A realistic look at solar power for your caravan.
Solar panels can allow you the freedom to stray from traditional caravan sites and mains power sources by gathering a sufficient amount of power in a 12-volt battery system (mains power works on a 240-volt system).
Your expenditure and the size and amount of solar panels you install will be determined by how much power you’ll be drawing from it, and how far you expect to stray from a mains power source. But the most essential and often most overlooked point to remember is that the components of a solar power system need to work harmoniously and efficiently, otherwise it’s hardly worth bothering.
You’ll sometimes see people with a huge stash of batteries on board their caravan in an attempt to capture as much as possible from a couple of small solar panels. This is a pointless venture – the tricky part of solar energy isn’t storing it, but capturing it. Solar batteries are also large and cumbersome, so storing several of them is impractical – and under-charging also causes damage to batteries. A battery’s storage capacity shouldn’t be greater than the amount of wattage that can be supplied by the panels and the regulator.
Solar panels are not connected straight into a battery: a solar regulator acts as an intermediary between the panels and the batteries. A solar regulator makes sure that the charging process runs efficiently and safely, protecting batteries against overcharging and appliances against spikes in voltage. A high-quality regulator is essential and will generally be compatible with most battery types. When it comes to the solar panels themselves, the higher wattage rating a solar panel has, the better it is. Also, the more surface area of panelling you have, the more energy you will absorb, which means that there is more potential charge that can be delivered to a battery.