Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

A place to discuss all things involving power and lighting. Generator tips, alternative energy, lighting your camp/bike/art/self and more.

Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby JasonFL » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:35 am

Working on a two man camp with some basic power needs, and my head is spinning with all the different explanations of electrical thingamagigs.

We'll have 2 famous figjam swamp coolers (though one will be using the cheap HF solar pump), and we wanted to string up some Christmas lights, and maybe have something to charge iPhones - which will be used for it's camera function (I know, I know... OMG... a phone on the Playa!!!).

We have a 12V Deep Cycle Costco battery, and we're thinking of buying this 5W solar panel http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B7GC518/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p263_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1K0MFQM9CPF2E7R9ESYH&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846

These are the LED lights we're thinking of getting: http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Operated-Christmas-Wedding-Outdoor/dp/B005GTC2A6/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1376504588&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=led+battery+powered+string+lights

Questions abound:

- Can anyone provide a rough calculation of long will the battery last powering 2 cooler fans and 1 pump, and 4 strings of lights?
- Do we need the 5W solar panel? And if so, will the panel be enough to charge us up for the week?
- Can I hook the lights directly up to the 12V battery, cut and splice-like?
- How can I charge my phone from the solar panel or the battery? Are there places to charge up? Snow Koan Solar?

<Insert standard apology for asking dumb and already posted questions here>

<Insert open invitation for snark as it's always entertaining>

Thanks for any insight!
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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby percussivepaul » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:18 pm

Figjam coolers use 1 to 2 Amps at 12V, depending on the power of your fan and pump, so figure out how many hours you want to run them. e.g. 3 hours/day * 2 coolers * 2 amps = 12 Amp-hours per day.

Those lights won't work on a 12V battery (3AA's = 4.5V, what they're designed for), so no you cannot easily hook them up cut and splice like. If you want to power lights from the battery, you can buy ordinary plug-in Christmas lights and get a power inverter. But I think having individual AA-powered strings is not so bad. Plug-in xmas lights pull about 3 to 5W per big 20ft strand, which is 0.4A, so for 8 hours of light you need 3.2 Amp-hours per night per 20ft string. And your battery is already pretty committed to the coolers.

A 5W solar panel for a 12V battery replenishes 0.4Ah per hour of sunlight at peak, maybe you'll get 2 or 3 Ah per day back.

2 coolers + 2 plug-in lights = 19 Ah/day -- a 100Ah battery will last max 5 days, but you should only run it for 3 or 4 days, the battery is not designed to be depleted fully.
2 coolers + 2 plug-in lights + panel = 16 Ah/day -- might stretch all week
2 coolers only (AA-powered lights) = 12 Ah/day -- should definitely stretch all week, don't need the panel.

To charge your iphone, you can get a power inverter and connect to the big battery (pretty negligible power required to charge a phone)... or buy a solar panel that has a USB output, like this one (note, no experience with these products, just know they exist.) http://www.amazon.com/Sunforce-22007-Co ... harger+usb
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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby strange love » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:23 pm

^That was nice of you!
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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:31 pm

The easiest way to charge your iPhone would be to simply use a car charger cord.
You can buy a cigarette lighter style socket from a car parts store and hook it to the battery. The center post is + and the outer housing is -.
If you're gonna get a solar panel I'd say get a bigger one or don't bother.
You could connect a set of jumper cables to your car/truck and let it idle a while and get a hell of a lot more charge in a short amount of time.

The simplest and probably cheapest solution for running that particular set of lights is just bring a bunch of extra AA batteries.
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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby FIGJAM » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:53 pm

HF has a good selection of solar lights for under $20. 8)

Mine last all night on what charge they get each day.
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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby JasonFL » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:08 pm

percussivepaul - THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! You might as well have translated mandarin for me. Much appreciated.
"The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."

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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby shimgotit » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:55 pm

I posted a similar post a few days ago. Ended up searching amazon and came across these http://www.amazon.com/Cold-White-Lights ... ery+lights which have great reviews and ship faster than the ones that cost $3.50 as they come from Hong Kong. Also picked up a few of these http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-MicroPack ... ed+lantern .... hope this helps!

p.s. I tried solar powered lights last year (virgin year) and they didnt work too well. Dust covered the solar panels and didnt charge properly. Stick with batteries.
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Re: Power Needs = Batteries & Solar Panel???

Postby SouthernExposure » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:58 am

I found a company in Washington state that carries some amazing battery powered light products. (http://www.fortuneproducts.com/SL640W.html) I ordered a set of their Starlet lights to illuminate my bike. 64 LED lights run by a controller with 7 different light sequence settings on 3 AAs. I agree that the easiest approach to powering strings of lighting like this is to stick with the batteries. Charge your Iphone and your deep cell battery from the vehicle you came in.

SE
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