Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Solar Science 101 – Solar Panels

Top 3 Things to Know About Solar Panels

You've talked about getting "backup solar." And you meant to look into a portable solar generator after the last derecho or hurricane. But it feels daunting - it's an investment and you're afraid you'll choose the wrong system.

SunRunr is committed to providing you with the knowledge and confidence needed to choose the best portable solar generator system for your needs.  In our previous blog, “Understanding How Portable Solar Generators Work," we used the analogy of banking to describe the three key aspects of a portable solar energy system like the SunRunr:  Power Storage (your savings account), Power Generation (deposits), and Power Output (withdrawals).  In this blog we’ll take some of the mystery out of the power generation side of the equation by exploring three key aspects of solar panels.

The Power of Sun + Sand

A solar panel is made by linking together solar cells which are each converting sunlight into electricity via photovoltaic (PV) materials.  Silicon (sand) is currently the most widely used photovoltaic material.  When sunlight hits the silicon within the solar cell, the light's energy is absorbed by the silicon, knocking electrons free from their atoms.  These released electrons are then captured and directed through an electrical circuit. This TED-Ed video provides a great visual of this conversion of solar energy into electrical energy.
The electrical energy produced by a solar panel is direct current (DC) power and is available for immediate use.  If you want to save that electricity for a rainy day or for an hour from now, that electricity will need to be stored.  That’s where battery options (power storage) come into play.  And if you’re looking to power the gadgets and appliances you have around your home, a  power inverter will be needed to convert the direct current to alternating current (AC).

Durable and Maintenance-Free

A question we often hear is, “Can a SunRunr system hack it where I live?  Here in (Maine, Mississippi, Montana) we get a lot of (hail, snow, rain, wind, salty mist).”  The answer is “Yes!”.  Each SunRunr comes standard with two Kyocera solar panels that use a tempered glass cover plate and an anodized aluminum frame that are designed and rated to withstand severe environmental conditions.  And with zero moving parts to break or wear out - no motor, no gears, no mechanical bearings - solar panels have a 20+ year life and are practically maintenance-free.   Normal rainfall is generally sufficient to keep their surface clean, as long as your panels are tilted at an angle of 15 degrees or more. Should you live in an area with a lot of smog or dust or there’s not a lot of rain, a soft cloth, mild detergent and water will do the trick.  

How Much Power Are We Talking?

What can you do with 1500 Watts? You can cleanup after a storm, run your farm’s well pump, recharge your ship battery, or be the family’s hero during a power outage. Need more juice? SunRunr can be easily expanded by adding solar panels and more storage.
The rate at which energy is generated or consumed is measured in Watts (W).  Each solar panel in the standard SunRunr system produces 145 Watts each for a total of 290 Watts. And because the SunRunr is solar PLUS storage, the unit is re-charging while discharging!  If your panels receive 6 hours of sun each day, you’ll have a sustainable usage rate of 1500 Watts per day.  
If you’d like to dive in further, you can find more juicy technical specs plus other general FAQ about portable solar + storage on our website.  Need help determining your power solution?  Let us know or contact one of our certified dealers! Catch our National Preparedness Month deal and save an extra 5% between August 1 and September 30, 2017.

EARLY BIRD BONUS! Buy before the total solar eclipse on Aug 21 and receive a free AC/DC charger!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Solar Science 101: Comparing Batteries

Shopping for a portable solar generator + storage system?  Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the jargon? You know all these technical specs are being thrown at you for a reason, but how do you compare apples to apples? Where do you even begin?
You’ve come to the right place.  SunRunr is nationally recognized for our commitment to educate the public and promote preparedness. We want to put the power in your hands to choose the portable solar system that’s best for you and your family.
“What can I run on this thing?”
We’re all familiar with the basic idea of batteries – they store power that we can then use when we’re mobile.  Whether it’s a flashlight, a smartphone, or a circular saw, batteries allow us to stay unplugged from a wall outlet (off-the-grid).  “What can this solar generator really do for me?”  That’s what we all want to know, right? “How long can this battery run my lights and my circular saw and my freezer and my coffee maker and my…?”  

The road to that answer gets twisty quickly. Near the end of this article we’ll list some resources that can help you zero in on the answer for your specific power requirements.  What we want to do here at the Science 101 level is to familiarize you with the common terms and designations you’ll run across so you can begin to consider your energy needs and your battery storage options.

Watts: your speed of consumption
Let’s say you have a flashlight that’s labeled “10W” (10 Watts).  And to keep things simple, we’ll say your desktop computer is listed at 100 Watts.  Watts are used to measure the rate at which energy is produced or consumed.  If you think of watts as speed, the wattage is how fast you’re driving at a moment in time.  Your computer is consuming energy faster than your flashlight – currently clocking in at 100 miles per hour whereas your flashlight in this moment in time is tootling along at 10 miles per hour.
Watt-hours: the amount you drive
In our analogy, Watt-hours (Wh) is the distance or amount you drive over a period of time.  If you drive at a constant 100 miles per hour for 3 hours, you will have traveled 300 miles.  So if your 100 Watt desktop is on for 3 hours, then your computer will have used 300 Watt-hours of energy.  A more energy-efficient computer might only require 50 Watts and therefore if you left it on for the same amount of time, it would only use 150 Watt-hours of energy.
To give you some perspective, a typical house in the U.S. uses an average of 30,000 Watts per day.  To see how your usage stacks up, take a look at your latest utility bill.  Your energy usage will likely be listed in kilowatt-hours (kWh).  As a reminder, “kilo” means “1000”, so 1 kilowatt hour is 1,000 Watt-hours.  Are you using more or less than the average 30 kWh per day?

Amp Hour: “How many cars can I drive at once?”
When shopping batteries, comparing their Amp Hour specifications can give you an indication of what a battery’s storage capacity is and serve as a baseline for relative comparisons.  Amp Hour attempts to answer the question, “How many tools can be running at the same time and continuously for 20 hours?”  
In the case of the SunRunr:
Amp Hour capacity @ 20 hr rate = 245 Ah
245 AH@20 HR
As we mentioned above, Watts are used to measure the rate at which energy is produced or consumed.  Your battery is “producing” as your computer is “consuming.”  To determine the Watt-hours of a particular battery, multiple the Amp Hour times the Voltage.  In the case of the SunRunr, the system uses a 12 Volt DC battery.
SunRunr’s Watt-hours:
245 Amp Hour x 12 Volts DC = 2940 Watt-hours
It’s also important to learn from the manufacturer what the “usable storage” is for a particular battery.  The battery in the SunRunr offers 2000 Watt-hours of usable stored power before recharge is required.
Because Amp Hour specifications are most often a 20 Hour rating, we have to keep that in mind when thinking about Watt-hours.  With some simple math we can determine that SunRunr owners get 100 Watt-hours for 20 hours (2000 Watt-hours divided by 20 hours).  Keep in mind that some solar generators, like the SunRunr, can be storing additional energy even while you’re consuming energy, allowing you to have sustainable daily power.

In a power outage, what electronics would you want to use?  This energy calculator can give you a sense of how many Watts some common appliances consume. How many hours per day do you think you’d use each of them?  With these Watt-hours in mind, you can play around with different scenarios to see how far 100 Watt-hours can take you.  On our website, we’ve got some practical examples of what that power can do for you in an emergency, on the farm, or at a job site.

Apples to Apples
So, when it comes time to shop solar generators, look for these two battery specifications:
Amp Hour and Usable Watt-hours.  With these numbers in hand, you now have the power to see how batteries stack up.
SunRunr’s Battery
Battery B
Battery C
Amp Hour @ 20 Hours
245 Ah
Usable Watt-hours
2000 Wh
To dive in further, head over to our website where you can find more juicy technical specs plus other general FAQ about portable solar + storage.
Need help determining your power solution?  Let us know or contact one of our certified dealers!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Understanding How Portable Solar Generators Work

When it comes to portable solar, there’s a lot of old information and misinformation out there.  The SunRunr portable solar generator is proof that solar can be a reliable part of your daily and emergency power plan.

Our solar + storage systems have been described by Practical Preppers as a well-built, tough, serious, sustainable solution. We want our customers and our community to be ready for what life throws at them.

 Clarity & Transparency with the SunRunr
SunRunr has been nationally recognized for our work to educate the public and promote preparedness. We work closely with our customers to find the best solution for their specific application and to ensure they understand the abilities of their SunRunr system. We strive to assure our dealers also understand the benefits and limitations of portable solar and don't oversell its capabilities. Our transparency and customer relationships are reasons why our customer satisfaction rate is 99%.

When it comes to shopping around for portable solar, it’s important to be able to accurately compare your options. But the technical jargon can get heavy quickly.
Below, we’ll touch on the basics of what you need to know, as well as provide links if you want to dive into the technical deep end.  If at any point you have questions, just pick up the phone to talk to us or call one of our certified dealers.

Solar in the Bank

Think of a portable solar energy system like banking. You can only withdraw electric energy that has been deposited into your account.  Your account has defined minimum and maximum limits, and you can maintain a maximum balance by turning off the unit when not in use and recharging when possible.  Charging while in use is equivalent to getting cash back on your purchases (power consumption), stretching your "dollar". And best of all, your source of income is indefinitely renewable.

When choosing the right solar power option for your needs, there are three key factors to compare that will impact your satisfaction:

1.    Power Storage (your savings account) 
For the purposes of our analogy, the battery within the solar generator is your savings account. The type, capabilities and quality of the battery affect your “withdrawals”.  Larger-battery systems like the SunRunr can handle high surge output and have a higher sustained usage before recharge is required.

2.    Power Generation (deposits) 
Your power generation is impacted by the quality of the solar panels, your capability to add additional solar panels, and the ability to deposit energy from other sources (grid, wind/water turbine, bicycle).

3.    Power Output (withdrawals) 
Some solar generators like the SunRunr allow you to withdraw both DC and AC power out of your “account”.  The AC inverter within the generator determines the withdrawals you can make.  If you’re looking to run many devices simultaneously or run high amp load tools (compressors, well pumps, table saws), your solar generator will need an AC inverter that can handle the load and surge.  And if you’ll be running sensitive electronic devices (such as some pellet stoves, desktops, and high-end audio), you’ll need to upgrade to a full sine inverter.

In the case of the SunRunr system, if you choose to keep the solar panels attached during power usage, you can be depositing while withdrawing (aka “sustainable daily rate”).

Real Power for the Real World 
A SunRunr is built for those who need serious power in serious times, such as in the event of a disaster or a power grid failure.  But we’ve also designed our system to be a plug-and-play, accessible solution for those seeking entry-level solar or needing power for their agribusiness or workshop.  Would you take the SunRunr camping? No. But here’s what you can do:

Take care of your family during a hurricane.

Use a SunRunr during storm cleanup or on a construction site.

Power a well pump or compressor on your farm.

Get an appliance, such as your washing machine, off-grid.

A SunRunr system can power many appliances at once (such as a fridge, lights, and fan), but a SunRunr’s forte is running high inrush/surge equipment like pumps, microwaves, and tools.

How does the SunRunr do all this? 
Quality components, a serious battery, and a high-output inverter.

Power Storage: 2000 Watt Hours useable before recharge required (expandable)
Power Generation: 290 W with the standard 2 solar panels (expandable)
Power Output of AC Inverter: 3,500 W max continuous power / 10,000W surge
Power Output of DC: 30-amp
Sustainable Usage Rate: 1500 W per day (expandable)- available every day if panels have 6 hours of sun per day

You can find more juicy technical specs plus other general FAQ on our website.
And we’re always up for a good conversation about Watt Hours, Amp Hours, and Peukert’s Law.

Expandable to Meet Your Needs 
The SunRunr product lineup includes “Our Flagship” Solar Generator 110/120 VAC, 60 Hz, the “Well Pump” model for U.S. devices needing 240 VAC, 60 Hz, and the “International” model that runs 220/240 VAC, 50 Hz.

All SunRunr generators can be easily expanded. Add two more solar panels to each system through the AUX portal using an external charge controller. Or double your energy storage and generation with our Power Module.

Home “Grown”, Quality Craftsmanship 
SunRunr generators are 100% assembled in America with 75% by value American-made dependable components.  The unit is enclosed in a steel chassis for ruggedness and safety. Yes, it costs more. But these safety features and quality components protect you and your family while providing a transportable system that is plug-and-play easy.

Field Serviceable 
Our SunRunr systems come with a one year limited warranty which covers defects in materials and/or workmanship. Over 99% of the time, we’re able to troubleshoot issues over the phone or by email.  And SunRunr systems are field serviceable.  Any electrician can repair our component-based unit for years of investment return. 

Safe Power, Safe Family 
How will you generate power that is safe and reliable for your family? Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms involving power outages. A SunRunr portable generator eliminates this threat.  It can be run indoors, creates no toxic fumes or noise, and doesn’t require the transportation or storage of fuel - an especially limited resource during and after an emergency.  Used outdoors, a solar generator provides the power you need without sparks and the danger of starting brush fires.  All this and without the need to change the oil, check the battery cells, and refill gas cans!

 In the home, on the farm, in an emergency…put a SunRunr portable solar generator to work for you, so you can focus on what matters most.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Best of SunRunr 2016: A Year of Global Solutions

The three-person team behind SunRun of Virginia Inc., Alan Mattichak, Jenny French and Scott French. Photo courtesy Mark Rhodes and Virginia Business magazine.
In 2004, SunRunr began as a spark of an idea.  Now just twelve years later, our portable Solar + Storage generator systems are making a global impact.  From Virginia to the South Pacific, our systems are providing off-grid, supplemental, and backup power to homes and businesses.  2016 was a year that highlighted our three key passions: providing portable renewable energy solutions, championing discussions on energy issues and policy, and raising public awareness of sustainability and preparedness. 

Portable Renewable Energy Solutions
Photo credit Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA
In the SunRunner Sphere Blog this past year, we shared how SunRunr owners around the world are Using the 4 Phases of Emergency Management to Weather a Power Outage. SunRunr owner, Andrew P., gave us a front row seat in this video he recorded as Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean.  “Here we are in the middle of Hurricane Matthew,” Andrew reported. “But the good thing is that we have the SunRunr generator here giving us light, powering the refrigerator, and running some fans.”

In calmer but uniquely difficult waters, our partners Alternative Energy, Inc. incorporated a SunRunr generator within a custom, off-grid solar solution on the island nation of Palau. A fish hatchery powered by the sun is now up and running on the remote island.

Energy Issues and Policy
SunRunr’s Jenny French speaking at StartUpAfrica Conference.
In April, SunrRunr was invited to join a briefing at the White House with senior Administration officials, the White House Business Council and Business Forward.  The briefing included more than 50 business leaders from across the country, and discussions focused on the clean and renewable energy economy and the impacts of climate change on business, national security, human health, and the global economy.

September found SunRunr’s Jenny French at the 2016 StartUpAfrica Entrepreneurship Conference held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. French spoke on a panel discussing “Entrepreneurship in Africa: Now and in the Future.”

SunRunr’s perspective was also called on in October with an invitation to participate in a small business roundtable with Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas. The event was organized by Virginia Exports and Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Raising Awareness of Sustainability and Preparedness

SunRunr was nationally honored this year with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA)  2016 Individual and Community Preparedness Award for Technological Innovation.  During an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., SunRunr and ten other awardees were recognized for our innovative practices and programs that contribute to making communities safer, better prepared, and more resilient.  During roundtable and breakout discussions with high-level officials, recipients were asked to share our success stories, lessons learned, and expertise.  The two-day event gave us a lot to reflect on as we look to the future.

One of our most gratifying highlights of 2016 has been to watch the development of the Net-Zero Science Classroom at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg, Virginia.  In January, SunRunr visited the school to demonstrate a solar generator to John Woods’ 6th grade science class.  With financial support from the Moore Educational Trust and partnerships with local businesses and community-based organizations, the students are now implementing real-world energy solutions and have advanced to Phase II toward a Net-Zero Science Classroom.

In 2017, join our discussions on SunRunner Sphere Blog and on Facebook as we continue to bring you news and developments from around the world on Going Green, Sustainable Solar, & Practical Preparedness.