Solar Power Your Shop

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Aki and I have run our shop and cabin on solar power for 11 years.

We are 100% solar powered from the end of March until the end of September. We work full time making knives and large timber tools.

On this thread, , I described our "neighbour friendly" power generation when the sun is low. We have no neighbours. The method is for us.

We designed and installed our system.
We went with 6 volt golf cart batteries. They are very tough (I've frozen them and they have come back. It can go to -40 here), inexpensive and easy to replace although we haven't had to. 8 batteries and they are all in perfect shape. Twice a year I'll clean them with baking soda and water then top off each cell with distilled water.
I've seen people spend lots of money on batteries. Tough golf cart batteries are the way to go for a shop.

We have 390 watts of panel. 2 are BP and one is made by Sharp, a 20 amp regulator and we have a 2,500 watt (with a surge of 3,500) inverter.

*I built a manual tracker. Three panels on top of a 20 foot pole set into the ground in a cement housing. As we work we turn the panels to face the sun.
This has increased our power by 35%.
The tracker put us at the level of power we are satisfied with and a ground.--- An excellent ground is really important. Ground your inverter, batteries and panels.

Trick is to work with the sun. Don't think of it as storing power. Use power a lot when it is there in the sky.
At night use stored power for light, music and small amp tools.

If you have a steady wind a wind generator is the way to go. I wouldn't even consider panels.

It's quite amazing once you begin... Turning on your grinder and being powered by the sun.

We also heat with wood. I connected our stove to a 60 gallon tank and it was like adding a second stove except the tank stays warm much longer.

If anyone wants to know more go to our site at,

And our blog about living in the bush in British Coluimbia at,

Please beware of the hipe. They will tell you you need more - spend more.
You don't.

Oh ya, we do it this way because we can't stomach using oil. No matter what side of the fence you're on there are many people dying, environments being ruined and freedoms lost.



Full Member
Nov 24, 2004
Very interesting there cariboo. Thanks for that.

I would like to pick your brains in your simple solar set up at some point in the near future, if you don't mind!:D

Cheers from Swyn.
We are at about $3,500 now. It has been over 11 years.

I've watched as people, even with advice, have spent thousands when they could have spent hundreds on equipment for their solar systems.

We started with one 85 watt panel, an inverter and two 6 volt golf cart batteries.

We've added a little each year.
- got rid of the fridge (it's easy)
- put a timer on the freezer (which is outside in the unheated garage) and cover the freezer when everything is hard. Every 3rd day or so, depending on the weather, we turn it on for about 5 hours. From October to March the freezer is on for a total of about 10 hours.

We have what we need now. It is a great feeling of freedom using energy that isn't tied to so much destruction.

Just to add that if you've got a steady wind happening around your space and you don't have a wind generator it's like living in Arizona without a solar panel.

The point of this thread is that anybody can start to take control of their power consumption. All you need is a minimal amount of space, or maybe a small amount of allocated money, or some spare time, or handiness with tools, and you may start producing your own power.
Aki and I are simple people. We are not special.

Here is a link to dealing with one of the biggest culprits... your fridge.

We have been sold a bill of goods. To be indifferent to this is a crime against humanity and the planet.

We, as tool and knife makers and woodworkers can start simply and can convert our shops.

Scott, that is good information about your system.

My wife and I also live completely on solar power, but our needs are essentially the opposite of yours, since we live on a remote piece of land in the desert outside of Tucson. Get rid of the fridge? Not a chance here. We simply bought an extremely efficient Danish model. Our biggest energy draw is the evaporative cooler in summer, when the PV panels are at their least efficient (even though there's a lot of sun, their power output drops dramatically when it's hot). Our small wind turbine helps a lot by keeping the batteries topped up on breezy nights.

We also use six-volt batteries wired as 12-volt, plus an inverter. I use very few 12-volt appliances or lights, because the initial cost is so much higher than that for 120V products. I'm willing to accept the slight loss in efficiency in inverting DC to AC.

We live in a tiny cottage at the moment, and are building a larger (1,000 square foot) house as we can afford it. It will be built of 12-inch-thick Rastra, a recycled styrofoam and concrete block.

As Scott knows, living on solar power is effortless once the system is set up correctly. In the past five years we have had to run our little portable backup generator exactly twice, after very unusual five-day stretches of no sun and no wind. Generally there's plenty of one or the other. We are both writers and conservation workers, so we work from home with satellite internet and antenna-boosted cell phones.
We had looked into a Danish fridge. Just amazing how little power it took and how efficient it was.
Sundanzer I think it was. The problem we had was that we couldn't swallow the amount of duty our gov't wanted. The Canadian gov't is not an alternative power friendly nation.
In fact the extraction of oil from the Alberta tar sands is one of the biggest environmental disasters of our time with full support from the gov't

It is easy to live without a fridge here. It's really only an issue for 2 or 3 months a year and then it is just having to walk to the root cellar some 50 ft away for milk. It's those hot nights which we only get 3 or 4 weeks of which sour milk. You have a lot of hot nights. Your growing season must be great.
It would be nice to offset those low sun winter days with some wind.

Interesting though how we've adapted to our environments.

Do you guys use a solar oven?

By the way, sour milk pancakes and muffins are very good.
I've played with solar ovens, but the problem is that most I've seen seem designed strictly as gadgets - "Look, you can cook hot dogs with the sun!" - rather than as practical appliances with controllable heat. So we're still tied to propane for cooking.

Good growing season indeed - year-round for some things - but we also have lots and lots of pocket gophers, deer, and javelina. Haven't yet figured out a way to armor a garden sufficiently!
In the boreal forest where we live, in BC's "working forest", you'd think bears, moose, deer, rabbits etc... would be the problem animals. Sure they can be but range cattle are a nightmare.

The gov't owns 80% of the land here. It's the opposite in the States. In British Columbia a lot is clear cut, seeded by plane with grass and then leased as range land for beef. We are surrounded by crown (gov't) land. When the range is dry and they've eaten all the grass, flowers and shrubs they'll bust through our fences after our big green broccoli.
These steroid enlarged animals are huge, nasty and spoiled brats. They know they can go anywhere without being harmed.

By keeping them at bay we inadvertently keep everything else out.

It is something though, the cattle trails travelling thousands of kms through the bush from one lake to the next.

We are putting in some solar powered electric garden fence. It is inexpensive. Organic farmers down the way swear by it. It is sort of like electrified chicken wire.
All our garden posts are 7'..

In the desert, man, I bet animals can smell your broccoli an awfully long distance.

Check out the new post at, We've posted some pictures.



Full Member
Jan 10, 2006
Thanks for that, it was very helpful.

A lot of the stuff you read is unrealistic or trying to flog you an unrealistic system.

I cant afford one though (and I have a nice, southerly aspect house...where its not pointing west...)

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