Portable solar panel/generator | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

Portable solar panel/generator

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Jk.Overland

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Pearl, Mississippi, United States
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Joe
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One thing we all need is power when we are out in the middle of nowhere. I have used a large jump for a while now and I haven’t had any problems on “shorter” trips, but charging that takes so long and has to be plugged into the wall.

I’m saying that I am looking for suggestions on a solar setup.
- it can’t be fixed in place
- must easily pack away
- and hopefully can’t break the bank

I have looked at GoalZero and Jackery but I would love suggestions!

Any help??
 
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IAm_Not_Lost

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Well, the likely easiest setup would be just buying a Minnkota trolling motor battery box and sticking a cheap 100amp hour flooded or AGM battery in there. Then, buy yourself a 100 watt folding solar panel +charge controller kit off Amazon and you have yourself a simple yet effective charging station. You could also run cabling from your starter battery to the back cargo area and attach your battery box to charge while driving.

The Minnkota box is great though (or Newport), has built in breakers, volt meter, usb ports, 12v outlet, exc.

Buy that, a battery, folding solar panel kit, and misc cabling and you will have yourself a nice battery generator for around $300-400 bucks, really just depends on the battery type you get. Add a few more bucks if you install a simple dual battery option with some anderson plugs or something for when you are on the road. Easily removable.
 

Jk.Overland

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Pearl, Mississippi, United States
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Joe
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Hennessy
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30652

Well, the likely easiest setup would be just buying a Minnkota trolling motor battery box and sticking a cheap 100amp hour flooded or AGM battery in there. Then, buy yourself a 100 watt folding solar panel +charge controller kit off Amazon and you have yourself a simple yet effective charging station. You could also run cabling from your starter battery to the back cargo area and attach your battery box to charge while driving.

The Minnkota box is great though (or Newport), has built in breakers, volt meter, usb ports, 12v outlet, exc.

Buy that, a battery, folding solar panel kit, and misc cabling and you will have yourself a nice battery generator for around $300-400 bucks, really just depends on the battery type you get. Add a few more bucks if you install a simple dual battery option with some anderson plugs or something for when you are on the road. Easily removable.
That is really good idea. I had not thought about going that way. Whenever I research online everything tries to get me to buy the super expensive goalzero or some cheap Chinese knockoff.

Thank you!
 

Longshot270

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It’s pretty easy to throw something together once you’ve done the math. My current project still has room for extension cords and a bigger version of my previous battery box. New one is 2x55ah power chair batteries, 100 watt solar panel, 300 watt inverter that I stopped using because it made annoying sounds when in use. Old ammo box has a 10AH SLA. I think I’ve got around fifty bucks into each one.
 

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Jk.Overland

Rank III
Member
Adventure

Enthusiast III

740
Pearl, Mississippi, United States
First Name
Joe
Last Name
Hennessy
Member #

30652

It’s pretty easy to throw something together once you’ve done the math. My current project still has room for extension cords and a bigger version of my previous battery box. New one is 2x55ah power chair batteries, 100 watt solar panel, 300 watt inverter that I stopped using because it made annoying sounds when in use. Old ammo box has a 10AH SLA. I think I’ve got around fifty bucks into each one.
Seems like a good setup. I am trying to find something similar just never made or setup anything like this. Don’t want to set something on fire ha!
 

TahoePPV

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Well, the likely easiest setup would be just buying a Minnkota trolling motor battery box and sticking a cheap 100amp hour flooded or AGM battery in there. Then, buy yourself a 100 watt folding solar panel +charge controller kit off Amazon and you have yourself a simple yet effective charging station. You could also run cabling from your starter battery to the back cargo area and attach your battery box to charge while driving.

The Minnkota box is great though (or Newport), has built in breakers, volt meter, usb ports, 12v outlet, exc.

Buy that, a battery, folding solar panel kit, and misc cabling and you will have yourself a nice battery generator for around $300-400 bucks, really just depends on the battery type you get. Add a few more bucks if you install a simple dual battery option with some anderson plugs or something for when you are on the road. Easily removable.
Waitaminute, are you suggesting not paying the overland tax?
 
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Mike W

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Those all in one battery/solar charger/inverter boxes are a pretty good option for most setups IMO. I've been largely recommending them to people just getting started or even more experienced folks who want something simple. They are pricey but a big part of that is most use lithium batteries and have a lot of gear in them (power distribution, inverter, charger, monitoring). Instead of buying all the parts to build it you just get a nice all in one and its portable and can be used for other things. You can usually keep them plugged into your car cig plugs and it charges while you drive. Overall just a nice simple way to go.

I am a big fan of LiFePo4 in general because I have spent way too much money buying AGM batteries over the years and consistently killing them after a year or two. They just don't like to get used hard and discharged past about half capacity. It's pricey but I think over time it pays for itself.

If you want to build a system then it is a little bit more of a conversation. Usually breaks down into
  1. what is the battery bank? 1 or more batteries, which chemistry? agm, lifepo4, etc What total watt hours do you need (system sizing)
  2. how will you charge it? solar charger/panels, DCDC or split charge for alternator based charging, shore power charging
  3. how will you consume it? 12v distribution, inverter for 110v, again load/system sizing is important
  4. how will you monitor it? smart shunts for lifepo to simple voltage based SOC for lead acid/agm
So that is why I like those all in ones for people unless you want to tinker and build things.
 

IAm_Not_Lost

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[/QUOTE]
Waitaminute, are you suggesting not paying the overland tax?[/QUOTE]

Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel! Fishing guys have been using battery boxes for a long time, and they get absolutely thrashed on. They are great alternatives for basic boxes. Bring along a little cig outlet inverter for occasional AC needs and you have 90% of the functionality of a $1200 dollar battery “generator” for a quarter, or third of the cost, with some extra weight and size of course.
 

Viking1204

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I made my own solar generator using a toolbox as the box. Used a 138ah battery I bought off Ebay for $500. Put a fuse panel in the box and a 12 volt panel from Amazon that has cigarette lighter outputs, USB and Anderson connectors I added to it myself. I'll try and post some pictures up when I get home. I charge it with 100W solar panel mounted on the roof of my truck and a REDARC DC-DC charger I picked up at Overland Expo East.
 

Jk.Overland

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I made my own solar generator using a toolbox as the box. Used a 138ah battery I bought off Ebay for $500. Put a fuse panel in the box and a 12 volt panel from Amazon that has cigarette lighter outputs, USB and Anderson connectors I added to it myself. I'll try and post some pictures up when I get home. I charge it with 100W solar panel mounted on the roof of my truck and a REDARC DC-DC charger I picked up at Overland Expo East.
I am considering the Jackery 240 Solar Generator with the 60w solar panel.
 
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Speric

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I have the Wagan Lithium Cube 500 with solar panel. I've only had a chance to use it once, but it seems very well thought out and well made. They are having a 25% Black Friday sale. Alex is also an OB member, and really nice guy. Power Cubes.
 
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Golferplus1

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It's not one of the big brand name companies, but I have been using a RockPals 500W and their foldable 100W solar Panel in both my Jeep TJ(for offroading and tent camping) and my Silverado with a camper shell for camping and fire roads. I looked into building one from scratch, but now especially with the deals that were around on black Friday you just can't really beat them.

I have had my setup for almost 9 months and have run everything from lights, refrigerator, to recharging a big speaker, ipad, phone, and have had no issues. I plan on installing a rigid renogy solar panel on my Silverado once I get my roof rack sorted out, or if I am going to get one. Paralysis by analysis on my part.
 

lhoffm4

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It’s pretty easy to throw something together once you’ve done the math. My current project still has room for extension cords and a bigger version of my previous battery box. New one is 2x55ah power chair batteries, 100 watt solar panel, 300 watt inverter that I stopped using because it made annoying sounds when in use. Old ammo box has a 10AH SLA. I think I’ve got around fifty bucks into each one.
Did you choose the cooler based on size? Insulation quality? Both? Some different reason? Gives me ideas!
 

Downs

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I built my own "solar generator" It was a fun project but I did wind up eventually getting the Jackery 300 and have really like it. It's lightweight, convenient and has as much power as my larger heavier homebuilt box that I used SLA batteries in for cost savings. It may not be the best most cost effective possible solution you can get but IMO for those who just want something that works with little fuss, it's hard to beat the various prebuilt "solar generators" out there. My little 300 powers everything in camp plus my fridge and charges between campsites off the Jeep's power.
 

Longshot270

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Did you choose the cooler based on size? Insulation quality? Both? Some different reason? Gives me ideas!
All of the above and more.
Cheap and light $25 crack resistant box. With how many island breeze coolers I’ve seen on the side of the road just in the last week, I’m fairly certain they are more durable than anything else you’ll find in that price range. I don’t have a dedicated rig so there’s no Gucci dividers, slides or racks, everything needs to be independent. This rides in the bed of the truck with all kinds of things that have damaged standard single layer plastic boxes and totes previously.

Size was coincidentally perfect for the two batteries with felt pads between them and left plenty of space for charge controller, fuse box, power inverter, extension cords and lights. This is all the electrical we use in one container where it is it easy to find.

Not water proof but at least rain resistant with a little duct tape around the lid opening during transport and set under the camper/truck/canopy/tarp when in use. I also throw a little rope strap around the cooler to lock the lid down against any Highway wind. The hole for wires is 1-1/4” pvc 90 turned upright on the inside and epoxied in place. Under reasonable conditions, it won’t fill with water. My previous trolling motor battery box was vented on top and would fill when rained on.

The insulation and battery mass should keep temps reasonably stable which is a bonus. I don’t think there will be much heat buildup from the inverter since it doesn’t run the cooling fan when the camper has all the lights and fans running simultaneously. My entire system pulls less than 50 watts at the battery.
 
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lhoffm4

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All of the above and more.
Cheap and light $25 crack resistant box. With how many island breeze coolers I’ve seen on the side of the road just in the last week, I’m fairly certain they are more durable than anything else you’ll find in that price range. I don’t have a dedicated rig so there’s no Gucci dividers, slides or racks, everything needs to be independent. This rides in the bed of the truck with all kinds of things that have damaged standard single layer plastic boxes and totes previously.

Size was coincidentally perfect for the two batteries with felt pads between them and left plenty of space for charge controller, fuse box, power inverter, extension cords and lights. This is all the electrical we use in one container where it is it easy to find.

Not water proof but at least rain resistant with a little duct tape around the lid opening during transport and set under the camper/truck/canopy/tarp when in use. I also throw a little rope strap around the cooler to lock the lid down against any Highway wind. The hole for wires is 1-1/4” pvc 90 turned upright on the inside and epoxied in place. Under reasonable conditions, it won’t fill with water. My previous trolling motor battery box was vented on top and would fill when rained on.

The insulation and battery mass should keep temps reasonably stable which is a bonus. I don’t think there will be much heat buildup from the inverter since it doesn’t run the cooling fan when the camper has all the lights and fans running simultaneously. My entire system pulls less than 50 watts at the battery.
Thanks for expanding on that. I like your idea for the cooler to hold the batts. I’m designing my power station now. I was thinking of using a couple HF knock-off pelican cases to house the components to keep it all modular and portable. I have a few old coolers that I don’t really use. I think I will try one of them before pulling the trigger on a second Apache case. I can always upgrade later if necessary. Thanks for the input! Would love to see pics/specs of your setup!
 

lhoffm4

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Lee
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One thing we all need is power when we are out in the middle of nowhere. I have used a large jump for a while now and I haven’t had any problems on “shorter” trips, but charging that takes so long and has to be plugged into the wall.

I’m saying that I am looking for suggestions on a solar setup.
- it can’t be fixed in place
- must easily pack away
- and hopefully can’t break the bank

I have looked at GoalZero and Jackery but I would love suggestions!

Any help??
While you CAN build something as feature rich as a commercially available option, it will likely cost as much or more, once you get into it, as something to can purchase. If space is a premium in your rig, you would most likely get more bang for your hard earned bucks with a commercially built solution.

For example, my Son recently gave me a Bluetti EB70, which retails between $400-$500. It can run my 12v fridge, CPAP, Laptop, charge USB and even has a spotlight and cordless phone charge pad. I could not build it for $500. So while most times I am all about DIY to have better features, quality and save money, on this topic, I understand going retail. Just my .02c
 

Longshot270

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Thanks for expanding on that. I like your idea for the cooler to hold the batts. I’m designing my power station now. I was thinking of using a couple HF knock-off pelican cases to house the components to keep it all modular and portable. I have a few old coolers that I don’t really use. I think I will try one of them before pulling the trigger on a second Apache case. I can always upgrade later if necessary. Thanks for the input! Would love to see pics/specs of your setup!
I’ve done daisy chained modular setups and they have their advantages if you’ve only got tight spaces and things that cannot be left behind. But when you calculate the wasted volume of all the containers and the time wasted playing Tetris every time you stop, having an all in one kit saves time and volume, assuming you have the space for the one larger container.
 
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