DIY Solar for under $150; Perfect for Camping

Want to know how you can build your own DIY camping solar set up for under $150?

Setting up solar panels for your camping trips is an effective, environmentally-friendly way to charge your gadgets when you’re off the grid.

But with heaps of different models, brands and extras to choose from, it’s hard to find a cheap camping solar system that actually works. You can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a camper solar setup.

That’s why we’ve created this easy guide for you to build your own solar setup for your camping trips for just $140. Only a few hours in the sun will generate enough power to charge 4 people’s phones, lighting and speakers for the whole day.

Ben, our Director of Installs, has been using this simple and cheap DIY solar setup every time he’s out camping.

4 Steps to get your DIY camping solar set up

1. Find a second hand panel

Let’s talk about the panel first. You might think the panel is the most expensive part of this solar setup, but you’d be wrong. You can source a second hand panel from local solar installers for free.

The solar panel we are using in our DIY solar guide is a panel we have removed from one of our customer’s homes to make room for newer and more efficient technology. For a camper or caravan solar setup the panel is fine and you won’t need to invest in a newer solar panel.

What to look for in a second hand solar panel

On the back of the panel is a sticker. You will need to check on the Open Circuit Voltage. The panel we used is 43.6V.

Knowing the panel’s voltage will help you select the correct charger. Make sure to check on the panel you’ve got and write this number down.

You can source a second hand panel from local installers for free

2. Find a cheap solar battery

The next part of your camping solar set up is the battery. Ben has pulled his battery out of his old 4×4, for free, and bought a battery box for $100.

His battery box has a circuit breaker built in. It also has USB and 12 volt sockets.

Do you need to buy a battery box?

If you just want to charge the battery out of your car, boat or caravan you don’t need to buy one of these boxes. However we do suggest that you buy a fuse.

Make sure you check the voltage and chemistry of the battery you want to charge, as that will help you find the right charger for your DIY set up. You can find this information either on the battery or looking on the manufacturer’s website.

3. Get a charger that matches your panel and your battery

The final part is finding the charger that matches your solar panel and your battery.

How do you match the charger to the solar panel?

This charger’s maximum PV open circuit voltage input is 50V. This is the maximum voltage that this particular charger can take from a panel. This works with our second hand solar panel as it’s 43.6V.

How do you match the charger to the battery?

You also need to make sure that the charger you are using is compatible with the chemistry of your battery. The charger we picked automatically selects between the chemistry types – flooded, gel and sealed.

It’s important that you make sure it’s compatible, as you want your DIY camping set up to be safe.

This charger’s battery voltage ranges between 8 and 32 volts. This means that it will charge a battery from 8 volts all the way up to 32 volts.

Four steps to creating your own DIY Solar Camping Set Up

So let’s summarise the main steps to get you turning sunlight into power in the great outdoors, for less than $150:

  1. Get a second hand panel from a local installer. Find out it’s Open Circuit Voltage and write it down.
  2. Get a battery. Find out the battery’s voltage and chemistry type and write that down.
  3. Find a compatible charger for your solar panel and battery. Or shop online and check out the data sheet.
  4. Get yourself a battery box with outlets, and get ready for the great outdoors!

We’d love to see your DIY Camping Solar set ups, email your photos to hello@econnectsolar.com.au or tag us on instagram @econnectsolar

Econnect Solar acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work. We acknowledge their continuing connection to land, rivers and sea. We wish to pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.