Solar power efficiency refers to the adequate heat from sunshine that is captured by solar panels and transformed into usable electricity. Efficiency relies on the following factors: the sun direction, type of solar panel, maintenance, and accessories used. If you use 160w folding solar panels for your camping gear, it is best to get the maximum power efficiency to charge your phone, laptop, battery, power bank, and flashlight.
Solar panel efficiency starts with the incoming sunlight hitting the cells. The less solar cells you use to generate a particular amount of energy, the higher the efficiency is. In the case of solar panels in camping, this translates to providing enough power for portable devices, equipment, and gadgets.
What factors affect solar panel efficiency?
1. Lifespan. The number of years of use reduces the efficiency of solar panels. Whilst they require less maintenance and provide decades of lifespan, the solar panels’ efficiency drops by 0.5% per year. 2. Maintenance. Over time, dust, grime, bird’s droppings, and leaves could accumulate over solar panels. Invest in maintenance by using mild soap and water or cleaning sprays. First check the manufacturer’s warranty for its date of effectivity. 3. Roof pitch. The roof’s tilt can affect the amount of sunshine the solar panel receives. Place an adjustable platform to adjust the panel’s tilt, depending on the time of day. 4. Temperature. Ironically, too much heat can affect the functions of the solar power system. Solar panels under intense heat, such as 70 degrees Celsius and above, can cause less power efficiency, compared to temperatures below 50 degrees. The warmer the solar panel becomes, the less efficient it is, according to experts.
How to Increase Your Solar Panels’ Efficiency
Solar panel efficiency can help you make informed decisions or buy wisely when shopping for solar panels. You may want to install a solar panel that doesn’t need extra space to maximise solar energy output. Here are ways on how you can improve your solar panels’ efficiency:
1. Make an informed decision
Do some research and ask for a second opinion from people who have bought solar panels themselves. Check the new models of solar panel systems such as inverters and the other types available in the market.
2. Perform an energy audit
Consider the power consumption rating of each appliance before buying a solar panel. What appliance you use can affect its energy efficiency. Buy or use devices with a high energy star rating or with a smart inverter compressor such as in fridges. The following are the power ratings of common appliances:
|Low power consumption Devices||Wattage||Less energy efficient Devices||Wattage|
|LED||4 W for 220 lumens||Standard bulb||25 W for 220 lumens|
|Portable fan||40 Watts||Electric oven||2 kWh for 1 hour set at 180C|
|8 Security lights||15 Watts||Air conditioner||270 Watts|
|Laptop computer||20-75 Watts||Water heater||750 Watts|
|Lamp||15 Watts||Water pump||3730 Watts|
|DVD player||50-200 Watts||Electric grill||1650 Watts|
|Central AC||3800 Watts||Freezer and refrigerator||1200 Watts|
3. Find the best location
Avoid shades and find the best location which is under direct sunlight from 8am until 4pm.
4. Use a solar focusing device
Under low sunshine conditions such as rainy or cloudy weather, you can use a solar focusing device to capture the most sunlight. The concentrating photovoltaic or CPV will help you generate more power from less solar cells. It works by concentrating an incoming light to a smaller surface area. This is akin to a magnifying glass. In concentrating light, there are several types of lenses and devices which may be used: - Fresnel lens. This type constitutes various angles on the lens’ surface; thereby decreasing thickness and weight compared to another lens. This lens can make the multi-junction photovoltaic cell more efficient. - Luminescent concentrator. The reflective film, which is sandwiched between the glass along with the cell, channels the internal reflection into the central solar cell; thus, increasing efficiency. - Parabolic mirror. The first parabolic mirror channels the light into the centre of the second parabolic mirror and then concentrates back the light to the solar cell. - Reflective coating. The reflectors are on the sides of the solar cell and channel the light to the centre.
5. Use a solar panel with high power efficiency
Some solar panels are better than others. The following are the types of solar panels for solar panels in camping or camping gear: - Amorphous silicon solar cells. Made up of silicon deposits in the thin layer, amorphous silicon provides more efficient light absorption than crystalline silicon. It is ideal for installation in curved surfaces and roofing is also cheaper. - Hybrid silicon solar cells. A mixture of amorphous and monocrystalline solar cells, hybrid silicon solar cells can provide 18% efficiency. The drawback of this type is that it is one of the most expensive PV cells, whilst also being recognised as one of the best existing solar panels in the market. - Monocrystalline silicon solar cells. This type contains high pure silicon and is recognisable with its uniform look and even colour. Monocrystalline solar panels offer high power efficiency at 15% to 20%, less space to produce the same power output and higher life service. It can generate power even at low-light conditions. - Multi-cell gallium arsenide. This can easily provide the highest efficiency. However, the high price of multi-cell gallium arsenide is its biggest downside; thus, its use is limited to a few applications. - Polycrystalline silicon solar cell. Also known as multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si), polysilicon (p-Si) offers a low-cost process compared to the monocrystalline. The drawback is that it is not as efficient as the monocrystalline solar panels. It also requires a large surface area to produce a high-power output. Despite these downsides, though, it is considered to be among the most popular types of solar panels.
6. Clean the solar panels
Ensure that there is no dust or leaves that can block the sunlight. Avoid structural barriers and tall trees that can add more leaves or cause shadow. Clean the dust and grime that can accumulate over time.
7. Reduce the reflection off the solar cells
Because flat and smooth surface reflects more photons, this means less electricity generated. To decrease reflection, use black silicon that contains Nano or microscale wires–a very small structure that can make the majority of photons bounce and go down to the cell.
8. Find the best orientation
Solar panels in Australia get their best orientation at 219 degrees yearly in both directions–southward and westward.
9. Invest in a solar tracker
Solar trackers can automatically orient the solar panel to face the sunlight for maximum exposure with 20% to 30% efficiency. It works by automatically orienting the solar panel to follow the sun’s direction.
10. Install an anti-heat pump
As temperature rises, the solar panel’s efficiency also drops. A water-based liquid or water solution flows throughout the frames of the solar panel to reduce excessive heat.
11. Improve the solar panel charging speed
Charge the solar panels in well-ventilated areas because a hot place can slow the charging speed.
12. Use only one appliance when charging
The number of appliances used at the same time whilst charging can drastically reduce the power efficiency. Turn off the television whilst using a bread toaster or heater. Take a shower only after using the washing machine.
13. Buy solar panels with a uniform colour
Solar panels of uniform colour indicate improved power efficiency and anti-reflective coating.
14. Save electricity
By using a few devices or low- powered ones, you can make solar panels more efficient. For instance, use LED or CFL instead of incandescent lamps. Ventilate your home with roof turbine, instead of using AC during mild temperature. Insulate leaks and gaps. If possible, use fans instead of air conditioners. Turn off lights when they are not needed. Use air for drying clothes instead of switching on the clothes spinner. Use gas instead of the electric stove.
How to make solar panels last longer
Even if a solar panel requires less maintenance, there are several ways to make solar panels spotless and debris free, such as investing in solar glazing. A solar glaze is made up of iron glass or polycarbonate that can provide a layer of protection for solar panels.
What are the accessories needed for solar panels?
1. Solar inverter
This converts solar energy into electrical power. In its form, solar power is in direct current that needs conversion into alternating current or AC. Inverters consist of micro-inverters, central inverters, and grid inverters. - Central inverters. These are usually used in large-scale industrial and business applications. - Grid inverters. Grid-tie inverters have no batteries. This type is inexpensive and popular among solar panel buyers. The drawback is that if one of the solar panels goes down, this would result in decreased power. - Micro-inverters. These devices concentrate the voltage output of several solar panels into a uniform energy source. They are resistant to drop in output caused by dust, debris, and shade. The drawback is that it is expensive in all counts—from purchase and installation to maintenance.
2. Solar panel software
It refers to a computer program that can design and simulate solar panel for maximum power output and efficient operation. Common free software includes RETScreen, an Excel-based solar panel analysis software to help builders know the financial and technical feasibility of the solar panel project.
3. Solar panel controller
This device can regulate the energy output from the solar panel array and channel it to the batteries. A standard type contains pulse-width modulation (PWM). The controller, with the maximum power point tracking technology, can increase the solar array’s efficiency to 30%.
4. Solar battery
Batteries provide backup power storage for emergency needs, night time, winter, and cloudy days. In choosing batteries, consider other factors aside from the price. Check the capacity, life cycle, and voltage which are all essential for stable and efficient solar panel output. The following are the battery types used: - Lead acid batteries. Akin to automobile batteries are the lead-acid batteries that contain electrodes, plates, and sulfuric acid as an electrolyte. Lead acid batteries offer high-energy capacity and are sturdily built for rugged use. They need careful handling because of their corrosive and toxic electrolyte. On top of that, they are bulky and heavy. - Lithium. This lightweight battery offers a long life cycle. The more advanced type is the lithium-ion polymer that can offer higher capacity, more recharge cycles, and low discharge rate. The downside is that it is flammable, and can explode in tight spaces and great pressure. - NiCad batteries. Having been around since the early 1900s, NiCad batteries provide a reliable power source, long life, and inexpensive power option. Like Lead acid, NiCad has a toxic chemical–cadmium—that must be disposed of properly. - Absorbed Glass Mat or AGM batteries. Commonly used in cell tower sites and aeroplanes, AGM batteries contain woven glass between the plates for holding an electrolyte. They are leak-proof and offer high performance, lower self-discharge, and long lifespan. The drawback of AGM is that it is expensive. Some solar panel enthusiasts agree that AGM batteries are the best for solar panels. - Gel batteries. With no vents, Gel batteries don’t release gas during the charging process. They maintain a constant temperature and provide an efficient power output.
What are the safety concerns on a solar panel?
You may not perceive solar panels as a source of hazard given its renewable energy and the non-existence of moving parts. The reality is that solar panels can also be hazardous to health in the hands of a careless handler. Common hazards include back injuries and sprains from loading and lifting solar panels. They could get hot quickly when left exposed to sunlight and can cause burns.
Solar panels are still a great choice
With the correct type of solar panel, maintenance, accessories, and correct location, you can tap an efficient solar panel. Technological improvements in next-generation cells such as multi-junction, gallium-arsenide, and advances in materials technology could bring more types of power-efficient solar panels. New techniques, such as the one developed by researchers at Stanford University, use a silica material that allows photons whilst at the same time deterring heat build-up.
How can Outbax help you?
Outbax can help you find the best and most efficient solar panels for your camping needs. Since 2012, Outbax has been supplying portable solar panels to campers. For more info, visit Outbax.com.au today!