This is my first Instructable but I think I've got the basics down. I chose to order all the materials online but I'm sure you could find most of this stuff at radioshack. The end result is a solar powered 110-120V AC outlet that can be used for small appliances. eg recharging your phone or ipod or laptop..... I plan on implementing it into a backpack later so it would be more portable. If you see any flaws or errors in anything please let me know and leave a message or comment.
Step 1: The Panels
You need to buy some panel(s). Try and get one rated at about or a little over 12V. Or you could do with a couple smaller ones that total to about 12V if wired correctly. I got mine for free from a couple of broken electric fence chargers that were headed to the dump. They're pretty expensive and will cost you more than enything else in this project but will eventually pay for themselves in electricity. Estimated cost- approx $100+
Step 2: The Batter(y)(ies)
We're gonna be using a 12V 10Ah battery. Cost about $30 online. However the more you spend the higher Ah you can get but keep it at 12V. Or you could choose to use a series of smaller batteries if wired properly. just make sure the voltage adds up to 12. eg. 2 6V betteris. If you really wanted you could probably find a 24V converter and use a 24V battery but l2V systems are much more common and cheaper. (If this doesn't make sense to you then you aren't the kind of person to be trying it! =P Don't sweat it just focus on getting the 12V battery.)
Step 3: The Charge Controller
An essential part of any solar powered system make sure to get yourself a 12V charge controller. Charge controllers block reverse current and prevent battery overcharge. Some controllers also prevent battery overdischarge, protect from electrical overload, and/or display battery status and the flow of power. The one I bought for less than $30 has two small indicator lights showing the charge level of the battery.
Step 4: The Power Inverter
Electricity from a battery comes in DC form while basically everything in your house runs on AC outlets. For this project you're gonna need a power inverter. I bought a 200W DC to AC power inverter for just under $40. However the more you choose to spend, the higher wattage and the more load it can handle without blowing a fuse. I've seen some that even have a 5V usb outlet. You can find these in the car department or the electrical department at any walmart or target.
Step 5: Wiring It All Together
Lastly we're gonna connect it all together. The optional wiring (Two 6V batteries, or additional panels) is shown in the image labeled optional.