Solar Ammo Can

by Ben N on March 2, 2018

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With my recent work in solar, quite a few people have started asking me about designing small BATTERY-based solar systems.

I thought it would be nice to work on a project demonstrating basic solar battery charging principals, and at the same time, have a handy and useful project when I was done. Thus, the Solar Ammo Can was born!

I chose to use a 50 caliber plastic ammo can/storage container. It’s a nice size, has a sturdy handle on top, and is weather-proof. I’ve used a lot of these same containers as tool boxes and for storage. They are great for camping supplies.

Here’s an overview of the project and what it does.

Of course, actually assembling the project is a little more complicated. On the other hand, I really did mostly use off-the-shelf parts (or mail order at worst!) I did that to make sure that the project would be made from straight-forward components anyone could get. Here’s the step-by-step assembly video, followed by the list of components.

For this project, we used:

MTM 50 Caliber Ammo Can
http://amzn.to/2CUjBZK

Sealed Lead Acid Battery, 15AH capacity ​http://amzn.to/2HAhJZL

20A Solar Charge Controller  http://amzn.to/2F6olkZ

Four In One Socket Panel http://amzn.to/2CSEwg0

Banana Jacks http://amzn.to/2CUQjdM

12 AWG stranded wire in both black and red (From local hardware store)

Crimp on electrical terminals,

spade and 1/4″ ring terminal

Silicone adhesive or hot glue

Industrial type hook and loop fastener (Velcro) http://amzn.to/2F6smpV

Wire Nuts or Wago (Brand) Lever Lock Nuts. http://amzn.to/2CUlupi

Fuse Holder and Fuse. http://amzn.to/2taQYIq

6-32 and 8-32 nuts, bolts, and washers

PV Solar panel. Any 12V nominal solar panel of about 10 to 20 watts is perfect for this project. Here’s one which looks affordable, and it about the right size and style for the project. http://amzn.to/2CUu9rS

DC Power Adapter (Wall Charger) Any DC wall power adapter of higher than 12V (13.2, 14.4, 18) and one amp will work fine. I already had a 18V 1.3A power adapter handy. Here’s a similar adapter. http://amzn.to/2FdrFub

USB Gooseneck LED Light These small USB lights work great. They are very simple and durable. Fantastic for camping. http://amzn.to/2CUBJmi

100 Watt AC Power Inverter. This device converts DC power to AC power so that you can run typical household devices from a battery. A 100 watt version is very compact and inexpensive. I already had one, which I used for this project. Here is a similar version. http://amzn.to/2tcBVxS

Once I had all the components, it was just a matter of laying them out and fitting them all in the box. Rather than drilling through the side of the ammo can (and wrecking the weather-proofness!) I decided that all the components should go INSIDE the box. To do that, I’d have to make some sort of a faceplate for the parts to mount to. I scanned the components so that I could bring them into a vector graphic program where I could arrange them, and then use that to make a cut file for a laser-cutter. I then visited a friend, and used his laser cutter to make the faceplate.

Due to many requests, we’ve made the laser-cut solar ammo faceplate available for sale. See it here: https://300mpg.org/product/solar-ammo-can-faceplate/

Assembling the components to the faceplate is just a matter of putting components through the holes and adding a few screws, nuts, and washers.

For the electrical, I just followed the schematics on the Solar Charge Controller and the Four-in-One socket panel. The main thing to remember is that all the power goes through the solar charge controller. Besides controlling the charge, this device also acts as a low-voltage cut-off to prevent loads from over-discharging the battery.

A main fuse is connected between the solar charge controller and the Positive side of the battery. I used a 20A fuse, as the charge controller and other components are all rated at a maximum of 20A.

Wiring was completed with 12 awg stranded copper wiring, color coded red for positive and black for negative. Wago lever locks are nice connectors that can take the place of wire nuts. They make solid connections, but also allow you to add another wire later, or remove one. They are great for prototyping projects!

I glued down the battery inside the ammo can and placed a piece of self-adhesive industrial Velcro on top of the battery. A matching piece of Velcro went on the back of the faceplate. After plugging in the battery wires, I simply Velcro’d down the faceplate over the top of the battery.

At that point, the Solar Ammo Can is ready for action! It’s handy for camping and emergencies. The Solar Ammo Can will charge a phone or tablet, run a light or radio, and can even run low-power AC devices. The Solar Ammo Can weighs less than 10 lbs, and cut easily be lifted and carried by nearly anyone.

I already had a solar panel appropriate for this project. I looked around to see what’s out there for an affordable panel that would match and found this one. http://amzn.to/2CUu9rS
Here’s my video review and how to use it.

If you haven’t already, please take a look the YouTube videos, and feel free to comment either at the video on YouTube, or right here at 300MPG.org.
As always, please like, share, and subscribe!

Until next time, stay charged up!

-Ben

 

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