Wireless cameras are growing in popularity. These cameras are pretty easy to install and do not require you to run wiring throughout the house and get extra equipment such as a DVR and a monitor. They run on batteries and transfer data using WiFi.
However, you have to recharge the battery throughout the year, which can be a tedious task and potentially dangerous, particularly during the winter. This makes using a solar panel to power the camera a really good idea.
You can make a solar-powered outdoor wireless security camera following these 7 easy steps:
- Choose a solar panel that provides the same voltage as your charger
- Choose a USB cable with 90-degree plugs
- Test the solar panel by appending to charge your phone
- Waterproof the USB module of the solar panel using a glue gun
- Chose a location to mount the solar panel such that it gets a lot of sunlight
- Mount the solar panel
- Waterproof the USB port of the camera.
In this article, we’re going to go through the process of making an outdoor wireless security camera solar-powered.
Things You Need
Here’s a list of all the things you will need to follow this guide.
- Wireless chargeable camera with battery
- Solar panel
- USB cable
- Hot glue gun
- Screws and anchors
- Drilling machine and drill bits
Since there is no sunlight at night, you should pair the solar panel with a battery. However, pairing solar power with a battery may not be approved by your manufacture and may void your warranty. Do this at your own risk.
Let’s get on with the steps.
Step 1: Choose the Solar Panel
You need a solar panel that can provide the right voltage and enough power. You can determine the required voltage by reading the labels on the charger. Usually, security camera batteries charge at 5V. (1)
Since the voltage is fixed, the current is the only factor left to determine the power output. You can estimate the current needed to charge the camera by reading the labels on the charger as well. For most cameras, a solar panel the size shown in the pictures will do.
The camera we used needs 5 volts to get charged according to the labels on the charger. The charger supplies 750mA of current. The solar panel we used outputs 5 volts. However, the current depends on the amount of light on the panel. The panel we used can maximally provide 800mA of current, but it would be much lower most of the time.
This is not a problem for most cameras. We do not have to provide the current the charger provides; we just have to provide a bit more power daily than the amount of power the camera uses. An 800mA solar panel was adequate for our camera. In just 15 days, the camera battery went from 65 percent to 80 percent. This 1 percent increase per day is not bad considering the camera was running the entire time.
Step 2: Choose the USB Cable
The length of this cable will depend on how far you want to place the solar panel from the camera. However, do not use a USB cable longer than 3 meters. The power supplied will decrease significantly if you use a longer USB cable. (2)
Make sure both the solar panel and the wireless security camera are USB-enabled. You also need a USB cable with 90-degree plugs.
Step 3: Test the Solar Panel
If the solar panel outputs 5V, you can test it using your phone. Most phones use a 5V charger and can theoretically be charged with a 5V solar panel.
Connect the USB cable to the solar panel and the phones, place the solar panel somewhere with direct sunlight and see if the phone starts charging. You do not have to wait till the battery percentage increases, however. It’s enough to verify that the solar panel is working if your phone starts charging.
Alternatively, you may use a USB tester or a USB voltmeter to verify that the solar power is working and supplying 5 volts.
Step 4: Waterproof the USB Module
The USB module at the back of the solar panel may get exposed to water and elements. In order to keep the solar panel from deteriorating, you can use a hot glue gun to waterproof the module. Cover all the open edges and holes where water can get through with hot glue. Also, waterproof the USB port after plugging the USB cable in.
Step 5: Choose the Location
This is the most elaborate step in this process and requires carefully considering a number of factors. I thought it best to discuss each factor individually.
- Direct Sunlight
As you would have guessed, the solar panel needs to be placed outdoors so it can get direct sunlight. Indirect and reflected sunlight may not allow the solar panel to produce much power.
In order to maximize the power output, the solar panel should be directed towards the average location of the sun. If you live in the southern hemisphere, you will need to direct the solar panel in the direction of true north. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the solar panel should be tilted towards the true south.
The closer you are to the equator, the straighter up the panel should point. For people living near the equator, the mean location of the sun is directly above, and hence the solar panel should best direct upward.
The farther you are to the equator, the greater the angle of the tilt will be. The direction of the tilt is still determined, as described in the previous point.
The mean location of the sun oscillates slightly throughout the year. But this change is not significant enough to consider. The changes in weather, however, can have a large impact on the sunlight intensity. Long battery life can help the camera stay alive during these seasons. But a larger solar panel that collects more light and produces more power can work as a solution as well.
- Dust and Snow
Accumulation of dust and snow on the solar panel can lower the amount of light that reaches the diodes in the solar panel, significantly reducing the power output. Regularly cleaning the solar panel will fix this, but you have to consider the fact that you will need to clean the solar panel regularly.
Different structures such as trees and other houses may block the sunlight from reaching the panel at different times. Placing it in direct sunlight is not enough because the sun will shift, and some structures may cast a shadow on the solar panel during the second half of the day. Carefully place the solar panel so that it gets the maximum light most of the day.
- Distance to Camera
If the solar panel is too far away from the camera, you will need to use a longer USB cable which would result in power losses. Hence, to get optimal results, the solar panel should be placed close to the camera.
All of these factors are significant in determining the power that the camera will receive. However, security camera batteries last quite a long time, and the camera uses a very small amount of power. You can sacrifice some of these for your convenience and still get more than enough power to continuously charge and run the camera.
Step 6: Install the Solar Panel
You may need to use a drill machine depending on where you wish to place the solar panel. First, use the holes on the solar panel to mark where holes should be.
Use appropriate drill bits for the anchors.
Check the alignment of the holes after drilling each hole.
Once all the holes have been drilled, you can insert the anchors.
Secure the panel from one corner partially and then rout the USB cable to the camera. At this stage, you can test if the solar panel is adequate to charge the camera. Do this process during the daytime, so it is easier to test the solar panel. On a cloudy day, you may need to use a very bright light source to perform this test.
Complete the routing process after verifying and tuck away any extra cable.
Step 7: Waterproof the Camera
Wireless cameras are not designed to be waterproof while they’re being charged. When you remove the cap to plug the USB cable, the USB port is exposed to water and the elements. You can use the same hot glue gun to waterproof the USB port on the camera after you have plugged the USB cable in. Make sure to fill it thoroughly and let the glue cure.
You may want to check the video guide below;
Other videos you may refer to;
And with that, you’re done. Your camera will start charging, and the solar panel will not let the battery drop. This way, you get the benefits of a wireless camera without having to recharge the camera every now and then.
(1) voltage – http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/elevol.html
(2) USB – https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/u/usb.htm