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Discussion Starter #1
I'm thinking of setting up a solar panel to trickle charge 4 atv batteries, a tractor and a mower battery. It would be nice if this could be done simultaneously so I'm not visiting the shed every few days to move around leads. I was curious if anyone has done this and how you did it? I've read you have to isolate the 6 batteries so they don't all discharge if one goes bad. I also don't want to overcharge anything. I have no doubt it can be done, but I'm hoping someone can point me down the right path so I don't have to do 20 hours of googling. Thank you in advance.
 

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If they are different sizes and different amp hour batteries it’s not a good idea.
 

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to do it properly its going to cost more than a good extension cord and a few battery maintainers. but they are all going to need separate chargers
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you. I'm new to solar. Based on the above comments, I can think of three possible ways to do this (I'm not sure if they are all feasible):

1) Buy 6 solar panel charging systems. They are about $35 for 3W systems. Run one for each battery.

2) Buy 1 larger solar panel (perhaps 100 W). Connect the charge controller to a larger marine or AGM battery. Connect an inverter to the battery and run the extension cord and multiple battery maintainers.

3) Buy 1 larger solar panel (perhaps 100 W). Connect the panel to 6 charge controllers wired in parallel. Connect the individual charge controllers to the 6 batteries.

Would all of these work? System 1 has no risk except that I'm buying a bunch of low cost equipment and I suspect the quality isn't there. Having 6 small panels mounted outside the shed won't look as clean as one larger panel. I'm thinking system 2 would have to be dramatically overdesigned to have the enough juice to run the inverter all the time. Perhaps it would need a timer for daylight hours or some sort of low voltage shut down? Any suggestions? I'm new to solar. I'm not sure about system 3. I suspect it could work, but I doubt I can buy anything off the shelf that allows 6 charger controllers on one panel. I might have to wire that myself.....

Thoughts?
 

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Solar charge controllers are typically used for larger batteries so it might be too much for the smaller batteries.
One thing you can do is the idea of the 100 Watt panel to a marine battery & inverter is to put a appliance timer on the inverter side and have it turn on the battery maintainers for a few hours a day. When an inverter has a minimal 120VAC load it won't draw much power from the battery, all it would be running most of the time is the light timer.

Mike
 

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How far away from the house is the shed? Im thinking some underground cable will be cheaper and run into your house pannel... I did that with a shed and tied it into the electrical on my addition as it had more than enough room for expansion to handle the light and a few plugs for chargers. If you check out your local code you can do all the work yourself except for teh final connection to your box and then have a electrician come in and do the inspection and final connection for a hours worth of labor. Depending on local code cable only needs to be 18 to 24 inches below the surface less if you run in a conduit. A heavy duty extension cord would be a good temp solution and much cheaper than what you are trying to do with solar..
 

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Discussion Starter #7
About 7 or 8 years ago, I had an electrician quote me $2300 to run cable out to the shed, install a box, install electrical outlets and lighting. He wire for 60 amp in case I decided to install a welder at a later date. This is quite a bit more scope than I intended to take on with the solar project so it isn't an apples to apples comparison. That cost assumed I would dig the trench myself.

For the solar project, I could get a panel for $150 and a charge controller is only $15. Thus, total parts is likely around $250. If I need to get an inverter, deep cycle battery, 6 AC battery maintainers, I think parts will $1000 to 1500. I'm also not sure if this is a DIY project, or if it requires a permit/electrician. I live in the dictatorship of Canada and if this requires a permit/electrician, my costs could be close to the cost of running a cable. It's something I will have to investigate. But there is a chance I could cobble something together that meets my needs for $250.

I decided to ask this question on a solar group as well. If anyone is interested in that conversation, you can see it here:


Some folks think I could get away with a single charge controller. If so, that system would be under $200 to set up..... The caveat is that the batteries need to be holding 13 volts before I connect them in i.e. battery needs to be good. I'm still leaning towards multiple charge controllers in parallel.....it seems more idiot proof.
 

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Im assuming that price was for the electrician to do the install. Like i said do all the rough in, burry the cable, do everything but the final connection to the panel box then call the electrician to do the final connection and inspection... Should be looking at around $600 total... Buy the supply's yourself as the electrician will go buy them at the local electrical supplier and then charge you mark up and that usually is 30-50% more... Doing the rough in and cable barring the cable is easy and can easily be done in a afternoon... Could even go to your local tool rental place and probably rent a trenching machine for a few hours for cheap.. If your math is right your only $600 difference from having the electrician do everything so even if they did it that's not huge shop around for a electrician the new guy on the block will always beat your lowest quote...
The way i look at it is you spend the money once for having hydro put in and your done with it. You can do what ever you want out their now.. You go with solar your limited to that and every few years you will be replacing things as it is not a maintenance free system.. so in the long run its going to cost more.... Get bear and pizza and call a few buddies up and make a day of it...
 
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