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going to limited-electricity island - any good solar chargers?

Discussion in 'Tips and Techniques' started by M DeM, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. M DeM

    M DeM Barracuda

    I'm going to an island off Madagascar for a month, and where I'm staying runs off a generator and only for certain hours of the day.

    I'm going to need to charge strobes, camera, dive lights, laptop, etc..

    So does anyone have experience with either solar or hand crank chargers? Any particular recommendations?
  2. stepfen

    stepfen Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greece
    How many hours of electricity you will get per day? I've been in homestays in Raja Ampat with 4-5 hours a day and it was enough time to charge everything. Just bring enough chargers and socket extensions so you can charge everything simultaneously. Extra batteries and power banks can help as backup.
    The problem with solar or whatever else is that usually each charger requires different input voltage (some dc 5v, others dc 12v not to mention the ones that run on ac 110/220v). I don't have experience but a system to provide reliable 110v or 220v ac out of solar would be quite big to travel with. Think of a small UPS plus a quite big solar panel kind of thing
  3. BRT

    BRT Giant Squid

    You would be astounded how hard it would be to charge a cell phone by hand cranking, let alone dive lights.
  4. Dark Wolf

    Dark Wolf Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: SW Missouri
    Have you figured your amp hour requirement? That would be the first step in your planning.

  5. JamesBon92007

    JamesBon92007 Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Southern California...too far from the ocean
    I go along with stepfen's thinking. I lived off-grid for about 10 years and ran my gas-powered battery bank charger an hour or two a day and that's when we ran our big loads such as vacuum cleaner, well pump to fill the water tank, and such. If you are at home while the electricity is on then you could charge everything at that time. Are you going to have a car? If so, a 12V USB adaptor will be able to charge some items while you are driving plus Harbor Freight used to sell a little inverter that plugged into the cig lighter of a car which could be used for other chargers that require 110-120VAC. I think it was about 100 watts or so but that's probably enough. It fits in the palm of your hand and wasn't expensive.

    Here's something similar:

    Car Inverter Converter Adapter 12V To 110V Plug Power Outlet Cigarette Lighter 711181659160 | eBay

    I got one for each of my two daughters because their 12V phone chargers kept crapping out but the 120 VAC chargers lasted a long time.
    M DeM and Dark Wolf like this.
  6. Pyro_

    Pyro_ Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
    My pref for portable solar chargers is https://www.suntactics.com/
    I would combine that with a larger USB battery so you charge the battery from solar and then run everything off the USB battery
  7. tbone1004

    tbone1004 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Greenville, South Carolina, United States
    that, you need your total watt hour consumption, then divide by your efficiency ratings *inverter, charger, etc*. If everything can be charged by 12vdc then that's much more efficient and allows for a more simple setup since you don't need an inverter.

    The biggest issue for you is going to be battery banks since you need to store all of the power whether it's solar or from the generator. You'll be better off just having a big battery bank that auto-charges off of the generator when it is running *provided you can leave it plugged in when you aren't there.

    An easy way to skin this cat which is also rather practical is one of these guys
    1800 Watt Portable Power Station and Simultaneous Battery Charger - DCB1800B | DEWALT
    More than enough power from the inverter to charge everything at once, and with the big batteries gives you about 300w of charging watts. Not a huge amount, but it'll charge some of your stuff. The nice thing is you can fly with it.

    You basically want/need the biggest battery bank you can afford. I use Goal Zero because I got a great deal on them, but they are lead so are heavy. Perks of lead are you can daisy chain them to any 12v lead battery bank and they'll charge. Leave it connected to an outlet and it'll put in as much as it can while the generator is running.

    Realistically though you need to figure out the total watt hours that you need per day and multiply it by 2. That's the battery bank size that you need so you can charge everything at once without damaging the batteries. Your solar capacity in wh will be the same as the bank size since there are efficiency losses, but I'd get a big battery charger to charge everything from the generator before I dealt with panels
    M DeM and Dark Wolf like this.
  8. Dark Wolf

    Dark Wolf Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: SW Missouri
    Yup, exactly what tbone said.

  9. Chris Ross

    Chris Ross Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Sydney Australia
    If you look at a Maha 8 cell Ni-MH battery charger its rated at 18V 2000 mA, which is 36W and its power supply is 100-240V 1200mA. that's 120 W. Basically nothing for a 240V system. But on solar a 120W solar panel is about 1.2 x 0.5m for one I checked. You can get flexible ones for travel, and an inverter but do you want to lug it to Madagascar? Most solar systems are setup to charge a battery and then run power off that battery with an inverter, which would involve lugging a battery, you canprobably find a direct solar to 120V inverter but output will be highly variable which may upset your chargers. You also need to support it in full sun, partial shading will dramatically reduce output.

    The power station linked above runs on big Li-Ion batteries, rated at 80-100 W-hr which are restricted for air travel and you would need to carry them on with you. Have a look on page 3 of the manual. https://servicenet.dewalt.com/docum...6.1161667392.1547334831-1001037804.1547334831

    Whether that is a problem depends on the airline you travel with and given your destination could involve multiple airlines. Iit's not clear if you need to bring along 4 Li-ion packs to use it standalone

    You alternative is to use fast chargers, and take a power board with you with enough outlets to charge everything at once. The Maha charger I mentioned will charge 8 AA eneloops in an hour. Buying an extra charger or two may be an easier alternative than lugging a power supply be it solar or Li-Ion based solution along with you. I assume the generator will run in the evening, will you be diving in the day and back at base in the evening? If that's the case always run your laptop plugged in when using and develop a routine to get all your devices on charge when you arrive back at base and it should not be an issue.

    Madagascar is 220v which is fine for most chargers, you would need to have power boards rated at 220v and if you went the deWalt solution check that it will take 220V power. Of course the generator may be either 120 or 220v depending on who is running the place.
  10. broncobowsher

    broncobowsher Solo Diver

    What hours are the generator running? What time of day will you be diving? You know that solar chargers don't work at night? The idea of bringing a battery to charge so it can charge other batteries, you might as well just bring 2 batteries for what you need. Charge one camera battery while you dive with the other. Also adds redundancy if a battery fails. You only get the camera every other day, but that is better then none at all.

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