Now that we’re spending more time outdoors, further from civilization and with more equipment needing power, I decided to build a solar-charged 12V battery set up, inspired by a post I saw on Instructables: Ammo Can Solar Power Supply
My version is a very similar set up, except I used Anderson PowerPole connectors throughout. This allows me to use the solar charge controller and/or battery with some of my other equipment (such as my ham and CB radios).
First, the shopping list (all from Amazon):
- Container: MTM 50 Caliber Ammo Storage Can – it’s plastic, so no worries about shorting anything out on metal, and is somewhat waterproof.
- Solar charge controller: ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charger Controller – cheap, but fairly well-reviewed on Amazon.
- Solar panel: Suaoki 18V 12V 18W Solar Panel – again, fairly cheap and well-reviewed. The panels are light and somewhat flexible.
- Battery: MightyMax ML 12-12 – a 12V 12 amp-hour battery
- Panel: YonHan 4 in 1 Socket Charger Panel – came with an on/off switch, two 2.1A USB ports, one 12V cigarette adapter, and a voltmeter (all with red accent lights). The crimp connectors that came with this were pretty crappy. Also includes a wiring diagram on the box – in my case, all of the slightly gold-tinted blades were for the negative connections.
- In-line fuse: E Support 12 Guage ATC Fuse Holder (5 pack) – I placed one of these between the load line on the charge controller and the on-off switch, and it saved my butt when I accidentally hooked up the wiring on the switch wrong.
- Anderson Powerpole tools: IWISS Ratcheting Wire Crimping tool, Glarks 20 pair 30A Anderson Powerpole connectors, and Actopus 10pcs Powerpole sleeves.
About Anderson Powerpoles:
ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) adopted the Anderson Powerpole for interoperability during emergencies. Using this same standard on my equipment makes it easy for me to switch parts in and out, and in theory, would make it easier for me to swap equipment with others.
The solar charge controller:
The solar charge controller has 3 connections – from left to right, the solar panel, the battery, and the load (having your devices on the load connection, rather than the battery, allows the controller to charge the battery while also providing power).
The wiring diagram:
The wiring is pretty simple – the positive and negative leads from the solar panel and the battery are connected to their respective ports on the controller. The solar panel I used has its own connector, so I wired it directly to the controller. I placed a Powerpole connector between the battery and the charger (allowing me to easily swap batteries). For the load connection, I placed a 30A fuse on the positive lead, and then placed a Powerpole connector between that and the on/off switch for the panel (allowing me to easily connect something else to the load line, such as my ham or CB radio).
The panel is wired up according to its included wiring diagram, with the power starting at the on/off switch. The panel includes a voltage meter, two 5V 2.1A USB ports, and a 12V socket. I considered getting a Powerwerx PanelPole adapter for one of the holes, but it was a little too pricey for something I already had inside the box.
The setup in use:
The setup works! The controller was charging the battery, and my phone was charging off the front port while taking this picture.
My total cost for this project came to just over $200, but that included tools that I only needed to purchase once. To build a second box, the total today would be just under $130.