This instructable will show you everything you need to put together a pretty good sized electric solar panel system. Things you will need:
2 AWG cable
At least one 12 Volt marine deep cycle battery
1 power inverter
1 Rubbermaid tote or other container
1 battery charger
Red electrical tape
Gather supplies and lets get started.
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 2: 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.
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.
Step 5: 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.
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.
I originally made this set up as a back up power source for when the power went out.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 (Amazon.com)
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.