Can You Power A TV With Portable Solar Panels? (3 Ways)

Can You Power A TV With Portable Solar Panels?

You will already know that A.C. appliances can be powered with residential solar panels. But can you power a TV with portable solar panels in an off-grid setting?

You want to be more environmentally friendly, reduce your carbon footprint, and use renewable energy when you can. You might even be mulling over using solar power to watch television because it might save a few dollars on the utility bill.

But also being a practical person, you are thinking; Is it worth packing a TV into your camper so you can watch a big sporting event or family movie, or favorite show?

Or can you use a solar panel on the balcony of your apartment or home patio or yard to power a television? It might not work, or its running time might be very short.

Can You Power A TV With Portable Solar Panels?

“The short answer is “YES,” and the good news is there are 3 ways you can do it.  You can use portable solar panels with a deep cycle battery, a solar generator, or a TV with a built-in rechargeable battery. The deep cycle battery will also require a solar charge controller and D.C. to A.C. power inverter. A solar generator has both built-in and a T.V. with a built-in battery doesn’t need an inverter but, the solar panel may require a solar charge controller.”

If you didn’t already know, portable solar panels are designed to charge batteries. This means you cannot plug a portable solar panel straight into your 48inch smart T.V. This is because your home television runs on alternating current (A.C.), and a solar panel produces direct current (D.C.). 

This problem is solved by using an inverter that converts D.C. to A.C. But before getting into that, we will first need to look at how much power a television consumes.

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It’s All Down To The Power Consumption Of The Television

It’s All Down To The Power Consumption Of The Television

Ok, I will not overly bore you with facts, figures, equations, and things like that. But I do need to discuss some things like that. This is so you know what it takes to effectively power a television using portable solar power. Don’t worry, it will not be too ‘techie,’ you will understand no problem.

I will use LED, LCD, and OLED TVs, their power consumption rated in watts. These are a rough approximation because different manufacturers rate at different wattages.

So you would have to refer to your own television for an exact match. Older technologies such as Plasma and Cathode Ray have even higher consumption ratings.

T.V. Screen SizeLCD WattageOLED WattageLED Wattage
20 Inch2624
30 Inch6038
32 Inch705741
37 Inch806644
40 Inch1007250
42 Inch1207557
50 Inch1508972
55 Inch1809880
60 Inch20010788
How To Power A TV With Solar Power from http://greenshortz.com
The first thing you need to know is how much power the TV will consume in watt hours (Wh).


In case you didn’t know;

The watt-hour (symbolized Wh) is a unit of energy equivalent to one watt (1 W) of power expended for one hour (1 h) of time. The watt-hour is not a standard unit in any formal system, but it is commonly used in electrical applications (Source:WhatIs.com)

So what you do is, multiply the power consumption of the T.V. (Watts) by the number of hours of use. This will give you a rough approximation of the number of watt-hours the television will use.

For instance, you want to watch a sporting event that lasts for 3 hours. You are watching on a 32inch LCD television. You multiply 70w (T.V. Wattage) x 3hrs (Time; the number of hours of use). This equals 210 (Wh).

Another example could be;

A 60 inch LCD Television consumes 200 watts of power, and the same 3-hour sporting event would consume 600Wh.

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Using Portable Solar Panels With A Portable Power Station to Power A TV

So how does power consumption affect powering a television if you are camping using a power station and solar panels? The solar panels are not affected by a T.V’s wattage, and you use the recommended solar panel input for the power station. 

But it does affect the size of the portable power station you are using to run the television. I will assume you are not going to take a 60inch with you camping in a tent. But I will discuss the size of the power station you would need to run a 60-inch T.V. In case of an emergency or power outage later in the post.

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What Size Portable Power Station Will I Need?

I will use two power station examples for two LCD TV sizes, and this will give you a good idea of what you will need for the rest of the television screen sizes. I will assume you have an LCD television because it consumes more power than an OLED or LED. 

While camping, you might watch 3 hours of television in a day, because it would be reasonable to keep children entertained at night after an evening meal. So I will use 30 and 40 inch LCD examples.

A 30 inch LCD TV 

This size LCD TV will consume 180Wh in 3 hours (LCD TV 60w times number of hours 3). To service the 60w television for 3 hours, you will need a power station that is 3 x the watt-hour capacity, which is 540wh.

The reason you would need a 540wh generator is that if you had been charging a 180Wh station all day to 100% capacity. After watching 3 hours of T.V. at night, it would be completely depleted (discharged). You wouldn’t be able to use it for anything else like camp lights or charging smartphones and laptops etc.…

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A 40 inch LCD TV

A 40 inch LCD will consume 300Wh in 3 hours (LCD 100w times number of hours 3). Again you will need a power station 3 x 300wh equalling 900Wh or more. Obviously, if you watched more television, you would need a larger solar generator. 

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Emergencies And Power Outages

Emergencies and power outages are becoming more prevalent worldwide and can last several days. But currently, according to official figures, the average power outage lasts around 6 hours.

You might want to watch a couple of movies to chew away those lonely hours. A portable power station would be convenient to power your 60inch LCD TV. 

To power a 200Wh, 60 inch LCD with a power station, you will need a minimum 1200Wh station. (LCD 200w times number of hours 6). However, it would be much better to use a 2000Wh station, so you didn’t entirely discharge it.

Using a generator that will power and charge simultaneously would be helpful. Because you could charge with solar panels at the same time if the sun was out. This would replace most of the used battery capacity while watching television.

Even a 42 inch would require a 720Wh station as a minimum, without keeping the wi-fi and other appliances going. 

So it would probably be worth powering a smaller set, or if you own a more modern and efficient LED TV, hook the station up to that.

According to A.C. Nielsen Co. The average American spends 28 hours per week watching TV. (Source; csun.edu)

That is 1.465 hours per year, and a 60 inch LCD consumes 87.360Wh while you are watching. How much power does it use on standby? It’s food for thought.

BluettiAC200p Power Station Wiring Diagram

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Using Solar Panels And A Deep Cycle Battery To Power A TV

It is unlikely you would haul a solar panel, charge controller, deep cycle battery, and AC inverter camping to watch a game show. But you can use a setup like this on the balcony of your apartment, home patio, or yard.

In this section of my post, I will use a 150w, 50inch LCD TV as my main example because it has higher power consumption. To work out the components, you need to power other television sizes refer to the manufacturer’s specifications.

TIP
Solar panels need to be facing the sun to work properly. If your apartment’s balcony doesn’t receive much sunlight or is shaded most of the day solar power isn’t going to work for you.

What Size AC Inverter Would You Need?

To power any AC device with an inverter using solar power, you must first work out the amount of power the inverter needs to supply. My example 50inch LCD television will consume 150w per hour. So the inverter needs to be capable of producing 150w of continuous power.

I recommend you use a pure sine wave inverter 3 times the size of the required power consumption. You don’t want it tripping out during the game because the power draw is too high. A 500w inverter will do the trick, and there is a bit of wiggle room to run some other small AC appliances.

Which Type And Size Of Battery Would You Need?

You can use a Lead-Acid or a Lithium deep cycle battery. The main difference is Lithium batteries cost more but can be discharged to 70% to 80% of their capacity. and re-charge faster. A Lead-Acid battery like an AGM can be discharged to 50% of its capacity but is significantly less expensive.

TIP
I used an online converter provided by Batterystuff.com to calculate AC to DC amperage conversion for a DC to AC inverter.

The power draw on a battery from an inverter is significantly higher for older style 50inch LCD TV. In the region of approximately 13.8 amps per hour, you would need a 200Ah Lead-Acid and a 150Ah Lithium battery to run the TV for 7 hours.

This is assuming it is cloudy and there isn’t any solar input because you calculate power usage for the worst-case scenario is best.

However, a more modern 80w 50-inch LED-TV would have a DC amp draw of around 7.4 amps per hour. This means using the worst-case scenario, powering the LED television for 7 hours would require a 100Ah Lead-Acid and a 75Ah Lithium battery.

But in normal sunny conditions, the amps going into the battery from the solar panels will offset the amps the TV is drawing through the inverter.

TIP
The deep cycle battery needs to be boxed in to protect it from the elements. If the terminal gets wet the battery will short out and will stop providing power to the inverter. You can use a battery box or fashion a DIY version yourself.

What Size Solar Panel Would You Need?

It is a common misconception that you size the solar panel to the inverter or device wattage. This isn’t the case, and you size it according to the battery you want to charge. The easiest way of doing this is to find the VMP of the panel and divide it by the wattage.

Solar panels have different VMP ratings to make life a little more complicated, and the worst-case scenario needs to be used.

The example 50inch LCD draws 96.6Ah from the battery in 7 hours (7Hrs x 13.5Ah = 96.6Ah. To replace 96.6Ah using solar panels with an average 18V VMP and 5 hours of continuous sunshine. You would need 400 watts of solar (400W ÷ 18V = 22.2Ah x 5Hrs =111Ah).

An 80w 50inch LED draws 51.8Ah from the battery in 7 Hours (7 Hrs x 7.4Ah = 51.8Ah). To replace the 51.8Ah using solar panels with an average of 18V VMP and 5 hours of continuous sunshine. You would need 200 watts of solar (200w ÷ 18V = 11.11Ah x 5Hrs = 55.6Ah).

You can daisy chain the solar panels in parallel to increase the amperage. But you would need to make sure your solar charge controller could handle the input.

TIP
It is best to use a MPPT solar charge controller because they are more efficient than PWM types.

If your television is an older LCD type, as you can see, you will need a much larger solar system to power it. So it is probably worth investing in a modern set that is more efficient and doesn’t consume as much power.

Using Portable Solar Panels and TV With A Built-In Battery

It would be great to use a solar-powered television around camp or home. But you are about to find out that at the time of writing, it isn’t as clear-cut as you might think.

To emphasize my point, I am using a couple of examples:

LEADSTAR 14 Inch Portable Digital ATSC TFT HD Screen.

This portable T.V. has a built-in 7.4V, 4000mAh lithium-polymer battery, which will last approximately 2 to 4hours.

It has a built-in 4000 mAh Lithium-Polymer battery that can be charged with a mains adapter or in-car cig port. Leadstar says there is a D.C. input port but doesn’t say if the battery can be charged with solar panels.

This means in the real world, you would need a solar generator to keep the Leadstar charged if you were using it off-grid camping. You may well be thinking I may as well use a regular T.V. and power it from a solar generator.

Cello 22 Inch Solar Television

The second example is a 22inch solar T.V. manufactured by an English company called Cello.

The Cello solar T.V. has a built-in 86Wh LiFEPO4 battery that incorporates pass-through technology. The television is powered directly by the solar panel in full sunlight, and the excess energy generated by the panel goes to charge the LiFEPO4 battery.

Charging from the supplied 30w solar panel takes around 4hrs. The solar panel is designed to be screwed to a flat roof or frame. Ideal if you rent or live in an apartment or smaller property where larger residential solar panels can’t be installed.

Unfortunately, Cello’s only available in Africa and the U.K., but they are expanding worldwide.

Until Chello makes their product available in the U.S., it seems the best way to use solar power to watch your favorite programs off-grid is to use a solar generator or deep cycle battery.

My Closing Thoughts

Choosing portable solar panels and a battery to power a television boils down to its power consumption. So you need to carefully choose which type of solar setup you use to avoid running out of juice in the middle of your favorite program.

Using a power station for camping or emergency situations will keep those shows rolling when you are off-grid. Their portability makes them ideal for setting up outside and taking them along in your RV, camper, or trailer.

Solar panels, a solar charge controller, battery, and inverter are great for apartments, rented property, patio, or yard. It is a shame that TVs with built-in batteries, unlike portable solar fridge freezers, are not widely available at the time of writing.

I hope you enjoyed my post and have found it helpful. If you have any questions about powering a T.V. with portable solar panels and a battery. Or want to leave your own personal thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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    4 Comments on “Can You Power A TV With Portable Solar Panels? (3 Ways)”

    1. Hi Steeve! I think you have done quite a good job here! Lovely article!.. I myself have been using A Solar / Inverter system for more than a year now.  It is a great experience, It cuts your Electricity bill by a half or more. The best thing about it is you really don’t too much. Just a few Solar panels, A good inverter  and a few Batteries. 

      1. Hi Vanabell

        Thank you. I didn’t really go into much about the set up you mention to cut electricity bills. It is surprising to realise that your TV is actually a big culprit in pushing your energy bills up. I am hoping people will see how easy it is to use solar power to run things like a TV. Especially with panels and a power station but not everybody likes this combo. But if your DIY is rubbish like mine it can work out well. 

        Glad your solar panel, batteries and inverter setup is working out well for you. 

        Regards

        Steve

    2.  lived off grid for years in a caravan and in Tree houses and benders,etc. What I use to do is keep a few large 12V leisure batteries and al;wyas have one on the solar panels charging whilst using the other. The thrird one I would keep handy for charging withba dynamo or the water turbine. Small AA or AAA Chargers can also be handy for charging with solar to suit your smaller devices and torches,etc

      1. Hi Kwidzin

        That is a great idea to use only one battery to power while charging another and a third as backup. 

        Regards

        Steve

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