Each time I make a cooler stereo I try to do something different! This time I added a solar panel :) See my signature for my other builds.


Lifeboat is a small 18 quart cooler with 2 4” pyle marine speakers and Lepai amplifier w/ Aux/FM/SD inputs, plus bluetooth with $5 adapter. There are wet/dry sides and about 1/4 of the volume is dedicated to battery/speakers/amp/etc.

Solar panel will charge at a maximum of 2.5W so 180mA at 13.88V; 30mA on a cloudy Portland day during the sunset. The meter will indicate charge current as well as battery voltage. The front of the solar panel is sealed with 1/16” clear plastic and black silicone. I cannot comment on thermal loss due to cutting a large percentage of the foam on the front for the solar panel because I have yet to use it. Obviously, the solar panel will not charge the battery as fast as it is discharging. However, it will charge a small 7.2Ah battery in a few days. And it looks cool!

All the plastic I used I obtained from TAP Plastics (basically anywhere on the West coast). The one I go to has a scrap bin where you can buy plastic for CHEAP, $1 sheets. Otherwise, their price calculator is accurate.

The plastic wet/dry divider was simply cut with a jigsaw.

The three switches do the following:

  • Top switch: turns on/off volt/current meter display (battery voltage and solar charging current)
  • Dual switch top: turns on/off amplifier
  • Dual switch bottom: turns on/off solar panel charging


Coleman 18-Quart Party Stacker Cooler:

NOCO BLSOLAR2 Battery Life Black 2.5W Solar Battery Charger and Maintainer:

UPG Security Alarm System Battery 12V 7.2Ah SLA Security Certified-Electronics:

12V USB & FM 20W+20W Mini Car Power Amplifier With Remote Controller:

SMAKN 4 Bit voltage current meter DC0-33V/1A/3A Voltmeter ammeter RED+GREEN:

Amico 5 Pcs SPST On Off Black Snap in Boat Rocker Switch AC 250V/15A 125V/20A:

Amico 5 Pcs x AC 15A/250V 20A/125V On-On Double SPDT 2 Gang Boat Rocker Switch 6 Pin:

PYLE PLMR41W 4-Inch Dual Cone Waterproof Stereo Speaker System:

Sealed Lead Acid Battery Charger UPG D1724:

USB Bluetooth Music Stereo Audio Receiver Adapter for iPhone iPad Computer Black:

Waterproof Car Motorbike Female Cigarette Lighter Power Plug Outlet Socket 12V:

12v Male Car Cigarette Lighter Socket Plug Connector with Fuse and Red LED:

M3AO Waterproof Power Socket Mini Blade Type In Line Fuse Holders With 10A Fuse:

3M 5200 Marine Sealant:

Black Silicone:


Overview of all the guts, I added some stuff in the end

Before cutout for solar panel, used Dremel tool

After cutout for solar panel, hole drilled on dry side for wire

Solar panel placed over cutout

Speaker holes cutout with hole saw

Inside with speaker holes

1/16” plastic to cover/protect solar panel

Plastic placed and siliconed in to make water proof
Held down with an IEEE, eletromagnetics, and redhat linux books!

Plastic wet/dry divider before cutouts in place

Plastic wet/dry divider shape

Plastic wet/dry divider with cutouts

Plastic wet/dry divider placed in the cutouts

Plastic wet/dry divider placed in the cutouts and forced into the cooler foam

Lid interfering with plastic wet/dry plastic divider

Plastic wet/dry divider before sealing

Dry side before sealing with wire for solar panel

Dry side with battery before sealing

Dry side with amplifier before sealing

Dry side with amplifier and bluetooth adapter before sealing

Dry side with amplifier and bluetooth adapter and half-ass demonstration mount before sealing

Plastic wet/dry divider sealed with 3M 5200 marine sealant

Plastic wet/dry divider sealed with 3M 5200 marine sealant

Switches, current/volt meter display, and 12V plug half-way installed

Speakers mounted, amp mounted, and stereo on!

Dry side after wiring

Final back side and left side view

Final back side view

Final left side view
With Earl, the truck, in the background :)

Another back side and left side view

Final front and left side view with lid attached