Monday, August 13, 2012

Low budget solar power

When you start reading about solar power you find people with their houses’ roofs covered in solar
panels, battery banks filling entire rooms and tons of money invested, that’s totally discouraging if
you are on a budget and soon you forget about it or just keep it as a long time goal.

Those solar powered houses allow you to keep a modern lifestyle being off the grid, but if you look
at  the matter from a SHTF/Prepping point of view you’ll discover that what you really need is to
cover your basic needs, from the top of my head those needs would be lighting, commo, news,
entertaining, and covering those needs can be really cheap.

When I started thinking about solar power, I soon realized I wouldn’t go with the full blown 
approach, but something cheaper and portable.

The idea is to use a 12v battery that is recharged with a small solar panel, from that battery you can
get the power to reload small batteries or rechargeable devices using car cigarette lighter sockets or
USB interfaces, to keep it modular I use a 4 way splitter and to monitor the battery charge I use a
voltage meter.

Solar Panel
For solar panel I bought a chinese panel used to keep car batteries topped when you leave the car
 parked for long  times, you can find better and more powerful ones, but you get more weight and the
panels get expensive.

You need to use a battery in the middle because the power required by the reloading devices can
easily be bigger than the solar panel output and also the output from the solar panel is intermittent
depending on how much sunlight hits it.
You can use a  car battery or something smaller like I did, I got a house alarm gel battery 12v 7A.
The battery/ies you chose will depend on your power consumption and solar panel capabilities.

Charge controller
The solar panel will generate bigger voltages than 12v in order to be able to recharge the battery, so
you’ll need  a charge controller, the charge controller will:

1. Generally keep the battery on full condition.
2. Prevent the battery from over-charging.
3. Prevent the battery from over-discharging.
4. Prevent the battery from supplying power to solar panels during nights.

Small batteries recharger
I get gadgets that use AA or AAA batteries, for the same reason you have guns in standard calibers...
On a SHTF situation you will find AA batteries around, but forget about those fancy CR123A
I have a lot of rechargeable batteries and to charge them I have two devices, one works with 12v or
USB input, and the other one has its own mini solar panels and a USB input.

USB adapters
These devices give you a USB output with 5V 2A from the cigarette socket, be careful I saw some
that give you 500mA, with those an IPhone or similar won’t charge.

No matter what device, get one that runs on AA/AAA batteries or you can recharge it using an USB
port or car charger.

I got a car charger for my Yaesu VHF handy and also an adapter that allows it to work using 6 AA

For lighting you can get LED lights that give very good light with really low consumption.

Your cellphone, even not having signal can be used as radio, mp3 player, calculator, calendar, clock,
games etc.

I would like to mention specially the Kindle or similar device, you can store a shitload of books in it
and reload it using a USB port. With it you can get entertainment and also you’ll have a library in
your pocket in case you have to bug out.

1 comment:

Alternative Energy Kent said...

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