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A 500 watt solar system provides plenty of power for any RV or off grid camp setup. But figuring out specifically what it can run is another matter. The answer will depend on how much power the panels can generate and use.
A 500 watt solar array can run a laptop, TV, phone chargers, fans, and any appliance or device under 500 watts. In ideal weather the solar panels will produce 3000 watts a day.
How Much Power Will a 500 Watt Solar Panel Produce?
Ideally a 500 watt solar array – single 500 watt solar panels are not yet widely available – will produce 500 watts an hour. But in reality the average output is probably going to be lower.
The key to getting maximum power is buying a quality solar array. The ACOPOWER 500 Watt Solar Panel Kit comes with 500 watts solar power and a 40A MPPT charge controller, making a good choice for these installations.
Assume there are six sun hours. At noon, solar production will be at its highest and could reach 500 watts. But this will drop during the afternoon as the sun intensity wanes.
So while it is possible to get 500 watts an hour, it will not be for the entire day. During the morning the output could be 450 watts, then 500 watts at noon and drop 450 again and keep dropping until sunset.
In theory, a 500 watt solar panel can produce 2500 watts with 5 sun hours, but it will probably be 2000 watts. If the weather is perfect you might get something close to 2.5kw, but that is rare.
So while it is possible for this solar array to produce 4kw a day, conditions have to be perfect. There must be 8 hours of sunlight and the panels must be oriented perfectly to catch sunlight. There must be no cloud covers either.
On certain summer days you might get these conditions. But it isn’t a good idea to depend on these conditions to supply the power needed. It is better to assume conditions will not be perfect so you don’t underestimate your power requirements.
How to Increase 500 Watt Solar Panel Power Output
Aside from choosing the best location for solar panels, you can connect two or more 500W solar panels in a series or parallel to increase output.
Connecting solar panels in a series adds up their voltage. If you have two 12V solar panels and connect them in a series, the voltage increases to 24V. You can even boost this to 36V or 48V depending on your needs.
Note: if you are going to connect several solar panels, make sure they are grounded and you are using the right wire sizes.
Even so, the system will not be able to produce peak power the entire day. You might get 5 to 6 hours of sun but the output will not always be 500 watts an hour.
Another way to boost power is to get a portable solar power station. These will complement your solar panels and provide extra capacity to run your devices. You can even charge these solar generators with solar panels, great for outdoor use. The Jackery Explorer 500 power station for instance, will work nicely with these solar panels.
What Can a 500 Watt Solar Panel Run?
A 500 watt solar system can run any load that is under 500 watts or whatever its output is. As pointed out earlier the output can vary, but for the sake of discussion we will use 500 watts.
A 500 watt solar panel that produces 3 to 4kw a day can run a lot of appliances including:
- Desktop computer
- Blu-ray player
- Several light bulbs
- Phone chargers
Many appliances run for just a few minutes a day. A 1500W toaster will only consume a few kilowatts if used for just a couple minutes a day. The same applies to microwaves and other appliances.
A 12V mini fridge uses 35 to 60 watts an hour, so it is no problem to run it on this solar panel. Ceiling fans, printers, modems etc. will work fine too.
The solar panel can only run these appliances when there is sunlight. You still need a battery to store the energy. If you want to power all those appliances for 24 hours, you should get a large solar array and battery bank.
How big of a battery bank? It depends on how much power you consume. If your 500W PV array produces 3kw running for 6 hours, calculate how much power you will need for the rest of the day.
If you use the solar panel from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM (six hours) and consume 3kw, calculate how much power you use for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
It probably won’t be anywhere near 3kw since you’ll be sleeping for several hours. But it is best to overestimate in case of rain or cloudy skies.
Where to Buy 500 Watt Solar Panels?
Trina Solar and Risen Energy have developed 500 watt solar panels, and many believe these will replace 300 watts as the new standard.
However this is probably going to take some time as other manufacturers are still developing their own PV modules. In the meantime, you can attain 500 watts by combining 5 x 100W or 2 x 250W PV modules.
You don’t have to limit yourself to 500 watts of course. 3 x 200W, 6 x 100W, 2 x 300W or 350 watt solar arrays etc. are available. Because solar panels usually don’t reach their stated peak output, many recommend a larger system to reach 500 watts.
As pointed out earlier, a 500 watt solar system will probably generate 430 to 450 watts an hour on average. But if you get a 600 watt system (3 x 200W for instance), a 500 watt hourly output is more likely.
When single 500 watt solar panels become standard, cost will go down even more. Technological advancements will lead to greater solar panel efficiency too. In the meantime, you can combine smaller solar panels to generate 500 watts or more.
Do You Need an Inverter to Run a 500 Watt Solar Panel?
An inverter is only required if you run AC powered appliances on the solar system. You don’t need an inverter if everything you use is DC powered.
Most home appliances run on AC however, so you probably should get one. The inverter size has to be commensurate to the load. If you are running a 500 watt hourly load, the inverter must be at least 500 watts, preferably 600.
Inverter efficiency ranges from 85% to 95%. The higher the rating, the less power is wasted during DC to AC power conversion. Basically what this means is an inefficient inverter uses more watts than what the load requires, so a 500 watt load will consume more than that.
Inverters are either modified or pure sine wave. Pure sine wave are more expensive but more efficient. They are also built for appliances and devices with sensitive electronic components.
Tips For Using a 500 Watt Solar Panel
- Calculate how much power you need. If it is exactly 500 watts, get a 600 watt solar array or something larger. As explained above, solar panel production do not always reach their rated output.
- Determine how many sun hours are available. This can be as short as 4 hours or up to 10 hours. It depends on the season and location. You have to repeat these calculations as the seasons change.
- Decide if you need a battery. If you will only run loads during daylight, solar panels are enough. But if you want 24 hour solar power availability, get a battery bank.
- Inverter. If you plan to use any AC powered appliance, you must get an inverter.
- Solar panel efficiency. The efficiency indicates what percentage of sunlight that hits the PV gets converted into current. Look for a rating of 20% or higher.
- Warranty. Solar panels usually have very good warranties, but it never hurts to check first. Knowing the coverage is essential.
- Expansion capacity. Will you connect the solar panel to other PV modules? Do you plan to connect it in a series or parallel? Maybe use the module with a solar generator? Check its capacity and compatibility before you buy.
With the rapid development in solar technology, it won’t be long before we see single 500W solar panels become the standard. For now, you can mix different PV modules to get 500 watts and run your appliance using the power of the sun.