People who like camping or even caravanning like to be free- from all hassles! Hence, when it comes to their regular necessities on a trip, like power use or electricity requirements, the conventional method of a power socket doesn’t really help. Instead, what they opt for is a solar device, which can generate power on the go! Moreover, for a nature freak like me, it’s the best source of clean energy.
But how can we exactly use a solar device and more importantly, how to choose the perfect portable solar panels for campers according to your needs? So, let’s understand all that next in this intriguing article!
What are Portable Solar Panels for Campers?
Solar panels are devices that help us in generating electricity from the radiations of the sun. A solar panel consists of several small solar cells which are made up of silicon. The structure of the panel is made of aluminium. This is because aluminium is a strong metal, and it doesn’t rust. The process by which these small solar cells help generate electricity from the radiations of the sun is called the photovoltaic effect.
There are several types of solar panels. Some of the examples are polycrystalline, monocrystalline, bifacial, etc. Now, to use up the energy stored by these solar cells, we need to connect it to a battery which stores the charge. Once the battery is fully charged or even while charging, we may connect our electric appliances and utilize the power of the sun.
Solar panels are extremely beneficial in situations like camping. Since, while camping we require a lot of electric appliances to survive, we can efficiently harness and thus utilize the power of the sun!
How do these Solar Panels Work?
So, now that we know the use and the basic construction of a solar panel, let’s find out how do they work! So, as we already know, solar panels are made up of small solar cells which contain silicon. Now, silicon is a semi-conductor, which means that its neither a good nor a bad conductor of electricity. It right there in between!
Now, when the radiations of the sun fall on this semi-conductor (Silicon), certain electrons absorb the energy and become free. Thus, due to the motion of many electrons due to this incident energy, an electric field is created. Hence, there is a current that flows through the circuit. Now, with the help of a battery, we can easily store this charge (current) and use it later to power our electrical devices.
However, you might wonder that this charge might be too small to power an entire van. Well, you are wrong! As a solar panel consists of many individual solar cells, which in turn contain a lot of electrons, hence even a single panel might be enough to power your entire needs! However, the only drawback is that we can’t make use of it on cloudy days or at night.
The Different Types of Solar Panels!
Since we now know how a solar panel works, let’s now learn about the different types of solar panels and their use.
1. Photovoltaic Solar Panels
As the name suggests, these solar panels capture the light of the sun and convert it into electric energy, which is then stored into a battery for further use. These types of solar panels are mostly used to power electric appliances while camping or even caravanning. Now, photovoltaic solar panels are further classified into monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and non-silicon panels.
2. Thermal Solar Panels
Thermal solar panels are devices that absorb the radiations of the sun and convert it into heat energy. These devices are basically used in solar showers and solar water heaters. They help cook food during camping sessions. These panels are further divided into low-temperature collectors, medium-temperature collectors, and high-temperature collectors.
3. Hybrid Solar Panels
Hybrid solar panels are special type of solar panels that do the work of both photovoltaic as well as thermal solar panels. These devices can capture the sun’s radiations and convert them into electric as well as heat energy. However, as you might have already guessed, they are a bit on the expensive side when compared to the first two!
How to Choose the Right Panel- Based on Power Consumption?
There are many incidents where people go on to purchase solar panels with incorrect power outputs. Either they purchase one that has a too low power rating or one with a higher power rating that is an overkill! So, the primary necessity before buying a solar panel is to calculate your power needs.
Know your power consumption, consider carrying a battery with you on the next trip. I carried a 110Ah battery in my caravan for my mountain trip. Now, whenever I had power requirements, I used the battery entirely (I didn’t connect to the car battery). What I saw was that the battery lasted for 2 days (according to my power use where I used a TV, water pump, electric stove, kettle, etc). So, that basically boils down to a requirement of 55Ah/day use.
So, according to this figure, I needed a solar panel which had a power output of approx. 55Ah. However, its always better to opt for a slightly higher power rated one as compared to your regular consumption. This is just to make sure that you have enough power even in extreme conditions! Also, one thing to consider is that the smaller your power consumption, the faster would be the top-up speed of your battery, since it would require a smaller charge.
To find out the power consumption of an equipment, first find the current it draws. For example, a 12W light bulb on a 12V battery (generally all batteries are rated 12V) would draw a current of 12/12 = 1A. Now, if you turn on this bulb for 2 hours a day, then the power consumption of this bulb is 1A x 2h = 2Ah.
Some Tips to Note before buying a Solar Panel Kit
- If you are using a crystalline solar panel, you will require even more sun radiations. Even slight shadowing on the panels might severely reduce your output power.
- Consider keeping the solar panels in direct sun. Although they can work behind a glass, their efficiency might be reduced up to three times!
- Do not connect your solar panel with just any regular adapter! Consider checking the wattage and power ratings and check their compatibility before using.
- Consider buying a new battery with your solar panel. This will ensure that you are getting the maximum output from your panel.
- A key point to note is that solar panels generate direct current (DC). So, if you need to plug a 120V or 240V home appliance, you will require an inverter to convert the DC current into alternating current (AC).
If you are looking for more tutorials, walkthroughs and troubleshooting about camping and enjoying the outdoors, here are some additional posts to check out:
So, now that we know what a solar panel is, how they work and some necessary key points to note before buying one, it’s time to head on to buy a worthy solar panel kit. But which one to buy? Well, you can consider checking out our “5 Camping Solar Panel Kits you Will Love!(+Buying Guide) ” to make sure you are getting the best solar equipment for your camping or caravanning purposes! Have fun.!