Top 10 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Caravan Solar System
When going camping out in the bush or anywhere else in your caravan, you need to be prepared. Solar panels have made this a lot easier since you can now enjoy the outdoors without leaving all the comforts of home, such as electricity and refrigeration behind. It has also allowed us ways to get in contact with the outside world should anything serious come up. However, like any tool you bring to the bush, you need to know how to use it properly so you can get the most out of it.
1. Before You Buy
For starters, you need to know how much power you plan on using before buying your system. This means taking into account the appliances you will be bringing such as refrigerators, light bulbs, and any communications devices (and chargers that go with them). You should also take into account how long you intend to be out in the wilderness. A person who goes camping for a weekend every once in awhile will not need as powerful of a system as someone who goes out in the bush for weeks or months at a time. By knowing what you will need, you can get the right system that will not be overextended by your appliances.
2. Proper Installation
Next, you need to make sure they are properly installed. While you can set up some systems by yourself, things like rooftop solar systems may require a professional installer as the panels there have to contend with both the elements and the hazards of driving. Either way, properly setting up your system will ensure it works.
3. Use A Solar Regulator
Your system should also include a solar regulator to take care of your battery. If your system constantly spikes in power, it could become a problem. Your battery will most likely short circuit, which would be a big problem if you are away from the grid. Furthermore, an overcharged battery can leak acid or explode. Plus, the battery can be expensive to replace. So it is best to maintain your battery by getting a regulator.
4. Keep Them Clean
You should also take care of your solar panels. If a solar panel gets dirty, it will generate less power as sunlight won't get through it very easily. Leaves and other debris also block sunlight. You should make sure that cleaning the panels is a regular part of your routine. Depending on where you are, it might get dirtier so you will need to keep a close eye on your panels. Keeping your panels clean will ensure they produce maximum energy. If you clean your panels regularly, it will not take much work. You will only need some soap and water. The panels can get very hot during the day so it is best to clean panels in the evening. It is worth noting that a panel system that is tilted will get some benefit from rainfall. A flat system mounted on your caravan's roof will need to be cleaned more frequently.
5. Your Batteries
Cleaning your batteries is important not only to prolong battery life but also and make sure your system runs at optimum efficiency. You should be checking your batteries for signs of corrosion. If you do happen to find signs of corrosion then it's time to grab some cleaning supplies. You will need gloves, 1 cup of baking soda & 1 tablespoon distilled water mixed, an old toothbrush and a cloth. Make sure your batteries are always properly discharged from the electrical connection before beginning. You can then start using your baking soda and distilled water with your toothbrush to remove the corrosion. Once you are finished, you can rinse the terminals with the distilled water and dry off the areas with a cloth making sure the battery is completely dry.
You will also need to watch out for sulfation if you are using lead batteries. Sulfur crystals can form and cause issues with the connection to your regulator. The only verified way to prevent this is to charge the battery often. You should also make sure never to mix new and old batteries. This will end up destroying the new battery.
6. Positioning Your Caravan
In order to get the most out of your solar panels, you should make sure they are in a place with optimum sunlight. You should also position them in a place that gets the most sunlight during the afternoon. In the summer, they should be placed directly overhead. Lower them toward the southern part of the sky during the rest of the year. You should tilt the panels at a 45 degree angle for best results. If one panel is in the shade or otherwise covered up, the electrical output of all the other panels is diminished. If the weather is stormy or there's a dust storm and you have portable panels, you should bring them inside. There is no point to having them out there since they cannot generate electricity. Plus, in some conditions, the weather can damage your portable panels.
You should also make sure to be as efficient as possible. This means not having lights or other appliances on when you are not using them. You should also use LED bulbs instead of old fashioned halogen ones. The halogen bulbs use more power than their LED counterparts.
8. Avoid Shaded Areas
Remember that solar panels are designed to function under direct sunlight. Even small shadows can decrease the amount of power your panels produce. This means you should avoid setting them up in places with lots of trees or places where other things cast shadows.
9. Allow Airflow
If possible, you should try to make sure there are gaps between each solar panel. The panels can get hot and if they get too hot, the amount of energy they produce decreases and wear and tear increases. Spacing them out increases airflow, meaning that your system will generate maximum energy.
10. Parts Maintenance
The final tip is to replace parts of your system as often as necessary or when the owner's manual dictates. Running a damaged system will decrease its efficiency, if it works at all.
By using these tips, you will be sure that you will have a well maintained and efficient solar power system that lasts longer.
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.