Thursday, August 4, 2011

DIY Solar Battery Charger - Maximizing Your Solar Power Output



You can easily maximize your solar power output during the summer when solar power is more readily abundant. Even a simple 6 volt solar cell can give you an easy way to take advantage of abundant sunlight and help you double the output of your solar cell. Most conventional usage of a six volt solar cell is for either charging a spotlight battery or to run a deer feeder but you can use it to charge AA or even AAA rechargeable batteries which are commonly used in a variety of other devices.






By using a couple of 4 cell battery holders (AA in this case) that can be obtained at most electronic stores for a couple of bucks, you can add versatility to your 6 volt solar cell. Adding a wooden mounting board for the battery holders and hooking them up in parallel will allow you to charge 12 volts worth of batteries off a single 6volt solar cell. 


With the longer daylight hours and generally more intense sunlight of summer, there have been no problems in getting a good charge rate for all the batteries using this type of setup. In the winter time and when the sunlight is less intense and the days are shorter, simply charge 4 batteries at a time versus 8 batteries.












Using a small bolt with a wing nut allows easy connections to be made and allows the larger alligator clips on the solar cell to be easily attached or detached when charging a regular 6 volt gel battery. The wing nuts also allow you to easily disconnect the leads from the battery holders when they aren't being charged and the battery holders are being used to simply hold the extra batteries. 


This is important because batteries, which are basically little chemical power plants, when hooked in parallel will feed off themselves and you will wind up with discharged or dead batteries as a result. 


Got maximum solar power output?


Staying above the sunny water line!


Riverwalker

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your blog entrys, they teach and entertain the reader with practical projects that are useful when or if the grid goes down. This entry is no exception - Thanks! I would have never considered the deer feeder battery charger as a DIY small battery unit.

Mike said...

During the winter, if you can get the solar panel out in the cold, you can actually get more energy from it than during the hot summer months.

Some northerners have trouble with their whole house solar rigs boiling the water out of the batteries when it's really cold.

Solar panels are more efficient when they are cooler.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth a really cheap solar battery charger can be made using a few of the solar powered garden lights available at Walmart and other stores. Put you AA batteries in the lights and put them in the sun. For better results cut the wire to the LED light so that they won't discharge. It takes 2-3 days of sunshine to fully charge a AA battery. The batteries that come with a cheap garden light are not the best quality. Buy 2300 mAh batteries for better charge times. You can also buy adapters that allow the AA batteries to be used where a C or D is needed. I even have an adapter that allows me to use 4 AA bateries in place of one of those big block shaped 6 volt batteries.

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 6:08

I think that making full use of your resources is one of the best ways to be prepared. There are so many items that we use in our lives on a daily basis that can serve a multitude of purposes if you take a little time and think about how they can be utilized to a fuller extent.

Sometimes all it takes is a slight modification to turn something into a multi-use item.

Thanks anon.

RW

BTW, really glad you enjoy my site.

riverwalker said...

To: Mike

Granted most electrical components work better in a cool environment.
I was mainly referring to reduced amounts of sunlight due to cloudy overcast days that are often prevalent in the winter time and sometimes limit the amount of sunlight available.

Thanks Mike.

RW

riverwalker said...

To; anonymous 11:11

I have those solar garden or yard lights that hang on a shepherd's hook. i keep them intact for use as a light source for night time use if there is a power failure...safer than candles and make it easier to navigate without stumbling over things or having to constantly carry a flashlight.

One of the main considerations I try to keep in mind when trying to improve the versatility and usefulness of an item is to modify it in such a way as to not defeat its original purpose. My goal is to make it more useful and not just something different.

Thanks anon.

RW

millenniumfly said...

Can anyone explain in more detail what's important when it comes to charging batteries? For instance, how would this work if you have a 20 watt panel? I know your post refers to a 6 volt panel but I thought solar panels were rated in watts. And, are you not concerned about overcharging the batteries, hence, the need for a charge controller? Thanks in advance.

riverwalker said...

To: milleniumfly

The smaller solar cells are often rated for six or 12 volts, depending upon their output. They are used mainly for charging small gel cell batteries that are either 6 volt or 12 volt. They can also be used to charge groups of smaller rechargeable batteries. Their power output is significantly less than a large solar panel and hence don't normally require a charge controller.

A charge controller is similar to the voltage regulator in your car. It regulates the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery.

Many "12 volt" panels put out about 16 to 20 volts, so if there is no regulation of the charge to the batteries they will be damaged from overcharging. Most batteries need around 14 to 14.5 volts to become fully charged.

Usually there isn't a need for a charge controller with the smaller maintenance solar panels (sometimes called or referred to as trickle chargers). These are usually in the 1 to 5 watts power range.

A good way to roughly figure the need for a charge controller is when the solar panel you are using puts out 2 watts or less for each 50 battery amp hours. If this is the case, you probably won't need a charge controller.

Most of the 6 or 12 volt battery maintenance solar panels are usually less than 2 watts, with most having an output of 1 watt or less.

Thanks.

RW
RW

solar panels herefordshire said...

This is a great DIY project to do. We have been looking at producing a similar think to charge bits of are office. we have had a couple usb goods powered off are portable solar panels but this is a much better idea.

Victor Wetherbee said...

With that practical concept, you could make yourself a solar panel or two. You need to have the appropriate resources and materials to make one and a place exposed enough to sunlight to maximize their use. Once you manage to take all of those into account, living off the grid will be right around the corner!

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