How do solar panels work?
A solar panel is a quiet method of generating electric current. All you need to do is out the panel in an open space, such as the top of your RV or home roof. This will help the panel gather as much solar power as possible. Then, the solar energy collected is converted into electric current before being stored in a battery, which must have been linked to the system. While this sort of current is not the most powerful, it is capable of running 12-volt lights and other electrical appliances inside your RV.
The benefit of having a solar panel is that it requires no fuel whatsoever. All it needs is an exposure to direct sunlight. The only expenses incurable is on the maintenance of the battery. Also, solar energy is environmentally friendly since it produces no hazardous fumes.
Features to consider while choosing a solar panel for RV
Shopping blindly for something as complicated as a solar panel is one of the most unwise decisions that anyone could make. Below are some features you need to take a look at before deciding on a particular model.
One of the most vital things to think about is the maximum power the solar panel is capable of generating. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most powerful in most cases, despite requiring less space. What this means is that they are ideal for smaller spaces such as an RV roof.
Besides the panel’s efficiency, the number of solar panels is also vital. This number totally relies on the amount of power you need to create. Most larger recreational vehicles require four panels at least. Smaller vehicles such as vans use one to two panels generally.
Voltage and current
It is very vital to consider these terms when choosing panels and solar system components. We advise you to make sure the voltage is very close to the Vmp as solar panels always have a particular internal impedance and you’ll only be able to get optimum power when the output voltage is close to Vmp. The panel will become a lot inefficient if it is loaded down to a lower voltage. So, Vmp should be somewhere around the MPPT tracking range of the controller if you’re utilizing an MPPT controller. This may be a wide array of voltage, thereby giving you lots of flexibility when choosing panels.
The open-circuit voltage and short-circuit current are two interrelated factors you must also consider. Open-circuit voltage is the voltage at the output of the solar panel when it is unloaded and exposed to full sun. While the open-circuit voltage is not really fundamental to the output of the panel, it allows you to make sure that every appliance connected can handle the panel’s Voc. You could, otherwise, be risking a damage to your equipment when the sun hits the solar panels and they aren’t already loaded.
On the other hand, the short-circuit current is used to test the panels and determine the sizing of your controller and wiring. Basically, it’s the current through the solar cell when there is zero voltage across the solar cell. You ought to get short-circuit current in full sun, and it means the panel is working properly if you do. Any connection to the panels and the controller must be able to handle the array’s short-circuit current.
The portability of the panel is a very important consideration you can’t ignore when buying a solar panel for your RV. Highly portable units are the most ideal for RVs because of their easy installation and lightweight construction. In case the type of panel you desire is fairly large, you can choose the model that has cables, for less difficult movement.
In this case, it would be best to just invest in smaller ones. You can just buy at least two panels so you can gain a high output and efficiency without having to deal with the bulkiness and heaviness of the unit. Ensure that you go for a unit that is both compact and lightweight such as the BougeRV Solar Panel and the DOKIO Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel as you don’t want to be dealing with the trouble that comes with bulky models on your RV.
However, it might be difficult to find a compact and lightweight unit, particularly if you’re looking for a high-efficiency rating. This is because solar panels with higher efficiency ratings are always bigger in size, so it might be a daunting task finding one that is compact and simultaneously efficient.
You also need to consider if the unit comes with extra features such as controllers, warranty, wires, and waterproof properties. Since solar panels are usually expensive, it wouldn’t be a wise decision to choose a model without a warranty as it usually signifies quality. You also need to check if it comes with some hardware you may need in setting it up.
How to maintain solar panels?
Although solar panels for RV don’t require as much maintenance as natural gas powered and gasoline generators, they still need to be taken care of. Below are a couple of tips on how to maintain solar panels properly.
Put it under direct sunlight
Regardless of its type, the first step towards maintaining a solar panel is getting it out under direct sunlight. What a lot of people fail to realize is that you need to make sure that nature never stops the sun from getting to the panels. If you are in a cold region, you may have to be scrapping the ice and snow off of the panels carefully. During the fall, you may have to be brushing falling leaves away.
Clean as required
In dry weathers, it usually involves washing the solar panels to remove dust. In fact, you may have to use water and safe detergents to wash the panel since any sort of caked on dirt decreases power capacity. And you will be wrong to think that the occasional rain will be sufficient to get rid of this job. You need to be careful when choosing a detergent type because the wrong one could rust the solar panel.
Utilize cleaning solutions specifically made for solar panels. Use a very gentle, soft brush when doing this so you don’t end up scratching up the solar panels and wearing its efficiency away. You can utilize a monitoring system to keep an eye on the amount of energy being generated by the panels and go clean the panels when you notice a drop in the efficiency.
Inspect if there are cracks when cleaning the panels. And if you detect any crack, have it fixed by an expert before it spreads, rather than trying to fix it by yourself. Also, always ensure to guard the units from direct impact. Discoloration and burn mark deserve a check by an expert.
Generally, while solar panels require very little maintenance, their electrical connections have a proneness to failure and deterioration. Damage and corrosion to the wires connecting the panels to the batteries are more detrimental than damage to the solar panel. When cleaning them, take a look at the wirings and have spoiled wires repaired or replaced.