My DIY Portable Solar Power “Generator” (For Vans, Camping, Off-Grid, etc.)


Hey guys, so we are in the backyard today, no exotic locations or adventures, because today I am assembling my solar setup for my car, my car camping adventures. This is what the finished product looks like just to give you an idea of what we’re building.

This is gonna go on top of my car and then this will go inside and then this will be inside my car. This has the battery and the charge controller and the inverter everything’s all wired up. I have two batteries in here, but the batteries are not connected now because I don’t have the parts for that.

Yet they’re gonna be here in a couple of days, but it works it’s uh it’s charging now and because I am in the backyard, you will hear – probably some wind noise, maybe some traffic and Also, maybe even some airplane noise, I live near an Air Force Base and so planes do fly overhead a fair amount.

The idea here is to have one solar panel on top of my car and then have a wires going down into my car and then those wires go down into a plastic bin or a box that houses the batteries and the other electronics for the solar setup And so it’ll, be very modular.

I can remove the solar panel from the top. I can remove the the bin of electronics out. I can put it in, and so it’ll, be a non permanent way of installing solar. In my car, I need to say at the start here that I am NOT an expert.

I know very little about this. To be honest, I’m. Basically just copying this. This diagram, this schematic from Renault G who I bought my solar panel from I’m. Just doing this exactly with one small change, and so I hope it’s right.

You know I don & # 39. T really understand the electronics that I’m gonna be working with, but hopefully this will show that you don’t have to be a master. You don’t have to have a master’s degree in electrical engineering to figure this out either.

That said, copy me at your own risk. I will let you know what works and what doesn’t, but you’re on your own here really, so let me go through and show you the gear I’m gonna be using for this. Alright, so here are the components for the solar build here, and here are the tool we’ll get over to those in a minute.

This over here is a renergie 100 watt solar panel that I bought from Amazon. These are the batteries. These are 235 and power batteries that I got from Amazon. I’m gonna be putting the prices on all of these too, so you can have a frame of reference for how much this stuff costs, and then I & # 39.

Ll also include a link in the description to my website, where there will be a link to all of these products and more information on the building, so 235 amp power batteries. Right here I’m, just gonna be using one initially in this video and for this build because I don’t have the the parts that I need to wire these.

In parallel, I ordered those, but they haven’t come yet so right now in this video, we’re. Just gonna worry about the one battery. Each battery also comes with hardware, with these nuts and bolts washers for connecting to the terminals here connecting wires to the terminals.

This is the charge controller, which regulates the power that comes from the solar panel to the battery. This is my 400 watt inverter, which that’s me plug in all sorts of electronic goodies, USB and wall outlets.

Here these are the cables that came with this up. Here we have the solar cables with the mc4 connectors on the ends. These hook up to the solar panel and then the other end of these will go into the charge controller.

These are some fuses that I’m, going to be wiring in between. I think the battery and the charge controller and the panels and the charge controller to make sure we don’t, get any overheating wires or anything and then really the only though the one change I’m making to that R energy Diagram that I showed you earlier is that I’m, going to be adding this.

This is a 12-volt cigarette, lighter type socket. I’m, going to be adding this directly to the battery, and so, instead of attaching the inverter directly to the battery, I’m going to attach the inverter to this.

I’m gonna plug it into this, because the inverter has got this on on it. I’m gonna be using this with the inverter and disregarding that, and then this here is the plastic bin that will be housing. All of the electronics – I got this a Walmart, it was five dollars in something you can also order it on their website.

I saw it there you and then, as far as tools go, we & # 39. Ve got a drill, a wire stripper or stripper and crimper, and some assorted electrical connectors to join the wires together. We’ve got a utility blade heating knife here.

Some pliers, screwdriver tape, measure heat shrink, tubing, not sure. If I’ll be needing this, but I’ve got it just in case got this at Harbor Freight, and I got these at Walmart by the way and then we & # 39.

Ve got some drill bits here. Some regular drill bits and then some larger Spade bits I don’t know if I’ll, be using those either but got them just in case. I initially was just going to have one battery to start off and then buy a second battery later, but for some reasons that I won’t go into here.

I have two batteries, and so I was gonna house. The whole setup in this plastic ammo can that I got from Amazon and would have worked great for just the single battery, but because I have two batteries now I need a bigger box, and so that’s.

Why I went with this? Instead, all right, let’s, start putting the thing together. Okay, step, one here says, cover the panels with a cloth to stop the panel from producing energy, and it will invoke – and it will avoid shocking yourself.

So let’s. Take this and put it over the panel, this is just a towel, and this standard size towel covered the panel perfectly step to mount the charge controller close to the batteries within five to ten feet away.

Remember that DC current doesn’t like to travel long distances closer the better. So I am going to mount the charge controller now to the plastic bin. I didn’t show the screws. I have screw up some little screws here somewhere.

Okay, crisis averted found these screws. These are machine screws from Home Depot number six by three-quarters of an inch and they come with the with the bolts two worth of nuts to okay. So I’m gonna place the charge controller, where I want it and then use the permanent marker to mark out where I’m gonna drill the holes.

This is a 760 fourth inch drill bit and now I’ll use these little screws to mount it on there. I think just finger. Tightening them is good enough for now, then I’ll, go back later and tighten them down more with the screwdriver and a wrench all right, the charge controller has been did I might cut these off or get shorter ones later, but these are good Enough for now, okay, so the next step on the piece of paper there is to connect the charge controller to the batteries.

But I don’t want to add the batteries in here yet because I’ll just make it a pain to move around. So I’m just gonna mount this not hook it up. When I mount the inverter to this side here now it’s, not quite not a not quite a good enough fit down here.

So what I’m gonna do is is cut this up a bit with the utility knife so that it fits more snugly up into here. I wish I had a dremel alright. This fits a bit better in there now now that I cut the notch.

Actually really wasn’t that hard to remove once I bent it up so now, I’m gonna mark and drill the holes to mount this thing. I just drilled these part of the way in this doesn’t have holes on it mounting holes has little mounting slots so now I can just slide that up in there and then tighten it down.

Now I’ll. Do the same here, this is a little little bit more tricky because the bin is rounded right here. I don’t know. If this little work, I might have to just use some adhesive some strong double-sided, adhesive tape, or maybe some stick on velcro to keep this on here.

But I’ll, try screwing it in and see how it works all right! That’s on there pretty solidly. Now when it seems very solid, so yeah. I think that’s, good all right, I’m gonna be diverting from the instructions a little bit here.

I need some wire, but I didn’t buy an extra wire because I bought the solar cables longer than I needed. They’re 15 feet. I’m, going to cut them down to 10 feet so that I can use some of that wire in the wiring of the other parts of the system.

Here. Okay, I’ve got my tape measure here and I’m just going to measure out 10 feet and then cut the cable at 10 feet and I’m doing the same thing with the block cable. Now I need to cut a piece from this black cable.

I need these cables to connect the charge controller to the battery for the positive I’m just using this fuse holder, which is already the right length. So I’m just going to use this for the positive and then I’m gonna cut a similar length piece for the negative.

I think it’s about 13 inches. I now need to strip all of these ends. I’m gonna strip about 3/8 of an inch of each end. Here the tool comes with a wire stripper down here, and this is 12-gauge wire. There’s; a both 12-gauge do another different sizes.

They’re, both 12-gauge. So I’m, going to use the little 12-gauge notch here see if I can strip the wire okay. That worked and do the same for all the ends. Now this last little pet is giving me some trouble from taking the utility knife out.

Okay, all the ends now have been stripped, so both of these neither ring terminal and one end to connect to the battery. So I’m, going to go ahead and add that these here are the ring terminals. So I got the two smallest ring terminals, the ones with the smallest rings, on them out of the package and on the back of the package.

Right here shows you where to crimp. So I need to crimp kind of right below the ring here and then kind of on the edge of the sleeve there. So I’m going to slide this in here. It’s hard to do when looking through the camera.

Alright that slid through and then on. The top here is the wire crimper. You can see where says 12 10 on the bottom there, the yellow dot, because this is 12 gauge wire – that’s. The little notch I’m gonna be using never done this before so let’s, see how this works.

Okay, it’s kind of mashing, the the tube that was inside there. That’s one. I’m gonna mash it on the end here, the second one, all right that seems to have worked. I’ll, do the same for the black wire, oh and before I forget yeah.

The fuse in here is a seven and a half amp fuse there’s, a little little equation on that renergie schematic telling you how to find out what size fuse you need. Seven and a half was about the closest one that I needed, and these fuse holders came with a different size, as I get 10 or 20 amp fuse one that I didn’t need, so I just bought these off of Amazon or off of Ebay, alright, I need to drill a hole here just below these terminals on the charge controller to pass the wires through from this to the battery.

So I marked a hole now I will use the half inch spade bit to drill it out there we go okay, so I’ve got the negative wire here and I’m going to plug it in to this right here. This terminal, so there are these holes on the bottom side.

Here you put the wire in then you screw it down. You tighten the screws here. I’m using this little screwdriver for that. Okay. Now I will connect this to the negative terminal. You can see it there put the washer on.

I’m, not quite sure, at the order. You’re supposed to do these in, but washer put it through, and then there are these little luck, split, lock, washers that we & # 39, ll, put on bolt, washer terminal, split, washer, ring terminal and then nut, and I’ll.

Tighten this down: okay, now let’s. Work on the positive terminal make sure my wire end is kind of twisted together, so it doesn’t splay out or fray. I’ll feed it through the hole and then stick it up there tighten it down, pull on it a little bit just to make sure it is in there, and it is, and now here’s, the positive line same thing bolt Washer positive terminal ring terminal, lock, washer and then the nut and uh I actually haven’t tightened these down all the way yet because I am going to be adding other things to these the other wires.

So it’s, going to hold off for a little bit, and now you can see both the positive and the negative wires coming from the battery down here through the hole and up into the bottom of the charge. Controller seems to be working.

This says twelve point: eight volts it’s, a good voltage to be at that means that this battery is mostly charged. I have not charged it. I guess it just came like that. I actually have this little battery voltage cheat sheet thing that I found online and printed.

You can see if it says. If the voltage is twelve point, six or more, then it’s, hundred-percent charged if it gets down to eleven point nine. That’s, forty percent, and then you can just see here. I’m gonna try to keep my battery when I use it to fifty percent.

I will never discharge it below fifty percent. You’re, not supposed to forty or fifty percent. Is the general consensus for the for this kind of thing. But I’m gonna err on the on the safe side and not discharge it below fifty, and so that’s.

Gon na be twelve point, two zero six volts, and so I’m using it and it gets down below twelve point zero. Six, as I believe I can configure the charge controller to stop, stop sending out power after that point all right now, I need to connect these main solar cables to the charge controller, so I need to strip off the ends here so that there’S some exposed wiring, but first I need to install or splice this the second fuse onto the end of this red wire.

So what I’m going to do is cut off about this much length about 13 inches from this red wire, so that these two cables end up being the same length and I’ll. Add this on and strip all the ends got this taken care of.

Now I’ll strip the ends of these wires. Now, let me add the views on to the end of the red one alright. So I got one of these connectors out from here one of these Billy. This is called a butt connector, something like that, and then it shows here where you crimp again kind of on the outside edges and then more toward the middle and then again on the end and then to hope.

Not apparently was not in there. Well enough. All right, I will try that again, all right, I did it again, off-camera that’s stronger now and I might cover these with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing just to shore them up a little bit but yeah.

So now let’s connect both of these into the charge controller oops. I thought I was recording, but I wasn’t, so basically I just did did on it. What I did before I loosened these two screws put the negative into her.

It shows the negative and the positive, the red one into the positive, and these little pictures here make it easy to know what you’re doing all right. So I’ve got this all hooked up. Now, let’s hook up the cables to the panels.

These are kind of like little buckles that go together. God. I’m connected here. Okay, now you would normally connect your inverter to the battery, but I’m going to connect this thing to the battery and then the inverter to this okay.

So the ring terminals on this thing they’re a bit large. So I might need to get a washer to put on this side of the on the the left side of the nut. But let’s. Just try this out for now and see if it works, and here’s.

The thing that connects the inverter that goes into here, so I need to unscrew these two little screw terminals here and add the Rings and then screw them back on. Let’s. Do this negative one! First, I think that’ll, be the tricky one, because it’s in kind of an awkward spot behind the little tabs here see if I can do this okay, finally, and that back on its gonna be fun.

So I guess I need to drill a hole in here for these cables to go through. So let me do that real quick don’t puncture. Your battery almost did that there, okay, so threading these through put that on over now for red, the positive sounds gonna be a lot easier.

Okay, so does that make sense? Let me know if you don’t. If you have questions about anything, they’re. Seeing me do do here so now. Let me connect the charge controller to the battery by plugging these.

In hopefully, nothing crazy happens. Okay, shove all this stuff in there. A second battery is gonna go here right here, and so I’m gonna put all the wires and everything over there all right. I think everything’s done and see all the other tools and parts and carnage strewn around, but it goes out to the solar panel and actually just looked at the charge controller here and it looked like it was already charging.

You can see the little solar panel icon and the battery icon, but I’ll, uncover that now uncover the panel now and see if anything changes all right. It’s. Doing the same thing: the blinking arrow going from the panel to the battery, but you’ll, see it’s at twelve point: nine.

Thirteen volts it’s charging success. Okay, let me go get some USB things that I can plug in here to try these out and they’re. Also, some one here and some maybe something to plug in to do these here.

All right. We’re at thirteen point. Two volts now, which is awesome. I’ve plugged one USB one end of the USB cable in there, the other let’s, see if this works yep it does. That is awesome. Okay, now let’s, see if the inverter works there’s, a little switch on the bottom of the inverter right here, a little rocker switch.

So let me flip that and see if it turns on – and I just realized that this is covering up one of the USB ports over here, so I might have to cut this back even more, but anyway, let’s. Turn this on yeah yeah.

All right, so this turned on. I hear the fan whirring I don’t if you can hear it on the camera. The fan is whirring on here. I have this little charger for my camera batteries, a wall charger, let’s, plug it in and see if it works.

Hopefully nothing blows up. Yep I don’t think you can see it, but the light here is on is charging running off of solar. That is fantastic. I’m, really happy. Amazingly, it all came together on the first try.

So here’s, the finished product again, I’m, really happy with how it turned out. I spent probably a couple hours working on it today, but a lot of that was filming. If you were just going straight through, you could probably get it done in an hour.

It’s, really not that complicated. There are lots of little steps, but just need to copy each one, and eventually you’ll, get the thing built. One thing that I had noticed already is that I didn & # 39.

T really leave enough space underneath here for my hand, to grab I’m trying to carry the thing, so I kind of needed to switch to over here. Not a big deal, but if you’re building this, you might want to lower this by an inch or so I added the second battery.

It’s, not wired up, but you can see how both batteries fit in there. When those connector cables come. I will hook the two batteries together and I’ll show that I guess the only thing now is to go on a trip with this and see how it works.

I’m, not going to publish this video until I go on the trip and test it out, so that I can add on to this video. If I need to okay, it’s, been about 10 minutes, and I’ve, just been kind of moving this around and cleaning things up a little bit more and as I was moving this around this black cable, the negative, the lead Came out just slipped out of here, so I put it back in there.

Tighten it again and I’ve added. Some cable ties down here, just to kind of help. These cables stay together, and then what I think I’m gonna do is, is drill a couple of holes and use a cable tie to a fix the cable like this, so that, if this part moves, the stress is on the cable and Not right here I decided to just drill a hole, a single hole right here and now I can just wrap this around and there we go much less stress down here on these, and so, if this moves, the stress will be on this point.

Also, this thing is super heavy 40 6.4 pounds. Those are not lightweight batteries here you can see the two thick cables here that are connecting the two batteries in parallel, that’s, something I haven’t shown you yet you and then on the inside.

I have taped on the inside of the lid just some extra hardware pieces, and I think I have extra fuses in there. Also. One thing that I do still need to do is a holes drill some holes around the outside of the the container here, so that the batteries can properly event okay.

So this is an update video. I’ve, been using the solar system for a little over three weeks on the road I’m three weeks into a month-long road trip driven a couple thousand miles. The solar system works really really well really happy with it.

It makes life a lot easier and I like being able to run my laptop and fan and the lantern and all sorts of things without worrying about charging up those little mini USB battery packs or messing with with disposable alkaline batteries.

You can see here I’ve got it set up on top of my cargo box and then the cables run out the other side and the underneath the cargo box and out and up into a little a little slit in the window. Here I will have other videos coming soon about how I mounted the solar panel on top of the cargo box and also how exactly I am sneaking those cables through and and more details about that trying to think what else I haven’t shown You that I’ve done.

Oh, I I noticed that the batteries – oh, that’s, that’s. One thing: there are two batteries in there. The second thing is that the batteries were shifting around inside that box, the plastic bin, and so I used some heavy-duty adhesive velcro.

Some two inch wide adhesive velcro that I got from from Walmart and just used that stuck it to the bottom of each solar panel. Each battery and then also on the on the bottom of the inside of the bin below it, so I can still remove the batteries if I need to, but they’re pretty solidly in there, and so they did they don’t Shake around too much if I’m going down bumpy roads and I’ll, be going over like I said those other things in future videos, but solar is awesome.

I I really like it and it’s been working. Really well for me, I’m, really happy with the setup and how I built it again. Let me know if you have questions I don’t know everything about solar. I know about my little setup.

I don’t. Really know if I have the knowledge to extrapolate beyond that and answer questions beyond the scope of my little project, but ask away, and I’ll, do my best to answer