Need info on 12-Volt Lighting Systems : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I'm looking for pointers and advice/comments on building a 12-volt lighting system. Preferably, it would be fairly simple and inexpensive. I'd like the option to recharge it either from a generator or a small solar panel as a supplement. Any links, pointers to parts (the lights themselves, rechargers, designs, ) and other practical considerations.

Also, I'd appreciate hearing from any of you actually running such a system. Thanks

-- Arnie Rimmer (, February 20, 1999



This place has small solar panels from 8 to 25 dollars (and a bunch of other geeky stuff I wouldn't know what to do with ;-). Sorry, I couldn't give you building advice.

-- Deborah (, February 20, 1999.

Arnie::: Kevin should be able to pull it out of teh archives (I'm not sure how he does it but he's WAY ahead of me. I think his middle name is really hotbot!!)

There is a site, I believe it is or similar, which we talked about several months ago (gotta be in Oct or Nov).

their speciality was Solar. There are also a couple other sites in teh same thread.

Can't help more than tell you it exists. SORRY!!


-- Chuck, night driver (, February 20, 1999.

Hmm, you might try any of the following:

Mr. Solar Jade Mountain Wind Sun

-- De (, February 20, 1999.

Opps, sorry, that last one was:

Wind Sun

-- De (, February 20, 1999.

I've purchased all the components, but haven't put it all together. I have been ordering from I plan to make a wiring harness to route through parts of the house (longest run about 35 feet) - anyone have a suggestion for what gauge wire to use?

-- Online2Much (
working_on_it@the.moment), February 20, 1999.

Lets try this again - I missed a closing bracket...

I've purchased all the components, but haven't put it all together. I have been ordering from and have had good service and delivery times. They have an excellent catalog, with a lot of application info covering not only solar, but hydro and wind as well.

I plan to make a wiring harness to route through parts of the house (longest run about 35 feet) - anyone have a suggestion for what gauge wire to use?

-- Online2Much (
working_on_it@the.moment), February 20, 1999.

If I screw it up this time, I give up.....

I've purchased all the components, but haven't put it all together. I have been ordering from and have had good service and delivery times. They have an excellent catalog, with a lot of application info covering not only solar, but hydro and wind as well.

I plan to make a wiring harness to route through parts of the house (longest run about 35 feet) - anyone have a suggestion for what gauge wire to use?

-- Online2Much (
working_on_it@the.moment), February 20, 1999.

Hi Arnie and everybody else! First time post and long time lurker. Saw your topic and couldn't resist as I'm playing around with a system right now. Started out with a 15 watt .96 amp solar panel from Lot's of good stuff. (standard disclaimer I'm not involved with their org). Anyway... followed it with a generator (Generac 5000watt), then a 20amp charger, 1750watt inverter (both from StatPower, the reconditioned ones for 1/2 price off list) (disclaimer)and then the batteries (230AH 6V's in series/parallel from Interstate Batteries qty 4.) (disclaimer) Hooked them up (batteries, inverter, charger, and a 25watt 12VDC incandescent light bulb (Home depot/disclaimer)into a cheap 120V lamp fixture (cut the plug off and wired direct to the batts). Works just fine. That's pretty much all I've done with the system so far. Still playing around with thoughts as what I'm really trying to accomplish. If I had to do it over again I'd have gone larger on the panel. I figured out our power requirements AFTER I got the equipment and realized 15 watts wouldn't cut it for our applications. Standard lighting and keep the fridge and freezer going for a month via generator/charger then the panel when the fuel runs out (gasoline). Power from there would be a pretty light load as I'd expect the fridge and freezer would be empty by then but... not enough ability to run anything else substantial due to lack of serious recharging capacity from the panel. I've calculated 4 hours of runtime per day on the genny to break even with a 35amp draw total (when running the appliances 2 hours a day as well as lighting). When the appliances go down the panel would only supply .96amp in full sun and we don't get much up here in the northwest (20 miles east northeast of Seattle). I calculated my batteries at capable of 96watts per hour for 20 hours and total amp capacity at 166amps using a 40% depth of discharge. A Mr Coffee would pull 800 watts to brew a pot of the bean (decadent and disgusting I know, I know...). The 20amp charger I'd also increase to a 40 (damn it was only 37 bucks more!). That would cut the recharge time in half (less genny run time). Bottom line is it all depends on what you want to run and for how long before you decide on panel and batteries. Figure that out first (not like me) and you'll be better able to understand and decide what you're going to need. I'm glad to be of assistance and feel free to drop a line. That goes for anyone else that may have questions. Also to all the regulars on TB2K I really enjoy the posts (the comraderie and sense of community you all have developed)and especially the info available here. One of the first stops everyday checkin in. Keep up the great job! Your efforts are appreciated. Bummer about all the trollin' going on. Take care and cya round! -km-

-- Ken Mitcham (, February 20, 1999.


Homemade Portable Solar Panel Generator

This is the first site that made me believe I could do this myself! He goes into great detail. The knee bone is connected to thigh bone, and so forth. He says you can do it for around $300 and power lights, radio, portable TV, anything 150 watts and under (maybe not all at the same time :). That price is too low IMO and nowadays $500-600 seems more realistic for what he has set up, but it's still a heck of a lot less than buying a turnkey system from one of the vendors.

He seems to have all the elements in place:

- Solar panels, connected to:

- charge controller (important!) specific to solar systems, connected to:

- non-automotive storage battery(ies) ("Gel cell" lead acid type in his case), connected to:

- (optional) inverter for running AC items. As I understand it, a sine wave inverter is easiest on motors and on electronics, especially computers (if an issue for you). More expensive though.

- Use of a generator in conjunction (gas generator he built with car alternator)

I am still in the reading up stage (am coming from a place where "amps x volts = watts" is a relevation!), want to be sure I understand the issues very well before plunking money down. (The most sticky issues seem to be sizing, and deciding what will integrate with what - not too surprising.)

Also go to Mr. Solar - educational, comprehensive site, awesome.

At DejaNews ( the posts by Don Kulha of Home Power Magazine ( are very informative. Also do a power search on various topics of interest in or as well as misc.survivalism.

Jade Mountain (, good section on 12 volt lighting: fluorescents; LED lights; among others.

-- Debbie Spence (, February 20, 1999.

Ihave set up a 12volt system. It is enough light to read by or move around with. Used basic 14ga car wire, deep cycle batteries, solar panels, wind turbine. Suggestion, use a 90 watt solar panel. It will recharge the batteries much quicker than the smaller ones. Also have a 140 and 800 watt power inverter to run some DC items. Good Luck Scotty

-- Scotty (, February 20, 1999.

For 12v supplies; lights, inverters, heaters, pumps, wind vanes etc. check out the suppliers catelogues for sailboats, powreboats. Most small craft run on either 12v or 24v systems.

-- Jim P.E. (, February 20, 1999.

Wiring for 12 volts follows the same formula as wiring for 120 volts. Just remember that you will pull 10 times the amperage to get the same wattage. So your wire has to have ten times the cross sectional area the 120 volt wiring would have. And you will need fuses to match. I haven't seen any high amperage 12 volt circuit breakers - would not know where to find them. Keep all wire runs as short as possible - internal resistance in the wiring will cause a signifigant voltage drop at the end of a long wire.

-- Paul Davis (, February 20, 1999.

Hi folks...(de lurking now)

We have been off the grid for 25 years. 15 years on Solar. This is what/how our system operates:

We have ten 40 watt panels individually fused with individual diodes consolidated into one junction.

From there into a 60 amp voltage controller. (The controller is a MUST for the protection of your batteries and to insure proper voltage regulation in the charging.)

Between the controller and the batteries there is a switch panel blade switches).

From the conrtoller into the batteries there are numerous 30 amp cartridge fuses.

We have (currently) 24 - 120 amp batteries. Six volt deep cycle batteries. For maintainance purposes, and to avoid going off line, I have installed knife switches, breaking the batteries into two banks. The batteries are housed on racks, outside the house. They are in two racks, with fuses and switches in between all banks. One rack is fine, but our house is configued differently than most.)

If it seems like I have an excess of fuses, just remember fuses are cheap, houses are expensive.

Wiring: All the wire used in connecting the batteries together is number 4 welding wire. Be careful how you connect the batteries together. Mine supply me with 12 volts, but if you do this part wrong, you can have serious trouble.

I am also using #4 wire into my inverter. This is a 1500 watt inverter. Ours is a modified sine wave inverter. It was a cheap one. (We know better now.) There is some interference on the TV and our radio, but it is minor. You don't really need a sine wave, unless you want to spend more. However....if you are also using a generator....UNPLUG the inverter! !FIRST Even if it is OFF, you can still blow the inverter by turning on the generator. (Been there done that got the t-shirt.)

We used #12 wire from the batteries to the lights and to the 12 volt tv. Each run is fused separately.

We can run 12 volt lighting (Home Depot has the bulbs) and 12 volt tv and radio concurrently (no pun) with 120 volt tv, computer, scanner,printer, satillite dish, sewing machine, etc. (Like now, as I type this.)

You cannot use magnetic fuses. They must be either screw in fuses or cartridge type.

Just a note: Our system is different in that we have modified our lifestyle to go along with our power availability. We use RV-style propane refrigerators, and have a 7.5KW backup generator to run the heavy stuff like the wood saws and such.

If you are planning a system to take the place of your local utility, and expect to maintain your conventional lifestyle, then you will need more/bigger panels a larger inverter, a larger controller, and more batteries

On the other hand, if you just want emergency lighting/radio power, then fewer panels and batteries would do. We run the systems in our RV (gas heater, cozy in the wintertime!) with three 120 watt panels, a 30 amp controller, and four 120 amp batteries. Six volt deep cycle. That system also supplies lighting to all our outbuildings and the sonic repelling devices for the night critters in the shed, as well as our RV.

We have found that the greater the battery resevoir, the less deep the cycling, the longer the batteries last. In earlier systems, we had the panels, but not enough batteries, and had problems during the winter.

Solarex has some serious panels and controllers.....and they are very very busy these days. I think it is or

In the 15 years that we have had these systems operating, the only two problems we had were having to maintain the panels by checking them from time to time, and maintaining the batteries. Originally, we did not have enough batteries, and they do have to be checked.

Hope this helps.

Mary Phillips.

-- Mary Phillips (, February 20, 1999.

I've set up a solar powered well pump system that also runs some basic 12v lighting.

I've mostly got involved with the 12v LED lights. Got one from Jade Mountain that has 9 white LEDS, and is bright enough for a task light or general lighting for specific uses (kitchen work, dishes, reading).

I have stayed away from the florescent lights, because they do use a fair bit of power, even in 12v. My LED light uses 75ma/hr; the battery pack lasts 45-50hrs. I can also hook it up to the main battery bank if I have to.

If someone knows of 12v florescent lights that use very little power, I'd be pleased to hear about them.

-- Bill (, February 21, 1999.

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