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The Enhanced Small Solar Power Solution (Guide and Video)

Friday, 31 August 2012 12:00 Written by 

In our last solar article, we discussed building a Small Solar Power Solution, With a Budget of $150. If you didn’t read the article, please take a moment to look at it now. The original system is capable of running small 12 volt devices, LED lights, and charging electronics. While we could stop here, what fun would that be? This article will demonstrate doubling the battery capacity, and a unique method for adding additional solar panels and power outputs to the system. Additionally, we will demonstrate how to use these add-on modular components with a larger solar power system. Download the Guide.

Small Solar Power System

For solar power, and you preps in general, you should always take a modular approach. By modular, we mean that a component, or set of components, should be able to accomplish multiple tasks or be used with multiple setups. You can achieve modularity by thinking about how your system is put together and purchasing components designed for multiple tasks, can be repurposed, and components that compliment others. Modularity can save you money in some cases, but could also increase the cost in others. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each component, and decide where you want to spend your money.

Expanding Battery Capacity

If you make one modification to the original system, it should be adding more battery capacity. This requires an additional 10 AH battery ($28), and you will need to make a plug-in parallel battery harness. The original system uses a 10 Amp Hour (AH) deep cycle battery, which can power a 16 diode LED light for over 75 hours. While this power reserve is great for emergency uses, the .50 caliber ammo can  has space for an additional 10 AH battery. 

Mounting Second Battery 

Mount the second battery the same way the first battery was mounted. Apply industrial strength Velcro to the front, bottom, and enclosure side of the battery. For wiring ease, ensure the battery terminals are mounted in the same direction as the first battery (near the front of the enclosure). 

Making the Parallel Wiring Harness 

Using the current battery wire harness, we will make a plug-in harness to wire the battery bank in parallel. Wiring in parallel increases amp hours, while wiring in series increases voltage. By wiring in parallel, your battery bank capacity will be 20 amp hours. The parallel battery harness is considered a modular component, and will cost about a $1.50 to make. 

For the parallel wiring harness, you will need: 1’ of red primary wire, 1’ of black primary wire, 4 x female quick-disconnect terminals (for battery terminals), 2 x male quick-disconnect terminals, and 2 x splice connectors (large enough to accommodate wire size). For this project, we used 16 gauge primary wire. 

Assemble the red primary cable as follows (see images at bottom of article): 

1. Cut 2 x 3” pieces and 1 x 6” piece (so two cuts). 

2. Using 1 x 3” piece and the 6” piece, remove casings from ends to attach to terminals and the splice. 

3. Twist ends for the two wires, and crimp it in the splice connector. 

4. Add female connectors to the remaining ends (you will need 2). 

5. Using the remaining 3” red primary wire, remove casing from both ends. 

6. Crimp one end into the splice connector, and add a male connector to the other. 

Repeat the process for the black primary wire. You can apply shrink tubing or electrical tape to protect the wires, and to join the red and black sections to make a single wiring harness. 

When plugging the female connectors into the batteries, ensure that one battery has a short red cable, and the other has a short black cable. The last step would be to plug the two male connectors into the original wiring harness. Ensure you plug positive to positive, and negative to negative. By taking this modular approach, you can use the existing inline fuse, and you will not have to re-run the battery harness wires when selecting one or two batteries. 

Adding an Additional Solar Panel 

The original system uses one 10 watt solar panel, connected to a 12 volt male plug (cigarette lighter). This setup was then plugged into the rear solar power 12 volt outlet. This system works great for one solar panel, but what if you wanted to add more panels? The 10 watt solar panel is rated for .61 amps. During testing we were able to achieve .5 amps. 

When two panels were used, we achieved 1 amp.  Obviously, two panels produce more current and more current charges batteries faster. If you want more charging power, you will have to purchase an additional solar panel ($39.99), or purchase a larger solar panel. The charge controller used in the original system can accommodate up to 7 amps of solar input. In perspective, the charge controller can safely handle the power generated from a 100 watt solar panel. 

By using multiple small solar panels, you can expand the system over time. A 10 watt panel was selected because it is easier to pack smaller solar panels in your vehicle, RV, or duffle bag, and the panel was scaled to the battery capacity. However, this is the more costly route. You can purchase a larger panel for less than you could several small individual panels, but a larger panel also changes how you will pack and move the system. In my opinion it is easier to move 10 x 10 watt panels, when compared to the dimensions and weight of a single 100 watt panel.  This is important when traveling, mounting to your vehicle, and/or for Bug Out or camping expeditions. 

So using the small solar panel modular approach, we will now look at two modular components that will provide the ability to hook 4 x 10 watt panels into one 12 volt outlet. 

What you will Need 

1-4 x Solar Panels 

1 x Battery Tender Deltran Cigarette Lighter Adapter 081-0069-5 ($3.16) 

1 x NOCO ISCC2 iMob Black 4-in-1 Connector ($4.31) 

2-4 x Allstar Performance ALL76232 Universal Two Wire Connector (2 pole quick-disconnect) with 12" Loop (you may want a few extra, depending on how many solar panels and devices you want to connect – we will explain this in depth later). 

10 x 16 gauge splice connectors 

Optional: Shrink tubing and/or electrical tape 

Optional: Battery Tender 081-0148-12 12.5' Extension Cable – an extension cord for 2 pole quick-disconnects ($8.50 each) 

How it works 

The Deltran Cigarette lighter adapter has a cigarette lighter on one end, and a 2 pole extension on the other. Using 2 pole quick-disconnects, the iMob 4-1 splitter will plug into the Deltran Cigarette Lighter Adapter. Using these modular components, your solar inputs and power outputs quadruple. Yes I said input and outputs, since we can rotate these components from the solar panel 12 volt input, and use them on the 12 volt power output. Or, in other words, during the day you can plug in up to 4 solar panels, and at night you can unplug the solar panels, remove the Deltran/iMob components from the solar panel 12 volt outlet, and plug it into the 12 volt power outlet. If your 12 volt devices are 2 pole compatible, you can now power up to 4 different devices at once. 

Ok, back to the panels. Using the Deltran/iMob modular components, you can plug in multiple solar panels into the rear solar panel 12 volt input. So, instead of splicing the positive and negative leads of multiple panels together, attach a 2 pole quick-disconnect to the solar panels. This also allows your solar panels to remain independent, makes packing the panels easier, provides the ability to quickly add panels for your charging needs, disconnect panels for maintenance, and allows you to take down the system when not in use without cutting cables. 

Just make sure when wiring your panels to the 2 pole quick-disconnect, that you wire the correct connector to the panel. Most 2 pole connectors come in pairs, and are designed to be used with a single cable. Since we will plug into an existing 2 pole connection, only one of the connectors will be used. To identify which connector to use, use a voltage meter to determine the pole ordering on the Deltran and iMob components. In most cases, wire the male positive cable of the 2 pole connector to the red cable on the solar panel. Wire the green/black solar panel cable to the female black wire of the 2 pole connector. 

Depending on your mounting options, you will likely need to run longer cables to your panels. To achieve this task, and keeping with the 2 pole quick-disconnect system, you can use optional Battery Tender Extension cables. These cables can be purchased in 12.5’ ($8.50) and 25’ ($11.43) lengths. I recommend the 12.5’ cables. These cables are useful when you want to have your ammo can inside your house or vehicle, and your solar panels outside in full sun. During testing, the 12.5’ extension and solar panel combination did not reduce the current going into the charge controller. This is great, as the increased cable length did not result in decreased amperage at the charge controller. Additionally, the extension cables can be used with 12 volt devices, if your devices are two pole compatible. 

Adding a 2 Pole Quick-Disconnect to the Solar Panel 

1. First determine which connector you will need to use (again most 2 pole quick-disconnects are sold in pairs). More than likely, you will connect the male positive wire connector to the solar panel. 

2. The recommended solar panels come with a red and green wire. Using a 16 gauge splice, connect the two red wires. 

3. Using a 16 gauge splice, connect the green wire from the solar panel to the black wire of the 2 pole connector. 

4. Repeat the process for any additional solar panels. 

Powering 12 Volt Devices 

The Deltran/iMob modular components can also be used with the 12 volt power output. By using this combination, you can power four devices, instead of one.  Just remember to purchase additional 2 pole connectors. 

What you will Need 

___  x 2 Pole Quick-Disconnects - Determine how many 12 volt devices you would like to switch to 2 pole connectors. Remember, you can use the Deltran/iMob modular components with any 12 volt system, to include your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. 

___  x 16 gauge splice connectors 

Optional: Shrink tubing and/or electrical tape 

Adding 2 Pole Quick-Disconnects to Device’s Power Cables 

1. Determine the correct end to use. More than likely, you will connect the male positive wire connector to the device positive wire. 

2. Splice positive to positive, negative to negative 

3. Cover splice in shrink tubing or electrical tape. 

Modular Components Used With Larger Solar Power System 

Look at the images. You will see examples of the modular components incorporated into a larger solar power system. The point here is since both systems are 12 volt; the components can be easily incorporated in either system. Additionally, these modular components can be used in your vehicle. 

Larger System

 

Conclusion 

Hopefully, the article provided a little more flexibility for the small solar power solution. The unique thing about this system is that you can use the same components for larger solar power systems. While we used 2 x 10 AH batteries, the components can be used with a larger deep cycle battery and different enclosure. All you need to do is decide how large of a battery you would like to use. The recommended charge controller can accommodate up to 100 watts of solar power. 

Please let us know if you have any questions, or recommendations. Hopefully, we will put a video together soon to demonstrate the system, and test the durability of the enclosure and Velcro battery retention system.  As always, Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

Download the Guide - The Enhanced Solar Power Solution

Download the Guide - The $150 Solar Kit

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:14
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2 comments

  • Comment Link Jerry Alexander Saturday, 29 September 2012 04:55 posted by Jerry Alexander

    I would like to know how to figure out what I will need to run a 400 amp Grow Light,a small pump,and aerator,or,two for my Ebb & Flow veggie garden in order to have fresh veggies year round.I use Wheat Grass for my old eyes,and would have it available whenever needed.
    Thank You
    Jerry Alexander

  • Comment Link Sutty Thursday, 04 October 2012 11:21 posted by Sutty

    I have a question about using a power inverter for this system. I would prefer using AC devices, because that is what I primarily have. You mentioned wiring the batteries in parallel to up the amps, and wiring in a series ups the voltage. If I want to use a power inverter to AC, should I wire the batteries in a series? Also, how many volt inverter should I purchase?

    I also noticed that you did not install a larger charge controller after adding the second battery? Wouldn't you need to do that if the original controller was only 7 amps?

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