Are portable solar panels right for you?

If you love camping, yet aren’t willing to sacrifice many of life’s comforts, then you’ll need a power source to keep your lights and appliances running. Diesel or petrol generators have traditionally been a popular way to power the camp site, but now there’s a new technology on the scene – Portable solar panels.

As the name suggests, these are solar panels you can take with you anywhere. They’re environmentally friendly, self-sufficient and are becoming an increasingly viable alternative. So if you need solar panels for camping, continue reading for everything you need to know about solar generators.

Why buy portable solar panels?

Like anything, portable solar panels have their pros and cons. Some of the benefits of portable solar panels include:

  • Free power: Portable solar panels generate energy using the power of the sun. There is no need to carry around large quantities of petrol or diesel to power heavy fossil fuelled generators.
  • Zero emissions: Portable solar panels produce zero emissions.
  • Convenient: There are three types of portable solar panels, to help save on storage space:
    • Foldable solar panels
    • Flexible solar panels
    • Fixed solar panels

So regardless of your budget, there might still be solar panels that suit your needs.

  • Silent: Fuelled generators can be noisy and annoying for you and other campers. Portable solar panels however are absolutely silent.
  • Very little maintenance: Provided you properly handle your solar generator, its lack of moving parts should mean it requires minimal maintenance. All it will ordinarily need is the occasional wipe to clean off any dust.

Disadvantages of portable solar panels

  • Low output: The size and low efficiency rates of portable solar panels means they’re unable to produce electricity very quickly. This means most systems will be unable to run appliances at high outputs.
  • Subject to the weather: Portable solar panels require a lot of sun light in order to work at all. Fortunately this shouldn’t be a problem given Australia’s sunny climate, but it means you should have a plan B ready in case of rainy day.

How much do portable solar panels cost?

Most portable solar generators are 12v and are offered in a range of wattages with prices varying accordingly.

Prices start at around $400-$600 for a small, 100W, 12v portable solar panel. Larger 300w models will sell for around $800. While these prices might seem a little eye watering, keep in mind that a decent petrol or diesel generator would also set you back $1,500 – $4,000.

If what you had in mind was something smaller scale and more affordable, then check out our list of some of the cool solar gadgetry out there.

What to look for in portable solar panels

Depending on your budget and storage capacity, you can choose between a fixedfoldable or flexible solar panel. Fixed panels tend to be cheapest, while flexible solar panels are usually the most expensive due to the more complex manufacturing process.

Flexible panels are the most versatile as they can be mounted to irregular surfaces such as cars, boats or tents, and they can be easily rolled up and stashed away. Fixed panels can be useful for semi-permanent installation, such as at a campsite or on top of a car. Foldable solar panels are one of the best choices for those tight on space, but they’re also a little pricey.

Another important consideration is the type of solar panel you want to buy – that’s right, not all solar panels are the same. In fact there are three common types, they are: polycrystalline, monochrystalline and thin film.

The type of solar cell that’s right for you will reflect your budget and energy needs. The polycrystalline and monochrystalline cells usually have the highest efficiency rates (monocrystalline slightly more so), meaning they’re generally more expensive than thin film cells.

Be sure to weigh up your options, and calculate if it might be worth purchasing several smaller portable solar panels in place of the more powerful, more expensive ones.

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