Thursday, September 11, 2008

Charge a Car Battery using Solar Power

Solar Power is free energy that you can use to not only power your home, but also your car, motorcyle, scooter, lawnmower - anything with a battery! Using solar power to help you charge your car battery and keep it property charged can help you avoid getting stuck with a dead battery. The solar powered car battery charges available are great for maintaining your battery or helping the alternator of your vehicle to keep your battery charged.

If you go down to your local automotive store, or Truck Stop, you can probably find a portable, solar powered car battery trickle charger. Now the way a trickle charger works as opposed to a direct battery charger is that it only supplies a very slow and small electrical charge to your battery. The solar power charger I use on my car is only a 1.8 watt charger, but it does a great job of keeping my battery maintained! All you have to do is take your charger out of the packaging it comes in, place it on your dashboard or attach it to the inside of your windshield, and then plug it into your cigarette lighter or directly connect it to the positive and negative leads on your battery. As soon as the sun hits the charger, it will instantly start to charge your battery. The cool thing about these chargers is that they come with a one-way diode - which only allows the electrical current to flow in one direction. What this means is that the unit can only charge your battery and not drain it - which is great for use over very long periods of time. When I use this charger on my lawnmower to help maintain the battery, it charges it back up within 20-25 minutes, and I just keep it in my car for a constant charge.

You may have a vehicle in storage, a second car that you do not drive very much, or other power equipment that will need to keep its battery maintained. Solar trickle chargers are an excellent way to keep your batteries fully charged in a portable, easy to use system. It will only cost you the purchase of the charger and will save you the cost of expensive dead batteries.

Basic Components of a Solar Power System

So what are the basic components of a Solar Power System? Well, believe it or not, they really are not that complicated, and they are actually easy to integrate into your homes current power system. The most complicated part about harnessing the sun's energy through solar panels is taking that DC, or direct current energy, and converting it into AC, or alternating current, which can be tied into your homes current power system. The second most difficult thing about using solar power is figuring out how much power you need to run everything in your house, but we will talk about that in another post.

The basic components of a Solar Power System are as follows:
- Solar panels mounted on the roof of your home.
- An inverter that converts DC energy into AC energy for your home to use
- A junction box that connects the solar panel wiring to the house's breaker panel.
- A Battery bank that stores solar power during the day for use at night
- A Power Meter that helps show the power use from the batteries or panels
- A kill switch that disconnects the solar panel from the house power.

Three Types of Solar Power Systems

Solar panels are an excellent way to start using "green" energy and work toward getting your home independent of oil energy. Solar electricity costs about $10 to $12a watt installed, so it is extremely helpful to find the best solar panels for your application and power usage. Here are the three main types of solar panel systems you can install.

The first and most common type of solar photovoltaic system is called a "Grid-interconnected solar power system". In this system, the array of solar panels are added in addition to your normal power supply(provided by your utility company). So in this system, you are still living off the grid, but also but also generating your own power to supplement your homes use.

The second type of solar photovoltaic system that is also commonly used is called a "Grid Inter-tied with battery backup system". This system is very similar to the first system, only it has a "battery bank" added to collect the power generated from the solar panels. The way this works is that the power from the solar panels run to the batteries, which then run to the breaker box and into the house power system. The panels charge the batteries and the batteries are used at night when there is not any sunlight power available.

The third and final type of solar photovoltaic system is called an "Off Grid Photovoltaic System". These systems are not tied to the grid, or any utility power lines, and supply the main source of power to your home directly from solar energy produced. These systems can have wind-power, water-power, and even back-up generators factored in to help provide energy at night. These are generally very high capacity solar power systems, often able of generating at least 10,000 watts minimum of power.

SUNTAN - Solar Power Fun

Alright, so this is not really a Solar Power How-To, but I had to add this video in here for your viewing pleasure. Another great power of the sun - SUNTANS!

How simple is it to use Solar Power?

Solar is really easy to start using, and is not as challenging as you may have thought. The biggest challenge is finding solar panels that are affordable and effecient to fit within your budget. To get started, using the power of the sun, follow the steps below!

Survey the site area that you want to mount your solar panels to.
Solar Electric requires direct sunlight for 6-8 hours per day to be effective and produce enough energy to store and use. If you want to mount the solar panels on your roof or on the side of your house, make sure that you get at lease 6-8 hours of shadeless light.

Determine your Power Requirement

Figure out the power draw that will be required of the area that you want to power with solar panels. Do you want to only run lights? So you want to run a computer, a TV, a fridge, and lights? If so, get the wattage rating for each of these items and add it all up to determine your power draw. For example, a 13 watt DC florescent energy saving bulb has a 13 watt draw, so you know that it requires exactly 13 watts of energy to run this bulb.

Determine the Amount of Time the Draw Requires Power
Say you need to have the light bulb on for about 5 hours a day. To determine the amount of draw required by the appliance or light, take the (hours of day) multiplied by the (watts). This will give you = the watt hours per day. So in this case the lightbulb watt hours per day is figured out like so: (5 hours per day) x(13 watts) = 65 watt hours per day

Figure out the Size of the Battery you need to store the power.
Once you know the watt hours per day that you need to run your system, lights, or appliances, you can find a battery that will support the amount of amp hours required per day. Read the spec on the battery label and find a deep cycle battery that can handle the load and amp hours required. You can connect batteries together to achieve a battery bank that will support larger systems.

Add a power converter to deliver the DC power from the solar panels and battery to AC power the lights and appliances can use.
Go to an auto store or an electric store and look at the different types of DC to AC power converters they have available. You need to convert the DC, or direct current, electricity that the Solar Panel is creating

Size the Solar Panel to produce the power needed
So now that you know how many watts and how many amp hours are needed to run your system, lights, or appliances using solar power, find a solar panel that will output the electricity demand you need. Start with a panel that produces at least 80-100 watts of power. These solar powers are also about the wattage to power 65 watt hours per day and maintain a 12 volt battery. You can always connect panels together in parallel to output more energy later, so do not worry about starting simply and adding on later. Solar power is expandable! Be sure to get a solar panel that has a one-way diode so that it does not drain your batteries at night.

Get some wire to connect it all up
Go to the auto store again and get some heavy guage battery wire to connect the solar panel to the batteries and the power converter to the batteries.

Expand your system later.
Solar Power is easy to add on to as your power needs increase. Larger power use needs more analysis, but you can always add on, and work your way up to supplying all energy with solar power to your home.

Harness Solar Power - Project Blog

Welcome to the Harness Solar Power Project Blog. I created this blog to help teach people about solar power, solar panels, solar electricity, and how easy solar power is to use. I set out to show you how you can start using solar power in your everyday lives. Take a look through the posts to start learning about solar power projects you can easily do around your home to start harnessing the sun's ability to create electricity.