Mon 28 Apr 2014
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Sometimes you need to charge your cell phone in the wilderness, I guess, so you can play Angry Birds. And that’s where Goal Zero comes into play.
I’ve tested Goal Zero’s line of portable solar gear, and it’s not bad. It’s not particularly good either, but that may be because my expectations of the sun are too high. On one model I tested, it took FOREVER (translation: 8+ hours) to charge the battery from the sun. After all of that charging, you can then use the battery to power your laptop for only about an hour. That’s a poor charge-to-use ratio, in my opinion.
Portable Solar Battery Packs are easy to build. Here’s what you need:
- A battery (or two)
- A solar panel (or three)
- Some cables
- A charge controller
- An inverter with AC and USB ports
- A battery charge meter
- An AC battery charger
- A box to carry it all in
Our Goal is to match the Goal Zero Yeti 400 combined with the Boulder 30 Solar Panel:
Goal Zero Yeti 400 — $459.99
110V, 2.6A (300W continuous, 600W surge max) Inverter
AGM Lead Acid 396Wh (12V, 33Ah)
USB 5V, up to 1.5A (7.5W max), regulated
12V Car Port 12V, up to 10A (120W max)
Wall Charger 75W
Car Charger 30W
Easy to carry
Easy to use
10.25 x 8 x 8 in (26 x 20.3 x 20.3 cm)
Boulder 30 Solar Panel — $239.99
21 x 18 x 1 in (53 x 2.5 x 46 cm)
14-16V, 2.0A max (30W), not regulated
My first stop was Cabelas. There I purchased three 2.5 W SunForce Solar Chargers (Solar Panels). They were on sale for $19.99. Next I purchased a SunForce 8.5A Solar Charge Controller. It cost $29.99. Then I purchased a 400 W Power Inverter. It has 2 AC outlets and a 5V USB outlet (for charging my iPhone.) It cost $39.99. The next item I picked up was a plastic Ammo cost with a sturdy carrying handle. The case is about 1/2 the size of the traditional 50 cal ammo can. It cost about $10. I still needed one more thing– a 3-IN-1 Solar add-a-panel adapter for attaching the 3 panels in parallel. That cost $13.99.
Next the batteries. I chose two 6v uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries I had on hand. You can pick two up, depending on the amp-hour rating (8-18), run $9 to $40.
The remaining items for our solar battery pack are a 12v charge indicator (available from auto parts stores for $15), a bit of wire from a power cord, some terminal ends and some wire nuts.
Here are some pics of what it all looks like:
Next time I’ll answer these questions:
How much did it cost and how much does it weight and how well does it perform?
What didn’t we accomplish with PROTOTYPE 1?
What is in store for PROTOTYPE 2?