A few weeks ago I installed a Renogy 200 watt solar panel kit on one of our outbuildings. We had a week of decent late autumn weather that let me finally get these panels up and running. This package was purchased early this year but I wasn’t able to devote the time to installing it then due to a construction project on the main house.
I didn’t get any of the Renogy mounting kits when the kit was ordered. Instead I decided to wait and see what the other acceptable mounting options were. A simple rail system was fabricated with 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ aluminum angle after looking over the instructions and the mounting holes on the back of the panels. Two pieces of angle were bolted to each panel with enough extra length on each side to use for mounting to the side of our building.
I was working alone and had to figure out a way to easily attach these to the side of our building. Thankfully the wind took a break so it wasn’t too awkward taking these panels up to the roof. I ended up using square u-bolts to hold the top rail up. Holes were pre-drilled into the building which made easy work of temporarily hanging the panels. I left the bolts’ “loose” until the bottom mounts were installed and tight.
14″ of 3/8″ stainless steel threaded rod was used for the bottom mounts. A 10″ standoff was made from galvanized conduit to use for the tilt. Stainless fender washers on each side of the plywood wall act as reinforcement.
Once the bottom was level and tight, the top u-bolts were tightened. The cables were passed through the wall and caulk was applied everywhere that water could enter.
Renogy made the wiring very easy. I had never used these MC4 connectors before. There are some reviewers online that don’t care for them. At this point I don’t have enough experience with them to comment either way. My first impression is good though, they are waterproof and make a solid connection.
Next was the inside wiring to the charge controller. I ran 10ga primary wire down to the main floor of the outbuilding and into a recycled junction box which was used for the fuse holder. The charge controller was mounted on the wall near the j-box. Sorry about my odd wire colors..the wire used was scrounged, at no cost, from a wiring harness factory that used to operate here in town. Connections were made as per instructions: Battery connected first and then the solar panels.
This is the charge controller provided with our kit. I don’t believe that Renogy is using this model any more.
This system seems to be working great. We use a single 12V deep cycle marine battery. It was purchased new just for this project.
The 400 watt inverter is an old one and I’m planning to upgrade next spring. It’s feeding the 110V breaker panel that is already in the building that was taken offgrid due to the construction project. Additionally, it is feeding an isolated circuit with one outlet in our basement shelter.
The intended purpose of this system is to operate either:
One security camera and a wifi router. That load equals roughly 220 watts (continuous) including the suspected loss at the inverter.
An intermittent charging station for radios, AA batteries, phones and laptops.
These panels went in at the time when our days are the shortest…so at least we’ll know what it’s minimum year-round capabilities are. Here’s what we know after two weeks:
This system will run the security and the router for roughly 16 hours continuously before the battery voltage drops and the inverter shuts down. That is a 180 to 200 watt draw before the inverter loss.
This system does a wonderful job of providing 24 hour power to the charging station in our home. I haven’t kept track of the daily wattage draw, all of the loads are under 50 watt and they are intermittent.
There are days when these panels will not be putting out. Snow and clouds definitely have an effect!
This is our trial run of a permanent system. Up until now, our solar power consisted of smaller, single panel portable systems.
We definitely need a better inverter. I also think we’ll be adding a wind turbine and another battery to make up for the short, snowy and overcast days of winter. When we get the bugs worked out we’ll hopefully be installing a much larger system for our fabrication shop.