Need power for your shed or garage layout, workshop and workbench? Here’s how to harness mother nature.
Many of us use our sheds and garages for our layouts, workshop and modelling area. But what to do about a power supply? If the garage or shed is next to the house, it’s a simple job to carry a supply over to it but if the house is some distance away this can become tricky.
Solar power has been around for some time and solves this problem but it’s often thought difficult.
But it’s not. It’s actually pretty simple. And once installed it can also provide free electricity from then on.
Kevin Holland from the Solar Shed Company unpacks the complexity of how basic Solar systems work and what’s needed for a small shed railway.
A solar panel. A regulator/charge controller and a battery
It really is that simple.
And as long as your panel is totally unshaded and pointing anywhere between East and West it will just sit there, all day, every day, soaking up daylight and storing it in the battery for later use.
If all wiring for the railway comes directly from the regulator then you’ll have a solar powered railway that costs nothing to run when the sun is up. When the sun goes down, the panel stops working but you’ll then use the battery then powers the railway or other electrical devices. (An inverter can be added to the battery to run AC mains power appliances).
The trick is to make sure the panel is big enough to charge the battery and the battery is big enough to run your load (in this case a small to medium sized model railway). The charge controller stops the solar panel from over-charging the battery and will also switch your ‘load’ off when the battery is running out of energy or too much load is being pulled preventing it from over discharging.
A 150w panel wired into a 20a regulator and into a 110ah AGM battery will be enough for most model railways and keep them running on sunshine until the 00 gauge equivalent of Mr Beeching comes along and dismantles it.
A simple solar monitor can also be plugged into the Regulator to show how much energy you are making, using and what the battery health is like.
Using a 20ah regulator allows an extra panel to be fitted later if you find have a larger layout and need more energy. Also, adding another battery will double the energy stored. The extra panel and battery can be added later.
By way of example, I have wired up 12v and USB charge points to my own 12V system which is on my Works van. A 100w flexible panel, glued to the roof of the van is plenty for me to keep a full office, printer, PC, lights, charging and even a fridge running when I’m out and about.
If you’re interested in more information, visit the Solar Shed Company.
> Image licensed under CC Share Alike.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.