Thursday, May 2, 2013


Now featuring FLEXpower Systems from OutBack Energy and OutBack FLEXware Power Panels assembled by AEE Solar.

Looking for an easy, straight forward way to get up and running with solar energy? Well, these pre-assembled power systems may just be what you have been looking for.

For addition information about the systems I have available or to make a purchase for the system that best suits your personal needs and budget, please visit my solar website at

I am proud to now be able to offer you these great products. These are self contained power systems designed and pre-assembled. Both these two above mentioned systems are made right here in the good ole United States.

These systems are battery based systems. Meaning that they all work in conjunction with solar storage batteries so you have electric even when the sun goes down. 

Our grid-tie interactive systems store electric from the sun in your solar storage batteries and stores all the extra electric with your utility company. At night you buy that electric back and should the utility electric go down, you always have electric stored up in your batteries.

While our off-grid systems would use a larger battery storage system, they too use the sun to generate DC electric while the inverter provides you with utility grade AC electric to run your home. These systems can be tied into a utility company which can then be used as a backup. They will also start a backup generator if one is available.

The FLEXpower Systems are made and assembled at the OutBack factory in Washington State. These systems are available for both domestic and foreign grid-tie and off-grid applications and come standard with battery charge controller. With these systems you just need a qualified person to wire them to your solar panels and batteries. It is always required that a certified electrician be used when dealing with your public utility. Your electrician can arrange for all the proper permits as well. The FLEXpower Systems are available for both utility connected or utility independent applications. Once these systems are attached to your solar panels, batteries, and utility company if applicable you are ready to go.

The FLEXware Power Panel components are made here in the United States by OutBack Energy Systems of Washington State and assembled in California by the folks at AEE Solar. The FLEXware Power Panels come standard with one to four inverters. These systems are also available for both utility interconnected and stand alone applications. These FLEXware systems provide a basic kit and are ala carte so that you can expand the system to meet your personal needs. In other words, you can add charge controllers, additional AC or DC circuit breakers, lightning arresters, ground fault protection, and battery monitoring system. 

Both of these systems are factory wired and tested before being shipped. They all come ready to be connected to your solar panels, and your solar storage batteries. Then connect them to utility if applicable and to your home load and you are all set to go.

Although I have been offering these systems for awhile, I am writing about it now because the product line and options has greatly increased. As new systems come to market, I will be adding them to my product offering as well.

Purchasing is pre-assembled power system is becoming the way of the future as it eliminates the expense of having to hire a specialized solar installation technician. Most of these installs can be done by an owner builder or by a certified electrician.

Besides being ideal for anyone who is looking to get into a simple grid-tie system, I have sold more systems to individuals who are living off the grid and just don't want to go through the hassle of starting from scratch. In fact I sold a small one inverter to someone here near the Solar Ranch, so if you are in the Taos, New Mexico area and would like to see as small owner installed system, I could probably arrange that. These single inverter units are rather popular with RVers and boat owners as well.

Once you purchase one of these home energy system, you will need to think about solar panels and your solar storage batteries and that will round out your new home solar energy system. 

For more information about these plug and play systems please stop by my website at or you could email me at

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Often I am asked questions about composting toilets. Questions such as how do they work, can they be used similarly as a conventional toilet, etc. So I have decided to write something about composting toilets.

As you may know, I live and work in rural northern New Mexico. Making electric from the sun and wind for my home, office, and my woodcarving studio. I have three composting toilets, one in my home, one serves my office and studio, and one is in my motor home. Although I sell Sun-Mar Composting Toilets, mine are not. This is because I made my own composting toilets long before I started selling Sun-Mar Toilets. I sell them because they are a good product.

Before I go any further I would like to mention something about the two images I posted. The upper photo is my "Throne", this is the toilet from the house, the second photo is the lid which was made by a fellow in Bellingham, Washington and carve by me some 30 years ago. Its held up pretty well over the years.

Although my primitive toilet serves me quite well, I would not recommend it to most. The Sun-Mar toilets are closer to conventional toilets. In fact they offer a central composting system which can be plumbed to several low flush toilets. Other then having to remove the contents from time to time it functions much the same as a conventional toilet. There is a tumbler which needs to be turned once in awhile and there is a handle provided for that purpose.

My "Throne" is nothing more then a pretty face that hides a five gallon bucket which I have to empty every other day or so. Looking at the first photo you will notice that there are two doors, the one with only one handle is where the bucket is. The other with the two handles is actually a bin which is filled with sawdust and wood shavings. Every time the toilet is used, these are sprinkled over the human waste. Outside I have composting bins where I empty the bucket. So now you know how my personal system works.

By the way, if you were to remove the "Throne" you will find an electric outlet should I ever switch to a commercial composting toilet. Also there is a cold water connection and floor drain that is piped to a non existing holding/septic tank should I ever feel I need to go conventional. Lastly there is an exhaust fan that pulls air and any odors out of the throne to the greater outdoors.

Now that you know how my system works I will tell you how the Sun-Mar works. Well actually quite similar except that the Sun-Mar starts doing the composting in a tumbler inside the toilet or the central unit depending on the system being used. They have a drawer that holds the liquids which has to be emptied on a regular bases. Most of the units come with an electric fan and there are optional heaters which are used to speed up the composting process. With the Sun-Mar the waste is mostly processed in the unit.

If you need more information about these Sun-Mar toilets please visit my website at I hope this has been of some interest or help to you.

Terry R. Wolff

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Yes, tis the season when mother nature puts our batteries through its endurance test. And my Surrettes are failing terribly. Not only are they failing, the good folks over at Surrette/Rolls refuse to honor their warranty! Mine are of the "S" series and as far as I am concerned they are not worth their weight in lead.

So as of this week I will no longer be offering Surrette Batteries at my website and I have to admit that this was my first and last personal experience with these batteries. In fact I had stopped selling the "S" series for off-grid a few years back because of problems some of my customers plus myself had had with the Surrette Batteries and them not honoring the warranty. Well now mine are completely dead, oh they will hold a charge for about four hours or less.

Okay, this posting is not to be entirely about warning you to stay away from Surrette/Rolls Batteries, that is a decision that you will have to make on your own.  However if you own or owned some yourself, I would like to hear your story, good or bad. I want to move on to battery maintenance.

Batteries are the backbone of our off-grid solar energy systems. Batteries are expensive and they need to be replaced from time to time. Most off-grid solar storage batteries have a 1000 to 2000 cycle life. So if you cycle your batteries say to 65% every four days or so, your batteries would last you approximately 8 to 9 years. If you cycle them less you will get more years out of them and of course if they are cycled more you will get less. So remember, more is less and less is more!!!

Now besides how many times your batteries are cycled, maintenance of your batteries is also very, very important. One of the main problems your batteries will have is the build up of sulfates on their lead plates. Batteries tend to sulfate when they are not charged to full. One way to help sulfate from building up on your batteries plates is to equalize them regularly. Check with the battery manufacture for the amount of time and voltage that they recommend. Equalization can only be done on liquid lead acid type of batteries, never attempt to equalize a sealed battery!!! And always check your battery's water level after performing an equalization, as the whole purpose of doing this is to force the batteries to boil. Thus evaporation of your batteries water levels. Never ever allow the lead plates to be exposed to air, always keep the water level above the plates!

I recommend checking the water levels at least twice a month. If they need filling that often I would recommend that you replace the battery caps with Water Miser Battery Caps or by using an Automatic Watering System. The Water Miser's will give you some assurance of prolonging the water evaporation. An Automatic Water System will keep the battery water levels always at the proper level. 

Only use distilled water in your batteries, do not use acid. Batteries make their own acid and adding acid is like throwing good money in a fire, never to be seen again.

Another item which seems to work well is a Battery Sulfator which uses electric current to isolate the batteries to help remove sulfate from the plates. I think these work but there are various feelings on the subject. Again most people usually wait until it is too late to purchase one of these.

Use a Hydrometer to check the battery's acid levels. This will tell you which batteries are strong and which are not. It also will let you know if one of your batteries has a bad cell. Plus if your reading is really low you will know that your batteries can no longer hold a charge.

Try to keep your batteries warm this time of the year. Coldness will help shorten your battery's life.

Well just some things to think about. All the above links will take you to where you can go to the contents to find the page or product you want. There is also a lot more information about battery care and maintenance on the site.

Have a safe and warm winter and a Happy New Year.

Terry R. Wolff

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I am happy to announce, that I was just able to revise the prices of solar pv modules at

These are some of the lowest prices I have been able to offer. This year has been a great year for all of us who are using solar and want to expand our solar energy systems. I have been living with solar energy since since the mid 1970's and we had been promised that PV modules would someday be going down. And we waited and waited, but this year is the real thing.

So last night I finished changing all the solar panel prices on my website and they are all now posted. As noted earlier, last month I was able to reduce a number of other items on my solar site as well. Because I live with solar, I am well aware just how costly our solar investments can be.

When I took over this business in 2003 I have made every attempt to keep my prices as low as possible so that more people would be encouraged to get involved in producing their own energy needs. Now as our country keeps becoming more and more dependent on electrical energy, our major utilities and becoming more interested in having us residential consumers produce electric and sell it back to them. This is especially true in heavy industrial areas where utilities are close to being tapped out and need more electric during the day than they do at night.

So if you are thinking about setting up your own solar energy system, now is a really good time to get involved. There are a number of tax advantages both on a local and national level. Do the research and you will be surprised at what is out there.

And solar panel prices are now at a really great price as well.

Terry R. Wolff

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


FOR THE PAST MONTH I have been working on my website. But a few days ago I have decided to head into Taos and hang out at Caffee Tazza and catch up on my correspondences and one of these is to touch base with you the followers or readers of this blog.

On the site, I have given it a fresh new look. I changed the format of the page style, added several new products and lowered prices where I could.

Now for some Solar Trivia, at least as it has been handed down to me...

Remember Trace, they were those folks up there in Washington state that several years ago started buying up some of their competitors and expanding their inverter product line. Then about a year later along came Xantrex, a Canadian company who swept down and gobbled up Trace. This caused some of Traces engineering department to jump ship, thus forming a successful company just in Traces back yard. That company is OutBack. This lead to other off shoots such as MidNite Solar and Magnum. Well just a few years later and Xantrex as well as Square-D have been acquired by Schneider, a French company who has now thrown their hat into the growing solar industry. There you have it, today's solar trivia.

Here in Carson as in Taos we have been waiting with bated breath for the rains to come but unfortunately they have just been teasing us. Yes we woke up this morning with our soil being slightly damp but that is not enough to help our plants out. I know that my friends and family up in the northwest would love to ship some of their rain down our way but....

I can't remember if I mentioned that last week-end Lady and I caught a bull frog down at the Rio Grande which I introduced to one of our ponds. Which pond really doesn't seem to matter as they they hop back and forth between ponds during the evenings. Also caught a toad the other night. Took it inside so it could meet Linda and than returned to where I found it.

Lets see, what else is new and exciting? ......nothing I guess. Lets see, I am still working on my inside doors and completed the headboard for our bed and today I remudded the bedroom window sill where Pogo damaged it from pouncing out of the overhead storage area.

Lastly, this isn't exciting but fellow carver and sculptor

Well, I have got to leave now so I can address my woodcarving readers.

So until next time, may the Sun light you way, both day and night.

Terry R. Wolff

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I say that because during the winter months I am usually too busy or preoccupied to work on my blogs. But today I decided to go into Taos and hang out at Caffee Tazza and catch up on my correspondences and one of these is to touch base with you the followers or readers of this blog.

For the better part of the June, I have been working on the website. I have been able to lower some prices and will continue doing so throughout July. Some of the companies I deal with have a multilevel pricing system and I have recently moved into a better pricing level with them. As such, I have been passing these savings on in the web catalog.

On the site, I removed the search function as it was not working very well and I was told that "it is frustrating to use". So, that takes care of that. Next I made the pages have a cleaner look and eliminated the large blue category bar across the upper partition of the pages.

I have added a number of new products such as pv module optimizers which hit the market last year. This year several addition companies have joined this new trend so that has to say something about the technology. I have not tested any of these products as all my solar arrays are in full sun.

Also the price of solar modules (pv panels) have come down in price I am happy to announce that I am seeing more companies making their modules here in the US.

Our pre-assembled systems complete with solar modules have also come down in price also and this is largely due in part to the decrease in pv panel prices.

Now for some Solar Trivia...

Remember Trace, they were those folks up there in Washington state that several years ago started buying up some of their competitors and expanding their inverter product line. Then about a year later along came Xantrex, a Canadian company who swept down and gobbled up Trace. This caused some of Traces engineering department to jump ship, thus forming a successful company just in Traces back yard. That company is OutBack. This lead to other off shoots such as MidNite Solar and Magnum. Well just a few years later and Xantrex as well as Square-D have been acquired by Schneider, a French company who has now thrown their hat into the growing solar industry. There you have it, today's solar trivia.

Well, I have got to leave now so I can address my woodcarving readers.

So until next time, may the Sun light you way, both day and night.

Terry R. Wolff

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


There are various types of storage batteries on the market today which are used for solar applications. The most common are the lead acid batteries and sealed lead acid batteries. As technology advances toward producing electric vehicles we will be seeing the prices of lithium batteries becoming more accessible to the average user. But until then, most of us will still be mainly using the lead acid batteries. And it is these lead acid batteries I want to address in this post.

Batteries are the backbone to any Off-Grid or Grid-Interactive Solar Installation. They give the life to our alternative electric systems. Batteries like these also get our vehicles started, they are called Cranking Batteries. Cranking Batteries are rated by cranking amps where as Solar Storage Batteries are rated by their amp hour capacity. So whats the difference, an amp is an amp, no?

No, a cranking amp is what your battery can muster up for a rather short period of time. In other words when you crank over your engine it usually happens within a minute, if your vehicle is older it may take several attempts to get it started. And if your vehicle really wants to be difficult you may have to keep cranking it for a longer period of time and as you do, you will notice the battery get weaker and weaker. This is because you are using up its cranking amps. Cranking Batteries are meant to get the vehicle started and then it goes into charge mode while everything in your vehicle or boat runs off the charging alternator.

A Solar Storage Battery stores the amps produced by your generating system (solar modules, wind turbines, micro-hydro turbines, or a fossil fuel generator) up to the amount the battery is rated for. So now you can use those amps to create electric long after the generating source has shut down.

For the most part, you will put a major part of your solar budget into the purchasing if batteries. Because you will want the most amp hours you can afford, your batteries will be either 6 volts or less. This is because the more amp hours your battery puts out, the more lead it will contain, thus making them very heavy. All Lead Acid Batteries are made up of two volt cells such as the two volt battery shown above. A six volt battery is made up of three of two volt cells. When these cells are put together in a neat plastic container, they are referred to as a battery. So when you get into batteries with a thousand or so amp hours, just one cell could weigh a couple of hundred pounds and if you have a forty eight volt system you really want to deal with only batteries that are packaged as one cell.

Okay, enough about types of batteries, this story is more about the importance of battery maintenance.

Why is maintenance important? First of all you have a small fortune invested in batteries so you want to protect that investment. So the most important thing you can do is to think safety when being around your batteries. Keep all flames and sparks out of your battery room!

Always, always, always wear goggles, rubber gloves, an old long sleeve shirt and slacks (this will save alot of ruined clothing) that are just for working with your batteries.
  1. Keep your batteries out of your house
  2. Provide a separate space for them or put them in a Battery Enclosure.
  3. Where ever you put your batteries make sure that they are well ventilated.
Here are some of my recommendations and you should get into a habit of doing this at least once a month...
  1. Again keep all lit lames away from your batteries!!! I'll give you two incidents I am aware of why this is extremely important before I close this blog.
  2. Make sure that all your battery terminals are tightened down. Check this every time you do a battery inspection. Loose terminals can produce sparking which can lead to fires and worst.
  3. The next most important thing you can do is to keep your battery terminals clean. This can be done with carefully using a mild solution of water mixed with a small amount of baking soda (DO NOT ALLOW ANY OF THE BAKING SODA SOLUTION TO GET INSIDE THE BATTERY!!! If you do, you can kiss your battery good-bye.) and scrubing with a copper wire brush. Once the battery is cleaned use a product like Quik-Kote to coat all your battery terminals. This is an acid neutralizing product which will protect the terminals from getting corroded.
  4. Alway check to make sure your battery liquid levels full (use only distilled water). Low battery water levels help cause sulfation to build up on the batteries lead plates which reduces your batteries ability to hold as many amp hours as it could. There are Battery Desulfator which can help keep your battery's lead plates clean. There is also these little Water Misers, a product which a number of my customers seem to be happy with, which helps retard the rate at which your battery evaporates its liquids.
  5. It is important to monitor your battery's acid specific gravity levels as well. This is done with a hydrometer which is placed in the battery's cell opening. The hydrometer has a bulb which you genitally squeeze once its tip is in the acid. Do this about three times and then take your reading. If your readings are in the red, you are reaching the point where your battery's usefulness is about over. I have seen where using a Battery Desulfator has prolonged having to replace the batteries.
  6. A key to longer battery life is that when initially installing or when you replace your batteries, always buy your Batteries at one time. In other words don't buy some of them now and then say a year later buy some more. This is a good way to decrease the amp hour levels of the newer batteries.
Actually if you want to get more life out of your cranking batteries follow the above first four check points with them as well.

Lastly I want to share with you the importance of why fire and lead acid batteries do not mix. Recently, well in the last few months anyway the woman that works at our local grocery store had a scare. It seems that her husband walked into the dark room where their battery banks were and being that it was dark, he lite his cigarette lighter. And boom!!! The wife who was doing the dishes heard the explosion and ran to his aid. Fortunately the batteries were at the far end of the large room and that she had the good sense to pour water all over him. I say fortunately because if the batteries were near him he would be dead and if she had not poured the water on him, he would be permanently scared and blind. Not a good thing for an author and artist or for anyone for that matter. So be safe.

The second incidence I am aware of happened off Marina del Rey in California. I had been jogging on a coastal path just after sunset, the sky was getting dark when off shore there came a tremendous explosion. I turned just in time to see a ball of flame rising a good 100 feet into the air followed by a column of fire. A yacht anchored off shore had blown up. The next day I learned that the batteries had a loose connection and when the late owner attempted to start the engines, the batteries exploded. There were no survivors.

I would just like to mention one other fact for all you boat owners, and that is the boat also was carrying propane which helped make the explosion so massive. Propane is heavier then air so if there is a leak it therefore seeks the lowest point on the boat. And that is usually the engine room. So if you are going to carry propane I would suggest keeping it on deck near one of the side gunnals so that should it leak it drops toward the sea and not the engine room.

So my friends, be safe and check your batteries health at least once a month.

Terry R. Wolff