Solar Powered Cameras?

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Scott Richardson

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Jul 2, 2021, 3:27:11 PMJul 2
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Has anyone successfully connected a solar powered camera to a Camect box?  Given Camect requires a constant feed, would think that probably eliminates these as options.  But, I thought I would ask.  Was going to try to add one in the woods in my backyard with no access to power.  Other ideas?

Arup Mukherjee

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Jul 2, 2021, 3:57:12 PMJul 2
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I would not expect good results with this unless you get a fairly huge solar cell powering the camera. The small solaras that often come with these cameras don't produce enough power to keep the camera running continuously, as it would need to be for use with Camect. 

On Fri, Jul 2, 2021 at 12:27 PM Scott Richardson <scottdri...@gmail.com> wrote:
Has anyone successfully connected a solar powered camera to a Camect box?  Given Camect requires a constant feed, would think that probably eliminates these as options.  But, I thought I would ask.  Was going to try to add one in the woods in my backyard with no access to power.  Other ideas?

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mitchell_b

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Jul 2, 2021, 5:00:20 PMJul 2
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There are two things to contend with in this scenario:

1. Camera power. Arup is correct that all-in-one solar cameras likely won't work for the constant stream needed for Camect. What you could do is run any of the recommended (outdoor, WiFi) cameras and provide is constant power using a battery and a solar panel. This can be done using an off-the-shelf product (given the proper voltage and current) or a DIY solution. You can find solar battery systems for trail cameras, due to their remote nature. These may be worth looking into to see if they can provide the proper voltage and current to continuously power the camera.

This potential DIY solution consists of up to 4 items: 

1. a solar panel large enough to power the camera and charge the battery
2. a charge controller matching the solar panel and battery voltage and current ratings
3. a battery large enough to power your camera when there is no sun (think overnight, overcast days, stormy days, snow on panel, etc).
4. a voltage regulator, if necessary, to step your battery voltage to suit your camera a. Some charge controllers have built-in 12v regulated load terminals, which could directly feed a 12v camera. If you wish to power a camera using POE, you can add in low voltage POE adapter. Be sure to match your source voltage.

Wrap this all in a waterproof box and you have a power supply, given your panel is in a sunny enough location for long enough every day to replenish the battery. 

2. WiFi. Your camera will need to connect to your network wirelessly. Ensure your WiFi reaches your desired mounting location, and that it is strong enough to handle the stream. You can always add on a mesh wifi repeater or additional access point to extend coverage to reach the camera.  

How far are the woods from your house? Another option is direct burial CAT-6 cable, which can both provide network connection and power the camera if within reasonable distance. Being direct burial, the cable needs no conduit and needs very little digging to install. 

R Spivack

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Jul 2, 2021, 9:11:28 PMJul 2
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If you go with wired Ethernet, a few tips:

Cat 5E is sufficient and much less expensive than Cat 6.  I'm not sure you can even find direct burial Cat 6.

Two types of cables commonly used - gel-filled, or foil/sealed.  Your choice, but gel-filled are really messy to work with when terminating.

Check specs - not all direct burial cable have UV resistant outer jacket (as they assume the entire cable will be underground).  If some of the cable will be exposed going into or exiting from camera or equipment, UV resistance might be valuable to consider.

There are PoE injectors/adapters that can convert a regular Ethernet cable run into PoE for USB devices, even if you otherwise don't have PoE enabled Ethernet switches or gear.  A good place to look is PoE of Texas.  Amazon carries their gear and other no-name suppliers.

No matter what you do, strongly suggest you put Ethernet surge suppressors on both ends of the cable.  Lighting strikes or other transients can take out a lot of equipment, not just that $50 camera.

If you have the budget, conduit and/or fiber optic runs are much safer and more reliable.

Eric Meeson

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Jul 3, 2021, 11:01:49 AMJul 3
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If you're feeling particularly disinclined, you can even staple the direct burial CAT 5E right to the top of the grass like you would with a wire for a dog fence, the grass will grow up around it and it's good enough for most things.

As mentioned, get surge suppressors, the Ubiquiti ETH-SP-G2 suppressors are only about $20. You're ::supposed:: to have them at both ends for some reason, but I didn't bother on my runs, only putting them on the side with the network gear. Doesn't matter to me if a lightning strike brings the camera up to a high voltage, it's "floating" relative to ground anyway and the suppressor protects the network equipment.

One mistake I did make though, make sure your network gear is also suppressed. I had a lightning strike that took the grid high, and ended up going through the network port on the switch to the ethernet surge suppressor, cooked that port on the switch. Since suppressing the site I have added 3x more outdoor devices via the single suppressor method I mentioned and have had no issues.

R Spivack

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Jul 3, 2021, 9:46:54 PMJul 3
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Heading deeper OT, but do you know how the Ubiquiti or other Ethernet surge suppressors work?  Are they simply MOV (metal-oxide-varistors) same as in power strips or some other mechanism?  You stimulated an interesting thought - since MOV suppressors degrade with every spike or brownout they absorb, over time outdoor line protection suppressors may also need to be periodically replaced.  Most power strips that are more than a few years old provide very little protection as the accumulated absorption of brownout and transient voltages, which are often do not cause any visible disturbance in equipment, wears down their ability to absorb a large lighting-style voltage spike.

Eric Meeson

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Jul 4, 2021, 9:51:07 AMJul 4
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This is an interesting question, I'll have to open one up to confirm (if it isn't glued shut that is).

I expect they're MOV, I'm not sure how else they would work. I'll mention that MOVs only absorb over-voltage events, they are unaffected by brownouts.

In situ on an ethernet line (and assuming you have your equipment itself surge protected unlike I did that day) they will never see any voltage events unless you have a lightning strike close enough that it energizes the other structure in question (lightning hitting the tree with a camera on it for example) and should have a very long life. Unlike their power strip counterparts though, you won't have the telltale warming effect of a failing MOV to indicate that there is a problem and that they need to be replaced. I'm not sure what should be adopted as a service life in that event, but at $20 I guess they're cheap enough that you could replace them every  so often if you were worried about it.

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