For some time now I’ve been using LoFePo4 batteries for my radio and camping power, I have a 20ah battery in a deli case in the care that provides power for my Yeasu FTM-300 and also powers my portable radios when required. It works great and I have a 100w portable solo panel to charge it so that it costs me nothing to provide power to my radios and iPad/iPhone when camping or on a day put portable.
Sometimes though, 20ah isn’t quite enough. So early this year I started to build a solar generator due to the impending doom of the current ‘crisis’ no mater when you read this I am sure there will be a ‘crisis’ that you can apply here, so whatever the current ‘crisis’ or ’emergency’ is it doesn’t really matter 🙂
To start with I needed a suitable LiFePo4 battery, I decided to buy a commercially available one that included a BMS with Bluetooth so I could easily monitor it. I chose an Ultramax 100Ah as I have had a couple of 12ah batteries of the same brand for a few years and they have worked very well.
This came with mains charger, I don’t intend to use this but will carry it just in case.
The circuit breaker is 50a and I don’t think I have anything that will pull that much current, but the battery is capable of providing 100a so I may change this later.
Next of course I needed a case to put it all in, I got this from solent plastics and its the 22 litre top opening case I also bought the carrying strap designed for the case.
The case is just large enough to fit the battery with space around of to mount the powerpole distribution panel and carry some cables and the mains and solar charger.
The power is supplied to the distribution panel with the circuit breaker on the positive cable, I added an additional cable fused on both positive and negative with cable rated to 30A that will only really be used for charging.
To hold the battery firmly in place I used some dense foam gardening knee pads that my wife left where I could reach them, she should know better by now 😉 I simply cut them down and used them as packing and that’s held the battery in place so far.
With the battery box almost ready I had a look for a suitable solar panel, as previously mentioned I already had a 100w portable panel that worked well so I got the 220w version to charge this battery.
The panel folds to 1/4 the size which is sort of suitcase so it portable enough for what I need and reasonable value. it comes with a change controller, but I wanted one with the ability to monitor the charge.
So the latest addition to the box is a Victron charge controller same brand as the battery charger I have used for several years so hopefully it is as reliable.
its about 3mm too tall to be permanently mounted in the lid or on top of the battery but can be stored at the side of the battery when not in use.
To provide some illumination I added an LED lamp, this draws less than 1a so will run for over a week on this battery if needed, and I also attached some 12v sockets and USB charge sockets to the inside of the lid.
And I also made up a few cables to carry in the box.
So far since completing the solar generator I have used it to power and charge my radios and to charge my iPad.
It also kept my phone, iPad and Sarahs phone and iPad charged during a 4 day power outage at home (we were using the iPads to watch movies most of the time so they needed recharging every day sometimes more than once) and it still had most of its power left at the end of the power cut)
Im going to use it this year for keeping my radios powered 100% off grid and for camping trips etc with the constantly rising cost of electricity it will probably pay for itself by the end of the year!