Introduction: Solar Power Bucket

Picture of Solar Power Bucket

This is what I call the Solar power bucket. I wanted a solar battery bank, but many on the market did the have to battery capacity I wanted or could put out 110 volts. If I finally found one it was way too much money. This solved my problem having a 220 Ah battery and a 500-watt 110-volt output. It is very handy to have around, and it charges itself so it is always there and charged for when you need it. It is very easy to make and very cheap costing under 100 dollars. Best of all you can customise it to suit your needs.

Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts

These are some of the things you will need
Volt meter, 12-volt plug, and USB adapter sold here:

solar charge controller sold here:

5 Gallion Bucket

Small solar panel

12-volt lawnmower battery

small dc wire

electrical tape

wire nuts

12 volt to 110-volt inverter ( I modified mine to turn on with a external button )

small switch

110 volt plug extension

You will also need some tools these include

drill and drill bits

wire crimper

wire cutters

Step 2: Drill and Mount Plugs and Panel

Picture of Drill and Mount Plugs and Panel

Now that we have everything, let's get started. First we need to drill the holes for the plugs. It's alway better to make your holes smaller you can always make them bigger later. For to 110 volt plug you can drill a 3/4 inch hole and use a file to make it square. Push in your plugs and screw on the plastic rings to hold them in tight. Next mark and drill holes for your solar panel. You will also need to drill two holes for your wires to go into your bucket. You can use some silicone to make the holes water tight.

Step 3: Wiring

Picture of Wiring

Next you need to wire everything up. Use some spade crimps to connect to your plugs. After that use the wire nuts to splice all of your positive wires together and do the same for the negitive. It is a good idea to use electrical tape to keep all your wires from turning into a mess. It is a good idea to splice long wires onto the solar panel going to the charger, this makes it easy to take the lid off if you ever have to. Once you are done with that put your battery and inverter in your bucket. If you used the same battery and inverter as I did everything should fit tight and will not slide around. If your battery slides around you could always use some foam to fill in the gaps and hold everything in tight.

Step 4: Your Done

Picture of Your Done

Your done making your Power Bucket. Now take it outside to charge and when you need it, it will be there charged and ready to go. You can use it to power an electric blanket to keep you warm for those cold sports game nights, or when the electric is out to give you light. There are no end to the uses of the Power bucket.


foxpup (author)2016-10-05

Great idea for proof-of-concept. I ended up making a much more involved unit with a 110Ah 12V UPS battery that set me back ~$180. It weighs about 70 pounds but packs serious storage. My family calls it the MOAB. (Mother Of All Batteries) I use it to pwoer my telescope/electronics when I go to star parties. Normally I wouldn't mess with mower/automotive batteries for this purpose because they are not deep cycle. Using a lawn-mower battery for solar energy storage is like signing up 100m dash sprinter for a marathon. It might technically work, but not optimally. UPS batteries or marine batteries are the way to go. They aren't made to put out wicked amounts of amps in powerful surges. They are made to charge and discharge gradually as they "go the distance." Oh!!, and I need to say, lead acid batteries are very mortal. 3-5 years is not uncommon. Staying away from long periods of time discharged is a good idea too. If this unit fully suites your needs, then great! If not keep on building. The buckets are a great idea, but I'd put some vents in them to limit hydrogen build-up. Also, a pair of lead filled buckets is easier to carry than just one because of balance. You could even securely attach the pair to the ends of a 4 ft wooden closet hanger rod and carry them "milk-maid" style. :-)

maewert (author)foxpup2016-10-07

I added a 285 watt solar panel to my van with two 6v golf cart batteries to power my Celestron CGE14 telescope. Similar purpose just different choices in the build details.

foxpup (author)maewert2016-10-07

Any equatorial mount can be a beast to move about, but one made for a 14 inch scope would be a monster. I see from your build that you used a Chrysler minivan to mount your panel on. I thought of doing something like that with the 2003 Chevy Lumina that I take to star parties. Its big enough to transport myself, two others and my 16 inch Orion Dobsonian which is what I use. (Your rig is probably more useful if you do photography) As for panels on the roof, I'd be hard pressed to find a way to keep the panel useful all year round, not just at Star Parties. Right now I still baby it and keep it in the garage so I don't see it gathering much sunlight there. :-) I'd be more interested in building a setup where I could open the trunk of my Nissan LEAF and roll out a stack of thin PV panels on the ground to charge it up, but whenever I do the math, the numbers just don't make any sense. I don't want to have to charge all day just so I can drive 100 minutes at night and then wait over night until I do it all again. It would take me 30 days to cross the US (New York to San Francisco along interestate 80) I sure would get my reading in and would probably have a lot of pleasant conversations with local law enforcement and other curious folk. (but I wouldn't be able to bring my telescope) What I need is an electric van. No manufacturer makes those so I would have to rebuild an ICE one which is no task for the faint hearted or shallow pocketed. :-) Sure would be cool though.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-10-02

Nice. Portable solar systems are normally really expensive. Also the bucket is a really good idea for a weatherproof housing.

Yes buckets are handy devices for sealing out the elements. I'm not sure this example is the best one, though. Its a bit like putting a square peg in round hole. :-) Now storing 3d printer filament in them with screw top lids and desiccant feels more like putting something round in something round. :-) .....still with enough force..... :-)

Zenock (author)foxpup2016-10-06

You can get square buckets. ;-)

foxpup (author)Zenock2016-10-06

Yea!! I just remembered that I can get 1 gallon ice-cream in more or less square buckets. One more excuse to buy more ice-cream. :-)

jbain6 (author)2016-10-02

any specs or guesses for how long to charge the battery or how long you can run what before the battery runs dry?

madcow120 (author)jbain62016-10-02

I have used it before when the electric was out, to power a 40watt light. It lasted about 2 days.

madcow120 (author)madcow1202016-10-05

This is just with a using the light for a few minutes every now and then.

ntambomvu (author)2016-10-05

What a good idea- In south africa we use 220 volts- so i am sure some electronic

nerd can help with the nessessary wireing. 2 Days for a 40 watt bulb !! woe this really great-

I am going to build it and try is out for my garden pool fountain pump .

We do have periodic power cuts and it would be nice to have power for our led

emergency lighting system .

maewert (author)2016-10-04

Nice instructable! I love to see solar projects done well.

I do not believe, however, that your single EverStart UH1 battery is providing anything near 220 AH. I believe they have a reserve capacity of 30, making them more like 20 or less AH. I'm also not sure how well they perform when deeply discharged. They are a good quality battery for the money, though, just maybe not designed for deep discharge applications.

Best Wishes!

Linksep (author)maewert2016-10-04

Correct, that is around a 12Ah battery. CCA (Cold Cranking Amps - the
220 rating on that battery) is the 30-second discharge rate at below
freezing temp (0F / -18C).

wyocoyote1 (author)2016-10-04

Nice! Just add good gauge wire and claps and you have a jumper pack. I'm inspired to make similar with a deep cycle batt and may seek a more square bucket. good square buckets are hard to come by but pack better. shoot you can have a 12v evaporative cooler run of your solar bucket bank make a stool out of your setup and chill out on it.

AndrewR215 (author)2016-10-04

It also needs a regulator to control batter charge and discharge to suit the type of battery(around $20 on ebay) .
Battery needs a separately vented compartment to avoid explosion and acid contamination of electronic components.

shortw (author)AndrewR2152016-10-04

A solar panel this size with an battery used with it here does not need a controller.

You are lucky to charge that battery enough to put enough energy back into it that battery that got lost by self discharge.

The panel looks like a 10 watt panel to charge a 220 ah battery and there is no danger at all of overcharging the battery, even if you charge the battery every day all day long.

madcow120 (author)shortw2016-10-04

I have put a charge controler on it just in case, but it does take a day or two to charge.

shortw (author)2016-10-04

You can take 15% to 25 % of the capacity from a starter battery/ lawnmower battery/car battery every day without damaging them....but you have to charge them as soon as possible after use. If you use it over night, start charging it in the morning.

Deep cycle batteries like the ones used in golf carts , you can take up to 50% of the capacity daily. Charge it after use.

A Marine battery is just a glorified starter battery and will Never be a deep cycle battery like a golf cart battery is.

AGM batteries are deep cycles and you can take up to 75% to 80% of it's capacity,

Their self-discharge is very low. They cost twice as much for halve their live.

frisbrob (author)2016-10-04

Sorry, meant DeMayo not madcow120

frisbrob (author)2016-10-04

Yes on safety! After reading what i posted before madcow120 posted his, i realize that i was not clear on the subject of not putting the battery in with the electronics. Not only will the acids in the fumes corrode and destroy the inverter and other electronics but in a confined space the fumes will build up especially while the batt is charging and just one spark, can you say bomb! I see things on-line all the time where people build their own solar panels or wind turbine and charge batteries that are in the house stored in a bench that is just inside of an entry way that you can sit on to put your shoes on, or they are in the garage stored in some container with no ventilation, you should never breath the battery fumes and never store them in your home because of fumes, fire or explosion hazards, this bucket is probably worse. Good idea but needs to be redesigned.

frisbrob (author)2016-10-04

This is a good idea but there are some problems with the idea. First, car and riding mower batteries are not meant to be discharged, each time they are they loose life. Deep cycle batts are not meant to be discharged any more than 1/4 to 1/2 way either. The other thing with this is that you should never put the regulator and inverter in with the battery, even a sealed battery puts off fumes that will destroy the inverter and other components, even in an RV you should never put the inverter with the batteries. Another thing is that the more power the inverter puts out the more heat it makes thus the reason for the cooling fan and if it is a small inverter it still has cooling fins that need cool air passing by them to cool the unit down. For the cost of building this and the amount of power it will provide it's just not worth the money. If this is for power outages about all it will do is run a light bulb for couple of days or charge your electrical devises. Here where i live the power has only went out twice in the last 13 years and for only about an hour at a time. Most riding mower batts will go bad just from not being used, mine has several times even with a trickle charger on it all winter long. I would rebuild it with a wood cabinet with a divider, batt on one side and electronics on the other with ventilation on both sides and completely sealed so the fumes can't get to the electronics. Myself, i still wouldn't put the money into it unless it was really needed and was going to be used all the time.

klideb_99 (author)2016-10-04

I like it a lot, I am going to use this but use an adjustable bracket on the solar panel. I see the switch for the inverter, what is the other one used for?

madcow120 (author)klideb_992016-10-04

The push button is for the inverter and the switch is for turning on and off the voltage meter.

klideb_99 (author)madcow1202016-10-04

Got ya, I was trying to trace the wires in your pictures. Thanks. I really like the mobility of the whole thing, awesome job.

DeMayo (author)2016-10-04

Tip: Batteries produce EXPLOSIVE GASES

do not place in sealed container where small sparks from electrical plugs and switches may ignite could maim or KILL YOU

Recommend 2 separate Boxes like Marine Battery Boxes or Square Stack Boxes

to separate Battery from electrical plugs and switches,110v Converters,

the square Box fits better with square components like battery and converters

Clifflew2002 (author)2016-10-04

Great instructable! I think I will give it a try.

JGDean (author)2016-10-04

I would like to know your sources for the solar panel, battery and inverter to keep the total cost under $100. The cheapest decent panel I can find is $65 from Harbor Freight Tools and even a cheap lawnmower battery is $20-35 not counting the core charge. I love the idea, but can't see making one for under $150 at a MINIMUM! While this is considerably less than any commercial unit I have found, that's still not small change for a very low-power (less than 2a) power supply.

KennyS51 (author)2016-10-04

How is the solar panel attached?

madcow120 (author)KennyS512016-10-04

The solar panel has bolts on the back. You drill holes in the bucket lid and bolt it on.

PaulD246 (author)2016-10-04

It would be better if you gave links to the solar panel and battery that you used. If you'd do that I'd be making one this week before the hurricane hits !

madcow120 (author)PaulD2462016-10-04

Here is the link to the battery,

The solar panel I got out of my dads barn, you can probably find one on ebay.

IdahoErnest (author)2016-10-04

Your choice of battery is not designed for this application. The preferred type of battery would be deep cycle, like a battery built for trolling motors. Basic idea is great!

beecroft (author)2016-10-04

This would be great for folks with Tankless Gas Water Heaters - these don't need a lot of juice but won't work at all without 110 power. Great 'ible!

JeremyH49 (author)beecroft2016-10-04

I have found that my Noritz tankless water heater will only fire using a Pure Sine Wave Inverter.

MaryJ60 (author)2016-10-04

I've been working on something solar but put my money into a deep cycle SLA battery that cost way too much money. Those lawnmower batteries are very cheap and very tempting. How many ah do you get from it?

jonB174 (author)2016-10-02

Might be a good idea to add a vent for letting the hydrogen out!

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