A couple of days ago I showed how to make a simple 12 volt battery pack Homemade Battery Packs Are Inexpensive and Easy to Make. Today I am showing how simple it is to charge the battery packs. Now this is the same thing that you pay a lot of money for if you purchase a commercial solar generator. I use these packs for running lights, charging batteries and running my ham radios. There uses are only limited by your imagination.
The one weakness in them is that the batteries are sealed lead acid and need to be replaced every few years. The ones I am currently using are from 2012 and they still hold a good charge. I have one of the commercially manufactured solar generators and when it quit, I took it apart and found a lead acid battery which I replaced. If you shop on the internet you can find the batteries for good prices. In a few days I will put up a post on the best way to maintain sealed lead acid batteries.
For charging the battery packs one of the solar panels that I use is a Powerfilm Solar R14 rollable solar panel that produces an operating voltage of 15.4, at 14 watts and 0.9 amps. This is quite adequate to charge the battery packs. Because I sometimes use different solar panels, I have a 7-amp Sunforce controller between the panels and the battery pack. This prevents the batteries from overcharging or discharging. This setup with the Powerfilm panel will take about 14 hours to recharge both batteries if they were completely drained. However by having the controller you can use almost any solar panel, the more wattage it puts out the faster it will charge the battery packs.
Because I use the battery packs with LED lights and other low voltage equipment, I try to stay with the same kind of connectors whenever possible. I use cigarette lighter plugs for connectors as much as possible; this allows a lot of versatility. They come premade in all types of configurations.
This is a very simple set up and doesn’t take a lot of work to duplicate. It is also quite portable and does not take much room in a vehicle. The whole system weights less than 20 lbs. It will do all the work of a commercial solar generator of the same size for a lot less cost.