I am currently running two toy solar installations.
The one in my truck camper is a 60w panel, 5A MPPT charge controller, and real deep cycle 12v.
There is a smaller, cheaper setup in my house. It’s the 45w Harbor Freight system, (available on sale for $150, then add the ubiquitous 20% off coupon). It feeds one of those hybrid marine quasi-deep cycle batts. The HF system isn’t going to win any engineering prizes but the panels are sturdy and functional. The included 12v cfl lights (2) work fine and only pull about 5w.
The charge controller (2nd gen, not the widely-despised 1st gen) is primitive but has interesting LOAD jacks:
- 12v lighter-style jack, useful for powering gear with that plug. Laptops, etc.
- USB 5v, for charging or running anything that can be plugged into USB. Major use case here is charging cell phones.
- 3v, 6v, 9v jacks with multi-adapter. Haven’t looked to see if polarity can be swapped, but if so it should be able to run pretty much anything that came with a wall-wart power supply. Small radios for weather and news, handy-talky rechargers, AA battery rechargers. The kinds of things you might need if the power goes out.
- The LOAD jacks have a 11v cutoff to help prevent overdischarging the battery and damaging it. Theoretically 11v is too low and the damage has been done, but since the voltage is an “under load” measurement rather than “at rest” I suspect this cutoff will work ok in most cases. Very small loads could sneak the voltage down to an 11v reading that would be very close to 11v resting but that’s probably not common.
The HF system is a great way to learn and experiment. It should reveal if you are interested in more/better or are happy with a minimal setup. Or want to give it away.