Mobile Solar SolMan

This is a post I wrote for the Tumbleweed blog back a year or so, but I felt the information would be good to have here on the Tiny House Blog too.

Adding Solar to your tiny house can be a daunting task if you are not up to date on all the latest technology and how it works together.

A couple of weeks ago we had a “Meeting of the Tiny Minds” and Bill Kastrinos of Tortoise Shell Homes told Jay, Stephen, Michael and I about this great solar solution that was out there.

What if there was a simple solution to this and all you had to do was plug and play? SoleMan a company based in Willits, California has come up with just that kind of solution.

They call their system the “one small, easy to move, all in one integrated unit, ready to point towards the sun at your best location, and deliver up to 1200 watts of AC power, and 12 volts DC power, and even charge all your Ni-Mh smaller batteries.”

This little unit is on heavy duty bicycle wheels so you can have your Tumbleweed home in the shade and easily roll your solar unit where it gets the most sun.

The cool thing about the SolMan is that if your needs grow, so can the SoleMan. You can add another solar panel easily and even a third. The second one sits on it is own stand and can be adjusted as needed. If you chose to get a third panel they have a bracket that attaches all three together that can be folded up for moving.

No need to deal with big panels and connecting them to your roof and knowing you have to park your home in the sun to get the most voltage to your system.
Here are list of the SolMan features:

  1. Silent Operation: No sound whatsoever. Won’t bother your neighbors or you with gas generator noise.
  2. Clean Operation: No gas needed, no gas cans to transport, no fumes or exhaust to worry about.
  3. No additional costs EVER! : Once you buy a Solman, it doesn’t cost anything else to run, as long as you can point it towards the sun.
  4. No recurring gasoline costs, that are only going to go up, no oil changes, no short life span, as unit is designed to keep working for years. ( 20 year PV panel warranty)
  5. Completely self contained, integrated unit: Ready to go, plug and play green power. No engineering or electrical skills needed.
  6. Transportable: With ramps, the Solman can go with you in the back of a small van, SUV or truck. It can be laid horizontal safely.
  7. Mobility: 26 inch heavy duty aluminum spoke and rubber bike tires and perfect balance allow the unit to be wheeled to any location for the best sun, and can easily be turned thru the day for maximum solar tracking and optimal PV energy input.
  8. Deep Cycle Batteries: “2 or 3 -100 (200 to 300 amp-hr total) deep cycle sealed gel cell. No acid spills or venting. No maintenance.
  9. Enclosed battery Container: Optimizes battery life.
  10. Two 12 Volt Auto Plugs: Plenty of places to plug in your 12 volt accessories, lights, chargers, etc.
  11. One heavy 30 amp marine trolling motor plug on exterior, for water pumping, external battery charging, or additional external inverter.
  12. All external plugs have covers and are set up for outdoor use, even in the rain, and all critical components are inside and protected from the weather.
  13. Array only switch: to route unused, excess PV power during the day to external battery charging or water pumping.
  14. Blue Sky Solar Boost 2000E MPPT PV Charge Controller: can handle up to 25 amps or 3 PV panels, and Maximum Power Point Tracking gives additional 10% to 20% charging efficiency to PV input.
  15. 120 Volt Magnum MM-AE 1200 watt Inverter/Charger: this unit has a built in 70 amp charger for when your batteries are down, and you have access to a gas generator, or the grid, you can just plug in the unit and bring your battery bank up to full charge in as little as two hours, also has an AC transfer switch, that automatically senses external power and switches load to that when on.
  16. Magnum Inverter remote switch and status lights on back of unit.
  17. Fuse Protected: 150 amp inverter fuse, triplex plug 20 amp and exterior 30 amp plug.
  18. Heavy 15 amp solar PV-in plug, wired to solar controller for adding an external solar panels.
  19. Toe piece L on bottom, allows for easy transport of optional external PV panel.
  20. Solar PV panel hinged for easy access to internal box, and latches and locks if needed.

So if you are looking to take your tiny house off the grid and become independent and want to use solar as your main component this SolMan option is worth looking at.

Of course there other other RV and home options so do your research and choose what is best for you and your situation. I just like the idea of plug and play and having everything put together where you need it and mobile to boot.

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Alfred - August 5, 2010 Reply

This is a great idea, but unfortunately not quite ready for prime time.

The product costs $3,950, (plus shipping from Sebastopol, CA) and when fully charged can produce 250 watts for 8 hours (figure, four 60 watt light bulbs). It has wheels but weighs 300lbs. Even their own chart on their web site indicates that on an economic basis, a gas generator is cheaper.

For a rough comparison, for all my power and heating needs I buy electricity from the grid (I know, I know I could at least get a woodstove), but the electric bill for the Little Red Cabin is appx. $1,000 a year.

    Chaz - August 10, 2010 Reply

    Hello Alfred and Tiny House devotees;

    I build the SolMan portable solar generators, and have lived
    off-grid in tiny homes for the past 3+ years.
    It is alway difficult to do direct comparison on economic values,
    when the true prices of grid power and gas generators are subsidized by skewed trade policies and not figuring in the ecological costs of their impact. If you want to use a strict short-term dollar value, then a $1000 per year grid power bill is the way to go, but what happens when the grid goes down? Where does that grid power come from?
    It’s the same when comparing the SolMan to a cheap gas generator running fossil fuel. The typical solutions seems cheaper in the short run, but what is the true longer term costs?
    I have clean, green, quite power that I own, that never runs out.
    I do power management and super efficient use also, so the 250 watts for 8 hours at night is actually plenty for a tiny house.
    Think about your power needs like you think about your home space needs. I use all new generation LED lights, so my power draw there is only 30 to 40 watts total. No more incandescent bulbs. Sunfrost refrigerators, most electronics, rechargeable tools, high efficiency pumps and motors, and thru evolution and wise use, the SolMan actually provides all you need in a small space.

    We also build the SolMan as a craft style small business, in America,
    with highest quality American components, so it will last a long time, and be fixable and upgradeable as needed.
    This explains the what seems to be higher price, compared to the cheap chinese style imports in many areas, that just will not last
    nor perform up to specs in real use.
    Ultimately, we are thinking and observing more and more about
    sustainability, including economics, and how our use and buy decisions impact our local communities.

      Patti Tucker - May 10, 2014 Reply

      Chaz… how much does it costs to build a Solman and if there were an EMP to strike.. would I still have the energy to run my things in my small cabin? What is the maintenance on the Solman? I’m 57 and want to live a simple life. Please tell me more about going green.

      Thank you

F H - August 5, 2010 Reply

How many cycles can the batteries withstand before needing to be replaced?

    Chaz - August 10, 2010 Reply

    Our gel cell deep cycle batteries on the SolMan will last maybe 5 years, if you take care of them, and don’t draw then down to dead.
    If you are really rough on them, it will shorten their life. They are easily replaceable.
    Our new lithium-ion battery options are very exciting, in that we get double the effective amp-hours (power storage), with half the weight, and triple the cycle life (life span) compared to our gel cell
    batteries. This is the near term future in battery technology.

Lynn - August 5, 2010 Reply

Has anybody had any personal experience with http://www.mysolarbackup.com? I want something for the inevitable winter power outages in the midwest, but that I can also use to lessen my electric bill. I really hesitate to invest in anything that seems so new, though.

    Chaz - August 10, 2010 Reply

    Hello Lynn;

    We have looked at the MySolarBackup, and found it to be not at all what it is advertised to be. Unfortunately they have used a fear based ad campaign, with a very undersized battery, and cheap, chinese components, to create something that sounds good in the video, but if you actually used it when your grid was down, you’d get no more than 600 watts of power for less than an hour, and your battery would be shot, and the 90 watt PV panel would not bring it back. It only has one very small 51 amp-hr battery. Our SolMan has 300 amp-hrs of storage,
    by comparison, and 400 watts of PV power inbound.
    It is important to look at the specs on the battery and PV input.
    We looked at other vendors trying to do these small solar generators, and found all of them really undersized for actually
    emergency backup or real day to day household use.
    That is why the SolMan is bigger, and more expensive at first glance, but it WILL perform and deliver when you need it.

Cheryl - August 6, 2010 Reply

I like this idea and someday want one when I am ready.

Randy - August 7, 2010 Reply

This is really cool and I’d love to incorporate something like this at my house, but my annual electricity use is just under $500/yr. It would take me 8-9 years to recoup the purchase costs and since that’s right at half of the product’s useful life, that’s just not cost effective. I’m sure solar prices will continue to come down and at some point in the near future that option will be both viable and affordable.

Moontreeranch - August 7, 2010 Reply

I checked this out too a while back. I ended up building my own units, One that is dedicated to running my laptop.

http://kmswoodworks.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/modifications-to-solar-laptop-station/

another that is a complete self-contained “Solar Generator”

http://kmswoodworks.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/modifications-to-solar-laptop-station/

I used my laptop station on our 2 week road trip earlier this year…it kept the laptop happy and I was able to recharge the digital camera’s battery each day…in a generator free campground…how cool is that!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kmswoodworks/4613853470/in/set-72157624073350806/

Kevin

Mobile solar for Gabriola? - October 18, 2010 Reply

[…] because they live amongt tall trees and shade. For them (and for you?) there are now solutions like Mobile Solar SolMan. Huh. Looks pretty […]

TR Kelley - December 8, 2010 Reply

Love this idea and your philosophy. Price is multifaceted, dollars are only part of it. I’m deep in the Oregon rainforest, not enuff light in the winter. Now could you come up with a similar microhydro system? Set up a simple wheel in your seasonal creek or waterway or under a vigorous downspout during a storm….

chase - September 10, 2011 Reply

I’ve been tossing around ideas for a protable solar charger my ebike…

At first glance, well even at second glance, i really liked the look of the Solman shown above. the 300lbs however – does put me off a bit.

But, it does have me thinking on it again.

Brandon - April 28, 2012 Reply

Definitely want to look into one of these when we move into a small house shortly.

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