Incubating chicken eggs is a simple process, but requires regular monitoring of the temperature and humidity levels. Using a solar system to power the incubator can be necessary if the incubator if far removed from power source or if home power is unreliable. The system needs to be able to provide energy as needed and also provide a degree of redundancy to avoid losing a batch of eggs.
Calculate the total power consumption needed by the system composed by the incubator and any other element you may have added to the system like fans, temperature and humidity meters. Check your documentation for the average electric value in watts (W) and divide it by 12 to get the number of amps (A) the system needs. A 48W incubator needs 48/12 = 4 A to function.
Choose the battery that will power your system. Choose one that is 12 V, or, if you already have batteries, mount them so the total voltage is 12 V. For example, two 6 V batteries can be connected in series to make a 12 V battery. Connect two batteries in series by connecting the positive of one battery to the negative of the other one. You will want to have a battery that can power the system for 24 hours minimum if you are in a sunny climate. If you are in a climate that is often overcast, you may want to extend that number to 48 hours or more. In order to calculate how much time the battery can last, divide the amp rating of the battery by the amp consumption of the system. A 100 A/hour battery will provide 25 hours of power to a 4 A system.
Choose a solar panel powerful enough to power the system and charge the battery. The solar panel's power output needs to be at least three times as high as the energy consumption of the system. Ideally, with a 12-hour day and a 12-hour night, you could choose a solar panel with twice the power in order to maintain the battery at full charge. For a system using 48W, you will want to get 150W panels to be able to charge the battery efficiently .
Connect the solar panel to the charge controller and the charge controller to the battery. The charge controller will make sure the battery does not overcharge and be damaged by the excess current delivered by the solar panel. Connect the battery to the 12 V system either by using a cigarette lighter plug or crocodile clips. Secure the connection with electric tape to prevent any accidental loss of power.
Keep the battery and the incubator in a room with a warm and stable temperature. Any air circulation around the incubator can make it harder for the incubator to keep the required temperature of 99.5F, thereby lowering the success rate of your incubator.
If the room temperature is too low, the battery efficiency can be significantly reduced while forcing the incubator to draw more power to keep the temperature up. Because of those two factors, the system can run out of power prematurely. While it is possible to charge the battery directly from the solar panel, anything but constant surveillance of that set-up will result in a dead battery.
Tips and warnings
- If the room temperature is too low, the battery efficiency can be significantly reduced while forcing the incubator to draw more power to keep the temperature up. Because of those two factors, the system can run out of power prematurely.
- While it is possible to charge the battery directly from the solar panel, anything but constant surveillance of that set-up will result in a dead battery.