In this tutorial, I’ll show you step by step how to solar power a TV.
In fact, these are the exact steps I used to solar power my own TV recently.
A solar powered TV is a useful project for RV, van, and boat owners, as well as people who live off-grid or in areas where the grid isn’t as reliable. And, once you have the necessary parts, it isn’t that hard to put together.
Let’s get started.
Video: Solar Powered TV
Here’s a quick video overview of this tutorial. Check it out below and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel for more DIY solar videos like this!
Parts & Tools
- 100W solar panel kit
- 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 battery — this is a good size for solar powering a TV, but feel free to use a different 12V battery
- TV (not pictured)
- 30A fuse set with fuse holder — this is the right size fuse for the kit linked above
- Fuse cable
- 12V socket
- 300W inverter
- Extension cable (if needed) — for connecting the TV to the inverter
- Wood screws — for mounting charge controller, fuse holder, and inverter
Note: This parts list is designed for TVs that consume 240 watts or less, which includes most modern TVs. Look at your TV’s electrical specifications label to see its max wattage. If it’s higher than 240 watts, upgrade to parts with higher current and wattage limits as needed.
- Ratchet or wrench — for tightening/loosening bolts
- Drill & drill bits — for mounting charge controller and fuse holder
- Safety glasses
Step 1: Mount the Charge Controller & Fuse Holder
First things first, you need to pick a place to mount your parts. Make sure that all your wiring (solar cables, battery cables, TV power cord with or without an extension cable) can reach your mounting location. Technically it’s not necessary to mount these components, but it makes for a cleaner build. I used a piece of plywood I had lying around.
Use a drill and some wood screws to mount the charge controller and fuse holder (and inverter, if you want). You could also use double-sided mounting tape if you don’t want to bother with drilling. I decided not to mount my inverter.
Now it’s time to start connecting parts together.
Step 2: Connect the Charge Controller & 12V Socket to the Battery
We’re going to add a fuse on the positive wire between the battery and charge controller for safety reasons. If you’ve never done this before, don’t worry, using the parts list provided above it’s actually quite easy.
Locate the battery terminals on your charge controller. They’ll usually be labeled with a battery icon or the word “BAT” or “BATT.”
Connect the positive battery cable (included in kit) and fuse cable to the fuse holder, then connect the positive battery cable to the positive battery terminal on the charge controller. Use a ratchet or wrench to loosen and tighten the bolts.
Connect the negative battery cable to the negative battery terminal on the charge controller. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the terminal, insert the stripped wire end, and screw it shut to hold the wire in place. Now both battery cables should be connected to the charge controller like so:
At this point, your battery cables are properly fused and your charge controller is now ready to be connected to your battery. We’ll connect both the charge controller and 12V socket to the battery at the same time. The 12V socket I’ve linked to above has a built-in 20A fuse, so we don’t have to worry about adding one there.
Note: In more complex DIY solar systems, you wouldn’t connect everything directly to the battery terminals. But this project is so simple that, in this case, it’s the easier and more cost-effective route to take.
Connect the fuse cable and positive 12V socket wire to the positive battery terminal. Once again, use a ratchet or wrench to tighten and loosen bolts. If your battery’s bolts have screw heads, a screwdriver can also work.
Connect the negative battery cable and negative 12V socket wire to the negative battery terminal. There may be a small spark when you touch the battery cable to the terminal. This is normal.
Confirm that your charge controller has turned on. You’ve just completed the connection between battery and charge controller, so the controller should power on automatically. You can tell by its lights or screen turning on.
Select your battery type following the instructions in the charge controller’s manual. You need to tell your charge controller kind of battery you’re using (e.g. lithium, sealed lead acid, flooded lead acid). This usually takes just a minute or two and the instructions on how to do so should be in the product manual. I’m using a lithium battery, so that’s what I selected on mine.
Alright! I know that was a bit tedious, but the hardest part is out of the way. Your charge controller and battery are now connected. And, as you’ll see in just a sec, we’ll use the 12V socket to connect the inverter.
Here’s what everything looked like for me at this point:
Next up — connecting the solar panel!
Step 3: Connect the Solar Panel to the Charge Controller
Place your solar panel(s) outside in a sunny spot and cover it with a towel to reduce the risk of electrical shock. If you want to mount your solar panel, you can use the kit’s included mounting brackets to do so at this time.
Connect the positive and negative solar panel cables to the solar adapter cables (included in the kit). Once you do, make sure the exposed wire ends don’t touch.
Run the cables inside your house or vehicle. This step could require a whole tutorial in and of itself. There are different ways to do this depending on your situation. However, for this project I decided to do it in the simplest way possible: by running them underneath a door.
Locate the solar terminals on your charge controller. They’ll usually be labeled with a solar panel icon or the letters “PV.”
If you’re using multiple solar panels, wire your solar panels in parallel using branch connectors. For this tutorial, I’m using only the one 100W panel included in the kit. But here’s what it’d look like if you were to wire 2 panels in parallel.
Note: If wiring solar panels in parallel, you may need to place inline solar fuses between each solar panel and the charge controller. Refer to this excellent video for guidance on whether or not you need to fuse your panels.
Connect the positive solar cable to the positive solar terminal on the charge controller. Connect the negative solar cable to the negative solar terminal on the charge controller. Once again, use your screwdriver to do this.
Uncover the solar panel and confirm that the solar panel is now charging the battery. To confirm, look at your charge controller. It will indicate charging is happening using a light or, if it has a screen, a battery charging icon or positive PV current value. On mine, the PV indicator light started flashing.
Here’s what my setup looked like after I connected the panel:
Not bad! The solar panel is now properly connected and has started charging the battery. The battery will store all that solar energy which we’ll use to power the TV via an inverter.
Step 4: Connect the Inverter & TV
Batteries are direct current (DC), but most TVs run on alternating current (AC). To convert DC to AC, we need to use an inverter.
Note: Because the bulk of their internal parts run on DC, TVs have an internal AC to DC adapter. That means we’re converting from DC (from the battery) to AC (via the inverter) back to DC (inside the TV). It’s quite an inefficient process, so I’ve gotten plenty of comments on my YouTube videos asking if it’d be possible to ditch the inverter and run the TV directly off the battery. While it may very well be possible, that’d require opening up the TV, bypassing its AC to DC adapter, and potentially boosting the battery’s voltage. In other words, it’d be complex, and is thus beyond the scope of this tutorial. Unless you have a 12V TV specifically designed to run off a battery, this is the way we have to do it.
Plug the inverter into the 12V socket that you connected to the battery.
Plug the TV into one of the outlets on the inverter. Here’s where you may have to use an extension cable. I certainly did.
Turn the inverter on. Inverting DC to AC generates heat, so a fan inside the inverter may turn on and make a small amount of noise.
Turn the TV on. Confirm that everything is working as expected.
Done! You now have a solar powered TV!
To conserve energy and make your battery last as long as possible, I’d recommend turning the brightness down on your TV (or putting it in eco mode). Also, inverters use power even when the devices connected to them aren’t on. So, after turning your TV off, make a habit of also turning off the inverter.
Can a 100 Watt Solar Panel Run a TV?
If you watch TV for 2 hours or less per day, a 100 watt solar panel will likely be all you need to run a TV. If you watch more than 2 hours a day, you may need 200 watts of solar or more.
Here’s how the numbers work out:
When I tested how much energy a 100 watt solar panel produces, I concluded that, on average, it will produce around 300 to 500 watt hours per day. However, that test was done using a more efficient charge controller than the one included in the kit I’m using in this tutorial. So, for this charge controller, I’d expect it to produce around 200 to 400 watt hours per day, on average.
TVs range widely in their power consumption based on, among other things, their size and brightness. But, after a bit of research, I learned that many modern TVs consume around 70 to 100 watts on average.
Let’s factor in the power consumption and conversion efficiency of the inverter by adding and extra 30 watts to that value to get a range of 100 to 130 watts. (This is a simplifying assumption.)
Based on this range, 2 hours of TV watching would consume 200 to 260 watt hours. (Here’s how to convert watts to watt hours.) That means our assumed 100 watt panel output of 200 to 400 watt hours per day will likely offset the TV’s daily power consumption. Anything more than 2 hours and you may have to add an extra solar panel.
Tip: You can find out your TVs actual power consumption using a smart plug with energy monitoring or an electricity usage monitor. I connected a smart plug to my TV and learned that, based on my watch habits, my TV uses around 125 watt hours per day. So, for me, a 100 watt solar panel was more than enough to solar power my TV.
What Size Battery Do I Need to Run a TV?
When I tested how long a 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 battery would run a TV, it lasted for 16.5 hours.
Based on that test, I think 100 amp hours is a good battery size for running a TV on solar power. I personally like the LiTime 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 Battery. It’s got enough capacity that it can continue to run your TV during a stretch of cloudy days, or a long day of binge-watching Netflix.
Of course, to save money you could always get a smaller battery, such as a 12V 50Ah LiFePO4 battery. But, depending on how much TV you watch, you may find that size battery getting drained more often.