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Once I upgraded to a 5 gallon compost bucket in my kitchen, and a 65 gallon bin to my neighbors yard, I wondered what else I could do? What other resources am I using that could be replaced or upgraded? What else can nature provide that I can use or reuse? The first thing I thought of was solar.
After doing some research online, I decided to give it a try. First I bought a 12 volt solar panel. Solar runs on direct current (DC ) so I thought I would run it direct to my mobile devices. Mobile devices like phones and tablets (and most all computers) run on direct current or 'DC' too. This is because computers require the voltage supplied to be steady and continuous in order for it to retain stored information. Alternating current or 'AC' fluctuates with continuously varying voltage decreases and increases. Stored data would be lost because of those differences.
You might be asking yourself how computers are DC when your home is wired for AC? That is a fair question. Have you ever wondered why your computer's cords have these big blocks on them? That's right, those are AC to DC converters. When you plug your computer into an electric socket, AC is converted to DC before it enters the cord and transfers that power into your computer, tablets or mobile devices.
Here's where it gets a little technical. Mobile devices like tablets and phones accept input (energy that is added to your phone) at 5 or so volts. If the solar panel is 12 volts, how would I be able to get it down to 5 volts? Great question. I bought a 'converter' that takes 12 volts of energy and converts it down to 5 volts. So instead of sending 12 volts directly into my phone and frying the circuits, I first had to convert it to an acceptable voltage that my devices would accept.
As a precaution, I ordered a USB voltmeter so I could read the voltage coming out of the converter. Here, it's about 5.07 volts, safe enough to plug into my device and let the sun power it up.
In the end, I decided not to power my devices directly from the solar panel. Instead, I added a 12 volt battery to the system. The solar panel inputs energy into the battery and stores it. When I need to power up my devices, I will connect the 12 volt to 5 volt converter to the battery now, and connect the voltmeter into my device as a precaution.
Now that I have a better understanding of how I can use solar in my apartment, look for new posts where I explore using even larger solar arrays and the technical challenges that surround them.