1. "How many appliances can I run off your system?"
"How many" refers to the total number of watts required.
Here's the formula: Volts X Amps = Watts.
That will give you the watt hour load. For example, add up all the wattage on all the light bulbs you will be running off it. Two sixty watt light bulbs means 120 watts. Add an inkjet printer (35 watts), computer (55 watts), 17" LCD flatscreen monitor (45 watts), and a cellphone (5 watts) and your office is fully running at 260 watts. Get an inverter of at least 300 watts.
You will quickly learn how inefficient many of our everyday items are. For example:
Food dehyrater 600
Electric iron 1200
A sun oven could replace all of them for free. (Well, maybe not the hairdryer--I don't recommend sticking your head in a sun oven.)
10" table saw 1800
1/2" Hand drill 600
Vacuum cleaner 900
Laser printer 900
So the best thing to do is figure out your minimum needs, and then buy an inverter that at least covers that, or better still, buy the biggest inverter you can afford. Then you can add on to it.
Here's the formula: Amps = Watts/Volts
The amps listed on your appliance are probably listed in milliamps (mA) or thousanths of an amp. An alarm clock takes about one. A refrigerator will need a few amps. A toaster will take more amps than a refrigerator, but runs for only a few minutes.
BUT, deep-cycle batteries can only be discharged to about 50% of their capacity without damage. In other words, you can expect a 100 amp-hour battery to supply around 50 amp-hours of power between charge cycles without suffering damaging.
THEREFORE: get a battery with twice the amps you think you'll need.
Then test your battery with a meter.It should always be in the 80-90% range. If you use a charger, then you need to take a reading ONE HOUR after any charging cycle. It is important to wait this hour because all batteries hold a surface charge that will give you a false reading after charging.
All deep cycle batteries are rated in amp-hours. An amp-hour is one amp for one hour. It is amps x hours. If you have something that pulls 20 amps, and you use it for 20 minutes, then the amp-hours used would be 20 (amps) x .333 (hours), or 6.67 AH. The accepted AH rating time period for batteries used in solar electric and backup power systems (and for nearly all deep cycle batteries) is the "20 hour rate". This means that it is discharged down to 10.5 volts over a 20 hour period while the total actual amp-hours it supplies is measured.
But you can invest in a 12-volt DC powered refrigerator. The best ones use zero maintenance, brushless, thermostatically controlled DC compressors. They cost about half as much as propane refrigerators.
You will also need a bigger panel, a 150-300 AH battery, and an amp controller to keep from overcharging your battery my basic $300 system does not need one.).
Unless you live in the very cold northern latitudes having short days and low sun angles, most parts of the United States will average 4 to 4.5 hours of direct sun per day during the winter months and 5 to 6 hours per day during the summer months. Of course, some milder geographic locations may also have lots of rainfall and cloud cover, which reduce these average hourly values. As an example, if you select a refrigerator or freezer that requires 40 amp-hours per day to operate, this means you will need a solar array that can provide at least 10 amps output (40 amp-hour/4 hours) during the winter, and 6.6 amps output (40 amp-hour/6 hours) during the summer. If your solar system will be used year-round, then you may want to use the smaller sun-hour value. Since the ambient air temperatures are cooler in the winter than summer, all refrigerators and freezers will require less energy to operate during colder months, so a more accurate winter calculation would use the amp-hour load given for lower ambient temperatures.
Nova Kool and Sundanzer both make 12- and 24-volt DC powered refrigerators. Some are AC/DC. (That would be perfect for rolling blackout areas--most of the Third World. They live on AC and then automatically switch over to the DC battery when the power goes out.) You can view the whole line here. But let me break down what else you will need.
This FREEZER is also 1.8 cubic ft. but requires a 110 watt solar panal, a 150 AH battery, and a 15 amp charge controller.
This 8.1 cubic ft. capacity freezer gives you over four times the capacity at less than twice the price but will require a 215 watt solar panel, a 300 AH battery, and a 15 amp charge contoller.
This digital multimeter will test ohms as well as voltage, current and other useful stuff:
Yes, it can. But it is a myth that drinking water has to be boiled for ten minutes. Pasteurization is achieved at a lower temperature for a shorter period. For both water and milk (or anything) all the necessary germs (including E. Coli, Rotaviruses, Giardia, the Hepatitis A virus, and Colera) are dead after having been raised to a temperature of 160 degrees F (72 degrees C) for one minute.
Therefore do not waste the precious stored energy of the battery by bringing the temperature up higher than you need to. Heating water is probably the most inefficient use of this system. A sun oven would do the job more efficiently with the sun rays--assuming it was in the daytime, sunny, and safe to go outdoors.