Introduction: Make a Portable Solar Power Generator
Did your electronics ever run out of juice when you were out and about? camping or in a spot where there was No power ( Ac ) to charge them up again? well here is a simple weekend project that will ensure you always have a way to keep your cell phones, tablets, ipads, laptops charged up or even power up a small appliances on the go.
Step 1: Gather All Parts for the Build
Gather all parts for the build and figure out the size and design of the solar power generator
parts are available online either from Amazon or Ebay
1. 12/24 volt 20 amp pwm solar charge controller
2. 12 volt 10 amp sla battery
3. 200 watt power inverter
4. 3 digit mini voltmeter
4. 12 volt battery monitor
5. panel mount dc jack
6. case ( wood , small plastic tool box )
7. few feet of 18 gauge wire
8. solar panel (min 50 watt) or dc power adapter 20 volts 3 amps
Step 2: Make the Box or Enclosure
You need to make a box or enclosure for the power station. I made mine from wood, you can also use a small plastic tool box, it just needs to be big enough to fit the battery, inverter with a little space between them for ventilation. The box I built measures 7 inches wide, 7 inches high, and 9 inches deep.
Step 3: Do the Cut Outs
Do the cut outs for inverter, dc jack, wiring hole below the solar charge controller. wiring holes behind the voltmeter and battery monitor, and venting hole on the rear of the box.
Step 4: Mount the Inverter
This step was a little tricky since the inverter I am using is a round shape but depending on the inverter you choose to go with it might be easier to secure.. I used a single screw into a tiny tab towards the bottom of the casing of my inverter and screwed it into the box, and that worked perfectly.
Instead of cutting off the cigarette plug I decided to splice into it for being able to power it.
Step 5: Mount the Dc Input Jack
I soldered up about 8 inch stranded wire to the jack and mounted it on the back side of the box
Step 6: Mount the Solar Charge Controller
I Mounted the solar charger controller to the outside left side of the box using 4 small black wood screws
Step 7: 3D Print a Few Bezels
I 3d printed a bezel for the power inverter, input voltmeter, the battery monitor, and a vent cover for the rear of the unit. The vent cover went on with 2 screws in a diagonal order.
Step 8: Mount the Input Voltmeter and Battery Monitor
I used hot glue to Mount the input volt meter and the battery monitor.
The input volt meter is mounted above the solar charge controller and the battery monitor is on the right side of the inverter.
Step 9: Install the Battery
I used wood glue to secure two small pieces of wood around the battery so that the battery is held in its corner and will not shift around when you are carrying the unit. Once those were dried the battery was slipped into its corner and the wiring for it was also done. DO NOT HOOK UP THE BATTERY YET !
Step 10: Connect All the Wiring to the Solar Charge Controller
Now you can wire everything to the solar charge controller, play close attention to the polarity of each item.
The input voltmeter is in parallel with the input jack and hooks up to the input terminals on the solar charge controller.
The battery wires goes directly to the battery terminals on the solar charge controller
and finally the invertor and battery monitor hook up to the last 2 terminals on the solar charge controller
the reason we don't want the battery monitor directly on the battery is because then it would be on all the time, so if it is hooked up on the output terminals we have control to turn it on or off using the load on/off button on the charge controller..
After all the wiring its connected to the solar charge controller you can connect the terminals to the battery and immediately the solar charge controller will began to display the battery voltage. * Make sure the solar charger controller is showing battery voltage before you hook up the solar panel or any input voltage to the solar charge controller or damage might occur to the solar charger controller.
Now you can screw on the top cover and we are done !
Step 11: Checking the Settings on the Solar Charge Controller
Once you get all the wiring hooked up to the solar charge controller and it displays your current battery voltage. you need to make sure the settings on the solar charge controller are within the correct parameters for your battery type. Meaning charging voltage, type of battery, float voltage, discharge reconnect voltage, discharge stop voltage, Refer to the setup guide that came with your solar charge controller to adjust the settings for optimal performance and longevity of the battery.. I left mine at the default settings for as you can see in the photos .. battery type is b1 (SLA), float voltage is 13.7v, discharge reconnect 12.6v, discharge stop voltage 10.7v. This solar charge controller has a very simple menu system that allows you to make changes to the settings within a few minutes.
Step 12: Testing It Out and Final Thoughts
I tested it out with my folding 60 watt panel from TP Solar. and it had no problem charging up an Ipad a tablet and a few Anker battery banks all at the same time. I also tested it with a 20 volt 2 amp wall adapter and that worked just as good. So you can use either the Ac adapter to charge it or solar power. This is a fun and very functional project that everyone needs to build especially if they own a folding solar panel.. and you can really get creative with the enclosure design, Some people have used small plastic tool boxes and some used portable igloo coolers just depends on what you prefer, and depending on how much portable power you need. The SLA batteries tend to get bulky and heavy if you go any bigger then the size I used, But if you do you want to build a more powerful version you can replace the SLA battery with a lithium ion battery pack or make you own from some 18650 cells, if you decide to use lithium ion batteries Make sure your solar charge controller is designed to work with them .. most small inexpensive solar charge controllers are only designed to work with sealed lead acid batteries and gel batteries and car batteries.. Also one upgrade that you might want to consider for this build and something I just ordered is a small LCD wattage meter it sells for about $15 on Ebay, it displays voltage, amps, wattage, and time left on the battery. With that you can monitor the usage of the battery in real time, most of the fancy power generators feature a similar display. Other then that I think it seems perfect for my application.. I've uploaded a ton of pics of this build hope those can help with any questions you might have if you decide to put one of these Solar Power Generators together!
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