Do you want to power your caravan with solar panels?
Caravan solar panels are becoming more popular, and they are the perfect option to give you more flexibility when using your caravan off-grid. Solar Power is also a great eco-friendly way of powering electronics and keeping your leisure battery topped up.
If you’re looking for an easy, affordable and environmentally friendly solution to power all of those things that need electricity while on holiday, then look no further than solar-powered panels.
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The Best Solar Panels for Caravans
ECO-WORTHY Flexible Solar Panel Kit
Charge your caravan up guilt-free with this easy-to-use solar panel kit that has everything you need.
Equipped with an inverter and lithium battery, you don’t have to worry about bringing anything else with you on your journey.
The 24V system has the capacity of generating 2200Wh a day after being placed under the sun for only four hours.
This kit has the capacity of powering industrial caravans with a lithium rechargeable battery that cycles over 3000 times. Compared to standard lead-acid batteries, this is eight times more. You don’t have to worry about it dying out either, as it provides 100% capacity for every use.
Bend the panel how you like as the thickness is only 2.5mm, allowing you to fit it onto surfaces that aren’t completely flat. Due to this, you don’t have to worry about it breaking as the strength is second to none.
To top it off, ECO-WORTHY offers a 1-year warranty and 24/7 technical support.
Photonic Universe Portable Folding Solar Charging Kit
Take this complete solar panel kit with you on any journey with your caravan. The easy-to-use product has everything already connected, meaning all you have to do is take it out and start powering your vehicle once it’s charged. You simply need to unfold your portable energy system, connect the crocodile clips to the 12V battery terminals, and allow the sun to work its magic.
Travel in any weather with the reassurance you’ll still have power as the solar panels are completely waterproof, with an IP67 water protection certificate. It’ll also always be protected from accidental damage with the sturdy storage bag made from a layer of foam.
Lightweight and foldable, it makes carrying the kit around easy as anything. You won’t have to make masses of space for it on your trips, and it’ll never get in the way of you enjoying your time in your caravan. Made from high-quality German materials, the monocrystalline solar panels will do everything you want and more.
Renogy Solar System Basic Starter Kit
This cost-effective solar kit is perfect for caravan owners who are just thinking about becoming more sustainable. You’re provided with all the basics needed to power your vehicle, such as the solar panel, adaptor kit, charge controller, and tray cables.
Forget about the loud sounds that many generators make, as this product is known to have quiet power production on top of the benefit of grid independence. The panel uses 100% available solar panel, and you’ll see the battery get completely charged up in no time. A 50Ah battery will reach maximum capacity in as little as 6 hours, leaving your caravan powered all night until the sunlight hits again.
The ideal performance reaches around 500Wh a day, and the Renogy Wanderer charge controller that comes with the kit will extend your entire system to a maximum of 400W. There’s also ensured safety that the circuits won’t overload with the negative grounding regulator. Perfect for any journey in your caravan.
Topsolar 10W 12V Solar Panel Trickle Charger Battery Maintainer Kit Monocrystalline
This Topsolar solar panel kit comes in 3 options. Depending on the size of your caravan and how much energy you need, you can opt for 10, 20, or 100W. The entire system works off-grid using 12V batteries and the attached solar panel. You’ll also have all the extra pieces needed for a smooth setup, such as the regulator controller, cables with alligator clips, and an o-ring terminal.
You’re in for a treat with the 10A regulator controller as you never have to worry about the battery overcharging, short-circuiting and many other issues that people face with wiring. The battery is fully protected from rain and any other accidental damage, so you’ll always have peace of mind that this kit will be with you through all your journeys.
Similar to the controller, you’ll also be equipped with high quality monocrystalline solar cells that are safe from corrosion and possible wear and tear. Every part of the kit is lightweight and easy to take around with you, meaning it can come with you on even the shortest trip without taking up too much space.
DOKIO Foldable Portable Solar Panel
Save yourself from the hassle of a complicated setup with DOKIO’s easily transportable solar panel. Equipped with battery clips and a travel bag, you can carry all you need with ease. The instructions are incredibly concise and clear, and you’ll have your new power system up and running in no time.
The 100W panels can reach up to 12V battery charging, providing you with all the energy you need for any trip in your caravan. Everything is waterproof and corrosion-resistant, allowing for a long lifespan and many journeys ahead. It’s completely off-grid and safer than many larger panels with just as much capacity.
Set it up anywhere and get maximum sunshine by angling the solar panels throughout the day. The monocrystalline solar cells allow for the most efficiency per space, and you may never want another solar kit ever again.
How Do Solar Panels Work On Caravans?
How caravan solar panels work is pretty straightforward. The majority of the products on offer are covered by a thin layer of silicon, making it possible for energy to be generated from the sun. This is all due to the electrons in the silicon moving as soon as the sunlight hits the panel.
From this, a DC electric current is created and moved through the controller, which almost every solar panel kit comes with. The electricity is then stored in your battery, where it’s stored until you want to use an appliance.
Types of Solar Panels
As the popularity and demand for solar panels for caravans grows each year, so does their technology and design.
Caravan solar panels can be divided between;
The name of this solar panel really says it all; it’s made of monocrystalline solar cells. These are single silicon crystals that have incredibly high-efficiency levels of around 15-20%. This is because the electrons in this material move around more freely, allowing more power to be generated each time. Each cell has a unique octagonal shape and a uniform black colour, making them appear modern and pleasing to look at. Although they tend to be more expensive, you can’t go wrong with them as they are typically very durable and stay with you for decades on end.
Also known as ‘multi-crystalline’ solar panels, these products tend to be slightly less efficient than their monocrystalline counterparts. Instead of single silicon crystals, each cell has multiple, which provides less freedom for the electrons to move. This is the main reason for lessened efficiency, but it’ll still get the job done. The pro is that you can find these at a more reasonable price and still receive enough power for your caravan. Each cell has a blue hue that forms wafer-like figures throughout the panel.
Thin-film or amorphous solar panels are relatively new in the technology field and are still making advances to become the most efficient products around. At the moment, you’ll find they have an efficiency of about 10-15%, but there have been strides in research where 23.4% efficiency has been reached. They’re made out of one or more thin layers of film or photovoltaic material, which allows them to be flexible and much lighter. You can bend them around windows or the roof of your caravan. It’s still relatively cheap, but in the future, the prices may soar.
Flexible vs Rigid Solar Panels
As solar panels and sustainable energy are becoming more popular, more advances are being made to create products that suit your needs.
For example, rigid solar panels used to be the norm, but now that caravans are being designed in more round shapes, you may want something that fits around it. Therefore, you may want to choose between a rigid or flexible panel:
Flexible solar panels are becoming more widespread in the caravan world. They come in a wide variety of different shapes and can easily curve around a less flat surface to catch optimal sunlight. Although they tend to be thinner, they usually provide the same power output but are also much lighter than their rigid counterparts. They’re modern and easy on the eye but do tend to come in at a higher price. Ideal for non-traditional caravan shapes and lighter vehicles, they’re also effortless to install.
If you’ve seen a solar panel on a caravan before, it was most likely of the rigid variety. They are the industry standard and have been around for much longer than flexible panels. They offer excellent efficiency and output, allowing you to provide enough energy for your entire caravan. You’ll also find many brands at a reasonable price and can easily be laid down on any flat surface, such as the roof of your vehicle. You’ll likely have your rigid panel with you for a long time as it takes a lot for one of these to break.
Portable Solar Panels
You may not want a solar panel that has to be attached to your vehicle at all times, but rather one that you can take anywhere with you. If this is the case, then you’ll definitely want to consider a portable solar panel. They’re typically quite small and fit into a carrier bag, so you can take them wherever you want. You can choose the size that best fits your needs, but bear in mind that the smaller panels have limited power output and are better for powering small appliances.
They’re often not badly priced and come with all the parts you need, such as the solar charge controller. If you live in an area where the rain doesn’t seem to stop, you don’t have to worry as they’re completely waterproof and made from high-quality solar cells that can withstand a lot of impact.
What Size Solar Panel Do I Need?
So, you’ve just stepped into a store, and you see a bunch of different solar panels, but how do you know what size to go for? There are many different factors to consider. The main thing to consider is what you want to power. Is it just the lights in your caravan? Or is it every appliance for your entire journey?
Once you’ve figured out what you want to power, you want to find out how many watts each of your appliances are rated at. For example, a typical caravan fridge is about 40W, and if run on a 12v battery, it’ll use 3.3A per hour. However, if you want to power something much smaller like a phone charger, it’ll be around 2A for a full charge.
Once you’ve decided what you’ll be using your solar panels for and the average amount of power you will use, then you can start figuring out how big you need to go. For larger appliances like a fridge, then it’s best to opt for a 100W solar panel. Even if the refrigerator is above 120W, it should work with no problems as long as you’re conscious about how long it’s on.
If you’re just going to be powering the lighting in your caravan and a couple of sockets to charge your phone or turn on the kettle, then the best size to go for is between 80W to 100W. The smallest panel we recommend you should go for is around 60W for caravans, and they are perfect for charging around one smaller device like a laptop.
What Else Do I Need To Buy?
Depending on what kit you go for when shopping for a solar panel, you may have to buy some extra bits to go with it.
For larger panels that come on their own, you will want to invest in a regulator as well. These handy little devices prevent your battery from overcharging or hitting a short circuit. They aren’t essential, but if your solar panel has a high rating, it’s recommended to have one fitted as well.
An obvious product to buy if it’s not already included is a battery. Without a battery, your solar panel won’t be able to store its energy anywhere, and you won’t be able to power anything in your caravan. You’re going to want to choose a battery with the same efficiency and size as your solar panel, as one too small won’t work with a larger panel.
Many kits appear to have these included, but you’re going to want to double-check that they do. If the solar panels you’ve bought doesn’t have one, it’s essential to purchase one separately. They prevent energy from travelling back into the solar panel before it gets to the battery. They allow optimal efficiency and ensure you get the most out of the sunlight that’s been shining that day.
Inverters prevent your battery from running out completely. When they do, it can take a while for it to charge up entirely again. They’re easy to find, and some panels have them already built into them. Make sure you purchase an inverter that is suitable for your product and that it comes with an alarm that warns you when your battery is getting too low.
How To Clean And Maintain A Caravan Solar Panel
If you’re using your solar panel daily, you’re going to want to ensure you take proper care of it so it remains clean and so it has less risk of getting damaged.
There are some simple tips you can follow to ensure the long life of your new product:
- Don’t keep it in the shade
- Regularly check that the inverters are showing green lights
- Monitor the performance to see if it’s as efficient as it should be
- Install automated cleaners that will regularly ensure dust and other dirt is removed
- Purchase a solar panel cleaning kit
- Never use abrasive cleaning products
- Be gentle and run a hose over the panel on a more regular basis
- Keep an eye out for any dirt that may have accumulated
- Schedule a weekly or monthly cleaning session for your solar panels