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Solar Powered Fish House Build

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I built this fish house last year with the goal of having a house that was semi-permanent, light weight, warm, solar powered and a Irish Pub smile. I have had a few questions from folks as to how I went about the build so I figured that I would start my own post to describe the build.

The house is a custom built 8x12 Aluma Lite V front aluminum skid house that I purchased from Bebergs. The house was unfinished but included 2-3 inches of spray foam insulation. It sleeps 2 and has a LED TV/DVD player, bathroom, media player for movies, inputs for fish cam, car alarm, stereo and inverter. I wanted to be able to leave it on the lake so that my Dad could use it during the week (he is within walking distance of the house) and I would use it on the weekends. This house is very light and weighs around 1,800 pounds fully loaded, I pull it with my 350 big bear with chains on the tires.




I installed 3 Unisolar pvl-68 flexible panels for a total output of 204 watts. The roof of the house is curved so I installed the panels to one side of the roof. These panels come in a roll and have a very strong adhesive on their back. They are very dependable and should last 20 years. To go along with the panels I installed a Morningstar dual battery charge controller and two 100+ Ah batteries to store the energy. I set one battery up to run the essentials like the lights and the heater and the other is the accessory battery, they each have their own circuit breaker. The accessory battery has a disconnect switch ensure that there are no phantom loads when we are away.

Here are the panels on the roof (sorry the roof is dirty):


Here are the batteries, solar charge controller, inverter and circuit breakers.


Charge controller read out - gives voltage on the batteries as well as tells you how much energy you are generating.


The key to make all this work you need to install very low draw accessories including led lights, LED DC TV and a low draw stereo. I did opt to go with a forced air furnace which takes the most power to run. If you have room I would suggest a non forced air furnace.

You need to look at the current draw of all devices and how long each one will run to determine the amount of solar capacity that you need. Originally we were only going to put two panels on the roof - we decided to put 3 on just to be on the safe side.

The stereo that I installed was a Kicker (model PXi.50) made low draw head unit that takes headphone or I Phone inputs - you plug it into your phone to play music. They make these to go on ATV's. I also added a USB charger to it so that you can charge your phone as well. (for some reason this pic is sideways)


I used the house pretty much every weekend last winter and my Dad used it one day out of the week. During the week the solar panels charged the batteries back to the 200 Ah capacity, during the weekend we would use around 60-70 Ah each day leaving a reserve + whatever the panels would generate. On a normal day the panels would generate between 40-50 Ah of power. One week we even left the heat on all week and we did not run out of power - a side note is that the house only burns 30 lbs of propane per week with the heat on.

We never ran out of power (although there were times that we were getting close to just running lights and heat). The main thing is to keep a mindful eye on your battery status.

Given the sun is so low on the horizon in the winter I would probably put the panels on the side of the fish house - I choose aesthetics over functionality and put them on the roof. The most that the panels would put out in the winter was 10 amps, in the summer it runs over 16 amps. They would generate more if they were on side of the house. If you have a flat roof I do not think that the panels would be very efficient in the winter. If you do put them on the side I would go with the more traditional solar panels and not the self adhesive ones.

The huge benefit is that we do not have to run a generator or carry batteries out to the house. It is always ready to go and has power even in the summer if the guys want to tip a few back.

Let me know if you have any questions. Any one else using solar on their house?

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Here are the original pictures.  Let me know if you have any questions.

2016 update.  Solar panels still work like they did out of the box..  Replaced one of the original unclaimed freight batteries (I suspect it was a few years old when I purchased it).  The only upgrade

Thanks, I am a homebrewer as well and going to add a nitro tap serving stout on the wall and put the keg in the closet at some point..  

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Did you ever have issues with snow blocking the amp charge rate?I see winter you say 40 to 50 ah of charge.If the panels are putting out 10a of charge that must have been at the peek sun time in the winter.Very informative post thankyou so much for the info!c63

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Snow can be an issue, you do need to clean the majority of the snow off. When it snows my Dad goes out and nocks the snow off. With a black roof any frost melts right off. If you have a flat roof I would recommend that you put the panels on the outside walls so that snow would not be an issue. The 40-50 Ah is when the conditions are good. The up side of this type of panel is that it produces a small amount of power even with cloudy skies. On a bad day probably making around 15-20 Ah. I want to document the actual output this year as the meter allows you to track total power generated.

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Adding to the post related to low power consumption accesories,

I used LED recessed lights over the table, these lights use only 1 watt of 12 VDC power and are great as spot lights. You just drill a hole in the ceiling and recess them in - they are adjustable and come in spot and flood light configurations.


From a TV stand point I found this one on Amazon it is a combo LED TV/ DVD player and only takes 3 amps of 12 VDC to run. It is a 12 VDC tv so wiring is a snap. I recessed it into the wall to conserve space.


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I used commercial carpet squares that were rubber backed that way I have the comfort of carpet but with a rubber backing so the floor dries out quickly. I kept a few squares just incase of an unfortunate event. No worries about fish slime the walls are fully protected with two coats of spar varnish smile

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Thanks for all the kind words!

As I did all the work myself with help from my neighbor and my wife there were no labor costs. However, as you could imagine there were many weekends and nights dedicated to finishing it. The costs for all the interior materials and solar/electrical were around $4,000. The material of choice was the thin tongue and grove pine from Menards, to get the Irish pub look we just alternated the direction of the pine and added a drink ledge all around the perimeter. The bottom part of the wall is furred out with the added benefit of having extra room behind to run electrical, etc. There is over 600 feet of electrical wiring in the walls. We originally got quotes on the cushions as they were custom sized, after we received a crazy quote my wife decided to sew them herself, she did a great job!

I did not keep track of time but many 100's of hours went into it over 10 weeks. I custom built all the interior including the bathroom door, tables, cabinets and installing tongue and grove on a curved ceiling frown. The curved ceiling is awesome when finished but poses unique challenges when you have to bend the tongue and grove to match the arc and have to fit the cabinets to it. The final finish on the walls and ceiling is water based stain with 2 coats of spar on it, all hand applied. My wife was instrumental in picking out all the colors and helping me with the design, I know that I could not have come up with the design all on my own!

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After some more thought I decided to increase my solar output on the house and given that the roof space is mostly taken I decided to mount a 100 watt solar panel on the side of the house. I purchased this panel on Amazon for $200 and made my own mounting hardware. Luckily I was able to splice into my existing panels so hook up was pretty straight forward. To mount it I attached 3 hinges on the top of the panel and then created a quick release bracket for the bottom so that I can adjust the angle of the panel to ensure that I get the most power. I am going to fabricate a flat iron bracket so that I can prop the panel up. Here are some pictures. full-46676-38814-image.jpg



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Here is the prop brackets that I fabricated so that the angle of the solar panels can be adjusted. They are Simple plated flat iron with a 3/8 inch hole drilled in both ends. I used detent pins that just pull out so that I can detach the brackets when transporting and lock the panels to the house.


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How did you go about finishing the foam spray on the walls? Did you buy the house sprayed with insulation or did you do that later? Did you fur out the studs to nail the boards to? Do you have any other pics you would be willing to share? Thank you, this house looks great nice job!!

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Thanks, I bought the house allready sprayed from Bebergs. They attached 2x2' to the aluminum studs before they sprayed the house. For the bottom of the wall I then ran 1x2's horizontal so that I had a firring strips that I could then nail the tounge and grove to. For the ceiling I also ran 1x2's the length of the house spaced about every 2 feet so I had a way to attach the curved ceiling. Here are some pics of it before the tounge and groove was up.


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I have diamond patterned studded chains on the rear tires. I am thinking about putting chains on the front as steering is a bit tricky. It is all about traction!! The only thing to watch out for is that the studs will chew up anything including cement if you are not careful.

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