Hello. Itís great to see that there is a community out there for off-grid energy. In my case, I only plan to experiment with it on a small scale as a hobby since Iím a renter. By contrast I see that many of you I see are quite invested.
When selecting components that I should buy, I had a few questions. Iím hoping that you guys might be able to shed some light in the form of answers to those questions I have.
1) Respected Inverter Manufacturers
I was surprised that there isnít an easier to find list of inverter brands that are considered to be reliable in this world. Iíve gathered some brands from context during my research such as OutBack, ExelTech, and Xantrex. Other brands like Samlex, Go Power!, and Cotek appear to be a bit more affordable and perhaps exist as a second tier after the very expensive brands listed first. Can you guys list inverter brands along with how confident you feel in that brand name? It would also be good if you could list brands to absolutely stay away from (such as Power Jack, right?) or other generic buying tips. Iím trying to establish a gradient of affordability versus perceived reliability.
2) Respected Solar Charger Manufacturers
This is similar to the point above. There seem to be many inexpensive MPPT chargers on eBay. Charge controllers from the likes of Morningstar are many times more expensive for the same current capability. I suspect the danger is largely the sameócheaper controllers double as magic smoke shows. What brands of controllers are reliable? Iíve got a Steca 10A PWM controller right now that Iíve commandeered from my father. It seems to be a passable choice but I may want something MPPT later if this turns out to be fun.
Is there any particular reason to buy a traditional inverter as opposed to using a quality UPS if your goals are small? A $500 budget seems to be able to get a true sine inverter in the range of 1000W while that same budget could fetch a 3000 VA APC SmartUPS. Theyíre designed for prolonged usage, have true sine output, have load & battery indicators, and feature higher conversion efficiency (95%) than most of the inverters Iíve looked at. Iíd just not plug it into the wall and use external batteries if I went that way. Iíd probably get a 1500 or whatever the largest model that still features a 24V inverter inside would be and apply the saved money elsewhere.
4) MPPT vs PWM
As I understand it, MPPT is really only of a significant benefit when panels arenít at peak production (shadowing, winter, clouds, etc). Is this correct?
5) Load Connection Point
Small charge controllers are fairly limited in terms of how much load current they can supply. Why is it that the load is usually connected to the charge controller instead of to the batteries directly? Is it just to be able to provide statistics and low battery voltage cutoff?