Camping and the Energy Needed for It
The majority of modern caravans and motor homes have a 12V or 14V battery system. The system is charged by the vehicle’s alternator while the engine is running. They often include a 240V charger to maintain the battery while it’s connected to the national grid. Yet, in many distant places (like most National parks), 240V is barely available, thus forcing people to run a generator or the engine to charge the battery, which in most cases spoils the whole camping experience.
Solar panels are a great solution as they will keep your battery charged, while you enjoy yourself and nature. They are quiet, don’t smell, require minimal maintenance - solar panel maintenance mainly consists of cleaning or sheltering from extreme weather conditions) and are friendly to the environment. They are also becoming increasingly affordable.
Choosing the Right Panel
Many people find this to be a problem. Finding the right type of solar panel can really be a tough challenge. Too low an output and you will end up with no power, spending tons of money on top quality panels, but not being able to use all of its energy and your investment will be pointless. Therefore, you’ll need to determine what exactly are you looking for on the market.
In order to find the right solar panel for your caravan, what you could do is, go out camping with a fully charged solar battery, don’t connect it to any energy source and then see for how long can your battery support all your appliances.
When you get back home, find the rating of your battery and calculate the average energy consumption during your trip. When you determine what your average usage is, you have to look for a solar panel that would slightly top up that average. You also have to keep in mind that it will work to its maximum only when sunlight is hitting directly on it.
Match Your Power Consumption to a PV Solar Panel
Solar panels offered across the UK are marked with a power rating, which shows the energy that the panel will generate under prescribed standard test conditions (STC). The STC gives you the chance to compare different panels and their power outputs, thus letting you use this as a guide when trying to find the perfect panel for your caravan.
For instance, on an average summer day in the UK, you can expect a 4W panel to generate about 24-28Wh per day, with a 100W one though, you can expect up to 700Wh per day. Anyways, if you wanted to go camping on site, using all your appliances, a 45W-50W panel should be able to do the job (during summer).
You also need to consider the times of the day when you use your appliances. Using them heavily during night time can result in your battery constantly dropping below 50% before being charged up, which might decrease its lifespan. If that’s the case, then upgrading your battery capacity is worth considering.
Devices With Built in Solar Batteries
In order to reduce the pressure on your leisure battery, you might want to replace some of your gadgets with ones that can be charged with solar energy. However, many people are slightly put off by this idea. Most people don’t like leaving fancy gadgets unattended on busy camp sites, therefore why investing in such gadgets.
Still, if you are interested in getting some of those gadgets, bear in mind that they will probably need a lot of time under sunlight to charge up, thus upgrading your leisure battery and charging it with the solar panels might be the better option.
- Solar panels work behind glass, but this limits their capabilities. They are initially designed for direct sunlight so keep this in mind as it might decrease efficiency up to three times.
- Connecting solar panels to your battery might be very simple in some cases, but if you are not sure how to do it properly, just contact your supplier.
- Once you invest in a solar panel, make sure it’s positioned right in order to take full advantage of the midday sun, which is considered the strongest. Some manufacturers offer portable panels that can be adjusted properly in any direction.
- The energy generated from your panels is directly affected by the condition of your battery. Therefore it is worth checking up your battery before investing in solar panels.
If you have finally decided to go solar, but lack knowledge, you can learn more about solar energy and solar panels on GreenMatch. Once you are a bit more familiar with the product itself you can read more about different suppliers on our solar panel guide page. You will get the chance to compare the market and choose the offer that suits you the best.