A simple solar-powered radio works with a small solar panel, radio, alligator clips, and a charge controller. The panel harvests solar power from direct sunlight, which charges the solar batteries. The latter, in turn. stores solar energy to power the battery. The charge controller regulates the amount of charge to the battery to prevent overcharging.
In the 1950s, General Electric invented the first solar-powered radio. The solar radio is a battery-less radio that works by connecting the solar panel to the battery terminals of the radio.
The radio has been an essential means of communication to a mass audience, and it remains one of the most important inventions in human history. Although the emergence of more modern and digital means of communication has pushed it down the pecking order of relevance, the battery-powered radio is still widely used in rural or remote areas.
On the other hand, we have solar technology, which is gaining more prominence and acceptance all over the world. It has harnessed solar power to run homes, offices, lighting, electric cars, and so many more. What if we tell you that solar power can also power a radio?
To help you understand how solar-powered radios work, we need to take you through the process of making a solar radio. However, before that, you should know the instances or scenarios you may need solar radios.
When Solar-Powered Radios Come in Handy?
Most solar-powered radios come in handy when you’re doing outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, or fishing. In such instances, you can’t use digital or modern means of communication, probably because such places have poor cellular reception or internet connectivity.
Secondly, solar radios are incredibly useful during emergency situations such as natural disasters when communications systems will be down, and the power may be out. You can purchase a ready-made solar radio from a survival store or simply make your own DIY solar radio.
What Do You Need to Make a Solar-Powered Radio?
- A pair of small wires – for connecting the solar panels to the radio’s battery compartment
- A battery-operated radio – Preferably a portable AM/FM radio
- A pair of alligator clamps – for securing the connection between the solar panels and the radio
- A solar panel – to tap energy from sufficient sunlight
How to Make a Solar-Powered Radio?
Phase 1: Take Out the Battery Panel
- Remove the panel to have access to the battery compartment.
- Take out the batteries.
- Note the battery terminals -the positive and negative terminals. The former is flat with bumps, while the latter has springs. These will be points of connection.
Phase 2: Link the Solar Panels to the Radio
- Take the solar panel wires and connect them to the respective battery terminals of the portable radio (the negative wire should go to the farthest negative terminal and the same for the positive wire and the closest positive terminal).
- This will create a circuit.
- Secure the wires with alligator clips.
Phase 3: Expose the Solar Panels to Bright Light from the Sun
- Re-check to make sure the panel wires are securely connected to the battery’s compartment.
- Expose the panel to sunlight. The photovoltaic cells embedded in the panels will tap the solar energy from the sun and use it to generate electricity that will power the radio.
- Switch on the radio and enjoy.
The above method involves a direct connection to the radio without the solar battery. This means it can only work in the daytime. As soon as the sun sets, your radio will power off because there’s no more current to power it.
How to Make a Solar Radio That Will Function at Night?
To make your solar radio function at night, you’ll need a more comprehensive solar panel setup.
Materials Needed for this
You’ll need the following:
- A radio with a power supply wire
- Portable solar generator -the solar battery and charger controller
- Solar panel
- Set up your solar panels by installing them in a location they can get direct exposure to sunlight.
- Connect these panels to the portable solar generator to provide current to charge the rechargeable batteries.
- Plug in your radio to the power output of the solar generator. If the portable power port is adequately charged, it will take you both day and night.
Important Tips to Note When Powering Your Radios With Renewable Energy
- Keep the radio and solar power system away from water or moist environments to avoid damaging them.
- Avoid overloading the portable solar power port by plugging in other devices that consume a lot of electricity. You can only plug in devices such as your rechargeable light or phone charger.
- Make sure the surface of the solar panels is free of dirt or dust because debris blocks the solar cells of the panel from interacting with the light particles from the sun’s rays. In summary, the panels won’t be effective in tapping energy from the sun.
- Always install your solar panel on a flat, stable surface to prevent it from tipping over and falling. This can cause physical damage to it and impair its functionality.