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There are so many things that we can run on solar power these days, that it only makes sense you could also run a computer. But computers are also energy and resource hogs, so can you run a computer off of solar power or will you need another source of energy?
Running a computer off of solar power is possible with the right setup. Since power requirements of every computer is not the same, you may need more or less solar power. All it takes is a couple of solar panels, 12-volt battery, an inverter, and a charge controller.
It also depends on how long you will use your computer. For some people, getting on the computer is a one-time-a-day affair or maybe once every day and solar power isn’t going to make a dent in your power bill that way. For others, their computer is a way of life, almost literally.
How Do You Run a Computer Off of Solar Power?
Now that we answered the can you run a computer off of solar power, how difficult is it? Good news is, it’s not too difficult to set up. However unlike with a smart phone, you will need more than just a solar panel or two. You can’t plug a computer directly into solar panels after all, though it would certainly be nice if you could.
You will also need an inverter and you will need to consider the number of watt-hours that your computer needs versus what the solar panel(s) is capable of producing. Once you’re all set up, you can run your computer completely on solar, even if your main power goes out.
You will need the inverter simply because computers, even portable laptops, are designed to plug into outlets that provide AC power, whereas solar panels are designed to supply DC power. An inverter converts DC to AC, so you can hook your computer up to it.
Most of your standard desktop computers are going to require around 200 to 300 watt-hours. All you have to do is multiple the number of watt-hours your computer requires by the number of hours you are on your computer each day.
If you spend 6 hours per day on your computer, a 200-watt-hour computer will need a solar panel that can produce 1200 watt-hours.
Solar Panels Required
Once you know your watt-hour needs, it’s a matter of choosing the number of solar panels you will need as well. A 300-watt-hour with 4 peak sun hours will produce exactly the 1200-watt-hours you need to run your computer all day.
However, it’s always better to err on the side of more. You’re pushing it if your computer requires exactly the same watt-hours your solar panel can produce. Your best bet is to get a more powerful solar panel or just get two of them.
You also need to consider the weather. If you have a solar panel that is just enough to cover your needs for the day, yet you go through a few weeks where the sky just won’t seem to clear up, you’re going to have problems.
Keep in mind that you need to know the power requirements of your rig. There is a big difference between an all-in-one computer that a freelance writer may use and a gaming powerhouse that a gamer running twitch streams might use.
What Else Do You Need?
The setup is pretty simple, but not always that cheap. You need the solar panels, a battery for the panels to charge, and an inverter from the battery to the laptop or desktop. You’ll also need a charge controller. The charge controller brings the current from the panels and stores it in the battery.
The best battery you will find on the market for a long-term, highly durable setup is a lithium-ion battery, which will run you about $125 for your needs. Look for a deep cycle, lithium-ion battery like the kind you would run on an RV. BattleBorn and Renogy are two top brands worth considering.
The same goes for your converter. Renogy makes a good one that should be more than suitable for your needs. Fortunately, most solar panels come with a charge controller, so you won’t have to worry about chasing that down.
As we mentioned above, a gaming rig will require more power, somewhere in the range of 450 watt-hours.
Can You Run a Computer Off of Solar Power, Yes! But Have A Backup Plan
It’s probably not the best idea to run your setup entirely dependent on solar energy especially if your time on the computer is critical. Whether that takes the form of a generator or switching back to standard, AC power, the decision is yours to make, so long as it works and is effective.
All Things Considered
You really can run just about anything on solar power these days, including your computer or laptop. All you need is the right setup so your power requirements are met both in the present and for the long haul.
While it can be a more expensive option to set up your computer to run off solar power, the benefits of doing so are many. You’ll help reduce your carbon footprint, you won’t have to worry about losing power when you need it most, and you can even take your work with you on the go.
Have you tried running your computer off of solar power? If not, what is holding you back?