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Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:43 pm
by PTern
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Here is how I power my cellular trail cams. If you're good with a soldering iron and fabricating sheet metal, this easy power for your cam. The 'brain' is a single circuit board with a solar controller and lithium charger with battery protection, all in one. The board holds three 18650 lithium batteries and outputs approximately 12 volts. The regulator in the camera box brings 12 volt down to a rock solid 6 volts to power most cameras. I locate these with open southern sky and never had one go dead. I have no affiliation with amazon but here are some links;








Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:06 am
by RKEPPLE
Hi,

I'm interested in more detail about your solar setup, but the links to Amazon (which I presume have more info on the components) are missing or not showing up on my computer. Can you try providing them again? Thanks

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:27 am
by PTern
I'm not sure why the links are not showing up for you. Here are the Amazon part numbers. You can search them on Amazon and get to them that way. Again, I have no affiliation with Amazon.

B07F1V6ZDS

B07SGJSLDL

B01M9B6RQI

B01G6EB5U2

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 9:00 am
by Camoman1964
I have used this setup also for the last 3 months and so far has worked perfectly buy my camera is a 12 volt camera so no need for the regulator and I used a 10 watt panel and it has kept the batteries full and when I stop by to check battery status the done LED is always on. That little Chinese board works pretty good.

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sat Nov 30, 2019 6:50 am
by mikeinkaty
I am in the process of testing a Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) power bank. I hook four 32650 cells in parallel. That will provide a real 24Ah of power. Between the bank and the solar panel I use a Buck Converter to provide a constant 3.60 volts for charging. Between the bank and camera I am using a Boost Converter to provide the 6v for the camera (it could be set to 12 volts). These two types are cheap on eBay and are cheap. Like $3 for both.

The first half, the charging, works great. You start with a fully charged bank and the solar panel keeps it topped up assuming there are sufficient days of sun. Tomorrow I hope to do a final test on the second part. LiFePo4 batteries cannot be discharged below 2.5 volts. I’m thinking the Boost Converter will turn off at about 2.8 volts at which time the internal batteries will take over.

These 6Ah LiFePo4 batteries cost about $8 apiece for a total of $32 which is about the same a two 12Ah SLA batteries. LiFePo4 batteries are much safer than Lithium Ion batteries. They will not explode or catch fire. In my testing they have provided the full rated power to the cameras. SLA batteries generally only provide 50-60% of rated power. The LiFePo4 batteries I got were labeled as 6Ah but in testing I’ve gotten closer to 28Ah out of the pack. Freezing weather will not kill these batteries. They will drop in voltage a little but in my configuration the Boost Converter will keep the voltage steady at 6v. Using in this manner they should last for 2000 cycles being completely discharged and recharged. They are also like 80% lighter in weight. In my tests the batteries have provided 4 amps (constant) for about 7 hours. Game cams only go above 0.5 amps for a fraction of a second (when the IR’s are lit). My two Converters are rated at two amps, constant.

I will reply back with my last testing results. Gotta get over this darn cold first though.

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 8:52 pm
by mikeinkaty
The boost converter providing power to the camera (6v) does shut down when it’s input voltage gets to about 2.5v. Basically it shuts down when it can no longer supply the 6 volts. This is good because LiFePo4 batteries cannot be allowed to drop below about 2.1 volts.

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:13 am
by Saskboy
I've noticed in our saskatchewan winter here a 20 watt panel is not keeping up to demand on a cellular trail cam, too short of days mixed with not enough sunny days. May have to go bigger for winter months...

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:46 am
by Anthony
Saskboy wrote: Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:13 am I've noticed in our saskatchewan winter here a 20 watt panel is not keeping up to demand on a cellular trail cam, too short of days mixed with not enough sunny days. May have to go bigger for winter months...
I recently over used my battery on a camera with solar power. I put my camera in a low battery use state by doing the following:

Change Heartbeat to 12 hour
Change from Instant to Schedule.
Schedule mode 8 hours with 50 file limit
Switched from Video mode to Photo mode
Increased quiet time from 0s to 1m.

After 2 days my camera once again showed 100% battery. Now I am going to leave it this way for 2 more days while my battery fully charges, then go back to my regular settings.

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:53 am
by Anthony
The Ridgetec cameras use a modular cabling system:

The cables here:
https://www.chasingame.com/shop/ridgete ... cable-kit/

these cables are also part of the Solar Power Pack we provide.

We also have this Solar "Y" cable:
https://www.chasingame.com/shop/ridgetec-solar-y-cable/

It allows you to run two panels in parallel. I would not recommend more than 2 in parallel based on my research.

On my Ridgetec public Demo cameras that get 100 uploads per day then several video requests, I have placed two 10 watt panels on them using this Y cable and I no longer have any issues.

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:01 pm
by mikeinkaty
As we slide deeper into this Grand Solar Minimum you should consider bigger capacity batteries and bigger solar panels. 2 years ago in Oklahoma I saw over 60 day’s of almost no sun. I was running parallel 6v, 12Ah SLA batteries and a 10 Watt panel. One day I noticed the voltage was dropping. The next day the sun came out and stayed out for a week.

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:20 pm
by mikeinkaty
Running videos at night really uses battery juice fast! When the IR’s are firing my Spartan uses over 600ma. During the day each pic can take 30ma. Having a bad cell connection can also sap juice as the cam might try to send several times. During quite times these cams use less than 1ma (current goes up when motion is detected).

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:41 pm
by mikeinkaty
PTerm -

I’m testing four LiFePo4 in parallel, 6Ah each. Don’t need load balancing when all are in parallel. 3.3v nominal. I use a Buck Converter (set to 3.6v) between Panel and batteries and a Boost Converter between batteries and camera (6v). The boost converter shuts down when batteries get down to about 2.5 v. What do you do about charging in freezing conditions?

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:58 am
by Saskboy
Once the camera shows less than 100% life it's probably already at the point the sla is getting damaged. I really wish there was an option so see actual voltage on the heartbeat. For now my solar controllers will protect the battery from overly discharging and cutting back in once at full charge. Need a way to keep snow off the panels.....

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 12:22 pm
by Anthony
I read on the internet that an angle of 35 degrees is required to cause snow to fall off. Freezing rain though would be a problem.

And since you are northerly, during the winter then sun is lowest on the horizon so a steep downward angle will work for you I believe

Re: Homemade solar power for cellular trail cam

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 5:07 pm
by mikeinkaty
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 each. Very small. They could be mounted on the back of a solar panel.

Using Lithium Ion batteries in freezing weather is ok. It’s the charging that causes problems.