Bird box cameras provide a discreet way to watch wild birds in your backyard. It offers you an amazing insight into their world from the comfort of your home. In the previous articles, we have covered a lot on how to install the bird box camera properly, like where to put out the birdhouse and how to waterproof the camera, but a question that is rarely discussed is how to power the bird box camera. Therefore, in today’s post, we will introduce 3 simple ways to power your bird box camera, which can apply to different circumstances.
1. DC12V Power Adapter
If you have a power outlet located anywhere near the birdhouse, this would be the easiest way. Mains power can provide a steady and constant power supply for bird box cameras, and there are two types of electrical current, AC and DC. The AC current flows in back and forth alternating directions, the one that travels through power lines and comes through the power outlets, while the DC current flows in the same direction, often found in power sources like batteries and solar panels. DC power has a relatively constant voltage for electrons to flow through and is widely used in residential loads.
Therefore, to power the bird box camera, you’ll need a DC12V power adapter to convert the AC currents to the low-voltage DC power that the low-power device can accept. If you own a large property or if there’s no existing power outlet on the installation site, you can run a DC12V extension cable to your birdhouse, but it should be waterproof and well-protected (buried underground or laid in the conduit) so it won’t get chewed up by the rodents.
2. Rechargeable Batteries
Batteries are a perfect solution for a wire-free bird box camera system. It’s highly portable and used even without an outlet. A ideal solution if you don’t want to repeatedly invest in a wired connection every time the camera is relocated. In addition, using rechargeable batteries in your bird box camera can help save on inventory for batteries. But you’ll need to recharge the battery every 4-5 days before the battery runs out. And a 12V battery cable will be needed to charge your bird box camera with the rechargeable battery. To withstand conditions in even the most extreme environments, the battery must be protected in a waterproof casing to keep it safe.
Your budget and needs decide which type of battery you choose. A large battery capacity will be highly appreciated. And the most commonly used batteries available in the market are lead-acid and lithium-ion. The biggest advantage of the lead-acid battery is it’s relatively cheaper than an off-grid extension system. It provides a stable output over a long period and is widely installed in rural and remote areas. But it’s bulky and heavy and it’ll take up a lot of space. On the other hand, the lithium-ion battery stores more energy than a lead-acid battery, and it has a longer lifespan and charge cycles. But its major downside is that it’s twice as expensive as the lead-acid battery.
3. Solar Power System
Clean and renewable solar energy is the best alternative for powering the bird box camera as it minimizes overall running costs and carbon emissions. It’s an ideal solution if you get a lot of sunshine or if you want to install the camera in the woods where you can get the most authentic image of the local wildlife and create a hassle-free birdwatching system. And there are 3 basic components in the solar power system: solar panel, battery and charge controller.
The solar panel absorbs the energy from the sunlight and converts it into electrical power. To power the bird box camera, you should choose a solar panel that has a higher power rate. Monocrystalline solar panels provide the highest productivity but they’re more expensive; polycrystalline solar panels are cheaper but their efficiency is not consistent. And it should produce a DC12V supply for direct battery charging and the DC load can be directly connected through it via the charge controller. Some birders may have their solar panels built on the top of the birdhouse, but doing so can give rise to fire hazards.
Batteries are used for backup storage. It stores solar power generated during the daytime and discharges it at night. As previously discussed, the battery you choose should have a large capacity. The lifespan and charge/discharge cycles of the battery should also be considered. Since batteries degrade as they are used, their capacity deteriorates over time. Gel batteries can store and deliver peak power for as many as 500 to 5000 cycles, while the lithium batteries can be cycled up to 200 times. Moreover, the ambient working temperature of the battery is also a crucial factor that shouldn’t be overlooked since there’s a huge temperature difference between day and night in the wilderness.
Solar Charge Controller
A solar charge controller is a device used to regulate the voltage and current coming from the solar panel. The main purpose of the charge controller is to prevent the battery from being overcharged by the solar panel since a 12V solar panel can provide 17-20V when it is in full sunlight. And there are two main types of charge controllers: PWM and MPPT. The PWM is usually used for low-power devices like the bird box camera (12V) where only one or two solar panels are connected, while the MPPT is normally used in high-power systems where more solar panels are deployed. And the PWM charge controller works best with the battery voltage. The ideal setup with many PWMs is with a 12V solar panel and 12V battery.
How to Set Up the Solar Power System?
First of all, you have to calculate your power load. You need to figure out how much energy your solar panel can produce, and you need to know the amount of peak sunlight hours the location gets. The bird box camera consumes about 135mA, so you’ll need a 60W solar panel and a 20AH DC12V rechargeable battery.
Then, place the solar panel in a location where it will not be in the shade because shading even a small part of the panel can result in low power generation. So the solar panel should be wired out to the edge of the woods and aimed up to the sun.
The first connection will be connecting the charge controller to the solar panel. The second connection is pairing the battery with the controller. The last connection is connecting the controller to the direct DC load, namely your bird box camera. And be aware: you can’t charge the camera directly with the battery because the voltage will rise up to 18V when it’s being charged by the solar panel. Since there’s no regulator inside the battery, the bird box camera can easily get damaged.