If your family is anything like mine, you love a good hands-on project that helps the environment and saves the piggy bank some harm. And building a solar generator of your own, from a kit or pieces you purchase separately, is one of those great projects you can do at home. And, if your kids are old enough, they can even help with some of the steps.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about solar panels, inverters, charge controllers, and everything else to do with off-the-grid homemade solar generators, you’ve come to the right place.
Why Consider Building Your Own DIY Portable Solar Power Generator
There are several reasons you might want to build your own DIY portable solar generator.
1. Solar Generators are Safer Than Gas Generators
If you’re looking for a safe, eco-friendly option for running your home, RV, hunting lodge, or other electrical systems and devices, solar and wind power are the top choices.
Solar specifically is an easy to build, easy to use renewable energy option that won’t break the bank, though.
And since they’re run on solar energy, these generators are much safer for use indoors and outdoors, year-round. Fossil fuels are more likely to cause fires or leak on the ground or around the generator exposing your family and pets to danger.
2. Other Generators are Slow Chargers
While a solar generator won’t instantly charge by a long shot, solar generators will usually charge up fully within 12 hours or less.
However, making your own, to your own specifications, can increase charging time dramatically.
That means you can quickly put to use that power for emergencies, standard use around the home or RV, et cetera.
3. Solar Generators are “One and Done”
Once you invest in your solar generator, your costs are pretty much over.
The generators and solar panels are built to last for many years – most come with warranties for over 2 decades – and the maintenance costs are minimal.
You have to check your solar panels after foul weather, clean them semi-annually, and verify that nothing’s obstructing the sunlight from hitting those photovoltaic cells. Otherwise, you build the generator, place the panels, and go.
4. Once You Build a Solar Generator You Know How to Repair it Safely
Regular generators aren’t necessarily the safest or easier to repair.
But if you build your own solar generator in the first place, you know how to swap out any damaged components.
This saves you even more money.
5. Ready-Made Generators May Not Provide Enough Power for Your Needs
Some generators that come ready-made are powerful enough for your needs. But if you’re looking to run your whole house, have more energy needs than the “average” RV owner, or otherwise, just need more juice, a kit may not be enough.
If you build your own, you can determine exactly how much power you get from the generator and setup.
6. Building Your Own Generator Gives Personal Satisfaction
When you build your own generator, you not only learn heaps about a technology you probably didn’t know much about, but you’re also rewarded with a keen sense of personal satisfaction.
You built this solar generator – not some guy at a shop.
And if your kids or spouse want to help out, they too can gain personal satisfaction through involvement in helping to save the environment by their own hands.
7. Building Your Own DIY Generator Can Often Be Less Expensive Than Purchasing a Ready-Built
Finally, I’d like to point out another way DIY generators save you money. If you piece together the components yourself – don’t worry, I give recommendations for these below – you can save money instead of investing in a large generator all at once.
The Best DIY Solar Generator Guides, Instructions, and PDFs
While I’m going to give you a basic “how to” below on building your own solar power source, I’d like to refer you to some more in-depth guides and instructions that can help you safely build the best cheap solar power generator possible.
I’ve collected the best videos, PDFs, and other instructions I could find to give you the most angles and perspectives on the process.
Please review each one carefully before purchasing your supplies or starting the process of the build. Grab a notebook and take notes, as well, just to make sure you don’t forget or miss important details that can help ensure your safety in the process.
If your spouse or kids are going to help you build the DIY solar generator, I’d recommend having them read some of the materials and watch some of the videos as well. I’d choose the section devoted to the aspect the other person will help with to focus on for them.
#1. The Best How to Build a Solar Generator PDF: The Build It Solar PDF
The Build It Solar PDF is the first option you’ll find if you look for “best DIY solar generator PDFs” for a reason. This document is designed to be extremely user-friendly and meant to be shared widely with anyone looking to build off-grid power via solar.
I love this PDF because it not only gives you detailed step-by-step instructions on how to use a power inverter but it gives the details on the various parts of your DIY project. The Build It Solar PDF also gives great detail on safety aspects of building your own, specifically safety on power tools, and the fine details of everything you need to do to prepare to safely build a solar power system using a deep cycle battery or pure sine wave inverter.
I recommend taking a brief perusal of the PDF, to begin with, before starting your other studies. Check out the various images, charts, and other visuals that can help you start to grasp the full understanding of the project.
Then, over the following days, take some time to read each section thoroughly before you go shopping for parts and tools.
>> GET THE PDF HERE <<
#2. The Best Short DIY Video: The Survivalist Prepper
You’ll want to give this short, 5-minute video from Survivalist Prepper a view before you get into the nitty-gritty of building a solar power supply. It’s a quick overview of parts, the basic how-tos, and a general description of how things work.
This video is, of course, not terribly in-depth, but it helps to give you a clear overview of what you’re looking at, depending on the exact type of project you decide to do.
Below the video, you can view the site’s more in-depth reviews of types of parts and how to choose them, along with other helpful knowledge like wattage, watt-hours, and how many batteries are needed to run a given system or device.
The page also gives a useful show of how power conversions work, and what you need to know about amp hours and your project.
>> WATCH THE VIDEO HERE <<
#3. The Best Cheap DIY Solar Generator Video Walk-Through: The Solar Burrito Videos
For a great pair of videos on building a DIY solar generator cheap — for under $150 –check out Solar Burrito’s offerings. The videos walk you through things like a basic how-to and high-quality components that meet the low-budget plan.
The page offers diagrams to accompany the videos, along with basic information on the components they used and which products they recommend for the best cheap solar generator you can make.
>> WATCH THE VIDEO HERE <<
#4. The Best DIY Solar Generator Infographic: The Inhabitat Infographic
If you’re looking for more of a visual cue on your basic process of building a DIY solar generator for your camper or RV, the infographic from Inhabitat is a great option. The sheet covers the parts you need — from a battery bank to a watt inverter — to a short step-by-step guide.
The infographic also covers your safety tips and basics for what wattage is needed to run given common household devices.
The Best Instructable Guide: A Step-by-Step from Instructables
My final suggestion for resources on building your own cost-effective solar generator is going to the source herself: The Instructables Guide. As always, the Instructables guide gives a diagram, photo, chart, and video heavy step-by-step plan for selecting your solar charger, inverters, lead acid battery and other necessary parts for your solar generator kit.
The guide gives you clues on the tools and parts you need but also tells you how to understand things like rating of batteries, MPPT charge controllers, and the difference between a pure sine wave inverter and a square wave.
If you need help mounting the solar panel, figuring out parallel and serial connections, or building a battery stand, this Instructables guide gives you everything you need.
>> GET THE INFOGRAPHIC HERE <<
Instructions on Building a DIY Solar Generator
While the other guys do a phenomenal job of giving the in-depth instructions, I think a brief overview of the basic steps on building your own off-the-grid solar charger would come in handy about now.
This should give you a basic idea of what you’re getting yourself into so you can best decide how to proceed from here.
1. Calculate Your Energy Needs
Take a look at your energy bill if you’re building the system for use in your home. Or, view a chart that gives the details on how much energy the given devices you use require to keep them running. This will help you determine the load you need for your system.
- Ceiling fan: 10-50W
- DVD Player: 15W
- CB Radio: 5W
- Modem: 7W
- Laptop: 25-100W
- Drill (1/4 inch) 250W
- Toaster Oven 1200W
- Blu-ray Player: 15W
- Tablet Recharge: 8W
- Satellite Dish: 30W
- Cable Box: 35W
- TV – LCD: 150W
- LED Light bulb (40-watt equivalent): 10W
- LCD Monitor: 100W
- Smart Phone Recharge: 6W
- Coffee Machine 1000W
- Fridge (16 cubic feet) 1200W
If you’re wondering how to build a 5000-watt solar generator, be sure to find the components capable of handling such a load.
2. Choose Your Supplies Carefully
Be sure to check ratings, wattage, and the other details included in the more in-depth guides so that you purchase the right components for your project.
You don’t want to waste the time, money, or energy on something that won’t do the trick for you the first time.
3. Test the Parts
Before you start your construction, you’ll need to test the various components of your system individually. Some of the instructions above give great detail on how to do this safely and accurately.
4. Mount Your Components
You’ll have to mount your 100-watt panels, but you’ll also have to build or place your battery bank. Carefully consult your solar generator blueprints in this stage to avoid any possible danger.
5. Wire Everything Together
Next, you’ll have to safely wire together your parts. The various components should have diagrams on how to do this precisely, but the in-depth instructions in the various videos, PDFs, and infographics above should answer any questions you have on precise steps.
6. Plug in Your Devices
Once your kit is set up, and everything has been tested, you should be all set to plug in your devices and start running on solar energy.
Reviews of the Best DIY Solar Generator Kits
Whether you’re into wind turbines or solar power systems, eco-friendly, DIY options are quite often the best way to go when it comes to saving money and growing in your own personal development.
For today’s purposes, we’re offering some suggestions on solar generator kits and components you may want to consider for your own off-the-grid power setup.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
One of the absolute best, most trusted brands in the market is Renogy. This company’s been making consumer-accessible solar equipment for years, and their products just keep getting better and better.
So, if you’re looking for a 400-watt solar kit, you want to look into this one by Renogy. The kit is great for charging your RV battery via solar power without a lot of hassles.
The kit includes:
- 100 Watt 12 Volt Compact Design Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Adventurer Li 30A PWM Flush Mount Charge Controller
- Mounting Z Brackets
- 30-ft 10AWG MC4 Adaptor Kit (One pair)
- 16-ft 10AWG Tray Cables (One pair)
- Cable Entry Housing
- MC4 Y Branch Connector
The kit has a high module conversion efficiency, with an ideal output of 2000wH per day. This of course, depends on the number of panels you use and the amount of sunlight available on a given day. The advanced encapsulation material with multilayered sheet laminations enhances the solar cell performance and should provide a longer life for the system.
The frame is made of corrosion resistant aluminum, designed specifically for long exposure to weather and is able to withstand heavy snow, rain, and high winds. The bypass diode also minimizes the power drop caused by shade and means the solar panels still work well in low-light environments.
Finally, the 30 amp PWM charge controller is designed specifically for RVs and allows for a clean flush mounting on the walls and is negatively grounded for battery compatibility with standard RV batteries.
Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5
If you’re looking for an absolutely complete solar generator kit, you’re looking for the Go Power! Weekender kit. This option has everything but the battery included, and works well for medium, or small situations. The system is a 160-watt system as is, but you can easily add on solar panels for higher power loads, as needed.
You can use this kit for your RV, camper, marine needs, to charge your car battery, cover your cabin in power outages, or generally function as a battery charger for those 12v battery needs of all your behicles. The kit includes your solar charge controller, the panel that just needs to be positioned in direct sunlight for full charge, and you’re all set for your AC power energy source.
The kit comes with a single larger panel of 160 watts, which is convenient for positioning just about anywhere, comes with a highly reliable power inverter, and is the base model for the company’s larger solar kits. That means you can easily build onto the system with compatible products that won’t give you hassles.
Overall Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars
For the budget-conscious or those just starting out, you may want to consider the reliable but lower-cost DIY kit from Sunforce. The kit is well-trusted among many, the brand is well-known, and it’s super easy to use.
This kit is set up with a much smaller wattage than the others, but it’s a great backup system for emergencies. It’s also a good option for camping setups when you need some low-grade, but easy to use power.
The Sunforce 55-Watt kit comes with all the basic stuff you need to set up the solar generator itself, though you will need to buy the battery and inverter to complete the kit fully. Once you do that, you’ll also want to consider adding solar panels if you want a bit more kick than just 55-watts.
This kit is designed for small systems, but it’s great for powering small devices on the regular as well.
Other Components We’d Recommend
Since the kits generally don’t include the batteries and inverters you need, we have a few suggestions on where to get started with that.
Goal Zero Inverter and Battery
Not all batteries and inverters are created equal. And the Goal Zero brand is an option that outdoes the other guys. Specifically, the Goal Zero Sherpa 50+ is a fantastic inverter option that’s compatible with most systems and is guaranteed to last for years to come.
The battery is a 50-watt-hour DIY solar generator lithium battery pack complete with multiple ports including USB ports, laptop ports, and a standard AC electrical outlet. The battery has an easily readable display that shows how much juice is left in the battery, too.
The Mighty Max Battery ML35-12
Another great, well-trusted battery for your DIY solar kit is the Mighty Max ML35-12 battery. This sealed lead acid battery is built to last and provides hours of energy storage for your kit
It’s an SLA AGM spill proof battery for a high discharge rate, wide operating temperatures, and a long service life.
Other Brands to Consider
Finally, we’d like to mention other brands you should consider for any or all of your DIY solar generator kit items. It’s just a quick list of the best brands in the business, but they come highly recommended from loads of research, personal experience, and reviews from the best of the best in the industry.
- Goal Zero
- Grape Solar
- Windy Nation
- OG Solar
- Go Power!
Any of these brands will provide you with high-quality components for your kit. Review each item you’re missing carefully, and find out what the other real-life users are saying before you purchase from a given seller, though, especially on Amazon.
There are a lot of knock-offs out there, so be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true. They probably are.
Your DIY Solar System is Here
Now, you’re ready to start building! Review the detailed tutorials, watch the videos, and review the options for choosing the best kits and components possible.
And remember to consult your DIY solar generator instructions often all throughout the process of choosing components, gathering together tools and supplies, and the actual process of building your solar generator.