Building a solar generator involves several activities. Fortunately, the entire process can take less than five hours.
Let’s do it practically!
I will divide the entire process into four major steps;
- Step 1: Assembly of the components
- Step 2: Test the components
- Step 3: Mounting
- Step 4: Wiring the solar generator
Step 1: Assembly of the components
You need several other components to build a complete solar generator. This video will help you to identify the needed tools quickly. Let’s look at each of them.
- Solar panel and charge kit
The solar panel absorbs the solar energy used by the generator to generate power. We will be using a 100-watt solar panel that includes a 30A charger and solar cables in this setup.
- Solar generator case
Next, you need a solar generator case to keep the device protected. Thus, the case should be pretty solid for durability
- Charge controller
A charge controller is used to regulate the power in the battery, which prevents overcharging and undercharging, making the battery live longer.
The nominal voltage of the charge controller should be equal to the voltage of the battery. Thus, if you use a 12 volts battery, you should have a 12-volt charge controller.
Batteries are used to store energy for later use. There are two main types of batteries: lithium-ion and deep-cycle lead-acid batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are usually lightweight and have higher efficiency. However, they can’t be recycled.
On the other hand, lead-acid batteries can be recycled and last much longer on a low charge. However, the main problem with this battery is that you cannot just mount it in any direction.
The generator produces a direct current which is not compatible with most household items. Consequently, you will also need an inverter that converts the direct current to an alternating current that is highly compatible with most power devices. For under 200 solar generators, you will need a 2,000-watt inverter.
- Battery maintainer
As its name suggests, this component maintains the battery by supplying the battery with small amounts of electricity if it stays inactive for an extended period.
- General working tools
Besides the main components used in building a solar generator, you will need other working tools to make your work easier.
The essential tools that you will need include;
- Utility knife
- Masking tape
- Cordless drill, drill bits, and grinding extensions
- Hot glue gun
- Wire stripper with a cutter
- Port plug
- Digital voltmeter
- The universal battery hold down
Step 2: Test the equipment
Before starting the mounting and wiring process, you need to check if the pieces of equipment are functioning.
Step 2.1: Test the panel and the charge controller
Plug in two pigtails cords to the panel and the other end to the positive and negative sockets of the charge controller.
Connect the charge controller to the battery
The charge controller’s green light should light if the battery is charged. Tilt the panel to direct sunlight. If the panel is functional, it should start charging the battery. Thus, you should see a second green light on the charge controller.
Step 2.2: Test the inverter
Take the red and black cables that came with the inverter and hook one of their ends to the inverter terminals. Similarly, mount the other ends of the cable on the battery. Co0nnect the positive cable first, followed by the negative cable.
Next, take any home appliance, connect it to the inverter, and switch it on. If the inverter is functioning, the system should power the home appliance.
Step 2.3: Test the battery maintainer
To test the battery maintainer, disconnect the charge controller and connect the battery maintainer in its place. Remember to connect the positive terminals followed by the negative terminals.
Step 2.4: Test the surface mount contactor
Lastly, plug in an extension cord. If everything is working as expected, you should see both green and red lights on the battery maintainer. After some time, the green light will disappear
You can check this video on how to do the testing
Step 3: Mounting
This step involves placing the components in their rightful positions in the case.
Step 3.1: Mark and cut the openings
Put a masking tape on the sides of the casing. Using a pen, put marks on the masking tape where the various components will be placed, as shown in this video.
You should place each item on the case and trace a line to mark.
Next, you need to cut the case. You can use a vibrating multi-tool with a blade to make straight cuts and drills or hole saws to make circular openings.
Step 3.2: Mount external components
Once you have made the cuttings for all the equipment to be mounted, you can move to do the actual mounting, as shown in the video above.
Start by mounting external components such as charging ports and the solar panel. The charging ports come with a rubber gasket to hold them in place. You only need to place it in its position for the solar panel, as shown in the video. Do not do the wiring.
Step 3.3: Mount the battery
Solar batteries are pretty heavy. Hence, you should be careful about its mounting so as not to compromise the stability of the solar generator.
Place it on the corner close to the case wheels and Drill two holes for mounting the battery, as shown in the video but don’t fix it yet.
Step 3.4: mount the solar inverter
The inverter cables should reach the battery, and its outlets should be near the GFCI waterproof outlet. Drill the mounting holes, mount the tool, and hold it using bolts and nuts.
Next, plug in the pigtail cord from the outlet to the inverters outlet. Take the other inverter remote control cable and plug it into the remote switch panel.
Step 3.5: mount the charge controller and battery maintainer
Lastly, we need to mount the charge controller and the battery maintainer.
Place the battery maintainer at the back wall of the system. Afterward, connect the charge controller to the battery, and you will later wire it to the panel.
Step 4: Do the wiring
This is the last but the most crucial step of building a solar generator. First things first. You should be careful about how you do the wiring to avoid accidents.
Besides, this video will help you to do the wiring correctly.
Step 4.1: main battery cables
The battery has two main cable sets, one connecting to the charge controller, LED lights, USB outlets, and the battery maintainer, while the other set connects to the inverter.
The first set of cables also connects to the high quick current connector. On one end of the ring, eyelet connectors snip it and put the crimp connectors in their place. The red wire should go to the positive terminal marked with a + sign.
On the other end of the cables, attach the other set of cables to the negative bus. Kindly refer to the video above if you are not sure how to attach them.
Lastly, identify the right place to position the bus bar and fuse block. Then, use a glue gun to mount them firmly.
Step 4.2: Wiring the LED lights
First, you need to cut the length of the LED wire. Place it at the power switch while bending it and cut the length.
On the free end of the black wire spool, strip the insulation. Also, crimp this black wire and tug them. Take the second blade-style crimp and attach it to the red power wire of the LED. Next, attach a third blade-style crimp to the other end of a red spool of wire.
After, do the ground connection using the blade connectors and attach the red wire leading to the LED light.
Lastly, perform all the routings correctly, as shown in the video, and repeat the same steps for the other LED light.
Step 4.3: Wire the battery gauge, USB, and cigarette plug sockets
After performing the previous steps, you need to have the battery gauge and the sockets. This step involves connecting the various cables to the correct terminals. Remember that the positive cable with the red color should always go to the positive terminal marked by a plus sign.
Similarly, you should attach the negative cable with the black color to the negative terminal, which is marked by a minus sign. If you can’t distinguish them, look at the video above, which explains how to wire a solar generator.
Also, in the video, you should check how to wire the negative bus bar and the fuse block.
Step 4.4: Wire the solar panel
I will be using a spool of speaker wire to install the wire. Take one end of the wire and connect it to the pigtail connection. You can also consider splicing the wires and wrapping them with electrical tape to make them weatherproof.
Strip off the insulations on the other end and attach a male trailer plug connector while ensuring that the red wire is connected to the terminal.
Advantages and disadvantages of DIY solar generators
|Low maintenance cost||Slow recharging|
|Clean and renewable energy||Affected by weather conditions|
|Quiet operations||Limited power supply|
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as a Solar Electrical Engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.