Posts tagged ‘solar’

Installing Solar Power in a Pop-up Camper

Want to Bring Your Electronics to The Homestead Without Draining Your Main Solar Energy System? This Works!

So we’ve been testing out this little solar battery charger by RAVPower for the past few days. It’s a 15w solar panel that charges basically anything with USB charging capability. That means it can charge not just cellphones and tablets, but lanterns, lamps, radios and lots of other things. We bought it to charge cellphones and tablets on the homestead, that way they would not be a constant drain on the main solar energy system. (Larger systems are pretty expensive, so the less one needs to power, the better.) The way our current house sits is in a weird place between two large buildings; it doesn’t get sunlight all day on any one part of the house. To test the panel, we hung it out an upstairs window onto the porch roof in the morning.

Happy to report that it works like a charm. It provided a full charge to a 10 inch tablet in about an hour with full sun and in about 2 hours on a very overcast, snowy day. (This is at like 9:00AM in February, people.) It charged a 7 inch “phablet” type of phone and the 10 inch tablet together to almost a full charge in about an hour as well with full sun. For $50, we are pretty impressed with it. We also bought this battery pack to go with it, just in case. The battery pack came fully-charged (a very nice bonus), so we have not been able to test yet how long it will take the panel to charge the battery pack. ravpower


  • It’s lightweight
  • It’s compact and foldable
  • It seems very sturdy and stitched together well
  • Has two USB inputs so it can charge 2 devices at once


  • It’s not waterproof, so it cannot be left out in the rain or in a heavy snow
  • USB ports in general break or stop working easily
  • The charging capability is reduced quite a bit by overcast days
  • It does not work well indoors, even with full sun coming through the window

Even if we weren’t moving to the homestead, we are still glad we have the panel. We paid $50 and can now charge any of our devices for free, anywhere there is sun. This includes while driving and in any emergency. You can’t beat that.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in anyway. Bought the product with my own money.

How to Make a Solar Still

From MotherEarthNews:

Make Your Own Distilled Water

Make your own distilled water from stream or lake water, salt water, or even brackish, dirty water, using these DIY Solar Still Plans. With just a few basic building materials, a sheet of glass and some sunshine, you can purify your own water at no cost and with minimal effort.

Distilled water is not just for drinking, and it’s always worth keeping a few gallons of it on hand. Clean water free of chemicals and minerals has a number of valuable uses:

• Always refill the lead-acid batteries used for solar energy systems or automobiles with distilled water

• Water delicate plants like orchids with distilled water; minerals and additives like fluoride or chlorine that are present in most tap water can harm plants

• Distilled water mixed with antifreeze is recommended for car radiators, as it’s less corrosive

• Steam irons become clogged with mineral deposits unless you use distilled water

The principle of using the sun’s heat to separate water from dissolved minerals has been understood for millennia, salt ponds being the best example of how this knowledge has been put to use in the past. In salt ponds, seawater is drained into shallow ponds and then baked and purified in the sun until all that remains are crystals of salt. In this case, the pure water that gradually evaporated away was considered a useless byproduct, but as far back as the time of the ancient Greeks it was known that seawater could be made fresh and drinkable by this process.

A solar still works like a salt evaporation pond, except that the water that invisibly evaporates is extracted from the air; the minerals and other impurities are left behind and discarded. As the hot, moisture-laden air rises up to the slanting sheet of relatively cool glass sealed to the box, water condenses out in the form of small droplets that cling to the glass. As these droplets get heavier, they roll down the glass to the collector tube at the bottom and then out to the jug.

The box is built from 3/4 ” BC-grade plywood, painted black on the inside to absorb heat. We used a double layer of plywood on the sides to resist warping and to help insulate the box, with an insulated door at the back and a sheet of glass on top.

Finding a good lining or container to hold the water in the inside of the box as it heats and evaporates can be complicated. The combination of high heat and water containing salt or other contaminents can corrode metals faster than usual and cause plastic containers to break down or offgas, imparting an unpleasant taste to the distilled water. The best liners are glass or stainless steel, although you can also coat the inside of the box with two or three coats of black silicone caulk (look for an F.D.A.-listed type approved for use around food). Spread the caulk around the bottom and sides with a taping knife. After it dries and cures thoroughly, just pour water in—the silicone is impervious to the heat and water.

How to Make a Solar Still

We chose to paint the inside black and use two large glass baking pans to hold the water. Glass baking pans are a safe, inexpensive container for dirty or salty water, and they can easily be removed for cleaning. We used two 10 x 15″ pans, which hold up to 8 quarts of water when full. To increase the capacity of the still, just increase the size of the wooden box and add more pans.

The operation of the distiller is simple. As the temperature inside the box rises, water in the pans heats up and evaporates, rising up to the angled glass, where it slowly runs down to the collector tube and then out to a container.

The runoff tube is made from 1″ PEX tubing. Stainless steel can also be used. However, use caution with other materials—if in doubt, boil a piece of the material in tap water for 10 minutes, then taste the water after it cools to see if it added any flavor. If it did, don’t use it.

Turn undrinkable water into pure, crystal-clear distilled water with a home-built solar still.

View step-by-step photos of how to make a solar still in the Image Gallery as well as this PDF of the DIY Solar Still Plans.

1. Mark and cut the plywood pieces according to the cutting list. Cut the angled end pieces with a circular saw or tablesaw set to a 9 degree angle.

2. Cut the insulation the same size as the plywood base, then screw both to the 2 x 4 supports with 2 1/2″ screws.

3. Screw the first layer of front and side pieces to the base and to each other, then add the back piece. Predrill the screws with a countersink bit.

4. Glue and screw the remaining front and side pieces on, using clamps to hold them together as you predrill and screw. Use 1 1/4″ screws to laminate the pieces together and 2″ screws to join the corners.

5. Glue and screw the hinged door pieces together, aligning the bottom and side edges, then set the door in position and screw on the hinges. Add a pull or knob at the center.

6. Paint the inside of the box with black high-temperature paint. Cover the back and the door with reflective foil glued with contact cement. Let the paint dry for several days so that all the solvents evaporate off.

7. Apply weatherseal around the edges of the hinged door to make the door airtight.

8. Drill a hole for the PEX drain. The top of the PEX is 1/2″ down from the top edge. Clamp a scrap piece to the inside so the drill bit doesn’t splinter the wood when it goes through.

9. Mark the first 19″ of PEX, then cut it in half with a utility knife. Score it lightly at first to establish the cut lines.

10. Drill three 1/8″ holes in the side of the PEX for screws, then insert the PEX through the hole. Butt it tight against the other side, then screw it in place, sloping it about 1/4″.

11. Wipe a thick bead of silicone caulk along the top edge of the PEX to seal it against the plywood.

12. Shim the box level and tack a temporary stop to the top edge to make it easy to place the glass without smearing the caulk. Spread a generous bead of caulk on all the edges, then lay the glass in place. Tape it down around the edges with painter’s tape, then let it set up overnight.

How To Make A Small Solar Power Energy Generator


An example. Yours may look different.

Using parts easily available from the internet and your local stores, you can make a small solar power generator for $250 to $300. Great for rolling blackouts, life outside the power grid, or the coming zombie apocalypse. Power your computer, modem, dvd, tv, cameras, lights, fans, or DC appliances anywhere you go. Use in cabins, boats, tents, archaeological digs, or while travelling throughout the third world. This is the smallest, simplest set-up practical for daily use. It also saves the environment. (Do you know that most of the electricity coming out of your wall socket is generated by coal?) All of the parts you need can be bought from Amazon or any store online. Check out more alt. energy sources and how-to’s in our Pioneer Home section.

1. Buy yourself a small solar panel. For about $100 you should be able to get one rated at 12 volts or better (look for 16 volts) at an RV or marine supplies store. You can also look online at specialty stores.

2. Buy yourself a battery. Rechargeable batteries are recommended. Get any size deep cycle 12 volt lead/acid or gel battery. You need the deep cycle battery for continuous use. The kind in your car is a cranking battery–just for starting an engine. Look for bargains. The more amps, the more expensive. Figure out how many amps you need. Twenty amps is a good estimate of what a one-room home with a family of five would need. The cheapest ones should cost about $50-60. Schools and health care facilities would need amps in the hundreds.

3. Get a battery box to put it in for $10. (This is good for covering up the exposed terminals in case there are children around. If you going to install the system in a pump shed, cabin, or boat, skip this.)

4. Buy a 12 volt DC meter This will help you monitor the charge in your battery. Discharging it below 50% can damage it. Overcharging it can damage it. Keeping it at about 80%-90% charge will keep your battery good for a long time.

5. Buy a DC input. The triple inlet model which you can find at a car parts store in the cigarette lighter parts section for about $10 is great. This is enough to power DC appliances, and there are many commercially available, like fans, one-pint water boilers, lights, hair dryers, baby bottle warmers, and vacuum cleaners. Many cassette players, answering machines, and other electrical appliances are DC already and with the right cable will run straight off the box.

6. If you want to run AC appliances, you will have to invest in an inverter. This will convert the stored DC power in the battery into AC power for most of your household appliances. The writer of these instructions bought a 115 volt 140 watt inverter for $50 fifteen years ago–it still works. The prices have actually dropped on inverters. Count up the number of watts you’ll be using (e.g., a small color television =60 watts) with a VCR(=22 watts), you’ll need 82 watts. Cheap inverters of many sizes can be had online.

6. Use a drill to attach the meter and DC input to the top of the box.

7. Use insulated wire to attach the meter to the wingnut terminals on the battery. Connect the negative (-) pole first. Only handle one wire at a time. Connect the DC inlet to the battery in the same way. Connect the solar panel to the battery in the same way.

8. Close the lid (use a bungee cord to keep it tight). Put the solar panel in the sun. It takes 5-8 hours to charge a dead battery; 1-3 hours to top off a weak one. It will run radios, fans, and small wattage lights all night, or give you about 5 hours of continuous use at 115 volt AC, or about an hour boiling water. This system may be added on to with larger panels, inverters, and batteries.

Options: A pop-up circuit breaker may be added between the positive terminal and the volt meter. Some of you will want an ampmeter as well. The panels recommended have built-in bypass diodes, but charge controllers are recommended for people who have panels without diodes. Another option is a voltage regulator, which is not necessary for a system this small, but a larger system would require one.

For this information including illustrations, visit .

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