Life at the end of the road

September 3, 2016

An Outback inverter :-)

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:43 pm

Dead boring for the majority of peeps reading this I know, but the day wasn’t all about inverters. It’s just that’s the bit that got me excited the most, I know, I know, I’m really sad.

Down to the beach

The day actually started with a trip to the seaside, that’ll be Screapadale beach for pebbles to finish off yesterday’s mini garden and ‘pebble patch. I couldn’t bear the thought of going last night as I went down a month ago and it was so overgrown that I struggled finding the track. Actually had to get out twice to make sure we were going the right way in the Land Rover.

The Bracken was 5’ tall and even getting out of the ‘Old Girl’ was a problem, hence my decision to take the quad.

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Well, what a surprise, the Forestry Commission must have been down and cleared it right the way to the shore!

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There was even an area cleared for turning,


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I was most impressed Smile

Outback GVFX 3048e

Once I’d got the pebbles spread out I turned my attention to clearing and burning some heather at the back of the house. A bit of a longwinded process as I couldn’t really leave the incinerator unattended and it was quite slow to burn.


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Still it made a far better smell than the recent barbequed chicken and mink Smile 

As this is right outside ‘The Bunker’, that ‘lean too’ that houses the thermal store and spare battery bank, it seemed like the ideal time to connect it all up.


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This Outback 3kW inverter has been sat here doing nothing since I bought it off eBay over a year ago. It was one of those ‘bargains’ that you just couldn’t afford to miss, brand new and still in the box with just one bid on it at around £600, they’re double that new and it only had a day or two to run. I think the foreign seller and it’s placement in the boating section may have put folk off or caused people to miss it. Also, the G bit of GVFX indicates ‘grid interactive’ which is a bit of a misnomer cos it’s actually illegal to connect this to the grid! Anyway, I stuck a bid on a little higher and even with the £25 delivery it came in at less than £700. Now bear in mind my current SMA SI6.OH was more than three times that price and you’ll know what I mean about it being cheap.

Of course I didn’t actually need it but I did already have  a serviceable 48V 950Ah battery bank  sat in the bunker doing nothing. Well, I won the inverter, screwed it to the wall and connected it to the battery bank and there it’s sat for over a year doing nothing.

Well today I rectified that and wired it all up, apart from a ‘transfer switch’ like this,

which I still have to buy. This will in effect give me 100% redundancy should my SMA system fail or need service/repair.


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Once the output side was finished I programed the ‘Mate’,

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another eBay bargain. This isn’t essential for the inverter to work but it does allow you to alter parameters and connect to a generator. With the inverter ‘inverting’ quite happily I then connected the input side to the generator and ‘hey presto’ it worked a treat.

These Outback ‘off grid’ inverters are very simple and rugged with the huge advantage of replacement boards being readily available along with instruction on YouTube of how to change them. They also have excellent support via and their network of dealers. The guys behind the company have a proven track record, it was themselves that started ‘Trace Engineering’ the original ‘off grid’ inverter company before selling it to Xantrex when it went down the toilet and then Schneider whereupon it landed in the septic tank Sad smile  Alpha now own Outback and the founders went onto form ‘Midnite Solar’ another ground-breaking RE company that make probably the charge controllers in the world.

The SMA ‘off grid’ inverter I use is ‘all singing, all dancing’ and has a gazillion functions on it I’ll never use but you pay a premium for it. These inverters ‘do exactly what it says on the tin’ all day long and at a third of the cost. Sure you would have to ‘stack’ two and buy a ‘Mate’ to get the same (actually 50% more) output, but it would still be cheaper than an SI6.OH like mine.

For a simple and reliable ‘off grid’ system this is the inverter I’d choose, I think Studer  and Victron  are every bit as good but the Outback has component level spares unlike all the others. Why didn’t I buy one? well I did like all the extra functions of the SMA and it’s emphasis on ‘AC coupling’ but in the end I disabled the ‘frequency shifting’ function anyway.

Checking the mast

With autumn on the doorstep and the equinoctial gales around the corner my son and I decided to go and check out the broadband mast that supplies both ourselves and Applecross with the best and most reliable internet this side of a fibre optic cable. Though when Portree gets it so should we because that’s where the signal is relayed from.

It’s a bit of a trek up to the mast, just shy of a mile but a very steep country one at that so we take the quads as far as the ruins at North Arnish.

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This is the halfway mark on the cable and from hereon in it’s hard work. The mast sits atop the highest peak there exposed to the fiercest of weather.



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It must however, at one time have been a good enough path for at least part of the way, for half way up lies the remains of a wall/fence whose outline you can see in that heather mound. There’s also an old iron gatepost here and a wooden one further down.


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On a good day you get a fine view of ‘Number 3’ with just our slate roof and the hen shed visible behind and ‘Calum’s Road’ in the far distance.


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All seemed in order so we just tightened up all the guy wires, greased and checked all the scaffolding clamps and checked the ‘wizardry’ inside.


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Not that I know what any of it does Smile

Then it was a quick ‘hoof’ back to North Arnish and home, collecting a few stones on the way for the latest project.


  1. Whenever you say “it’s going to get boring” it actually gets interesting for me. I wonder what that says about me then…. 😉

    Anyway, you want to be careful with that changeover switch. The one you’re showing looks like it could cause you issues. I don’t want to teach grandma how to suck eggs as they say, but with AC you need to be careful: If both inverters are running, they won’t be in sync. If you change over your consumers at the simple flip of a switch, you could create some serious spikes that might damage your equipment.
    If you have a look at my system, I try and make sure that there’s an off position in between in which I can wait a few seconds before switching to the other supply:,26880.0.html

    The switches I have bought also have a guaranteed off period in between each setting, even the middle switch with its more than three positions.

    I used Kraus & Naimer for this (, but of course there will be others. They were very responsive and helpful and build the switches to your specification. The simple on-off-on switch which for me needed to be a back-mount was about £72.


    Comment by Eric Bautsch — September 4, 2016 @ 6:14 am

    • Morning Eric,
      I’ve used a couple of those switches before one for switching between two inverters and one on my own system for running via generator instead of SI. I hear what you’re saying and you could well be right, the actual switch is a cheap Chinese copy in a quality enclosure. I saw discussion on another board about them being ‘too good to be true’ so perhaps a ‘Kraus & Naimer is the way to go, I haven’t skimped elsewhere on my installation.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 4, 2016 @ 6:34 am

      • I know. These switches are nit cheap but you’re going to be kicking yourself if you end up having to replace a washingmachine or worse some of your solar inverters for lack of £30 extra on a switch….

        Comment by Eric Bautsch — September 4, 2016 @ 7:22 am

      • Aye, you’re dead right Eric we had those proper Kraus and Naimer switches on the old ferry switchboard for swapping gennies.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 4, 2016 @ 7:48 am

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