Trail Camera Solar Battery

The Reason. Not long ago I build an Automatic Duck/Chicken Feeder. I wanted to be able to monitor the feeder in case something should happen. Yes something did happen and the camera got pictures, a cow pushed my older 5 gallon feeder over and ate all the feed. Most the time its just pictures of ducks. chickens, squirrels, and other birds. Ever now and then a raccoon will come around. The problem is I always have to replace the batteries. I was using rechargeable AA batteries which helped cut down on cost and waste but still why? So I build this simple easy to make solar battery box. Most Trail Cameras or Game Cameras will have a 12 Volt plug on the bottom for attaching an external battery. You can buy these battery boxes and they can be rather pricey or just make one. I build my box to include a solar panel to keep the battery charged for me. By keeping the battery on a solar panel it increases the expected life of the battery as well as make life easier.

The Wire Adapter. The wiring is simple. It’s a “Y” cable with the battery connection in the middle. I used a male spade connector for the solar panel connection. A female spade connector for connecting directly to the battery. I soldiered a 12 volt DC plug to the other end for the camera. I use female spade connectors on the solar panel. Some solar panels will come with female spade connectors already on it.

I soldiered and heat shrink each connections but it isn’t required. Just crimping and running some electrical tape to keep the wires from shorting out will be fine. You can also cut 6″ of the wire from the DC plug and use it for the second leg of the cable or if you can find a piggyback spade connector (like the image below) just use it and no need for a second leg. I used what I had so it worked for me.

The Box. The box came from a local big box store. It was in the sporting goods department it was an Plano Ammo Box. The rechargeable 12 volt battery and 12 volt solar panel also came from the sporting goods department. All of the parts can be ordered online easy enough.

I bolted a solar panel on the side of a plastic water proof box and drilled a small hole on the bottom to run wires.  Water shouldn’t get in because the hole is on the bottom but even if a little water gets in its only the bottom and it won’t touch any electrical connections and will run out quickly enough. If worried a little sealant would close the hole up easy enough.

The Price
Price: $55
Plano Ammo Box $5
12 Volt Rechargeable Battery $20
12 Volt Solar Panel $25
Wire, connectors and 12 volt DC plug I had laying around. say $5

Price of buying one about $50. Some require using 8 AA batteries (not included), some don’t include solar panel, or don’t include 12 volt battery.

Build it yourself and you can easily adapted to use 6 volt battery and 6 volt solar panel and customize for your need. Add a USB port if you want and charge your phone with it. A phone car charger will give you the circuit to wire a USB port into the battery. Run a second camera off one battery box by adding a second 12 Volt DC plug.

The Wire Adapter

The heat shrink is color coded for the adapter. The DC plug has a white stripe on the positive (+) wire. The solar panel wires are color coded, Red (+) and Black (-). 

Solar Panel Wires. I had to remove the alligator clips and put female spade connectors on. I also heat shrunk around the connectors to prevent shorting out.

Wire Adapter connected to Solar Panel. This is the other wire adapter I made but it’s the same design. You can see very little exposed metal between the solar panel and the wire adapter. The battery connections I wasn’t worried about so much since the battery terminals are so far apart that will naturally keep them from touching each other.

Connected to the battery. There is Clear heat shrunk tubing on the male spade connection.

The Box

Everything fits with lots of room to spare. If you want you can cut down the cables. This would reduce your line loss but your talking a line loss of about .003 volts vs .008 volts it’s not worth it if you end up needing to move the box some where with better sun coverage. I would recommend cleaning up with the wires with a little electrical tape. This way if you need more wire when setting it up in the field it’s easy to make field adjustments.

Mounted and connected to the camera. It works!