my free trip around the Sun

Using solar energy is getting easier and less expensive each day. Now I can charge all my gadgets while camping, or even during a power cut. I thought one would be more cost effective than many solar gadgets, and so after some research, here is my solution.

The Brunton Solaris i6 is a 12v, 6.5W solar panel that comes with a great selection of connectors including a 5.5mm coaxial DC plug and a 12v auto plug. I've had one small panel hanging in the greenhouse with bungee cords for a few months, but I understand a few of these panels can be linked together and I do look forward to trying that next.

The Duracell Powerpack 600 is a 28 Amp-Hr battery with lots of included goodies including 115 VAC and 12 VDC auto outlets, an AC charger, light, and a even a clock radio. It also has a jack for a 5.5mm plug and a handle for lugging it around. The instructions for the Powerpack specify as much as 2.5 Amp or 30W can be used for charging, but the built-in AC charger is only 0.3 Amp; it appears to handle a wide range of power levels for charging.

Together these two items become a pico utility company. A gas generator is smelly and loud, so I plan to try this little system instead. I can charge the cell-phones, ipods, camera, and even run the laptop. Previously, I had a combo smaller than this, based on a motorcycle battery; on the larger side, these things could require a forklift.

UPDATE: I've found the 12v auto plug is the better way to charge this setup. Since my solar panel is only 6W, I get more efficient charging not using that built-in charging circuit. I can't explain why the 5.5mm adapter is charging slowly, I can only guess that it isn't putting all that power into the battery.
The battery's on-board %capacity meter only moves in increments of 10 and is difficult to see in daylight. You have to hold a button for a second to get the display to read-out and only when the 5.5mm plug is disconnected; no disconnect is required when using the 12v plug.

Using the 12v auto plug and the built-in meter, I refilled about 10% capacity in one sunny day, 2.8 Ah. That stat seems about right for this solar panel.

UPDATE 2: A USB port should fit into the 12v auto plug; this should remedy one problem.  I also think the 6W panel is too weak, so I've started looking for something more powerful.  I don't really have the patience to wait 4 hours to charge a device.

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