The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homemade solar powered laptop charger

 diy home made solar powered laptop charger

The team at KMS woodworks has made some interesting progress in bringing together a compact solar charger that can be used for several low end power needs like a lap top. They are still in the testing stage, but it looks like they might make them available for sale in the 300 to 350 dollar range in the not too distant future.

It would be worth that much to me if it could power our modem and both lap tops for a few hours per day, especially during a power outage.

I really like the idea of having a portable off the grid option, especially one that can be taken on a back pack to provide the power for blog posts in some random ancient megalith site or more Mayan ruins.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Wouldn't it be much nicer if the solar panel was built right into the lid of the laptop? You could then just put the laptop in a sunny place and have it charge its own battery.

Of course, to do this right it would probably have to be done by the laptop's manufacturer. I don't think most laptops have enough free space inside to stick the necessary electronics. And you'd have to run a power cable through the lid's hinges. Maybe the laptops battery controller would require changes to cope with a varying flow of power.

I'd sure love to have it on my laptop. :-)

Comment by Roland Smith Sat Jan 9 17:18:27 2010
I was actually discussing this with my brother (the computer programmer) a couple of years ago and he dashed my hopes that the manufacturers will make one any time soon. He reminded me how easy it easy to overheat a laptop and damage it, and that having a solar panel on the back would mean it needs to sit out in the sun... Still, it seems like the manufacturers could make a solar panel that just plugs into the side of your computer with a USB port!
Comment by anna Sat Jan 9 19:44:55 2010

I was thinking of leaving the laptop in the sun when you're not using it, so heat is not much of an issue.

It would be nice to have a relatively large panel that is light and can be packed into a small space. There are already flexible solar panels that you apparently can roll up. But it is yet another item to haul around with your laptop.

Still, the technology is getting better all the time. Laptops are by design more energy conscious and efficient than desktops. I guess it would already be practically doable to keep your laptop running with a couple of solar panels and batteries.

The problem IMO is that if you are connected to the grid, it doesn't make economical sense to do so. And if it makes sense invironmentally, looking at a total cifecycle analysis, is still a big question in my mind.

Comment by Roland Smith Sun Jan 10 15:32:52 2010
I'm still waiting for the flexible panels to come down in the price they way they keep promising they will. I agree with you, btw, about the questionable environmental benefit of solar panels. Clearly, becoming more efficient should be our first step before we go buying anything to generate electricity. That was actually our biggest incentive to change over to laptops, and with this year's purchase of energy efficient fridge and freezer we've seen our power usage plummet. Still lots more to do, though!
Comment by anna Sun Jan 10 18:24:58 2010

I'd like to post an update on how this has been performing since Mark put this link up.

I upgraded the battery to a single 12 V 10ah sealed battery a few months ago. I just had this unit down at our off-grid cabin in New Mexico last week. I ran my laptop a few hours each day and would top off the laptops battery by plugging into this. We also used this to power our "stereo" system which consists of a pair of 12Volt Bose Computer speakers and an Ipod, on one of the days we were there we ran the "stereo" for over 8 hours...first some music while I was putting in the rest of the cabin LED's Ceiling lights, and then later we listened to an audio book for about 4 hours...The entire time the voltage never dropped below 12 volts on the battery.....In other words the charge was maintained at 95% or better for the 4 days we were there. We will be taking this on our up-coming Road trip to the Grand Canyon and Zion National parks...Zion has a "no generator" Policy. We camp in tent sites with out hook this unit will be great for letting us upload pics from the digital cameras and keep up with our blogs and journaling.


KMS Woodworks

Comment by Moontree Ranch Mon Apr 5 16:59:21 2010
I noticed that over on your blog --- that's quite impressive!! Feel free to keep us updated as you find the limits.
Comment by anna Mon Apr 5 18:05:19 2010

Just came across this while looking at mobile solar panel solutions, and I must say they have not really used the space that well.

In the design they could have had the panel as the lid of the case, that way you wouldnt need to set up such a fixed position for the charger.

But I do think this is essential for any technological nature lovers. I love going camping, having weeks away etc. but would also like to keep some of the creature comforts such as my laptop and music

Comment by PV Thu Apr 21 13:56:07 2011
I can see your point about having the solar panel as the lid, but knowing how fragile panels are, I think I'd be happier having it inside the case while traveling!
Comment by anna Thu Apr 21 17:00:29 2011

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