Then came the idea of doing some core lighting of the house with LEDs and low voltage DC. Things like accent lighting and nightlights come to mind, and my cove lighting concept (that was reawakened by J&A's home theater) done up with LEDs is a major-league contender. It's probably not enough for normal work lighting like say in a kitchen, but I'm already using low-voltage halogens in there above the sink, and they work really well. And since they're off most of the time, the drain on the system wouldn't be horrible. The main lighting could certainly still be regular
That led to the idea of solar panels charging up a bank of batteries, which seems like a pretty decent idea in theory. The practice gets a little wobbly because rechargeable battery technology gets really funky, but there are a handful of companies doing the thing and doing it well. It's just damn expensive.
Then I get a spam from Northern Tool & Hydraulics from whom I recently purchased the hoist. I decided to look at their website, and something catches my eye:
Northern Industrial High Wattage Solar Panels — 15 Watt
Solar panels, made to be mounted, designed to charge deep cycle 12-volt marine batteries. You have to add a charge controller (another 30 bucks, which is damn reasonable), but one charge controller can handle seven solar panels or wind generators.
The charge controller is designed for one battery. I'd probably have to create my own charge-sensing bank controller to switch out multiple batteries; ideally I'd like three: one being charged, one active in the DC supply circuit, and the third fully charged and ready to be swapped. The nice thing about that is that if one battery fails, you can swap it out while it's not being used.
Figure seven solar panels at 90 bucks each, a couple hundred bucks for the batteries (I think I could find them for a lot less) and maybe a hundred for cabling and attachment hardware and you're floating right around $1000 for being able to detach from the grid, at least partially.
I'm in a good place to be considering adding this. It dovetails in really nicely with the remodeling plans I already have in mind.