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Nickel-Iron technology Off Grid Solar Power, advice for going off grid, off grid living.

Welcome to Off Grid living.

These webpages explain off grid living- the electrical side.

Index to Off Grid Electrical Pages

Q2: Building plans

Q3: Cementing besser block walls

Q4: Roof and final touches

Q5: Off Grid - power components

Q6: Building battery bank

Q7: Wiring solar panels

Q8: Crimping wires

Q9: Wiring Inverters

Q10: Household wiring

Q11: Adding more Inverters

Q12: Maintainence

Q13: Hydrogen extraction

Q14: Light wiring

Q15: Solving electrical problems?

Q16: Victron User Defined settings

Q17: Victron MPPT behaviour

Q18: Storage Battery Problems

Q19: Adding more solar strings

Q20: Victron BMV 712 monitor

Q21: Victron Smart MPPT

Q22: Battery Hydrometer tests

Q23: Fourth string facing East

Q24: Manual Overcharging System

Q25: Final remarks

Ni-Fe is a memory battery. This is NOT explained on any Internet site, not even the Inventor Thomas Edison, speaks of the memory issue with Ni-Fe batteries, only using the term "sluggish". I have learned the hard way and possibly spent over 12,000 dollars, I didn't need to.

To ideally experience Ni-Fe you need two 24Volt batteries, both at L200. Charge the Ni-Fe battery bank fully to a cell voltage of 1.65 and than switch off solar panels to the bank, your solar panel charging system, do not float the fully charged system. Let the battery system run dead flat to a cell voltage of 1.05 from the night time use. If your batteries do not become dead flat until 9:00 am, than once flat switch on the charging solar panels. For convenience, if the sunshine does not match your dead flat timing, switch the electrical system to the second battery bank, while the other bank is charging. Such a system allows the charging only until 1.65V is reached and the sunshine recharging only until the voltage of 1.05 is reached. You charge them only when they are dead flat. You cannot use the bank to store more power, ideally you need to run the bank flat every day before 9 am of sunshine, or with a second bank, you can run the first bank dead flat whenever you like. Having two 24V banks at L200, will still cost you around $10,000, but looked after this way, they will last foever.

Other bigger users of Ni-Fe get away with memory issues because they installed a big system at a cost of $45,000 say a 48Volt system and with big loads every day run their system to what they designed it for, big loads, air con, etc. So they might use 1,500 Amp hrs every day and experience a great system, not knowing they have a memory problem, because they are not aware of the additional 500 Amp Hr lost from memory issues, ie, recharging every day after consuming their big loads.

Another thing learned, is you do not really need solar controllers. Manually charging works well. In fact getting a company to make a device that switches ON once 1.05V is reached and switches OFF once 1.65V is reached would be nice. Another device that switches solar panels on until the current reaches 80Amps max, would be nice too, as on cl oudy and rainy days, you need more solar panels.

For the 24volt devices, you can achieve this for a mere $4,500 with maintainence costs of about $400 per year.

For the use of five lines of 900Watt 240V mains power, you can achieve this for $18,000 and maintainence costs of about $400 per year.

We have done both. And experienced both systems.

We will explain other options in time.

With Ni-Fe technology, it seems L200 AMP/Hr is best, keep your night loads to less than 50Amp to 100 amps all night,and have massive solar panels for the daylight hours.

For example if you used 20 200AMP/hr Ni-Fe, the cost it about $4000.

Using say Victron SMART SOLAR MPPT, say three 30AMP boxes, to sychronize them as one.

Purchase lots of secondhand solar panels, all say 3 amps (intially they are 5 amps), and string them in parallel 10 at 3 amps is 30 amps.

PLUS a fourth string that can be switched on manually, of say another 30 panels, so on a cloudy day you get 30amps per hour coming in.

So 60 panels at $50 each is $3000. But new ones at 10 amps at $300 each only purchases 100 amps, compared to 180 amps, for the second hand ones.

I would try to source at many second hands as cheaply as possible, and get 150 of them, cheaper and less hassle than a 240V generator.

Add on the cost of 5 cheaper Inverters say 930W, and your total cost is about $10,000.

The cost yearly to to replace cheaper inverters and Mppt boxes as they fail. Your Ni-Fe batteries never fail, can be overcharged and overworked without failure.

Please have a read of our experience and view off grid living in detail:-

Q1: Off Grid Ni-Fe Solar Panel technology

In the beginning, my wife and I went partially off grid, using 24 volt lights, 24 volt water pump and 24 volt fridge, no 240 V Inverter outlets, all 24 volt appliances. The whole set up cost only around $7,000:-

  • 8 Zeus-Apollo 45V 5A 200W $2000.
  • 2 Steca 20Amp PMW chargers $400
  • 4 200 Amp/hr AGM Pb batteries $1200
  • 2 24V diaphram water pumps $120
  • wire, lugs, bolts $500
  • 10 24V lights LED $200
  • 24V Fridge $2500
  • Miscellaneous $80

    Annual maintainence costs of the big items (pumps last 2 yrs, batteries last 3 yrs)for a life time of 18 years is : $460 per year.

    20Amp chargers.

    The house had two 220Amp AGM lead acid batteries as a system with 20 Amp PMW solar charger, using 800 watt solar panels .This system ran water pump and lights.

    220 AGM batteries.

    Another system had two 220Amp AGM lead acid batteries, with 20 Amp PMW solar charger, using 800 watt solar panels (4 panels of 200w each).This system was used to just run the 24Volt fridge.

    Because of the lead acid technology, I never ran the system below 85% fully charged.

    Solar panels.

    Only once, on a 3 day overcast period, did the fridge ran to 65% fully charged, and I feel this spoiled that battery bank.

    So despite the gentle looking after, I got only 3 years of use from both banks, so looking after lead acid is a waste of time. Batteries only lasted past the warranty date.

    Compost WC.

    Having said that, the WC toilet is compost system with a computer fan to remove H2S gas, and it's own solar panel and a single 12 volt deep cycle 220Amp battery.

    That toilet battery has never ran lower than 95% fully charged, and to this day, runs 24/7 for over five years.

    So maybe if you design cheap AGM batteries to run no less than 95% fully charged, you might get many years of use from them.

    The only things we missed or could not run, was the washing machine and the water pump for the garden.

    Otherwise the 240Volt toaster and hair drier, etc, was never missed. If you are planning to go off grid, there is some life style changes one must get used to, such a s learning to baby your power consumption, and to live with less.

    Overall maintaining 24 volt stuff is expensive. Nowadays with near 95% efficient Inverters, it's cheaper to use 240Volt appliances and less maintainence. This means it is cheaper to purchase a LG magnet washing machine for 240V than try getting a 24V volt.

    So having not ever used Inverters before, one has decided to build a 240Volt system.

    Nickel Iron batteries

    So let's discover, step by step images showing Off Grid Nickel-Iron battery technology.

    These webpages show beginners how to build a power house and install Nickel Iron Batteries using Solar Panels.

    If you are not a handy person, nor understanding electricity, nor understanding the dangers of 240Volt, do NOT attempt going off grid.

    Going off grid, means you have to be your own electrical person, maintenance person and handyperson.

    Sometimes technical bits should be done by a qualified electrician.

    Be safe and get an electrican to help you.

    The author has an electrical/electronic 4 yr degree, with USQ, 1991; plus 10 years maintaining 240Volt systems, both overhead power lines and domestic houses, as electrical officer for Kambubu High School 300KVA generator network boarding school with 25 staff houses while a missionary in Papua New Guinea. As well as some electrical apprenticeship with an electrician, in Queensland Australia.

    Four years electronic technician, and 10 years science, 15 years computer teacher.

    So these skills help me with off grid living. And as a teacher, I hope this website helps others going off grid with Ni-Fe.

    Why use Ni-Fe batteries?

  • Cheapest for energy stored. You get more power from Ni-Fe than Pb-Acid, you can discharge Ni-Fe to 20%, but Pb-Acid to only 85%, without damaging chemistry.
  • Lasts for over 50 years. Peace of mind.
  • Ni-Fe likes to be worked hard, unlike Pb-Acid Banks where you must be gentle.

    This Off Grid system cost : $26,000.

    Or : $18,000, just for electrical.

  • Building power house $4,000
  • Washing machine LG 240V 400W $2,000
  • Fridge efficient 240V 360W $2,000
  • Ni-Fe L500 plus freight $9,000
  • 6 Inverters Victron 1200VA $3,500
  • 3 MPPT controllers, 100V | 30A $800
  • 9 resettable fuses, 3 30A, 6 50A $100
  • Copper lugs $100
  • Copper plate $80
  • 14 Brass bolts 10mm $70
  • Crimping tool, 10 tonne $60
  • Electrical stuff $400
  • Electrical Conduit $300
  • 8 370W solar panels $2400
  • 6 Second hand 200W 4A panels $300
  • 4 RCD type A $100
  • 4 CB 4.0 amp from USA $100
  • Water Bore and pressure Pump $690

    Annual maintainence costs of the big items (pumps last 3yrs, inverters last 6 yrs, white goods last 9 yrs)for a life time of 18 years is : about $1,000 per year.

    Compared to other off-grid living, this is more expensive, but includes bigger water pumps and white good maintainence, which the other off grid living did not include.

    Let's get creating:-

    Step 1 Plan the power house building site.

    Close to house. (7 metres)

    Near pumps (over water bore).

    In open (away from trees).

    Level (easy to build).

    Central (near everything).

    Design the layout of the building, to fit budget constraints as well as size limitations.

    This building ends up 4.2m by 2.8m, with a solar array of 12 panels over the roof, on frames 5m by 4m.

    Level the ground using tampering the dirt hard, and rake level, make the preparation within 10mm of level plumb.Notice the steel beams and spirit level helps work the site.

    The choice of building is besser block or concrete block, for strength, and coolness.

    Add formwork boards, I use one 25by35 cheap timber which is expensive ($40), to cut costs, laid on one side, to bring the level to within 5mm.Use bricks to hold in place, and pour concrete mix to fill the space, aiming at 25mm deep and 250mm wide.

    Like so, the inner boards can be moved around as the concrete goes off.

    The inner board (red arrow) is moved to each corner, to make neat appearance inside the building.

    Next, lay the bond beams for the first part of the wall. Such a beam serves as a strip footing and a height for the wall, and adds to the overall cheap design of the power house.

    The red arrow shows the blocks are laid to a steel straight edge, for the whole length of the building.

    Ni-Fe battery technology

  • Created by Rob Thompson. Hosted since 10/01/2012.

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