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Solar System on a Budget

Our Background and Experience

We have more than 20years of Canadian company with Canadian experience with off grid solar equipment, design and installation. We're located in Brighton Ontario.

Getting Started

We can help guide you to the system you need.  We created a spreadsheet to assemble your requirements and calculate including all factors. Advise us of your budget and how you wish to use your off-grid location e.g. full time, weekend, vacation duration and seasonality as well and location. Upon determining your your requirements we recommend a system within your budget or how you can grow the system to meet your criteria if need be.

We pride ourselves in providing custom systems with top tier equipment. Many are on a budget and want to get started and learn less expensively. There are many upsides to this, not only spending less but learning how to build and maintain a solar system with less invested while also determining how much of a system you really need.

Criteria: or how you may choose

Most products have several attributes other than price.

Cost: Pricing for solar panels is confusing . Using cost per Watt allows for solar panel comparison.  Divide the price of a solar panel with rated Watts of the panel.

For example Canadian Tire, today, as I write this, offers their 150W solar panel is priced at 599.99, that’s $4.00 per watt. Currently our 350W solar panel is priced at $282.00, that’s $0.81 per watt.  There’s little difference in modern glass mounted solar panels. The Watt rating of the panel is all you need. Efficiency is calculated based on square inches vs. output. You probably don’t care if the solar panels are couple of square inches larger or smaller. The difference between Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline is small and isn’t worth the extra effort or cost for most of us. Especially if you’re just starting off!  12V panels cost a LOT more than 36V panels!  Why? because the retailers  able to charge more for the 12V panels that match up to cheap Chinese electronics while the industry has moved on to 36V panel years ago.

Capacity & Compatibility: most components are measured in Watts and Amps. All components within a system must be compatible in voltage and amperage. (more on this later)

Efficiency: this is a matter of power conversion of sunlight to electricity,  battery charging performance  and conversion from DC battery power to 115V AC). In general the more efficient the greater the purchase cost.  Don't worry there are LOTS of systems with less than efficient equipment that have operated for a decade without breakdown. You just get less power from the system.

Expandability: The cost of choosing inexpensive components is that if/when you decide to expand your system you will most probably need to replace some components in order to grow.

 Expandability #2: Batteries are one item that cannot be added to later on.  Adding new batteries to older ones is never a good idea unless you have one failed battery of several within your system while all the others are OK.  New batteries are more chemically active than the older ones and will charge faster than the old ones causing overcharge of the new batteries as as the the old ones slowly catch up.  The opposite happens during discharge cycle the new batteries will over discharge. The new battery because it works harder will soon age to the level of the older ones.

Examples of Cost vs. Efficiency (and possible expansion for Charge Controllers.)
Base entry - Cost is usually less than $20 - Amps rarely range above 15A – Usually Chinese manufactured. Physically these are relatively small. Power converted is less efficientl and the charger during an inactive system may overcharge the batteries causing them to age faster.

First level to seriously consider – Cost start around $60 - Units use PWM (pulse with modulation technology like a dimmer switch) and many are flexible in system operating voltage of either 12 or 24V. Efficiency and battery longevity are improved. While there are exceptions, the majority of PMW units Max. out at 30A charging capacity.

Up to this point the charge controllers modulate power down from what is fed to them by dumping the excess power.

Most efficient – Cost starts at around $75 and go to above $1,000 – These charge controllers use PMW as well as MPPT (multi point power tracking). They convert voltages as high as 250V down to battery charging voltages. Because MPPT units convert power to what’s required at the time for battery charging they are significantly more efficient. Several better units will communicate to identical charge controllers allowing expansion by working in co-ordination.

In summary, a very basic system consists of:
• Solar panel (the new larger panels are a lot cheaper per Watt)
• Charge Controller (the battery charger converts uncontrolled output from solar panels to battery charging voltages)
• Breakers (to protect the system and follow electrical guidelines)
• Battery(ies)
• Inverter (if you need 115V AC power)
• Wire and fittings ( you can source this almost anywhere)

Surprisingly the most expensive component is usually the batteries. Batteries are also the most misunderstood, miss-purchased and abused component within most solar systems. Please read our educational info on batteries at www.stratenergy.ca/batteries.htm

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Contact Us: Telephone:  toll free at 1-888-810-4709 Parry Sound,Northern Ontario,Muskoka and Georgian Bay
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Last modified: January 12, 2023