The use of solar panels to power-up amenities helps environmentally savvy travellers enjoy a guilt-free energy splurge. The sunshine provides a clean form of energy while camping and caravanning that isn’t just eco-friendly, but is also free – saving both the planet and your pockets. Here’s how to get your site’s solar up and running.
Types of solar panels
Solar panels come in a few different forms, and choosing the right type of solar panel will totally depend on your power needs and the space you have available. There are three main types of solar panel: thin-film amorphous, polycrystalline and monocrystalline. Amorphous solar panels are thin enough to be rolled or folded when not in use, but they do require more surface area, and are typically popular for four-wheel driving and camping, as space is more limited. In contrast, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are thicker and more robust, and can be either permanently mounted on your caravan or can be portable. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive than polycrystalline; however, they are more efficient, meaning they generate more power compared to a polycrystalline panel of the same size.
Once you’ve chosen the type of solar panel that best suits your lifestyle, budget and energy needs, you can purchase your panels from a range of caravan and camping accessory retailers and manufacturers. You can even organise for a professional to install the solar panels if you’d like to have them mounted permanently on top of your caravan.
Caravan solar panels dos and don’ts
No camper or caravanner enjoys it when equipment plays up, but solar power newbies can rest assured that things will (mostly) run smoothly with these tips and tricks!
- Install a cover or awning on the outside of where your fridge sits – your fridge uses up a lot of electricity, so this will ensure your fridge doesn’t overheat in the warmer weather, and thus use up more electricity.
- Save electricity in your caravan by switching your lights to LED.
- Turn off power points when you aren’t using them.
- Clean underneath your roof-mounted solar panels, as any debris (such as leaves) can block airflow and reduce the panels’ efficiency.
- Clean your batteries to increase efficiency and prolong battery life.
- Use solar panels to power appliances that use a lot of energy, such as hair dryers.
- Use your solar power while you’re using the panels to recharge the batteries – doing so runs the risk of causing a dangerous current overload.
- Directly touch your solar panels when you clean them, as they can be extremely hot after sitting in the sun.
The Autumn 2023 edition of Caravanning Australia is out now!
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