When we bought this place in 2010 we had no power at all. If you have read any previous posts you will know we bought a cheap second hand 12 volt system to get us started.We added panels and a second set of batteries over 4 years. Our problem was that we lost so much power in conversion from the panels to the batteries. Let me explain. We bought enough solar panels for the roof to make 2.2KW of energy at peak times but the 12 volt system only ever supplied us with 1.1KW maximum. This left us with a range of problems that we had to deal with on a daily basis.
1.) The pool pump could not be on for long enough each day and so the pool was constantly going green. This is not good when you have regular visitors in 40ºC heat!
2.) We always had to run the generator if we wanted to use power tools, iron or hoover up!
3.) Our pump that supplied the water to the house had to be really low power consumption and so the pressure was really low.
4.) No digital appliances would work on this system, they kept going wrong. This was especially hard with the washing as I had to purchase a twin tub that was meant for a caravan. It meant almost a full day every week was taken up with washing clothes, getting them dry and the like.
5.) We had to have a gas fridge. It kept going wrong and smelt really bad at times. It was put outside so as not to gas us but it just didn't work very well. Food would constantly go off. The freezer was a box on top of the fridge, not very helpful when wanting to store lots of meat and vegetables.
In 2014 we decided to upgrade our system. We thought about going to a 24 volt system but out friend said that it would be better for us in the long term to just go straight to a 48volt system. We talked about the added expense this would mean and we could only afford one bank of batteries on this system, but our friend assured us we would not need 2 sets as we would be almost doubling our power intake and it would be easy to add a few more panels if need be.
So in August of 2014 we had 3 men round and within a day the whole system had been changed over. I had been researching the invertors on the internet and decided to go with the Outback range. The reviews were all positive. We could have got cheaper but we just thought it was worth the extra cost! I think in total we spent about 5000 euros on the upgrade and to say it has been life changing is a bit of an understatement.
We had 2.2KW upon the roof and now at peak times we get in 2.19KW. Our possible power had doubled over night. This meant I could use every thing without worrying about the power so much. We upgraded our water pump to the house and now have amazing pressure. I can run a digital washing machine (low water and power obviously), I can put the pool pump on for at least 4 hours a day in sunny weather and we have only ever once had to use our generator. This was after 2 weeks of no sunshine, we ran out of power but luckily the next day the sun came out!
I now have 2 fridges, again low energy consumption and 2 freezers to store all my meat and garden produce for later use.
I can hear you saying a lot of money...for us it has freed up so much time that the money was well worth it. No longer is a whole day given up to cleaning clothes. Much of my time was taken up in the summer with trying to keep the pool nice...I have spent hours on it...it almost got to the point where I would have been happy to fill it in...but not anymore.
I am so glad that we went with the 12volt system first as this taught us all about solar and having to be careful when using appliances. This has stood us in good stead for the upgrade and allowed us to save at least 100 euros a month on gas to run the generator. Add that up and it has paid for itself in 5 years monetary wise, but it has been priceless in giving us more hours in a day.