Solar Energy Facts & Resources

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Do-it-yourself solar generator

If you’re looking to save a few dollars each month on your electricity bill, or wish to take on a project that will help the environment, you should consider constructing your own solar power generator. These generators are fairly inexpensive, about $200-$300, and you can easily find all of these parts from electronics and RV/boat supply stores, or on the Internet.

First you’ll need to buy a solar panel. You’ll want one rated for at least 12 volts, but a 16-volt panel will increase the types of devices you can run.

The next thing you’ll need is a 12-volt, deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries are meant to regularly be used to capacity, as opposed to cranking batteries, that provide short bursts of power to start engines.

You’ll also want a battery case to protect yourself and your equipment, and a 12-volt DC meter, to power many smaller electronic devices. Pick up an inverter, too, so you can run AC appliances. You’ll have to add up the watts of the devices you wish to run in order to figure out what capacity your inverter should be, but a 140 watt, 115 volt inverter should be sufficient for most household items.

To assemble your generator, first drill holes onto the top of the battery case, and use nuts and bolts to affix the DC meter and the attached DC input. Next, put the battery in the case and attach its wingnut terminals to the meter and the DC input with insulated wire. You’ll want to connect the wires one at a time, and start with the negative terminal. Then you can connect the solar panel itself to the battery. If you drill a hole in the top of the case, you can easily run the wires from these components to the battery.

Put the lid back on the case, and secure it with a bungee cord if it’s loose. Take your generator into sunlight for around five to eight hours to charge it, and then it’s ready for use!