Solar Power - How to Build A Simple Portable
This article has been updated with the help of 12Vman. Thanks much!
By using parts easily available from local stores,
you can make a portable solar powered generator
for $250 to $300. This is great for power failures
and life outside the power grid. The portable
solar generator can be used to power your
computer, VCR, TV, camera, lights, or DC
appliances anywhere you go. This is great for use
in cabins, boats, or tents or trailers.
Technical specifications for this solar power generator:
8" x 27" MBC-131 Uni-Solar soft panel
Rated power (Watts, peak): 5.50
Typ. 12 Volt Charging (Amp. Hrs/Wk) 13.00
Voltage, Typ. Max Power (Volts) 15.60
Current, Typ. Max Power (Amps) .35
Weight (pounds) 1.5
10 feet cable with battery ring, terminals, fuse, and convenient 2 pin plug
Marine 12Volt Battery (lead/acid) holds deep cycle 95 to 102 Amps for long periods of use
Two ports for cigarette lighter inverters
analog window shows charge level
AC plug out to charge battery when AC is available
System includes inverter (12Volt DC to 115 Volt AC)
Detaches easily to use with cigarette lighter in car for AC power on the road.
Here are the parts you will need:
1- Solar panel - rated 12 volts or more (look for 16
volts). These are readily available on-line as marine
battery charging modules. The price can range from
$60 to $120, so shop around.
1 - Deep cycle 12 volt lead/acid battery. You need the
deep cycle battery for continuous use. The kind in
your car is a cranking battery, just for starting an
UPDATE: The use of a wheelchair or GEL battery is a better alternative. These
batteries do not loose their charge. The battery will have the same amount of
power a year later, even if left unattended. Also, GEL doesn't spill, even if you tip
the battery upside down. The GEL doesn't freeze in the cold, and it has a "life
expectancy" of 15 or more years! The price is comparable to a regular car
battery, $50 -$60.
1 - Battery box - The box will cover up the exposed terminals,
which is a must if there are children around. If the system is
going to be installed in a pump shed, cabin, or boat, a box is not
necessary. A battery box can be purchased for around $10.
1 - 12 volt DC meter. These can be found at electronic stores,
such as Radio Shack, for approximately $25.
1 - Triple DC inlet. The triple inlet model, can be
found at most auto parts stores for under $10.
Note: If you want to run AC appliances, you will have to invest in an inverter. This will
convert the stored DC power in the battery into AC power for most of your household
appliances. A 115 volt 140 watt inverter can usually be found at a car parts store for
around $50. More powerful inverters are available by mail. Count up the number of
watts you'll be using, e.g., a small color television(60 watts) with a VCR(22 watts) would
require 82 watts, to determine how large an inverter you would need.
How to Build:
1. Use a drill to attach the meter
and DC input to the top of the box.
2. Use insulated wire to attach the meter to the wing-nutterminals on the battery.
Connect the negative (-) pole first. Only handle one wire at a time. Connect the DC inlet
to the battery in the same way. Connect the solar panel to the battery in the same way.
3. Close the lid. The use of a bungee cord will help keep it tight.
4. Put the solar panel in the sun. It will take approximately 5 - 8 hours to charge a dead
battery, and 1 - 3 hours to top off a weak one. This system will run radios, fans, and
small wattage lights all night, about 5 hours of continuous use at 115 volt AC, or about 1
hour boiling water.
Note: You can also mount the solar panel on a camera tripod for ease of use.
This system can be expanded by adding on larger panels, inverters, and batteries.
This will generate enough power for DC appliances. There are many DC appliances
available such as fans, one-pint water boilers, lights, hair dryers, baby bottle warmers,
and even vacuum cleaners!
So there you have it. We hope you enjoyed making your very own solar powered generator!
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