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The $150 Solar Kit Step-By-Step Guide

The $150 Solar Kit Step-By-Step Guide

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Published by Prepperlink
Solar power is one of the most reliable forms of alternative energy. That is why it is at the top of most Prepper’s equipment purchase lists. The problem is; it remains at the top of our purchase list and is continually skipped over. This is because getting started in solar power can be confusing, and even more expensive. This step-by-step solution will show you how to build a functional & scalable solar set-up, for far less than it would cost to buy a similar pre-built rig. The best part is that you will learn what you need, where to get it, how it works, and how to improve on it in later installments to be published on scribd and prepperlink.com.
Solar power is one of the most reliable forms of alternative energy. That is why it is at the top of most Prepper’s equipment purchase lists. The problem is; it remains at the top of our purchase list and is continually skipped over. This is because getting started in solar power can be confusing, and even more expensive. This step-by-step solution will show you how to build a functional & scalable solar set-up, for far less than it would cost to buy a similar pre-built rig. The best part is that you will learn what you need, where to get it, how it works, and how to improve on it in later installments to be published on scribd and prepperlink.com.

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Published by: Prepperlink on Aug 27, 2012
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Solar power is one of the most reliable forms of alternative energy. That is why it is at the top of most Prepper’s equipment purchaselists. The problem is; it remains at the top of our purchase list and is continually skipped over. This is because getting started in solarpower can be confusing, and even more expensive. But, what if it was not that confusing, and depending on your needs, not thatexpensive… Would you take the plunge?
amp charge controller. But, if you have two 100 watt solar panels (or 11.4 amps),then the solar array will exceed the maximum 7 amp input of the charge controller.Therefore, you will need another charge controller, or purchase a charge controllerthat can handle the more than the 11.4 amps.For more information on wiring 12 volt electrical systems, please readManaging 12 Volts: How to Upgrade, Operate, and Troubleshoot 12 Volt Electrical Systems
Understanding Power Requirements
Now that the basic solar components havebeen discussed, we will now switch tounderstanding power requirements. Eachelectronic device that you use will require acertain amount of power. Your solar panelsand battery bank work on DC power. Any 12volt electronic device can work directly off ofyour panel / battery bank, think items that youwould plug into your car’s cigarette lighter. Ifyou have AC only devices, or something thatplugs into a wall, then you will need a powerinverter to convert the DC power generatedfrom the panel and battery bank to AC power.Each device will also have its own power pull. To explain this, let’s analyze thecommon types of light bulbs currently on the market.
1 x 75 Watt incandescent bulb uses 6.25 amps (Watts/Volts=Amps)1 x 25 Watt Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) uses 2.1 Amps1 x 16 Diode LED light uses .12 Amps
Using the above examples, you can use 18 x 16 diode LEDs for the same powerpull as a single CFL light bulb, and 52 x 16 diode LEDs per each incandescent bulb.It makes more sense to use LED lights for solar applications. When purchasingelectronic devices that will be used on alternative energy systems, you mustidentify the device’s power consumption. Similar items can require signicantlyless power than their counterparts. Efciency is the key when using off-grid power.
System Scaling
For any alternative energy system, you will need to scale the system to yourindividual needs. If you need to power a refrigerator, air conditioner, andentertainment center, you will need to have several large solar panels, and a largebattery bank. But, if your goals are to only run a few lights and recharge smallelectronic devices, then your system can be signicantly smaller. To put this inperspective RVers that bondock (camping off of the grid for extended periodsof time), may have 600-800 watts of solar panels and over 400 amp hours ofbattery storage. This type of system can be extremely expensive (over $5,000). Incontrast, hikers may only carry a small exible solar panel to charge their portableelectronics devices. Some of these portable systems can cost less than $100.While these examples are on the opposite ends of using solar power, it provides agood perspective into how we could use solar power.
The $150 Solar Kit
Solar Components – A Very Basic Overview
Before you start sketching your solar system, you must rst understand thedifferent components. Whether you are interested in an entire-home system, oronly powering emergency lighting or a small radio, the principles are the same.The primary components for a solar system are panels, batteries, and a chargecontroller. The quantity and size of these primary items depends on the size of yoursystem. And with each new item, the cost of the project goes up.
Solar Panel
Solar panels come in many different shapesand sizes, and can range from less than1 watt to over 250 watts per panel. Thelarger the solar panel, the more amperage itcreates. Solar panels also come in differentvoltage congurations. The most common are12 and 24 volt panels. You can use a solarpanel to run an individual device, or use it tocharge a battery.
Battery 
Batteries store power. In your vehicle, thealternator charges your battery. In a solarsystem, the solar panel charges your battery. If you are using more than onebattery, it is called a battery bank. For batteries, you need to know how many amphours are contained in your battery / battery bank, and know the voltage for yoursystem. The more amp hours contained in your battery bank, the more reservepower you will have. The most common type of battery used for alternative energyapplications are deep cycle batteries. Additionally, most deep cycle batteries are 2,6, or 12 volt. Depending how you wire your battery bank, will determine whetheryou increase voltage or amp hours. If you wire in parallel, you increase amp hours.If you wire in series, you increase voltage.
Charge Controller 
The charge controller is the heart of the solar system. In a solar setup, the panelsare connected to the charge controller, and then the charge controller is connectedto your batteries. A charge controller is used to maintain the proper chargingvoltage of your batteries, by regulating the charge to the batteries and preventingovercharging. There are several types of charge controllers, to include MPPT, PWM,and PWM shunt controllers. A charge controller is designed to handle a certainamount of input amps from your solar panels. Additionally, you must ensure yourcharge controller matches the voltage of your solar panels and battery bank. If youare using a 12 volt panel and a 12 volt battery bank, then you should have a 12 voltcompatible charge controller.The goal to any solar system is to make sure you can expand it. You can add moresolar panels, batteries, and even charge controllers. When designing a system, youmust determine how many amps your solar panel or solar array will generate, andensure that total is less than the charge controller’s maximum input. Let’s say a100 watt solar panel generates 5.7 amps of power. You have a charge controllerthat has a maximum of 7 amps input. The 100 watt panel can be used with the 7
 
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$150 Solar Kit
(Continued)
If you are developing a system for home or portable usage, you need to understandthat this system can be scaled. By adding more components over time, you cangrow the amount of reserve power your system provides. Most individuals willstart off with one battery, one solar panel, and one charge controller. There isnothing wrong with using this method; in fact this is the method I recommend ifyou are on a budget. You can easily add another panel one month, a battery thenext, and possibly upgrade your charge controller later.
 A Small Solar Setup
Since we now have an understanding of the required items, and understand powerconsumption, let’s create a small solar system. There are two goals for this solarsystem. The rst goal is to demonstrate how to build a small solar solution, ata decent price. Again, there are not many differences between a small portablesystem and an entire-home system. The second goal is after building this system,you will have a portable solar solution that you can put in your vehicle or leave inyour home for emergency use. This system is scaled for short term usage, and canpower several LED lights, a fan, or any other small 12 volt device. You can evencharge a cell phone, GPS, or AA/AAA batteries. Additionally, you can add more solarpanels and another battery to this small system, without having to upgrade theenclosure or charge controller.By building your own solar system, you can save 2-3 times the amount of moneyrequired to purchase an off the shelf solution. This system also has more capabilitythan a hiking solar kit, since it provides reserve power, which means you cancontinue to recharge batteries and run 12 volt devices even when the solar panelsare not generating power. The budget for this system is $150.
What You’ll Need
❑
❑
❑
❑
1 x .50 Caliber Ammo Can or similar enclosure | $10
❑
❑
1 x 5 Amp Fuse, 1 required but you should also have spares.Do not exceed 10 amp fuse. | $1
❑
1 xDual Power Postsor 2 xSingle Power Post| $16 - $20
❑
2 x12 Volt Outlet, preferably marine grade with a cover | $10
❑
❑
❑
❑
Misc. Cable Terminals (Female Quick-Connects, RingTerminals) - $10
Total Cost: $147
 
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$150 Solar Kit Instructions
Step 1
– Determine Layout
 You can use any enclosure that you want, but this example will use a .50 Caliber Ammo Can. All of the components will t inside of the ammo can, but the solarpanel will not. Additionally, we will use a 12 volt outlet to plug in the solar panel(input), and a separate 12 volt outlet to provide DC power for your devices.
Step 3
– Mount 12 Volt outlets
Place the 12 volt outlets into the ammo can, and use the nut to tighten intoplace. You can also use caulk to create a waterproof seal during this step, orwait until the end.
Step 4
– Secure ChargeController and Power Posts
Using the Velcro, apply one side tothe charge controller and powerpost/s, and one side to the ammocan. Or, you can drill holes into theammo can, and secure the powerposts. I used the Velcro method sothat I could use the same wiringharness for different projects. Yes, you can utilize these components for largerpanels. Do not exceed 100 watts of solar panels. Additionally, the example showstwo separate power posts, but the recommended product is a one piece dual-power post. I think the one piece dual power post is the better purchase, but youcan use either.
Step 2
– Drill / Cut Holes for 12 Volt Outlets
Using a drill, or other cutting method, cut two holes into the ammo can where the12 volt outlets will be placed. See images for suggested locations. The 12 volt outletshould t snug in the hole. Keep in mind that another battery can t inside thisenclosure, so ensure your components do not interfere with the secondary battery.
QUICK TIp: 
 
This solution uses 12 volt accessory plugs for power input and output. Use a marker or sticker to label each plug so your family members or friends will know which 12 volt accessory outlet to access for power, and which one only accepts the solar panel.

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