Introduction: Solar Power System

Picture of Solar Power System

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


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


Cable cutters
Red electrical tape
Crescent Wrench

Gather supplies and lets get started.

Step 1: Preparing the Batteries.

Picture of 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 2: Place Batteries in Container.

Picture of Place Batteries in Container.

Once the batteries are fully charged, place them in the container and. Make sure all the positive (+) terminals are on one side and negative (-) on the other. Once in place, measure from terminal to terminal to make the jumpers.

Step 3: Creating the Jumpers.

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.

Step 5: Connecting the Charge Controller and Inverter to the Batteries.

Picture of Connecting the Charge Controller and Inverter to the Batteries.

Next we connect the charge controller and the inverter to the batteries. You will want to make sure the inverter is turned off and the charge controller is not connected to the solar panels yet.

Step 6: Final Set Up and Test.

Picture of Final Set Up and Test.

It should all be wired together. All that is left is to connect the charge controller to the solar panels and turn the inverter on and check to see that it works.

Step 7: Some Final Thoughts.

Picture of Some Final Thoughts.

I originally made this set up as a back up power source for when the power went out. But, I think I will use it more often than that. I don't think the solar panels are powerful enough to charge the batteries after depleting them every day. I will use it for a few days and update how well the system charges with constant use.

I originally tested out a single battery and was able to run a lamp and my laptop for about 5 hours before I finally shut it off. The good thing about this inverter is it will shut off automatically if the voltage drops too low to prevent depleting the batteries. I'm pretty confident that with the three batteries I will be able to power larger items for an extended period of time.

Also, this is a pretty expensive set up, about $650. My costs (with out tax or shipping charges) and where I got things.

Solar panels $250 (used from craigslist)
Marine batteries $240 (for 3 from Walmart)
2 AWG Cable $5 (for about 2 feet from Lowe's)
Lugs $8 (for 8 from Lowe's)
1200 W inverter $130 (

I had the rubbermaid container, battery charger, and the charge controller came with the solar panels. I don't think it unrealistic to spend around $700 or so, possibly more depending on how you set your system up.

Depending on how this works I will most likely upgrade to some better solar panels, increase the solar panel array size, and get some more batteries.

If anything is unclear please post comments/questions and I will be more than happy to update.


ArwaGuesmi (author)2017-10-10

Hi, you have helped me understand to a great deal. I need your help actually, I'm building the same system to power a laptop and a monitor with a smart charger.

this charger will run on solar and the grid and the batteries deriving power from both sources as necessary.

Any ideas how I should link these two systems?

13415 (author)2015-05-11

I want the set up a small cabin and run a refridgerator,hot water heater and maybe a light. What size panels and how many batteries and what size invertor etc. Would i need ? Just a ruff guess would be apreciated ! Thanks!

MatthewI10 (author)134152017-05-02

You would not want to run an electric water heater off of PV. That woudl be a complete waste of solar panels. Better to get a set up where the sun heats the water directly and supplement with chemical fuel. You can get super efficient LED lights that are very bright and only use like 12W of electricity. You might only need 200w of panels.

John Stark (author)2017-01-25

Thanks to its very useful information and great achieving solar energy the sun to produce energy reduce our dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels, inevitably combatting the output of greenhouse gas emissions into theair.

poorveshm (author)2016-10-06


Kindly provide details of components, like the volts, amps, amp hours, watts, size, brand, cost & vendor

1) Solar panels

2) Charge controller

3) Battery charger

4) Invertor

joserosa12 (author)2016-09-11

Great and informative post. You described each point clearly and strategically. Installing solar power system is helps to reduce pollution by capturing energy of the sun, In this way it is helpful to protect the environment.


FoRPAN (author)2016-09-02

Useful Information

RyanC168 (author)2016-06-12

I have been struggling with this forever. All I want to do is use my 5v panel to charge my 1.5v NiHM triple A batteries. Seems like it kills every battery, they start out low at 1.0V and then after I use the panel with + to + - to -, with a diode on the negative lead.

What am I doing wrong?

MichaelG282 (author)2016-03-12

Not sure what all you got for the $250.00 but if it was just 4 solar panels and the charge controller you paid a bit to much. Those appear to be Harbor Freight panels from their kit. It usually runs about $135.00 when on sale and it includes 3 - 15 watt panels, charge controller and some lights.

I have 2 of these kits set-up connected to 3 RV/Marine deep cycle batteries from Les Schwab Tires, I plan to add some more panels but am going to get larger wattage ones since this only runs about 4 days of night time use to run my Cpap machine, a 60 watt light bulb and a small charger that puts out 2 USB outlets for charging my phone and spare "30,000mAh Dual USB Portable Solar Panel Power Bank" that I carry when away from home, the AC stuff is running off a 2,000/4,000 watt inverter from Harbor Freight, after 4 days I fire up my small generator and run it for 8 hours or so powering a battery charger while my friends and I either watch a few movies or play D&D.

AmyLuthien (author)MichaelG2822016-03-14

Your link is incomplete, but I found it anyway:

Either way, the sale price for this item is $199.00, and it only has 3 panels, so $250 for 4 panels is actually cheaper by $4/panel than Harbor Freight is offering. ;)

WayneO5 (author)2015-09-17

Am trying to get my head around all of this, maybe as a male I am making it more complicated than I really have to? I have8 12v-130A batteries, a 60 Amp controller and 8 x 200Watt Panels. I am wanting to run on either 12V or 24V is there any formula to ascertain what size Inverter I would need? I will be adding another 5 or 7 Panels to this as my SHTF budget will allow? Thanks for the article as this covered nearly everything I was wondering about! Thank you in anticipation. harry!

Dr.Bill (author)2013-02-18

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.

BigAndRed (author)Dr.Bill2014-08-24

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.

Dr.Bill (author)BigAndRed2015-08-20

$1800 is very expensive for a 100 watt system...Hawai'i prices you pay for paradise.
The 2000 watt Xantrex inverter is a pure sine wave unit I see now costs around $1300 that I got for $350 at a West Marine that was just opening a new store. Basically I stole it. The whole thing is now on a Garden Cart I got from Home Depot. (See step 10 update)

JessV1 (author)BigAndRed2015-08-19

Where did you get the 120AH battery for $100. I would appreciate a response or an email about it.

enjoypl at yahoo

MuhammadI2 (author)BigAndRed2014-09-13

In simple words,very

imortant and great achieving solar energy / solar power efficiency
means eliminating all the devices comprising a great part of your electricity

commercial solar panels uk solve this
problem ‘Eliminating’ can be done

Dr.Bill (author)Dr.Bill2013-02-18

I forgot the 30 Amp SunForce charge controller.
The inverter is a Xantrex.

Sandw (author)2015-08-09

Don't charge batteries in a closed container. The hydrogen produced during charging could cause an explosion.

JessV1 (author)Sandw2015-08-19

You don't know exactly what kind of batteries he bought, also the container has holes in it.

Errol1951 (author)2015-03-29

with batteries in parallel you can have the issue of one battery failing and that can ruin the other because it will take all the charge and not hold flattening the others you have to keep a check individually

LifeCarts (author)2015-01-11

In this video, you can see a training system I put on a trailer; (20 sec in)

When not used for training, I use it to power my shed.

kirstennNaomi (author)2014-10-31

hello,im planning to run my 75watts fan and a 23 watts bulb via solar energy.. if i buy two.100w solar panel and one 12v 100ah battery what will be inverter and charge controller will fit my system?! and how many hours is approx. charging time.of battery?! btw sun shines from 9am-4pm.. thanks in advance..

Dr.Bill (author)kirstennNaomi2014-11-11

How long will you run the fan and light bulb?

What you take out in watts you have to put back in. A 100 watt panel will replace what you use in an hour if you use those 2 things for an hour.

If you use 100 watts out of the battery every hour for 8 hours you will have to use the 100 watt panel 8 hours +/- to replace the 800 watts you used.

A 30 amp charge controller should fit the needs of your system with room for panel expansion.

If you only have a 100 watt load a 150 watt inverter is good.

ChristianJ1 (author)2014-10-11

Be careful having them in an area that can shodow half of the panel as the sun moves like on a balcony, snow or leaves even covering half the panel can cause Mono solar panels especially to break quickly

riverreaper (author)2010-01-05

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. 

n simple words,very important and great achieving solar energy / solar power efficiency means eliminating all the devices comprising a great part of your electricity bill. commercial solar panels uk solve this problem ‘Eliminating’ can be done here....

thumbs up for using they're and their write!

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

riverreaper (author)riverreaper2010-01-05

what about coffee makers ? they use or get used alot would sundrip be better than solor heated ?

riverreaper (author)riverreaper2010-01-05

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

riverreaper (author)riverreaper2010-01-05

ok ok ill go give the led heads some qwestions

imajem (author)2009-06-23

How could power from the solar array be directed into the power grid? I know this is possible but don't know how.

Fildain (author)imajem2009-07-12

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. =)

terrefirmax2 (author)Fildain2014-08-24

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.

MuhammadI2 (author)terrefirmax22014-09-13

In simple words,very

imortant and great achieving solar energy / solar power efficiency
means eliminating all the devices comprising a great part of your electricity
bill. commercial solar panels uk solve this problem ‘Eliminating’ can be done here....

carlos66ba (author)Fildain2009-07-22

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 (author)Fildain2009-07-13

Thanks! I didn't know that BUT every little bit helps....just not as much as I thought, right?

BigAndRed (author)imajem2014-08-24

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.

MuhammadI2 (author)2014-09-13

In simple words,very
imortant and great achieving solar energy / solar power efficiency
means eliminating all the devices comprising a great part of your electricity

commercial solar panels uk solve this
problem ‘Eliminating’ can be done

terrefirmax2 (author)2014-08-24

What are the community thoughts on broken panels?

ppereira14 (author)2014-06-27

I was looking for a higher capacity Solar System (400W or more). I found a really nice instructable. Heres a link

majinbo0 (author)2014-05-14

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.

patrebates (author)2014-04-22

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.

fixfireleo (author)patrebates2014-04-23

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?

fixfireleo (author)2014-04-22

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!

wbman1000 (author)fixfireleo2014-04-22

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 your homework and save money when it makes sense....

Mr. Chicken...keep up the great work!

maclee4real (author)2013-08-28

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.

doohickey wingnut (author)2013-08-17

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!!)

DIYPro0505 (author)2013-07-15

I have one question what are the specz of your batteries

Missions777 (author)2013-05-15

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!

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