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Baby steps into solar

We’ve had 2 power outages in the last week and that has prompted me to get rolling on my solar setups. Here are my baby steps into solar.

Baby steps into solar

I need to have some type of solar setup. I don’t need to power my entire house, but it’d be nice to be able to recharge our mobile phones and charge some batteries. This would really things much more convenient, when we have power outages, and could be life saving in a SHTF situation.

Originally, my thinking was to grab a full kit, like the Sunforce 60W Solar Charging Kit, add a 12v battery or two and be done with it. The Sunforce Kit comes with 4 15v Amorphous solar panels, charge controller and inverter, so all you need to do is add some 12v batteries and you’ve got 60 watts of solar energy at your disposal.

I was almost ready to click that order button, when I stopped and realized that I didn’t know enough about current solar technology to make a wise purchase. I knew that I did have an immediate need for some redundant solar power though, so I went in the other direction.

I figured if I could charge my phones during an extended power outage, that would at least give me some options, so I looked at the Instapark 10 Watt Solar Panel Portable Charger with Dual USB Ports. To be totally honest, I’ve had my eye on this Solar Charger for quite some time. It has 2 USB ports, folds up, and I could even strap or lash it to my backpack to charge while on the move.

It’s an awesome device, and I was ready to click that order button and be done with it. Then I paused again, while the Instapark Solar Charger is a cool device and would come in very handy, I’d be limited to only charging my devices that have USB charging. What about my batteries for my night vision, ham radios and other devices?

Ahhhhh, my frustration has increased. I have a immediate need for solar, I don’t fully grasp the current solar technology, and I can’t limit my setup to only charging USB devices. What now?

I put on my thinking cap.

  • I wanted to use Mono-crystalline Solar Panels, which are the next step up from Amorphous solar panels, but there is a price difference.
  • I want to be able to charge a 12v deep cycle battery and use an inverter for AC, so I can power stuff, like my Maximal Power FC999 Universal Rapid Charger (charges alkaline and rechargeable batteries), my CPAP (yes I have apnea, and not JUST because I’m chubby), and any other reasonable electronic device.
  • I need to learn more about how Solar panels interface with the charge controller, the battery and the inverter themselves, and proper placement of the panels

Ok I’m getting this figured out. I want to build up to a full setup using Monocrystalline Solar Panels. Right now the sweet spot seems to be the 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panels, coming in around $170 each.

I’m not quite ready to make that jump, but I need to start somewhere. I put my requirements together and decided to get started but start small and take some baby steps into solar.

I opted for the Instapark 10W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel (it comes with a 12V Solar Charge Controller) and added a Cobra 400-Watt Power Inverter (with 5-Volt USB output) to my order. All I need now is a 12v Deep Cycle battery and I should be started on my solar voyage.

My plan is to use my small 10W setup to learn about charge/discharge and how long I can run certain things off of DC and AC (inverted) current. Once I get comfortable, I’ll upgrade the charge controller to a SunForce charge controller, which seem to be the best bang for your buck, then as time and money permits, I’ll start adding additional 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panels (or larger) and 12v Deep Cycle batteries to my solar power setup until I have a full solar power system up and running.

I still plan to buy the Instapark 10 Watt Solar Panel Charger and may even end up buying the Sunforce 60W Solar Charging Kit. After taking time to run through my needs, I know I did the right thing by spending $75-ish dollars to get started with my 10Watt solar panel, charge controller and inverter.

My small, 10W solar power setup will give me a solar power backup that will let me expand into a full solar power lifestyle. I’m glad I thought and took my baby steps into solar before I purchased.


  1. A 45 watt solar array is available for less form Harbor Freight. I learned this after getting the 60 watt array. I did add some 12V deep cycle batteries and an additional inverter. I have charging my LiMH batteries and my Ryobi 18V tool batteries well in hand. I found a battery charger that has a USB output as well as charges 9V and below running off 12VDV. As long as electric grid is up I run with the A/C plug in converting to 12VDC. Grid goes down I cut the cord and hook the 12VDC input to my batteries.

  2. Couple thoughts…

    I am at the same point you are..wanting solar but not being informed enough to push the button. A note of caution about re-charging Alkaline batteries – of the 50 or so AA that I recharged using the Maximal Power FC999 Universal Rapid Charger, roughly 80% statred leaking some kind of clear fluid from the bottom of the battery and as such were not useable – in the future I will stick with batteries that were meant to be recharged.

    I also plan on buying the Instapark® 10 Watt Solar Panel Portable Solar Charger to keep my Ipad charged but also need a way to charge batteries; AAA, AA and D size. Have you heard about the ‘USB Rechargeable AA Battery Package’? It is a 2-battery case that supposedly will charge 2 batteries from a USB conection…might work with the Instapark® 10 Watt Solar Panel Portable Solar Charger.


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