Wouldn’t it be nice it’d be to have a way to power small appliances and other devices on camping trips or during power outages? A simple portable solar generator is the perfect solution.
Simple Portable Solar
There are a tons of solar devices to charge USB devices, like tablets and smartphones, but what about running other AC or DC powered devices? A home solar setup would be able to meet that need, but wouldn’t it be great to have a small solar setup that could give you options? Portability would be nice in a solar power system, so it can be taken on camping trips or so it can be moved when needed.
- Solar Panel
- Charge Controller
- Battery Box
- 12 V DC female outlet
Solar Panel (and Charge Controller)
Our simple portable solar system should be light so we can move it as needed.
The Instapark 10W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel with 12V Solar Charge Controller bundle let’s us tick off 2 items, the panel and the charge controller off of our list, and the price is right.
This solar panel is made of high efficiency mono-crystalline solar cells embedded in transparent vinyl acetate behind tempered glass with heavy back sheet ensuring maintenance free performance. Unlike amorphous solar panels, which only last about 5-7 years of continuous use, mono-crystalline solar panels can still retain over 80% of efficiency even after 25 years of continuous use. Also, the mono-crystalline panels are much more efficient and thus smaller in size while producing higher wattage.
This kit is designed and engineered to primarily charge 12-Volt batteries, which store and provide usable power when needed, ideal for powering your RVs, ATV, marine boats and electronic equipments. The included solar charge controller helps prevent any connected batteries from overcharging.
There seems to be as many schools of thought on which batteries you should use for a solar power system. I recommend a deep cycle marine battery, or an AGM Battery but I just used an old car battery, that I had sitting in my garage. So far so good.
I know the solar power engineers are going to sneer, but so what, this battery was doing me no good just sitting around. I’ll monitor it and if it gets funky, I’ll change it up.
Charging batteries may vent gasses, so place your battery in a spot where there is ventilation, or vent your battery box to the outdoors, away from living or work spaces.
You need a battery box, that your battery will fit in.
I mounted the charge controller and the inverter to the outside my battery box with some bolts (make sure they won’t be touching the battery terminals). I also replaced the battery box strap with a longer heavy duty nylon strap so I could carry it over my shoulder. The strap is optional.
Obviously your battery box will likely be different than mine, but you should be able to mount the tiny charge controller and inverter on the OUTSIDE of this box. Do not mount electronics or things that may spark inside the battery box. You don’t want bad things to happen.
I didn’t need a large inverter, since I planned to use direct 12 volt for charging my mobile devices and for running my CPAP machine, but I didn’t want to go wit cheap and underpowered. I finally decided on the Cobra CPI 480 400-Watt inverter with 5-Volt USB. The USB port will be handy, because I can still charge mobile phones or tablets, while I am using the AC receptacles.
- 400 W Continuous Power Handling
- 5v USB output
- 2 Grounded AC Receptacles
- Thermal Shutdown and Reverse Polarity Protection
This inverter also came with the Cigarette lighter cord and direct-to-battery cables. I connected a Female cigarette lighter outlet to the battery, then connected the male Cigarette lighter plug to the inverter. This allows me to use the inverter in my car or on the simple portable solar box, and gives me a direct 12v connection for devices, like my CPAP or car chargers, that also plug into cigarette lighter 12 volt outlets.
This is a portable solar setup. It’s mobile, scalable, upgradeable and should provide power to small appliances and devices during an extended power outage or camping trip.