Going Solar – The Deep Freeze

As some of you may have read in my previous posts, I’m interested in putting together a Prudent and Reasonable solar power system that would be useful in situations where the electric grid may be either unreliable or completely down for some time. The Grid becomes unavailable to Americans every year due to bad snowstorms, electrical storms, tornadoes, and earthquakes. The length and severity of the power outages varies of course but it’s not hard to imagine a situation where you and your family could be without electricity for a month or even two. Hence my embarkation on this next adventure in Prepping!

Well, I’ve finally decided on next steps to implement some solar power into my Preparedness plans. After a good discussion with Thoreau I began thinking that having the ability to keep frozen food indefinitely during an emergency situation would be game changing for me. I currently keep plenty of food on hand that could last me a few months but it’s all dry and canned goods that don’t require refrigeration. Now, if I could keep a large chest-style freezer operating with my own solar power I would have all sorts of options for long-term food storage. Just imagine the difference a freezer full of chicken breast, steaks, and all manner of other goodies would make. A good size freezer could allow me to stretch my food stocks out well past the six-month mark and, more importantly, my family would be eating very very well.

The first thing I did was to check out which products are currently on the market that are designed specifically to run off solar power. A big old-fashioned freezer uses a lot of juice and would take a lot of solar panels, big batteries, plus an inverter (which causes inefficiencies) to operate. Luckily there are some good options for new freezers that are ultra-efficient and that run directly from a 12 or 24-volt DC system without needing an inverter to switch over to AC. I like the models by Sundanzer, check them out. They’re heavily insulated so they can go a couple of days at least without power before any food would start to thaw.

Once I’ve got my freezer I’ll need a good solar panel, preferably set up so that I can add additional panels as I upgrade my system. For the freezer I’m looking at, and taking into consideration the region I live in and how much sun I get in both winter and summer, it looks like a 100 watt panel would be enough. Of course, as I’m ever cautious and prices on panels have come down quite a bit in recent years, I think I’ll start out with a 250-watt panel. If there’s extra juice I’ll decide what best to do with that. A little extra light never hurt in an emergency…

Next I need a good solar controller. This is the piece of the system that manages the flow of electricity into and out of the battery. This prevents over charging an already full battery, which will quickly ruin it. There are several options out there and I’m not sure which one would be right for this type of application. Any recommendations are appreciated.

Finally, throw in a good battery (plus a spare) that can store enough electricity to get me through some stormy days when there may be little energy flowing from the panels and I’m in business. Again, no need for an inverter with this type of freezer, it will run right off the low voltage direct current (DC) that the battery puts out.

So there you have it, my next project in a nutshell. Of course, things rarely turn out perfectly especially when attempted by a rank amateur like myself but I’m going to give this a go and will let you all know how it turns out.

~ Butch

One Response to Going Solar – The Deep Freeze

  1. No complaints with the Xantrex C-series charge controllers, they’ve been the standard for off-grid power for years. The C-40 is 12, 24, or 48VDC selectable. Outback ones are good too I hear.

    Keep the wire runs as short as possible, and use the biggest wire possible. Might be able to save a little money on the wire by getting a more standard size wire and combining them in parallel. Using 3-wire #12 AWG romex as one leg (pos or neg) is the equiv of about a single #8 AWG for example, but the #12 romex will probably be cheaper and easier to find locally since it’s a common size for residential wiring. You don’t need to strip the insulation off the entire length to combine them, just twist/solder all the individual wires at both ends for connection to the battery/panel/freezer. Will be interested to hear how the solar system and the freezer works.