Charge A Laptop With a Solar Panel (Here’s How)

Solar technology has grown tremendously over the last decade and using it to charge your laptop while off the grid or when there is a power failure has never been easier. Using a powerful off-the-shelf Solar Laptop Charger is the fastest and quickest way to give your laptop a charge when no power is available.

There are numerous solar laptop chargers available today, or you can opt to build your custom charging solution with battery support if you are a do-it-yourself kind of person. Depending on your taste, you can make a DC to DC or a DC to AC version.  

Key takeaways on solar panel charging

  • You can use off-the-shelf solar laptop chargers
  • You can build your own unique DC to DC charger
  • You can also build a DC to AC inverter type solution
  • Use a high-capacity battery pack and recharge that with solar

In this post, I’ll show you how to use solar panels to power your laptop computer. Years ago, it was not possible, but today with readily available parts, it is easy to build your custom charging solution or buy an off-the-shelf kit.

Man Using A Laptop On Solar Panels
Man Using A Laptop On Solar Panels

Can You Charge Your Laptop With A Solar Panel?

Yes, you can, but not directly. It would be best not to connect the solar panel directly to your laptop since it will likely damage your computer.

There are 4 main options to charge a laptop with solar.

  • Using a buck-boost converter for dc to dc charging
  • Using an ac inverter for dc to ac conversion
  • Using a solar laptop charging kit will be best
  • Use a solar panel to charge a power bank that charges your laptop

Using A Solar Panel With A Buck-Boost Converter

A Buck-Boost converter is a switch-mode power supply that combines the Buck and Boosts converter ideas into a single circuit. It delivers a controlled DC output voltage from either an AC or a DC input. A solar panel supplies DC output in this case, and therefore it will be a DC to DC converter.

Most 100W solar panels have a max charge capacity of 17-18V even though it has a 20V+ open-circuit voltage. Laptops, on average, need 19V to charge. As you can see, a single solar panel does not supply enough power to charge a laptop effectively, and this is where the buck-boost converter comes in.

Connect the solar panel with an Automatic Boost-Buck Converter (100W) and ensure the output voltage is 19V. The 100w buck-boost converter will efficiently charge the laptop battery while operating. This Dc to DC method can only work if the solar panel has constant unshaded sunlight if there is no battery.

To be clear, you will need a separate input cable connector attached to the buck-boost converter. You cannot use your standard laptop adapter since that converts ac to dc, and we assume you don’t want to cut off its connector.

Using A Solar Panel With An Ac Inverter

It is time to create a more stable solar solution that will work even if you get some intermittent cloud cover.

For this build, you will need:

  • A 12V, 20 – 100W solar panel (smaller panel will charge the battery slower)
  • A 20A PWM solar charge controller
  • An AGM 12V 4ah/7ah battery
  • An inline 10A fuse
  • cabling between battery and charge controller 20- 24 AWG
  • A small 100W AC power inverter (that can use a cigarette lighter connector)
  • Cigarette lighter connector
  • Cabling between battery and cigarette lighter connector 14 AWG

You link the solar panel to the solar charge controller, then join the charge controller with the battery. Now link the battery with the cigarette lighter connector ensuring that the positive cable gets the 10A fuse spliced into it. Next, insert the AC inverter into the connector and plug in your adaptor.

The connected solar panel will charge the battery, and the battery will supply the AC inverter to power your laptop. So you can use the computer while the battery gets charged, and when there is intermittent cloud cover, the charging will stop, but the battery will still supply power to your laptop until depleted.

How Do You Charge A Laptop With A Solar Panel?

A solar charging kit or power bank is the best way to charge a laptop.

Since laptops are highly susceptible to damage and failure when the wrong voltage gets applied, you need to be careful with the type of solar charging solution you want to employ. If you are not the do-it-yourself type, we recommend buying a certified charging kit or power bank.

While a power bank can typically get the job done, it has specific power storage limits. When the power bank runs out of charge, you can no longer use your device. However, there are solar solutions to charge your power bank while using it with a laptop.

Most off-the-shelf charging kit solutions are as easy as plugging them into your laptop, and it works. Every manufacturer has its own unique cabling options you will need to verify for your exact model. Some newer laptops from Dell and Hp have specific charging requirements.   

DELL and HP computers feature a distinctive charging circuit that, in many cases, necessitates the use of a special adapter for optimal functioning. To recharge a premium DELL or Business class HP, we recommend obtaining an adapter with a Microchip for it to charge effectively.

Solar laptop chargers range in power from 40 to 80 watts and come with ten different adapter port connectors. These connectors are specifically designed to fit the majority of laptop models. However, if you have a MAC, you will need to purchase a separate adapter.

Do Solar Powered Laptops Exist?

Yes, they do, or to be more accurate, they did. Samsung was the first to launch a 10.1-inch solar-powered laptop named the NC215S in 2010.

The substantial front solar panel on the netbook’s lid was the NC215S’ most prominent feature. It had a 14-hour battery life when fully charged, but you needed to charge in full sun for 2 hours to get 1 hour of use; therefore not very efficient.   

The Sol, created by a Canadian company (WiWe) in 2013, was more efficient at charging. Their laptop could run for 8-10 hours on a 2-hour charge. Fujitsu also entered the solar laptop scene with Luce, which featured a dual-panel charging solution like Sol.

Unfortunately, it seems that was the end of solar-powered laptops, and the focus has shifted to solar power banks and other solar charging kit solutions.

Resources

General Solar Panel FAQ

What Problems Do Solar Panels Solve?

In environmental terms, solar panels can potentially solve a handful of problems, including;
1. Air pollution
2. Water pollution
3. Greenhouse gases
4. Reduction in fossil fuel use

For individuals, solar energy allows you to become completely self-sufficient when it comes to your electricity needs and can save you a lot of money in the long run.

What Are 3 Important Uses Of Solar Panels?

The three most important uses of solar panels are;
1. Solar electricity. This can be used to power almost any appliance in your home, including TVs, computers, and fridges.
2. Lighting. In addition to the use of low-power, LED lightbulbs, solar panels can provide an efficient, low-cost, and environmentally friendly way to provide lighting to homes. 
3. Portable solar. In our modern, always-connected lives, our phones, tablets, and computers are almost always with us, and all run on batteries. Portable PV chargers can help keep our batteries topped up no matter where we are, as long as there is some sun to charge them.

Do solar panels give you free electricity?

Once the cost of the array is paid in full, the energy it produces is free. There are ongoing maintenance costs, too, such as annual panel cleaning, etc. 

How much will my electric bill be with solar panels?

Suppose your solar array includes a solar battery backup system, and it is large enough to fully cover your energy usage per day. In that case, your monthly electric bill will be next to zero dollars, even with a grid-tied system. 

If your solar array does not include a solar battery backup system, then at night, your house or business will use grid electricity. That cost will vary but expect to pay from 1/3-2/3 of your average electric bill, and that cost will fluctuate seasonally. 

Do you save money with solar panels?

The simple answer is, Yes, you save money with solar panels. There is an initial upfront cost, but since solar panels are warrantied for 25 years, you will save money over time. You will also begin to see monthly savings in energy bills, but there are other ways that solar panels pay you back. Those include:
1. Adding value to your home or commercial building 
2. Monthly decreases in energy costs
3. The ability to add more energy appliances without increased monthly costs
4. The potential for tax credits for going solar

Can solar panels power a house 24-7?

Most definitely! Solar panels can certainly power a house 24-7, with the addition of a high-quality inverter and a suitable battery bank, of course. To power, a house under normal usage will require a massive solar array, though, and there will be a very expensive initial financial outlay.

Do I need to tell my energy supplier I have solar panels?

This depends on where you live, but in most cases, it’s not necessary to inform your energy supplier that you have solar panels. That said, you may be producing excess power with your solar system, in which case you may be able to sell that excess power back to energy companies.

In this case, you’ll naturally need to be in contact with them. 

What Are Solar Cells Known as and Why?

Solar cells are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells. They are called so because the term ‘photovoltaic’ literally means light i.e. photo and electricity i.e. voltaic.

These cells generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This effect basically causes the generation of free electrons from the semiconducting silicon material of the solar panel when sunlight hits its surface.

What Type of Solar Panels Are Most Efficient and Why?

There are currently three types of solar panels available in the market that are:
1. Monocrystalline
2. Polycrystalline
3. Thin-filmed

Among these, monocrystalline solar panels are known to be the most efficient among all others.

Does heat enter your home through the roof?

Absolutely. Heat enters your home through your roof, and on a hot day your attic can get up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Through conduction, heat from the sun warms your roof which then warms your attic and the rest of your home.

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