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Portable solar panels are everywhere these days, and proponents swear by them. But can you really use these with your favorite gadgets and essential appliances? Just what can these solar panels do and what can you expect from their performance? Generally, the higher the wattage (and with the optimum conditions), the more powerful a portable solar panel system can be.
Portable solar panels can charge electronic devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets, and with sufficient power can also run kitchen appliances, heat water and charge RV batteries.. The clearer the sky, the greater the solar panel capacity.
What are Portable Solar Panels?
Most portable solar panels are in the 50-100 watt range like the HQST 12V Solar Panel, but a growing number can be expanded so the system generates power up to 400 watts or more. You can connect several panels to set up a solar array.
Before you buy a portable solar power panel, use this guide to find out how much power you’ll need. For RVs and high usage appliances, it’ s best to get the most powerful system you can afford. If you don’t need a lot of power. For instance, a 50 watt solar panel can power quite a number of devices.
A 50 watt solar panel is ideal for camping and backpacking. 50 watt panels are great for charging batteries, and if they’re stored properly you can save a lot of power for use on larger appliances and devices. 50 watt solar panels can charge trolling motors, camp showers and mobile phones. It is also ideal for 12v batteries and a host of other applications.
50 watts does not sound like a lot, but you can charge a small car or solar battery, mobile device and a few light bulbs. The performance will depend on prevailing conditions, but assuming it is optimal, you can get it to run longer especially if the energy is kept in a battery.
What Will a 100W Solar Panel Power?
Before moving on, bear in mind that the performance of a 100W solar panel -indeed any solar panel- depends on a variety of factors, including temperature, how much light makes contact with the panel, the light’s angle and the sun’s intensity. If you want to give it a try, we recommend the Newpowa 100W monocrystalline Solar Panel as it is suitable for camping, RVs and even boats.
A 100 watt solar panel lets you run the following:
- Charge mobile phones (5W)
- Wi-Fi router (6W)
- Laptops (60W)
- LED lights (10W)
- Fans (35W)
- CFL and other lamps (14W)
The figures above are just meant to give you an idea of the possibilities. The power requirements for each device will vary so you need to check their specs to be sure. Regardless, you can change things up depending on how many of these you need to run at the same time.
You cannot power microwaves, heaters and other large appliances with just 100 watts. So if you need more power, it’s time to expand that 100 watt solar station kit.
How Much Power Can a 100W 12V Solar Panel Produce?
We need to do some math here. In the following example we will use a 12V solar panel rated 100W, which charges at 18V and produces 5.5A. A 100W solar panel can produce 600 watts with six hours of sunlight.
The amount of power a solar panel generates depends on how much sun it receives. The sun is out 6 to 10 hours a day, but the intensity differs. The sun is most intense at noon and less so in the morning, so the computation isn’t as simple as 100 watts x 8 hours. Click here to find out how much sunlight is currently available in your state.
Season is another factor to consider as the amount of sunlight you get in the winter differs from summer. Simply put, you’re going to get more mileage during the summer months than any other.
Assume it’s winter in the US, so you may get up to 3.2 hours of sunlight. There will be some losses during the energy conversion so your 100 watt system will give you about 225 watts. Once that power is stored in a battery we can figure out what you can do with 225 watts of solar power.
With 225 watts you can use a 45 watt laptop for five hours. Or you can light up 3 LED bulbs (10W) for 7 hours. Or you can run your laptop for 2 hours while a 10W bulb runs for 3 hours at the same time. You can of course mix and match appliances and devices to suit your needs.
Basically you just include all the features we mentioned for a 50 watt solar panel and double it. And with options for expansions, it is easy to see why 100 watts is the most common range for portable solar stations.
What Can a 300 Watt Solar Panel Run?
it is difficult to find a portable solar panel that provides 300 watts, at least not a lot. But there are kits available that can expand a 100 watt system into 400W or more by combining them into an array.
You can get 300 watts two ways: buy a 300 watt system or link three 100 watt panels together. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just three as you can join 4, 5 or more panels for more power. The only limit is the roof space available on your RV.
Fully charged 300W panels can handle up to three 10 kwh LED light bulbs, 2 80 kwh ceiling fans and a laptop. On a clear day, a 300W solar panel can generate up to 300 watts that you can use to power various devices.
Portable Solar Panels Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run a Refrigerator?
You need about 3-4 solar panels that produce at least 265 watts to run a refrigerator and the freezer. A refrigerator requires nonstop power to ensure food is kept fresh. Besides the solar panels you’ll need:
Batteries for power storage. When it’s nighttime, it’s cloudy and there is no light, your fridge will use this power. The amount of power your battery stores is the key. Obviously the more power it can store the more you’ll be able to maximize the solar panels.
A charge controller is needed to ensure that power smoothly runs into the refrigerator from your solar power. This device prevents power fluctuations from damaging the fridge and ensures correct voltage and current. More information about refrigerator battery requirements is available here.
An inverter turns the battery’s DC power into AC so it can be used by your refrigerator. You’ll need the right inverter size for a fridge.
Check how much power the refrigerator requires. It should be in the manual or inside on the nameplate. Multiply the amps and volt and you get the power requirement. So if it’s 4.5 and 115 volts: 4.5 x 115 = 517.5 watts.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run a TV?
You need at least a 150 watt solar panel, most likely in the 300 to 400 range for big TVs. It comes down to how much power the TV consumes and how long you’ll be using it. 40 inch LED/LCD TVs use around 150 watts, while large 60 inch TVs need around 300 watts or more. You’ll also see some energy efficient 80 watt TVs, while 75 inch sets are at the opposite end.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run a Dryer and Washer?
A typical drier needs 57 kwh while a washing machine needs 6 kwh, so that is about 3 solar panels. Just like with a refrigerator and other appliances, you should check the appliance’s power requirements first. This will give you an idea of how much power your solar panels need to produce.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run an Air Conditioner?
A standard AC system requires 3.5 kwh or 3,500 watts per hour. So even if you’ve got the optimum conditions and a powerful solar panel, you can run an AC for 8.5 hours max a day. If you use the AC for 4 hours daily, 15 solar panels is needed. More details about running an air conditioner on solar power is here.
If you have a smaller or more energy efficient AC, expect around 1500 watts. A basic portable solar panel won’t be sufficient here. You need half a dozen with a 250 watt capacity for decent performance. If you’re in an RV you may not need this type of AC but if you do, solar powered AC systems may be worth looking into.
Portable solar panels are becoming more and more powerful. A 100 watt solar system provides plenty of juice, and you can expand that power up to several hundred watts. The key with portable solar power stations is planning ahead: know what devices you’re going to use, and you’ll find out what specs are needed.