This project was born from a camping with my better half and a group of friends. These friends are not of our prepper mindset and as such had no way to recharge their phones, batteries or run any kind of device that required power.
If you’re interested in a done-for-you option check out my favorite pick on Amazon.
(Personally, I welcome the screen-free days.)
We were camping for 5 days so it wasn’t long before they started to come to me to use my inverter. I normally have a small 150w stashed in the trunk for emergencies, or times like these.
On the last day of camping, we got into a discussion on the number of batteries we had all gone through over the 5 days and how much it had cost us…needless to say I wasn’t happy at the final figure and decided that for the next trip, I would have something that would save us all money and would preferably be free.
The idea for a portable solar generator was born!
This was my first foray into solar power, though I have an interest in solar power generator for homes.I wanted to share this with you to show how easy it can be done, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to get your hands dirty with solar power.
First up I made a list of my requirements;
- Has to be portable – large deep cycle batteries were out unless I wanted to drag a trolly with me and that would pose a problem fitting it into the car.
- Has to power anything that requires a USB and/or DC connection – I didn’t need to power any A/C appliances such as a refrigerator or a television.
- Should look inconspicuous and not out of place in a home, car or tent – this project was also for post SHTF moments and I wanted to have it to hand without guests asking questions.
Here is what I came up with – the finished product.
My discrete Portable Solar Generator – using a simple toolbox!
What follows is a list of materials and tools used to construct. (note – all of the products were purchased via Ebay UK, the same or similar can be had from Ebay.com)
- 4x Power Sonic 12v 7ah Deep Cycle Batteries
- 36x A Grade Solar Cells (inc Flux Pen, Tabbing Wire & Bus Wire)
- 20″ Tool Box
- Hella Socket & Plug
- 12v DC Socket
- 12 AWG Wire Black (2m)
- 12 AWG Wire Red (2m)
- Inline Fuse Holder
- 10amp PWM Charge Controller
- Digital Watt Meter (Battery Power Analyser)
- 100x Male & Female Spade Connectors
- 4m 5mm Wide Bus Wire
- 8m Tabbing Wire
- 2x Blue LED Rocker Switch
- 2x Red Rocker Switch
- Chocolate Block Connector
- 2.4w 12v Trickle Charger
- Digital Multimeter
- 80w Soldering Iron
The total cost for the project so far is around $200, including the 30 watt solar panel I am in the process of making. You can save money buying from the online auction sites such as Ebay.
Here we have all of the major elements that will be going into or onto the tool box.
All of the components
Next a shot of 1 of the 4 batteries I used, these are 12v 7ah batteries, normally used to power electric bikes, scooters and toy cars.
One for scale!
Small batteries make for a lightweight & portable system
You can see the terminals used on the top which make connecting wires very easy with female spade connectors.
Spade connectors on batteries
Here is a close up of the digital battery power meter I picked up for around $25 on Ebay.
It didn’t come with any connectors so I had to add spade connectors and heat shrink to make it look nice!
New spade connectors
- Modified Power Analyzer with easy to connect spade connectors
Here is the second charge controller I bought as the first didn’t work
Charge Controller – Controls the power to and from the batteries and solar panel
Next up we have the Hella socket and plug
Hella Socket (Male & Female)
The 2v DC sockets and switches installed in the lid (which has the orange cover) My Dremel tool made this so easy!
DC Sockets Installed – via Dremel hand tool
My master power switch and power analyzer under the lid on the opposite side to the 12v DC plugs
Mains Switch & Power Analyzer
Here’s how it looked underneath
Underneath the lid
Then I wired the 4 batteries in parallel (which keeps the voltage the same at 12v but multiply the amp hours (ah). 4x 7ah gives me 28ah…simples!
Batteries Wired in Parallel
I also added a 12v inline fuse which you can see in the image above, this is between the battery bank and the master power switch.
Here is a close up of the Hella socket installed
Hella Socket from the inside
Hella Socket from the outside – here is where the solar panel will connect
And one of the 2x 12v DC sockets along with blue LED switches to show me they are on and working!
DC sockets Installed and working!
Here is my second charge controller (working this time)
Working charge controller
The Power Analyser installed next to the master switch…we have power!
Master switch and power analyzer
Checking the power output
Getting 12.6v on the multimeter
Here is the trickle charger and it plugged in (only a 2.4w panel)
2.4w trickle charger – until the solar panel is completed
Here is where the solar panel connects using the Hella Socket.
Hella socket used to connect solar panel
And the battery power analyzer telling me we’re good to go
Power Analyzer = ON!
The finished products….looking very unobtrusive….OPSEC!
The next stage will be to complete my solar panel which I have already started working on tabbing the cells together etc. I will share that with you all once completed.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my project as much as I have enjoyed building it.
If you’re looking for a done-for-you option, here’s my favorite pick on Amazon.
If you’re thinking about making your own I would encourage you to do so, you will learn a lot and if you have any question please ask in the comments below.