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Solar power backup

Posted on 2013-11-10
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Last Modified: 2013-12-07
Hi
I'm looking  for a solar back up power
- able to charge some electronic (phone, computer)
- run a few lights at night.
any suggestions ?
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Question by:speedtofly
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39637752
I use a 50W portable solar panel to charge a 12V deep cycle battery, the battery is connected to a 240V inverter.

All up cost about $500. Deep cycle batteries aren't cheap -  ordinary automotive batteries will do the job but you'd have to be careful not to run them down.

I use the system to charge all rechargeable batteries including lighting and even my lawnmower. Great for camping - we have great lighting. :)
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by:speedtofly
ID: 39637766
Vallis I'm interrested specially to charge deep cycle batteries.

Could you send me some link for the system you are using
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39637780
This is similar to my solar panel, Power has increased since I bought mine. (New Zealand $ prices):
http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/caravans-motorhomes/parts-accessories/solar-panels-accessories/auction-659237658.htm

Check on ebay.

12V or 24V deep cycle batteries are widely available.

This is a typical inverter:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA27C11U9335

It's fine for operating a battery charger or for charging a laptop, but if you need pure sine wave power for sensitive devices you'd need to pay more.
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39637785
I use 2 x 12V batteries in parallel. That's so that I have more power reserve when camping if the sun takes a holiday.

A 500W inverter will give plenty of output for the sort of use you're talking about. With a 300W inverter I easily keep battery operated 5 fluorescent lights charged, the laptop, 2 phones, a couple of headlamps and various AA and AAA batteries but it struggles a bit with my Stihl garden tool batteries. I could do with a 500W sine wave inverter.

If you wish to run fluorescent lights directly from your 110V or 240V ac output you'd need the sine wave inverter. Unfortunately they're several times the price of the square wave devices.

My $500 estimate above was about right when I set my system up. Unfortunately prices have risen a bit since then.

:(
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Author Comment

by:speedtofly
ID: 39638548
Hi Vallis,
I don‘t understand what you mean between those 2 points:

1) With a 300W inverter I easily keep battery operated 5 fluorescent lights charged

2) If you wish to run fluorescent lights directly from your 110V or 240V ac output you'd need the sine wave inverter. Unfortunately they're several times the price of the square wave devices.
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39639396
1. I have 5 portable fluorescent lamps like this:
http://www.equipoutdoors.co.nz/contents/en-us/p2051_Coleman_CPX-6_Rechargable_Easy_Hang_LED_Lantern.html

An inverter with a 300W output keeps them charged with normal use while we're camping - along with all the other devices I mentioned.

2. The cheaper inverters output ac current with a square wave form factor. That's OK with most usages but some devices need a pure sine wave form factor to operate correctly or without damage to the device. Pure sine wave inverters correct the square wave form electronically but are several times the price of square wave inverters.

This page explains with diagrams:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_inverter
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39639424
This explains the difference between deep cycle and automotive batteries:
http://auto.howstuffworks.com/question219.htm

You could accomplish your aims just by using your car battery if you wished, but you'd have to be careful not to run it down. Far better to use the right type.

For the requirements you mentioned if your budget allows I'd go for:
1. At least 1 deep cycle 12V battery. Preferably 2.
2. A 500W sine wave inverter.
3. 80W portable solar panel.

If you're financially constrained, go for a square wave inverter but make sure all the devices you charge are suitable. As I said above, normal mains supplied fluorescents are not supposed to run off square wave power. I've used them without apparent damage but it's not recommended.
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Expert Comment

by:andyalder
ID: 39642908
I'm a bit confused where you call the LED lanterns "fluorescent", I think you'll find that LED lamps are much more efficient than fluorescent lamps. I've got a wind-up LED lantern next to the fuse board in case I get a power cut.
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39643413
Good point. I have both LED and fluoro. Yes, they are more efficient. I'm not sure whether or not LEDs need pure sine wave if powered directly from an inverter.
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Expert Comment

by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39646322
Note that if you buy a portable solar panel it will have a controller built in. Otherwise you need to buy the controller separately.

Poratable solar setup
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Author Comment

by:speedtofly
ID: 39646413
Sweet ... that's what i'm looking at
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Alan Henderson earned 500 total points
ID: 39646558
These are the lamps I use. The one at the back is a fluoro, but replacement lamps are so expensive it's best to use LEDs.

The ones at the front are really inexpensive and good value - I use them with standard rechargeable D size batteries.

The others have built-in rechargeable 12V batteries but I find that they don't run long on a charge and the cheapies at the front are better.

The battery charger at the front is very good (Enermax) and can be used for reconditioning and fast charge. It's not very efficient to charge a battery and then use that to charge more batteries but that's life.

Solar setup
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Author Comment

by:speedtofly
ID: 39646699
What do you do when not in use you keep them full on a trickle charger?
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by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39646747
It's important not to let the batteries run down completely, I did that with my first pair and it was an expensive mistake - had to replace them. I just use the solar panel to keep them topped up.

Where I live (New Zealand) the weather's good enough all year round to do the job.

I first set this up 12 years ago after we had a power outage that lasted 2 weeks. Used it mainly for lighting and phone charging. Now I use it for camping and to charge all rechargables and my garden tools - lawnmower, blower and line trimmer. I like not having to shatter the peace with infernal combustion engines. After 50 years as a ships' engineer I've done more than enough of that.

:)

I wouldn't be surprised if the environmental cost of manufacturing and disposing of the batteries and panels negated any green advantage but it's worth a try.
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Expert Comment

by:Alan Henderson
ID: 39646758
These are excellent lamps and very cheap, although you need to buy 3 x D size rechargable batteries for each one:
http://www.outdooraction.co.nz/freedom-enduro-150-lantern.html

They're marketed under various common brand names.

For instance:
http://gocampingstore.com/ring-cyba-lite-vega-led-lantern-blackgrey/
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