Any ideas for how to fit solar panels for solar generators in a small back yard?

Hello, everybody. I’m back on TP after a LONG absence. I just bought solar panels for solar generators. They arrived today. Kind of exciting. This is my first venture into trying to recharge my sogens from the sun. I got these two panels:

Now I have my next problem. I didn’t realize the solar panels would be so big. Each of the two Allpowers is 7 ft long. The only place I have to put them is my back yard, but my back yard is small and there is some obstruction from trees and other plants. I don’t know if I can fit two of these things side to side. I’m wondering if there’s a way to arrange them in a more compact way? Perhaps one set of panels on some card tables and the other one on the ground underneath? Are there any frames or something out there I might get to stack these so they both get sun?

Another problem is security. My back yard has a chain link gate that’s a little under 5 ft tall. Even with a lock someone in good physical shape could climb it pretty easily. And the fences on two sides of the yard are pretty see through. Now, I’ve never had theft on my property, despite it being a very urban neighborhood, and my back yard is removed from the street. But if someone spots two large solar panel arrays, plus a generator sitting out there, what’s to keep them from hopping my fence and stealing them? These are some of the most expensive items I own!


  • Comments (10)

    • 4

      Hi Jonnie! Welcome back! I’m a newer member – probably joined after your hiatus started.

      We keep our own solar panel indoors as something to deploy only during an emergency. I also feel that our neighborhood is reasonably safe, and that theft from our backyard is unlikely.

      If you prefer to deploy them full-time as a way to save money on electricity, there are options to mitigate the risk of theft. You could make them less visible by surrounding them with hedges or other objects. You could also make them more difficult to steal by chaining them to a tree and/or placing a security camera in the backyard.

      I think the most common place to setup solar panels is on a roof, which naturally deters theft due to the difficulty of climbing up on a roof to remove the panels. But these particular panels don’t really appear to be designed for that.

      • 3

        Hi, Eric. Clarification: I do have a permanent solar installation on the roof. These panels that I’m asking about are ones I got for recharging my solar generators. Like you I only plan to use them in an emergency in an extended power outage. (I have actually used my solar generators in power outages that lasted up to day, but I simply recharge them from the wall once the electricity comes back up in that case.) 

        So, these are semi-portable solar panels. Not portable in the sense of carrying them around with you in your backpack, but portable enough to set up, charge and then put away. (Also I would like to be able to take them car camping if I go.) But I still need a reasonable setup in my back yard for them when I do use them and that’s what I can’t figure out now that I know how much space they take up! 

    • 3

      Jonnie! So glad to see you back 🙂

      I did a review since the last time you were here on a portable solar panel. My issue with it was wind blowing it over, and it getting scratched up from blowing around because it was so lightweight. I ended up tying some sandbags to the grommets to keep it in place. 

      You could do something similar, run a chain and padlock through the panels and your power station if they have a place to do so. This doesn’t make them theft-proof, but does deter the quick walk-by and grab. 

      I can’t remember where I got it from, but I have like an 8 foot bike chain that is meant for like locking gates. I would probably deploy that if I needed to leave it outside for a few minutes unattended. Lowes or Home Depot can cut you a chain however long you want for only a few cents a foot. 

      As for how to position, you’ll just have to keep an eye on the shadows in the yard throughout the day and at various times of the year to find the perfect spot to set these. Remember, panels really like to be pointed directly at the sun, so you’ll have to rotate them every 2 hours or so for maximum output.

      Your idea of having one on the floor and one slightly higher up on a table is probably the best idea for your situation. You need to raise the back panel up slightly so the front panel doesn’t shadow it.

      Hope to see you around here more often. If you haven’t seen it already, much of our conversation lately has moved to Discord. Feel free to join if you’d like.

      • 2

        Hey, Gideon. Just read your review. I hadn’t even thought about the issue of the panels blowing over. I’m in general unimpressed with the kickstand of the panels I have. I think they are very likely to collapse backwards if there’s wind. But really the bigger issue is that I have no room in my back yard to put both panels horizontally and that’s the way the kickstands work. I have to try to figure out some solution where I can stand them vertically. Also, my back yard used to get lots of sunlight, but then one of my neighbors built a big shed… :-(. Now I guess it doesn’t get so much sun. Sigh. So many issues.

        I’ve never used Discord, or Slack. But I’m game. I just registered and found ThePrepared on Discords. So, what, it’s all one chat, right? No subtopics?

      • 1

        If it’s still within the return period, you might want to consider returning those panels to be honest. If they are too large, and the kick stands are subpar then you might not be happy with them and can find something smaller and more durable. Let us know here or on Discord if you need to find a new panel and we can all pitch in and help you find the perfect one for you.

        Discord is a bunch of real time conversation messages back to back. There are some subtopics (called channels) on the side and we are still developing those sections. Check out the national-preparedness-month channel, there’s a lot going on there.


      • 2

        “So, what, it’s all one chat, right? No subtopics?”

        There are five channels: general (where you start), news, prepper-chat-night, national-preparedness-month, and memes. We can also start named threads from any of those. The national-preparedness-month channel currently has the “House DIY Improvements” thread which has some great advice from brown fox about making your home more energy efficient.

      • 2

        Yes, they are still within the return period. The thing is, I don’t know that I can find anything smaller that would actually recharge my solar generators in anything like a reasonable time. I have a Bluetti EB 150 and an even larger GoalZero Yeti 3000X. So, these two panels are 200 W each and together they’ll at least recharge the Bluetti in a day. Something smaller wouldn’t would it? I was also looking for something that could be taken camping, if that need arises. These are “suitcases” that can fold up very nicely. If I go camping there might be more room and I could lean them against a tree? I don’t know how well I can get them to work in my back yard, but if I send them back I won’t have any way of recharging my sogens if the power is down. Which is where I was at before I got these.

        Found the other threads on Discord, thanks. It’s a little bit of a learning curve for me.

      • 2

        I’ve held this Goal Zero 200W briefcase panel before. It is much heavier coming in at 42 pounds than the 14 pounds that yours is, but takes up half the footprint, less likely to blow over in the wind, and much more durable. You will pay the Goal Zero tax though, this one 200W panel costs as much as your two 200W panels.

        I looked up a few more random ones like this on Amazon and there are some options. 

        This one weighs the same as your panels, takes up half the space, and costs about the same.

        Here are two others: serenelife and vicemob (this one doesn’t look to have as good of kickstands).

        Don’t feel pressured to return yours and buy one of these. I’m just throwing out some ideas. 🙂

      • 3

        Honestly, the whole looking for solar panels thing has been a multiyear quagmire for me.  I don’t know much at all about electricity and don’t want to burn down anything. I’m not handy so I don’t want to undertake any solar DIY project and there are a gazillion types of panels out there.  (The other panels you link to are good examples. One only has controllers for lead-acid batteries, which I have no idea how to modify for my generator.  One has minimal reviews, so I don’t know what I’d be getting. And the GoalZero, which of course I’ve seen before is crazy expensive.) 

        This Allpowers one that I got seems like it could work and it’s compatible with my two solar generators. I think I may wind up putting one of them on some card tables lined up in a row and putting the second one learning against the legs of the tables. Maybe weigh down the kickstands with sandbags.

        The other thing I’m thinking of getting is something called IQ8. This is an upgrade to the solar system installed on my roof. Apparently with this upgrade I would be able to plug stuff into the wall during daytime hours when the sun is out even if the grid is down. Which of course begs the question of what I’d use the portable solar panels for, but well, maybe camping or maybe as backup if there’s something wrong with the IQ8.

      • 2

        Some casual googling suggests that IQ8, if not prohibitively expensive, might actually be a better option than the portable solar panels, at least for those who own their own home.