Looking to get away from it all and spend some quality time in nature? If so, the great outdoors is the perfect escape. However, with the increased reliance on technology, it's become more difficult to disconnect from the grid and truly immerse oneself in the great outdoors. Fortunately, there's a solution--solar panel. To help you get started, Vicoffroad has put together this comprehensive guide on comparing different solar panels. Whether you're a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a newbie camper, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know to enjoy the ultimate off-grid experience.
Solar panels come in a variety of types to suit different applications. The most common type is the fixed solar panel, which is permanently mounted onto surfaces such as roofs, canopies, or caravans. They are rigid in structure and provide a reliable source of power.
Flexible solar panels, on the other hand, are designed to be lightweight and can be bent to fit different shapes, making them ideal for mobile applications such as boats, RVs, and other curved surfaces.
Foldable solar panels are designed to fold into a compact size for easy transportation and storage. Solar blankets are a type of foldable solar panel that can be folded into a form like small blankets, making them perfect for camping, hiking, and boating.
Finally, shingled solar panels are a newer type of solar panel that use overlapping solar cells to increase efficiency and reduce costs. They have a higher power output and are more durable than traditional solar panels, making them an attractive option. With such a wide range of solar panel options available, it's important to consider your specific needs and applications to choose the right type for you.
How to Calculate Your Power Needs
Please take note that the solar panels are designed to charge batteries, not devices, directly. Battery capacity is measured in Amp Hours (Ah), usually found in deep cycle batteries. For instance, if a battery is rated at 100Ah, it can deliver 5 amps of power for 20 hours or 20 amps of power for 5 hours.
When determining the appropriate solar panel size for your 100Ah lithium battery, it's important to consider the efficiency of the solar panels. You can't simply calculate the required size based on the battery's capacity alone. For instance, a 300W solar panel means its theoretical output is 300W. However, in reality, the actual output may be lower depending on factors such as sunlight conditions. If the sunlight conditions are average (with 70% efficiency) or poor (30%-50% efficiency), you will need more solar panels accordingly.
To accurately calculate the optimal solar panel size for a 100Ah lithium battery, a formula can be employed: 100Ah x 12V = 1200 Watt-hours (Wh). To ensure charging of the battery within 8 hours, while also accounting for the sunlight conditions, a 200W solar panel is recommended
Types of Solar Panel
Solar blankets are a type of solar panel that resemble a blanket, hence the name. They are ideal for people who have limited space. These blankets are easy to use and can be placed anywhere. Unfolding them requires no special skills. When it is time to leave, folding and storing them is quick and easy. Solar blankets are characterized by their space efficiency, low weight and practicality.
Solar blankets are commonly used by outdoor enthusiasts such as campers, hikers, and others who require a portable power source for charging electronic devices or powering camping equipment.
Foldable Solar Panels
As their name suggests, the foldable solar panels are designed to fold up easily for effortless transport, making them an ideal choice for activities such as camping and beach trips.
While foldable solar panels are lightweight and compact, it's important to note that their size and weight can be a drawback when compared to solar blankets. This is due to their structure, which limits them to being folded only once.
However, one advantage of foldable solar panels is that they come with support legs for easy setup and use, which is something that solar blankets lack. So, if you're looking for a convenient power source for outdoor activities like camping or beach trips, foldable solar panels can be a great option .
Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible solar panels are exactly what they sound like - solar panels that are pliable. Thanks to their lightweight and flexible design, they can be used for a variety of applications, including on boats, recreational vehicles, and vehicle roofs where rigid solar panels are impractical. Because they can conform to irregular surfaces, they offer greater versatility in installation. These features make flexible solar panels an excellent choice for those seeking a versatile, and reliable source of solar energy.
Fixed Solar Panels
A fixed solar panel is a stationary solar panel that is typically mounted to a roof, both vehicle’s and house’s, canopy, or caravan. Unlike solar blankets and foldable solar panels, fixed solar panels are not designed to be packed away as they are bolted down. However, their stationary nature allows them to be securely anchored in place, ensuring maximum exposure to sunlight and consistent energy output. This makes fixed solar panels an excellent choice for those seeking reliable and sustainable sources of electricity.
Shingled Solar Panel
Shingled solar panels are a type of solar panel whose solar cells are cut into typically 5 or 6 strips. These strips can be overlaid, similar to shingles on a roof, to form electrical connections. The solar cells are joined using an electrically conductive adhesive (ECA), eliminating the need for busbars (ribbons) and resulting in no gaps between the solar cells. This design allows for enhanced energy harvest, less energy loss due to shading, low busbar failures, better mechanical performance and more attractive compared to conventional solar panels. Furthermore, shingled solar panels have the same applications as conventional solar panels, making them suitable for a wide range of uses in off-road scenarios.
While it's true that higher wattage solar panels can produce more electricity under similar conditions, it's important to note that larger output may not be necessary for everyone. Your specific needs and conditions will determine the optimal wattage for your purposes.
Choosing the right solar panel is all about finding the right size to suit your needs. If you require a 200w output but have limited space, you need a solution that's both portable and efficient. The ATEM POWER solar blanket is highly portable and space saving, which is the perfect choice for those who demand reliable power on the go.
When you're exploring off-road, the efficiency of solar panels cannot be overstated. The efficiency of a solar panel determines how much energy it can generate from the sunlight it receives. This is particularly crucial in off-road adventures, where access to power sources may be limited. With a remarkable 23.5% conversion efficiency, the ATEM POWER Monocrystalline solar panels generate more power from sunlight than most models on the market, including Renogy's 22% efficiency panels. So you can be more confident in generating more and reliable power for all your off-road needs.
When it comes to solar panels, durability is of utmost importance, especially in the harsh conditions of the Australian outback where heavy rains are common. ATEM POWER flexible and fixed shingled solar panels are designed with an IP-68 waterproof rating, ensuring reliable power supply in harsh weather conditions. Additionally, the ATEM POWER Monocrystalline fixed solar panels come with an anodized aluminum alloy frame and tempered glass, making them rugged and able to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Whether you're a passionate camper or a dedicated off-road enthusiasts, gaining knowledge about the application scenarios of different solar panels will empower you to make a wise and informed decision that best meets your needs.
Please refer to the chart below:
|Application||Fixed solar panel||Flexible solar panels||Solar blanket||Foldable solar panels|
|Camping/hiking||Not practical||Practical, but limited output||Highly practical, versatile, and portable||Highly practical, versatile, and portable|
|RV/van living||Highly practical and efficient||Practical, but limited output||Practical, versatile, and portable||Highly practical, versatile, and portable|
|Boating/marine||Highly practical and efficient||Practical, but limited output||Practical, versatile, and portable||Highly practical, versatile, and portable|
Choosing the right type of connection is crucial for maximizing the power output of solar panels. In light of this, Vicoffroad has complied a comparison chart of the series, parallel, and series-parallel connections.
This chart will help you make an informed decision when designing your solar panel system, ensuring that you can enjoy reliable and efficient power on all your off-road adventures.
In a series connection, the solar panels are wired positive to negative, resulting in an increase in voltage and no change in current. This type of connection is ideal for systems that require a high voltage output, such as grid-tied systems.
In a parallel connection, the solar panels are wired positive to positive and negative to negative, resulting in an increase in current and no change in voltage. This type of connection is ideal for systems that require a high current output, such as off-grid systems.
In a series-parallel connection, multiple strings of solar panels are connected in both series and parallel configurations. This type of connection results in an increase in both voltage and current, making it ideal for larger systems that require high power output.
It is important to note that when connecting solar panels in series or series-parallel configurations, matching the panel voltages and currents is critical to ensure optimal performance and prevent damage to the panels.
Cost per watt ($/W) is a key metric in the solar energy industry used to assess the cost-effectiveness of a solar panel system. It represents the cost of installing a solar panel system per watt of power produced.
For instance, a 1-kilowatt (kW) solar panel system would require five 200W ATEM POWER shingled solar panels priced at $1,299.5 ($259.99*5). To determine the cost per watt, the total cost is divided by the system's power output, which is 1,000 watts. In this case, the cost per watt would be $1.20 ($1,299.5 ÷ 1,000 = $1.29/W). This metric is a critical factor in determining the return on investment (ROI) of a solar panel system."
AGM batteries are a popular choice for many applications due to their durability and maintenance-free operation. However, like any battery, they can experience issues such as sulfation, memory, and bulging. By following proper maintenance and troubleshooting procedures, you can ensure that your AGM battery performs reliably and lasts as long as possible.-->