The combo of solar panels and batteries has always been preferred when it comes to getting off-grid camping power. This is why more outdoor lovers are trying to use a solar panel to charge 12V battery. Basically, the solar panels work to generate renewable energy from the sun and store it in the battery bank for later use. It's reliable and cost-effective—in fact, a lot of households in the country are switching to solar power use as well.
Focusing on the outdoors, the main benefit of taking advantage of solar energy for your adventures is that it allows you to go anywhere you'd like. Instead of getting stuck in camping spots with access to mains power, you're free to wander off to remote areas for extra peace. Of course, the perk of having a sure source of energy, especially in favourable weather is always there too.
This pairing requires installation work and is often used in RVs. You might need extra materials as well depending on the size of your system and power needs, so it’s necessary to familiarise yourself first with whatever you may encounter and whether or not this kind of solar panel setup will work for you.
Is It Wise To Use a Solar Panel To Charge 12V Battery?
Solar panels connected to grid systems don't necessarily need to be coupled with a battery. This is usually the case for some home solar panels, however, if you're using them outdoors like in RVs, you definitely need to pair them with a portable 12V battery pack. Using a solar panel to charge 12V battery allows you to confidently go on road trips without the fear of power shortage limiting your destinations.
In terms of battery type, the most recommended 12V battery for outdoor adventures would be deep cycle batteries. Off-grid campings require batteries with a reliable runtime and these are the best power packs for it. A deep cycle battery can be safely used up to 80% of its capacity, unlike conventional batteries that can only be discharged down to 50%. This means you can power your essentials for longer without needing a recharge, which is the ideal setting when you're out and about.
You can either go for AGM deep cycle batteries when camping, but for unrivalled quality, better choose a lithium deep cycle battery. LiFePO4 batteries would be a good example of this as it gives you both the benefits of a built-in BMS and impressive longevity. A 100Ah lithium battery would be able to run your camping appliances for longer compared to its lead-acid counterpart of the same capacity and they're 1/3 of its weight too!
Now, packing a lithium 100 amp deep cycle battery and partnering them with RV solar panels is good, but keep in mind that it's not for everyone. More often than not, this kind of setup is for avid campers who prefer off-grid locations. If you're someone who camps occasionally and mostly in campsites with provided power, a single, properly sized power source is likely to be enough.
What Do You Need For a Solar Panel To Charge 12V Battery?
Solar Charge Controller
Any solar system that has over 5 watts should have a solar charge controller. You can think of this as an automatic on/off switch that keeps your battery from overcharging. Sometimes referred to as a solar regulator, it ensures the quality of energy generated by your solar panels which will eventually be stored in your battery.
A solar charge controller has two types: the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) regulator. MPPT controllers are the more efficient type, although it still depends on what your system needs to determine which of the two fits your power needs best.
It is also worth noting that using solar panel to charge 12V battery needs a charge controller of the same voltage level. So if it's a 12V solar system, you need to make sure to use a 12V solar regulator too.
When using a solar panel to charge 12V battery or any other power pack, you need a power inverter as well. Solar battery charging is practically useless without it since it lets you run larger AC appliances. Even solar systems with no batteries need it to turn the sunlight energy into useable electricity.
Every time your solar panels trap sunlight, the type of energy produced is called DC energy. This is not the right form of electricity to power up home or camping appliances, which is why you need an inverter to back it up. The inverter then "tricks" the DC energy that runs through a transformer into acting as AC energy to make it suitable for your appliances.
This one’s pretty simple—extra materials mean additional cables for connections. These are pretty accessible and easy to work on but if you're doing it for the first time, you can ask for help from a professional too.
How Do You Use a Solar Panel To Charge 12V Battery?
Since we're catering mostly to outdoor enthusiasts, let's focus on the off-grid process of using a solar panel to charge 12V battery. As we all know, the charging process begins with the solar panels which trap the sunlight's energy to be converted into useable electricity via the inverter. This electricity is sent back to the battery if it's not charged and once it's fully topped off, the solar charge controller works to stop the charging process and turn off the connection between the inverter and battery pack.
The only downside of using both a 12V solar panel with battery is unfavourable weather. While your panels still work on cloudy or rainy days, they can only provide 10% to 25% of their normal capacity, which could lead to a slow charging process. Also, if you're using a deep cycle solar battery, the best method for charging this is always the solar trickle charge method.
More from Outbax
Opting for an entire solar system can be expensive. Get practical and order your solar panels and batteries at Outbax! We have the best 12V solar panels here and some really good yet really cheap deep cycle batteries. Outbax is home to affordable, quality camping gear and we have our impressive product reviews to prove it. First-time buyer or newbie camper? No worries, our expert customer service team is more than happy to assist you with your purchase.
Aside from great prices, we have amazing deals for adventurers too. Check out our solar panel and battery bundles. It's perfect for those who want a solar panel to charge 12V battery and is available for as low as $699. Shop now for a great camping experience without breaking the bank!