I currently am using a small SLA 12V battery to power the following in our screened-in back patio:
1. CURRENT USE: A small 12VDC audio amplifier that I use for internet radio, listening to my mp3 collection, and as a sound system when we use our video projector to watch a movie outside.
2. CURRENT USE: LED lighting strips from IKEA (LEDBERG model) that provide switched lighting. Mostly for intermittent use to safely transit the dark patio to our two doors into our house ('our side' and 'mother-in-law's side). Occassionally we spend time in the porch on a nice evening, though, and the lighting is perfect. The attached picture is pretty true to life on the lighting.
3. FUTURE USE: To power the intermittent (1-3 times per day) water pump in this amazing home gardening system that I would build just outside the long wall on the right side of the above picture.
Currently, I just throw a small trickle charger onto the small SLA (1.2 AH) battery every now and then. What I'd really like to do is convert this to a PV solar system. I want/need to succeed on the first try, though, and not end up with a system that will fry the battery prematurely from overcharging or overdischarging. I'd like to know that if I hadn't used the lights or amp in a few days that they'd work when I went to use them, too. There's not much point if I have to get out the trickle charger at the last minute for movie night.
I've determined that I would like one decent small wattage (10-50 watts?) monocrystaline panel, to be mounted at near ground level. But I'm having a hard time deciding exactly what charge controller / discharge limiter compnent(s) to buy that will work best for this very small system.
Any suggestions? Advice? Comments in general? Much like I discovered first-hand that motor scooters are not cost efficient after your first $60,000 in medical bills from an accident, I believe it would be very easy to have this hobby cost more than needed if I have to replace things because I bought the wrong item or if I don't get the best life out of whatever next 12V battery I end up with.