Solar panel systems are brilliant for providing you with freedom and free power for your caravan, motorhome or camper. Avoid these common mistakes to get the right solar set-up and save yourself hundreds:
- Buying solar panels that don’t match your power requirements. The idea that “my friend has two panels and works fine, so that’s what I’ll get” is a great way to waste a lot of money on solar panels that are likely inadequate or excessive for your power requirements. The solution: No need for complex maths. We have developed a piece of software that goes through your specific van and usage patterns and produces a map. What this gives us is a measurement in Watt-Hours, which tells us how much power you consume each day, and a recharge profile. This allow us to provide you with a power “perfect-match”.
- Expecting solar panels to completely replace mains power. An adequate solar panel set-up will power all of your appliances with one exception… your air-conditioner. Solar alone will not be enough to run your air-conditioner for long periods without depleting your batteries beyond the recommended 50% of capacity. A better solution for powering your air-conditioner away from mains power is a generator.
- Solar panels are only as good as the sun that reach it – Different regions of Australia receive different amounts of sunlight each day. For example, northern QLD receives much more sun than southern Victoria. Add to that any shading from trees or buildings throughout the day, and the actual amount of sun that you get on your panels each day might surprise you. We generally work on an average of 5 “good” hours of sun each day.
- Solar panels are not 100% efficient. A 150W solar panel, only produces 105W maximum (about 70% of its rated capacity). For 5 hours of sun in a day, you will get 525 Watt-hours, (about 40 Amp-hours)
- Getting solar panels that equal your consumption – For example, after working through our “perfect match” system, and your consumption is 40 amp-hours per day, you may think that a 150 watt panel is enough as it produces about 40 amp- hours per day. It makes sense initially – if you are consuming 40 amp hours and your solar produces up to 40 amp hours per day then your batteries will stay charged. That is until you spend a day or two in bad weather. If you continue to consume your 40 amp hours of power per day without enough sunshine producing the full 40 amp hours of power required, the result is that your battery power is depleted and unable to fully recharge. Without a full recharge the battery life is shortened, adding to your long-term maintenance costs. The solution: Solar panels to produce 2 to 3 times your daily consumption. This will allow you to fully recharge your batteries from flat within one day, protecting your batteries.
Talk to us at the RV Service Centre for your free “perfect match” solar power profile. Getting the right system for your needs will save you hundreds and ensure you aren’t left with flat batteries. Here is an example of our Perfect Match Calculator in action.
Step 1) – Work out average daily consumption. In this case about 40Ah / day. This may or may not be suitable for your needs. The blue columns are how much power you are using each day.
Step 2) Solar Input – the grey line shows a sample scenario with 1 panel. Days 1 and 2 are getting lots of sunlight, but days 3 and 4 get very limited, more on day 5, then back to sunny days on days 6 and 7.
Step 3) Check Battery % – the orange line shows the % of battery capacity remaining. In this scenario you will see it gradually drops while the solar input is low, but NEVER recovers. It flat-lines and the batteries aren’t able to fully re-charge.
Step 4) In this scenario, we have developed a perfect match for this particular caravanner – to meet their usage, their budget and their travelling requirements. You will see that although the battery capacity % (orange line), dips down, it has a quick recharge rate once the sun comes out again.