Off-Grid PV Installation

 Back in February (2021), we ordered a summerhouse (Shire Hampton Summerhouse 7x7) so we could enjoy the garden in all-weathers. It took about a week to build including a wood preservation stage.

During Spring, Summer and, now, Autumn it has been well-used especially during the morning and evening when not in direct sunlight (the doors face SW). By the end of August, the clematis (Summer Snow) had covered the roof and sides and the wood colour had mellowed.

We did install some solar LED lights but, whilst atmospheric, don't provide enough light for reading. So the next consideration was to add more power and this seemed like a good opportunity to install an off-grid solar panel and battery.

There are a number of companies selling PV packages for off-grid use. I selected a 185W system from Sunshine Solar available on special offer (£399 reduced from £599) which included the solar panel, charge controller, inverter, battery and all the necessary cabling. It also came with plastic side and corner mounts used to install the solar panels on a motorhome roof.

First, I had to clear the clematis from the roof of the adjoining shed as this is where the solar panel would be located, facing SSW and with a slight inclination.

A couple of treated timber planks were screwed to the shed roof and the PV panel positioned on the plastic side and corner mounts. I used a sealant/adhesive (SikaFlex EBT+) to fix the plastic mounts in position but you could drill holes and screw them down.

For the time being, the panel sits loosely on the plastic mounts; I think it is secure enough and, of course, it will be easy to remove/replace at a later date if necessary. However, I may screw it to the plastic mounts later using self-tapping screws.

The battery and charge controller are located in the shed supporting the PV panel; I had fully charged the battery using a battery charger. The inverter (with its 1 x 230V plug socket and 1 x USB socket) is on the backwall of the summerhouse. A few holes needed to be drilled through shed walls to connect all the wires.

The moment of truth came when the solar panel had to be connected to the system - the final act! The solar panel was covered with black plastic so it could not generate any voltage, the last two electrical connections were made and the black plastic sheet removed from the PV panel. The green lights on the solar charge controller came on showing everything was working as expected.

One final test, plugging the DAB radio in and listening to Radio 4 over lunch.

Overall, the installation was technically very easy with all the necessary cables (colour-coded or labelled) supplied. There are plenty of YouTube videos to help with the installation process. My one complaint is that no battery terminal fixtures were supplied so the current battery connections are a bit Heath-Robinson until I can get to Halfords tomorrow. I also need to optimise the settings of the Solar Charge Controller; a job for tomorrow after I've read the manual.

Final cost of the system was about £420.



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