Portable solar panel principle, application and buying FAQs



With solar battery prices plummeting, you can buy cheap portable solar panel online or at many large home improvement centers. Many foldable solar panels cost around $1.00 to $2.00 per watt, about half the cost of installing solar panels on a roof. This article will detail portable solar panel from how they work, their main uses and a buying FAQs guide.

1. How a portable solar panel works

Unlike solar panels placed on roofs, solar panels are set in a fixed rigid frame and sealed under glass. A typical portable solar panel is usually wrapped in a protective sleeve made of mesh fabric or plastic. A small and inexpensive portable solar panel will generate 5 to 50 watts of power, while larger portable solar panel can generate 300 watts or more—the same as regular rooftop solar panels. Smaller portable solar panel is usually monolithic silicon solar cells, while larger portable solar panel may have two or three panels in a foldable case. These panels come with a simple jack or set of jacks to output power to various devices.

You'll likely find a DC-out jack and a USB port, allowing users to charge their phone or laptop directly. Mostly, portable solar panel is paired with portable lithium-ion batteries so their energy can be used in any conditions. (However, you can't charge the battery while it's in use.) The battery can have a wider range of output devices, from a standard household 120-volt AC outlet to a DC output jack. While some larger portable solar panels can have the same output as regular rooftop solar panels, portable solar panel is not meant to replace rooftop solar panels. By design, portable solar panel lacks the structural integrity and voltage regulation of a properly installed rooftop solar system.

How a portable solar panel works


On the other hand, installing portable solar panel takes only a few minutes, requires no permits or inspections, and doesn't have to worry about damaging your roof. All PV panels are made from crystalline silicon wafers that absorb sunlight. Light from the sun frees electrons from the silicon material, creating an electrical current along the electrical conductors in the cell. Current flows from the battery in one direction, either directly into a device that accepts direct current (such as a battery), or indirectly through an inverter to generate alternating current (AC) for most household use.

2. Main applications of portable solar panel

Because the panels of portable solar panel are portable, they are often used by campers, travelers, or anyone who needs a power supply when they don't have access to the grid. But because they come in so many different sizes and costs, there are multiple other uses as well.

① Camping

Camping and hiking are probably the most common uses for portable solar panel. You can attach larger panels to the top of your RV as an alternative to a portable generator with battery. Unlike noisy, smelly generators that burn fossil fuels, batteries charged by solar panels are clean, quiet and odorless. Since even the larger panels are portable, you can keep them in the sun while your tent, camper or RV stay cool in the shade.

② Marine

By placing solar panels on the deck of a marine or other flat surface, you can use the electricity stored in the 24 volt marine battery to run the electric motor. The panel also acts as a canopy to protect you from the sun when you are at sea. When paired with solar cells, solar panels allow you to sail without the noise and smell of wind or gas motors. As long as the sun is shining, you can sail almost indefinitely without refueling stops.

Main applications of portable solar panel


Special portable marine solar panels are available for solar boating as they need to withstand corrosive salt water and harsher weather conditions than a camper might encounter. Be aware, though, that your portable solar panel will generate electricity if it's exposed to light, so to avoid electrocution, use common sense first. Do not immerse it in water, bend, pierce or break it, expose it to heat or flame, and do not take it apart. If cleaning is required, use a slightly damp cloth that does not contain soap.

③ Power outage

If you work from home and the power goes out, your modem and router will also go out, so if you can't access a wifi hotspot, you won't be able to access the Internet. However, with a solar-charged backup battery, you can keep running your modem, router, and laptop until power returns to normal. There is also portable solar panel that are specifically designed to be solar powered laptop chargers. Depending on the size of the battery, you can also run a small refrigerator to keep food or medicine from going bad.

④ Reduce carbon footprint

If you get your electricity from a grid that is not 100% clean, renewable electricity, you can reduce your carbon footprint by using portable solar panel to run some of the things in your home that require electricity. You can reduce your electricity bills and ensure you are using carbon-free energy.

3. What to look for when buying a portable solar panel

Here's what to look for when buying portable solar panel:

① Efficiency

If space or weight is an issue, such as on backpacking trips, compare the efficiency of various portable solar panel. The efficiency of a solar panel is measured by its ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Panels with over 20% efficiency are premium products. More efficient panels require less space to generate the same power as larger, less efficient panels, but may cost more. If space or weight are not an issue, don't waste your money on efficient panels, because low-cost, inefficient panels will get the job done.

② Required

Know what you need and don't buy more. You can figure out how much energy you need using a simple energy calculator that will tell you how many watts different appliances use.

What to look for when buying a portable solar panel

③ Installation requirements

A watt is a unit of power. It measures the energy consumed or produced by a device at a certain moment. You need a solar panel (or battery) that produces 100 watts of power to light two 50 watt bulbs. Wh is a measure of how much energy is used in an hour. If you want to keep two 50-watt bulbs on for 10 hours, you'll need a solar panel (or more likely a battery) that produces 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh).

④ Weight

Weight is not only a factor in the portability of the panel, but also the amount of power it may generate. If only for practical reasons, you're more likely to move around a lighter portable solar panel than a heavier portable solar panel if you want to. It follows the path of the sun throughout the day, causing it to generate more electricity.

⑤ Other considerations

Portable solar panels are certainly a cleaner source of electricity than most alternatives, but to make them worth the investment, consider their financial value and convenience.

How often will you use your portable solar panel? Will portable solar panels save money over the alternative? Given that all the different portable solar panels on the market today vary in size, capacity, and cost, you can find a good portable solar panel for your needs.

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