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A DIY Solar Cell Battery Charger

Instructions to build your own solar battery charger.
It is easy!

diy solar cell battery charger

Constructing a solar cell battery charger is not very complicated and makes up a good DIY solar project to learn about how solar power works.

A DIY solar cell battery charger can be constructed in several different ways; more or less complicated depending on if you are doing this simply as a science project or if you actually want the charger to useful for powering your rechargeable batteries.

To be honest, if you really want a solar battery charger to for your appliances, go buy one! There are excellent, price-worthy solar powered battery charges available these days that you can read more about here.

But, for a science project or just for fun, you'll find instructions for your DIY solar cell battery charger here.

DIY Solar Cell Battery Charger Instructions

What You Need

You don't need very many items to construct a solar power battery charger:

  • A solar panel
  • Rechargeable batteries - AA or AAA sized
  • A diode
  • Plastic battery holders with leads
  • Terminal strip

First of all, you need to decide which type of batteries (AA or AAA) that you want to recharge and also how many. Their size and amount will determine the size of solar panel needed.

A rechargeable AA or AAA battery is rated at 1.2 volts and needs a charging voltage of around 1.3-1.4 volts to reach full capacity. Therefore if you want to charge 4 x AA batteries you would need a 6 or 9 volt solar panel. Another thing to remember is that you should not charge a battery with more than 10% of its capacity as current. For example, if you have a battery with a 2,000mah capacity, it should be charged with a maximum current of 200ma to avoid the risk of overcharging.

Now, once you have decided the size of your charger and have acquired the right solar panel, it is time to put your battery charger together.

Building Instructions

First of all the batteries are put into the battery holders and then the holders are wired together in series. To do this the positive lead from one battery holder is connected to the negative from the other. The remaining free wires - one positive and one negative - are our charging inputs.

In order to prevent stored power in the batteries being released through the solar panel during the night, a blocking diode is used. Placed in the positive line from the solar panel this only allows electricity to flow from the solar panel to the batteries and not from the batteries to the solar panel. So, to mount the diode correctly, the ringed end of the blocking diode is connected to the positive battery input (red), and the other end to the positive output from the solar panel (red).

The negative output from the solar panel (blue) is then connected directly to the negative battery input (black).

And then - tada - you're done! Easy, huh?

Optional improvement

There is particularly one easy to fix improvement you might want to consider. First of all, there is no way to control that the batteries will not be overcharged. It is not a big problem if the solar panel and battery capacity is well matched, as in our above project, but if you for example would want to charge other types of batteries, overcharging could be a risk unless you change to another solar panel.

To solve this, you can mount a voltage regulator chip together with a suitable resistor to regulate current. A constant current circuit is created, that then is mounted to the solar cell battery charger. (See the picture below)

LM317 constant current circuit
For example, using a LM317T voltage regulator chip, the output voltage from it would be 1.25V. The depending on the resistance of the resistor, you can control the current going into the batteries. Something called Ohm's law is used to calculate the resistance needed. For example, with voltage of 1.25V and required current of 200ma as above, you'd need a resistor of 6.8 Ohm, since 6.2 Ohm resistors are not available. (1.25/200=0.00625; i.e. 6.25 Ohm)

In this case, you would connect the negative lead from the solar panel to the free negative input of the battery holders, just like before. But the positive lead from the solar panel should now be connected to the positive input of the current limiting circuit, and the output from that circuit connected to the free positive lead of the battery holders.

Now you have a solar cell battery charger that can't overcharge your batteries.

If you want to continue develop your battery charger, you could also add a battery status monitor to be able to see how far the charging has come.

Learn More

As you've seen, it is not difficut to build a solar cell battery charger. But you won't save much on doing it, since soalr powered battery chargers are not very expensive, but often very good these day. Check out this one, for example.

But if you are into solar DIY projects, you can both find more of them here at Solar For Energy, and you can get yourself some really good guides to continue your venture. See below for some ideas.

  • Wind And Solar Electricity: A Practical DIY Guide
  • GreenSense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects
  • The DIY Solar Water Heater e-book

More DIY Solar Projects


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