Last week we finally received the last of our solar panels.  The system is a full 3.7 kw.  I know that doesn’t mean much to most of you but when we originally designed our PV solar system I knew right away I would be “building” it in stages. We just didn’t have the money to get it all at once.

Although I don’t think we will ever be completely finished. Next year I hope to get a solar hot water system ordered and start that install. Right now we have a propane tank and I would rather let the sun heat the water and that would easy my wallet on buying propane.

I also may start thinking about either a small wind generator or a micro-hydro to help keep the batteries charged on the short winter days and the days of heavy clouds. We seem to only get some wind in the winter and our stream only flows when it rains – heck it may take both systems who knows.

I do know that next week will be time for a load of donkey manure for the garden thanks to John and Carol and “Buck and Doe Run”.



  1. Cory says:


    I’ve read that solar water heaters are usually one of the first things to install when transitioning to off-grid because the ROI is really good.

    How do you guys heat? I’ve heard of using a solar water heater combined with radiant flooring to heat a house. If you’ve never heard of this there are pipes in the floor that circulate hot water.

    My plan is to eventually have a solar water heater combined with a “tankless” hot water heater so you’d use very little energy heating the water. One fellow I talked to had this type of setup with a propane tankless heater and he said his propane use dropped over 90%.

    As for the tankless I’m not sure if I’ll go propane/natural gas or electric. If I’m able to get a PV system that could handle the heater I’d go that way to be truly “off-grid”.

    I haven’t finally decided though how I’ll heat my water though because I want to look into geothermal heating which can also be used to heat water.

    • Bob & Crys says:

      Cory, I’d forget the electric tankless & go gas. Electric is WAAAAY too expensive to operate. We got a gas Rinnai in March, and for our family of six our gas bills have never been lower. We got it more for luxury than anything…we now never run out of hot water. Our old tank was almost 15 years old and was overdue for replacement, so the timing was good. Had Greenspring Energy install & we expect a significant tax credit…talk to Travis Bradbury at Greenspring. Blessings!

  2. Sonny says:

    Cory, Sounds like you have a good plan. In my case I considered getting the solar hot water setup but then thought it would be better for me to get the “big expense” out of the way first and then the 2-3k for the hot water system would not take to long to save and get.

    When you start looking at your system you may find that putting in an electric water heater will be raise the cost of your system considerably. Even my 3.7kw system will not come close to being able to support it. But with enough money anything can be done.

    Last year when we were building our place we put in gas wall heaters (were only 1200 sqft). It worked well but I quickly realized the cost of propane and decided by this winter I would also have a woodstove. About 2 months ago, I put in a nice stove and it is working fine. We have 70 acres here and most is wooded so that is not an issue. It is an EPA certified stove that I got from Tractor Supply.

    At my prior house I used a pellet stove and really liked it. I decided against it here for a couple of reasons. I would have to buy about 3 tons of pellets per year yet I have free wood available here. The other reason again deals with power usage. Pellet stoves require constant electricity for the blower system and auger pellet feeding.

    We use LED lights and are always managing consumption. Got a Kill-a-Watt meter and it really helps knowing what uses what.

  3. Cory says:

    What types of LEDs are you using if you don’t mind me bugging you some more?

    I’d like to switch over to those soon but they’re still pretty expensive around here (over $40), aren’t very bright and most give off a very harsh light.

    • Sonny says:

      I got my LEDs from Walmart and a couple from Lowe’s. They both now have the “normal incandescent” along with the more ugly bright white. They are equal to a 60 watt and only run about $5.00 – $7.00 each. I do have just a couple of CFL’s for when company comes over.

  4. Cory says:

    Wow, you guys must have better selection down there compared to up here in Canada. The cheapest LED I’ve ever seen was $20 and it was only equal to about a 20 watt bulb.

    • Sonny says:

      They have came a long way lately. The big box stores have their place but when your on a budget sometimes I have to visit them. A year ago they did not carry them here but now they do. It may be worth checking to see if WalMart has them online.

  5. Bob & Crys says:

    Burn, baby, burn!

    Hey, Sonny, are you getting any tax credits with this solar stuff?

    • Sonny says:

      Bob, we will get some on the Federal taxes but Wsst Virginia is a gas and coal state so credit from them is a no go. Knowing my luck as soon as I get everything completed they will pass something.

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