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Old 11-15-2021, 10:19 AM   #1
IkemanTX
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I blew out my ankle this year just before my season started and haven’t been able to swap batteries or pull cards on any cameras.

Most cameras will be dead (or memory cards full) by now, as i run video mode on everything and the batteries have been running since may.

Losing a hunting season sucks, but what is really eating me up is losing an entire year worth of intel from not being able to do my early season battery/card swap…. So since i’ve been stuck at home for weeks I decided to work on fixing the problem.

I found a video on YouTube last year from “The Handy Hunter” where he put together a small diy solar battery. The battery he uses for that build is no longer available, so my son and i soldered one up ourselves out of 3,000mah rechargeable AA batteries.


Then, we assembled the solar panel / battery according to his video (soldering and shrink tubing instead of wire nuts).


Most of my brownings will accept EXTREMELY large SD card sizes, so with these panels / batteries supplying permanent power i should be able to get videos for a full year without fail when paired with a 256 gig card. (Assuming the camera isn’t on a high traffic spot like a feeder) in picture mode with a memory card that big, this thing could probably run continuously for a couple of years before filling the card.

The 12v regulators i picked up are running a little lower than 12v, but the camera still runs just fine off of it. But, i wish i had tested that part before soldering and assembling.



I only run 2 cameras on private land, though, and this setup is definitely not something i want to have on public land. Theres too much money and time invested in it, and i think you would be able to spot it from a mile away regardless of how good a sponge paint job is. So, i plan to do some 12v lithium battery packs that i can charge at home and just hang behind the camera.

For those, i am planning on using 4 lifepo4 32650 cells in series, shrink wrapped with a 12v plug and balance leads protruding from the pack. I would only have about $15 invested in each pack aside from buying a compatible charger, and it would be smaller than the camera in size. The cells i have found are 6,000mah, so that would be about double the life of a full set of lithiums. So, including the set of batteries in the camera, that would be 3 sets of battery worth of life at each camera.

I’ll try to update here when i get the battery only packs built.


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Old 11-15-2021, 10:44 AM   #2
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That ought'a work. Looks good.
...time to make some banana bread
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Old 11-15-2021, 10:53 AM   #3
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Good looking build. I would not worry as to whether the total voltage is over 12 volts… if you load the camera with lithium ion energizers and check the total output of the battery pack it would be higher than 13 volts. Rated at 1.5 volts but really putting put 1.7 x 8 batteries in series produces closer to or approximately 13.6 volts.
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Old 11-15-2021, 11:13 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Pedernal View Post
Good looking build. I would not worry as to whether the total voltage is over 12 volts… if you load the camera with lithium ion energizers and check the total output of the battery pack it would be higher than 13 volts. Rated at 1.5 volts but really putting put 1.7 x 8 batteries in series produces closer to or approximately 13.6 volts.

The regulator is more so that the solar panel doesn’t fry the camera when in full sun. I know some of the cheaper solar panels can run way over on voltage in full sun days.


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Old 11-15-2021, 11:27 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IkemanTX View Post
The regulator is more so that the solar panel doesn’t fry the camera when in full sun. I know some of the cheaper solar panels can run way over on voltage in full sun days.


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My bad I miss read your original post as stating the voltage was over 12 volts and not under. And yes I concur the regulator should both keep voltages to levels that won’t harm the cam as well as cut of charging to the batteries once they are at full charge.
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Old 11-15-2021, 12:12 PM   #6
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Just curious why a conventional rechargeable 12V battery with a solar panel wouldn't work? I've packaged that up in a small plastic ammo case and attached to my camera post off the ground with good success in the past. I just use rechargeable AA batteries in them now since I'm able to check cameras every 2-3 weeks. I definitely like the size of your arrangement better.
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Old 11-15-2021, 12:43 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Aggies96 View Post
Just curious why a conventional rechargeable 12V battery with a solar panel wouldn't work? I've packaged that up in a small plastic ammo case and attached to my camera post off the ground with good success in the past. I just use rechargeable AA batteries in them now since I'm able to check cameras every 2-3 weeks. I definitely like the size of your arrangement better.

The size, mostly. This area has some seasonal flooding, so i wanted the battery mounted up where the camera is as opposed to on the ground.

Also, i was hoping to get the package small enough to work on public land as well. I don’t think this fits that bill yet, but I still may try a round 2 if i can find a smaller solar panel to do it with.

Also, i was looking for a soldering project to do with my sone to give us some practice for future projects.

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Old 11-15-2021, 07:18 PM   #8
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Okay… i cant decide if i am going to do a public land sized version of this instead of just the battery packs. I found a really small 1.5 watt 12 volt solar panel that would work.


I modeled up a box that i could get my brother to 3D print to house everything if i go the solar route on the smaller pack. Total size would be 4” X 5” X 2.5”. I would need to add a couple holes for wiring to enter/exit, but i would wait until i had a better idea of how it would all lay out. With full sun, it should charge the battery (from dead) in 26 hours. The panel itself is rated pretty well for lower light performance as well too. Considering that a full set of batteries would last a few months minimum, i think i could reasonably get 26 hours worth of sunlight a month on the panel… might be worth my time, and could be a good project to occupy my mind.

Edit: i could reduce the thickness some on that box by running 1/8 inch walls instead of 1/4 inch (which is overkill) and running the batteries diagonally in the pack instead of side by side. I might could get it down to 2” thickness.




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Old 11-16-2021, 12:08 PM   #9
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So, i have iterated a little further along on the Gen 2 solar battery path…

I resized the box after i modeled up a 10 cell AA pack for size reference and settled on a specific solar panel. I modeled 2 holes for some waterproof 5.5mm socket connectors. One of them is labeled “Test”, and it will be connected directly to the battery circuit. The other is labeled 12V and it will be the power out to the camera that is viltage regulated to 12V. The letters are embossed out from the side of the box, so even after i sponge paint everything, they will be visible. I also decided that a simple lag screw would be a good mounting method for something this small, so i put a hole opposite the battery for a 1/4” stainless lag bolt and reinforced it with some added thickness. I have reduced the size and shape of the added thickness since this screenshot to save on print time and filament. I looked up the dimensions on the head and recessed a cavity for it so when i epoxy the bolt in, the head acts as part of the box as a whole… that way, you just screw the box itself to install onto the tree.

Total size of the box and panel will be 5” X 4” X 1.6”






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Old 11-17-2021, 02:20 PM   #10
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Very nice work. Where are you getting the 12v connecters to plug into the camera?
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Old 11-17-2021, 05:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jb5001 View Post
Very nice work. Where are you getting the 12v connecters to plug into the camera?

Amazon has a bunch to choose from.
In the original project, i cut one end off and soldered it onto the 12V regulator. On the “Gen 2” version, there will be a female socket soldered into that spot, so i will use a male/male cord for that purpose.


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Old 11-17-2021, 05:36 PM   #12
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Old 11-18-2021, 07:31 AM   #13
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I woke up early this morning and checked the webcam my brother has on his printer…. I see my box!!




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Old 11-18-2021, 09:44 AM   #14
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A little bit of warping in the print, but the box looks to still be useable. My brother thinks he didnt get the best bed adhesion. The garage that his printer is in isn’t heated, and they had a pretty hard temp drop last night about the time the print was started. I don’t think he will be doing another print of it until after the holidays, because he is moving in a few weeks. But, this should still definitely work for prototyping. He ran the layers larger than normal to shorten the print time on this one, (9 hours as opposed to 12.5) and that might have caused the warping.
s



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Old 11-19-2021, 08:30 AM   #15
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Try number 2. It sure is nice that my brother has a live stream camera on his printer so i can watch.


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Old 12-26-2021, 10:41 PM   #16
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Well, a little progress…

The 3D printed boxes are in texas finally. My brother’s station with the Air Force was changed so they pieces he printed were packed away until he came through for the holidays.

The rest of the pieces to put it all together have been ordered, along with a small spot welder so i am not degrading any of the batteries with excess heat from the soldering process. I think the furthest delivery estimate for parts is January 11th, so hopefully i can get them assembled quickly after that.

I am thinking of doing a small build video for the two boxes i will be putting together, and will post it up here if i do.


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Old 03-05-2022, 09:21 PM   #17
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Just realized I never updated this…

The first round of boxes had too much warping from temperature changes during the print cycle. Life got pretty busy, so the project got out on hold for a while until a few weeks ago when I decided to get everything ordered to complete the project. All components are ordered, most have arrived already, and I ordered a pair of newly designed boxes to house it.

Total size is 125mm X 95mm X 35mm tall.
The internal batteries are 2,800 mAh Nickel-metal-hydride rechargeable batteries connected in series (positive-negative-positive-negative) to make a 12V pack.

I found some small, flat, 12v solar panels that will perfectly cover the back of the box. I made it 5mm wider length and width wise to protect the edges of the panel.

With the files sent out today, I should have the final high quality boxes in hand in the next 2 weeks. I rendered the 12v regulator and directional diode into the box just for size reference. The main empty space in the compartment will be taken up mostly by wires, and the holes on opposite sides will be waterproof bulkhead DC wire plugs.






I also added some lithium battery only setups to the DIY task list and will provide more info for those when the final components arrive.
I am building those out of LifePo4 32700 cells that have 6,000 mAh. So, the external pack is the equivalent of 2 full sets of Energizer Extreme Lithium batteries. They should provide 16-18 months worth of power even on video mode at the ultra setting.
Now to order several 256gb cards so the cameras don’t fill up. 4 of those makes a 12v pack, and i will be using a Battery Management Board with active balanced charging to keep the batteries in good shape.



All said and done, between the Gen 1 solar batteries, the Gen 2 ones, and the battery only packs, i will have external power for 10 cameras with a minimum of 18 months on video mode.


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Old 03-08-2022, 12:10 AM   #18
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Just curious - how do you plan to keep the squirrels, raccoons, etc. from chewing up your wires?

I gave up on similar efforts in my younger days and decided to re-invest that time in killing squirrels, raccoons, etc.
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Old 03-08-2022, 02:26 AM   #19
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I read through this whole thing, just waiting to get to the bottom so I could pose the above question, lol.
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Old 03-10-2022, 04:11 PM   #20
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Thanks for the idea.
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Old 03-19-2022, 09:58 PM   #21
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So, the BMS (battery management system) boards finally arrived from China, so i assembled a couple of the lithium battery only packs.

They worked like a charm.







With the lag bolt/lag screw mount system I use for my cameras, I should have JUST enough space to Velcro these packs to the back of the camera and not be any more visible for other people on public land to find them. Obviously these will end up painted camo to help hide them. I am thinking a sponge paint job when all 6 are done.

This is the equivalent of 2 entire sets of lithium ultimate batteries and should last at least 16-18 months, without internal batteries, almost no matter how much it triggers. I am pairing them with at least 128 Gb cards so that the cards don’t fill too fast.

Now if the 3D printing would finally ship…. I would get that portion of the project started.


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Old 03-19-2022, 10:01 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shaness View Post
Just curious - how do you plan to keep the squirrels, raccoons, etc. from chewing up your wires?

I gave up on similar efforts in my younger days and decided to re-invest that time in killing squirrels, raccoons, etc.

I haven’t had any problems with wire chewing yet.
I’m guessing I could spray them down with ghost pepper oil to slow them down if it becomes a problem.


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Old 03-23-2022, 03:57 PM   #23
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The 3D prints came in, with 2 minor issues that were entirely my fault. I hadn’t noticed that 2 of my design components weren’t touching the main box when I merged the objects during exporting. The extra support for the mounting screw hex head, and the 12V lettering on the outside were each slightly separate, causing the printing of those components to fail.
The Hex head support was 0.2mm off and the 12V lettering was 0.1mm, so neither component adhered to the box. Minor imperfections, to be honest, and not required for it to function.

This is the failed hex head component. And the 12V lettering didn’t fall off until I unwrapped it. So close to adhering!!!



I am only home in Texas for 16 hours tonight between work trips, so I won’t be soldering and assembling parts until next week at the earliest. But, here is a rough dry fit.

10 AA’s (NiMh) soldered into a 12V pack fit perfectly with room for wiring.


The 1.5w solar panel fit perfectly with enough room around the edges to protect the edges of the panel.


Size comparison vs a Browning Dark Ops camera. These should be east to conceal after a camo paint job.


The holes for the waterproof female DC plugs were absolutely perfect, and the hole for the solar panel aligned precisely. Looks like all the time taking notes with calipers paid off.



I can’t wait to get these things finished now… I am so stoked!!!


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Old 03-28-2022, 07:13 PM   #24
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I have been flying 5 days a week for work, so progress is CRAWLING on this project. But, after this paint job all I have left is assembly!









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Old 03-29-2022, 11:01 PM   #25
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Nice work, a lot of time and detail has gone into this.

Question, how do you connect the two parts of the box? The lid to the box part?
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Old 03-30-2022, 09:07 AM   #26
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Nice work, a lot of time and detail has gone into this.

Question, how do you connect the two parts of the box? The lid to the box part?

They are going to be sealed with a silicon based adhesive. I had originally thought of doing a small screw in each corner, but they would have to be so small, I doubt they would have added any structural integrity.

Here she is all drying up.

https://youtube.com/shorts/NtZiSi9ryBQ?feature=share


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Old 03-30-2022, 09:17 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aggies96 View Post
Just curious why a conventional rechargeable 12V battery with a solar panel wouldn't work? I've packaged that up in a small plastic ammo case and attached to my camera post off the ground with good success in the past. I just use rechargeable AA batteries in them now since I'm able to check cameras every 2-3 weeks. I definitely like the size of your arrangement better.
This is what I did and has been running great for 2 years.
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Old 03-30-2022, 12:44 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by PROD49 View Post
This is what I did and has been running great for 2 years.

These smaller boxes are for public land where the size of a normal SLA battery isn’t conducive to concealment…


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Old 03-30-2022, 12:46 PM   #29
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Well. I couldn’t wait until clear skies. The storm moved mostly past, so I put one up. I have a couple cords on order specifically for these 2 solar boxes that will be sponge painted to match, so ignore the jet black extra thick cord.










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Old 03-31-2022, 03:29 PM   #30
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If it was me, I would place the box higher up on the tree so that any reflection from the solar panel isn't at, or below, eye level.
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Old 03-31-2022, 04:55 PM   #31
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If it was me, I would place the box higher up on the tree so that any reflection from the solar panel isn't at, or below, eye level.

My typical set up is with the camera at about 12 feet up, and I will be placing the solar panel about 3 feet above that. This is just set up in the back yard to see how hard I can push the battery pack and the solar panel still keep it charged. Being in the back yard, a few hundred videos a day will push the solar pack MUCH harder than any spot I might set it.

If it can come even close to maintaining function through a week or two of these conditions, it won’t have ANY problem on some random trail, white oak, scrape, rub line, or pear tree.


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Old 03-31-2022, 06:28 PM   #32
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Your battery-solar box looks great!
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Old 04-02-2022, 04:07 PM   #33
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Well, I have left the camera on max settings in the back yard for 72 hours. We have 2 dogs that are constantly back there, and one of them is a GSP that runs continuous laps around the yard. That has run the camera harder than any public land camera setup I could ever dream to set up. Over 800 videos recorded in ultra mode in just 72 hours with zero internal batteries.

My goal with this test was to see how long it would take of intense usage for the battery in the box to be depleted… assuming the solar panel wouldn’t keep up with demand like this. I was proven wrong…. The panel is more than capable of keeping up with the toughest of demands in full sun. With the excellent low light performance of this panel, I could be in dense canopy forest and still trickle charge the normal draw of one of my typical public land cameras.

72 hours, 800+ videos, and the nominal voltage of the battery pack (with solar panel covered so as not to cheat) was 12.7v….. almost 100% charged for a 10S NiMh pack.

Honestly, I am blown away with the performance of these units. I honestly thought I would be down around 10 volts by now with how hard the camera is running.


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Old 09-21-2022, 11:57 AM   #34
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I finally deployed my battery only packs in the field with a couple cameras this past week. I never did get around to sponge painting them, so hopefully being over a mile from the parking lot, and being mounted high, will keep them from being found.

The BMS board drained a surprising amount of power in the 6 months since I built the packs, so I will most likely re-design the packs to not include the BMS. I can run a BMS at home while charging and avoid the constant draw. All I would need is to run a balance lead connector in addition to the 12v cord.



One of the solar packs failed on me, but the other is going strong. I found 2 of the cells in the failed one were dead, I don’t know if that is damage from my soldering or what. I will have to order another set of NIMH batteries and assemble that one again. I think I will skip the buck converter on that one, to pull its power draw out of the equation. Im pretty sure the camera can handle the higher voltage from the raw solar panel connection, because some guys run solar panels straight into their cameras anyways. Besides, the panel only runs 1.5 watts anyways.


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Old 09-26-2022, 08:02 AM   #35
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I buy these for $59 off Amazon. Solar with a built in battery. Battery never comes off 100%. Plug and play

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Old 09-30-2022, 11:45 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Throwin Darts View Post
I buy these for $59 off Amazon. Solar with a built in battery. Battery never comes off 100%. Plug and play


Way too large and easy to see on public land, my cameras would be seen from a hundred yards away. If I was on private, though, I would pick something like that up in a heartbeat.


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Old 10-02-2022, 03:06 PM   #37
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Quote:
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I buy these for $59 off Amazon. Solar with a built in battery. Battery never comes off 100%. Plug and play


I use these on all my reveals. Always shows 100% power. Haven’t ever failed me. Like you said plug and play
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