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Customer Review

on 29 October 2013
I bought this book because I have some friends who have an island where the only source of electricity is a 12v system using a wind turbine and a solar panel to charge lead-acid batteries. Over the years we have fiddled with the system and are always looking for ways to improve it and - if the truth be told - for "toys for boys" projects to make better use of it.

This book starts off with a summary of generation methods, moves on to a very useful section on batteries, then covers charging and regulation before ending up with a series of projects one could build. The whole thing is written by someone who has "been there, done that" and got the (no doubt eco-friendly) tee-shirt. So there are lots of practical comments about how to source components and to modify them for 12v use. There are also some useful circuit diagrams for charge regulators and other devices and the book is well illustrated with easy to understand diagrams.

The first sections, and especially those on using lead-acid batteries and sizing components, are not only well written and comprehensive but also entertaining. If you have any experience of batteries you will know what a PITA they are and there are lots of tips in here for revitalising them and extending their life. In particular the author explains *why* they cause problems and what the solutions are, and he is clearly writing from real experience. I learned more about batteries from 1/2 hour reading this book than from endless confusing and sometimes contradictory web searches, and it is worth buying for these first sections alone.

The later sections on "projects" are full of ideas but lack details - hence the 4 star rating. But don't let me put you off: if you buy a book like this you are likely to be of a practical turn of mind and should be able to make some of the items he proposes. I'm quite taken with the idea of a solar tracker built from a palette, bicycle wheel and motor from a tape recorder ...

Incidentally the book was originally written in German and while the translation into English is very good there are some odd words and abbreviations that require a moment's thought, I particularly liked the reference to "quicksilver" (mercury)!

In summary this is a genuinely useful handbook for a small-scale DIY 12v system that is well written, practical and entertaining. It is very much a "hands-on" guide, and you will need to be the sort of person who is not afraid to pick up tools and experiment in order to get the most from it. I'm glad that I bought it.
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