Ever went out camping and saw someone using solar panels?
If they look like a strange contraption, unnecessary for the trip, you may want to reconsider. As a matter of fact, solar panels are becoming a necessity for camping trips.
It's not a surprise, though, considering that we need power for our fridges and electronics on our getaway.
However, ensuring that we're using the right one for us can be a bit tricky. There are a lot of models out there that choosing can be pretty confusing. Its purpose, after all, is to make things easier while we relax and have fun.
Read below to see how you can make sure that you're using the right solar panels for camping. You won't want to end up with equipment that's of no use to you in your trip.
What to Consider When Using Solar Panels
The right solar panel camping setup for you is within your reach. Well, that's only if you know the specifications of what you're looking for. To help you with that, see below for some considerations on using solar panels.
First, you have to calculate the amount of energy that your caravan or trailer demands every day. For this, you need to take into account all the electronics that will be requiring power.
If you have several devices to plug in, or if you're bringing other electronics like a laptop or a LED lamp, you'll need a solar panel with a high capacity. If you have a caravan with a TV and other appliances, you'll need one with an even higher capacity.
List down all the electronics that need power during your camping trip. Don't forget to factor in the average number of hours that you would utilise these devices, as well.
If you have a little more money to spend, it's a good idea to overestimate how much wattage you need. You'd rather have extra power at the end of the day than not have enough.
What can I run on my 200 Watt Panel?
A 200W solar panel can supply between 10 and 12 Amps on a sunny day, for most of the sunlight hours of the day. If we assume that only 1/3 of the day is sunlight hours then it is safe to assume that the panel can supply between 10 and 12 Amps for this period. 11.25 Amps x 8 hours= 90Ah per day
Let’s assume that the solar panels are charging a 120A/h battery. You decide to run a 110L Fridge which draws on average 3.75A, and 5 x LED camp lights which draw 1.25A when running. You will want to run the fridge 24 hours a day, and the camp lights for 6 hours each night.
Fridge: 3.75A x 24h = 90Ah
Lights: 1.25A x 6h = 7.5Ah
Total: 97.5Ah per day.
Your panels can supply:
11.25A x 8h = 90Ah each day.
Therefore the battery is being discharged by:
97.5Ah – 90Ah = 7.5Ah each day.
So with a 200 Watt panel and 120Ah battery you could run your fridge and lights for:
120Ah / 7.5Ah = just over 16 days without any other form of charge.
What is a average setup for my camper trailer?
The average setup for a camper trailer could involve a 80L fridge and a LED camp light kit. If your usage estimate of your fridge and LED camp light kit are around 58.5Ah daily total draw and you have a 120Ah deep cycle 12v battery, a 160W folding solar panel or 3 x 50 watt interchangeable solar panels would be recommended for this usage.
What is a average setup for camping?
Typically a camper could require a 40 – 50L fridge and a couple of LED camp lights. If your usage estimate of your fridge and LED camp light kit are around 40Ah daily total draw, a 112 watt folding solar blanket or 2 x 50 watt interchangeable solar panels would be recommended.
What is a average setup for my caravan?
The average setup for a caravan would involve a fridge, television, lighting, inverter and possibly some other equipment. It is advisable to first work out your usage draw, but as a rough estimate, 2 x 210W solar blankets would be recommended to utilise outside the caravan when stationary. This could generate roughly 168Ah per day.
Size and Weight
The portability of your solar kit is not an issue if you have a trailer or a caravan. However, if you're going to the campsite on foot, it will be a big problem.
The good thing is that there's a wide selection of solar panel sizes and battery banks. There are small and lightweight options that you can carry in your backpack.
Since you're going on foot, appliances are out of the equation. However, you may have a few devices in tow. This may include your camera, LED lights, your tablet, a smartphone, and a laptop.
The power draw and usage time will need to be considered to ascertain the right battery bank.
Your appliances are especially sensitive. You'll have to double check that they're compatible with your equipment. You may have to use power inverters to help with that. This is to ensure that the voltage of your battery and the electronics match. There would either be 12 volt or 240 volt appliances. To warrant using an inverter you would have to be using a 240 volt appliance.
The weather conditions in your campsite will affect the performance of your solar panel aside from its location. The voltage output of your panels drops when the temperature goes up.
This might cause an insufficient supply of power. Your battery might not then reach a full charge.
The shade from trees and the clouds also reduces the amount of light the solar panels get. Unless you place the equipment in a wide open space or you're willing to move it during the day to get optimum sunlight, you're not going to maximise the panels' power capacity.
For these reasons. take that into account when you're deciding on the wattage and output power. For caravan solar panels, note that you need a model with a higher power capacity.
Using the Right Solar Panels
The right solar panel for you will depend on your needs as we've discovered above. Based on that, here are the factors you need to consider in choosing the right solar panels to use.
Type of Panel
Depending on your energy needs and budget, the right type of solar cell for you varies. For example, mono-crystalline panels are more efficient yet more expensive than polycrystalline panels. Amorphous panels are the cheaper option, but you need more of it to produce the same amount of power.
Camping is rough, and while it may be reinvigorating for you, you can't say the same for your equipment. As your solar panel setup needs direct exposure to the sun, you'll have to leave it outside. Hence, it's important that you choose the panels with high-quality materials and adequate protection to make sure that it can withstand the harsh Australian climate.
Solar kits may or may not include a battery; if it's the latter, make sure to grab one before you go camping. While the panels get the energy from the sun, the battery stores it for use when you need the power.
With that said, the size of the battery will also depend on your demand and on the solar panel's power. This is one thing where you'd want to splurge, especially if you go camping for days at a time.
The most recommended type of battery for caravans and camper trailers is a deep cycle battery. It doesn't need maintenance, and it has low self-unloading percentage. Most battery manufacturers recommend that a battery is not discharged more than 50% capacity to ensure the life of the battery. This means for example that a 120Ah battery really has 60Ah per day of usable battery life. This would then need the help of a solar regulator to ensure the battery is charging at an optimum level.
Now that you've considered how much energy you need and whether you're going on foot, you should have an idea of what size you're going to need. If you're on foot, you'll likely need something lightweight but still has a high capacity.
A great solution to this problem is the solar powered battery banks. You can charge these battery bank devices off-grid with a 14W solar panel. They also come with dual USB ports for electronic device charging, and they have a flashlight as well.
The units also double as a car jump starter in case you ever have the inconvenience of a flat battery when you return to your vehicle.
If you're not on foot, you have more options and may be looking at a larger solar panel setup. You'll be able to bring a complete setup with a deep cycle battery and a solar regulator. Read this ultimate guide to buying the best camping solar panels to find out more.
Your solar setup isn't complete without some accessories. At the least, for a large set up it should have a solar regular, an Anderson to Anderson plug lead, and Alligator clips to Anderson plug.
A solar regulator, as the name suggests, regulates the electric current drawn from or added to a deep cycle battery. Its main purpose is to prevent overcharging, maximising the battery's performance and reducing risks of failure.
Now that you have a solar panel, a regulator, and a battery, how will you then use them?
You'll need accessories to transfer the energy from one to another. This is where the plugs and leads come in. You won't be able to utilise your setup without these.
You might also need a power inverter to power your appliances. Solar panels produce DC electricity, but household appliances usually operate on AC. A power inverter changes the current from DC to AC, allowing you to use your appliances without worry. However, these appliances are usually very energy heavy in their power draw. Typically, you would try to use 12V appliances.
Choose the Right Solar Panels for Camping
With the right solar panel camping setup, you'll be able to stay comfortable wherever you go. Even in the deeper reaches of the bush, you'll have the energy to keep your phone, fridge, and emergency equipment up and ready.
Take a moment to consider the tips on this guide to guarantee you get the ideal setup. If you already have an idea of what you need, head on over to our website now to browse our selection of solar panels for camping.
But why stop here?
If you have further questions, don't hesitate to contact us. We'll be happy to help!
23 November, 2018