Camping Solar Panels
Solar panels used for camping are not the same as the solar panels you see installed on a suburban home roof
Why? Because they are designed to provide 12 volts or 24 volts, the voltage commonly used for camping and caravan power. Solar panels for homes produce a higher voltage that is converted to AC electricity for powering home appliances.
Choose the right type of solar panel
In terms of application there are two types of solar panel, those designed to supply power for home use and the type used to charge batteries, the type discussed here.
|12V solar panel|
Choose the right size of solar panel
To calculate your camping solar panel size in watts, find the total daily watts used by all the camping appliances and lights. Note each appliance's name plate watts and multiply it by the number of hours it will used each day. Find the total for all appliances and lights to be used. That is the daily power requirement in watt-hours. Divide this number by 5, the average number of peak sun hours in a typical day, to find the size camping solar panel you will need.
How often will you use the appliance?
You might just want a small portable solar kit to run a pump or the bread maker only once a week, therefore you will be able to use a smaller solar panel to charge a larger battery throughout the week, ready for use on the weekend.
Will the solar panels need to be moved often?
They can be mounted on a vehicle or free standing which is better because you can move them to face the sun ever few hours for maximum sunlight.
What size battery is needed to store the solar power?
Auxiliary power batteries are sized according to their Amp Hour (AH) capacity, not CCA like a car battery. The best are deep cycle batteries, they designed to be charged and discharged on a daily basis, while a car battery will soon fail if treated like that for several months. Deep cycle batteries will last for several years even when deeply discharged and much longer if only partially discharged. Try to maintain more than 50% reserve capacity on a daily basis with enough
|Portable solar panel|
amp-hour capacity to supply your needs for 2 to 3 days in case you have cloudy weather.To work out battery size convert battery Amp hours to Watt Hours by multiplying by 12 (volts). Don't skimp on batteries, they are the workhorses of a remote power supply.
Will you need a solar regulator for the camping solar panel?
larger solar panels will need a solar regulator (charge controller) while smaller solar panels of less than 10 watts can usually be connected directly to a large 12 volt battery because they only deliver a low amperage charge which will not overcharge the battery.
Will you need an inverter?
If you intend using any AC household appliances you will need an inverter, some are cheaper then others, pure sine inverters are the best and most expensive but for most appliances you can get away with a modified sine inverter. Inverters will waste some of the solar power too, so remember to add about 20% to the watts consumption of an AC appliance when using an inverter.
Are the electrical cables thick enough?
Long lengths of electrical wire cause a loss of voltage and energy, low voltage power (12V) needs thicker cable than 240VAC because cables are sized according to their current carrying capacity in Amps. Look at this comparison: 100W at 240V = 0.4A, but that same 100 watts at 12 volts = 8.3 amps. That's 20 times the current flow through the cable for the same power consumption. The inverter mentioned before will need even thicker cable to avoid overheating because inverters can draw very high currents.
Are your appliances energy efficient?
When running off batteries every little saving helps. Use LED lights and energy efficient appliances.
Will the solar panels get enough sun?
Just a little bit of shade causes a big drop in solar panel current flow, try to ensure the solar panels are in full direct sunlight.
Have you planned for rainy and cloudy days?
A good rule of thumb is have enough solar power to produce about 20% more battery charge than your daily requirement to have enough battery capacity for 2 to 3 days reserve.
Using Solar Power will not harm the environment
These are just a few considerations when selecting solar panels for camping power. There is nothing nicer than camping out while using clean solar power from non-polluting solar panels that are quietly generating free energy.
Send us an email or use the contact form if you need any advice, we'd love to hear from you.