Use this forum for the discussion of all things related to the use of cellular trail cameras. The discussion of different models/manufacturers, service providers, problems, tips & hints for ease of use are all welcome here.
I can see why the solar option is attractive. However, I've had great luck with using just a car battery. Last winter was bitter cold where we consistently had -20's and even hit -40F one night. The car battery powered my Ridgetec lookout the entire winter without having to charge it a single time. And thats a 5 year old battery that had issues starting my golf carts small gas engine. To keep the battery concealed, I put a plastic box over the top and piled snow over the box. I'm sure the snow also provided some insulation.
Boly's BC-02 Solar Charger, the second generation of Solar Charger tailored for game cameras, has been selling for more than 3 years without major problems, even in very cold regions like Canada and North Europe. Customers report major sales growth for 2020. Home-made Solar chargers can hardly compete with factory made products.

In the past, many were using lead-acid batteries for outdoor applications. Lithium batteries are going to replace the lead-acid batteries in the coming years.
mikeinkaty wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 5:07 pm Lithium Ion or Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are not supposed to be charged when the temp is below freezing. You can find bimetal switches on eBay that turn off as the temp goes below freezing. Cheap, like $2 source. Very small. They could be mounted on the back of a solar panel.
Can you site an article that shows this to be a fact? I have heard this too but when I asked the manufacturers I was told no its not the case.
Anthony -
I found it on the internet!!! There are a few technical discussions on youtube discussing the effects of cold weather. I did not hit the like button nor subscribe to them.

Anyway, they were saying that lithium would plate out on the carbon anode when charging in freezing conditions. And, that it was not reversible. This would quickly erode the charging capacity. Now, they were talking about high charging rates. There is almost no discussions to be found talking about low charging rates. All of my solar panels are 5 watt except one 20 watt. So, for most part we’re talking about charging rates that are generally less than about 0.6 amps.

I now have two charging banks. One with LiPo batteries taken from a broken DeWalt drill and one from new LiFePo4 cells. The LiPo is 6 cells in parallel for about 12Ah and the LiFePo4 having 4 cells in parallel for 24Ah. The Buck and boost converters are working great.
Solar panel thoughts. There are two different applications for diodes in solar panels. Blocking diodes and bypass diodes. Solar panels can have just one row of photo cells inside (the smaller ones). The bigger ones can have 2 or more rows hooked in parallel. These rows must be isolated from each other using bypass diodes. This will prevent circulating currents when some rows are not receiving sunlight.

Anyway, all diodes used in solar panels should be Schottsky diodes and not Silicon diodes. Schottsky diodes have about 1/3rd the internal resistance as silicon diodes. See if you can find ID numbers on your diodes and Google it. If they are not Schottsky then consider replacing them to get more power.
Last edited by mikeinkaty on Wed Dec 11, 2019 4:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
Anthony, I’ve seen as many as 6 rows of solar cells in parallel in the bigger solar panels. When hooking cells (or panels) in parallel you need the bypass diodes. One could hook a dozen in parallel as long as bypass diodes are installed.
Last edited by mikeinkaty on Wed Dec 11, 2019 4:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
I think it’s kind of ironic that as we slip into a Grand Solar Minimum that our new super dooper high tech batteries do not work well in colder temps.
My LiPo cells taken from an old DeWalt drill have lost to much capacity. 6 in parallel are only giving about 6Ah. They are just to old. So, will be buying 4 new LiFePo4 batteries. Probably 6Ah each.
The thing about using LiFePo4 or LiPo batteries is they have an almost flat discharge curve. My Spartans have always died when the voltage got down to about 5 v. That means you’re only using about 50% of the rated capacity for SLA batteries. So, the above two type batteries will give up all their power before the cam shuts off. And, they are rechargeable.
My Li-Ion battery pack seem to be working fine. It is 6 Li-Ion batteries in parallel for 3.8v (nominal) and 6Ah . It is hooked up to a 5w solar panel thru a Buck Converter set at 4.2v maximum. After 3 hours of full sun the pack was back to full charge. There is a boost converter on the other side kicking the camera voltage up to 6.1v. Cam is working well with full intensity on the LED’s at night.
I now have 3 more packs made. They are each three 6Ah LiFePO4 batteries hooked in parallel for 18Ah total each. Again a buck converter from a solar panel then a boost converter to the camera. Charge controller not necessary. $8 each for the batteries or $24 per pack. Converters $2.50 for both. Case $8 at HD. Barrel plug from eBay for $1 each. Weight about 25% of SLA with equivalent rating.
It’s been close to 6 months and my LiFePo4 packs have been working fine. All pics have shown power level 5 and that’s with all the cloudy weather. Around 20 pics at night and 10-15 during the day. Cold weather caused no problems. They were taking pics at 0°F. That may be due to my using a boost converter.

One thing I’ve noticed is that on hazy days when the solar panels are only producing 20-40 ma, the cells are taking that charge. That’s not enough to increase the charge % of SLA batteries to any measurable degree. Lithium batteries don’t undergo a normal chemical reaction. As long as there is an EMF to push the electrons they will take a charge.

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