water and lots of land, so the panels can be mounted on the ground and obviously it's mega sunny here.
also storage options ? car or truck batteries ? - how long do they last etc..
Any tips would be greatly appreciated
As one of the other posters mentioned, you will probably want to get a 100-200 watt system and then build from there. I am building a solar power generating station to use in case things get too crazy. Currently, the system is only 45 watts, but it has only cost me $400 and it can be easily expanded by simply buying more panels and batteries.
I am using the Harbor Freight 45 watt solar panel system (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=90599
), because it comes with the solar regulator and necessary clips. You can get this system for around $250, but I have seen coupons where it is only $149. Check the Net, because Harbor Freight puts out a lot of different coupons. You can use any solar panel system you want, but this Harbor Freight one was the cheapest one I could find and I am on a budget.
Four (4) of these 45-watt systems would give you a 180 watts of power for less than $1,000. The more panels you have, the quicker you will be able to charge your batteries.
I would also get as many deep cycle batteries you can afford. That way you will have power when there is no sun available. I recommend the Optima yellow cap batteries (http://www.optimabatteries.com/optima_products/yellowtop/specs.php
) that are $150-200 each. These batteries are sealed, so you do not have to worry about leaks. You can use whatever battery you want, but the deep cycle (and/or marine) batteries will last longer than a starter battery. Basically, the solar panel system will be used to charge these batteries and you will get your power from the batteries. The more batteries you have, the more power you will have.
You will also need inverters. I recommend a 1500 watt or higher inverter such as the PowerDrive 1500 from Global Trucker (http://www.globaltrucker.com/products/PowerDrive_1500_Watt_DC_to_AC_Power_Inverter_with_USB_Port_2_AC_Outlets-18634-0.html
) if you want to use high-powered electronics, but you can get smaller wattage inverters too if you will not be using high-powered electronics. It also has a USB port. You hook the inverter up to the batteries, and then you can use the inverter to power whatever electrical devices you want.
That will pretty much do it for a simple 180 watt system and really would not cost you more than $2,000 USD. If you shop around, you might even able to do this for $1,500.
1. Four (4) 45-watt solar panel systems at $250 - $1,000
2. Four (4) Optima yellow-top batteries at $220 - $880
3. 1500 watt inverter - $120
Total = $2,000
You'll want to check all the included instructions with each item to ensure that you connect everything properly, but basically you hook the solar panels up to the regulator, the regulator up to the battery and then the inverter to the battery.
Also if you are a handyman, you will probably want an electrical room that houses all these components and then wire your electrical outlets so they feed into the system.
Here is an article I wrote up on this subject a few months back - http://remixxworld.blogspot.com/2009/11/how-to-build-small-45-watt-solar.html
Here is a link to the estimated watts of various household appliances - http://www.invertersrus.com/estimatedwatts.html
Here is another chart list that shows the electrical usage (including watts) of various household appliances - http://www.psnh.com/SharePDFs/ResidentialEnergyUsageChart.pdf
I'm not an electrician, but I hope this helps.