I am working on designing a Pi 4 powered Pi camera for outdoors, placed in a weatherproof case. It will include a battery and a solar panel and will be under the sun all day long.
For power management I am thinking of using Pi Juice Hat with its standard Lithium Ion battery. I am a newbie and it would be a big help if you could please help me sort these questions:
Do I need to add ventilation at the bottom and if so, how do I make it insect-proof?
with Battery and RPi in a weatherproof box, i am considering a fan or Ice tower. Is it overkill? If not, which ice tower will work along with the power management board? – making sure they are not using the same GPIO pins.
Which solar panel would you recommend. Pi Juice panels are good, but I was thinking of something slightly more beautiful and solid that will integrate nicely on top of the case.
I really appreciate any help you could provide. Thanks
There will be a few challenges with your project idea but it should be possible with some design revisions.
The first challenge will be that the Pijuice Hat is out of stock and we aren’t expecting to receive more for at least a few months.
The Pi 4 is the most power-hungry of the Raspberry Pis so it will consume power faster than something like a Pi Zero would.
Heat will definitely be a factor to manage, LiPo batteries especially need to be kept within a safe operating range or they can create a spectacular fire.
Do you need your project to take photos or video? Downsizing to a smaller Pi like a Zero (if you already have stock) or a 3A+ which uses a bit more power could potentially allow you to use the PiJuice Zero HAT which we do have stock of and get better battery life as a result.
Other possible alternatives could be to avoid solar charging and use large batteries which need to be swapped intermittently, using something like the UPS HAT for a Pi Zero.
If we use Pi Zero W with PiJuice Zero hat, it works only with Lipo battery which are more likely to cause fire than Li -ion battery. However, if Pi Hat is out of stock for a while, we may need to reconsider our desion and revisit the option of Zero hat. With that, could you please suggest some measures for temp control? Thansk again Trent.
I’m not too well versed in the differences between specific Lithium chemistry battery variants, so I’d need to do a bit more reading myself to know what was the most temperature-sensitive.
For temperature control, I’d recommend first trying to make your design so it absorbs as little heat as possible with the usual tricks. Shading the project using the solar panel, making the enclosure white or reflective so it absorbs less sunlight.
At that point, there is really no good substitute for field testing and experimentation, that way you can identify if you are mostly dealing with heat from the environment, or heat generated by the project itself.
Fans will definitely help remove heat from the project, but it’s yet another device in the box that’s consuming power so there are downsides to active cooling on a battery project.
Waterproof vents I’d look into something like these, I’m not sure how insectproof they will be, but again experimentation will get us a long way and it will depend on your deployment environment.
I’ve finally made up my mind to go with RPi Zero. We will be running the Pi for 10 hours a day, mostly in the sunlight. I believe we should use PiJuice Phat for power management. Are any good alternatives available? We will be going with suitable device design and field testing before making a decision on the fan. However, with the worst-case scenario in mind, if we are to implement a fan, alongside the power management hat, could you please suggest a design, please??
Since your project is going to be out in the weather, I’d recommend a waterproof enclosure (with the waterproof vents discussed earlier or your fan won’t achieve anything).
Any of these should fit a Pi zero.
If it were my project and I wanted to design for as much passive temperature regulation as possible I’d also experiment with giving the box a reflective coating with some foil tape like you can find at Officeworks.
The choice of a fan is much of a muchness unless you want one that can be software controlled from the Pi, here are some candidates.
Thanks Trent. We will most likely use a custom-designed case. For the fan, which of the suggested options will work with the PHAT or any other Hat? We would surely like to control the fan with software based on the temp if that option is practical.
Most of our software controlled fans are sized for the Pi 4 but should still fit the Pi Zero 40 pin GPIO. Keep in mind you may need stackable headers so both devices can be connected via the GPIO simultaneously.
Hi Team, could you please suggest a solar panel other than Pi Juice panels to work with Pi Juice Zero hat? If I wish to use a Seeed studio panel or any other, what is the best way to connect them to the pi juice hat if there is no usb/c option available?
We do not require anything more than 1w. So, do you think we can get away without using Pi Juice Hat? I believe that there is no RTC on the Adafruit solution and so if we add a separate RTC hat for that purpose, will we be able to get the same kind of outcome? There is a huge difference in costing of both options and so we are quite unsure at this stage as to what added benefit we are getting in Pi Juice as compared to the Solar power manager from Adafruit. I’d really appreciate any help on this topic
We are using Pi Zero W with a Pi camera and a battery. Auto wake up or scheduled wake up of the pi and getting it to sleep after a task is important. Can we achieve that with an external RTC. Any product recommendation for achieving that?
Hi team, one more question, this one is probably a very simple one. I am a software developer and hence soldering is not my forte. It appears that adding U.FL and antenna to Pi Zero W is slightly complicated for my soldering skill level. Any alternative where I can add an external antenna easier way?
I’d say adding a USB WiFi card with good Linux support (ideally something someone has used with a Pi) and a high-gain (read: long) antenna would be your best bet for increasing the WiFi performance on a Zero. Alternatively, if your application allows it, you might want to go Ethernet instead:
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