Solar Panels for Campervans
Solar panels are a great way to power your camper van and allow you to get off the grid. These panels use the energy from the sun to generate electricity, which can be used to power your appliances and electronics. With a solar panel system, you can enjoy all the comforts of home while on the road, without relying on hookups or generators.
What Solar Panel Should You Choose?
There are a few things to consider when choosing solar panels for your camper van:
- The first is the size of the panel. The size you need will depend on the amount of power you need to generate and how much space you have available on your van. A larger panel will be able to generate more power, but it will also take up more space.
- The efficiency of the panel is also an important factor to consider. A more efficient panel will be able to generate more power per square foot, which means you’ll need fewer panels to generate the same amount of power. This can be especially important if you have limited space on your van.
- Another thing to consider is the type of panel you choose. There are two main types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal of silicon and are typically more efficient than polycrystalline panels. However, they are also more expensive. Polycrystalline panels are made from multiple crystals of silicon and are less efficient but also less expensive.
What Other Electrical Equipment Will You Need?
Solar Charge Controller: In addition to the panels themselves, you’ll also need a solar charge controller to regulate the flow of electricity from the panels to your battery. The charge controller ensures that your battery is not overcharged, which can damage it.
Batteries: You’ll also need a battery to store the power generated by your panels. There are several types of batteries to choose from, including lead-acid, lithium-ion, and nickel-metal hydride. Historically, Lead-acid batteries are the most common and are relatively inexpensive, but they are also heavy and have a shorter lifespan than other types of batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and have a longer lifespan, but they are also more expensive. Nickel-metal hydride batteries are a good middle ground, offering a longer lifespan and lower weight than lead-acid batteries but at a lower cost than lithium-ion batteries.
Mounting Solar Panels to a Camper Van
Once you have your panels, charge controller, and battery, you’ll need to mount them on your van. There are a few different options for mounting the panels. You can either mount them on the roof of your van or on a rack on the side. Roof-mounted panels are typically more efficient, and are less likely to be shaded. However, they can be more difficult to install and may require special brackets to hold them in place. Side-mounted panels are easier to install, but will never be as efficient as roof-mounted panels.
Once your solar panel system is installed, you’ll need to keep an eye on your battery levels to ensure that you have enough power. You can do this using a battery monitor, which will show you the current state of charge of your battery and how much stored power it has left. You can also use an inverter to convert the DC power generated by your panels into AC power, which can be used to power your appliances and electronics.
One of the major advantages of using solar panels to power your camper van is the ability to get off-grid. With a solar array in your system, you don’t have to soly rely on hookups or generators, which can be expensive and inconvenient. You can simply park your van in a sunny spot and let your panels do the work. This can be especially useful if you plan on spending extended periods of time in remote locations where hookups may not be available.
Another advantage of solar panels is the environmental benefits. Solar energy is a clean and renewable resource, which means it won’t contribute to greenhouse gas emissions or pollution. By using solar panels, you can reduce your carbon footprint and do your part to protect the environment.
Solar panels are also relatively low maintenance. Once you have your system installed, you’ll only need to clean the panels occasionally to ensure that they are functioning at their best. You’ll also need to check your battery levels regularly and top them up as needed. Other than that, there isn’t much else you need to do to keep your system running smoothly.
One potential downside of solar panels is the initial cost. While the cost of solar panels has come down in recent years, they can still be expensive to purchase and install. However, the long-term benefits may outweigh the initial cost. By using solar panels, you can save money on fuel and electric hookups, which can add up over time. You may also be able to take advantage of government incentives or rebates, which can help offset the cost of your solar panel system.
Here are some pros and cons of using solar panels for vanlife:
- Solar panels are a clean and renewable energy source. They do not produce any greenhouse gases or pollutants, so they are a more environmentally friendly option than fossil fuels.
- Solar panels are relatively low maintenance. Once they are installed, they require very little attention, and you can expect them to last for many years.
- Solar panels can be used to power all kinds of devices and appliances, including lights, laptops, and refrigerators. This can be very convenient if you are living in a van and want to be able to use electricity while on the go.
- Solar panels can be very cost effective over the long term. While the initial investment may be higher than other options, the energy produced by solar panels is free, so you can save money on your energy bills over time.
- Solar panels can be initially expensive to install, especially if you are hiring a professional to do the work.
- Solar panels require sunlight to function properly, so they may not be as effective in cloudy or rainy conditions.
- Solar panels can be heavy and may take up a significant amount of space on your van. This could be an issue if you are trying to maximise the available storage in your vehicle.
- Solar panels may not be able to produce enough electricity to power all of your needs, especially if you are using a lot of energy-intensive appliances. In this case, you may need to supplement your solar panel system with another energy source, such as a generator.
In conclusion, solar panels are a great way to power your camper van and get off-grid. They are relatively easy to install and maintain, and they offer a number of benefits, including environmental benefits and low maintenance. While the initial cost may be higher, the long-term benefits in our opinion, always outweigh the initial investment.
Hey, I’m Tom – founder of Tiny Build Electrics
My mission is to help sustainable-minded folks develop their electrical knowledge, giving them the confidence to do their own tiny build electrics.Discover how we can help