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Solar power generators are great and useful. With a DIY solar generator, you can power some of your devices 24/7 to reduce your electricity bills. Or you can build a DIY solar generator for camping, to power power tools in your backyard, or anything else you can use a traditional gas generator for. Best of all, a solar generator can help keep your essential devices running indefinitely (at least during the day) if the grid is off for an extended period of time.
Building your own solar generator is much cheaper than buying a pre-built one and surprisingly easy even if you're not a huge DIY enthusiast. In this guide, we'll show you everything you need to know about building a DIY solar generator so you can use the sun as a power source.
Why Build Your Own DIY Solar Generator?
The number one reason to go the DIY route when it comes to foodSolargeneratorenIt's the cost: Name-brand solar generators cost upwards of $2,000, eliminating nearly all of the cost savings you'd get by using the sun for electricity instead of gas or grid power. By comparison, you can build a custom DIY solar generator for under $500.
Another reason to build your own power supply instead of going with a boxed model is that you can customize it to suit your needs. Want a built-in light, high-current ports, USB ports, or some other custom feature? You can add this to your DIY solar generator.
If you're building your own solar generator, you'll also know what all the parts are and what they do. This is important as it allows you to maintain your generator over time and replace parts as they wear out. For example, while you may have to discard a $2,000 pre-made solar generator when the panels start to fade, you can easily replace that part in your DIY unit and still generate electricity.
Of course, there's another good reason to go the DIY route: it's fun! Whether you're a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a novice when it comes to schematics and wiring, building a DIY solar generator is a relatively easy and extremely rewarding project.
What do I need to build a solar generator?
Choosing the parts you will use to build your solar generator is one of the most exciting parts of this project. There's plenty of room to customize the components to your vision, so don't hesitate to explore alternatives to the components we've suggested.
The first thing you will need is an enclosure to build your solar generator. This is important for making your solar generator portable so you can protect it from the weather when bringing it indoors, camping, or moving it around the house to track direct sunlight. You can use a large plastic box from your local store which would be extremely inexpensive and many models are mounted on wheels. If you're concerned about protecting the internal components, consider something sturdier like a Pelican or Rugged case.
Next you need an inverter. Solar panels produce DC power, but most appliances and electronics in your home run on AC power. The wattage of your inverter is important because you want enough power to use all the energy your solar panels can produce. Unless you're using multiple panels, a 2000 or 3000 watt inverter should work fine.
Of course, you also need to choose your solar panel. There are a ton of options and different sheet materials, each with their own pros and cons. For a 2000 to 3000 watt inverter, you should look for a panel that delivers around 100 watts. If possible, look for a kit that includes not only a solar panel, but also a solar battery charger and cables.
The last major component you'll need is a battery. Ideally, look for a deep-cycle battery that can be repeatedly discharged without shortening its lifespan. Importantly, your battery can also be used in any orientation, as your portable solar generator can be used both lying down and standing up.
In addition, there are a variety of smaller components you will need to build your DIY solar generator:
- 20A GFCI output card
- AC battery contest
- battery cable
- Box with lights or fuses
- negative bus
- 14 gauge wire
- 16 gauge speaker wire
- Cable Connector Set
- backup set
- silicone sealant
- Screws and fasteners (different sizes needed)
These components only cover the basics of building your own solar generator. You can also customize your layout and add LED lights, extra outlets and a voltmeter. Adding them is relatively easy, just make sure you buy a big enough fuse block and an extra power cord.
step by step instructions
Now that you've assembled your components, let's look at how to build a DIY solar generator.
- The first step in building your DIY solar generator is figuring out where the GFCI output panel goes, where your devices will be connected. Exactly where you want to place them will depend on the cabinet you are installing the generator in, but they should face outward so you can get power without opening the cabinet. It's a good idea to orient the cabinet as it will look the majority of the time the generator is in use to determine where the outlet is most easily accessible.
- Use an X-Acto knife or drill to drill a hole in your box just big enough to fit the output panel; You don't want to leave extra space, otherwise it will be more difficult to waterproof your generator. Once assembled, use the silicone gasket to lock and seal out any moisture.
- Now open the box to find where you are going to mount the inverter and battery. The battery is the heaviest component, so ideally it should be at the bottom of the case, near the wheels. The inverter must be positioned so that the outlets are close to the GFCI board and the 12 volt power wires are close to the battery terminals. Once you've decided on the locations for these pieces, go ahead and drill them into the box using screws and fasteners.
- Finally you need to assemble the AC battery, solar charger, fuse block and negative rail. These can be taken anywhere you still have room in your suitcase. Ideally, they should all be easily accessible, as you'll need to plug them in once they're installed. Again, use screws and fasteners to secure it to the case.
Okay, now that you have all the components assembled, the next part of our DIY solar generator guide is all about the wiring.
- First connect your inverter cables to the battery. The red wire should go to the positive terminal and the black wire to the negative terminal. When finished, plug the GFCI cable into your inverter outlet.
- Next, it is important to ground the battery and connect it to the auxiliary battery AC cable.Solar charging rules. Run one battery cable from the negative battery terminal to the power rail and another from the positive terminal to the fuse block. Install a 30A fuse for the solar charge controller in the fuse box and a 5A fuse for the auxiliary battery. Then use 14 gauge wire to connect those components to the fuses you just inserted.
- At this point, all you have to do is plug in your solar panels. Connect the speaker wire to the solar array by crimping the red speaker wire into the positive panel output and the black speaker wire into the negative panel output. It's a good idea to wrap electrical tape around this connection to ensure basic waterproofing.
- Unwind the desired amount of wire for your panel. There's a downside here: you want enough cable to get the panel where you want it, but not so much that there's a huge voltage drop from the panel to the charge controller. Once you have the right amount of cable, strip the ends off the cable and connect it directly to your solar charge controller.
That is all! At this point you should be able to activate the charge controller and start collecting sunlight to charge your battery.
When it comes to electricity, safety is paramount. The most important thing to remember when hooking up your DIY solar generator is that the battery is active throughout the entire process, even if you aren't collecting energy. treat it as such. It is important that the cables do not accidentally touch each other after connecting to the battery.
One thing to keep in mind is the mostsolar inverterThey are designed to be connected to the network in order to function. If the grid fails, your inverter will not work. This is an important safety feature: if you continue to supply power to your home when the power grid goes out, you could be re-feeding the power lines and putting utility workers trying to fix them at risk. If you want to run your solar generator when the electrical power goes out, you will need to connect your generator to a transfer switch as you would a gasoline generator.
[vc_tta_accordion style="modern" color="green" active_section="1″][vc_tta_section i_icon_fontawesome="fa fa-comments-o" add_icon="true" tab_id="1581895772781-c6818729-d70d" title="What should should the solar generator system power my house?”] How big a solar generator system should be depends on what you want to power. The system we describe is rated for up to 2000 watts of power, enough to power lights, refrigerators, freezers, and a few other small appliances. If you want to power your entire house with your solar generator, you need a system that delivers at least 5,000 watts. In this case, you need a bigger inverter, additional outlets, and more solar panels. title="Can I get power from a solar generator in winter?"] Yes, your solar generator can provide power whenever the sun is shining, regardless of the temperature outside. However, the days are shorter and there is less light available, so you will likely see a drop in energy production. If it's too cold, you can also lose battery efficiency. The good news is that your solar panel's supply actually increases when it gets colder outside. ="Do I need a license to build the system?"] You don't need a license to build your own solar generator. The only situation where you need a permit is if you want to permanently mount the solar panel on your home. But in that case your generator would no longer be portable and you would have to be very careful with waterproofing your project.[/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion]
Building a DIY solar generator is cheap, easy and fun. It's easy to customize your build to produce all the power you need, add custom outlets, or make your generator more or less efficient.
The advantage of a solar generator is that you can use the sun's energy to drastically reduce your electricity bill. By adding a switch to your project, you can even use your homemade solar generator to power your home indefinitely when the power grid goes out.