Opting for solar energy to power your caravan is a wise choice indeed. In doing so, you’re not only choosing to be environment friendly, but also creating a self-reliant power setup for your caravan. Beyond their upfront setup costs, solar panels give you free energy all year round, thus reducing your dependence on powered caravan sites and keeping your operational costs at an all-time low. To make sure that you can reap maximum rewards from your decision, let’s look at some simple ways in which you can get the most out of your solar power.
1.Connect your solar panels in series.
Connecting your solar panels in series can increase their power output by up to 20%. To do this, you’ll need a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) regulator. Some high-end solar panels even have inbuilt MPPT, so read the fine print before making your purchase. Purchasing a dedicated MPPT regulator (15A rated) will only set you back by about $150. Because the new setup will have greater efficiency and lower power losses through cable joiners, you’ll be able to recover this cost in no time. Please note that only identical solar panels can be connected in series.
2.Get bigger batteries.
This is a simple and very effective way to get more out your caravan’s solar power. Smaller batteries will obviously discharge quickly, and frequent deep discharge doesn’t bode well for the health of any battery. If solar panels are your caravan’s primary source of power, invest in a bigger battery bank that doesn’t get discharged much even after a full day’s usage. A typical lead acid AGM battery will last you through about 500 charging cycles if it’s discharged by 50% every time, and through as many as 1200 cycles if it’s only discharged by 25%. As such, doubling the size of your battery can actually more than double its lifespan.
3.Avoid voltage drops as far as possible.
Resistance in wires can lead to voltage drops, which in turn can interfere with the communication between your battery and regulator, thus amounting to power losses. As such, it’s not a good idea to skimp on wires. Use good quality, heavy wires and minimize their length by placing the regulator as close to the battery as you possibly can.
4.Maintain squeaky clean solar panels.
Technicalities aside, the cleanliness of your caravan’s solar panels can majorly affect their efficiency. Regular cleaning of these panels makes sure that their solar cells aren’t missing out on solar radiation (or insolation). The amount of solar radiation received by the cells is very dependent on a clear unobstructed path for the sun’s rays, and impurities, dust, grime, etc., can block out more of the insolation than you might assume. Besides, solar panels are typically installed in the horizontal position on your caravan’s roof, which means that they are quite prone to dirt build-up. While cleaning the panels, use a soft cloth so avoid scratching their surfaces.
5.Use your solar power setup smartly.
Invest in a battery monitor to have an idea of how much current is making its way to and from your batteries, as well as their level of discharge. You will then be able to avoid overstraining your batteries, and know which of your appliances and gadgets consume maximum energy, so you can turn them off when you don’t need them.
Being smart and judicious about your caravan’s solar power will go a long way in maximizing the efficiency of your power setup. So make the most of this renewable energy source, and enjoy worry-free caravanning holidays on your own terms!
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.