A solar panel setup on your RV is one of the most effective and reliable methods to get camping power. The combination of solar panels and solar batteries is perfect for off-grid locations and helps cut down costs as well. While solar batteries and solar power are often more associated with residential applications, these power sources work efficiently for the outdoors as well. When it comes to solar panels, campers and RV owners have a lot of portable choices such as folding solar panels, flexible solar panels, and even solar panel kits. For batteries, the usual choice of outdoor lovers would be 12V batteries, as these provide just the right amount of power output to effectively power most campsites.
Now, what would a 12V solar battery give you? Aside from a compact power source, a solar power 12V portable battery effectively stores power generated from your solar panels for later use. Lithium batteries like LiFePO4 in particular make the best solar batteries for their unrivalled safety and efficiency features. LiFePO4 packs are deep-cycle batteries as well so you get more usable capacity ideal for running electronic camping equipment.
Can You Use Any 12V Battery For Solar?
If you're planning to use a solar panel to charge a 12V battery, make sure that you use 12V solar panels and that you use the appropriate 12V solar regulator as well. You can either go for an MPPT solar charge controller or PWM regulator—whichever fits your system best. You can use any solar panel size as long as it is not under 5-10 watts, although keep in mind that the bigger the panels, the quicker your battery will charge. Generally, 12V solar panels are available starting from 200W, which is enough to charge a single 12V battery A 200W solar panel can produce up to 60 amp-hours per day in sunny weather so under ideal conditions, you can recharge a 100Ah battery—the most common 12V battery capacity—in about five to eight hours.
How Long Does a 12V Solar Battery Last?
A 12V solar power battery lasts depending on a number of factors including its amp-hour rating, size of solar panels recharging it, and how much load you're putting on it. Let's use a standard 12V 100Ah battery as an example. Technically, the ideal usable power for this battery capacity is 50Ah, so if you're running high-power appliances, this would last for only a day or so. If you're using it to run smaller devices like mobile phones or LED lights, you can expect a battery that won't go dead in an entire day. How about overall lifespan? Bigger residential solar batteries like the Tesla Powewall last anywhere between 5 to 15 years. For smaller, 12V batteries for camping, your best pick in terms of longevity would be LiFePO4 batteries as these can last for up to a decade with proper care.
What Solar Panels Pair Well With 12V Batteries?
Solar panels with around 20W of power are good for fast charging small 12V batteries. Typically, a solar panel of this wattage can charge a 12V battery pack in around 17 hours on an ideal sunny day. A 50W solar panel can fully top it off for only 8 hours. Larger 12V batteries like car batteries and those used in camping require solar panels with higher wattage as well, around 80W to 100W. These can completely recharge a 50Ah battery pack in around 12 hours even with less direct sunlight exposure.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Charge a 12V Solar Battery?
This will depend on your battery's capacity. For example, a 100Ah battery charging at 20amps per hour would take about five hours to fully recharge. If you're going to use solar panels, simply multiply the voltage of your battery to its amps to get your wattage requirements. So for this case, 12V multiplied by 20amps is 240W, meaning you need a panel with this much wattage or preferably, something a little higher like a 300W solar panel. You can either go for a single one with 300W already, two 150W solar panels, or three 100W solar panels.
More from Outbax
Planning to buy your 12V solar panel and battery soon? Make it a convenient shopping experience and get them both from Outbax. We have a range of lithium batteries and different types of solar panels for sale that would make great pairs, plus solar panel accessories for an easier installation. You also have the option to avail our 12V solar panel kits with included solar charge controllers! Outbax specialises in providing a wide range of quality, affordable power sources for your off-grid camping adventures. We even have inverter generators and power stations for those who want to skip installations!