Assembling the Solar camping unit

by Administrator 27 July 2012

There are plenty of 'suitcase' type portable solar panel sets, you'll come across them when searching for 12 volt solar panels on Ebay. I wanted something like one of those, but not at the prices they charge.

First I bought some cheap hinges at the local DIY store, unfortunately they did not have stainless steel or aluminium ones, so I just went for zink coated hinges. After carefully drilling holes in the frame I attached the hinges, screwed them tight and the new 'Solar panel case' was working.

Now I needed some way of securing the case when closed, first I tried getting some small clasps like the ones you find on suitcases, but I could not find anything small enough. Then I had an idea, a while back I bought a bunch of Super strong rare earth magnets from DealExtreme. I glued three of them to each side behind the frame and after the glue had dried I stacked another 5 on top to strengthen the magnetic field. (see picture left) It worked perfectly, the case stayed shut, but was easily opened by pulling the two halves apart.

For safety I added 4 fuse holders, one each for the panels, one between the battery and charge controller and one for the cigarette lighter holder. Below you can see the wiring of the solar panels, both have a 2 amp fuse and the wiring terminates to a 'Deans' type plug, which is a small high current plug, I also bought these from DealExtreme.

After getting everything connected I set it up in the sun to see if it all worked correctly, in the picture below you can just see the charge controller below the solar panels (the battery is also down there)

After a few hours in the sun, the battery was fully charged :)

All I need now is a case to hold the battery, leads, charge controller etc. Next I'm going to test it with some gear.

* Please note, I am learning as I go along. If there are any incorrect facts above, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks


Part 1: Solar panels for camping (Introduction)
Part 2: Parts for a Solar camping setup
Part 3: Testing the panels and charge controller
Part 4: Assembling the Camping Solar system


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Testing the Solar panel setup

by Administrator 23 July 2012

My new solar panels and charge controller have arrived, so I'm ready to get it all connected. But, before it's set up permanently I want to test everything to make sure it all works as it should.

The picture to the right shows a simple wiring diagram, basically we have connections for the Solar Panel(s), battery and the load. First we need to connect the battery, this charge controller can switch between 12 and 24 volts and by connection the battery first it can switch accordingly. When the battery is connected the controller should light up showing the battery capacity and whether or not it has sufficient charge for a load.

I did a quick test of the battery/charge controller combination by connecting a 12v cigarette lighter socket to the charge controller and charging my phone with a USB adaptor, this worked fine. It took a while for a decently sunny day to arrive for testing of the solar panels, I had already done a few simple checks in overcast weather and the voltage was OK, but to test the true capacity of the panels I needed the full strength of the sun.

First I checked both panels seperately, the voltage was still OK, and according to my multimeter each panel was producing approximately 1.1 - 1.2 amps which checks out with the 20 watt specification. I then connected both panels in a parallel configuration and they managed to produce a maximum of 2.4 amps, I was ready to get it all connected properly.

I did all this testing without using fuses, which is not a very smart thing to do. Later when testing with fuses I accidently tried to measure the voltage while the multimeter was in Amp measuring mode, resulting in a short circuit, luckily the fuse blew and saved my equipment.

* Please note, I am learning as I go along. If there are any incorrect facts above, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks


Part 1: Solar panels for camping (Introduction)
Part 2: Parts for a Solar camping setup
Part 3: Testing the panels and charge controller
Part 4: Assembling the Camping Solar system


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