Many caravanners are installing solar panels on their caravan for off grid travel! Let’s find out more:
1. Choosing the Right Caravan Solar Panels:
Solar panels will keep your favourite appliances and electronics charged on the road, either straight from the panel or via your caravan battery. But it is important to understand which size, style and cell type is best suited to your needs.
Which Size Panel Should I Purchase?
It is important to choose a solar panel setup that puts more amps in than what is coming out. This will ensure you are able to run your electronics indefinitely (provided there is sufficient sunlight available).
To calculate what size panels you require, you will need to have a rough idea of what appliances you want to run, their power draw and how many hours per day you want to run them. From here, you can calculate the total daily consumption of your appliances, compared to the solar panel capacity (this working out amps in vs amps out – you want the amps in to be higher than amps out).
To assist in calculating the solar panel size that suits your needs, we have created a solar panel calculator – check it out below:
Types of Panels:
There are four types of solar panels to choose from:
Portable panels are the preferred solar type if you are looking for a budget option. Portable panels are bulkier and heavier than their counterparts and will require storage space in your vehicle.
Our recommended portable panels include:
Solar blankets are extremely durable and require minimal space in your vehicle. They can be draped over the bonnet of your vehicle or hung off your caravan awnings to collect the sunshine. The only downside is that they carry a much higher price point.
Our recommended solar blankets include:
Fixed panels are our personal favourite for caravans as they are attached to your vehicle and can charge while you are driving or parked. Once installed, they require minimal maintenance or attention – simply park your vehicle in the sun and the solar panels will charge your batteries!
Our recommended fixed panels include:
Flexible panels are lightweight, easy to mount & dismount and are able to contour shape to different surfaces. This makes these panels best suited to caravans, campervans, 4WD's and boats with curved rooftops.
Choosing the Right Cell Type:
There are two types of solar panel cells: Monocrystalline and Poly crystalline.
Monocrystalline panels are known to be highly efficient, durable and have an extended life period. They require clear and sunny weather to perform at their best and unfortunately tend to be more expensive than Poly Crystalline panels.
Poly Crystalline cells on the other hand, perform extremely well in low light conditioners and harsh environments. The only downside is that they tend to be slightly larger in dimensions than their counterparts – something to consider if you have minimal roof space.
2. Caravan Solar Panels vs Generators:
Many of our customers enquire about whether solar panels or a generator is best suited for their off-grid adventures. We have weighed up the pros and cons of both below:
Pros of Solar Panels:
- Solar panels produce clean power - no noise, emissions or fumes
- Solar panels use the suns energy to power appliances, meaning they are free to run
Cons of Solar Panels:
- Solar panels require time to charge unlike a generator
- If you experience bad weather, you will be unable to charge your appliances or batteries
- The initial cost of solar panels can be quite expensive (however, once the panels are installed, power is free!)
Pros of Generators:
- Generators will quickly charge your caravan battery
- Appliances and electronics can be run directly off the generator
- Generators are not dependent on good weather (just on fuel!)
Cons of Generators:
- Generators require fuel – this will be a continuous cost of running the generator and you must ensure you always carry enough fuel with you
- Due to using fuel, generators release emissions which can be harmful to the environment
- Generators can be noisy – some parks have restrictions on when and how long you can run your generator for
- Generators can be heavy and bulky
Overall, we recommend having a setup that includes both solar panels and a generator. Use the solar panels whenever you have good weather. Then use the generator when the weather is bad or to run high powering drawing appliances such as an air conditioner.
Check out our blog below on running your caravan air conditioner from a generator:
3. Maintenance Tips:
Looking to extend the life of your caravan solar panels and ensure they are working at maximum efficiency? Check out our blog below:
Need any more advice on Caravan Solar Panels? Give us a call on 1300 400 122