Build Your Own PORTABLE Solar Generator
Want to build your own portable solar power generator to take with you on camping trips or for use in an emergency? I’ll show you how below, it’s easier than you think. Goal Zero’s version of this cost over $400 and doesn’t include any solar panels! Depending on what you include yours will cost under $150 by buying inexpensive parts from Amazon.com.
How portable do you want your solar generator to be?
Think about how heavy and large it should be? Are you going to use a hand truck to carry around a huge toolbox filled with batteries and a large solar panel or do you want a tiny one that will fit in your glove box? The wiring and concept will be the same for either size so the choice is yours. I wanted something in between that I could carry but still had some decent capacity to do some work.
Video showing components:
First I bought a case that would be a good jumping off point that I could fit a 10 watt solar panel on and in. Your case doesn’t have to fit your panel in but I thought it was convenient for me.
Here you can see the 10 watt solar panel is removable and attached with velcro on metal strips. The velcro holds the solar panel very securely and it all fits inside the case to protect in during travel. I zip tied aluminum pieces to increase the surface area of the velcro but judging from how secure the industrial velcro is, they may not be necessary.
Closeup on the main power switch. This switch totally disconnects the battery and all charging. Notice Marine 12 volt cigarette lighter in the lower corner of the box.
Notice round switches to the right of the inverter and volt meter.
Below I show you what I used and suggest for building your own DIY portable solar generator.
||10 watt mono crystalline Solar Panel
||20 watt panel
|Switches for the Project (5 and 10 packs are cheap)
|Triple Combo cig lighter/voltmeter/USB
||Double Combo Unit
||LED Light Strips
Choose Your Charge Controller
||Controller with voltmeter built-in
Get This Battery (high power AGM)
|18 Amp Hour Battery
||35 Amp Hour Battery (won’t fit in case but great for bigger containers)
||18 Amp Hour Battery (Minimum Recommended)
Don’t scrimp here, the battery is the foundation
of your whole system. This battery
easily fits into the Plano 4 pistol case. In fact it could hold 2.
Choose Your Inverter (size to your battery/needs)
Choose a Volt Meter (optional but fun)
|Full feature volt meter:
measures solar input and outputs
in amps & watts
Extra Parts, Wires and Supplies You May Need
|Velcro for panel
Now i need to build a lithium battery solar generator.
This panel is tiny compared to what an RV would need. The panel watts should be similar to the battery capacity in Amp hours. 10-20w panel for the 18a/hr battery. An RV comes with at least one 75 amp hour battery or more. You would need a large panel and its far more complicated for RV use.
The inverter and battery power your TV, not the solar panel. The panel is simply for recharging the battery. A 300 watt inverter is likely enough power for your TV. Figure out how many amps your TV draws and scale the battery design from there.
You would need an inverter capable of delivering the watts required and a battery bank capable of supporting the draw over time. You can easily make a system that will run your household fridge, but to run it for more than a day would require several large batteries.
Oops. I should have kept reading…
“Almost all accessories run off 12v not 24 so 12v is much more useable. Have more Amp hours though is always better. Many people connect 2 batteries to get double the storage / Amp Hours but keep 12 volts. Connect red to red black to black to connect 2 batteries in paralel.”
With two/multiple batteries do you wire them serial or parallel?
I’ve been curious about this since I saw this site over a year ago. Could this be modified to support a standard home refrigerator during an extended power outage? Losing hundreds of dollars in food when the power is out for days stinks! Per the manual, “The refrigerator should always be plugged into its own properly grounded electrical outlet rated for 115 V, 60 Hz, AC only, and fused 15 Amperes (minimum).” The documentation also states the fridge should keep cold for 24 hours, but I would cut that in half to be safe.
Plug the charger directly into the battery. If you get a smart charger you won’t need the charge controller. I’m not sure about plugging in a ac charger to a charge controller. I could be fine for some but dangerous for some chargers. I don’t recommend it.
Thanks for the build. I am spec’ing out parts on amazon and want to have the option to charge off utility power if available… I found a 12v 2Amp charger. Would I plug the red and black into the solar charge controller so the battery does not get over charged? Or do I need another charge controller for power supply charging?
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Hi, this looks like a very easy setup. Would you think that on a very sunny day this can produce enough power for a 42″ Tv for tailgating purposes?
Thanks for the tip I may do that. I like that case. I’ve used Dewalt tool cases as well.
There are no stupid questions. I wondered the same thing so I tested it a few years ago. Every inverter does waste some power in the conversion from DC to AC power but it will only supply the wattage necessary. So if you plug in a device that uses 120 watts it will not use 600 watts. There is some heat but it’s not 300 watts of heat. Your battery will not last long at 600 watts.
No switch is necessary there. The CC is made to protect your battery.
Hi Solar Burrito. I am currently doing a portable solar power supply.
Here is my question. Do I need to connect a circuit breaker between the battery and solar charge controller. For me to switch off if it is not in used? Or the solar charge controller will auto switch off when it is not in used or it will run for 24 hours??
One more question. Sorry I’m new to this. I have an 18 AH 12 volt battery. Will 600 watt inverter only provide 300 watts if needed or does it always supply 600 even to somthing only needing 300. Someone told me that it disipates the access energy as heat. This is probably a stupid question.
Thanks for the Solar charger info and plans. I am building one and there is one thing on the wiring I’m not completely clear on. Does each BUS bar have the wires (+ to + and – to -) from the charge controller, battery and USB/ACC/Inverter on BUS bar? My 1st attempt at wiring it created a constant light (and therefore battery drain) on the controller.
You don’t see the Amazon links right above the comments section? I still see them.
Really like what you’ve done here. Thanks. You should do a class on Udemy. Go to http://www.udemy.com. Look at become a instructor . Would like to see on your video you plugging in some devices to show beginners how your charging them – phone-radio-tv-tools-etc. Want to use a rigid case from HomeDepot to build mine http://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-22-in-Pro-Organizer-Black-222571/205440492
if size dem. work. Anyway nice job. Thanks for sharing your talent.
why i can’t open it
none of the links work, would love to see the way you did it. I need as simple as possible.
Very interesting! So, what could your portable solar panel be used for? I have a camper that I want to use and rent out to vacationers, because I live on a beach. Would this be powerful enough?
was here a few days ago and there were links for all the materials. can we get those back?
Thanks for your specific into. I couldn’t be any newer to electronics so wasn’t too sure what kind of wire or size fuze etc. I’m lucky enough to have a Radio Shack near my house so I can pick them up relatively easily. Any chance you’d be wiling to share pix of your setup too, please. I’m a bit of a visual learner and would greatly appreciate it.
Love the information here. Solar B. I want to make a larger generator. Im using a 175w 24v panel w/ an mppt controller to 2 100ah 12v batteries. Main question is when adding in the ac charger do I need to Isolate the PV charge controller from the batteries and vise versa when charging with the Panel. If so please direct me accordingly. Or am I just over thinking this?
I built one similar to yours but modified a little. 10 Watt solar panel mounted the same built aluminum held with ¼” sheet metal screws ½” long. Cut the 2″ velco in half to hold it on. Decooler 20A solar charge controller. 30A blade fuse holder – using 15A fuse to main power switch. 12 gauge wire from switch to switch for 2-12V power outlets. Tied in 500 watt inverter switch to wire from power switch using 12 gauge wire from switch used 12 gauge wire to positive of inverter – ran ground of inverter to battery. Tied in 8 place terminal block to power 12 gauge wire. Rewired terminal block as it had 22 gauge wire to 16 gauge wire. Used OptiMate 2 prong weatherproof plug in for solar panel plug in. Used another OptiMate 2 prong weatherproof plug for battery charger. Modified my charger using CES 10 gauge guick disconnect. (can plug into charger port or the clamps that came with charger). Use 16/2 hookup wire (20′) for solar panel soldering 2 prong plug on end to plug into OptiMate port heat shrink on all solder joints. Used wing nuts to hold down the Masonite board to hold battery and inverter in place. Tied all switches into the 8 place terminal block. All total I have 4 USB plugs, 2 – 110V plugs, 2 – 12V Cigarette Plugs, Volt Meter. The charge controller I wired to a separate switch and then to battery. Everything is hooked to switches – 6 total. I used rubber feet to keep the ¼” bolts from scratching things when the case is sat down.
Greetings, Thanks for the information on building this inexpensive generator.
I am an International Pastor/Evangelist and spend several months each year in rural areas where electrical power is intermittent or not available.
I would like to take your design to these areas and hold a informational session to help the locals make there own.
Most of these people have very little in the way of electrical appliances, mostly : lights, fans, tv’s, radios, ect.
What would you suggest in the way of materials that I could take with me to Africa this summer? ( batteries will be purchased there)
I will build one at these sessions. then disassemble and rebuild at following sessions.
So I would need to purchase as much of the kit in the USA to cut down on costs and take with me packed in my luggage.
Any suggestions you have would be a great help.
Rev Dr Bruce D McCabe : International Director, KINGDOM LIFE WORLD EVANGELICAL ASSOCIATION, Main Representative to the United Nations for (TAP) The African Project, Founder and Director ( Heart For The Lost Ministries ) Lakeland, FL
([email protected] )
I am so thankful to open this kind of site of yours because you really helped me so much to know how and what to do when there are things that will happen like this because honestly I really don’t know what to do in terms of same topic.
Quick question about the main power switch: how is it that the switch controls the solar charge controller? Is your charge controller hooked up to the bus or directly the battery (as shown in your wiring diagram)? Thanks!
Sorry, I don’t have anytime to make them. I’ve got 2 kids now! 🙂
Good question. Here is a calculator to find that out: https://www.batterystuff.com/kb/tools/ac-to-dc-amperage-conversion-run-through-an-inverter.html
At those stats it will draw 37 amps DC! That’s alot. So the battery I show (17 Ah ‘Amp Hours’) wouldn’t last 30 mins at that power draw. Your best bet is to get a large deep cycle RV/Boat battery. If the battery was 100 amp Hours (capacity) It would last about 3 hours til it’s totally dead. The humidifier may not use that ammount of power all the time, i’m not sure. If so it would run longer.
I have a question. I’m new to this. What setup (batteries, inverter). would I need to power a DEhumidifier that says it is rated at 405 watts and draws 3.5 amperes at 115 volts and how long would it last?
could u send a pic of ur new one. and what would u be willing to charge minus shipping. I no that would be an extra charge. thanks for ur time. dan
It’s possible but not Nota good idea. You can only run them in parallel and the lower amperage battery must be wired first. The problem is with charging and discharging as one will never fully charge. It’s also easy to screw this up and Monday hurt yourself. It’s just a bad concept. Just buy buy of the same voltage and amp hour battery.
It does not matter much actually. The The one The one used The one used. TheoneusediThis article as well as the Ines I’ve used are all cheap amazon inverters and it works just fine. You don’t need a super expensive pure sine wave even though they’re obviously more effecient. Use whatever fits your budget.
You’d probably be better off building your own but if you’re willing to pay for labor and parts then I could build you one. I just finished mine. It’s very similar toy the one shown in this article but it houses the panel internally and doesn’t have a heavy wood control panel. This allows for easier access and protects the panel.
hello do u still have this and if so what r u asking.would u be willing to ship this to me. thanks, dan
Hey man I just wanted to share my update. I just finished my solar generator based off these instructions!!!! I actually ended up doing mine a bit differently though. I used the same pistol case but I think the way I did it is cheaper, easier, takes less time and works just as well with one or two benefits that the setup shown does not have.
1. I did not make a control panel/bezel with cutouts for switches and a voltage display. Instead I just used the perforated foam inside to snugly fit the battery and my 400 watt power inverter.
2. Rather than mounting my solar panel to the outside using aluminum flat stock screwed into the panel and then velcro, I simply put velcro on the existing surface area of the frame of the solar panel and mounted it to the INSIDE of the lid. This way it is protected from being damaged by anything hitting it or falling on it.
3. I used velcro to mount the charge controller to the battery and then used more valcro to mount the voltage display to the charge controller. I then used the extra accessory slots(light bulb icon) on the charge controller to run the short wires of the display rather than soldering more wire to the display and mounting it on a bezel.
I think the work the author did is amazing and I couldnt have one my build without Him. Never the less I found my way to be a more streamlined version of His and one that took much less time and a little less money. I will try to post pictures of my work.
Pic of the battery with charge controller and voltage display mounted to it:
Everything inside of the case. I oriented it so I could carry the case and nothing falls out. I did not need to hold the battery or inverter down with brackets but I might do that later:
The solar panel mounted to the inside of the lid with velcro, rather than the outside:
Everything all together with the case open while the battery is on a float charger:
A short video of how everything is put together after opening the case. I used quick disconnect plugs that I salvaged from other broken electronics so this cost me nothing:
I really hope this helps somebody else out and they make a better version than I did!
I’d like to know what you would have to build to support your entire household if you wanted to go semi off grid?
2 people in the household, normal household items, 2 bdrms, 2 bthrms, 2 computers, 2 televisions, washer, dryer, ceiling fans throughout, 2 refrigerators, (could downsize to 1), LOTS of sun in Las Vegas.
I am just curious.
Thank you for the instructions. I purchased all parts except I did not expect the solar panel to have 1 wire with a female connector. What do I need to purchase so that the wire on the solar panel is split in to red and black?
Can you please upload a video explaining the wiring for the generator? I would greatly appreciate it.
And also where can I find a bus bar that has the copper T already in it so I only have to wire one side. Thanks again.
Great video! Please help me undesstand how to wire a Bestek 400 watt inverter to my bus bar. Thanks!
Probably a dumb question. But was just curious if you could charge your power tool battery’s in the inverter while using the solar panel to charge the 12V battery?
Sorry if this was already asked, but is the battery type you used considered a deep cycle battery. I may have significant time between use and I’m concerned about the battery getting damaged if it fully discharges.
Very cool project.
That’s my cigarette lighter plug. I think they call them accessory plugs now since no one lights their cigs with them.
I’d use a large deep cycle “RV/Marine” battery in your trailer. Simply put a large solar panel on the roof. Wiring everything the same but package it in your trailer. You’d also need a 1500watt or similar size inverter, size everything up.
I’d like to build one big enough to run my travel trailer when power is unavailable! The gas generator is very loud when trying to sleep! What would you recommend I use battery was too run something that big because I have a refrigerator an electric stove and the heater to keep me warm in the winter time
The inverter does matter. It depends on the SINE wave it produces. Most cheap inverters will create a modified sine wave. If it is a really poor modified sine wave, it might not charge delicate electronics as good.
On your schems is shows 12v acc, is that an accessories port? If not what is that?
I’m looking for something that can power a TV medium size for a couple hours. What set up should I use?
Did a great job on the vedio and your post on where to buy parts. I am not sure about doing this myself, but I can follow instructions, so going to try and make this myself.. Also I have a question, I might have missed this but what does this have power to keep running.. A cell phone, small air unit, small electric heater.. I am wanting to use it at a cabin I am currently working on.. I do have an electrician working on putting electricity in but want to be able to have something available if electric goes off temp or even permently.. You never know these days? Thank you..
Do you have a kit available yet that I can order from you minus the battery to keep shipping costs down as someone had previously requested? Thank you very much.
15amp automotive style. It can be the blade type or the glass type. Pick your poison.
If you used a bigger deep cycle battery and had good sun for a solar panel then yes. I’d need more info though. You’d have to make sure your inverter had enough watts to run your pump and start it up. Electric motors can take up to 50% extra of their running wattage to start up the pump.
If the cost is resonable enough I would be interested in a couple.
Can this system be used to power a 110V submersible water pump?
What kind of fuse should i use?
yes i am, this one is portable but i want something i can put in a back pack.
Very cool article, thanks!
Are you selling that one to make a smaller one?
here is the one i made and now dont need anymore making one smaller.
Does the inverter used matter? I have used a standard car inverter before, but I am fairly positive it caused issues with my macbook when charging via the inverter. Thanks!
very well written and useful article. Thank you!
This is so cool. Can this be used to power a box fan? Are you able to build it with more than 1 inverter (3 perhaps)? Can you use it on multiple items at the same time?
My switch is on the front of the box so you can’t see it on the back of the wood. Run positive from the battery to the switch then another positive wire w/ fuse the the bus or “splitter” to give positive power to everything else.
Without seeing a photo it’s pretty hard to tell exactly BUT i can tell you hooked it up backwards and if you didn’t have a fuse there you would have fried some components or had a fire… or at least melted a wire which is a precurser to fire. Here’s what you do. There are several ways to wire this, some more elegant than others. Connect one system at a time. Connect your charge controller to the battery correctly. Then connect your inverter. My inverter needed a seperate switch but yours may be built in. Make sure your positive connections to the battery still go through the fuse to protect your components. Once you get a few systems working, add more. Then you’ll learn how it works and now how to wire it better in the future.
There are many ways to do it, it just needs to be connected to the battery.
I am a little confused with your video and the diagram. In your video it looks like you only have one wire coming to each terminal on the battery. The diagram shows you will need one coming in from the controller and one going out from the terminals to supply the loads. How do you only have one wire attached to each terminal while still charging the battery and sending out to the inverter?
Thank you for you post and comments. I am in the process of building my own. I set it all up according the wiring diagram. As soon as I connected it my fuse tripped. I have a 10g wire and holder with 15 amp fuse. Blew twice immediately once turning on the main battery switch.
Also, In your video it looks like there is just one negative and one positive wire directly connected to the battery terminals. In the diagram it shows at least one negative and positive coming in and one negative and positive going out. So i connected it that way and have two 12 gauge wire on each terminal and a third negative wire in I want to install the AC charger.
Any recommendations for what I might be doing wrong? Thank you!
Also how did u connect the side lighter ?
Is it okay if I connect 2 batteries of different ah? One is 10ah the other 18ah
Hi awesome idea, just wondering what kind of fuse and wire u used? And how the inverter is connected? I got the 200w one should I connect in the lighter socket? And what type of wires are you using?? Thanks for the video
How can I use it and how much power will it give?
Thanks for sharing such a informative and helpful post.
Is the Goliath 20W panel you list actually 3” thick as in it’s online description? Is there a similar panel that’s not as thick you would recommend? Wanting to try and stay with a 20W for my needs.
You know it really depends on what you buy and how many goodies you add. Customize it to your needs and be creative.
just put the switch between your battery and everything else. You can see the kill switch on my diagram.
how do i use the switch to kill all the power and set it up
Got the two batteries they are on the large size. So if you want to make the same size as Burrito get the smaller sized battery. I needed heavy duty batteries to run a pitching machine so this will be fine for me.
Would these items all work together fine?(Plus whatever wiring I would need) I’m not sure if I want to use one battery or two though. That also explains the two cases, I was thinking of getting the bigger one if I do go with two batteries. Thoughts? http://amzn.com/w/LAYCYVAQDCB8
http://www.ebay.com/itm/12v-33Ah-GEL-Battery-U1-UB12350-30ah-32ah-34ah-35ah-wheelchair-1233-31ah-36ah-/281685930571?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4195ca324b I got two of these I am building mine to operate a pitching machine. So that is why I did two of these.
The better option would be these batteries I believe
The case should be able to hold 2 of these,
I was planning on using a 15 amp fuse. SB(Solar Burrito) what do you think?
hey was wondering what size fuse you used between the kill switch and the positive side of the battery
I got one from him and it was pretty awesome. We use it when camping or at the beach….thanks a lot.
Nice! I was just wondering about how much it would cost to get all of the parts. Glad I came across your video in yt. Thanks for adding link to your site, too..
This is something I’d love to do!
Yes Ed, in fact that’s the best way to use this. Put the panel in the sun and draw at the same time. The timer will help you maximize your battery for sure. Keep the panel in the sunniest spot through out the day.
Thanks for the writeup! Is it possible to charge and draw load from the battery at the same time? I want to setup this solar generator where it’s powering my outdoor water pump and be out in the sun charging at the same time. The water pump is set on a timer to charge at 30 mins intervals at certain times of the day. Thanks in advance!
I did disassemble the one I used. If I were to do it again, I would use one similar to the red 400w one. Use a automotive trickle charger for your ac charger. That’s what the red/black connectors are for.
Really good idea! Thanks! How did you make the small inverter that’s in the box? Did you disassemble the red inverter you show in the video? How is that done? Can you do the same with 400 w inverter?
Also, is there a way to charge the battery using AC? How do I set that up?
And last question, on this video you have red/black connectors near the handle, what are they and what is that used for?
I made a decent one here……http://www.tinkerplayground.com/projects/420watt-solar-generator
I would be willing to make one for you….if you like it contact me through the contact us page.
Sorry, I don’t have enough spare time these days. If you want a store bought one, Goal Zero has a nice unit, but for more $. http://bit.ly/goalzero-150
if not just an email telling me no. Please and Thank you
if i give you a list of the things that i want on it could you build it for me, and ship it to me if i payed for shipping and parts plus extra for your time. Please respond my email
Check out this new voltmeter, USB, Ciggerette lighter combo unit. Would be perfect for these and save some money: http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Voltmeter-DC12V-Power-Socket/dp/B00MODXVO8/ref=as_sl_pc_ss_til?tag=solarstereos-20&linkCode=w01&linkId=ZTAZJBTVOYG54UN3&creativeASIN=B00MODXVO8
It’s an easy way to connect multiple wires together and keep it neat.
Hi: great video and info. I noticed you have two positive and two negative wires exiting the solar controller, i would expect one each. Is this something important to know? I really enjoyed this project. Mike
Building my own, new to electronics, what is is the “BUS” symbol stand for in the schematic?
I really like this recent spate of posts about alternative energy!!! good one!!
wal-mart has them too.
What’s the approx time it takes to recharge ? I want to put a kit together with 2 12volt 18ah batterys with a 20w panel.
Does your charge controller discharge the battery when your generator is not being used and out of the sun? Also, why don’t you have a fuse between the battery and charge controller?
The more batteries you add, the slower the charge but the more storage you’ll have.
The 10w panel is more than adequate to recharge a 18ah battery in less than a afternoon. Testing has proved this. 12 gauge wire is the wiring I recommend on the DC size because DC wiring must be sized much larger than AC wiring and not it’s not overkill at all for the main wires at all. If you use a 400 watt inverter, you should not lengthen the wires that come with it, should be even larger (10 gauge).
Volt meter could go anywhere really you have 12 volts DC.
Depends on your charge controller, some you can. If it says load on there try it.
Can I hook all my power load to the load on the solar charger I have 2 12v 18 ah batteries are do I hook it up to the batteries
Great Tutorial, Nice Diagram. Would you be able (and/or willing) to create a complete detailed step – by – step Assembly Tutorial/Manual from ground up on how to make this. From what hole you drilled where and using what size drill bits, to what is used to connect what to what, to what wire is going from start to finish and why each one goes from stated start point to stated finish point, etc?
Thank you for sharing your project. It inspired me to begin my own. However, based on all my research on sizing solar panels and batteries, it appears as though the panel is undersized for the battery or the battery is oversized for the panel.
To what depth of discharge (DOD) do you typically drain the battery, and how long does it take your panel to bring the battery back to full charge (I.e. float mode on the charge controller)?
What is your reasoning for using 12 gauge wire? This seems like overkill. You’ll never be pulling enough amps on this thing to come even close to the rating for that wire size.
Where on your wiring diagram would the voltmeter go?
Thanks. I’m not criticizing your build, just trying to understand why you made some of the decisions you did.
This looks great. I was wondering if you are going to make kits available for sale. My son and I would buy them.
10 watts will do.
I would be interested!! Could we customize it though? I want to be able to run a power tool from it.
What size solar panel would I need to charge 2 12v 12ah batteries
hey,I liked the page particularly the way you’ve shown the components and where they can be purchased keep doing your thing
Weight would be my only concern. You maybe able to get buy with a smaller battery. Will you have sun to charge during the trip?
Shoprider U1 Battery for Scooters – 2 Pack
I’m considering a pair of these for my portable solar power pack. I know they are heavy but I’m not planning taking it backpacking, more car camping or with a 4 wheeler.
Thoughts or opinions?
Thanks for the additional links. Found some at radio shack.
Hi, I added a link above in the extra parts sections to bus bars aka terminal blocks better that the ones I used. You can get 5 for $5.
YES that will work. If you get or make a male to male cig outlet wire your camper will charge the unit while you drive. It will work because DC flows like water from a fuller vessel (your van charging at 14v while running) into the unit ( not charging resting near 12.8v) Over charging maybe a concern, I’d only do it until your unit is full. You may be able to run it through the charge controller but I haven’t tried this personally.
I need to no what or how big duz my hello paddle have to be to power a 2000 or 3000 and inverter I need to no may be u and my can do face mask I need to buy something u can u call me or gmail me asasp
I don’t see a URL link on the bus bars you are using. Want to make sure i get the right ones.
This is awesome! I’m totally building one. Is it possible to charge/top up the unit in my campervan as I drive to my destination by plugging a 12v supply from a cig lighter into the input to the charge controller? SO instead of the solar panel charging the battery, the power from cig lighter is. And, would it shut off to protect from overcharge?
Battery Tender. They have different sizes depending on how fast you want to charge.
I can get a couple nights off my Goal Zero Yeti 400. A friend can get one night off hit Yeti 150. The specs for the Yeti’s can help with your sizing. If your CPAP has an optional 12 volt power supply, get it. 12 volt to 12 volt is much more efficient that 12 volt to 120 volt back down to about 12 volts for the machine.
it’s more of a question, i use a c-pap at night how would i go about making a solar gen. to last the night or longer??
Which AC Charger do you suggest? I want to have an option to charge the battery from an AC power source.
The design may not be as pretty but the battery is bigger and if you put a bigger inverter on like you should, you can power more devices AND your getting a solar panel for free. Goal Zero charges a lot more for panels. Oh and you’ll know how it all works.
hi there can you say that generator setup design is close to the goal zero yeti 150
A basics of all the supplies (minus the battery and maybe the solar panel) would be awesome. I just need to be able to charge small things… like cell phones, ipods and small tables. I think the most is a 10v charger… will this setup work for that? Can you only plug one item in at a time?
Yes, none of the ones you suggest fit in the box with out destroying them either. I was hoping the Xantrex would fit but I guess that it doesn’t either.
Hi, I actually got mine as a give years ago. Any particular reason you want a Xantrex 120 watt inverter? I wouldn’t recommend the style I used because I had to basically destroy it to get it into the case. The ones I reccomend below are easier to deal with.
Hey Solar B., I have been meaning to ask you: According to your video (and probably like most of us), your remote power needs are for devices like USB/Laptop/Cordless power tools, yet these are all DC devices which get charged from a DC source via an inverter. Have you thought about adding a straight plugin on your case for (as an example) the hand-held tool battery (18v) to charge from your 12v supply? Wouldn’t that be more efficient that charging the 18v battery via an inverter?
I should have said SOME of the parts will work… bigger battery and power inverter. Same other parts.
Yes the parts would work but your right you’d need 2 18 amp hour batterys shown or one larger batter. They sell 35 amp hour batts on amazon. Also make sure you have an inverter for the proper ammount of watts it draws. watts = volts x amps in case it doesn’t say on our unit. Figure 110 volts if you’re running off AC power.
Ya i would buy one even without the battery i can always find one closer to home but the rest would be REALLY Great right about now been looking for parts to source for a while now
Curious on your thoughts on this. I have a jump starter for jump starting cars called a jump n carry 1700 amp unit. It has a cigarette lighter output. It takes a standard cord to charge the unit. I was wondering how I could. CHarge this using solar power. Is this possible? I actually have 2 of these units and was wondering if there was a way to use them for this use.
He is using the Xantrex 120 inverter to do this which I have not been able to find anywhere and he has not responded to my question as to where he got it. All of the inverters he has links to won’t work in this configuration. The only one I have found that sort of works is this:
No it will not work on a CPAP, speaking form experience. The CPAP draws too much electricity. You will need a bigger bartery and a bigger solar panel to keep up. Otherwise everything in the kit can be used as is.
I want to make one for camping with my CPAP machine. Suggested Amp hour is 35-40. Would all the other parts you suggest work with a larger amp hour battery or would I need to go bigger on the other items?
Im intrigued by this build too. I want to build something with more capacity as well but I also want to keep it portable as much as possible. I was thinking a dual battery setup. I also was wondering if you know much about the battery tender products? They make a new battery that weighs nearly nothing. It is pretty expensive but weighs about 1/4 what other batteries weigh. They also sell a great tender to maintain the battery as well as a controller that goes from 5 to 45 amps. I would want to try and keep this light as possible for camping.
Where did you get your Xantrex 120 watt inverter? I cannot seem to find anything that small anywhere.
I’d buy a kit. And I’m pretty sure a friend of mine would also.
Tom, all you have to do is build the generator bigger. So just get some form of cart, dolly or scrollable bin to hold the batteries. Then you would want bigger batteries as in car size and probably 3-4 for safe measures. Then you need all the same parts as he has, plus the wiring diagram to make sure your hooking everything up right. Lastly get your 2k inverter. My only suggestion is to get all the parts first then pick up your case/box/dolly last so you know what size to get.
He actually has a blog/posting about building a bigger one. Just read through those Q&A’s to find most of the information you will need. Hope this helps.
Is it possible to make a bigger capacity generator? I’m a total noob at this kind of stuff. I was wondering if it’s fine to make a 2000 watt or something or would it be too dangerous?
My reason for this is because ever since Hurricane Sandy, I want to be more prepared. Was not fun living without electricity for 3 weeks. Also, I live in an apartment and 110% sure that a gas generator is not allowed and a factory made solar generator costs way too much.
I would be interested in buying one of your prepackaged kits from you. I am doing a project using UV light to disinfect drinking water in rural villages in third world countries where there is no electricity or running water. An inexpensive, portable solar power source like yours is ideal! How much will you charge? I do not have the time (or expertise) to construct a kit. If the project is successful, we may need many more! Please e-mail me at: [email protected]
That’s what I was thinking. Thanks for getting back to me. I’m waiting on the solar controller and I’ll have it completed.
Carl use separate wires for the solar panel and the AC trickle charger. So don’t run the AC trickle charge through the charge controller. I don’t think it should hurt anything but I’m not sure. I’d plan on connecting the Trickle directly to the battery or at least test the setup before you wire it.
Hope that makes sense, you maybe over thinking it.
Hello – thank you so much for posting this!! I am in the process of putting one together but I had a question about the primary kill switch. I plan to have the kill switched wired to the charge controller but I’m going to have a secondary trickle charger/maintainer for when the box is just sitting. Since the AC charger has it’s own way to shut-off/maintain the battery I wouldn’t need a kill switch on that side – correct? So in my head I have the quick disconnect for the battery tender and the wire from solar panel (via kill switch) both hooked to the battery at the same time. do you see any issues with this? Thanks!
Can you show how you got the A/C outlet through the wood panel? did you have to disassemble the converter or did you just find a clever way to mount it from underneath?
You just put a switch on the positive side of the battery before it connects to anything else.
Almost all accessories run off 12v not 24 so 12v is much more useable. Have more Amp hours though is always better. Many people connect 2 batteries to get double the storage / Amp Hours but keep 12 volts. Connect red to red black to black to connect 2 batteries in paralel.
Great design, but would it be bettered to have more voltage, 24v over 12v or having more ah?
Hi, I will build mine but one thing I would like to add is the possibility to charge from my house. So was thinking of adding a 2 or 3 position switch and a cigarette lighter port that can be used to charge from ac. Be handy to ne able to charge your battery from your home plug.
Thank you for the great idea! I started and semi finished with mine. works good so far. I’m stumped at 2 parts. The first one you said to use a bus bar. I ended up using the terminal strips and could not get it working so I connected the inverter straight to the battery. Also I’m not sure how to wire the main kill switch. How did you hook up the main kill switch to turn off the power to the battery so the charge controller will not drain the battery or does the charge controller turn off automatically?
12.8 Volts is very close to 100% charged for a 12 volt battery. An 18 AH 12 volt battery has 108 Watt-Hours available (18AH x 12 Volts x 50%).
A 50-watt load would need 400 watt-hours available or a rated capacity of 800 watt-hours. Divide 800 watt-hours by 12 volts and you get a 67 AH battery or two 35AH batteries wired in parallel. I have one 35AH battery with the following dimensions. 5-inches wide by 8-inches long and 7-inches tall.
I am gathering all the parts so I can make one. Where did you get your cigarette plug? I like that style the best
I’m running a 12v 18AH battery. Also, I have it hooked up to a 400w inverter.
Thanks for your plans. I was not too sure if I could create one but I did it. BTW what would you charge for a premade kit without the battery?
What is the amp-hour rating for your battery. Only about half of the rated amp-hours is usable. Use the following equation to help calculate the size battery that you need.
Watts = Amps X Volts
Your inverter is converting 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC
It would depend on the price. Since, I built a replica myself I would have to see if it’s worth me building another or paying you. I’m leaning more to you building it since the quality of products you produce is a lot better then mine.
I was at about 12.6 when I started my test. For some reason my battery will only charge to 12.78 max. Then when I turn my inverter on it will drop to around 12.6. That means I can only run 50w items continuously for around 1hr before I meet the 12.2 cap. So what would I need to do in order to run a 50w item for roughly 6-8 hrs?
Inverters have a safety feature that shuts them down when the voltage gets too low. 10 volts is way to low for a 10 volt battery. You really should not let a 12 volt battery get below 12.2 volts. Go online and download a voltage vs state of charge for a 12 volt battery. It is a handy to have.
I just ran a test on my system and I ran into an issue that you might be able to help me with. I’m running a 400w whistler inverter, and it will only run until my battery gets to 10 volts then it will shut off. Is there a way around this or no?
Ed, you need to have a multimeter voltage tester http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B7CS3UY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00B7CS3UY&linkCode=as2&tag=solburblo-20&linkId=MHOPPZDZ2LZT6SE5
to test the polarity of the panel if it’s not marked. Get standard crimp connectors available at autoparts stores or amazon. Buy a set, you’ll use it for your whole life. Crimp on butt connectors to the panel to make the wires longer.
Switches with 3 connections on the back usually use the 3rd connector for a optional light on the switch. Use your voltage multi meter to test which 2 terminals are active on the switch. You can’t really hook it up wrong, don’t worry.
Cool, thanks for the comment. I’d probably make a basic bare bones kit and then a kit with all the bells and whistles.
I got some good use out of mine this summer boat in camping on Ross Lake. We had it in our canoe and had plenty of power all week for a group of 6.
That’s a good point Phil, the battery weight 13lbs so that maybe a lot of shipping to. But the rest is pretty light. I guess I’d make that optional.
I would buy one sans battery to reduce shipping to Portland Or ?
depending on cost i would buy a couple of them
Would anyone be interested in buying a prepackaged kit to make one of these? It would come with everything you need all in one box. Case, solar panel, inverter, battery, wires and misc supplies.
Reply to this comment, if you would be interested so I can gauge the interest. If I get enough interest I’ll make it available for sale on my site.
– Solar Burrito
You mean a AC wall outlet to connect to your inverter? You can use any wall outlet from the hardware store. They sell cool modern looking black ones that would look cool.
Thanks there coming soon. Also does anyone know the kind of wall outlet I can use with this setup
So I’m having trouble with wiring everything. I have the buttons and they have 3 pieces in back not sure how to make a fuse to turn on/off the battery. Also my 10 watt panel has white and red wires but there short how do I make them longer.
The bus bar is just a fancy name for an area to connect wire to each other. Like this: http://www.columbineconnectors.com/product_images/x/378/fbussbar12black__91528_zoom.jpg
Sounds like a great project! Everything sounds in order. What size solar panel will you use? Ideally would be at least 20 watts. You could use any charge controller you want as long as it can handle the amps your panels are putting out. The cheapos I spec and have used are 10amps I think and they can handle up to 150watts of solar power!. I want to see a photo!
Get a 12V Electric Blanket, much more efficient that way from a power perspective.
Hey I love this blog and its inspired me to build my own personal power pack. I have started with a pelican im2200 storm case which right know seems perfect. Inside I would like to incorporate 2x18ah batteries with a 500 watt inverter. I want it to feature a couple usb charge ports, quick disconnect attachment for jumper cables , 2 wall plugs outlet and 12v lighter ports,possibly a fan for cooling the unit inside and emergency lights . On the side of the case I would like to add a wall charger port and solar input charger port for the battery. Will I need a different charge controller for this? Mainly all the parts I am using are the ones you suggested below, except for the extras suggested. Would you have any suggestions for the jumper cable attachment and possibly emergency lighting attachments. I would love too update everyone with my progress with pictures also, I just don’t know how too? Please help this has turned into an obsession! Lol
Will I have to use a diffrent charge controller if I want to charge with solar , and regular electricity at any given time?
This is the first time on your blog and I have to say Wow! great information here! Thank you!
You could use any 2 wire connector to connect another battery bank. Wire the batteries in parallel, which is easy to remember because it’s simply black to black, red to red. You could use many different wire connectors but these are popular: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003C01FD6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003C01FD6&linkCode=as2&tag=smallcabingear-20&linkId=5NR3N3722TMUCPJL
Hi, I am in the process of building a solar generator. I am going after portability. So my design I am attempting is to have 2 20Ah batteries in a box with the inverter and charge controller and all the wiring. I also want to have the ability to connect another box that would just house 2 more 20Ah batteries. What would be the best way to connect the second box of batteries to the main unit? Thank You in advance.
AND.. using the type of batteries recommended in this project what would THEY be considered?? Thank you in advance…
Did someone ever answer this question as I was wondering the same thing
Solar panel, (price varies for those), case, inverter, cigarette lighter are the essentials. Should be under a $100 for those. I guess your price Depends if you have to buy wires, switches, stuff like that and how many do dads you add to customize it.
How come it costs much more than $150 on amazon? What on your list are absolutely essentials and what is optional?
Yes you could jump start a vehicle with this 18 amp hour battery, just make sure the wires you use to connect the car batt to this 18ah batt are large. (jumper cable sized).
Yes, I used the same case – see link below. Thanks for the link to the meter… in general I was assuming that drawing off no more than 25% of capacity was a pretty safe bet for a long battery life – let me know if you agree…I’m not sure where I got that number from!
hi, i am currentlybuilding one of theseand i was wondering if this system will jumpstart a vehicle. and what do i need to do so? also, if you have the time could you make an owners opporating manual on how to use this system? i think that would help out alot of us that are new to this. thanks alot.
Yes just connect them both together in parallel for a 12×2=24ah battery. Connect red to red black to black, easy peezee!
That’s great Bill! Did you use the same Plano pistol case? Yes the chart is precise but not really convenient there are meters that take the voltage and show you the general level of charge like this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CULEO9A/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00CULEO9A&linkCode=as2&tag=solburblo-20&linkId=Z5XCOOJ7SFOXY5O6
I like this one much better than my volt meter, think I’ll order one and add it to the parts list.
Hi all; I have a working system (2 x 18Ah) with 2 10 watt solar panels. All is working well (Thanks again Solar B!). It is clear that drawing power off the batteries should not exceed a certain level (or you compromise battery life). The question is, what is the best way to determine the current state of charge of a battery? Is a voltage chart the best way to know when the battery is (for example) at 75% charged (12.4 V)? See link for a chart I found on the web. Thanks!
Can i get 2 12ah 12 v battery…
Ideally charging current should be 10% of the Ah rating of battery.
So charging current for 120Ah Battery = 120 / 10 = 12 Amperes. This is a great general rule of thumb for an ideal situation but for the sake for portability a 10 watt panel only puts out .55 amps. It charges an 18ah battery just fine but slower.
Are you thinking of scaling up your system? Another thing that works well is to hinge to panels together to double your power but have them fold up into the space of one.
What kind of inverter should I look for
Hi there…is there a formula or rule to determine what size charger (solar panel) that you need for the size of battery you’re charging? And how can you determine what size battery that you need for the load?
Hi RedHotz, I don’t think you’ll be happy with the performance of 2 7.5ah batteries. That’s 15ah of storage and the minimum I recommend with a smaller inverter is 18ah. Don’t skimp on the battery, it’s the heart of your system.
I am using 350 watt inverter, 12v 10 amp charge controller.., 20 watt polycrystalline solar panel,, 5 amp fuse….10 awg wire………is everything good…..and not bought battery yet…..can I buy 2 12v 7.5ah sealed lead acid batteries……….will that be enough.. Plzzz.help replyyyy…
Yes if you wire it up so you can use a trickle charger. I have a Battery Tender Jr. to charge it with an outlet.
Would there be any way to hook this up so that you could charge it via a wall outlet? (similar to goal zero)
I am using a single 12 volt battery a 350 watt inverter..5 amp fuse 20 watt solar panel..12 amp change controller…..so I should connect them in series or parallel…Plzzzz answer it would be a great help……..
Use a 15 amp automotive style fuse with 12 awg wire. I’ll look into the links, maybe something changed?. Use this fuse holder with a 15 amp fuse, just like a car uses: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DQ5JRUA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00DQ5JRUA&linkCode=as2&tag=solburblo-20&linkId=GOLLZMS47HNP6GA4
Bus is a fancy name for a splitter. It allows you to distribute power from one source to many. Basically a connector that keeps wiring tidy. Search on Amazon many will come up. I can’t answer your series or parallel question unless you give me more info on what you want to do but if you want to keep 2 12volt batteries at 12 volts, wire in parallel.
What is bus in circuit diagram and what type of fuse I should use and I should connect everything in parallel or series…
I can’t find any information on the fuse type to use. What size fuse do you recommend? Also I’m not sure if it’s just me, but none of the links seem to work in the “Below I show you what I use” section.
Use the same wiring diagram but get 2 bigger deep cycle batteries like a group 24s from a auto parts store then wire them in series. Here’s a video I made showing how to wire 12volt batteries to get 24 volts. http://youtu.be/Sqmm2JgsO48
Use the same wire diagram but scale everything up. Connect your batteries in parallel for a bigger yet still 12volt battery. Red to red, black to black, easy. I’m going to build a bigger one and document it since that’s what everyone wants now! It’s going to be heavy!
I’d get as big of panel (physical size) as you’re willing to carry? 75-100 watts?
For a 1000 watt inverter, to run microwaves and other energy hogs you’ll need a much bigger battery like a Group 27 deep cycle which is about $100 at an autoparts store. It’s totally possible just scale everything up.
Use 12 awg wire and use as short of length as you can. DC wiring likes shorter lengths to increase efficiency.
Dude……you are smart……but can u tell me what length and awg of wire I should use to connect each and every…stuff..I need help as I mentioned only 15”.’.’.”
I use a C-PAP machine when I sleep. It is 24v 3.75A. Could you tell me what to do to build a solar charger to power this machine. Thanks for any help
I’m not really clear on batteries but I want to use more watts n I am not sure what volt battery to get?what kind of inverter would I need? I want to get maybe 1000 watts or more. I’m not sure if it’s possible.
Yes it’s totally possible. You’re right you need a puresine wave inverter. You probably need a large deep cycle battery. Group 31 size. Pure sinewave 1000-1500w inverter. If you knew your wattage requirements that would be helpful. Computers don’t use much these days.
i want to make my charger with 2 deep cycle marine napa batteries i have. what size inverter and solar panel will i need? i want to charge electronics and have ac capability to run a fridge etc…. i want to be comparable to a goal zero 1250 generator. also would need a wiring diagram i guess i have to daisy chain the batteries.
Is this sort of setup, with more batteries, pure wave inverter, more panels, etc, capable of powering several appliances for several hours? I am getting into event photography and I need a power source that is 100% stable to run a laptop, printer, possibly a monitor and down the road even a few high wattage lights for a greenscreen. Size isn’t too big of a concern, I was thinking something along the lines of a large ice chest… but is the basic set up possible without damaging my equipment?
Oh cool, to run the pump right? That does sound fun.
Hi Brice, they are all 10 watt panels. They are from slightly different manufacturers but don’t worry they will all work. Just make sure it says Poly Crystaline or Mono Crystaline, NOT ANOMORPHOS. The batches available on Amazon seem to come and go so depending on when you buys different styles are available.
The solar panel recommended on your site doesn’t match up to the solar panel used on your video, what size is it? Looking forward to making a solar generator!
Thank you so much. I am new to all this and have just started experimenting with hacking cheap Harbor Freight parts for a miniature waterfall. This inspires me to continue exploring solar. Thanks, again.
Hi Marsha, the best way to learn is by doing in my humble opinion. The connections are very simple. It seems complicated but when you take it one connection at a time it’s more simple than you think. The hardest part I think is the container, making it look good and be practical. For charging your phone, ipod and stuff like that it’s perfect.
It is pretty straight forward. The videos he made are good, and the wiring diagram is easy to follow.
I am venturing into unknown territory. I have basic DIY skills and I even successfully replaced the motor in my dishwasher all by myself. Granted, it took several goes at it and I had to walk away a few times before I exploded, but I did get it done! Is this really as straight forward as it seems? I bought a very expensive generator, had a hitch receiver welded to my RV , and then purchased a cage for it. This is so much cleaner and quieter.I would be perfect when I just needed to recharge my phone or ipod. What do you think? (BTW, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience so freely. I appreciate it. I am out here learning as much as possible from handy guys like you!)
Hey Solar; thanks for all this great information. Like Joe, I am also trying to figure out how much solar watts and battery capacity I will need to run some landscaping LEDs (~5 lights x 10w; 12v). Is there an equation you can recommend to figure this out? Also, how do the lights wire to the 12 DC battery (in series?; resistors needed?)?
can some one clear this up for me please. When using a solar charge controller and a “sealed” Marine leisure battery, should I use the sealed mode or the flooded mode on the charge controller?
I use the biolite stove for backpacking. I use it on numerous 5-7 day trips and it has worked really well. Beware it eats up a lot of wood =)
The bulbs are from home improvement stores like lowes, equivalent to 100W. Im new to all this, I’m looking for bulbs that are comparable to 100w bulbs. Its usually only 2 days in a row about once every 2 weeks
Think about this Joe, you will save power if you don’t convert DC to AC to run your LED’s. Can you find DC LED bulbs? If so you could run them directly off a battery and save 10-30% conversion losses. That aside, Those sound like really high power LED’s are they really 16watts each? I’d look for some lower power ones. But if that is what you’ve got you’ll need to upgrade the battery to a deep cycle 60 amp hour and also consider a larger solar panel if you need to do it day after day. Think about a 50 watt solar panel. Amazon has a great price on larger panels right now! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DCDQKII/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00DCDQKII&linkCode=as2&tag=solburblo-20&linkId=53EUGBAFR6RJGBCE
Yes totally possible. Skip the charge controller but get a small volt meter to keep tabs on your charge level. You can get smaller lighter 12 volt batteries and smaller inverters too. I’d get like a 75 watt max for that.
here’s a 7 amp hour battery: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002QGVWBW/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002QGVWBW&linkCode=as2&tag=solburblo-20&linkId=GL6NOJLSDORAGEWQ
Great, that should work fine. There is room for 2 batteries in the Plano 4 Pistol case linked above. That my be my version 2.0.
I’m looking to power 5 16W LED 120v bulbs for approx 6-8 hours a day would something like this be what i’m looking for or would i have to upgrade a few items?
Would it be possible to adapt this to something smaller say a 5 watt solar panel and a smaller lighter battery? would the charge controller and ability to add a voltmeter and at least usb hub’s and or inverter be the same? Love the design just thinking that I only need enough power to charge a phone and possibly a camera battery, and would like to have it small enough and light enough to carry backpacking.
Some links to some batteries and panels that could work would be awesome.
12v ACC is the 12 volt dc accessory plug, aka cigarette plug. On the very first picture it’s in the lower right of the black case.
The BUS is a piece of metal where you connect the same types of wire. It’s in another picture. It’s a straight piece of metal with holes in it.
I am so glad I came across this post of yours! I just ordered up all my parts with a couple minor tweaks in my design. I can’t wait to get my stuff, build it out, and put it to use. I’m hoping I can fit two batteries in the case so I can run them in parallel (fingers crossed). Thanks for sharing your knowledge and ideas.
This is such a great find. Thank you for posting this concised steps on how to build your own solar power generator. I already have a cheap solar panels guaranteed to provide me the energy that I only needed.
This is a neat video. I am in the process of building one similar to yours. The battery that I am going to use is a 20AH new gel cell agm Harley Davidson bike battery. Same size as the battery you show in your video. I ordered a 15 watt mono solar panel from amazon. I have a 800 peak dual plug with usb inverter that I want to use. Would this be good enough with the rest of the parts to run a small 12 inch face desk fan, it pulls less then an amp. I want it to run the fan, and an asthma machine incas we lose power from a hurricane.
I am new to this, any information would be greatly appreciated.
I also used a 300 watt inverter
Thanks again for a great idea. I wanted it for a backup at home to power the modem, router, and a couple of laptops during power outages. I used a larger case, a 35 AH battery, two 10 watt solar panels, a Battery Tender Jr (AC charge option), and a cigarette lighter volt meter. I tried a hard wired cheap volt meter, but the wires were to delicate for the spot I installed it. The cigarette lighter volt meter is working fine.
Thanks for the idea.
Can’t see the suggested components (view source links to “Amazon adsystem” but images don’t appear). Can you list them as names and URLs for the actual items
Hey, I found this Solar Panel is it a good one?
You would want to wire everything in parallel, That would double the amp-hours instead of doubling the volts. You still would need two panels. I am in the process of building one with a larger case, a 35 amp-hour battery, and two 10 watt solar panels. I wanted something with more reserve also.
Great idea. I am in the process of building one. I am using a bigger case that can hold a 35 Amp-Hour battery. I am adding the AC charger as you suggested. I am planning on putting in two cigarette lighter outlets and plug an inverter into one of them as needed. The inverter has USB outlets. Now my question. I have ordered one 10 watt solar panel. The case could hold a second panel. Do you think it would be a good idea to add the second panel in parallel beings my battery has almost twice the capacity?
I love the project.
Why use a voltage meter and not a watt meter? Im just curious…
Ok so you say you cut off the cigarette plugs then one wire to the switch and the other to the main power bus, would it matter which wire went to the switch and the power bus from the inverter you know like positive and negative? Also any special technique to cutting off the cigarette lighter, cuz I really don’t want to mess that up. Thanks so much for your video I’m excited to build this just want to make sure I don’t fry anything.
The thought was very nice and innovative
Cool video – thanks for sharing!!! It looks like there is enough room in the case for 2 of those batteries. Do you think you could double the recipe (2 batteries, 2 panels, 24v) but use the same case, controller and inverter? Maybe that way you keep portability but get more capacity for bigger jobs or a longer number of days without power?
It depends on battery size.
Hi Jeff, like most things, the easy answer would be “It depends”. How sunny it is, what is the drain, angle of panel etc. I”ll spare you and tell you my observations while using my for almost 2 years.
Assuming you drained the battery to 50% (like you drew 1 amp for 9 hours) It would take all day to charge up to 100% on a sunny day. I mainly use mine in the summer. Annecdotally I can charge 2-3 tool batteries 30-45 mins each at 10-75 watts of drain/load while I have the panel in the sun and still have above 60% charge. Then I usually still have time in the day to recharge.
My main other use it to charge the groups cell phones and run small stereo all day and into the night. Plenty of power for that.
Nice job on your solar generator. Tell me, if you are using a 10 watt solar panel that gives you 0.5 amps with a 18 amp hour battery, how long will it take to charge the battery back to 100% if the batter is drain 50%? Will the 10 watt solar panel keep up with the demand, or I need a bigger watt solar panel for quicker recovery?
hi solar Burrito, please how can I get in touch with you for a solar project in africa. please contact me by my email so we can explain you the full project. thanks to comes back to me.
Yes it should work fine.
Sorry to bother you but is this a good inverter? http://www.ebay.com/itm/Black-Decker-PI200AB-Power-Inverter-/271438860487?pt=US_Power_Inverters_&hash=item3f330450c7
Ok thank you very much also I wanted to know what fuse did you use for this system? Thanks!!! 🙂 😀
Yes Looks good to me! I’ve been buying these panels, since they are a bit more powerful:
Either of these panels will work great for the project!
Yes and No. Yes your right it’s inefficient to go DC to AC back to DC. Yes you could charge the batteries part way 12volts to 12 volts but I don’t think you could charge them fully. The batteries will reach equilibrium and current will stop flowing before your tool batteries are full. Picture a large bucket of water flowing into a smaller bucket of water via a tube half way up. As soon as the water level in the smaller bucket reaches the height in the larger bucket all flow will stop. That’s why 12 volt chargers charge at 14 volts to have “pressure” to push current into the 12 volt battery. Does that make sense?
BUT——— If you had your solar panels in full sun, you would be generating more voltage and you could in thereby charge your tool batteries directly. Try it out and monitor the voltage, if it’s above 14 volts you’re charging!
Hey Solar Burrito can you tell me if a poly-Crystalline Solar Panel is good for this project, here is the link- http://www.ebay.com/itm/10w-WATT-poly-crystalline-solar-panel-10W-PV-solar-module-for-battery-charger-/281251899506?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item417beb6872
Love this and your blog! Thanks for putting it all out there for those of us that are just figuring it all out. One question, would it be possible to just skip the inverter if I wanted to build this kind of system to charge 12v power tools? It seems silly to convert 12v DC charge to 110v inverter and then plug in a battery charger that charges my 12v tools. I was thinking I could just try stripping off the plug and seeing if I could wire it directly into a 12v battery, but I have a feeling this won’t work. Any experience with this? thanks again!
Could you provide a link to the solar panel, or all of the parts you’ve used?
What kind of charger do you recon?
12 volt trickle charger
What do you use to recharge the battery besides the solar panels
Hi Ryan, I just posted a legit wiring diagram above! Hope that helps you complete your project. Let me know if I can help anymore.
do you have the wiring diagram to post??
Ok I think I got it. Will build it when I get home in April. Currently in the Middle East. Just want t have all the parts ready before I arrived.
Thanks again for all your help. If this works out good I will try to make one that can run off of 220v
Hi James, No problem. I’d cut off the cigarette plugs on this inverter then wire one side to your main power bus then the other side to a switch. Then you could shut off the inverter individually and it would be shut off when you shut off all power. Possibly overkill but that’s how I did it. If the inverter has it’s own switch then leave it on when you add another switch.
Your right about the AC pig tail, easy peasy just plug it in. Don’t worry nothing will blow up but make sure you have the polarity right before you power up inverter. It will blow a fuse otherwise and sometimes the fuses are internal on those.
No diagram yet. Haven’t had a chance.
Thanks for your recommendation. I just bought it. So quick question and first I want to apologize to you for asking so many question. I know people are busy and this is helping me out a lot. So how can I connect the inverter to the battery? Do I connect the inverter to another lighter socket outlet and connect it to the battery? And on the 110v house receptacle, can I get a small pigtail and cut the female end and connect the power, ground and neutral to the receptacle? Do you have a wiring diagram for this set up I was trying to figure it out by myself but want to double check before I blow something up.
If you got the 18ah battery check out this 200 watt inverter. It has several high power USBs. It would be perfect for your needs. ( I just added above) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EY6RJKA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EY6RJKA&linkCode=as2&tag=solarstereos-20
Thanks for the info. I purchased basically everything you did exemp for the inverter. What my plans for this project is to have enought power to charge up a couple of phones and a laptop. Not on the same time. Or maybe a couple of temporary lights or a speaker for my phone to play music. You think I should be better off purchasing a smaller inverter? I found some brass bus bars at work that I will be using as we’ll. I can always use the 400watt inverter on a big scale solar project. Thanks
Use the same gauge as the wires your inverter will come with. I’m sure 10awg will be fine though especially at these short lengths. I’ve done some experiments with adding a switch to the fan in the inverter to save power. It works but I haven’t done much testing. Get one that only runs the fan under load and keep in mind the 18ah battery won’t last long at 400 watts. Less than an hour I’d say but for short big loads in the sun, it could be useful.
Really liked your video. Im going to build one just like your next month. Just purchased the item from Amazon. the only difference is that I will be using a 400w inverter in my set up as you said you were going to do in your video. The question I have is what gauge wire are you using? You think I will ok using 10awg wire? what are you doing for ground?
Dang those were a steal! 2 5 watts wired in parallel would be the same, size maybe an issue you’ll have to measure.
I would want to be able to draw 120 watts to run an electric blanket throw for two days. I have gas heat backup and one small propane. Will add another propane this year. Still, what will the system put out and for how long? I have the inverter 400 watt, and the charge controller. Also one small solar panel that I think is a 60 watt, but not sure on that. The portability is fine, but what does it run for how long is the important question combo.
Amazon all of a sudden stopped selling these 10w panels. I wanted to build a cheap solar generator but now I have to spend $50+ dollars on a panel. Do you suggest any other panels?
Nice job, I am going to build one, thanks…
Ann – Why would you want to power an electric heater with any battery powered system? Electric heat is a huge energy drain compared to how much heat you get. In a emergency I’d recommend propane or even better wood heat since it’s free, renewable, and you can find wood nearly everywhere. Off grid homes don’t have electric heat.
How much this unit can power is really irrelevant since this is totally scalable all the way up to a system that fills a shed with batteries and is no longer portable. Portability is the key here. Good luck with your system, if you’re willing to pay for lithium batteries then you probably could power a heater!