If you are looking for an easy, sustainable way to power up your next caravan adventure, you have come to the right place. Camping solar panels have become an essential part of a caravaneer's lifestyle. So much so, that we have had our share of happy caravan owners here at Outbax. The key though is, to choose the right caravan solar panel for your needs and budget.
Before you buy a solar panel, take your caravan away for a short break and measure how much electricity you use. Set off with a fully-charged battery, stay away from the electric hook-ups and see how long the battery lasts for. Don’t overuse your appliances deliberately to use as much power as possible; use your caravan as normal to get a true picture of how much electricity you actually need. Do this over a few days as one day is unlikely to provide an accurate result.
Once you get home, use your battery’s rating to calculate your average energy use. For the purposes of calculating and converting battery power to solar panel requirements, the quick guide below should come in handy:
Power (watts) = current (amps) x voltage (v)
Energy (watt hours) = power (watts) x time (hours)
Battery capacity (amp hours) = energy (watt hours)/voltage (volts)
As an example, if you have an 110aH (amp hours) battery and it has lasted for two days on your trip, you need an average of 55aH per day. Therefore, you will need to choose a solar panel which can provide 55aH of power per day. Bear in mind that your solar panel will only be able to recharge your battery during the daylight hours.
It is recommended that you include devices with built in solar power in your calculations too (such as solar-powered mobile phone chargers), as they will also require battery power during periods of little sunlight.
Caravan and motorhome solar panel top tips
When using a crystalline solar panel, remember that even the tiniest shadow can affect the amount of power generated. Always ensure as many cells as possible are in direct sunlight.
Glass or plastic will dramatically reduce the amount of power produced by a solar panel, meaning it could take up to three times as much sunlight to recharge your battery. Again, you should always make sure as much of the panel as possible is in direct sunlight.
Before buying a new solar panel, check with your caravan or motorhome’s manufacturer that it will fit to your van easily. You may need to purchase special adapters if the standard clips will not be sufficient.
Position your solar panel to catch as much of the midday (strongest) sunlight as possible. This is normally directly overhead during the summer, but you will need to reposition the panels at other times of year.
Remember that your battery needs to be kept in excellent condition to be able to produce enough energy. Maintain and replace the battery as needed to ensure optimal performance.
If your caravan or motorhome is under warranty, be aware that fitting a solar panel may invalidate it, unless the work is carried out by the manufacturer’s own tradesmen
Although not much energy will be generated during the winter months, a solar panel of at least 20w should be enough to keep your stored caravan ticking over until you next need to use it
Replacing inefficient halogen bulbs with LEDs can make a huge difference to the amount of power you use and, therefore, the amount you need your solar panel to generate
Remember that pollution, dirt, traffic dust and bird droppings can prevent sunlight from reaching your solar panel. Clean your solar panels regularly with warm water and dishwashing soap to remove grime and keep your panels as efficient as possible. If you notice a drop in the amount of power produced, cleaning the panels is one of the most common and most easily rectified problems.