If you are buying camping solar panels for the first time, it is natural to have a few questions about the product. So, we have listed here some of the most common that we receive from customers to help you out:
How much power do solar panels produce?
How much power your solar panels produce depends on their size, how you operate them and critically the number of sunlight hours in a day. Other factors like geographic location, time of year and temperature will govern how your solar panel performs and how much power it can produce.
All of these combined factors make it difficult to guarantee an exact number that your solar panels will consistently generate, and for these reasons, it will always be better to overestimate usage when doing your calculations. This will help account for days with lack of sunlight, geographical and temperature changes.
How do I calculate solar power requirements?
You really want to have a basic understanding of how much power your equipment is using, that way you will ensure you purchase the correct battery, solar regulator and solar panel for your usage. If any of these products are the wrong size and too small for your requirements you could end up with an unexpected flat battery, or worst case scenario, a damaged battery or solar regulator.
To calculate your usage most devices are labelled with their power draw; from there you need to estimate how long per day you will use the device to work out your overall power consumption.
What size Battery do I need?
A popular choice with campers is a 120Ah deep cycle 12v battery. Most battery manufacturers recommend that a battery is not discharged more than 50% capacity to ensure the life of the battery. That means that you have 60Ah per day of usable battery life. If we go back to the example of an 80L fridge with some LED strip lights using approx 58.5Ah per day, it’s easy to see why you need a reliable solar set up to ensure that the charge is being returned back to your battery.
What types of solar regulators are there?
In nearly all portable solar power systems that utilise batteries, a solar charge controller is required. The task of a solar charge controller is to regulate the power generated from the solar panels going to the batteries and keep the batteries charged without overcharging. If you were to overcharge your battery, it will at the very least significantly reduce the batteries life, and worst case scenario, damage the battery to the point that they are unusable.
What should you try not to power with solar?
Avoid using any major heating appliances like hair dryers from your power inverter. While devices such as power inverters and air compressors can draw a lot of power, usually they are only operated for small amounts of time, but they are energy-intensive and will quickly deplete your battery’s power. If you do utilise these devices, make sure you are monitoring your solar regulator to ensure you will not leave yourself with a flat battery.
Portable folding panels are a great option as they are easy to set-up where you need them and angle to follow the sun - some come with adjustable legs and a carry bag. When the direction of the sun has changed, you can quickly change the location of the panels to make the most of any sunlight available. Additionally, with extension leads you can have your camp set up in the shade, but position your solar panel out in the sunshine.