Introduction: The Frugal Man's Solar Shed Project
This is my overview of how I added solar power to my shed on a budget!
Step 1: Assemble Your Parts!
I did a lot of research on Instuctables and on the Internet to find out the parts I needed. The first picture shows the basic parts.
Being frugal, I picked up parts over a 12 month period. Winters are cold here in Canada and online shopping passes the time! Doing it over time also helped control costs because I shopped for good deals.
Parts for my system included:
~ 50 watt solar panel from eBay- $60
~ MPPT 20 watt solar charge controller from eBay - $12
~ 2 deep cycle marine batteries (used in good shape with battery cables) - $40 each - from Kijiji (like Craigslist)
~ harbor freight charge controller(used in another project) and lights (no panels) from eBay - $15
~ block of 12V led lights from eBay- $3
~ volt meter (optional) - found in a thrift store - $2
~ Solar panel mounting kit from harbor freight - found in a thrift store - $3
~ 800 watt (max 1600) inverter from eBay - $35
~ miscellaneous stuff I had laying around (extension cord wire, speaker wire, electrical connectors, fuses, wood, screws, etc.)
Total cost - $210. Enjoyment - priceless!
Step 2: Putting Up the Solar Panel!
The first thing I did was decide on a location for the solar panel. Since my shed faces south, I mounted it on the front of the shed. I used a length of extension cord wire to hook up to the panel. Only the red and black wires were connected at the back of the panel using the + and the - signs to guide me. The green grounding wire was not connected but in future I will use it to ground the system. I used extension cord since the wires are wrapped in rubber to protect them from the elements.
I assembled the harbor freight mounting kit and planned how to attach it to the solar panel. This meant drilling some holes to mount it. I then measured the outside edges of the solar panel to determine where to install the mounts on the shed. Using a drill, a measuring tape, a level and some screws, I put up the mounting kit.
To determine the right angle for the solar panel, I went to the Internet and found out the ideal angle for my latitude and longitude. For me, it was around 48 degrees in the summer and 64 degrees in the winter. Since I won't use the system in the winter (don't want to freeze my batteries since I live in northern Ontario and it gets really cold here), I decided to get as close to 48 degrees as possible. The holes on the mounting brackets let me set it at 45 degrees (rough enough!)
I drilled a hole in the shed for the electrical wire and then the tricky part came. I balanced on a ladder, holding the solar panel and threaded the wire through the hole. Then, doing more balancing, I held the panel while putting nuts and bolts on to secure the panel to the mount. Too bad I could not video that part. It was the hardest part of the job and surely looked ridiculous!
Step 3: Wiring Up the Components
This was the fun part, wiring everything up to see if it worked. First thing was to wire the batteries. I hooked them up in parallel - positive to positive (red cable) and negative to negative (black cable). This kept the voltage at 12V.
Then using wiring harness with alligator clips, I hooked the red wire and black wire from the batteries to the solar charge controller where indicated for the battery connection (red to positive and black to negative). You need to pick a lead battery and that is where all your connections go. I also spliced a 10 amp fuse in the red wire from the battery to the controller.
Next, I hooked the red and black wires from the solar panel to the solar charge controller where indicated by the sun symbol (again, red to positive and black to negative). I also connected the volt meter between the solar panel and the charge controller so I could tell the voltage being provided by the sun. On most sunny days it is over 13 volts.
Then I hooked the 12V light to the charge controller at the light bulb symbol (red to positive and black to negative).
From my research, this sequence is the proper way to connect to the charge controller. And by the way, the light worked!
Then I hooked up the 800 watt inverter to the lead battery with the cables provided with the inverter and tested it out. First I hooked up a radio - no problem! Then, I tried some tools. No problem with a sabre saw or a soldering iron but no way with a chop saw. That distressed me since I wanted to build stuff in my man cave shed!
I laid out some 12V lights and spliced them together running off one switch. I put a 10 amp fuse on the red wire of the lights. I also ran some extension cords from the inverter to my work bench. All working fine!
Then back to the Internet for more research on running bigger power tools. I soon found out that my inverter was underpowered for a chop saw ( needs 1800 watts to start). So I spent more money and bought a 2000 watt inverter with a maximum wattage of 4600 watts from Amazon ($165 with free shipping) and guess what? The chop saw works fine!
So this is my journey to set up my shed for solar power! Hope it helps you on your journey! Please like and share if you find this instructable helpful!
Yours in frugality,
Runner Up in the
Solar Contest 2016