Imagine going around the hinterland with your holiday home on wheels. Does that sound intriguing? Did you know that approximately 555,000 Caravans are touring the UK right now?
What is the main thing you will not have access to while being on the road? Electricity!
That is where effective solar panels for Caravans come in. Due to technological advancements, a solar power system can now be installed on top of moving vehicles. Moreover, it will be an economical and self-sufficient option.
Solar panel efficiency is the answer to your power requirements while living in your Caravan. These solar panels will require direct sunlight to generate electricity – like standard panels. Furthermore, all your appliances and car batteries will remain charged while giving you total freedom.
Yet, there are some considerations before installing solar panels on your Caravan roof. What are they? How can you effectively make your Caravan solar? Read on to find out!
- 1 Types of Caravan Solar Panels
- 2 The Use of Solar Cells in Caravans
- 3 The Components of a Caravan Solar Panel
- 4 How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
- 5 Benefits of Solar Power in Caravans
- 6 Cost of Solar Panel Installation
- 7 FAQs About Caravan Solar Panels
- 7.1 What do you need while fitting a solar panel system?
- 7.2 Are solar panel kits suitable?
- 7.3 What are PWM controllers?
- 7.4 What are the pros and cons of pulse width regulators?
- 7.5 What is Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)?
- 7.6 What are the benefits and negative aspects of MPPT Solar regulators?
- 7.7 What are the main concerns of solar panels for Caravans?
- 7.8 What is the correct angle for solar panels?
- 8 Summing Up
Types of Caravan Solar Panels
Mounted or Portable solar panels are the priority while looking for such systems for your Caravan. Even then, there are other options that you can look into, depending on your requirements.
The industry demand has facilitated the rise of such options for a solar power system. However, as an owner, it is up to you to choose the location for its installation.
There are disadvantages and advantages for both. For example, a portable panel is flexible that allows you to chase the sun effortlessly. On the contrary, mounted solar panels are mounted on the Caravan or motorhome roof.
Most solar panels require complete access to direct sunlight for optimal functionality. Do you want to know more about the different types of solar panels suitable for your Caravan?
Rigid/Mounted Solar Panel
These rigid panels are photovoltaic solar panels secured by tempered glass. You will find such panels framed using aluminium which helps make the mechanism weatherproof. Therefore, you can drive your Caravan through harsh weather without worrying about scratches or damage.
It can come in different sizes and is permanently fixed to the roof of your Caravan.
Due to their popularity, the price per watt is higher but comparatively cheaper and more accessible. However, the sturdy built quality and power output make it an ideal choice.
- High-end materials used
- Easier to install as they are fixed solar panels
- Effective under sunlight
- Proper ventilation stops overheating
- Can withstand all weather conditions
- Extremely heavy
- Requires extensive set-up process
- Requires permanent installation
- Might affect aerodynamics
Flexible Solar Panel
These solar panels have moulded solar cells in their anatomy. A layer of high-performing plastic protects these cells on the top. However, these are not rigid due to the absence of frames.
Due to this, flexible solar panels have a lower profile, alluding to their conforming nature. Flexible panels can have gentle curves similar to Caravan roofs. These thin-film panels have a lighter and broader installation range.
Even then, these are not sturdy or durable as they are prone to damage due to the thinner plastic layer.
The flexibility ensures minimal sturdiness in this Caravan solar panel. So, what does it mean? It means that flexible solar panels will only break on significant impact beyond 30o.
Flexible panels have a limited solar exposure since the position of mounting determines it. Nevertheless, they are an excellent option for short weekend trips. However, flexible solar panels are costly based on the price per watt generated.
- Has a lower profile
- Can bend with your Caravan roof
- Easy to install
- Extremely light
- No sturdiness
- Not durable
Portable Solar Panels
A portable solar panel have a briefcase look that unfolds to showcase the solar panel. Therefore, they are effortless to use and install for temporary electricity requirements.
Due to their travel-friendly essence, the power generated from these panels is perfect for charging electric devices. Even if these solar panels have a better power rating, they are not sturdy or durable. However, it has a proper manoeuvrable capability which ensures sunlight exposure.
On top of that, it has a short life span due to the absence of durability.
- Extremely easy to set up and use
- It does not require mounting
- Can have better sunlight exposure
- Not weatherproof
- High price per watt
In these solar panels lies solar cells that ensure the optimal electricity supply and power consumption. Want to know more about solar cells?
The Use of Solar Cells in Caravans
A Caravan solar panel array should have the ability to convert sunlight to create enough energy for a relaxed life on the road.
So, how is that possible? Crystalline panels will have the maximum power output for your Caravan or motorhome. These are made from a single silicon crystal that can power any electrical equipment.
Even so, the dilemma between Monocrystalline solar panels and Polycrystalline solar panels have been a debate for a long time. But, which one is more efficient?
Ideally, monocrystalline solar panels will be more efficient since they take up less installation space. They have a black hue to their anatomy. On the other hand, polycrystalline solar panels do not have the same efficiency level, having a blue tint.
Does the option seem simple? Indeed, monocrystalline seems like a better Caravan solar transformation option, but they are more expensive. The latter is cheaper and larger to offer the same power output.
Both can be viable for Caravan solar panels due to their matched durability and lifespan. However, the requirement for panel size compared to your energy requirements should determine what the best solar panels are for you.
The Components of a Caravan Solar Panel
For a Caravan, the solar panel system is straightforward. It involves the same procedure to produce electricity as a normal one. Moreover, a crystalline panel will have similar power ratings depending on its size and sunlight exposure.
Caravan solar panels have four components that work together to produce as much energy as fossil fuels.
The Solar Panel
The initial purpose of this unit is to generate substantial levels of electricity. This solar panel uses the typical photovoltaic system to transform sunlight particles into electricity. Therefore, it produces direct current to power the electrical appliances in the Caravan.
This part enables the electricity transfer through electric hook-ups that feed into the central system. Moreover, it takes the electric power from the Caravan solar panels to power storage components and different devices. Ideally, you will need a proper connection terminal for the same.
Solar Charge Controller
The charge controller in the solar panel system helps regulate the current. It keeps the incoming voltage compatible with the electrical circuits in your Caravan. Moreover, a charge controller is responsible for keeping your Caravan from potential risks due to solar technology.
A leisure battery stores the electricity generated from the solar panels, fed through the wiring and the solar charge controller. Therefore, the primary purpose of this leisure battery is to keep the battery power intact. Solar panels will keep your leisure battery topped up for the entire day so that you can save your solar energy for later.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?
The number of solar panels you need will depend on how much electricity you consume. It will depend on how much power the electrical appliances in your Caravan utilises. Moreover, it would be best to analyse and understand the light intensity and other electrical requirements before installing a solar panel.
Doing so will help you save on leisure batteries and determine the number of solar panels required.
Some characteristics that you will witness from solar power are:
- Loss of electrical appliance efficiency by 8%
- Requires optimum solar energy at a 45o angle
- Peak sun hours will vary from location to location
These elements need to be figured out before you can invest in installing a solar panel. Then, you can consider the amount of electricity required by your Caravan.
And, how do you do that? Follow this list below:
- A fridge (12V) will require 50W power. It will have usage of 8 hours per day which is 400-watt hours per day.
- Two mobile chargers with 5W of power have a daily usage of 4 hours. Therefore, it will require 40-watt hours per day.
- A laptop or a TV will require a 220V supply which will consume 685-watt hours per day.
Apart from these, you will need extra 300-watt hours per day for other electric activities, like lighting, cooking etc. Therefore, without a battery, there will be an unavoidable loss of energy.
Then, you need to factor in peak sun hours with the annual radiation level. Furthermore, you need to calculate the system efficiency for seven days in use.
Considering these, you can deduce that an average Caravan will require three solar panels. However, if you want something for prolonged use, then six panels would be perfect.
Benefits of Solar Power in Caravans
There are numerous benefits of installing a new solar panel in your Caravan. However, the watt-hours you receive will determine the extent of these benefits. They are:
- Sustainable and free electricity
- Worry-free driving around
- Access to power even in secluded areas
- Reliability from the sun’s power
- Low maintenance if you get portable panels
- Eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels
- Constantly charged batteries
- No generators
- Prolonged battery life
- Highly durable depending on the panel quality
Cost of Solar Panel Installation
Ideally, a 5kW solar panel that contains 12 panels will cost around £7000, alluding to the expansiveness of the initial purchase. However, if you can invest that amount and get off the national grid, you can save a lot of time and money. Apart from that, you need to understand that solar panels cannot recharge during the night.
So, what is the cost of a solar panel for Caravans? A 30W panel will be £70, and a 100W one will be £1000. Due to this, investing in a high-quality battery will be ideal for those long night rides.
The estimated cost will be £120 to £250 for a 3-hour installation process if you hire professionals. Furthermore, getting help will make the panels fit securely without any problems.
Along with this, buying either a PWM or an MPPT regulator for the solar panels is £50 to £70. As you can see, the cost of installation can be expensive even if the investment is worthy.
FAQs About Caravan Solar Panels
What do you need while fitting a solar panel system?
You will need the following components while installing solar panels on your Caravan:
- Solar panels
- Junction box
- Solar charge controller
- Invertor (optional for 220v AC devices)
Are solar panel kits suitable?
Are you looking to DIY the solar panel installation? While installing a solar panel on your Caravan, using rigid solar panel kits will be a great option.
Such equipment includes the necessary parts involved in the process. Therefore, you can start sustainable generation energy on your own using the charge controller and other equipment. They have a pulse width modulation controller that is cheaper.
What are PWM controllers?
Such solar panel controllers have traditional technology. Hence, there is no mechanical relay for circuit operations as present in older regulators.
What are the pros and cons of pulse width regulators?
It is a proven technology that is affordable, but smaller ones do not have UL certifications. It has a durable material and design which needs passive cooling sources. However, it cannot grow with the solar installation or exceed the voltage rating. Even then, it comes in a wide range of applications and sizes.
What is Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)?
Maximum power point tracking helps transform excess power into amperage that acts as a battery charger. Therefore, the 12V batteries in most Caravans gain a higher and better-charging capability. Here the extra voltage gets stored in the amps that help in the charging process.
What are the benefits and negative aspects of MPPT Solar regulators?
It can help increase the efficiency but has a cost that is two times that of the PWM. However, it can take up better voltages than the batteries and has a more extended warranty. MPPT has larger dimensions, and it requires cable installation different from the solar panel’s.
What are the main concerns of solar panels for Caravans?
The biggest concern after shifting to solar power is the weather. You need to get more than three hours of solar energy in your Caravan to ensure proper efficiency in your solar array. Therefore, you need to keep track of the weather and fill up the battery bank before it starts to rain.
Similarly, it would be best if you kept the solar panels clean to maintain their efficiency intact.
What is the correct angle for solar panels?
It would be best if you kept the panels in a way that angles the sun directly overhead. Using mounting kits, you can angle rigid solar panels based on the peak sun hours. Therefore, you will be present with a 25% efficiency increase in electricity generation.
A thin layer solar panel will be flexible and can adapt to any angle on your roof.
As you can see, Caravan solar panels are a simple way to upgrade to sustainable living. There are different solar panels available in the market that you can look into. Moreover, you have to calculate the energy requirement in your motorhome before deciding on the number of panels.
Ideally, three to six panels making a solar array will be a perfect choice. It can power every electrical appliance in the Caravan, including the halogen bulbs and battery bank.
All you have to do is place it at the right angle to allow the solar panels to take in the solar energy!
You can go through the FAQ section to gain more knowledge about solar regulators. After that, you will be ready to utilise solar power for your next Caravan trip.