I want to share my story about solar power, for comedy, for history, for posterity, or just for fun – I can’t decide.
Ok, so first the why…. Well there are many reasons to choose such a project as solar powering your basement, and as I recall my story it makes me laugh, really it is an inside joke so I don’t think me writting it out will make many others laugh. I will tell you just the highlights, and if you see the humor in it then great, if not, oh well.
I think I will jump to when my father gave me a 15Watt solar panel for Christmas one year, I laughed thinking why would he get me this? I even almost sold it on the local classifieds just to get some money to buy something else I wanted. I ended up keeping it and saving it to play with later. Years later I started getting into emergency prep type stuff, and I realized I wanted a way to give my family power in an emergency so I started playing with it and I mounted it – with simply wire – to the roof of my shed. I ran a wire – the wrong size (way too small) – into my house and to a charge controller and battery (out of an old computer UPS battery backup system). That year the power at my house went out 3 times! I decided I wanted to play with this solar thing a bit more, so I got another 15Watt panel and attached it to the roof of the shed like the first – with just wire (See the picture I took so you can all enjoy my mounting system of that test environment).
Here is the 15Watt solar panel I purchased (This is also the same one my Dad gave me):
Now I wanted to be able to take advantage of my system a little, so I came up with two ways to use the electricity. One was to power a 12volt LED light strip in my food storage closet, the other was to run some power up to my bedroom and charge my cell phone at night. The 12volt LED light strip was easy – I just used the same thin wire, I had a regular house light switch that I mounted and the light strip I mounted to the roof of the food storage closet – it worked great! And since it was such low power consumption I could literally have it turned on all day and night and not run out of power for quite a wile.
Powering my cell phone charger is a different story, and you still need to remember that I did not have the same knowledge of electricity that I do now, so the wire I used to test it out was not what I would recommend you to use – luckily since I was using that old UPS battery at first it didn’t have enough amps (since it was going out) to burn up my wires. I needed to get the electricity into my room from the basement and I didn’t have a bunch of wire laying around – and I didn’t want to poke holes all over my nice house – so I just used the cat5 computer networking that was wired in my house (LOL! makes me laugh). Anyway, I built an addaptor that would go from my battery to an RJ45 that would connect into my patch panel and then another addaptor that would go from the wall jack to a cell phone car charger in my room – I am so lucky I didn’t have a computer or something connected to that wall jack. I now know why this worked, since I was running the 12v over that small guage wire, then using basicly a circuit that dropped the voltage to 5v right before it went into my cell phone the wire was dropping the voltage but not below the 5v so when it reached my cell phone it was able to recieve the 5v from the system. It was great, I was able to charge my cell phone – well sort of…. Since I only had the two 15Watt panels and the battery was a dying 12v 7ah battry – it didn’t have enough juice to charge my phone….
After about a year from when I first mounted a solar panel I started researching solar panels further and realized that at the rate I was going with growing my solar system one 15Watt panel at a time would not produce enough electricity to do just about anything, including charge my cell phone. So it was time to look into a cost effective way of increasing power – so I investigated building my own panels. I did a ton of research, and actually spent $15 on a video tutorial that was a total waist of money – if you end up doing that I am sorry but you should have listened to me, if you have already done that then I feel for ya. I ended up finding FREE information that actually gave me the best insite and information to help me along my path, more on that later just look for the construction section this is the history and story section.
I started out buying some broken cells off ebay – I wanted to practice for cheap. So using the sandwidch technique that I learned from the $15 video – not a good design because of heat but it is cheaper but also won’t last as long or produce as good electricity – I made my first solar panel (I will try to get a picture of it here).
After some further studying and budgeting I came up with my design and you will see more of that on the other pages!