What is a Voltaic Solar Panel Kit?
A solar panel kit is one or more of our super strong, portable solar panels combined with our adapters, connectors and/or batteries. The possibilities are endless so we narrowed it down to the most popular and useful combinations. In general, we recommend kits for people that are familiar with solar and/or are comfortable experimenting.
What Kit should I get?
Think about the biggest thing you need to charge and how much you need to charge it. The more solar panel area and battery power you have, the faster your device will charge, but price, size and weight also increase. As a general rule, we recommend:
Cell phone sized devices: 2 Watt, 3.4 Watt (recommended) or 4 Watt Tablet sized devices: 3.4 Watt (minimum), 4 Watt, 6.8 Watt (recommended) or 10 Watt Digital Cameras: 4 Watt, 6.8 or 16 Watt (you need 12 Volts to power DSLRs, requiring at least two 6Volt panels) Laptop sized devices, lead acid batteries: 10 Watt or 16 Watt
If you want to get more precise, you can calculate the Watt hours of the battery(s) you'd like to charge. For every Watt of panel it takes 2.5 hours of direct, clear sun to power about 1 Watt hour of battery charge. More detail on the math is here.
When do I need a Voltaic battery with my Kit?
It depends. If your device requires a stable, regulated output, a battery may be necessary. Batteries can also be incredibly useful as they store power and deliver it on demand. In general, most laptops require a battery (like our V60). iPhones do not currently work direct from solar panels, but many Android phones will charge directly from 3.4 Watt panels in direct sunlight with our F3511-MicroUSB adapter. If you have a specific device, you can ask us here.
How do I assemble my Kit?
If you have a single panel that you are trying to put into a Voltaic battery, you can plug the panel into one of our Female 3511 adapters and then the adapter to the battery. You will need the F3511-MiniUSB for the V11, F3511-5525 for the V39 and V60. Here is a photo of a single panel going into the V11 and V39 via these adapters.
If you have multiple panels, you will need to use a circuit box. Our circuit boxes have between 1 and 4 solar panel inputs. Here is a closeup of the 2 Panel Circuit Box. There are 2 inputs for solar panels, an output for an LED wire (optional) and two power output cables. On some of the circuit boxes, there is a switch that allows you to change the Voltage output of both the output cables.
In this example, connect the panels to where it says "Solar Panels In". Then connect the battery to the circuit box’s output, in this case the MiniUSB plug. In each of the kits, we suggest the appropriate circuit boxes that will allow you to connect from the panels to your battery.
Tell me more about Circuit Boxes.
A circuit box allows you to put multiple panels together. When you combine panels the total power goes up and you can increase current or Voltage of the output. The Voltage switch puts the panels either in parallel or series. As a reminder, in parallel the Voltages stay the same and the current increases. In series, the current stays the same and the Voltage increases. Here are a couple examples:
2 x 2.0 Watt panels going into our 2 Panel Circuit Box
6V Setting – Output = 6 Volts @ 666mA
12V Setting – Output = 12 Volts @ 333mA
3 x 3.4 Watt panels going into our 3 Panel Circuit Box
6V Setting – Output = 6 Volts @ 1.7A
18V Setting – Output = 18 Volts @ 566mA
Here are closeups of the 1, 3 and 4 panel circuit boxes.
Which Voltage setting should I use?
It depends on what device you are charging. As a rule of thumb, we find that the Voltage of the solar panels generally charges devices most efficiently when it is 1.5X the Voltage of the cells that it is charging. So if you are charging a 3.7V cell, 6V works well. For a 12V battery, 18 Volts works well. We are assuming you have a charge controller in both cases. Our batteries have charge controllers built in, so if you are using our battery you do not have to worry about that.
Note– the 12V and 18V setting will only work if you have solar panels going into all of the inputs. For example, if you have one panel going into a 2-panel circuit box and switch to 12V, the output will be zero.
How do I test whether it is working?
If you have a Voltaic battery in your kit, go outside with your kit and point the panels at the sun. The LED indicator on the battery should light up sequentially. If you do not have a Voltaic battery, we suggest using multi-meters to measure the Voltage and current output of the panels.
What are the screws on the back of the panel for?
Each of the panels has screws embedded in the corners. We use these screws to mount and secure the panels into the fabric of our solar chargers and bags.
You can use those screws to mount onto any fabric, webbing or thin piece of metal. If you have multiple panels, mounting the panels makes them easier to manage.
Are there blocking diodes in the circuit boxes?
For now, yes although we may remove these over time as our batteries have blocking diodes included.