Small solar powered setup for radios?

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bobruzzo

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I am thinking about putting together a solar power system to power my scanners, 2 or 3 of them. But I know nothing of how this works. I originally wanted to run my whole shack, radios and computer but I think the computer would be too much to operate off solar. Does anybody have knowledge of this? How to go about looking for the right gear? A scanner doesnt use that much power since it's just listening. I think it would be a interesting and fun project. We get lot's of sun from the southerly direction most of the day. So I am not sure where to start......
 

prcguy

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I've been doing this for about 35yrs. My current setup has four 6V golf cart batteries in series parallel for about 440AH at 12 volts. I'm charging them with 400 watts of solar panels and an MPPT type solar charger. For a small setup I would look at a Costco 100AH deep cycle battery, about $87 and 100w of solar panel should run a 100w HF radio and some scanners forever or until the sun burns out.

There used to be a really good and cheap source of solar panels I used to deal with but they went out of business. Past prices on really good 100w panels were in the $85 range and they might be cheaper today. Ebay has a good selection for solar chargers and $20 can get you a 20A simple charger and more elaborate MPPT models can be had for not much more.
 

bobruzzo

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I've been doing this for about 35yrs. My current setup has four 6V golf cart batteries in series parallel for about 440AH at 12 volts. I'm charging them with 400 watts of solar panels and an MPPT type solar charger. For a small setup I would look at a Costco 100AH deep cycle battery, about $87 and 100w of solar panel should run a 100w HF radio and some scanners forever or until the sun burns out.

There used to be a really good and cheap source of solar panels I used to deal with but they went out of business. Past prices on really good 100w panels were in the $85 range and they might be cheaper today. Ebay has a good selection for solar chargers and $20 can get you a 20A simple charger and more elaborate MPPT models can be had for not much more.
OK Thanks for responding. So I would need a 100AH deep cycle battery and a 100 watt solar panel. But how do I hook everything up? Can I plug my scanners into a power strip, then somehow connect the power strip to the battery with an adapter?
 

prcguy

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I'm assuming all your scanners and stuff is 12 volts DC. You would run maybe 12ga or 10ga wire from the panel(s) to the charge controller and the same from the charge controller to the battery. You want the charge controller very close to the battery. Cheap romex solid house wire is fine for run from the panels to the charge controller and two circuit with ground would be nice so you can ground the metal frame of the solar panel to the house ground. Then you can get something like this to distribute the 12V to all your devices. MFJ-1116 Deluxe Multiple DC Power Strip Outlets 8 Outputs 15Amps | eBay They make higher current versions but if all you have is scanners and receivers you don't need much current.

Here is a picture of my golf cart batteries under a work bench that is vented to the outside and the batteries sit in a fiberglass lined tub filled with baking soda in case of a spill. There are also huge 375 amp rated quick disconnects in case of emergency.

This battery area was built for 1,200AH of 2V wet cells I had a few years back but I ruined them and a couple split open. What a mess and there are still acid burns all over the concrete where I had to put on a hazmat suit with face shield and rubber gloves up to the elbows using a refrigerator dolly to move the 175lb batteries (six of them) out to the alley where I could decontaminate things. A sealed deep cycle gel cell from Costco is much safer and easier.

I'll see if I can find a picture of me in the hazmat suite trying to clean up....Otherwise don't let this scare you from installing your own small solar battery system.

golf batts.JPG
 
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bobruzzo

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Yes I would prefer to go with the safer battery! We don't have Costco's around here but there are other places to get those kinds of batteries. All I would be running is typical 12 volt scanners, just receiving. Probably wait till Summer to do this. Yes, you should post that pic of you in the hazmat suit. Hahaha at least you have a suit.
 

slicerwizard

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But are gel cells designed for deep cycling? They're also much easier to destroy through poorly regulated charging.


Nothing wrong with a lead acid battery unless you overfill it, tip it over, dead short it (so add a fuse...), discharge and freeze it...

You planning on doing any of that?
 

prcguy

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There are "maintenance free" deep cycle batteries and they are often a gel type. The key is to get a deep cycle, which is designed for lower current draw applications and will recover from a deeper discharge than a starter type battery.

But are gel cells designed for deep cycling? They're also much easier to destroy through poorly regulated charging.


Nothing wrong with a lead acid battery unless you overfill it, tip it over, dead short it (so add a fuse...), discharge and freeze it...

You planning on doing any of that?
 

mmckenna

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RV's have been doing this for a while. Trouble is, anything with the letters RV in front of it is going to cost double, so shop carefully.

My trailer has 200 watts of solar panels on the roof. That feeds a smart controller and dumps into two deep cycle gel cells. It works very well. The trailer has a 4000 watt generator, but the only time we use it is for running the microwave or air conditioner. The 200 watt panel is plenty for running lights, cell phone chargers, TV, even my wife's CPAP machine all night long.

It's important to have a solar controller as some solar panels will put out more voltage than what the battery will prefer. The smart controllers will also adjust charging rates as the battery charges. This can extend the life of your batteries.

If you are considering an inverter, shop carefully. Some electronics don't like the square wave AC that cheap inverter put out. Spending the extra money on a "pure sine wave" inverter may be required.

It can be a real nice setup with a bit of investment. Endless free power with a little bit of periodic maintenance.
 

bobruzzo

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RV's have been doing this for a while. Trouble is, anything with the letters RV in front of it is going to cost double, so shop carefully.

My trailer has 200 watts of solar panels on the roof. That feeds a smart controller and dumps into two deep cycle gel cells. It works very well. The trailer has a 4000 watt generator, but the only time we use it is for running the microwave or air conditioner. The 200 watt panel is plenty for running lights, cell phone chargers, TV, even my wife's CPAP machine all night long.

It's important to have a solar controller as some solar panels will put out more voltage than what the battery will prefer. The smart controllers will also adjust charging rates as the battery charges. This can extend the life of your batteries.

If you are considering an inverter, shop carefully. Some electronics don't like the square wave AC that cheap inverter put out. Spending the extra money on a "pure sine wave" inverter may be required.

It can be a real nice setup with a bit of investment. Endless free power with a little bit of periodic maintenance.
Thanks for this valuable info.
 

mmckenna

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Thanks for this valuable info.
No problem. I'll add that I've got a few remote radio sites running purely off solar systems. I've found that some of the solar charge controllers can inject a lot of RF noise onto the power for the repeater. They don't all do it, but I've got one in particular that does. Haven't solved it yet.
 

wa8pyr

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No problem. I'll add that I've got a few remote radio sites running purely off solar systems. I've found that some of the solar charge controllers can inject a lot of RF noise onto the power for the repeater. They don't all do it, but I've got one in particular that does. Haven't solved it yet.
Bit behind the curve on this thread, but what MPPT controllers do you use for low-noise?
 

mmckenna

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Bit behind the curve on this thread, but what MPPT controllers do you use for low-noise?
Let me point out that I 'inherited' this site at work after someone else built it. I've spent a lot of time fixing things on it, and still not complete.
The system uses SunWize Solar system. It's whatever controller they install. Like I said, two sites are OK, one isn't. Same controllers in all three systems.
 
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