Using solar panels is becoming more popular when choosing electricity options at home and on a road trip or camping. There are even portable solar panels you can buy. So what is important to take into account when buying a portable solar panel?
Here are 7 things to look for when buying portable solar panels:
- The type of portable solar panel
- The size and weight of the portable solar panel.
- The wattage and efficiency of the portable solar panel.
- How long and often the portable solar panel will be used.
- The price of the portable solar panel.
- How durable the portable solar panel is.
- What the warranty is for the portable solar panel.
Let’s go into a little more depth about each thing you should look for when buying a portable solar panel.
1. The Type of Portable Solar Panel
In a solar panel, photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity for use. There are three types of solar panels, differentiated by how the PV cells are manufactured and stored.
- Monocrystalline solar panels consist of single PV cells manufactured from pure silicon. They are known for being rigid, heavy, durable, and efficient. Monocrystalline solar panels are also distinguishable from the other two types by their dark color.
- The second type of solar panel is a polycrystalline solar panel. In these panels, the PV cells are multi-crystalline and are slightly less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels. They are recognizable from the other panels because they are blue or blue-speckled in color.
- The third and final solar panel type is the thin-film or CIGS solar panel. The PV cells in these solar panels are covered by a material made of Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide. Thin-film solar panels differ from the other two because they are extremely thin and flexible but not as durable.
2. The Size and Weight of the Portable Solar Panel
The size of the portable solar panel you buy depends on what you can do with it. If you plan to use your portable solar panel on hiking or camping trips, a smaller panel would be better than a larger one. It is very difficult to carry a large panel around when hiking.
If you want a larger solar panel but also don’t take much with you or have a lot of room for storage, there are foldable portable solar panels that you can buy. Foldable panels are lightweight and easy to carry. Still, they are also much less durable, so you need to replace them more often.
The portable solar panel’s weight also needs to be taken into account. If you plan to carry the panel on your back, you’ll want a lighter portable solar panel than if you plan to drive and have the solar panel in the car.
3. The Wattage and Efficiency of the Portable Solar Panel
The wattage you need is extremely important to know when looking to buy portable solar panels. Portable solar panels come in a variety of wattages, and you don’t want to buy a solar panel that won’t charge all of the devices quickly.
Lower wattage portable solar panels will still charge your devices, but much more slowly than higher wattage panels would. I suggest looking at your device’s specifications to determine how much power they require and take in.
Efficiency is another important thing you should look at when shopping for portable solar panels. For solar panels, efficiency refers to the amount of electricity a panel can absorb and convert into usable energy.
According to inverter.com, portable solar panels are typically between 10 – 15% efficient, compared to rigid panels’ 15 – 20% efficiency. The more efficient the solar panel, the more expensive it is.
4. How Long and Often the Portable Solar Panel Will Be Used
Knowing how long and how often you will use the portable solar panel is an extremely good thing to know. If you plan on not using the panel often and for short increments of time, you’ll have less of a need to use a high wattage, highly efficient, expensive solar panel than if you were to use it more often and for longer periods.
For example, suppose you are buying a portable solar panel to charge your phone for a yearly outdoor music festival. In that case, the panel you buy will differ greatly from a person buying a portable solar panel for weekly or monthly camping trips.
5. The Price of the Portable Solar Panel
Perhaps the most important thing to take into account, especially for those on a budget, is the price of portable solar panels. The price of a portable solar panel depends on:
- Size and weight
- Whether or not it is foldable
Portable solar panels can range from $30 to over $1000. Ultimately, it’s up to you how much you spend on a portable solar panel. Still, if you won’t often use the solar panel or don’t need a high wattage for your solar panel, it’s completely fine to err on the cheap side.
I would suggest splurging and buying a more expensive portable solar panel if you are going to get good use of it, though.
6. How Durable the Portable Solar Panel Is
When choosing a portable solar panel, look at how durable and weather-protected each panel is. If you live in an area with common rainstorms, thunderstorms, or high winds, you’re going to want a more durable solar panel that can take some wear and tear.
Another thing you should double-check is whether or not the portable solar panel is actually waterproof if it is advertised as waterproof. Unfortunately, manufacturers sometimes claim that their portable solar panel is waterproof, and the panel itself is, but not the electrical connections.
Something that you don’t want to happen when you buy a portable solar panel is for it to break the first time it rains.
7. What the Warranty Is for the Portable Solar Panel
Warranty is huge when it comes to solar panels. In general, the longer the warranty, the better the portable solar panel. While shorter warranties may reduce costs, there’s not much you can do if the panel stops working or breaks after the warranty ends.
Make sure you take a closer look at the exact wording of the warranties, though. Sometimes the wording of warranties may be confusing.
Some portable solar panel warranties can last up to 25 years, which is reassuring since portable solar panels last for many years when taken care of properly.
- Entrepreneurship in a box: 8 Tips for Choosing the Best Portable Solar Panel for You
- PopSci: Everything to consider before buying a portable solar panel
- Outbax: 7 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE BEST PORTABLE SOLAR PANEL FOR CAMPING
- inverter.com: What to Consider When Buying Portable Solar Panel?
- Top Portable Solar Panels: What To Look For When Buying Portable Solar Panels
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