Introduction: Build a Qwik-Solar Step by Step

About: Conserver millwright by vocation, focused on design/build sustainable solutions. Like most people, I enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

The idea with the Qwik-Solar is to start small. This solar power generator is designed to be practical and affordable.  With the Qwik-Solar, you can learn to build and use renewable energy on a small scale. 

You learned to crawl before you walked. And you learned to walk before you started to run. The same thing applies here. Each step builds on and leads to the next step.

It’s my hope you’ll expand your skills and knowledge to build even more solar generators.

A Qwik-Solar video has been posted on Instructables here.

A free pdf plan for the Qwik-Solar can be downloaded here.  

Solar Power Kits are now available - Look in the Market Place.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Almost everything you need can be purchased from Harbor Freight.   

Safety First!  Gather all materials together first. Remember to always wear your safety
equipment when using any tools.

Supply List: *prices are current as of 2010

Impact resistant safety glasses @ $2.00
Reusable corded ear plugs @ $1.00
Industrial vinyl gloves @ $3.00

15 watt solar panel @ $80.00
5 in 1 portable power pack @ $100.00
7 amp solar charge controller @ $26.00
Electric tape @ $1.00

Drill Master 18 volt cordless 4 tool combo pack @ $40.00
Note: A hacksaw can be used in place of a power saw.

Items for your mounting frame can be purchased from a home improvement center.

One 10 foot lengths of schedule 40, 1.25” PVC pipe @ $4.00 
PVC primer, glue, and connectors @ about $20.00
Self tapping (#8 or #10) ¾ inch screws @ $4.00/box

All together, your first Qwik-Solar will be between $275.00 and $300.00

Step 2: Set Up Workbench

It’s highly recommended to build your Qwik-Solar outside. This is due to the fumes given off by the PVC primer and glue.  At the very least, keep a window or a garage door open so you don’t become sick from the fumes. Use a fan to circulate the fumes to the outside.

Your workbench can be an old table, plywood on sawhorses, or even a picnic table!

The important thing to remember is to ORGANIZE your bench for the work at hand. Make sure your power tools are charged. You’ll be building the frame first, then installing the solar panel and other components to it. Plan accordingly! 

Step 3: Build Frame

You’ll need to measure and cut the following from the pvc pipe:
  • 2 pieces at 4 inches long. The red pipes on the drawing
  • 9 pieces at 10 ¼ inches long. The white pipes on the drawing.
  • 1 piece at 8 ¾ inches long. The blue pipe on the drawing.

You’ll also need 5 ‘T’ and 4 Elbow connectors. The connectors must be FEMALE fittings. The pipes will be inserted into the connectors. Dry fit all your pieces together first. Once you’ve tested for fit, then take it apart and begin priming the ends of the pipe.

ONLY ONE SIDE OF EACH 4 inch pipe will be primed. The UNPRIMED ends are inserted into the center ‘T’. It becomes the pivot for your 8 ¾ inch leg. Only one end of the 8¾ inch leg is primed and glued.

Begin gluing the ends and fitting the parts together. Start from the inside and work your way outward. The glue can dry quickly. Hold it flat against the table after each piece is glued. You want a straight frame to install your solar panel on.

Remember to wear your safety glasses and hearing protection when cutting the pipe. Wear gloves when gluing. Always glue the parts together in a well ventilated area.  

Step 4: Install Components

Begin unpacking the components from their boxes. Take an inventory of the wiring for each component. Notice the ‘One Way’ plugs. They’re made that way so one doesn’t confuse the negative for the positive power side when wiring it together.

BEFORE COMPONENT INSTALL - READ THE MANUALS - FOLLOW THE CHARGE TIMES. Become familiar with each item & how it works before installing.

Starting with the solar panel, insert the tabs into the raceway. Two to each side of the panel. Give each a quarter turn so it sticks out from the side of the panel. Then lay your panel face up on the frame.

Align your tabs with the four ‘T’s that form the inner square of the frame. Each should line up about center. Use your drill driver and secure a self tapping screw into each tab. Your panel is now secure to the frame.

Put the foam cushion back over the panel and lay it face down. Align your 7 amp charge controller on the center of the middle pivot ‘T’. Secure it with a single self tapping screw at the top of the controller.

Step 5: Wire Components

Wiring your Qwik-Solar is easy. The charge controller has three wires already marked. One each for ‘battery’, ‘solar’, and ‘load’.

First, use the electrical tape to isolate the ‘load’ wire. We won’t be using it. Bend back the red load wire and tape it off until you can’t see it. Then do the same for the black load wire.

Next, connect your solar panel to the plug marked ‘solar’ on your charge controller.

Last, use the dc extension cord (with the cigarette lighter plug) and connect it to the plug marked ‘battery’ on the charge controller.

The other end of the dc adapter will plug into the dc outlet on the front of your power pack. This recharges your battery using solar energy.

Congratulations! You’ve completed your first Qwik-Solar!

Step 6: Charging the Pack

Read Your Power Pack Manual for Charging Instructions

Use the AC adapter for the first full charge of your power pack. After that, you can use the solar panel to recharge your pack.

Depending on weather conditions in your area, the panel can recharge the pack in about 1 to 3 days. It even works in cloudy weather.

Do Not leave it out in the rain. The charge controller is NOT water proof.

Unplug the solar panel from the charge controller when not in use.

Step 7: Use and Enjoy!

As your budget allows, it’s a good idea to buy a second power pack. While your using one, the other is recharging.

The Harbor Freight 5 in 1 power pack is very versatile. This 12 volt unit includes:
  • A 400 watt inverter with two AC plugs.
  • A jump starter for your vehicle.
  • An air compressor to inflate tires
  • A voltage meter to check battery charge
  • An emergency light
  • Two DC plugs
It can get you through short power outages. Run appliances and electronics such as a cell phone, television, radio, or lights. It CAN NOT run a refrigerator, freezer, or electric stove - these appliances are too big of a load for this small power pack.

If you own an RV or like to go camping, then the Qwik-Solar is perfect for you. Use DC appliances, such as coffee makers, electric skillets, or blenders.  Use it for a Tail Gate Party at the Game.

DC power is more efficient because there are energy losses when converted to AC power. Your power pack lasts longer when DC appliances are used. 

We offer a Power-Pax Manual on our website when your ready to expand your solar knowledge and skills beyond Qwik-Solar.