How Many Solar Panels For a TV and Fridge?

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There is nothing quite like watching TV with a cold drink from the fridge in hand, and with solar power you can do that. But how many solar panels does it take to run a TV and a fridge at the same time? There is no question it is possible, but how many panels do you need? And are batteries required?

A 110V refrigerator and TV will require at least a 500 watt solar panel and 200ah battery. But one 300 watt solar panel can run a 12V fridge and a 50 inch LED TV for 5 to 6 hours.

How to Calculate TV and Fridge Solar Panel Needs

TVs are no problems for solar panels to run. Even a 50 inch TV is about 100 watts only, and most RV TVs are smaller than that. The bigger power draw here is the refrigerator, but you have options. It is the refrigerator that will use a lot of the solar power.

A standard 17 cu. ft. refrigerator uses 150 to 200 watts, but it needs 1000 to 1500 watts to start up. An energy efficient model might need 1200 watts or less during its peak surge.

It is not practical to run a 110V fridge on solar panels alone, uses too much power. A 12V fridge is more ideal.

To find out how many solar panels you need, add the total watts of the TV and the fridge. If your TV is 80 watts and the 12V fridge is 20 watts:

80 = 20 = 100 watts

You need a 120 watt solar panel to run these two appliances. You can use the fridge and TV for about 5 hours depending on sunlight availability in your area.

In theory you can use a 100W PV module, but solar panel ratings are based on peak output, and the system will not generate 100 watts all the time.

A 100 watt solar panel will produce around 80 to 90 watts an hour, which is not enough. A 120 watt module can give you 100 watts, which is exactly what you need. The bigger the solar panel, the longer you can run the appliances.

To run the TV and fridge for 5 hours we recommend a 300 watt solar panel. We prefer the Renogy 300W Solar Panel Kit because it comes with all the parts needed to set the system.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For a TV?

TVs come in all shapes and sizes, but the power consumption is generally standardized. The following is a general guideline, though you should check the specs on your TV.

Note that the power consumption of these TVs will go up if you add peripherals. A Blu-Ray player uses 30W to 60W, a gaming console 120W to 200W and a cable box around 35W.

With the chart above you can get an idea of how many solar panels to use. If you just want to watch TV, the calculations are simple. For an 80W TV, use a 100W solar panel, for a 100W TV, buy a 120W panel and so on. We have more information about running TVs on solar power if you are interested.

However we need to do more figuring to run it with a refrigerator. because that is one of the biggest energy consumers among appliances.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For a Fridge?

There are many types of refrigerators, but to keep things simple, we classify them into two categories: the regular kitchen fridge and the portable ones. Camping fridge, portable fridge and portable freezer are all the second category.

An average 120V kitchen refrigerator consumes 100 to 300 watts an hour or 1 to 2 kilowatts a day. This is apart from the surge watts the fridge requires to start up. The surge only takes a second but it is 2 to 3 times the running watts.

A portable fridge uses 12W to 20W depending on its capacity. These are usually 12V and can run directly from a solar panel or through a battery.

Kitchen Refrigerators

A fridge with 300 running watts likely has 900 surge watts, so a solar panel must provide at least 900 watts of power. For the rest of the day the fridge will only use the running watts.

There are other things to keep in mind:

• A fridge does not run 24 hours a day. It goes into on/off cycles, so usually a refrigerator is on for 8 hours.
• An energy efficient refrigerator uses less power than older models. In some cases older units consume twice as many watts.
• Side by side refrigerators use more power. The larger the fridge, the more solar panels required.
• A refrigerator needs to be in a well ventilated location. A clogged, warm location forces it to use more electricity.
• Refrigerators use more power during summer. Fortunately, that is when solar power production is at its peak. If you want to run a fridge during the winter and worried about your solar panel, connect a battery to your system and run the fridge from there.
• The more frequently the fridge door is opened, the more watts the system needs to maintain the cool temperature inside.

Camping Fridge / Portable Freezer

A camping fridge, portable fridge or freezer requires much less solar power. Since these are mostly used for camping or in RVs, they are smaller and designed to hold mostly drinks and chill some food.

Portable refrigerator power consumption is often measured in amps drawn per hour. There are a lot of solar powered freezers but typically a camping fridge draws 1 amp per hour.

If your area gets five hours of sunlight, you can run the fridge for 5 hours and it will draw 5 amps.

5 amps x 12 volts = 60 watts

A 12V fridge that draws 1 amp an hour consumes 60 watts in five hours. You can use an 80W or 100W solar panel.

There are larger freezers and camping fridges available, but you use the same formula given here. The difference is the bigger fridge draws more amps and watts, needing more solar power.

How Many Batteries Do I Need For a TV and a Fridge?

Okay so now we know how many solar panels a refrigerator and TV require. By combining the total wattage and adding 10% to 20%, you have your solar panel. But what about the battery? How many will you need?

A 100ah lead acid battery can power a 42 inch TV and a 12V fridge for 25 hours, provided each one draws 1 amp per hour. To run a regular 120V kitchen refrigerator alongside a TV, a minimum 300ah lead acid battery is required.

Lead acid batteries have 50% usable capacity at any one time. Meaning you can only use 50ah. In our example the fridge and TV combined draw 2 amps per hour so the battery will last 25 hours more or less.

A kitchen refrigerator uses 100W to 300W an hour plus it needs 1800W to 2000W surge watts. 18000 watts is equal to 150ah. But since only 50% is usable, you need a 300ah battery to supply the surge wattage.

With 300ah you get to use 150ah, which is enough for a fridge with a 1800 watt surge. If it is 2000 watts or higher, a larger battery is required. Our choice is the Enduro Power LiFePO4 battery because it provides a lot of power and lasts a long time.

If you want 100ah usable capacity, you need a 200ah lead acid battery or a 120 to 150ah lithium battery. Lithium batteries have a 75% or higher discharge rate so you can draw more amps before recharging. if you have to power a shed for instance, lithium batteries are recommended.

Why You Need Solar Batteries

You can use solar panels for these two appliances, but only for as long as there is sunlight. Once the sun goes down the panel stops producing power. And if it rains during the day, the output will stop too.

With a battery bank, the solar panel can store the energy so you can tap into it later. Want to watch TV at night? Just let the panel charge the battery and run the TV and fridge from it. The battery provides a consistent source of power, day and night.

As long as the solar panel keeps charging the battery, you will have enough power for these appliances. Most batteries can also be charged via AC power so that’s another option. You can also connect solar panels to solar generators and use them as a power source.

Other Stuff You Need to Run a TV and Fridge on Solar Power

Aside from the solar panel and battery, you also need a charge controller, cable wires and depending on the appliances, an inverter.

Wires and cables are self explanatory. You have to connect the battery bank, charge controller, solar panels and appliances together. Your solar panel kit comes with all the required cables and instructions on how to connect them.

There are inverters for 100W solar panels and even larger ones available. If the TV and fridge both run on DC power, you don’t need the inverter. But if they require AC, you have to connect an inverter to your solar power system.

Conclusion

No surprise, there is no single answer to the question of how many solar panels you will need. TVs and refrigerators come in all sizes so the power requirements naturally differ. Pairing a small TV and fridge consumes less solar power, but even a large TV set and kitchen fridge can run together with the right setup.