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Home-Built Solar Units Make Them Self-Sufficient
When an ice storm encased Louisiana and took down power lines for a week last winter, the lights stayed on in the solar-powered Mull family home. It was a satisfying part of Gary Mull’s journey to self-sufficiency which started about 8 years ago when he purchased an inexpensive solar panel kit from Harbor Freight. Once the auto mechanic understood the way it worked, he started buying parts to custom build solar generators.
There are no power lines on his remote Colfax, La., property. Instead, he spent $10,000 for parts for a solar system when he built his home 5 years ago. The ground-mounted systems for his home and shop are capable of producing 33,000 kW a day.
“I have an oversized system so I can run AC or my 200 amp MIG welder,” Mull says.
With 240 volts available, the setup for the house powers the higher amps easily and has eight L16 batteries for storage. The shop has a couple of batteries for storage and 1,000 kW capacity for lights and tools. Mull initially had the solar generator on a truck that he used to build his home.
He buys used and inexpensive solar panels from sources he finds on Facebook Marketplace, and buys other components from solar companies to build the combiner box (breakers), inverter and charge controller that maintains and keeps the batteries at specific voltages – 60 volts/day and 40 volts/night. Mull notes that he ground mounts the solar panels so he won’t have to climb on the roof when he gets older. That also made it easier for him to throw protective tarps over the panels before the freezing rain hit last winter.
The panels were also resilient through three hurricanes. Hurricane Laura’s 108 mph winds just slightly damaged one panel that still works, and loosened a few others. The Mulls’ power stayed on, while neighbors were without electricity for 3 weeks.
Since the storms, Mull has gotten requests from people to custom-build solar power systems for them. He also mounts solar panels on golf carts and on trailers. He uses his golf cart to charge his electric chainsaw when he gathers firewood, and he has two panels on his pickup.
“My big incentive was to have no bills and to live off the grid. We have a well, everything runs on solar. I’m 48 years old and not in debt,” Mull says.
The Mulls have a rainwater catch system and a wood cookstove they can use for cooking, and they raise a variety of livestock including goats, which they plan to milk and make cheese.
Mull shares videos of the family’s setup on YouTube: Off Grid Gary.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Gary Mull, 1465 Hwy. 471, Colfax, La. 71417 (ph 318 290-1661; garychevymull1972@gmail.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #3