Instructables
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This instructable will show you everything you need to put together a pretty good sized electric solar panel system. Things you will need:

Supplies:

Solar panels
Charge controller
Battery charger
2 AWG cable
At least one 12 Volt marine deep cycle battery
Mechanical lugs
1 power inverter
1 Rubbermaid tote or other container
1 battery charger

Tools:

Cable cutters
Red electrical tape
Screwdriver
Drill
Crescent Wrench


Gather supplies and lets get started.

 
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Step 1: Preparing the batteries.

The first thing you want to do is charge your batteries with a charger. This will insure they are charged to capacity and ready to go at set up. I purchased my batteries new and were only at about 60%.

While the batteries are charging, you can set up the solar panels and get them wired up and ready to go.

Step 3: Creating the jumpers.

Next, we want to connect the batteries in parallel. To do this, Make some jumpers out of 2 AWG cable.

Note: Make sure to size your jumpers for your system. If you want to use a larger inverter you will need to use larger cable. 1200 Watts/12 Volts = 100 Amps. Depending on where you look, 2 AWG cable is good for around 100 Amps. If you want to run say, a 2400 watt inverter, you should use 2 cables per jumper.

Measure between terminals and cut cable to length. Then add the mechanical lugs. Since the battery terminals were a bit bigger than the holes in the lugs I bought I drilled them out to fit.

Step 4: Preparing the lid

Now, add some holes in the lid to run the wires for the charge controller and the inverter. I wanted the charge controller outside so it was visible. You could just as easily put it inside the container for a more concealed look.
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Dr.Bill1 year ago
My system cost me around $1800.
5-20 Watt panels
2000 Watt sine wave inverter
200Ah Trojan battery
10 Amp DC breaker
and ah whole lot of odds and ends.
Your I'ble inspired me to do it.

sounds very expensive for 100W system. I've just bought a 160W portable system (2x80W panels, charge controller, bag and cables) off ebay for $260 and a 120AH deep cycle battery for $100, to run a 12v fridge when out camping. I can charge phone, torch, camera batteries and run the laptop (12v-19v solid state inverter $20)

Also got a 1000W inverter for $40, but have not much use for AC power away from home.

I forgot the 30 Amp SunForce charge controller.
The inverter is a Xantrex.
imajem5 years ago
How could power from the solar array be directed into the power grid? I know this is possible but don't know how.

If you want to supply back to the grid then get a 'grid tie inverter'. This will sync the AC to the grid and for this small system just plug into a wall socket and turn on to connect to mains. grid tie inverters are available from ebay in a variety of wattage's.

Fildain imajem5 years ago
One problem with being connected to the grid is that you have to sell all of your power to the electric company at "wholesale" price and then buy what you use at retail. So unless you create twice the amount you need to use, the electric companies still screw you. =)

That is backwards-in Florida at least for now. That is why they discourage it because they have to buy at retail and sell it to you at wholesale. They also are responsible for the cutoff switch to keep from electrocuting any employees working on power nearby.Also, if you are connected to the grid, when the power goes down, you are down too.

Not always true. In many communities (e.g. in mine) the electric co. will buy from you at the same rate as they sell to you. However, connecting to the grid is quite complicated and not really worth for a system this size (you'd have to go to several kW of power, costing many k$).
imajem Fildain5 years ago
Thanks! I didn't know that BUT every little bit helps....just not as much as I thought, right?

What are the community thoughts on broken panels?

riverreaper4 years ago
how much did pannles like that cost an does keeping them clean vers dirty as A car make a differance? wish you had a vid it rains here all the time , wana trade water for power?
Solar panels actually only need to be cleaned about once a year.  If you have any rain in your area, which it sure sounds like you do, that will go a long way towards keeping them clean.  When they're dirty their efficiency can drop a few %, but no so much that you'd need to clean them off with a hose more than once or twice a year. 

If you lease a solar energy system from a company that offers a solar lease they'll actually handle all of the maintenance and cleaning for you.  If you build 'em or buy 'em outright, you'll likely need to clean them once a year yourself. 

thumbs up for using they're and their write!

(that was a joke there, at the end.)

what about coffee makers ? they use or get used alot would sundrip be better than solor heated ?
what if i used a candle to heat half a pot of water an then took the sundrip container an sumersed it into the heatted water would the heat transfer enoght to get a hot cup of coffee or would i have to plug the heating pad in usen up everthing that battery had made the day befor , an not haven a cup of coffee to offer the garbage guy that still works
ok ok ill go give the led heads some qwestions
ppereira142 months ago

I was looking for a higher capacity Solar System (400W or more). I found a really nice instructable. Heres a linkhttp://www.instructables.com/id/Apartment-Solar-System/

majinbo03 months ago

Mr. Chicken, got 2 questions:

1. If more panels are set up does this speed up charging?

2. What is the ratio between panel vs. battery?

I am interested in making one for myself so that i can be independent from the electric grid because power back in my country is freakishly expensive... Hope to hear from you.

patrebates4 months ago

I've been building a few solar panels and mounting the arrays on tempered glass with solar encapsulant. My panels put out ~22-23 volts/panel in full sun and I calculate them to be ~180W each, peak. My intention has been to mount them on my barn roof and, initially grid tie them but I am beginning to rethink this and am considering a small battery bank instead for backup/supplementary power. Thing is, it's my barn. I wonder about setting up batteries in the barn and having them actually work in winter. This last winter we actually were getting some -20F days and normally I would expect ~0 to -5 or so. Still pretty cold. I fear a battery bank being usable in such conditions. I like the barn because it has a huge south-facing expanse of shade-free surface upon which to mount the panels, but the batteries and the cold...any suggestions? There's really no good place to put panels in a rack in my yard though I do have a big south-facing roof on the house too but I don't want to mount DIY panels up there.

when you say "barn" i picture hay. are you sure it's a good idea to store large batteries in a barn? dont they tend to be at risk of exploding?

fixfireleo4 months ago

did you guys hear that oklahoma may pass a law that you have to pay the electric company a monthly FEE if you generate your own electric? other states are considering it also. what a crock!

This IS a true report. However from all I've read about this VERY bad plan is that it's for those that tie into the grid. I saw no words about freestanding setups.

Interestingly enough, there is already a law on the books that seems to state that power companies CAN NOT charge a fee for those that tie into grid, and they also have to essentially pay the solar owner for excess fed back into system....

This new proposed law now essentially becomes a penalty for subsidizing power companies... that already saved billions by not having to build all the time to meet the power needs...

Oklahomans... unite and get governor to not sign it!

That said..... this is a GREAT instructable!

I don't know when items were purchased, but you definitely paid too much for solar panels.

It didn't say, but I presume used panels.... which is fine...they work well. But, routinely on eBay and even Amazon single panels of equal or greater ability are available for less, and many ship free.

The key is...don't rush to build....do your homework and save money when it makes sense....

Mr. Chicken...keep up the great work!
u did not point out how the solar panel was connected
are u sure adding the solar panel without any automatic cutoff/changeover circuit won't have any effect on it?
and lastly, how long have you used it.
thanks
i hope this is not your final placement for installation (ie. panels on porch)
shading can result in a very serious decrease in amount of power output of a solar panel. (ie. 10% shading can result in 90% loss!!)
DIYPro05051 year ago
I have one question what are the specz of your batteries
Can you give a more detailed sequence for the parts. Solar panels go (what size is this wire?) to charge controller (what wire size here?) then to batteries then to inverter Is this right? I have six solar panels given to me. Is there a schematic for building the panel array the even shows the size of wire to use? Is there a detailed book I could buy? I am crippled with medical equipment that I can't sleep without. When our power is gone I have to sleep in the car. I'd like to be able to run a small light, my sleep apnea machine and a fan. Any advice appreciated!
kenpg671 year ago
im setting up a smaller system myself but this answered a lot of the questions i had.

Thanks!
jbaker222 years ago
can you get more energy out of them by duct taping vaseline glass to the back?
MacOSJoey2 years ago
Good setup! I think though that a better charge controller will help you a ton. I personally have a Xantrex C12 and C35, and they seem to work much better since they have equalization and PWM charging. Other than that, enjoy the "free" energy.
ledshed2 years ago
Quick tip for multiple batteries in a parallel bank - take positive from one end and take negative from the other end of bank, this evens out the resistance of the joining cables making sure the batteries are drained more evenly.
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Hey Mr. Chicken. Just tossing a couple things into your comments to help others that may be attempting your setup.

1. The solar panels need full sun with no shading what so ever, the efficancy of the PV panels is significantly reduced if they are even partly shaded.

2. Avoid any battery that has a CCA rating. The CCA stands for cold cranking amps and indicates a starting battery. Starting batteries should only be discharged to 80% capacity or they will be perminantly damaged. A Marine deep cycle battery with out a CCA rating will be able to be discharged to 50% capacity where as Golf Cart batteries can be brought down to 20% with out perminant damage. The down side to golf cart batteries is that they are 6 volt and would need to be wired in series and in parrallel.

3. One will want to vent the battery box to the outside. several people have spoke about hydrogen. Granted I have never heard of a battery box exploding, I have witnessed a battery explode in the battery room when it was charging. It is also a good idea to keep some baking soda close hand to nutralize any potential spills while topping off the batteries water.
mongojr14 years ago
Auto cables work great and less work
I have two clarifications... one, I have an inverter at home which charges the batteries from the grid electricity. It is a 24 v inverter at battery input with a 1400 watts power rating. What I wish to do is charge the batteries through solar power and not through the grid electricity. So if I connect a separate charge controller to the batteries for solar charging (as you've advised), then will it get mixed up with the charging circuit that is inbuilt in the readymade branded inverter that I have. Would you be able to advise as to what possibly could happen there ? second, what is the distance (length of the wire) between the solar panel and the charge controller you maintained and what is advisable? I am a newbie and based out of India. Would very much appreciate your inputs and knowledge that you share. Thanks in advance. PS : Being in India only means we operate on 230v, 50 Hz AC, Sun is good and very bright and so it makes sense to go solar here. Also I will be able to size the solar panel requirement based on the required voltage and also be able assemble them correctly for panels to be able to provide adequate charging current and input voltage for the battery bank that I have. Just fyi, I have two 12 v batteries in series to provide a 24v input to the inverter. Each battery is 160 AmpHours.
Mr. Chicken (author)  hemant_saraf6 years ago
Personally, I wouldn't use both methods to charge the batteries. I would use solar or from the grid, but not together. I would connect to solar panels and disconnect from the grid. I don't think it would be a problem, but I'm not 100% sure. I'd be more concerned about charging from the grid unnecessarily. As for length of wire from the solar panels to the charge controller, make it as short as you you can to lower resistance and loss. Mine is at about 10 ft. Good luck.
does it matter the size of the solar panel? i have 1 12 v and 5 watt solar panel. can i build your exact rig with one two or three batterys and still have it work with my solarpanel?
Where did you get the charge controller?
awang8 TFrosty5 years ago
It came with the solar panels which were from craigslist.
How are you panels wired? Parallel, series parallel, or parallel/series?
wallyworld sell car solor batt chargers cant recall exact price around 80.00 i think i belive by the pick it shows you can do it without pulling the battery outa your car even , it might be cheeper just to bank them rather than build a monster set up with all theses do`s an becarefulls ,dam they closed the junk yard down i could been rich .
cooltogo6 years ago
I share buildem4me's comment: batteries WILL emit hydrogen, a VERY flammable gas. The slightest spark, or even over-heating, can EXPLODE the batteries. The only exception to that is AGM sealed batteries - and they are WAY more expensive. Furthermore, your battery container must be protected from too much heat or too much cold. A frozen battery is a DEAD battery, an overheated battery is a dangerous battery. In order to prolong battery life, don't discharge them too much. Keep them at 80% 'full', and they'll last a LOT longer. This applies for this type of battery, unlike some 'electronics' batteries, where you "teach them a memory" by completely charging and then completely discharging them. An alternative to the marine battery is the golf cart battery. It is actually better suited to the demands of a constant gentle flux of charge/demand. A well-known brand name is Trojan. I've lived off the grid on solar power for ca. 5 years. Never mind the critique, however. You DID put together a very nice instructible, and having the guts to publish something like that is great.
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