I've decided I want to build my own portable solar generator to use for power outages, camping trips, and emergency preparedness. Building your own solar generator is actually pretty straightforward if you follow the right steps. In this guide, I'll walk through everything you need to know to build your own portable solar power station for under $200.

Selecting the Battery

The battery is the heart of any solar generator, so it's important to pick the right one. For a portable unit, I recommend using a deep cycle lead acid battery. These are designed to provide steady power over long periods, unlike car batteries which are made to provide quick bursts.

Some key factors to consider when selecting the battery:

For my portable generator, I'm going with a 100 Ah sealed lead acid battery that weighs 27 lbs. The ideal balance of capacity and portability for under $100.

Getting the Charge Controller

Since lead acid batteries can be damaged by overcharging, you need a charge controller to manage the power from the solar panel going into the battery. The charge controller protects the battery by stopping the flow of current when it's fully charged.

Here are the key factors for the charge controller:

I'm going with a 20A PWM charge controller with an LCD display for about $40. Does the job without breaking the budget.

Choosing the Solar Panel

The solar panel captures sunlight and converts it into electricity to recharge the battery. To choose the right solar panel, consider:

For this build, I'm using a 50 watt rigid panel with an aluminum frame that folds up nicely into a carrying case. Got it for a good price at just over $80.

Getting Power from the Battery

Now that you have the battery and solar panel covered, you need a way to draw usable AC power from the 12V DC battery. This is where the power inverter comes in.

Here are the key factors for selecting the inverter:

I'm going with a 400W pure sine wave inverter for $95. Gives me two AC outlets to run a variety of devices.

Putting It All Together

Now it's time to hook up all the components and get your solar generator working!

With all the components connected properly, you'll have a fully functional off-grid solar generator! Just set the panel in the sun to charge up the battery.

Choosing an Enclosure

The final step is selecting some type of enclosure to mount the components in. This can be a small tool box, plastic storage container, or special solar generator case. I found a tough plastic toolbox that fits everything perfectly for around $40.

Some key tips for the enclosure:

And that covers the complete process of assembling your own portable solar power station on a budget! With proper part selection and installation, you can build an effective solar generator for emergency power for under $200.