Need a solar power expert here:

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wegotchickens, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. wegotchickens

    wegotchickens DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies

    Jul 5, 2007
    Sevier County, TN
    Have questions, and searching here and online isn't giving me solid answers. I can find parts & supplies and dealers, but not a lot of comparison info.
    Doesn't help that I'm 'electrically' challenged...

    1a) Is it practical to power 2 incubators and 3 lights from solar power, versus running a line underground 100'?
    1b) What would you need to have for that size of a solar system?

    2a) If you use wired power, can solar power be used as a back-up for power outages on bators & brooders?
    2b) What would you need to have for that?

    We're currently planning on running the line and having an electrician friend hook it in for us. I know he'd help us interpret solar instructions if we went that route. I just have to buy all the supplies no matter what we choose...

    Thanks in advance for any assistance anyone can give! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2009
  2. YankeeRider

    YankeeRider Chirping

    You need to provide more information about the types (sizes) of the incubators and lights. The key here is how many watts they will require. Nevertheless, you will almost certainly find that the installation cost of wired electricity from your house-if only 100 feet- will be much cheaper than solar. Solar doesn't provide power at night, and incubators require power 24/7, so the cost of solar cells plus batteries plus controls will add up quickly. 100 feet is not far.

  3. Scott

    Scott Ozark Bantams

    Apr 11, 2007
    Southeast Missouri
    Not an expert on solar, but I did look into as my chicken house is "off grid". It is not practical to power all that you mentioned using solar power. To power a small wattage light or heat lamp... yes. An incubator and two lights... no.

    To the other post... solar can power during the night when there is no sun. You would have to use a 12volt or similar battery to hold the charge. The solar panel keeps the battery charged and then the battery powers the light when the sun is not shinning.
  4. wegotchickens

    wegotchickens DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies

    Jul 5, 2007
    Sevier County, TN
    Thanks for the feedback!!

    Brower tophatch & Brinsea octagon are the bators.
    The lights are standard 60-100 watt bulbs depending on what the brooders need.

    It's my understanding that across 100' the line will lose some power (amps). It's a 110 line. If it loses 20%, how many watts can it still power? (hoping I got the terminology right!)

    That's why I wondered about using solar power as a primary source or a back-up. I knew you could store the solar energy in a battery. Just wondered how to set it up so that the power could be pulled from the battery if the power went out. Or to keep it totally off the grid.

    The coop sits in a spot where it gets sun from dawn until 3 or 4pm. So it seems a shame to let all that go to waste...
  5. YankeeRider

    YankeeRider Chirping

    Loss in a line is a function of wire size, length, and the load being carried. For a 100' line, the major expense will be the trench for burying the wire. I'll be running 180' to my coop, and the wire will cost less than $100.

    At 110 volts, the wire will carry 1 amp for every 110 watts of light bulb load. So you are looking at a total load of maybe 400-500 watts, and that's about 5 amps. For that load, 14 gauge wire will easily do, but I'd use 12 gauge for the minimal additional cost. The wire will be called UF-12. (The UF stands for "Underground Feeder"-it can be direct buried without having to be put in conduit.)

    I applaud your desire to use solar, but for the amount of power you need on a 24 hour basis, it'll cost substantially more to install. The advantage is you won't pay for power, but I'll bet it'll take more than 10 years before the avoided electric costs make up for the high initial cost.

  6. Elwar

    Elwar In the Brooder

    Jun 4, 2009
    Hudson, FL
    Look at it this way, for each 100 watt light bulb you'll need at least six 100 watt solar panels to keep it going 24 hours (based on your location).

    Basically the 100 watt light bulb will need 2400 watt hours per day of electricity. Missouri shows as 4 solar hours per day on the solar maps. So you need to get 600 watts of electricity each of those 4 hours.

    You would need to then direct that electricity to a battery, then most likely you would use an inverter to convert from DC to AC in your lights which loses about as much electricity as running your 100' of wire.

    So, if you have 3 lights that's about 18 solar panels. A 100 watt solar panel will run you about $300. Giving you an investment of over $5k to avoid running the 100' of line.
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Yup, solar is totally going to be much more expensive.

    Are you reeeeeaaaallly sure you want to put incubators in the COOP, though? (Assuming you do mean incubators not brooders). Incubators need a very thermally stable environment; a coop experiences large daily temperature swings. And also is not the cleanest least dusty place around.

    A *brooder* might well go in a coop -- but then you are probably talking about powering hundreds and hundreds of watts of heat lamps, which is gonna require some serious battery array investment.

    Really, just run an electric line out there, it will NOT cost that much [​IMG] Make sure your electrician friend checks to make sure the household circuit can accept the extra load, and that the wire is properly sized.

    Good luck, have fun,

  8. wegotchickens

    wegotchickens DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies

    Jul 5, 2007
    Sevier County, TN
    Quote:DH was insistent that the garage no longer smell like a petting zoo (which I think is a really nice smell BTW).
    He originally insisted that all chick/chicken functions ALL take place in the shed / coop. And it will be better insulated than the average coop. But I thought of the dust issue, and we're renegotiating the bator & brooder issues.
    But we will need power in the coop for lights. And the brooders will be in the shed as well, even if the newborn tanks are in the garage or basement.

    The coop will be on it's own seperate breaker for sure. And the trench won't cost anything because I will be digging it LOL.
    I can see that the line is the way to go, but I'm sad that solar is so expensive. Another friend suggested wind power as a back-up, but... We'll be running the line <sigh>

    Thanks for the input, everyone. I truly do appreciate it!!
  9. wegotchickens

    wegotchickens DownSouth D'Uccles &amp; Silkies

    Jul 5, 2007
    Sevier County, TN
    Quote:Very helpful, Jerry. Thanks.

    DH had been going back and forth on the conduit issue. We now have a consensus on the electrical power issues [​IMG]
  10. Lemmy

    Lemmy In the Brooder

    Nov 23, 2008
    Zone 6
    2 incubators and 3 lights from solar power

    If you are running these in an out building you are also going to need heat and A/C to control room temp to the operating range of the incubators.

    A 10 to 15 degree change from day to night is more than most incubators can handle.

    A Back UPS like the ones used for computers would work for shorter outages and once plugged in needs no extra action ( works even if your not home ) The bigger the better

    For longer outrages an inverter and 12v would work but youll need to charge the battery​

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