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How to Build DIY Portable Solar Generator for Off-Grid and Emergency Power

Are you looking at setting up your own DIY portable solar generator? There is indeed a large number of full-fledged and ready-to-use portable solar generators on the market. But if you are a weekend warrior, you can certainly enjoy putting together a portable solar generator in a few simple steps.

Of course, you have many benefits in building a solar generator apart from buying a ready-made one. First of all, it can be a lot cheaper. Secondly, you get a chance to add personalized features and options to your power station. So, it is always a brilliant idea to go for setting up your own off-grid power solution.

As you may know, there is no rocket science behind a solar-based portable power solution. It is all about the assembly of the essential parts that are plentily available on the market. A lot of brands offer the right accessories and parts for solar power stations at the best prices.

Check Our Beginners Guide to Buying a Solar Generator Here.

DIY Portable Solar Generator

A solar generator doesn’t have a specific form or structure. Any mechanism that is capable of collecting solar energy and storing it in a battery pack for ongoing and future consumption is a solar generator.

For that, you need some basic components. An AC power inverter, a battery, a solar charge controller, and solar panels are indeed vital parts of any solar generator. You need to put together all these components other than the solar panels in a single, movable box or case.

An AC outlet, DC/USB hubs, and different charging inlets are other key requirements to make the DIY solar generator a much more practical one. You also need a wiring harness, LED lights, voltmeter, solar cables and screws, and mounting brackets to make the system rather professional.

For portability, you can mount the case over a wheeled cart and fix a collapsible handle for easy moving.

Of course, building a DIY portable solar generator is a breeze. Many simple diagrams are available on the instruction websites to quickly put together the components to realize your dream solar power station.

Parts and Components

If you are still excited about building a solar generator of your own, we have our recommendations of the finest components for setting up a system with an inverter of 1500W to 2000W and decent storage.

We also have a diagram and a simple guide on how to build a solar generator below. For an advanced and detailed guide, you can look for other instructional websites like Instructables.com.

  • Rugged Case Or Box
  • AC Solar Power Inverter.
  • Portable Solar Panels.
  • Solar Charge Controller.
  • Battery Packs.
  • Digital Voltmeter.
  • Cables and Wires.
  • Clamps and Screws – Mounting Brackets.

Rugged Case or Box

To set up all the components safely, you need a strong and rugged case, first of all. The market has a lot of waterproof and weatherproof cases and boxes. The Pelican 1620 is a nice example. With an interior size of 21.37 x 16.31 x 12.56, it is a watertight and very durable case.

It features Pick N’ Pluck foam to let you personalize its interior to fix the components neatly. The padlock reflectors are made of stainless steel and you have it equipped with four durable polyurethane wheels.

Of course, you have other options like the Dewalt toolbox at rather cheaper prices. The Dewalt box comes in a wide range of sizes and also features highly durable foam box walls. Water-seal design and IP65-rating are other attractive features that make it suitable for solar generators.

AC Solar Power Inverter

As you know, the job of an inverter is to transform the 12V DC power in a battery to 120V usable AC current to run your electronics. There is actually no difference between how a regular inverter and a solar inverter works, but the market has a lot of impressive inverters suitable for solar power systems.

Solar inverters generally are compact and lightweight so that you can easily integrate them into your DIY portable solar generator. Of course, you need to pick an inverter with the right power for your appliances. It is because the inverter is the component that decides the overall output of a solar generator.

In case of an emergency or an off-grid life situation, you will have to run different appliances with your DIY solar generator. Generally, a microwave needs 1000 to 1500 watts to operate. A coffee maker, a small TV, and other common appliances also consume nearly as much power to run.

What’s more, even for lighting up a camping tent, your power station must produce 70W to 100W. Keeping this in mind, an inverter of 2000 watts is a fine choice for a solar power system. Hence, we would like to recommend you Renogy’s 2000W, 12V pure sine wave inverter for your effort to make a power generator.

It is a brilliant inverter with all the essential features. It has overload protection for AC output and DC input so that you can safeguard the components from damage. Special LED voltage warning indicators and high-speed fans for ventilation are other notable attractions.

Portable Solar Panels

The next vital part of a solar power station is, of course, the solar panel. Well, a solar panel is available in a variety of options for the purpose. Quite commonly, we have three types of solar panels; regular, suitcase, and flexible. A regular panel is a single-piece solar panel with the required junction box built-in.

Meanwhile, a suitcase panel is a unit that comes in a foldable form factor. Here, you get two pieces of the solar panels paired together with strong hinges and latches. A carrying handle and kickstands are common features of a suitcase solar panel so that you can easily handle it out in the wild.

It is when a flexible solar panel is bendable up to 30 degrees. Hence, it is an outstanding choice for easy mounting on various curved surfaces like the RV top, camping tent roofs, and more. By the way, all three types of solar panels appear in different power options, mainly starting with 100 watts.

You can certainly pair together multiple solar panels for increased productivity. In our DIY portable solar generator guide, we have included a 100W foldable, suitcase solar panel from Renogy. It is a highly efficient mono solar charger with an optimal output of 500 watt-hours per day, depending on the sunlight.

Solar Charge Controller

A solar charge controller is meant to regulate the unstable flow of current from the solar panels.

It is indeed a safety valve for any portable solar power system. That is how you can safeguard your battery packs and the entire power station from voltage fluctuations and prevent the backflow of the current through the panels after sunset.

We have two types of solar charge controllers on the market; MPPT and PWM.

The MPPT is the most advanced and efficient charge controller as it can convert extra amp from solar panels into electricity. The PWM is, in fact, an old technology, which still works, however.

It is indeed fine to go for an MPPT solar charge controller, though it is a bit pricier. It can ensure faster charging of the battery from a solar array than a PWM alternative. We have Renogy’s 40Amp Rover MPPT controller above as a sample. The link brings you to different variants of Renogy Rover.

Solar Panel Kit

If you don’t want to buy solar panels and a charge controller separately, you can go for a solar panel kit as a shortcut in building your own solar generator quickly.

Of course, the market has a lot of ready-to-use solar panel kits that typically comprise one or more solar panels, a charge controller, mounting brackets, and essential cables and connectors.

Renogy’s 200-watt solar panel kit is an ideal choice for your DIY portable solar generator. The brand also offers the same in various capacities, starting from a 100W solar kit.

Anyway, the 200W Renogy solar kit features two 100W mono starter solar panels, a 40A MPPT controller, tray cable, Z brackets for RV, and more.

The brand offers the same kit with different components, including PWM and MPPT charge controllers, and different solar panels.

Battery Packs

The battery pack is obviously what decides the total capacity of your solar generator. Depending on the applications of your solar generator, you can find a battery with suitable power. Commonly, solar power stations have 12V batteries, but you can also set up high-end systems with 24V or bigger batteries.

In that case, you shall add more powerful solar panels and charge controllers to the system. However, if you are setting up a small DIY portable solar generator for an RV, boat, trailer, caravan, or cabin, a 12V deep-cycle lead-acid battery is fine. Below, we have Renogy’s 100Ah lead-acid battery for example.

By the way, the new generation branded solar power stations equip premium lithium and LifePO4 battery packs with longer life cycles and increased efficiency. If you are looking to make your DIY power station a rather reliable and efficient solution, you can go for the latest battery packs.

Other Accessories

Other than the key components, you need to acquire a lot of small accessories and parts to set up a solar generator. They mainly include a voltmeter, which is a way to measure the voltage but is not an essential component to run the solar generator.

Moreover, if your AC inverter doesn’t have a USB hub and 12V sockets, you will also need to buy them in separate units. Likewise, you need the all required solar cables, wires, connectors, and adapters.

DIY Portable Solar Generator – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Plan Your Solar Generator

Needless to say, the first thing to do is proper planning. You should decide what capacity your DIY portable solar generator should have. For that, you should first figure out your requirements.

You may need a solar generator for camping, RVing, boating, or emergency. Whatever is the need, make a detailed check on your needs and plan a solar generator in mind at first.

Step 2: Purchase Parts

It is the second step. Buying the parts for a solar generator is easy today. We have a wide variety of options to pick from the marketplace. Under each category, the market has dozens of varieties at different prices and power options.

Step 3: Integrate Parts into a Case

If you wish to build the solar generator inside a case, it is time to integrate the parts. Commonly, a charge controller, battery, inverter, voltmeter, and other things go inside the box.

Make sure you have a quality box with a waterproof and rugged profile. The solar panels come outside the box and you can get a pouch for carrying the same.

Check out the diagram on how to do the wiring of a DIY portable solar generator.

Step 4: Connect with Solar Panels

It is always nice to place the solar panel outside the case. That gives you a chance to place the panel away from the main unit for grabbing as much as sunlight possible.

Step 5: Test the Device

As you can see, there is no complicated task in building a DIY portable solar generator. If you have followed the diagram well, everything would be fine for you. Once you are done with the solar generator, you can test it under sunlight. And enjoy unlimited access to solar power even when you are on the move.

Final Thoughts

It has been all about a DIY portable solar generator. It doesn’t come with any complex steps. Everything is quite simple and fine. You have all the parts readily available. Well, all you have to do is to buy them and bring them together into a unit to make solar energy.

A portable solar generator is a good idea to store power for your use while going out on a camping, outing, or emergency. Making your own solar generator is a lovely thing for DIY enthusiasts. We would like to believe that you liked our guide on a DIY portable solar generator.

3 thoughts on “How to Build DIY Portable Solar Generator for Off-Grid and Emergency Power”

  1. Safety First! You left out the most important item in the whole build the SAFETY FUSES! 12 volts can and will start a fire if a short or overload were to happen! You should always put fuses in to prevent a fire! And always put the fuses as close to the positive post of the battery as you can! Use the flat automotive type fuses. Make your own fuse holders from the female (insulated) spade connectors or buy fuse holders! Don’t use the glass type fuses which use a spring in the fuse holder that get weak over time and cause connection problems! Put in a separate fuse for each load or circuit that way you can very the fuse size according to the load! Safety First!


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