You can construct a solar powered boombox for as little as $75

Combine a small, energy efficient digital amplifier, cheap bookshelf speakers, batteries, a small solar panel, and your MP3 player as a source.

Fasten everything together, add a handle, and take it on the road!

This project makes for a fun, easy solar project, that will help you learn about how solar panel, and audio systems operate.

Assembly has been simplified as much as possible, with a very high quality product as the end result.

Possible applications-

  • iPod or Mp3 amplifier
  • "Off grid" remote or cabin audiophile system
  • Third world use
  • Eco friendly sound system for outdoor events
  • Science fair or educational project
  • Jobsite radio and tool battery charger
  • Laptop amplifier for music and movies
The Sonic Impact digital amplifier has been raved about by audiophiles. It has the added benefit of using less electricity than a conventional solid state amplifier, which makes the battery last longer, and the required solar panel smaller.
It is capable of driving most home stereo speakers, so feel free to try it with any speakers you may have on hand. The results may surprise you!
Some speakers are more efficient than others and will play louder given the same input.

*Sonic Impact fans note*

A Sonic Impact amplifier ($30) will run directly off of a single Harbor Freight car charging solar panel($10-20) without a battery.
I offer no guarantees here, but in July Wisconsin sun, an unmodified SI amp was connected directly to the solar panel (a stock SINGLE Harbor Freight unit) and speakers. I did this repeatedly with no problems, other than that the music stops when clouds interfere, or the panel is shaded.


The reason this is remarkable is that the voltage of the panel is over the maximum the amp is supposed to take. The load presented by the amp, draws the voltage down before the amp is damaged.
I have tested this extensively, but you try this at your own risk!

A more powerful panel, such as the double unit we use on the DelSol will be more likely to produce enough current to damage the amp.
I later modified the amplifier to improve the bass, and it required more current than the single panel provided.

Add a battery, and you have a more functional simple system.

See ELECTROVOX.COM for more info, links, and advanced systems.

Step 1: Parts, Sources and Tools

Most components are available via Parts Express, but I list multiple options for some components.

Amplifier options -

Dayton amp - $45
(This amp should be functionally identical to the Sonic Impact amp mentioned throughout this instructable)

An alternative amplifier is sold on Ebay by a seller in China. Shipping will take a while, but the basic amp board is only $25 shipped. Using this amp is a slightly more advanced project, and may require some additional parts. Go to http://stores.ebay.com/Sure-Electronics and search for TA2024
Parts express now carries this amplifier as well-

Solar Panel-

http://www.harborfreight.com/15-watt-solar-battery-charger-44768.html -$10-19 Your Local Harbor Freight will match website sale prices if you print out the web page and take it into the store.


White indoor/outdoor speakers shown on intro page - $24
I Highly recommend recycling some old speakers here. Car speakers can be used if you provide an enclosure. Use high quality bookshelf speakers if you're an audiophile.


DC Plug - $2.79/2
plug from Parts Express two needed

DC jack - $2.79/1
DC jack option 1 from Parts Express
DC jack option 2 from Parts Express

or extract similar parts from broken electronics. /free


5.0 Ah battery from parts express
Battery - 12 Volt battery SLA (sealed lead acid) get a 2.5-12 Ah capacity one, pay $13-25.00 Shipped
I recommend using a 2.5-5 Ah SLA battery for most people. A 12 Ah battery is quite large and heavy.

bag phone battery charging clip
bag phone battery These can be found for a lot less sometimes.

Cordless drills can be a battery source if the voltage is under 13.6 volts

Optional-get 8-10 AA NIMH 2400mAh or larger. Eight fit in the SI amp, but building 10 into a custom pack will play louder than even the lead acid batttery!
I don't provide instructions for these options yet, however.


Wire is mostly recycled, but silicone wire is recommended for connecting the battery to its plug. Cheapskates can try lamp cord here, but please be careful. and read the warnings on the next pages.

Industrial Strength Velcro,
glue,and screws to fasten the necessary parts together.
electrical tape or heat shrink tubing

Some kind of handle. Preferably folding.

Sound source such as MP3 player

Harbor Freight has digital multimeters for $3 - 10.00 that are very useful, but optional.


Soldering Iron
wire cutters/strippers
needlenose pliers

wouldn't the solar panel's efficiency drop like 66% if it has that much shading from the handle on it?
wouldn't the solar panel's efficiency drop like 66% if it has that much shading from the handle on it?
Hello, does this wiring set up charge the battery while its plugged in and run off battery while its not plugged in or if the solar panel isn't generating power?
This design is not set up that way, but it could be.
Hey I was wondering...if I did everything you did, except used: <br> <br>2 25W RMS speakers, <br> <br> this amp: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0049P6OTI/ref=ox_sc_act_title_6?ie=UTF8&amp;m=AZ7YIJX32M70J <br> <br>and an ipod dock to charge my ipod, would 1.5 W be enough? <br> <br>btw thanks so much this is a great instructable!
also, sorry for bothering again, but is there a way to plug an ipod dock into external speakers?
Hey I am putting my boombox together. I'm using the recommended amp. First off can you briefly explain to me the series/parallel relationship between the three parts (battery, panel, amp)? Just one more thing. I'm using the led acid 12V 5.0 Ah battery. The recommended charging voltages for the battery says around 14-15V, but the panel puts out around 24V. Should I knock down the panel voltage or does it not matter?
The fifth picture under &quot;Step 2 Wiring and Assembly&quot; shows a simple schematic.<br>You don't have to worry about the higher voltage of the solar panel, if it isn't significantly larger than the one I used (1.5 Watts). Just don't connect the solar panel to the amp without the battery being connected first.<br>The battery will draw down the voltage of the panel, A small solar circuit such as this one can get by without a charge controller.<br>Good luck!<br>
Do you know what type of diode came with the solar panel you used? I bought one but it did not have the diode. I'd like to add it but I'm not sure what type to use.<br><br>Thanks!<br>BTW - these plans are awesome! I have been enjoying the boombox I built with your help!
It's a 1N4001 type.<br>Available here-<br>http://www.adafruit.com/products/755<br>Most electronic devices have these inside, if you want to salvage one.<br>Just pick one that looks like the picture, don't worry about exact part number.<br>I'm glad you're enjoying the boombox!
Can you have the battery plugged in at the same time as the solar panel? I want to do this but am afraid it will generate too much voltage.
Yes, if wired as described in step 2. Look at the additional pictures on step 2 for exact wiring detail.
Great invention there. See what imagination can do with solar power? It will be great if more inventions will be made in the near future. <br><br>Great post. Keep Sharing.
Hello i know this is an old thread but i am building my own solar powered boom-box .<br>I am using a Chinese Lepai T2020 amp , a 3w solar panel,pioneer Dual-Cone TS-1001i Speakers .<br>will be incorporating a cigarette lighter plug that converts into 2 usb ports to charge phone and mp3 player.<br><br>now all i need is a battery and have been searching around for what type i can use.<br><br>am trying to keep the weight as low as possible so i don't need a heavy car battery but was wondering what is best for my setup?<br>want to keep the boom box in the windowsill so i can charge my phone on a daily base .<br><br>am quite capable of soldering etc. .<br><br>so should i go for something like this and wire 10 of them to make my own battery pack<br>http://www.amazon.co.uk/Duracell-Supreme-2450mAh-Rechargeable-Batteries/dp/B0031OE6LG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1288354114&amp;sr=8-1<br>or should i get a lead acid one like this<br>http://www.amazon.co.uk/NP3-3-12-Ultramax-Rechargeable-Lead-Acid-Battery/dp/B002TW74P6/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&amp;coliid=I20SQT4IMYV1A6&amp;colid=SO6O03Z0DRVD<br><br>am a bit lost in the whole battery thing so any help is much appreciated.<br><br>Marrilia <br>
I really like my 10 aa NIMH pack the best. There are tutorials online explaining how to solder batteries together successfully, and assemble them into packs.<br>The batteries you've linked to should work fine.<br><br>There's also this holder-<br>http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=31427&amp;OrderCode=RK45Y<br>-if building the pack is too much trouble.<br><br>Good luck!
thanks for the advice!just ordered a dozen 2900mAH...another question do you think i need a charge regulator or can i hook up the bateries direcly to the panel?<br><br>there is a diode in the panel so shouldn't drain the batterypack.<br><br>cheers
You'll be fine without the charge regulator. A 3W panel doesn't put out enough current to overcharge those batteries.<br>
Thanks a bunch for this project. I used the 2x15 amp from Sure Electronics and some 10 watt RMS speakers I found cheap on Ebay. I built a pine box and hard wired it all together. Sure, it ways 30+ lbs, but it's loud. If anybody is just starting this project today (5/8/2010) you can find some Kricket 5&quot; 10 watt RMS speakers on EBAY for about $25.<br />
I would like to do the same thing here... except instead of building a box i am thinking about using a coleman or igloo cooler... with a Car Battery also using a Car/Marine Stereo and Speakers...&nbsp; I go on a lot of Tubing Trips in the summer and would like the best possible waterproof setup lemme know if you have any other suggestions as to what i can do.
There are other plans for cooler boomboxes online you can look at for inspiration.<br /> <br /> my suggestions-<br /> <br /> 1.&nbsp; Many waterways ban glass. Look for a solar panel with no glass, they are available.&nbsp; Try marine sources. Some have a metal backing plate, some have circuit board material, some are flexible and roll up.&nbsp; One cheap source might be to gang together a bunch of garden light solar panels.<br /> http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a-store/item/SPL-61/SOLAR-CELL-60MM-X-60MM-X2MM/-/1.html<br /> http://www.jamestowndistributors.com/userportal/show_product.do?pid=52241&amp;familyName=PowerFilm+Rollable+Solar+Chargers<br /> http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/producte/10001/-1/10001/424480/377%20710/0/solar/Primary%20Search/mode%20matchallpartial/0/0?N=377%20710&amp;Ne=0&amp;Ntt=solar&amp;Ntk=Primary%20Search&amp;Ntx=mode%20matchallpartial&amp;Nao=0&amp;Ns=0&amp;keyword=solar&amp;isLTokenURL=true&amp;storeNum=5002&amp;subdeptNum=9&amp;classNum=592<br /> <br /> 2. You might not need a full size car battery, I'd try a garden tractor/motorcycle battery, or better yet, a large SLA computer power back up battery.&nbsp; Try Ebay.<br /> <br /> 3. Think about how you will use it.&nbsp; It might be easier to have the battery and solar panel removable so that you aren't leaving your whole stereo out to charge where it could get stolen or rained on. <br /> <br /> I'd love to see a picture of your completed project, good luck!
&nbsp;as an fyi, parts express does sell a solar charger similar to the one specified (<a href="http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=320-246" rel="nofollow">www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm</a>) but its twice as expensive. &nbsp;however, if you pick up the amp and batteries from parts express too you can just make the $100 free shipping, but the increase in price almost cancels it out. &nbsp;check the prices and figure out which is cheapest with shipping
saying "audiophiles" makes it sound dirty...
I love this idea for our RV trips. I was wondering if a 12v auto plug (male) could be added and used with a Car battery. I have a 12v outlet (female) on the outside of my trailer and it would be nice to be able to hook up while outside in the evening. Would a 12v deep cycle marine battery cause damage to the amp (dayton) and if so what would be needed to protect it. If anyone has any ideas I would appreciate a scematic of some sort as I am a little green to electornics.
why do you need a plug/jack? couldn't you just have the plug hooked up to the battery and solar panel? is the the jack just extra in case you want to charge it through other means?
Yes, it also allows you to use multiple batteries. Personally, I find it most convenient to be able to separate the battery, solar panel, and boombox. This also allows me to charge the battery without having to leave the boombox out in the weather. You can hardwire everything, but I think most people will appreciate being able to separate the components. The plug/jack also helps avoid the possibility of connecting two power sources in series and frying the amp.
where did you get those particular speaker drivers that were shown in the first image ? cheers
Those are Aurasound NS3-194-8E featured in my Delsol speaker project here:<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?s=f0de12f6e2b099494dc6bc2d1bfe5c7a&amp;threadid=90212&amp;perpage=10&amp;pagenumber=1">http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?s=f0de12f6e2b099494dc6bc2d1bfe5c7a&amp;threadid=90212&amp;perpage=10&amp;pagenumber=1</a><br/>Sadly no longer available.<br/><br/>Parts Express has some similar Tang band drivers.<br/>
Check out the Amp 6 here <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.41hz.com/">http://www.41hz.com/</a><br/>I used it to build a similar portable system. Works great<br/>
Wondering why I couldn't use a small (25 w.p.c. or so) car amp or eq/ booster to push a pair of 6x9's. I would of course use a 12v s.l.a. battery and a solar panel to recharge. Would either amp or eq be too inefficient voltage wise???
This will work, but is less efficient and would be better paired with a larger battery and solar panel. The beauty of my system is that the energy efficiency of the amplifier allows you to use a smaller solar panel/battery and still have a powerful system in a small package. I encourage you to experiment with whatever is on hand!
Pekar, one more question for ya. Just about got my system built, but I wanted to see if a piece of plexiglass layed over a solar panel for protection would do more harm than good ? Will it reflect light enough to not let the panel be as efficient as it would without it? Thanks for your reply.
It shouldn't reduce the panels effectiveness by much.
Thanks for all the help, Pekar.
you should add a 7805 voltage regulator and connect it to a usb cable so that you can charge your mp3 player over the usb connection.
Have wanted to do this for some time, so appreciate your work on this. I have the T-Amp and two Polk Audio DB650 car speakers which are very efficient and nice sounding. Also have a Creative MuVo2 FM 5gb which requires a 5v input In order to power the system for a good (long) amount of time at volume and under less than ideal solar conditions, I want to upgrade the solar panel and battery. Am looking at a 12v, 10W panel charging a 4.5ah lead acid 12v battery. Will I need a solar controller for this? Can the T-Amp run directly off the battery or is some sort of voltage regulator needed? Finally... can somebody suggest a DIY design for the car audio speakers to "tune" the sound? I'd like to make this enclosure from balsa wood backed by XPS (Dow Styrofoam) insulation with the balsa on the inside. Any thoughts/ help is appreciated!
a solar panel that large would overcharge a small battery very fast. so you will definitely want a charge controller. I would also suggest a larger battery 7 - 12 Ah. make sure that the output current from the panel is not over the max charge current of your battery.
Batteries can take up to 1/10 of their mAh rating and safely dissipate this as heat. In your case a solar panel could put out a maximum of 450 ma without requiring a charge controller. Your 10 watt panel is probably too large for that small battery.
Thx 4 the info. I want a system that can cleanly handle less than full sun. Ur in Badgerland, which has pretty much the same climate as me in Gopherland (MN.) When those big cumulus clouds come and go, I still want the tunes. I hooked up a solar panel in my Jetta (VW) and I've got a VW solar panel in there. (Max Power: 3.2 watts, Voltage @ Max Power; 18.8 Volts, Current @ Max Power: 170mAmps, 42 cells) Virtually every panel I've seen listed as 12V has 36 cells. This one has 42. When I plug the T-amp into this panel and turn the amp on, there is 1/2 second of sound, then nothing. This happens repeatedly. I'm thinking the voltage is too high and causing the T-Amp to clip out. When I put 8 NiMh AA cells in the T-Amp, it cranks out the sound. That's 9V. This is a lot more. I'm driving Polk Audio DB650 car speakers. Do you see any way to make this particular panel work? Could I hook it up to a 4ah battery and then plug the T-Amp onto the battery posts? Or will this setup end up with premature battery/equipment failure? The Harbor Freight panel is not for me. I don't like amorphous cells and cannot accept dead silence when there are clouds. Thx for the help! Clinton
You can connect your VW panel directly to the 4.5 ah battery without any charge controller. <br/>I suspect your VW panel might not have enough voltage to power the amp directly. A solar panel's voltage drops dramatically when you place a load on it. You would probably need to connect two VW panels in parallel to produce sufficient juice. You then risk overpowering your amplifier. Putting a battery in the circuit regulates the voltage and prevents damage. <br/>Read here for a good description of running on minimum voltage-<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=1214804#post1214804">http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=1214804#post1214804</a> <br/>A 41hz.com amp6basic kit amplifier has built in voltage regulation and is a nice upgrade from the SI T-amp.<br/>Ultimately, if you don't want to experiment, but just want solar powered tunes, use a battery in the circuit, and consider adding a second VW panel in parallel for quicker charging.<br/>enjoy,<br/>Pekar<br/>
Thx 4 the reply. Question: Why would your 1.2W panel run the T-Amp and speakers when my 3.2W panel won't? Are my speakers drawing that much more power? This leads me back to the start, thinking about a 10W panel hooked up to a 4ah battery. with charge controller. All these parts add weight, but to reach my goal of plenty of juice for evening / non-sunny times, maybe I have to. I wonder how much of a charge the 3.2W VW panel can give the battery? Or... how long would it take to charge that 4ah battery? cm
Had some of those high cumulus clouds this afternoon, so got to do some interesting testing. Evidently yesterday the sun was getting too low and there was haze. Sunlight wasn't as bright and crisp as high noon. At 3pm today went out again, and if there were no clouds whatsoever, the 3.2W VW panel powered the T-Amp and Polk speakers just fine. Not as loud as with AA batteries, but it was audible and definitely 100% solar powered. When a wisp of cloud came in between, the power dropped enough to clip, then cut out. So your analysis (not enuf power with the 3.2W panel) was correct. But jeepers, was it WAY cool when the tunes were playing on pure sunpower! I've also decided how to set this up: 10W panel, charge controller, 4ah battery. Yeah, it costs more and weighs more, BUT it's gonna be a stable system in different weather conditions and when you want tunes, there is nothing worse than having it cut out. It's also a pretty feeble demonstration to show people or take to a party if it's always cutting out. This will solve all that.
I really like this idea. Now let me ask, would I be able to use powered computer speakers for this project? And can I use the solar panel as well as ac current for this project? And would I still need a 12 volt battery for this? Sure hope someone can help on this project, can't wait to get started. Thanks.
If your speakers have an external 12v. power supply (wall wart), then it should work easily. If the power supply is internal, then it gets more complicated, and I'd recommend starting with something else, or buying the Sonic Impact amplifier. A battery is necessary for a usable system. Dual powered systems are possible.
Great then cause I do have a "wall wart" so I just hook up straight to the power input wires on the board, right ? Also one more question, I was only able to get a larger solar panel such as the one you have on your Delsol system ,think I'll run into any problems with this one? Once again thank you by the way.
If the amp is 12 volt DC, then you should be able to do this. the larger panel shouldn't be a problem. The panel may or may not put out enough power to run the amp directly. Including a battery in the circuit both ensures that the amp gets enough power to run, and protects the amp from the higher voltage the panel puts out. Be aware that you could damage your speakers amplifier, and good luck!
Alright I am going to get started now. Wish me luck on this . Oh, and thanks for all the help.
I love the idea of an amplifier powered solely on solar power without batteries. I built my own by using an Altec Lansing XM radio boombox thing and two solar panels from walmart. The basic idea is to buy an mp3/satellite radio docking station with a built in amp. However make sure the amp is class D so it will consume as little power as possible. I found some 2.4watt/130mA solar panels at walmart for $10 each! Now thats cheap! In full sunlight these panels produced 22 volts. At first I was scared I was going to overpower the amp by plugging in the first panel so I connected a 7.5 volt Zener diode in parallel with the power input to ensure that no more than 7.5 volts were applied to the little amp. No sound...Next I connected the second panel in parallel and voila! music from my Ipod started to crank out of the boombox. So in my situation it took two 2.4watt panels in parallel to produce the necessary current to feed the amplifier. However as others have noticed, clouds and shadows cast on the panels will temporarily shut down the amp or cause it to distort. Also it only plays at moderate volume levels because of a lack of current. The zener diode started to get hot so I tossed it and applied the full voltage to the unit with no problems. I had a car audio 1 farad capacitor laying around so I hooked it up in parallel to the panels and it stops the amp from clips and shutting down during periods of reduced light. However, to make the system more practical it would be best to add a sealed lead acid battery and scrap the capacitor. Why waste the energy when it could be stored?
Glad to hear about your experimentation!<br/>I had a lot of fun playing with my system without a battery too.<br/>Here is some more discussion on this topic in the following posts by Michael Mardis-<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=1214279#post1214279">http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=1214279#post1214279</a><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=1214804#post1214804">http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=1214804#post1214804</a><br/>
where did you get the sirens from

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