If it weren't for the sun, life would not exist on Earth as we experience it. It has provided energy that has helped to create all the energy sources all species on Earth use, including us humans. It only makes sense to use solar energy as directly as possible to minimize creation of green house gases and also to minimize costs for power.
With this in mind, and an interest in electronics, I decided to establish my own solar power source 4 years ago for as many rechargeable devices that I use as possible. The various devices have different voltage inputs required to recharge their batteries.
Granted, it takes energy and resources to manufacture the solar panels, voltage regulator, battery, and other components that I used. However, these items are recyclable and can be repurposed, recycled or reused.
Readily available, durable solar panels which provide voltage to charge 12 volt batteries were used, they have a 5 year warranty from Coleman Canada, Inc.. I opted for a 12 volt 182 minute Reserve capacity 675 cranking amp deep cycle battery with capacity to recharge and power a number of devices around the clock and also to act as an emergency power source for short term power outages.
Two solar panels were installed on a South facing wall on the house roof. One solar panel is a 20 Watt solar panel, the other is a 40 watt solar panel. They were purchased on clearance at Canadian Tire. They are mounted on 3/4" plywood then the plywood is secured to the stucco. The first solar panel was installed vertically, the second was installed at a 30 degree incline to provide a different orientation to the sun for one of the panels.
The solar panels each include a Coleman Solar Charge Controller, essentially a voltage regulator, to minimize the voltage delivered to the battery so the battery is not overcharged. The voltage regulator is located at the battery, along with the distribution fuse panel. The charge controller has one LED indicator that shows the battery is being charged or is fully charged (13.5 volts) and another LED that indicates the solar panels are providing power.
I chose a very common interface, the common 12 V DC cigarette lighter socket found in automobiles, as there are many car voltage adapters readily available, and they could be easily deployed in a number of rooms. Some voltage adapters I already had, typically ones that convert 12 Volts (V) DC to 5 V DC which I had bought on sale at various stores. Some voltage converters were made by modifying second-hand 12 V DC car adapters using voltage regulators to make 6 V or 9 V DC outputs with custom output plugs for the device.
The 12 V DC output sockets have inline switches on the wiring so the power can be shut off to reduce loss of power to the 12 V DC to 5 V DC adapters when they aren't being used and to provide a level of safety to the socket as it is possible for a finger to be inserted into the socket.
Since it would be possible to overload the amperage of the wiring, and it was necessary to distribute the 12 V DC and ground terminals out to many locations, I designed and constructed a fuse panel box with terminal strips to connect the wires to at the 12 V DC deep cycle battery.
It is possible for the battery to freeze in the middle of winter if stored outside, so it is located in a plexiglass box in the laundry room in the basement.
This system is used to charge the items listed below in Applications over the last 4 years on a consistent basis and estimate a saving of at least $10.00 a month for hydro power. The cost for all components is about $300.00. To date this means a savings of at least $180.00 (CDN).