Solar Powered Audio

With all the discussion about bad AC quality, the necessity for power conditioning, and the emergence of several products that utilize battery power supplies to overcome noisy AC, it occurs to me that an audio system powered exclusively on a solar powered/battery system would be ideal. Solar panels on the roof. A bank of storage batteries in the attic or crawlspace. Bingo! Pure, quiet, dedicated power!

Is anyone in the southwest or west doing this...or even considering this?
I thought about it for quite a while and then talked to my favorite audio dealer who is also part of an electrical consumers home group, now. His first thoughts were the solar panels, which I have installed, give out pure DC, even when stored in batteries it would need to be regenerated as AC before it could be used. So far I am still just mulling it over with no real outcome in sight. Good idea but the implementation is somewhat difficult or so it seems at present. It will take more looking into when I am more serious about it and willing to spend what it takes to undertake it.
Tvad, sounds like a plan to me... i'am sure there has to be an enterprising co. some where that would consider such a task... in the mean time, i think i'll sit back and enjoy my edge signiture one preamp (dc mode of course). (:^)...
DC to AC to DC (power tranformers) could be ideal... All you would need is a battery array and converter, plus of course enough photovoltaic's to run it. You know, they have those trickle photovoltaic systems at car stores (Kragen, et al...), and I've seen car battery arrays used this way on "This Old House", etc. It seems the key to me though would be regulation of the output, which would need more than just the converter, but maybe just a regulator like on any audio system would work? You could go with a 240 converter with a step down, which would give you double cycle like many of the larger tube transformers use when they run on 115. I wonder if you had a battery array, maybe six or eight, with trickle photovoltaics, which are about $30. a peice... hmmm... I bet you could get by for under a thousand dollars. But would it work? Plus you could run really super high quality electrical wire after words, for extra bucks.

You should rummage the "Hacking your Prius" internet sites for info - some companies will hack the car for you now, if you don't mind voiding your warranty. Basically the idea is you put eight extra car batteries where your spare tire should go (and move the spare) wired in tandem, and wire it all in to an EV only button, which is dormant in the American model. Then you put a plug-in in the bumper which converts AC to DC and you can go about a hundred miles - so basically you refuel from the grid instead of a gas station; unless you are going on a road trip. I just wish Lotus would come out with a set of ultra-lite parts for the car, or maybe you know, like a cool body style... but the basic idea should be the same for DC home use like you are talking about.
You stole what i was going to post!!!! Ive been wondering about this for some time too.
The quality would highly depend on the converter used. Also, I assume you haven't priced a system like this yet or you wouldn't have posted. ;) My guess is that you are better off spending all that money on better system components for real improvement and no head aches.
Can a system like this, considering local power company subsidies, cost more than a $7000 Isoclean system? I don't know, but it makes for an intriguing thought. Frankly,one would think Southern California would be ideal for solar energy, but virtually no one installs such a system.
I have a battery(12v) int amp(sonic impact t amp), a Dynavector D-75 12V phono stage, a Technics Sl-10 battery powered TT. All can run off of seperate SLA(sealed lead acid) batteries, and charged with a trickle charger or Solar battery charger. There are 12V cd players and DACS available too. Wellborne Labs has a tube preamp that is battery powered. Much simpler and cheaper than a bunch of solar panels to power AC equipment. Get off the Grid! Let em turn off the power and we'll still have sweet music by candlelight or solar powered lights, or tubes!
I disagree entirely with Aball; I think if you DIY it with well-researched high quality parts, it should work out well, but synergy is of course, as always, an issue.
07-10-06: Jalanc42069
I have a battery(12v) int amp(sonic impact t amp), a Dynavector D-75 12V phono stage, a Technics Sl-10 battery powered TT. All can run off of seperate SLA(sealed lead acid) batteries, and charged with a trickle charger or Solar battery charger. There are 12V cd players and DACS available too. Wellborne Labs has a tube preamp that is battery powered. Much simpler and cheaper than a bunch of solar panels to power AC equipment. Get off the Grid! Let em turn off the power and we'll still have sweet music by candlelight or solar powered lights, or tubes!
Jalanc42069 (Threads | Answers)
Well, if you're charging your batteries with a trickle charger, then you're not off the grid.

Also, I personally believe that all the batteries required to power battery powered gear creates a rather fugly installation. It'd be a cleaner to run wire from batteries in an attic or crawlspace, wouldn't it? And then you'd really be off the grid.

Anyhow, this is more of a rhetorical question intended to spur some discussion on the topic, although I thought there'd be at least one deep-pockets audiophile in one of the sunshine states to have tried this.
Tom Lyons, Audiogon user name TWL, has been completely off of the grid for years, check out some of his posts for the practical applications of the theory.
You may want to consider the damage in the wake of the "stormy" season on the sun. The solar cycle runs 11 years. At peak, most solar flares and CME's, or Coronal Mass Ejections, take place. These prominences can lift off as far as 300,000 miles above the sun. Solar wind carrying damaging particles can wreak havoc on magnetic/eclectrical devices on Earth - even those below Earth's nifty magnetic field.
Whether this has anything to do with performance of solar pannels powering your rig, I have no clue. I just wanted to freak you out a bit and show off something I learned from this cool new picture/factoid book "The Sun". Very enjoyable to read while listening to KC and the Sunshine Band. ;)
Since synergy is always an issue, I prefer to swap out power coniditioners instead of power generation systems. But that is just my opinion - you can do whatever you like.
Cool stuff!
Tvad, i said that the batteries can be charged with a trickle charger OR a solar battery charger just to show the versatility of battery powered systems. One 2'x4' solar panel can charge multiple batteries that can play music for days, depending on the size of the batteries you use. I use 7amp batteries on each component but i guess you could use a lawn tractor size battery(30amp) to do the whole thing. As far as being fugly, yeah, maybe but so aren't power conditioners and transformers. You could build a nice rosewood veneered box to mount batteries in, or put a cardboard box over the batts and paint it to look like gold urn filled with Brilliant Pebbles! Run wires up to a crawl space?, you've got to be kidding. Why make it so complicated? This is a simple set up. 7 amp SLA batteries are about $20. each and a 2x4 ft panel/charger is about $200. The deep pocket audiophiles can spend thousands for an elaborite solar system which is cool if it powers your whole house, but i could find better uses for thousands of dollars.
Douglas, "Solar wind carrying damaging particles can wreak havoc on magnetic/electrical devices on earth", ok, but will it damage your $20. battery? When you get back down to earth try some SLA batteries, hee hee!
Great posts guys, this is an interesting subject. Thanks, Alan
This is a simple set up. 7 amp SLA batteries are about $20. each and a 2x4 ft panel/charger is about $200.
Wow. That's considerably fewer batteries and panels than I imagined would be necessary. How many components run off this array, and for how many hours per day?
Solar power is full of impurities. Look at the large amounts of skin cancer cases beign reported yearly. Please! I am not sure many of you are looking forward to bringing your Conrad Johnsons to the Green Peace ward of the Ralph Nader/Sinai hospital for biopsies of your tube gear.

I am partial to Delco batteries. I have never heard "blacks" as black and my system has never sounded more "PRATish" since hooking up all my gear to 6 of these cuties.

Tvad, my sonic impact t amp runs for a couple of 8 hr daysbefore it needs recharging. I use a seperate batt for each component. If you don't run down the batteries completely, just a trickle is all you need to bring it back up to full power, maybe 8 hrs. The dynavector phono pre is about the same or longer lasting. The Technics SL-10 is new but it looks like it will drain quicker than the others, iI might try a bigger SLA for that one. The panel does not even need to be mounted, you could move it around to the sunny windows or stick it out in the yard. When the sun is hiding you could always cheat and run an extension over to the folks next doors house or street pole and steal power from the grinning gridmeisters.
A solar trickle charger, Tvad, is what I said. And; Last I checked, I've never heard of a solar-voltaic cell checking out over sun spots.
07-15-06: Biomimetic
A solar trickle charger, Tvad, is what I said.
Yes you did. My apology.
No probs Tvad - last thing anyone wants is a house fire. Still, DC to AC to DC should be amazingly clean sound; if you look at the history of the development of DC by Tesla, you can see why the guy promoted it so crazily. In almost every respect its better power. Just weaker.
Hello from Down under,Australia...
I have been running a Solar set up now for 6 years and recently upgraded my 20 Solar Panels and also added a Wind Generator...that's for running a KR Audio Kronzilla and all the other goodies in the past...Power was too costly to bring up to my isolated bush property,so I really had no choice...I am now running two seperate systems,with different batteries and different 24VDC to 240VAC Converters,both being pure sine wave share some experiences gained over the years!!!! set of batteries is lead acid,the other one is Ni-Cad...they both sound my ears ,the Ni-Cad is a bit smoother...the same goes for the sine wave voltage converters... both sine waves look the same and are very clean,BUT,they sound different...the output rating is about the same...I will be completing my wiring with better cables to the dedicated power points soon,fuses to my ears also sound better than circuit breakers...our Australian ones are different than yours...I recently also went to a battery S/S amplifier and was suprised by the result...In summary...oversize your battery supply and try different once,preferably sealed ,if using a voltage converter,make sure it is a good pure sine wave ...
the result will be clean,dynamic music "pure"...hope this is of some help !!!! Helmut
Hey - You have gotta post some pics and include wiring and stuff, unless you are going into business. Like instantly; we all want to see.
Maybe a dumb question, but doesn't most audio gear ('cept the stuff with motors) have internal transformers and run mostly DC anyway? You don't really need 115VAC, and wouldn't you lose a lot in the various DC-AC-DC conversions? Why not stay in the DC domain and just get a plug installed on your gear that bypasses the internal power supply?
I fully agree that on a smaller installation you do loose a lot in the conversion from AC to I mentioned I just did purchase a German made small DC amplifier for efficient speakers....puts out about 10 watt...and so far I am very impressed,but I am on the other side of the world ,in Germany at the moment and will have some discussion with the manufacturer,to bring it ,if possible, to a higher level...but,I also found that the bigger Inverter appears to have a better control on the bass and the any case,if you stay with a pure DC supply,which is better ,you do need a battery ,as big as possible,that's my my case,I sometimes do have to supply some power to the house and washing machine too,ha,ha...if someone is interested in some pictures,shoot me a day I will post my system,but at the moment I am down grading and selling most of the gear...hope this helps....Enjoy the music...Helmut
You nailed it Edesilva! That's exactly what most of us are doing with the SLA's etc., bypassing the transformer/diode stage and feeding 12/24/48v dc directly to the supply caps... beautious!
I guess the one good thing about transformers is that they tend to hold a lot of power that is available for meeting peak loads really fast... My limited electrical engineering experience tells me that batteries don't tend to be able to supply lots of amps for transient demands... For that reason, I think those guys with the mega car stereos use beeeeeg capacitors wired into the power supplies... Are you guys who are running off batteries doing similar things?
Transformers also often use specialized metals to make the transient energy faster, more audiohphile, etc. But it would be worth experimenting. That much clean power is kind of hard to say "no" to.
Hi Edesilva,
Transformers don't do the energy storage, their job is simply to transform the 120v feed to whatever is required by the unit in question... say 40v. The diodes rectify / convert the 40v ac power to about 56v dc (in this case) which is fed to the supply caps, which do the storage as well as further filtering / smoothing of the dc feed. Hopefully someone who actually knows what they're talking about can correct my inaccuracies!!!
Pretty good article in today's (7/30/06) Los Angeles Times Real Estate section about solar power. The article offers quite a few information resources.
Someone posted this site at AA for purposes of getting off the grid. They sell everything you need (I think...). Art Bell would be excited about this post.
Hmm... I always thought that transformers also stored energy as well--but this is memories of college physics from many moons ago. As an energy transfer device, however, I've gotta believe the transient load response is a heckuva lot faster than a battery. Has anyone compared the voltage drops on transients from a battery supply to a 115VAC supply through a transformer?

The caps in an AC/DC power supply smooth out lumpy voltage out of a rectifier; wouldn't they perform the same function if put in parallel with a battery supply in leveling out voltage drops caused by placing too high of a transient current demand on a battery? Anyone do this?
Been doing it for years. Works quite well.
Takes a little bit of work, and knowing what you want to accomplish, and selecting suitable gear for the purpose.

It's just a simple battery power system that is recharged by the solar panels.
Not for high-power amp applications, typically.

Great for a low power SET application.

Teres makes a battery power supply for their TT.
I had a custom made David Berning SET-ZOTL amp built by David for this application.
You can run a battery powered preamp, or if you need to you can use a high-quality pure sinewave inverter to run any gear that has to run on 120vac.
Thanks, Tom. From the info presented here by the few who utilize solar power, it seems to be too complicated for my purposes.