Why opt for solar panels and where you can use them
While there is a bit of an upfront cost to purchasing and installing solar panels, they are a sound investment. In fact, they will most likely end up saving you a ton of money in the long run. Whether you have a boat, an RV, or are simply going camping, you are going to need some form of an energy source, which has traditionally been the vehicle’s engine or a gas powered generator. These mobile forms of electricity can provide enough power to run some modern conveniences, such as stoves, grills, musical systems, or refrigerators. The issue with a generator or a vehicle’s engine is that they will cost a ton of money since they run on gasoline. Not only that, but if you use the engine of your boat, RV, or van, you will be putting extra wear and tear on it, which could shorten its running life.
Solar panels, on the other hand, can help to alleviate this issue. While they might cost a bit more to purchase at first, they can more than pay for themselves and save you a ton of money over their life. The reason that these panels are so cost-effective is that they do not rely on gasoline, propane, or natural gas as their fuel source. Instead, they get all of their energy from the sun, which is completely free of cost to you. This operating price point makes them a fantastic option for use with a boat, RV, or converted van, especially if you are only going to be using a small amount of electricity.
Features to consider while choosing a 100 Watt solar panel
As you can imagine, there are several key factors that you need to take into consideration when you are looking for the best rated 100-watt solar panel kit. In this section, we will go through everything you need to know to find the best model for your electrical needs.
Voltage (Vmp) and current (Imp) at Pmax
The best way to understand the difference between voltage and current is to think of a water system. The voltage is the amount of water pressure, while the current is how quickly the water flows. In an electrical system, the voltage is how much electrical power is being used, while the current is how quickly it flows. Pmax is the sweet spot for solar panel power output. It is the combination of the maximum number of volts and amps that can be applied at one time, which will result in the highest number of possible watts of power being produced.
The reason that Pmax is something that you want to take into careful consideration is that it will have a direct effect on how much power is being produced at one time. This will, in turn, determine the types of appliances and electronics you can run off of your solar panels.
Open-circuit voltage (Voc) and short-circuit current (Isc)
Open-circuit, or Voc, is how many volts of electricity a solar panel is able to put out with nothing connected to it. Voc can be found by measuring across the plus and minus leads. Since the panel isn’t connected to anything and has no load on it, it will not produce any current. Voc is, obviously, a significant number, as it will help you to determine the maximum voltage that the solar panel can produce under normal conditions. You’ll be able to figure out how many panels you can wire in a series going into your inverter or charge controller.
Isc, or Short Circuit Current, on the other hand, is how many amps the solar panels can produce when they are not connected to a load, but when the plus and minus wires are connected to each other. This is the highest current that solar panels will produce under normal conditions. This will let you know how much current you have at your disposal, and whether or not your electronics and appliances can handle it.
When it comes to the dimensions of a solar panel, there are two different things that you need to take into consideration. First of all, you need to decide how many panels you can fit on your vehicle. If you are, for instance, looking for the best 100-watt solar panel kit for van life, then you are obviously going to need something smaller, since you don’t have as much room to set them up. Of course, if you have a bigger vehicle, like an RV, then you will be able to get a bigger model, like the TISHI HERY Portable Solar Panel.
The other big consideration when it comes to the dimensions of your new solar panels is how much power you want to produce. Simply put, the larger the surface of a solar panel, the more electricity it will be able to deliver.
The dimensions of a solar panel might play a role in how many panels you need, which could have a direct influence on the overall cost. The last thing you want to do is have to buy a bunch of smaller, expensive panels when you could get one larger model and save some money in the process, so be sure to think through your power needs and dimensional limits carefully before you make your final purchase.
Solar panels can be put into two basic categories. You can either get portable panels, like the DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel, or more permanent ones, such as the Renogy Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Solar Panel Module. Permanent models are a bit heavier, though they don’t weigh more than thirty pounds or so. Permanent panels are also usually on the larger side, which allows them to produce more electricity. On the other hand, larger and heavier panels might not work for your vehicle, especially if you have a smaller boat or van.
Portable solar panels are not meant to be permanently set up. Since they don’t need to be out in the elements all the time, these panels are usually on the smaller side, making them perfect for use in a smaller vehicle or boat. They are incredibly lightweight, so moving them shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Of course, these panels won’t be able to produce as much energy as larger models, so make sure you take that into account before you make your final decision.
What the package includes
Part of the reason that solar panels cost so much upfront when you first get them is that you cannot simply purchase panels and hook them into the existing electrical system. Instead, you need lots of different components to create a new electrical system that you can keep separate from your vehicles, or integrate into it.
To finish up this system, you will need to buy panels, connectors, a controller/inverter, and a battery for any excess energy. While most kits come with some of these components, not too many come with all of them.
Be sure that when you are buying the new panels that you are able to find the correct components to make a complete system, or you might end up with panels that you cannot even use correctly.
One of the most important features for any solar panel is that they can be used with a variety of different batteries. That way, you will be able to find a battery pretty easily should you need a new one in the future. The Renogy Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable Solar Panel, for instance, can be used with gel, sealed, lithium, and flooded batteries making it much easier to get your system up and running right away.
Since these panels are going to be out in the elements, especially if you put them up permanently, it is best to look for a set that is corrosion resistant, like the Renogy Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Solar Panel Module. This resistance to corrosion will help to keep the panels up and running for a longer amount of time even if they are out in all types of weather.
If you are planning on going the portable panel route, then you will want to make sure that you get a model with some sort of a handle, like the DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel. This convenient handle will make it much easier to move your panels from place to place, which will allow to get them into the right position super simple each time you set them up.
How to maintain your solar panels?
To clean your panels, your first line of defense is going to be your garden hose. By spraying off your panels, you will remove most of the dust and dirt that they will pick up on your travels. Of course, if they need a bit more cleaning, you can use a soft sponge and some soapy water. Be sure to steer clear of anything too rough, since this could scratch your panels.
Aside from regular cleanings, you will also want to make sure that your panels do not suffer any corrosion or water damage. If water gets into the actual panels, then they will not function properly. If this does occur, you will either need to replace your panels or have them fixed by an experienced technician.