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First of all, thanks for accepting my membership. I've been looking to get into solar for an annual camping trip I go on every year and found this place. You guys all seem like a really great community here.
I am a total solar noob. My only experience with them aside from the lights you can buy at Wally World for your lawn are the ones that they sell to plug your cell phone into. So please forgive me if I ask any boneheaded questions.
My father is a manager of an auto parts store, so I asked him if he could get me a deal on a deep cycle marine battery (okay, I know I need that much, at least) and he's sending me to pick up an AC Delco M24MF. Is this a good choice?
Next I'll need panels, a charge controller, and then an inverter. That's where I get stuck.
I found this link:
Off the DIY Projects Blog link at the top. It said that if I spend a little more money and buy the rest of the parts separate, it would perform better than one of the HF kits. I figured I'd ask in here first before I buy anything.
My main uses for the panels will be to keep my cell phone, electronic cigarettes, and any other assorted electronics charged up while I'm camping for 2 weeks without any electricity. If any of you on here are SCAdians - it's for Pennsic. I also may want to power a box fan and/or a light for inside the 16' round tent I'll be in.
I originally got the idea to do a solar kit from another SCAdian I saw 2 years ago. She had a small panel - maybe 16"x16" or so and had alligator clips connecting it to a (what I think was a) controller and then that to the battery and the battery to an inverter. She actually powered a propane oven with it and baked cookies while we were there. That's what got me hooked :P
Now I'm not saying I want to go all Julia Childs while camping, but having some juice there would definitely come in handy, especially for charging my e-cigs. I have one of those Energizer jump starter/power pack things that I've used for the past couple years but it always winds up dying after the first week and I have to go off-site for a few hours to charge it up (the wife's parents own a campground nearby.) I'd rather not have to deal with that inconvenience if I can help it.
Okay, well I've made this first post long enough. Hopefully you guys can lend me a hand with this. It would be much appreciated.
Oh, and I guess I should mention, I don't want to break the bank, if possible. Like maybe going with a 50w panel vs a 125w if that would suit my purposes. And I'm really not sure if I need a Pure Sine Wave inverter or if I can deal with a modified sine wave one. Budget first, performance later. I can always upgrade, right?
Thanks again, all.
Greetings. the M24MF looks like a typical dual purpose marine battery as it has a cca rating. Probably about 75-80 Ah (amp hour) rating. So it's not a true deep cycle but if you don't over tax it more then 50% it'll last a while. I have some dp24's in my bank and try not to drain them under 70% state of charge / 30% use. One is 2 years out of warrenty and still going. The best deal I found on dl/dp batteries is at autozone-duralast. No, they are not the cheaper ones but seem to have the longest warrenty. But if you can get a better deal and just need one, ok then.
Occasionaly deals on 100 watt or so panels will float through. I keep any eye on solarblvd.com & ul_solar.com on occasion but missed the last good deals for now on single panels - but then again I'm set up with 150 watt array at camp with the h/f panels and they do the job.
Just thinking for now you could roll with an h/f kit to start with. then all you need is that battery & an inverter. I use a 400watt modified sine. Charge my 18v tools with it. Everything else I use dc-12v for, even the laptop. Lights, charge small batterys, radio - jazz like that.
I started out with one panel. Ahh those were the days.
edit - forgot to mention the forum has a video & picture section. Lots of us have posted tons of stuff there. Got a few done on solar at camp etc.
Thanks for the reply, John. I didn't realize the M24MF wasn't a true deep cycle. Is that bad? I'm getting it for $60, so I figured it was a good deal.
So are those new HF 45w kits are okay? I believe this is it:
The description says it has a voltage regulator with DC/USB/12v/etc. Does that mean I don't need an inverter with it?
Battery sounds ok, especially for 60$. Look at it this way if your vehicle battery dies you got a back-up. I can't realy comment on the new kit I have the metal fame ones. But basicaly they are the same panels. If you think of a kit as a trickle charger, let it show you what it can do, try not to overtax the battery, should be ok.
You'll need an inverter for something 120v. the kit controller has a 12v plug and a usb port with plugs for the cfl lights, that's it.
edit - the plastic frame might have one advantage I can think of, mobile or compact use. something not permanent.
Gotcha. So cigarette lighter "port" as well as USB. If I'm using anything other than that, get an inverter.
Related question - is it okay to plug a surge protector/power strip into the inverter? So I can charge two cell phones at once, for example?
You can start with the harbor freight kit.. It should do what you want within your budget. If you can change that battery to one of the marine units that don't have a CCA rating you will be better off. Since you are just looking to start off camping... I'm keeping this as a small mobile kit.
The HF kit will have your basic panels and charge controller.. you supply the battery and you are in business. It will charge what you are asking about with no issues. Once you put an inverter into the mix you are going to start pulling down the battery. If you let it charge all day without a draw.. then it should recharge the battery for evening use.
Yes, you can get better performance by piecing everything together, but for this trip and to keep within budget for a starter system... the HF kit and a battery will have you in business. A modifed wave inverter will not run the fan very well.. they usually burn them up. Your best bet is to get a 12v fan instead. You will not lose power in the conversion and the battery will power it much longer.
Also.. yes you can put a power strip on an inverter.
CCA I know from automotive is cold cranking amps. Do deep cycle marine batteries not have that rating? I don't know how to tell the difference. I was under the impression this was a marine battery until you guys told me otherwise.
The panels are $190 on their website. I wonder if they have any in-store coupons. I will have to get an inverter because everything I have is 110v, not 12v. I don't plan on leaving anything on it all day if I can avoid it. I plan on charging them up, taking them off.
Thanks again for the response. :)
Yes, there are two kinds of marine batteries (probably more than 2, but two that I know of), one is a combo starting/trolling and the other is a straight trolling motor battery. The combo battery will have both AH and CCA ratings. The trolling motor battery will only have an AH rating. The trolling is the better battery for your purpose. A true deep cycle like 6v golf cart batteries are ideal, but since you are keeping it simple without a large setup the marine battery will work.
There are plenty of coupons that bring the kit down to $149. Look in a few magazines for the HF coupon page. If they have the coupon you want, buy the magazine. Some examples are motor trend, car and driver, this old house, DIY magazine, guns and ammo , shooting times.
If nothing else.. you can use the 20% off coupon from any of these magazines to bring your price down.
So after speaking to my father, he called up his distributor and his distributor offered him an ACDelco DC24 instead. He said it's a "true" deep cycle battery and not a start/crank one? I can get it for $100. Would that suit my purposes better?
I will have to take a trip down to the bookstore and see if any of those magazines have any coupons. My uncle is on the HF mailing list and he said he hasn't seen a coupon for solar panels in months. I hope I can find one.
Dual Purpose (Marine) batteries are a hybrid. My take on them is they are designed for boating/rv applications meaning they have cca for starting and can cycle for drawing power for lights and accessory. Many of us have adapted them for light duty solar application.
The h/f kit is typicaly listed 'on-sale'. Get a coupon and you can pick one up for 159 sometimes 149.
I have two 12v fans. 1 is smaller but it oscilates and doubles up as a vent fan in the camper, draws under 1/2 amp if memory servs. The other one is a product from o2 Cool called a tent fan. I like it, two speed 10" and uses a magnetic clamp so you can attach it to any tent, awning etc. Uses about .3 - .4 amps. Both 12v socket.
Solar is also good for recharging aa-aaa & flashlight batteries. You can get 12v powered chargers for that so you wouldn't need to use an inverter for small rechargables.
Unfortunately I still need an inverter because some of my things don't come in 12v versions. Like my electronic cigarettes. Those are standard 110v plugs. What would be a decent inverter to get with this set up?
My first thought is that you have successfully camped for at least one week with that Energizer Jump Starter/Power Pack as your sole source of electricity. It would be helpful to know what the model number of that Energizer Power Pack is, because at least one model has an included built in 200-watt modified sine wave inverter. That particular model (Energizer 84020) utilizes a 12-volt 18ah sealed lead acid battery.
If that’s the model you have, why not charge it with a HF 45-watt kit? You can wire a cigarette lighter plug to the output of the HF charge controller and let the charge controller keep the battery up. Insert the male cigarette-lighter style plug into the proper receptacle of the Energizer, and turn on whatever switch is necessary to apply battery power to that receptacle. You will, in effect, be back-feeding solar power to the battery. Now you can camp without making that battery-charging trip to your in-laws after a week. If you need a cigarette-lighter style outlet while the sun is shining, the HF charge controller (either model) has at least one of those outlets.
As an added bonus, the HF kit comes with two 5-watt fluorescent lights. Those lights will certainly keep you from stumbling in a 16’ round tent. The box fan would not be an option with a 12ah battery.
Having said that: if you decide to go with a deep cycle battery (which I also recommend), then go with a pure sine wave inverter. Every AC device is designed for pure sine wave, and forcing a modified sine wave on any AC device is not good practice. If you determine you need 200 watts of AC, then buy a 400-watt PSW inverter. It may cost more initially, but you’ll never need to be concerned if something will properly work or not on the AC inverter.
I recommend a deep-cycle battery and PSW inverter because I doubt you will be using a new solar setup for only two weeks a year.
Talk to your Uncle: the June 2012 HF flyer has a $159 Super Coupon for the 45-watt kit (page 2).
Welcome to the forum.
It is the 84020 model. Here it is right here:
The power pack only charges by 110v, not 12v. There is only the 110v plug in the back that you have to supply your own cable for it.
Actually that's been a huge debate. If you check the comments (on pretty much every review for it) people say that it cannot be charged via DC.
I will ask my uncle again to check the newsletter. He must have missed the coupon :P Thank you.