Solar Panel Road Trip!

by Ben N on November 14, 2010

Yesterday, my friend Tim and I drove 6 hours (8 hours for me) to pick up a load of FREE solar hot water panels.

This really started some time back. About two years ago, I was visiting my cousin and her family. They have an old farmhouse, which had solar hot water panels on it from the 70’s solar boom time period. The panels weren’t being used. For some time they hadn’t been hooked up and working. Apparently, the previous homeowner did his own plumbing – not to code, and just not very well done.

The last time I visited, the solar panels had been removed from the house, and stacked next the the garage, ready to be taken to the scrap yard. When I inquired about them, my cousin told me that I could take them, or even sell them and keep the money, if I could find someone who would want them. I took one of the panels with me, to use as a sample, and see what would be needed to refurbish them and put them back into use.

That lead to me visiting my friend Tim, bringing the solar panel with. We spent an afternoon taking the panel apart, cleaning it, soldering on new connectors, and testing it out.

More recently, Tim had been talking about some way of heating his garage a bit in the winter to make it into a usable working space. Sounded like it was time to go get those panels and make us of them. I called my cousin, and arranged for a time to come out and get the panels.

So, that lead to our road trip. Unfortunately, it takes an hour for me to get to Tim’s. His house isn’t really that far away, there’s just no easy way to get there! I drove out in my S10, which is big enough to carry all the panels, and still get better than average fuel economy. After that, it was another three hours drive to my cousin’s to get the panels.

Once we were finally there, we were showed where they were, now stacked away in the dark corner of a barn.

It didn’t take us real long to load them all up, unfortunately they were just a tad too long to fit in the truck AND close the tailgate. Not a huge deal, I had bungie cords a a ratchet strap. It was a pretty cold and rainy day to be working outside though. At least I was able to back the truck right up to the barn.

Once we had them all loaded up, it was another three hours back home. My favorite part was being stuck behind an X-mas tree truck for a while. That was big and slow! I just imagine him pushing all the air out of the way to help improve my fuel economy.. We actually did get nearly 28 MPG average out of the entire round trip. Not bad considering the additional weight and weather conditions.

Finally back at Tim’s, we unloaded the panels. He still has to find where he is going to store them for now, but at least he has them. I think the next step might be just to hook one up and start experimenting with it.

Expect to see more updates in the future about Tim’s solar water heating project.

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