What’s the best solar panel kit for beginners including installation be it caravan, motorhome or campervan?
Before starting on any new accessory or upgrade, reflect and ask youself a few questions:
Why am I considering this change?
What is the outcome I need?
What is the cost, is it worth the investment?
Here are a few reasons leisure vehicle owners consider solar panels:
Travel to remote destinations that do not have 230v EHU,
Exploring more locations by going off-grid,
Adapt their Caravan, Motorhome, Campervan to be more eco-friendly,
To get free power from the sunlight, 230v seems to go up and up in price,
Keep the battery charged whilst in storage, so the alarm works and the insurance stays valid.
Depending on your power consumption, it is possible to design and build a 12v system so that you can run without 230v EHU. The solar panel then becomes a key part of your 12v system, and is one way to re-charge your leisure batteries. Please also read our articles on Lithium Batteries.
It this article we hope to give an overview of solar panels, how they work and the two main types of panel currently on the market. Please visit our FAQ page for frequently asked questions.
Heads up, yes Bristol Caravans sell solar panels, so we have an interest… but hopefully sharing the following knowledge will help you make an informed decision wherever you are based. And yes, of course if you are travelleing or live in the South West of the UK, we would love to help you if you decide to buy a new solar panel system, because here at Bristol Caravans we supply and fit Solar Panels to Caravans, Campervans, and Motorhomes.
There are many items that will influence your decision on the type of solar panel you might buy / install, so where should we start?
How does a Solar Panel work?
It is simple really. The more light, the more power a solar panel will produce!
Solar Panels have an anti-reflective coating, made out of silicone which increases the absorption of sunlight.
When sunlight touches the panel, protons are absorbed which causes electrons to separate from the silicone atoms and move about. This creates a DC (direct current) electric current, which is passed through a “solar controller” which manages the amounts of Amps. This current (amps) is then be transmitted into your leisure battery and from your battery to your 12v appliances.
There are two types of solar control, standard and split. The standard unit will supply amps direct to your leisure battery. The split controller, can supply amps to your leisure battery and your engine battery (motorhome, campervan).
The size of the solar panels will depend on the way you use your vehicle, the space available on your roof and the type of leisure battery fitted to your caravan, motorhome or campervan.
What does a Solar Panel power in my Caravan, Motorhome, Campervan?
A Solar Panel is ideal for trickle charging your leisure battery. A charged leisure battery powers all of your 12v appliances. This includes your lighting, and water pump. Accessories can be run off the 12v system, however accessories will increase the rate at which the battery drains. The higher the amp drain from appliances, the faster the battery is drained.
In addition to maintaining your leisure battery, a solar panel is great for low-draw devices. If you have an alarm or tracker installed, this is classed as a low-draw device. A solar panel can maintain these items throughout the months your Caravan, Motorhome or Campervan is in storage.
Types of Solar Panel:
Mono Solar Panels contain cells which are cut from a single piece of silicon. This means Monocrystalline panels are purer because each cell is made from a single piece of silicon.
The result of being cut from a single piece of silicon, is that Monocrystalline panels are more efficient, and perform better in high heat, and lower light environments.
Rather than being cut from one piece of silicon, multiple silicon cells are fragmented together to create polycrystalline panels. This process is less wasteful due to using only raw materials.
The result of this means polycrystalline panels are less efficient due to their imperfect surface. However, they are the more affordable option!