Standalone Solar Powered Mailbox

Yes, it is connected to my home WiFi. It’s surprisingly a very stable connection. I did not expect it to constantly communicate and thought I might have to fall back to the SD card to grab a video clip if I have an incident. I mentioned previously I am an engineer, I’m actually an RF (radio) engineer. So, I tested with a WiFi Analyzer app on my phone prior to mounting. My WiFi channel was completely clear of competing broadcasts in the house, but marginal outside as my neighbors across the street were obviously using the same channel. I changed the channel several times (testing inside and out) and found a channel that was still very clear from interference inside the house and “workable” at the camera location. The throughput still drops down a bit at times causing a VERY brief stutter but compared to even some of our “professional” cameras where I work, this Wyzecam crushes it. Great little radios in these units.


Yah all great until some kids come by and wack it with a baseball bat or a someone who doesn’t like you monitoring your street so close to the street comes by and yanks it all apart. This thing will be gone in a month or two stolen or broken… didn’t think it through very well with that camera sticking right how the bottom like that so low to the ground and accessible. Engineers never see the real world around them.

Just a ray of sunshine. :sun_with_face:
Welcome to the forum.

I suspect buccscott isn’t too worried about it.


Nah, not as worried as viscara obviously. Must have had a bad experience with an engineer in the past. Maybe a parent was and engineer and never showed you love, maybe you were married to one and were cheated on, maybe you are an engineer yourself and aren’t talented enough to keep a job. Sorry for your pain, please feel free to spew some more venom my way. We never see the real world around us anyway!

BTW, you seem to be the only person who doesn’t like me…so if you were to come and whack it with a bat or yank it apart, I can access a video of you doing so for 14 days on the wyze cloud storage. If you were to sneak up from the other side, my neighbor across the street has one facing the opposite direction and will also be able to see you doing the damage (I mentioned this in an earlier post).

So, whack or yank away my friend (that’s what she said). I’ll slowly and calmly download the video, give it to my local PD, and order another one from Amazon for $25.


On a serious note, I am here to help and answer questions for those who have a genuine interest in this type of project. I don’t claim to know everything (far from it) but I am willing to share the knowledge that I do have with anyone who asks. I even learned I could get a buck transformer with a USB on the 5v side from Angus. You better believe I’ll be ordering one of those next time!


Haven’t we all really? :smile:

There’s a thread about this. The consensus seems to be that it wouldn’t actually record it’s theft (or death) because of the 5 minute cool down between clips and the amount of time it takles to actually upload to the cloud.

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They’ll smile, thank you and add it to some file and that will be that. That ‘crime’ is not on their radar, unless you live in Mayberry. I think the design is very cool, but I also think @viscara points out a valid weakness, although he should have stuck to the point and not gone off track. I wouldn’t expect it to last a week here without something happening to it. That depends on your neighborhood of course, but if you need cameras in your neighborhood, you probably don’t want them so exposed.

That said, how hard would it be to step up to two cameras? Two cameras, recess mounted in the corners, would give you a 220 degree view, protect the cameras, eliminate the external housing and discourage vandalism. Also, being recessed, they may not even look like cameras. Obviously, it would double the battery drain. Would you be able to upgrade the solar panel and go with the 65AH battery from your earlier design?

Angus…yes, I’ve had many bad experiences with engineers myself. That’s one of the reasons I resigned my position after 20 years and am in another field now. That and flying back and forth to NYC every week for years got monotonous.

Overwatch - My initial design integrated the camera into the structure to protect it from exactly these scenarios. It came down to function vs. design/aesthetics. I had cut a hole in one of the side slats (actually several to get it perfectly square and properly sized). That design didn’t make the final cut as I was on the fence and the wife absolutely hated it. Sometimes we have to bow to a higher power in life. I’m sure some here can relate.

I also thought of multiple cameras. This is not a heavy lift. The problem came down to how large of a structure can I get away with before looking totally out of place in the yard vs. capacity/backup time of the battery. To get two plus days of backup (my hurricane scenario) I had to restrict it to one camera to maintain the proper balance. To go with dual cameras, and have two plus days backup, I’d have to utilize a bigger battery (which would not be an issue), but a much larger solar panel. The structure is fairly large as is and stands out on my block. If I made it much larger, I might not have to wait for delinquent teens to destroy it. One of my neighbors might take it upon themselves as it would be an eyesore.

If the camera ever does get yanked off or destroyed, I assure you, it will be placed inside the box. It’s been nearly two months now (finished in January) and I haven’t had any issues with anyone so much as bumping into it. I don’t necessarily live in Mayberry, but we have the occasional petty theft carried out by local teens like most places. I know the police won’t do much with any video I might capture unless it’s a violent crime or the perpetrators happen to be driving and I capture the license plate. I think having it visible also might act as a bit of a deterrent. The Wyze forums aren’t most 16 year old’s hangout of choice. They may not be aware of the limitations/time delays/cool down period’s etc. The probably see a camera and assume their image has already been captured. Hopefully, they’ll move on to the next block.

If I reflect back, the project was more about enjoying the creative process vs. the actual function of the camera for security purposes. The security camera was more of an excuse to do it. That being said, I do like to watch the events captured and occasionally look at it live to see if it’s raining at my house, watch people come and go, etc. I am willing to live with the risk of it being destroyed and losing the $25 at this point.


Viscara - Of course I’ll tell you if it gets vandalized or stolen. Why would I care if you know.
I’ve already admitted it’s possible and I’m willing to chance it for the $25. If/when it does happen, I’ll present the case to my wife and integrate my next camera into the mailbox. I’ll then post that modification up here so everyone can learn from my experience.

I also have several Nest Outdoor cams that are not readily accessible without a ladder that cover my entire front and back yard (including the mailbox). I just built this for a street view to see who is coming and going on our block. I have an agreement with the guy across the street to cover the West view and he’s got a nest cam covering the East. The camera is as much for the neighbors as for myself.

BTW, it’s raining rather hard down here at the moment. Do you think it’s OK to look up into the sky or is the risk of drowning too high? :slight_smile:


Nicely done! A few questions:

I didn’t notice the solar panel in your parts list. Do you have a favorite brand?

What’s the relative current draw between the camera and the LED light? I would like to use a smaller panel and don’t need the LED.

Do you use night vision mode or disable it? The Wyze cams I use outdoors are pretty useless at night due to dust and bugs triggering recording, if night vision LEDs are on, and they don’t see much without them. Also, the camera is more visible/vulnerable with them on since the LEDs are of a visible wavelength.

Do your recordings have enough detail to capture license plates, in daytime and nighttime?

After a while you have to decide if you want to spend an extra $100 to protect $25.
Sometimes you do something just for the fun of it. :slight_smile:

buccscott has designed this setup to run 2 days on battery without help from solar. If all you need is enough battery to last through the dark hours you go a lot smaller on battery and panel. A 10 watt panel and 10Ah battery should be fine.
Climate makes a difference too. Cold areas require more battery.

Beagle - Angus is correct. It all depends on what your usage and expectations are. I tested the power draw from my wyze day and night (full IR, etc.). Day was 1.6 watts. Night was 2.1 watts. This was the basis of my planning. I rounded up to 2.5 watts full time to allow for a fudge factor accounting for loss in smaller components, etc. That equals 60 watt hours per day.

My 35Ah 12v battery when fully charged offers up 420 watt hours. You should never run your battery past 50 percent drain (to maintain battery health) so this puts me at 210 usable watt hours. I prefer not to run it down past 60 percent so now I’m at 168 or so. The LED’s are .5 watts each so 1 watt total (24 watts per day). This makes 120 for two days of maxed out cam usage and 48 for the LEDs or right at 168. That’s my magic number giving me two days of backup while keeping my battery as healthy as possible.

So, to run your camera without the IR I would estimate you’d need 1.6 watt by 24 hrs for a total of 38.4 watt hours. A 10Ah battery at 12v would give you 120 watt hours. Cut this in half for your battery’s sake and you’d have 60 to play with. You’d definitely be ok overnights if you had some sun each day and might make it through a day of no sun and the following night before dipping below the 50 percent battery level.

Did you notice I kept stressing battery health? That is vital. You never want it to go below 50 percent capacity and want to charge it at the correct level or you’ll be buying a new battery every few months. If you have a 10Ah battery, make sure your panel delivers .5 to 1A.

Good luck to you brother. If you need anything, just shout.

I would like a copy of the detailed specs, wiring diagram and a parts source list if possible.

Nice work! I’ve been thinking about doing this in a Bird House design. Think we can get in into a form factor small enough that wouldn’t look like a pterodactyl lived in it? And on a totally different subject … you mentioned splicing the USB cable wires…I put a few cameras up on the eaves of my house and needed to figure out how to extend power to them. I know that they sell some longer USB cables but I wanted to do it on the cheap. I found that the old phone wire (24ga) in attic was more than sufficient for the job and was not being used anymore for wired phones so I repurposed it. I cut the USB cables in half exposed the white and Orange wire inside, twisted to the old phone wire and used heat shrink to insulate. I got some pretty good distance out it (no I didn’t measure it) but the cameras started flaking out around 4.8V so you just need to limit to distance as much as possible due to voltage drop. I pulled them all back to central point and used a USB hub to power them all. Worked out great, I have 6 running outside in housings for about 2 months of New Jersey winter. Let’s see how they do in the heat and humidity of summer.


To all posters on this topic,

There have been some cases of posts commenting on the poster rather than the subject at hand. This does not comply with the Community Guidelines.

In order to keep this topic open we’d ask that everybody keep to the subject and stay within the Community Guidelines.



Tim, the parts list with links is above in this thread. I think the only thing someone told me might be missing is the solar panel. It’s a 30 watt mono I got off Amazon.

I’ll try to make some time tomorrow to hand draw a simple schematic and post it up here.

Pevee, that’s an awesome idea. I haven’t seen pots wire in some time. I think there is an old phone in my garage put there by the previous owner that I took down and stored for nostalgia. I might have to canabalize the wire off it next time I putz around with usb cables.

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This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

My plan is to install an off-grid driveway gate that will be powered by a solar panel charging a battery bank. This will be an addition for sure! But, for me, I’ll use it to capture cars that enter my property through that entrance.

I’ve already done an off-grid boat dock that has two webcams, a WiFi bridge to connect a WiFi router to the house network and a boat hoist all powered via a battery bank. So, this little mailbox project will just be a mini-version of what I did already.

Nice Bill. You should post pics of your dock setup.

Here is a quick and dirty diagram for those interested. What type of structure you build, and how you modify is up to you. I’d definitely like to see what y’all are up to if you follow through and build stuff!Simple Schematic.pdf (130.4 KB)

I’m thinking more like a Kickstarter campaign for remote cameras. I’ve been wanting to put one behind my fence to catch the deer and animals, but getting power is tough (even though my wifi will easily reach). This is brilliant.