Really simple-speak help needed. Solar newbie and a bonehead to boot Apologies, but all the threads I've seen on Amazon are clearly by people who know about this stuff already! What I want to do is charge laptops, run a radio, etc. when the poop hits the fan...what exactly to I need to order to do this? I can understand all the instructions, but I still havent seen how to boil it all down to a "3 prong outlet" I can plug my MacBook into.
If you want to order this kit, it supposedly comes with everything except a 12V "deep cycle" battery. What happens is the solar panels give you 12V power to charge the battery (and are connected thru the "charge controller" included), you connect the "Power inverter" to the battery and that changes the 12V DC power into typical 120V household power (that inverter has the "3 prong outlet" just like those in your house on it that you plug things into).
The main thing you need to know as a "newbie" is that since you run off of a battery, it has a limited amount of power and can get drained (unlike the house outlets). So you can only run things for so long and then need to recharge. How long it takes to recharge and how long it lasts while in use depends on the battery size (and everything can be calculated using the given numbers and basic multiplication & ratios). A battery will usually have several ratings including a "Reserve Capasity" which is how long the battery will last with 25 amps being used at 12V (which=300 watts of power, watts are volts*amps). So if a battery has has a RC number of 120, it means that it should last 120 minutes (or 2 hours) from a fresh charge to drained while giving the 300 watts of power to something constantly. To recharge that battery from fully drained with these panels (which should give you 60 watts) will take at least 10 hours (since the 60 watts * 10 hours=300 watts * 2 hours).
The truth is that it may take a lot more time to recharge since the panels don't always give you their full power constantly (they don't always have the best sunlight, they do "wear out", etc). But also if you run only light things off of the inverter, it may not drain the battery very fast (like you mention the Macbook, I don't have one, but it may use less than 100 watts of power thus greatly reducing how fast you drain the battery). To see how much power your things use, you may want to look at the "Kill-a-Watt" meter device that will tell you. If you had the battery I mentioned and the macbook used only 100 watts (instead of 300), then the battery would last ~3 times as long (or 6 hours).
Although I've talked of "draining the battery" and then "recharging" it like 2 seperate things happening 1 at a time, you can do both at the same time. But if you're doing both like charging with 60 watts while draining at 100 watt rate, then you're really doing the larger of the two at the difference (like in this case you're draining at only a 40 watt rate). I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect if you want to go after one of these.
GuidoTKP Yes, this kit could do the job of just keeping a battery charged (whether on a bike or other places). The real thing to consider is where are you and how much sunlight will it have daily? If you're in a north state where the shed will have a blanket of snow for 3 months or it's cloudy 90% of the time (which may be why you're not riding the bike), then this won't give you much power without the sun. If you're in Arizona or such where you still get plenty of sun, then maybe it will work for you.
You would be better served to get one of the solar battery tenders (very low cost - sold here on Amazon also). It uses a small solar panel made specifically for charging car/motorcycle batteries. Cheers!
The one thing I'd add is to ensure the 12v. to 120 v. inverter provides a *PURE SINE WAVE* output which is identical (or often cleaner) than a normal utility power grid. Using a 120 volt "Modified Sine Wave" power source can damage and/or weaken electronics, motors, battery chargers, batteries, etc. Or if nothing else, cause them to be less efficient & effective. "Modified Sine Wave" outputs are fine for incandescent light bulbs, but I wouldn't risk damaging my electronics or battery chargers just by saving a few bucks on a lower-end inverter.
That said, I'd personally spend a bit extra for a Pure Sine Wave inverter to run electronics, chargers, and/or laptops off of.
An inverter generator would help. I know you are asking about solar but a pure sine wave inverter is expensive. A large generator would help even more, charge a large battery bank quickly, run the washing machine(no reason to be dirty), run communication equipment...etc If you want to go solar the best thing to do is bite the bullet and have a company install one. These small kits are crap. You will also be painting a bulls eye on your roof for scavengers. KEEP PREPPING! CHRIS
Ok. another newbie here. I was thinking about getting this to install on my shed so that I can put my motorcycle in the shed in the winter and still have the battery tender connected. Would this do the trick? Would I still need to use the battery tender or could i connect the solar panels directly to the motorcycle battery?
doug: first of all, you need to make sure your laptop and all electronic equipment is in a farraday cage wtshtf or anything with a battery will be fried if there is an emp. so, google "farraday cage", get one, and keep all important electronics in it when not charging or using them. actually, your marine or other solar batteries, will also fry in the event of an "emp" (electro magnetic pulse). so, you might also want to store your batteries for solar elec storage in a kind of farraday cage, too. just a thought.