this post was submitted on 29 May 2024
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Solarpunk technology

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I have a 100 W rigid solar panel including a charge controller that I currently only use for camping to charge batteries (also useful in an emergency at home). It strikes me as a waste that I could be generating more clean energy with equipment that I already have, but I don't have anything in mind to use this energy for.

Obviously I could try to tie it into my home to run more of my household on solar, or buy more/bigger batteries to charge, but with 100 W of generation, it's probably not worth it without a significantly increased investment.

I tried searching around online, and I found plenty of discussion for what to do with a whole house that generates excess capacity (mainly sell to the grid), but nothing really on what to do with small scale DC generation.

Anyone here have thoughts?

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[–] [email protected] 10 points 3 weeks ago* (last edited 3 weeks ago) (4 children)

I had a spare 50W panel and charge controller that I used similarly for camping. Had more or less the same thought as you: I should use this year round.

Ended up building a wooden box with a couple of old car batteries inside along with the controller. Kept it outside and ran a cable inside carrying 12v (make sure you put an inline fuse after the battery in case it short circuits along the way). Used the 12v from that and some old car chargers to set up a charging station for all my devices.

The car chargers were all random plug styles since they were from a box of stuff I've accumulated over the years, so I cut those off and spliced on USB-A female ports so they could charge any USB device. I eventually ran a second pair of 12v wires so I could run a small 100w inverter from the batteries.

Worked great, but the car batteries crapped out after about 3 years (in all fairness, they were junk to start with).

If I had to do it over again, I'd do it similarly but use 12v USB-C power-delivery adapters instead so I could charge bigger stuff like my laptop without having to use an inverter.

[–] [email protected] 4 points 3 weeks ago (1 children)

Awesome effort! If not done already, you may want to look into venting that outside box. I believe there are examples of the out gassing of enclosed lead-acid batteries causing corrosion of nearby metals. Hilarity ensued.

[–] [email protected] 3 points 3 weeks ago

It doesn't exist anymore, but yeah, good call. I never replaced it once the batteries finally gave out, and I moved less than a year later.

It did have vents on the sides for airflow, but that was more of a consideration for heat build up and keeping the controller from cooking in the summer. It was also less a "box" and more like a small doghouse (including shingles lol). I atually gave it to a neighbor after I was done with it; they cut a hole in the door and used it as a cat house.

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