Sharing experience with Blink solar panel

A bit of “Blink” solar panel mounting recent experience to share. BTW - why “Blink” panels? They have a plain USB micro b connector, that works fine with the Wyze cams in aftermarket housings. Many of the other ‘dedicated’ solar panels have brand specific weatherized rubbery USB micro b seal connections.

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My house happens to be oriented about 15 degrees away from a true North-South. If I mount the panel in a typical vertical orientation (as shown) on the south side, I have mostly full up & down tilt capability to aim the the panel at the 45 degree angle up - which is ideal for my latitude in Austin,Texas; but mounted on that south eave, that will be 15 degrees away from the ideal true south direction.

If I mount one the east side of my house, I need to mount the thing in a horizontal orientation, and have the mounting twisted to a 45 degree angle from true horizontal to get the 45 degree angle up - but the cardinal (compass) direction will still be limited by the battery box.

On the West side of the house, I can get true South and 45 degrees up (once again, because of the battery box interference, but not interfering, - on the west side, so not as bad). Getting that canted angle to the panel mounting isn’t easy, especially up on a ladder, and especially if you’re a 3/4 century seasoned citizen, a bit wobbly on ladders. If my kids were visiting when doing this, they be even more active in discussing putting me away into an assisted living facility.

Also, canted both ways, it looks extra ugly, seeming mounted by monkeys, any old way.

I’m a retired engineer, so I like to do quick & dirty spreadsheet analysis on these things.

For the various solar panels out there, the 2nd 18650 battery in these panels makes all the difference. With 5,000+ mAh of battery storage power, not having the perfect solar angle for maximum daytime battery charging is far outweighed by the 2nd battery. Under normal usage, those batteries will be 100% every night when the sun goes down.

These panels, at perfect angle, charge at a rate of 0.6 mA (600mAh)… which is what these cameras draw at maximum night time operation, I figured about 4 hours a day at near maximum charging, (which is 2,400 mAh). Of course, as we get further away from mid-day optimum charging, the charge eventually withers down to nothing; but surely there will be well more than 3,000 mAh of charging on a good sunny summer day.

With I/R LEDs on, and wifi transmission going, lots of motion activity going on at midnight… my spreadsheet estimated that a typical extra busy night - perhaps a police emergency right in front of my house, the reserve power in the solar panel batteries would get a tiny drop from the day’s charging. Normal days, there’s more than enough to go into the night with a full 5,000 mAh battery charge.

Can’t quite get 100% efficiency, even mounting these things at crazy, wife hating, angles? Not a problem! At least not here (and I do live alone). If I lived above the Arctic Circle, I’d need a generator to keep these things going.

The second 18650 battery in these panels makes all the difference in choosing a solar panel to run Wyze cams (or Blinks, or whatever) on solar power.

My two Reolink outdoor cameras are very nice, excellent quality, but their internal batteries only have the equivalent of one 18650 battery (2500-3000 mAh) … which is enough for a normal overnight, with some reserve power to spare, on a nothing special night. BUT, if there are zombies traipsing through your yards all night, the ReolInk cameras won’t make it through the night. My Wyze (and maybe the Blinks) will.

One advantage with the Reolinks during a zombie invasion, it’s easy enough to run out and disconnect/pull the solar panel cable, and plug in a USB power bank. I keep some 5,000 to 25,000 mAh USB power Banks handy, just for such an event. :wink:

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BTW - Beware the seller on these panels. There are several vendors selling these. On one order, I used another vendor, a couple of dollars cheaper. When I opened his two panels up to fully charge the batteries, one of them only had one battery in it.

That wasn’t just a mistake. The single 18650 battery was glued to the side, so that it wouldn’t shake loose in shipping. If the buyer didn’t open up the battery “box”, they wouldn’t know one battery was missing - except that the panel didn’t have much reserve power.

That seller, and I don’t recall his name at the moment, was stealing one battery from many of Chinese solar panels, and undercutting the price of his rivals.

In my case, I reported it to Amazon, and replaced the missing battery.

Subsequently, when buying more panels, I stayed with AOLIN, 2 dollars more expensive, but all of the AOLIN supplied panels have come with two batteries.

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Do these panels provide power and recharge at the same time?

Yes they do. Think of them like a bucket of water. During the day, the sun is pouring power into the bucket, from a small pitcher. Meanwhile, there’s a small pinhole (“leak”) in the bottom of the bucket - which is what the camera draws from.
As long as the bucket gets filled to the top, all day, every day, the camera has everything it needs to run all night, for several nights.

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That sounds cool!! Essentially what your saying is that you could put a Wyze Cam v2 Outside and have it be powered 24/7 with this solar panel. I would love to do that! (Or wait until the Wyze Cam Outdoor comes out and just let it be topped off.) Thanks for sharing!

Instead of a bucket, think of it like your “cell” phone. It can be charging, as you are using it.

Yes, sir. Put in more power than the camera can use overnight, and your Wyze cam can run pretty much unattended for a year or more, before the two batteries in the panel are worn out, and need replacing. That’s likely a 20-minute to 1/2 hour chore with a ladder, a screw driver, and a pair of new 18650 batteries (perhaps about $10).

With 5,000 to to 6,000 mAh of battery power between the two batteries, (more than twice what a cell phone generally needs,) which is like perhaps a quarter pound of USB Power Bank; without being stupid about the camera setup (I/R lights and motion trips), there’s plenty of “gas mileage” available to get through several nights without any daytime sunlight.

Your mileage may vary, and my engineering education was during the mid-sixties (but I never did drugs, other than alcohol).

One caveat about the battery capacity. Most 18650 type batteries have a safety feature that stops them from discharging beyond some percentage between 20 & 40% remaining power. They shut down, because less power reserve stored can damage the batteries where they can no longer be re-charged.

That can be a problem with the single battery solar panels, or living in the Arctic circle.

If the batteries ever show up as “dead”, that could be the problem. Click the power button OFF for a couple of days to let the batteries re-fill.

Thanks. Good to know. Many products of this type (power banks too) don’t allow simultaneous charge and draw.

Thank you, Loki, for your very appropriate questions. This has beer a “beer” Sunday for me, and hence, some of the occasional missing words in my messages. Your questions were very appropriate, and I’m sure, helped many readers further understand what I was talking about in my quest, and experience, to make my Wyze and Blink “outdoor” cameras reliable and trouble free.

On some of the installations, I needed USB micro b M/F extension cables between the solar panel and camera cables. I found that the silicone “stretchy tape” makes a perfect waterproof, and quite durable weather seal around those vulnerable extension cable connections.

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Yes, Jls; with the obvious caveat that the Wyze indoor cameras are not rated for outdoor use, so they need to be protected from direct rain, and mounted inside a suitable aftermarket protective housing. I’ve mostly used the Sully enclosures; but also kept all of the cameras mounted well clear of any possible blowing rain/moisture.

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I agree about the tape. It’s also called “Silicone Self Fusing Tape” or “Rescue Tape”. Easily found on Amazon. I’ve used it on the power connection to my outdoor IR blaster light that illuminate for my V2 behind a front facing window.

I just bought yet another “Blink” solar panel for yet another new Wyze Cam. Now, one of the vendors has upped the battery capacity to 9,620 mAh (formerly 5,200 mAh). It is now $32: From the ad “It can charge your Blink device continuously up to 46 days in total dark environment and 206 days in cloudy and rainy weather condition.”

(That’s a wild estimate, and it all depends on how much activity the camera is set up to do… but 9,620 is a much larger number than 5,200.)

With my first 5 of these panels, I did not ‘upgrade’ the batteries. With the one I got with only one battery inside, I bought a pair of replacement batteries for it the same as the supplied batteries (5,200 total mAh).

With this newest panel, or any of the others, when their batteries finally wear out in 2 or 3 years, I’ll replace them with the 9,620 mAh type.

Once again, with these panels, sold by multiple vendors, you can get burned by vendors cheating with what batteries they use (or even steal one of them).

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In addition to buying several of the solar panels for “Blink” cameras, I found that the typically 8-foot USB cable that came on the solar panels was not long enough.

I started looking for Micro B - M/F USB cables and found that they were particularly difficult to find. Because of some of the first outdoor housings for Wyze cams I had, not having enough cable room for anything but flat cables (bend radius). I found these in 10-foot foot lengths in 2-packs & 4-packs. They work in all of the outdoor housings I have tried.

FYI - just changed my avatar to match the “Bob5” name I was assigned here. That photo is not current - it’s taken in about 1950. Bob at age 5. My actual current appearance has changed a bit.

Yikes - I got fooled with the clever “updated” messaging. In my work as an engineer, I was much more careful reading specs.

From the vendor’s “updated” product description:

“* Equipped with high quality 9.62WH battery(Two battery) and 8ft/3m charging cord to provide best charging environment. It can charge your Blink device continuously up to 46 days in total dark environment and 206 days in cloudy and rainy weather
condition.”

I was thinking the vendor’s picture was wrong, because this new “updated” panel obviously had a lot more battery capacity than the previous ones. D’oh!

No it doesn’t! It has the same pair of 2,500 (or 2,600) mAh batteries as the other vendors. He actually ‘said’ WHs, not mAh. Oranges & kumquats… not the same.

I’m embarrassed. Even on a beer night, I shouldn’t have fooled myself with “beer goggles” near closing time.

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Ideally, I started my power cable search looking for perhaps a 1-foot flat (USB Micro B m/f) cable. That would be ideal.

Once the camera was enclosed inside an outdoor enclosure, and mounted, there would be a small length of female USB Micro B connection hanging down from the enclosure. That would allow the camera to remain untouched inside the case, not needing to be re-aimed, should a different or upgraded power solution need to be connected.

Alas, 10-foot was the shortest I could find, and there’s also a 20-foot one out there… both at Amazon.

A note about pre-charging the batteries before installing the solar panels.

With every one of the panels I’ve received, I open the battery box up, and put the batteries on a 4.2V 500mA charger. With all of them, they took 4 to 5 hours to top up. As you may notice in the photo uploaded today, I also mark the date I received the batteries. Just a good habit with rechargeable batteries. If they are 6-years-old, it’s probably a good time to replace them.

In one of first posts about the solar panels, I mentioned mounting on the south, east or west side of the house.

It’s tricky & confusing, so I wanted to make a combined photo to show the mounted orientation for each side of a house. I used to be good with Photoshop, but now I’m trying to combine and label three photos with whatever default Photo App I have, and it got too frustrating. Instead, I’ll show one photo and describe the other two. The EAST SIDE.

As you can see, there is a slot in the mounting bracket. To mount the solar panel, the bracket has to be removed, to drive in the three mounting screws. That slot is the guide for mounting the bracket to the house, and its’ orientation is crucial. That bracket only allows swivel in one direction, so aiming the panel has to first be done (permanently) in the best angle.

On the EAST side of the house, the panel will have to be oriented in “landscape” (horizontal) orientation, and to get the proper tilt upwards, the “slot” position determines that.

As shown in the photo, the slot is in about the 4:30 clock position (half way between 3 & 6 o’clock position). That provides a 45-degree upward angle, for an EAST SIDE mounting. Depending on where you live, perhaps your best East Side angle is 4:00 or 5:00. In Austin Texas, 45-degrees up is the best (year-round) angle. In New England, 5:00 would be better (sun doesn’t get as high). Mexico City - 4:00 would be better.

On the West Side, that slot angle, oriented at 7:30 o’clock, would provide a 45-degree angle upwards (for me), and once again, the panel would be in Landscape orientation. (In New England, closer to 8:00 would be better, 7:00 in Mexico City).

On the South Side, easy; the panel will be in Portrait (vertical) orientation, when the slot is at 6:00. The swivel then provides the adjustable up & down tilt, but you have no compass adjustability. If you need that, 6:30 orientation gets it more westerly, 5:30 gets it more easterly.

[On the North side… well unless you live in Australia, or other Southern hemisphere locations, don’t mount the panels on the North side. Use the east or west side, with extension power cables for north side cameras. In Australia, the slot would be at clock angles between 10:00 & 2:00.]

For my house, oriented 15 degrees east of true north, the west side mounting for these panels provides the best up/down & compass direction adjustablity.

Actually the engineer/designer of that bracket did a good job with the slot. 12:00 = directly North, 3:00 = directly East, etc. Unfortunately, between the engineer & copy writer, some things get lost.

Oh, one more mounting tip… up on the ladder, remounting the panel to the mounting arm is a three handed juggling act. You are holding the panel in one hand, and the adjusting knob in the other, trying to align them up, (not so easy), and then with your third hand, install the little nut. I found that the so, so easy-to-drop little nut that holds it all together is best kept in the mouth until the exact moment it is needed.

If you’re fussy, disinfect the Covid off of the nut first. Obviously, I hope, you can’t be wearing your mask to use the nut-in-the-mouth tip. :thinking: