Solar Power Bucket





Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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.

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    36 Discussions


    1 year ago

    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. :-)

    2 replies

    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.

    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.

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

    3 replies

    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..... :-)

    You can get square buckets. ;-)

    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. :-)


    1 year ago

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

    2 replies

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

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

    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 .

    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!

    1 reply

    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).

    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.

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

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


    1 year ago

    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.

    Sorry, meant DeMayo not madcow120

    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.