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Designing for Low Electrical Energy Use

In no specific order:

  • Select only select low energy lights and appliances
  • Use propane, wood, oil or other fuels, not electricity for major heating appliances
  • Install lots of  extra switches so that you can control phantom loads without having to unplug appliances, also put less lights on each switch. Use directed lighting where possible.
  • use motion sensors and timer switches, especially for outdoor lighting and areas where it is easy to leave an electrical load on
  • use heating systems that use convection and don't require pumps and fans to circulate or move heat, when they do, investigate whether there are DC powered alternatives.
  • when possible use low voltage DC power for things such as outdoor lights, door bells and Ni Cad chargers and motion sensors that normally create phantom loads because they run continually from small transformers.  You already have equipment that works well well with DC power.  Examples of these are Camera and Cellular phone chargers which are designed to operate from your car. 

240 Volt Loads
Two inverters, a 240V inverter or a step-up autotransformer are required to produce 240V power. Because 240V power increases system complexity and cost it should be avoided if possible.  Deep well submersible pumps are an exception.  Due to distance and or depth of well a 120V pump may not be practical.  An autotransformer wired in a step-up configuration can manage water pumps to one horsepower.  To keep the transformer off-line until required wire the well pump switch to the primary side of the transformer.

Transformers
Other than the autotransformer mentioned above eliminate transformers within your system.  Transformers are often found within equipment such as heating systems, low voltage lighting, water softeners, etc.  There are considerable conversion losses as DC low voltage power is converted to 120 AC then down to 12V.  Transformer conversion power loss of up to 30% is exacerbated due to the transformer's continual power loss (phantom load) even when not active. Check with your equipment suppliers and manufacturer to see if DC power may be used directly. It is sometimes possible as in the example of the autotransformer above, to switch the power supply to the transformer rather than to switch the low voltage load (e.g. doorbell).

Grounding and Bonding
Off-grid systems have multiple ground sources which should be bonded:

  • PV Panels
  • Inverters
  • Generator
  • AC Panel
  • Wind Turbine

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Last modified: June 29, 2017