One way to get the most out of a caravan is to install a solar panel on it. Solar panels can go a long way in helping you minimize your carbon footprint while enjoying your travels. But is the extra investment worth it or not?
Fitting a solar panel into a caravan is worth it. A caravan solar panel allows you to generate electricity for your needs on the go. This way, you can be self-sufficient and be assured that renewable energy sources power your devices.
This article will address all your concerns regarding solar panels and caravans. I’ll talk about the pros and cons of solar panels for caravans, how many panels you’ll need and how to determine that number, the types of solar panels you can use for your caravan, and how to keep your solar panels in good shape.
Solar Panels for Your Caravan: Pros and Cons
Solar panels are an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. They work more or less the same way as those installed on rooftops: They convert sunlight into electricity, allowing you to power your mobile devices while you’re in the woods or another remote area.
As sources of electricity for caravans, solar panels have their pros and cons as follows.
Pros of Using Solar Panels for Your Caravan
Solar Panels Give You More Camping Options
Have you ever considered changing your camping location because of the lack of electricity in that area? This is especially troublesome if the camp is an otherwise lovely place near a beach, for example.
With caravan solar panels, you’ll always have electricity no matter where you go. You can also access more comforts, like a warm bath, even during frosty winters.
Solar Panels Allow You To Charge Your Devices As You Please
You don’t have to worry about your laptop, phone, or other electronic devices running out of power while you’re in the middle of nowhere. With a solar panel, you can get these devices up and running in a few hours of daylight, assuming everything is working well.
Although you’ll pay a pretty penny for solar panels and their installation, they’re usually worth the investment. You don’t have to pay for the electric hook-ups most campsites charge since you already have your own source of electricity.
Solar Panels Are Non-Intrusive
Unlike generators, solar panels hardly emit any sound while they’re running. They also take up a smaller space and are much lighter than generators. That means there’s no risk that you’ll bump into or trip over something while exploring what your campsite offers.
Solar Panels Are Relatively Low-Maintenance
Once your solar panel is installed, you only need to ensure it’s clean. You may also need to check for signs of damage on the panels — which isn’t likely unless you recently experienced inclement weather. It’s also worth noting that solar panels don’t need fuel to run.
Solar Panels Produce Little — if Any — Emissions
The fact that solar panels rely entirely upon the sun to give them energy is arguably their most important benefit. There’s little concern that you’ll produce emissions that could harm the environment as you use this handy device.
Cons of Using Solar Panels for Your Caravan
Solar Panels Are Time- and Weather-Dependent
Because solar panels rely on the sun to power them, so you cannot use them when sunlight isn’t available, such as on cloudy days. Also, if you need power during the evenings, you’ll have to find another source of light to generate electricity. It’s possible to power solar panels with light sources other than the sun; however, this method is much less efficient.
Solar Panels Are Expensive
The initial cost of a solar panel with a good capacity and wattage is relatively high. Although prices may differ depending on the model and manufacturer, the fact is that you get what you pay for: The better the quality of the solar panels, the higher the cost.
You Need To Budget for Costly Accessories As Well
Solar batteries can be expensive, ranging from $200 to $14,000. You also need to install an inverter, which will likewise burn a hole through your wallet. If you’re intent on using solar energy during your travels, ensure there’s enough room in your budget for these extras.
You May Require More Than One Solar Panel
Sometimes, one solar panel won’t be enough. For example, a small portable solar panel may be enough if you only need to charge your phone or laptop. On the other hand, if you need to keep your fridge or air conditioner running, you may require bigger or more solar panels to keep up with the increased energy requirements.
Solar Panels Aren’t Manufactured in an Eco-Friendly Manner
Despite solar panels being often touted as eco-friendly energy sources, the irony is that their manufacturing process involves using toxic products. If your solar panels become old or damaged beyond repair, disposing of them in a way that doesn’t harm the environment can be tricky. You may need to consult a professional regarding the proper disposal of solar panels.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need for Your Caravan?
The number of solar panels you need for your caravan depends on factors such as the following.
Amount of Energy or Wattage Needed
Most homes use about 30 kWh per day. Assuming that’s how much your caravan consumes, you must purchase solar panels that adequately meet those energy requirements. Depending on your needs and space, you can either purchase one powerful solar panel or several smaller solar panels of the appropriate wattage.
You should also account for which of your appliances use up the most energy. For example, if you have a water heater, fridge, and air conditioner, you’ll use more power than someone who only needs to power light bulbs and charge phones.
Climate and Amount of Sunlight
Of course, you should also consider the place where you’ll be camping. Letting your solar panel run all day wouldn’t be a problem if your campsite is mostly sunny. On the other hand, you’ll have to figure out what adjustments you need to make if you frequently camp in a chilly location (e.g., keeping your devices at full charge prior to traveling).
Size of the Solar Panels
The bigger the solar panel, the more energy it produces. So, if your caravan roof is large enough to support the weight of a large solar panel, you can purchase it accordingly. You can buy two to four solar panels depending on what you’ll need power for.
Solar panels differ in terms of efficiency — i.e., some absorb more sunlight faster than others. For example, photovoltaic (PV) solar panels have watts ranging from 150 to 370, though the actual output depends on the panels’ size. If you intend to use more energy, look for efficient solar panels.
How Are Caravan Solar Panels Fitted?
To fit your solar panels on the roof of your caravan, you need to drill for metal brackets. Alternatively, you can use a bonding agent with plastic mounts. You can wire any of these to your leisure battery through a charge controller.
If you don’t know how to install a solar panel on a caravan, you can ask a professional for help. This is especially important since solar panel parts are delicate, and if you’re not careful with them, you could end up with a hefty repair bill.
Luckily, most solar panels include their installation costs in the price.
Types of Solar Panels for Your Caravan
Solar panel systems come in two different types. These are:
Roof-Mounted Solar Panels
If you choose the roof-mounted option, you’ll have to permanently fix it on your caravan’s roof. Also, it requires professional installation. Of the two options, rooftop solar panels will generate more energy — though it will likely be more expensive.
Ground-Mounted Solar Panels
On the other hand, if you go for the ground-mounted option, you can use a movable frame mount. That means you can store the mount when you’re moving and manually set it up once you reach your destination.
However, one drawback of ground-mounted panels is that the solar panel won’t generate energy while you’re moving like the roof-mounted solar panel.
How To Maintain Your Caravan Solar Panels
Even though solar panels require little maintenance, you still need to take care of them to ensure you get the best out of them.
Here are some tips on how to maintain your caravan solar panel:
Effectively Use Your Regulator
Using your regulator, you can monitor how your battery discharges. Doing so lets you recognize the electric devices that consume the most power and switch them off whenever you’re not using them or their battery drops to zero.
Lastly, ensure your regulator is working correctly. Otherwise, it won’t read your electricity consumption accurately and will cause serious problems later.
Keep the Panels Clean
When solar panels absorb dirt, their capacity to convert electricity drops significantly. This is because the dirt gets in the way of sunlight, blocking the latter from getting into the silicon crystals. Since caravan solar panels are on the go, they’re more prone to the accumulation of debris.
If you’re cleaning your solar panels, make sure you avoid abrasive cleaners. Instead, use warm water, a soft cloth, and gentle soap.
Alternatively, if your solar panel has already been installed, you can use one Happybuy Water Fed Pole Kit (available on Amazon.com). Because the brush is 30 feet (9 m) long, you don’t have to go up to your caravan’s roof to clean the panels. The brush and squeegee are designed not to scratch the delicate material of your panels.
However, the above kit doesn’t have a gentle cleaner, so you’ll have to pair it with something like the Bare Ground Winter Bare Ground Solutions One Shot 1S-SPCHEC Solar Panel Cleaner (available on Amazon.com). The name is a mouthful, to be sure, but the fact that it’s free from harsh chemicals that can damage your panels makes it worth the investment.
Use Efficient Appliances
Since efficient appliances use less electricity, they’re less likely to strain your solar panels. For instance, you can use LED light bulbs instead of halogen bulbs. LED light bulbs also have other benefits, such as the ability to operate under cold weather conditions, reduced heat emitted, etc.
You can also ensure that your appliances are in good working condition so they won’t use up more electricity than necessary.
Inspect the Panels Regularly for Signs of Wear and Tear
Even the most well-crafted solar panels will wear down over time. Since caravan solar panels see more action than those installed on houses, they’re also more exposed to the elements and more vulnerable to damage.
First, you’ll want to check whether the panels are cracked. This can occur because of things falling on them, like branches and leaves.
You’ll also want to monitor the amount of electricity your solar panels use. If there’s no change in how you use your appliances but notice your electricity consumption skyrocketing, the panels are likely no longer as efficient as they used to be.
Of course, it’s also likely that the problem lies with one or more of your electrical appliances, so you’ll want to have those checked out too.
Whether it’s worth fitting a solar panel into a caravan depends on your needs. If you’re traveling to a place with little to no sunlight, a solar panel may not be a viable energy source. On the other hand, if you care about the environment, solar panels are an excellent investment.
If you choose to use solar panels, make sure you use energy-efficient ones relative to the appliances you use. You must also maintain them so they’ll serve you for as long as possible.
- Skip & Jump: The Must Know Guide to Electric Hook up – EHU
- Solar Reviews: Are 500-watt Solar Panels the Best Option in 2022?
- Azo Materials: What Materials are Used to Make Solar Panels?
- Caravan Guard: Gear Guide: Caravan and Motorhome Solar Panels
- U.S. Energy Information Administration: How Much Electricity Does An American Home Use?
- Forbes: Everything You Need To Know About Solar Batteries
Share this Post