*Battery Bank on Wheels*
By: WF.Wizard
16 October 2006

I read a post on the Rubicon saying that Harbor Freight had solar panels for under $200.00. I wound up paying only $ 180. Tax and all.

I went through the usual hassles involved with a completely foreign project. One of the panels was shattered and was replaced without any questions. The choice of mounting locations caused concerns and frustrations. In the end a compromise location that does not take full advantage of the sun was chosen. It had gotten to the point of "do something even if it is wrong". All worked out OK and for about $ 30. I had the panels wired and flexible conduit run into my Saferoom.

I have decided to live with the risk of keeping lead acid batteries in the living area of my home. I don’t recommend it for anyone else. I am not immune to the dangers but I have tried to minimize them. The roll around battery bank I will describe in this article is the result of trying to minimize hazard as well as providing a multi-use setup, useful for things I have thought about and perhaps some I haven’t thought of yet.

Mrs. Wizard suggested I get some wood and build a rack for our Group 27 Wal-Mart deep cycle batteries. I really did not have the room for a long rack like I had seen in the articles and knew I would have to build a rack to stack them one on top of another. I already kept all batteries in heavy-duty marine cases as part of my hazard minimization efforts. So I stacked two together to test the strength of the cases and had no problems. Two batteries is a useful amount of power but I desired a minimum of four to run my 2000 watt inverter (another Harbor Freight bargain). I settled for three batteries for my first prototype. I had a fairly lightweight two wheeler hand truck that had served me well for several years. I tested the battery cases to see if they would take the weight of three batteries stacked upon one another. They held up without any cracks or deformation. The hand truck proved to be too flimsy so I replaced it with a heavy-duty model with solid wheels. I did not want the pneumatic wheels going flat and costing me mobility especially in an emergency.

I chose to mount two different size inverters –an inexpensive 350-watt unit by Mobilegear and a Harbor Freight 2000-watt unit. I chose this setup for the versatility it afforded. When I had just a small load to run the 350 unit would run it more efficiently. It also would save wear and tear on the 2000 watt unit which may become ‘mission critical’ during an emergency.

The charge controller mounts on top of the top battery case. The 2000-watt inverter is mounted to the frame of the two wheeler in a vertical orientation. A battery cut off switch was installed in front of the big inverter, mainly because the 2000-watt inverter has a fan that runs even when the unit is switched off and the sound became annoying. Wiring was done with 2-gauge cable all cut to equal lengths, a few extra inches was allowed in case a different configuration is needed in the future.

So far all tests have been positive. The time required for monthly maintenance is just over 15 minutes. I have run some small compact florescents for hours and hours. I have baked bread in a bread machine. I have a small microwave that I have cooked in on inverter power. I have run a small window unit air conditioner for over ten hours with it. I have wheeled the unit outside and jumpstarted a car as well as run several power tools. The unit served well during a real life power outage just days after it was completed.

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