Sunday and Monday my batteries got some much needed juice from the sun. They were down to 12.6 volts or so and actually took both days to reach full. As nice as this 100 watt panel is, when you have 200 Ah worth of battery capacity, charging them up when they have discharged a good amount can take AWHILE with only 4 or 5 amps. A second panel would be nice. A future upgrade someday 😉
It’s all about the direct sunlight. Even at 1pm and plenty of light to see, the best I could do was 0.5 amps, a fraction of what the panels can produce in full sun. I’m learning alot about energy conservation and taking advantage when there’s a surplus. Also about not leaving stuff on when it’s not being used.
So, I’ve been using this 45 Watt solar panel kit from harbor freight for a little while with my ham setup. I picked it up a few years ago for $120 or something. As you can imagine, that’s not a lot of power when running 3 radios at once, especially when transmitting occasionally. The max I ever got out of them was 2.5 amps to my 12v battery bank, which was enough to break even when all radios were on and just idling. So I found an inexpensive way to upgrade. Renogy sells very affordable solar kits, so I picked up a single 100 Watt Monocrystaline panel with a charge controller and the appropriate power cables. Below is the result. The big one on the right is the new panel. I reused the existing PVC frame that the Harbor Freight panels used and left on one of the panels on to act as a counterweight.
Then I have about 55 feet of wire between the panel and my controller/batteries. 20 feet of 10 awg cable that the kit came with, and 35 feet of 18 awg that I had already. The 18 awg defintely needs to be replaced because the voltage drop at 6 amps is REALLY bad, so that will be a future tweak to the setup. Inside I have the charge controller mounted to the wall next to the battery bank which you can see below. The white wire running off to the left goes to my 12v distribution box and to all the radios and stuff.
Next step is to add a fuse between the battery cables and the charger controller for safety. So far it’s working great. The real test will be how I manage through cloudy/rainy weather. More updates to follow later 🙂