Portable solar panels are small panels that can be carried out easily from one place to another. Technological advancement and the awareness of renewable energy have enabled the invention of such panels. Solar panels have been around for a while now, and they are among the most used renewable energy resources.
Solar panels absorb light from the sun and convert it into electrical energy. Sunlight consists of photons, which are particles of energy that generate electricity when charged. The photovoltaic (PV) cells present in the solar panels convert the solar energy into electricity.
The PV cells are kept in a grid-like pattern on the surface of the panels, which are usually made of crystalline silicon cells. Solar panels are used in homes for various purposes like lighting, cooking, heating, and using other electrical appliances. Furthermore, solar hot water is a solar panel system explicitly used for heating water at homes.
Portable solar panel (Image source: Jackery)
Any solar panel system requires sunlight to operate efficiently. So, it performs best in areas where maximum sunlight is available. In general, solar panels are installed on the roof of a house or building. They are connected to a solar charge controller, which is further connected to a battery and inverter. The entire solar panel system generates electricity for the house or building.
Portable solar panels work similarly to conventional roof-mounted solar panels. So, they also convert the sunlight into usable electricity for various uses. With portable panels, you can generate power in the presence of the sun whenever you need it. This article will discuss the mobile solar panel system, its uses, advantages, disadvantages, and more.
What are Portable Solar Panel Systems?
Portable solar panel systems are small-sized solar panels that can be taken anywhere and used to generate electricity. They are easy to install and provide electrical energy, just like the conventional solar panel systems.
This system uses sunlight to produce electricity with the help of PV cells. The solar panels consist of silicon cells. They are available in different sizes. In addition, they can be easily carried to places and stored inside a car for transportation.
Portable solar panels can produce up to 320 W of power, depending on their size. In addition, the system includes other components like a solar charge controller, battery, inverter, storage case, and a stand. Among them, the must-have elements to operate the off-grid system are the solar panels, charge controller, battery, and inverter.
The system is mainly used for powering devices, lighting, and heating purposes. Solar panels are generally mounted on the roof of a house or a building. However, one can easily carry portable solar panels in recreational vehicles (RV) for camping and various outdoor needs.
We can find mobile solar panel systems in different forms, but they usually come as a folding suitcase panel kit. The system provides a power supply during camping and outdoor trips. It also serves as an alternative for a generator, which is usually loud and uncomfortable.
How Portable Solar Systems Work
The solar panels consist of solar cells, which are made of silicon. The panels contain positive and negative layers that create an electric field. When the sunlight hits the solar panels, it releases photons. And, as a result, it generates an electric field.
The metallic strips present in the panels send the electric field to the battery. Further, the charger controller controls how much current passes through the battery. Batteries store the energy and produce DC power. The inverter converts the DC power into AC power to operate your devices and appliances.
Are Portable Solar Panels worth it?
Solar is free and renewable. Unlike conventional fossil fuel energy, solar is good for the environment. The use of solar reduces carbon emissions. So, using any solar-based system is worth it if it can provide the same output as a fuel-based system.
Portable solar panels are energy-friendly alternatives to fuel-based generators. These panels are used to generate electricity with the sun's power and can be easily carried in a car or van. Portable solar panels can fulfil the essential human requirement, mainly for heating, lighting, cooking, and charging devices in the remote and desired areas.
Portable panels generate electricity (in the presence of sunlight) and store it in batteries for later use. It means that you will have power wherever you go. These will come in handy when travelling to places where you cannot find electricity very often.
So, this portable system provides off-grid electricity. It is a great, affordable invention for many people, especially those who are not ready or cannot afford a conventional roof-mounted solar panel system.
Even though they are not a replacement for rooftop panels, portable solar panels are worth it.
How can I use them?
The portable solar systems are most useful in areas where little power supply is needed. They cannot power up an entire house or building. For that, you will need a rooftop or ground-mounted solar energy system. So, portable panels are appropriate for little, on-the-go power. The best feature of the system is that it can be carried easily to different places. Normally, the components of portable solar power consist of Solar panel, Charge controller, Battery, Power Inverter, and Adapter Kit.
To use the portable solar system, first, you need to determine how much power you need. After that, you must connect the panels in series or parallel, according to the input current and voltage required for the charge controller. A series connection adds voltages, and a parallel connection adds current.
Further, connect the terminal outputs to the energy storage device. You must ensure that the output voltage of the controller matches the voltage of the battery packs. After the batter has been connected, connect the inverter to power up the devices.
Some flexible solar panels are easy to use. You just have to expose the solar panels to absorb the sunlight and connect your gadgets for direct charging. You can use the portable solar system for:
Camping and trips
This portable system is an excellent option for recreational vehicle (RV) owners. Further, these are also good for people who live (or travel) away from home and require off-grid power during camping or boondocking.
They can use the portable system to recharge a solar generator during the day when the sun is shining brightly. The saved energy can be used to power some appliances during outdoor trips. The system does not produce noise like other fuel-based generators. So, you can enjoy a quiet and peaceful time in nature during your travels.
You must ensure that you carry all the system's accessories like the battery, inverter, cables, mount, and controller. Further, you need to learn how to set up the system properly. You can also consult a professional solar technician if required.
Recharging solar phone chargers
Solar phone chargers are recharged by solar power. They are used to recharge small gadgets like phones, tablets, or laptops. You can also find all-in-one solar chargers where you do not need additional setup.
You can place the charger in the sun and use the power later by plugging the charger into your phone or laptop to recharge them. In addition, some chargers can also charge cameras, flashlights, portable speakers, etc.
How can I take care of my Solar Panels?
Solar panels require low maintenance. You do not need much care, whether a solar hot water collector or a conventional roof-mounted solar panel system. So, the maintenance cost is also low.
Portable solar panels also require low maintenance. They only need basic cleaning. You must ensure that the panels are not filled with dust and dirt. Otherwise, they will not operate effectively.
Since portable panels are small in size, they are easy to clean. The cleaning process is short and requires only a few minutes to complete. The idea is to remove any dust or dirt that is blocking the sunlight from hitting the panels.
You must ensure that each panel is thoroughly cleaned. Even if a single part of the panel is dirty, it may not work efficiently. You can use a soft sponge to clean the panels. Only using water will get the job done.
In addition, you can also use a soft brush to clean over the panels. However, you should not use water pressure for cleaning as it might damage the outer surface of the panels. Also, since it is portable, you must be extra careful when carrying it from place to place.
Also, while setting up the panels for charging, be careful while handling the panels and other accessories of the system. You must also prevent the panels from theft and damage during charging. So be extra cautious when you leave the panels by themselves for charging.
How long do Portable Solar Panels last?
When it comes to the durability of any product, it is directly related to its overall quality. Similarly, for portable solar panels, the better the quality, the longer it will last.
How to determine the quality of the solar panels?
- Energy Efficiency: The energy efficiency of the solar panels refers to the rate at which the solar energy is converted to DC. In terms of energy efficiency, solar panels that are small and weigh less operate better.
- Technology and materials: Solar panels can either be of monocrystalline or polycrystalline models. The monocrystalline ones are said to be more efficient and more appropriate in portable systems. On the other hand, thin-film panels have more mobility and maneuverability. However, they can be less efficient.
- Weight: Solar panels which are not heavy are appropriate because they are easier to carry. Further, they have a better advantage during camping and on the road.
- Easy to install: Installing the portable panels must not require special tools or skills. Unlike roof-mounted systems, mobile solar systems are not installed just a single time. But you have to install the portable system every time you need to. So, installation should be quick and save time.
The durability depends on usage and maintenance. A high-quality portable solar panel model lasts for 20-30 years. However, if the system is not maintained correctly, the durability will also decrease.
What can a Portable Solar Panel Power?
Portable solar panels are energy efficient and easy to use. You can use them to power up devices, charge gadgets, and operate various appliances. They are smaller in size and are easy to carry. Depending on the energy requirement, you can select the size and quality of the portable models.
Below are some types of equipment that the portable solar panel system can power.
1. Charging of devices:
a. Laptops: People carry laptops on trips for business, vacation, or friendly visits. They use laptops for work, communication, and entertainment purposes. The portable panel system can charge a laptop. But, before that, the energy storage device should be well-charged so that it can charge up the laptop.
b. Music player: People carry music players when travelling. These devices are used for entertainment purposes. Just like cell phones, they also do not require much power to charge. The portable panels can charge music players like iPods. You can charge them anytime.
c. Cell phone: A cell phone is a device that everybody uses. It does not require much power to charge. So, the portable panel system can charge a mobile phone. Further, the system can also recharge the cell phone charging devices (also known as power banks). So, the system comes in handy even if you do not have your phone charger with you.
d. Bike and car Batteries: If you use bike or car power outlets to charge your cell phones, it can drain the bike or car battery if used frequently. Solar power will be a backup for your batteries. It can easily charge the battery and other car accessories.
2. Watching TV: Most companies manufacture small, portable televisions. You can easily take them around in your camps and trips. In addition, they don't require much power. So, the solar system can operate such TVs too.
3. Heating water: Hot water is a necessity, especially when outdoors and the temperature is low. Water is used for various purposes like cooking, showering, and washing.
4. Electricity for RV: Portable panels provide electricity for your RV or vans during trips. Unlike a fuel-based generator (which produces loud noise, is expensive, and heavy), solar panel systems are noiseless, small, and easy to carry. In addition, the system can be easily installed in RVs.
5. Electricity for camps: The system provides outdoor lighting. For example, it supplies energy-friendly electricity for camping and lights up tents, bathrooms, etc. So, you can enjoy your tips and camp anywhere with free light.
Pros of Portable Solar Panel System
1. Easy to move: The best feature of being a portable system is that you can move it around easily from home to vehicle to where you want to operate it. In addition, you can use the system multiple times by just setting it up to work.
2. Install at any place: Unlike roof-mounted systems, the portable panels are not for one-time installation. You can carry it and set it up wherever you want. You can transfer the panels to the area where the sunlight falls best for your convenience. Further, you can move the panels around as the sun moves across the sky during the day. That way, you will be utilizing the system to its best and get full access to the sunlight throughout the day.
3. Low maintenance: As discussed previously, solar panels do not require frequent maintenance. You only have to clean the panels with water when they get dusty and dirty. If they are not well-maintained, the panels will not function properly to provide the best results. In addition, the maintenance cost is also low.
4. Low utility bills: The system reduces electricity bills as you are using free solar energy. The only cost is for the one-time system purchase.
5. Space friendly: The portable system only requires a small space for it to be installed. In addition, it is easily foldable and fitted in an RV. You can store the system under the bed or inside the cabinets.
6. Noise-free and environmentally friendly: Fuel-based generators are noisy, heavy, and not easy to carry. But portable solar panel systems are much quieter, smaller, and easier to maintain. Further, the system is environmentally friendly as you are not using harmful fuel-based sources.
7. Test for solar panels: If you are new to using solar panels, you can go for portable solar systems before you decide to install the complete roof-based system. It is a great way to use the sun's energy for using power.
Cons of Portable Solar Panel System
1. Set up every time: Roof-mounted systems are a one-time setup. But the portable systems are not. You have to install them every time to charge the batteries. So, it might be inconvenient in terms of setting up and using it every time.
2. Risk of theft or damage: You will have to remain around the system when you charge it outdoors because the system or its components can be stolen or damaged. So, purchasing the system may not be the best option if you are concerned about theft.
3. Weather dependent: Like every solar panel system, the portable system also needs the sun to charge the batteries. In areas with no access to sunlight, the system is useless. Also, if it rains, snows, and is cloudy, you will not be able to recharge the batteries.
Portable solar panels are small solar panels that can be carried to different places and used anywhere. They are similar to conventional solar panels and work in the same way. But they are portable and can be easily transported in a vehicle.
These systems are best for RV camping. You can get enough power supply to charge your devices and light up your space. Further, you can also use the power generated by the system for cooking, heating, washing, and other purposes. If you like travelling outdoors and camping, portable solar panels are worth it.
The portable system is easy to install and requires low maintenance. If appropriately maintained, it can last for decades and provide free electricity. Further, it is environmentally friendly. However, the system is highly dependent on weather conditions. It requires sunlight to operate, so if there is no sunlight, the system cannot recharge its batteries and becomes useless.
Portable solar systems are an excellent invention for people who want to save money and prevent the environment. They are best for travellers and campers. They can also be used in houses to light up the outsides and use free electricity. However, they are not a replacement for roof-mounted solar panels but are worth it for camping and using low-power electricity.