Carlos

Carlos is a trained solar engineer deeply involved in the solar industry with a background in the design of photovoltaic systems for the residential and commercial sector. He is a promoter of sustainable technologies and solutions with a passion for renewable energy.

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7 Best Solar Attic Fans in 2021

Solar attic fans

7 Best Solar Attic Fans in 2021 (Review)

The summer and winter seasons can have devastating effects on your roof and inside your attic.

During the summer, hot air can get concentrated in the attic and even damage the products or equipment that you have stored. This will also increase the load demand in your HVAC system, as it will constantly need to work to reduce temperatures. Meanwhile, during the winter season, heat from the baseboards on the floor produces an accumulation of moisture in the upper side of the attic.

To fight the effects of bad weather in your household and to reduce cooling costs from your A/C, attic venting is needed. For this purpose, you need to choose one of the best solar attic fans in 2021: eco-friendly, economical, durable, and energy-efficient solutions.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

Here we will examine many details and provide the best solar attic fans review. We will help you understand the basic features and parameters that you need to be aware of when you go to purchase your solar vent.

The Best Solar Attic Fans

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1. Natural Light Florida Rated Solar Attic Fan

front facing natural light florida rated solar attic fan

Key Features:

  • Solar panel is adjustable
  • Fan with 25-year warranty
  • Qualifies for Solar Tax Credits

Key Specifications:

  • Weight: 26 pounds
  • Dimensions: 27.2 x 27.2 x 11.5 inches
  • Venting capacity: up to 2,625 sf and 1628 CFM

Where To Buy

Natural Light Florida Rated Energy Systems is a company that uniquely specializes in the design of solar attic fans to reduce heat and moisture in the attic.

The solar roof mounted attic fan has been designed with adjustable mounting brackets that allow the 36-watt solar panel to fit any latitude for optimal energy yield production. Moreover, this feature allows the solar powered fan to increase the sun exposure no matter the type of roof where the vent fan will be installed (standard pitch, steep or flat roofs).

The adjustable attic fan comes with an outstanding 25-year limited warranty on the entire unit. Even more than what most polycrystalline solar panel manufacturers are willing to offer for their products.

Moreover, the Natural Light fan is also capable of being connected to a second module (separated) in case that the availability of solar radiation where the fan is going to be installed is not enough to power the brushless DC motor constantly.

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2. Amtrak Solar’s Solar Attic Fan

front facing amtrak solar's solar attic fan

Key Features:

  • Gable vent type
  • Galvanized steel fan blades
  • Warranty on the solar vent is 25 years

Key Specifications:

  • 12V DC fan motor
  • Venting Capacity: 2,250 square feet.
  • Weight: 12 pounds

Where To Buy

The powerful 40-watt Amtrak Solar attic fan is another great option that can help you reduce the attic temperature from 150°F to 90°F by extracting all the hot air that is concentrated inside the attic during summer seasons.

This product is a solar gable mounted attic fan that has a venting capacity to clear areas up to 2,250 square feet. Also, the product has a thermally protected fan motor that has been designed to rotate galvanized steel fan blades of high efficiency.

Additionally, the solar fan includes a free thermostat and an exterior 40-watt polycrystalline solar panel that powers the brushless DC motor, using environmentally free electricity. It does all of this without the need for any additional wiring.

The 12-volt DC fan has 14-inch housing. There is no need to drill any holes in the roof, as the fan is easy to install through an available gable vent in the wall. Also, the Amtrak solar attic fan does not require any battery, as the panel turns the fan on as soon as the Sun reaches the surface of the module.

Amtrak is one of the most trusted US solar companies for these products, and they offer a 25-year warranty.

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3. Natural Light 12-Watt Solar Attic Fan

front facing natural light 12-watt solar attic fan

Key Features:

  • Solar panel is adjustable up to 45°
  • 25-year warranty
  • Easy to install: 1-hour time
  •  

Key Specifications:

  • Venting capacity: 1,260 sq. ft. and 893 CFM.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 25 pounds

Where To Buy

Another amazing product option from Natural Light is the 12-watt light fan powered by solar energy.

Just as the first product in this list, the 12-watt Natural Light fan is a roof mount adjustable attic fan that has a 25-year product warranty. It can also qualify for a Solar Tax Credit subsidy in the US. The vent includes an adjustable solar panel that can be fixed up to a 45° angle tilt, suitable for most locations across the US.

This small solar attic fan can be installed on any roof (flat or sloped) and on top of any material (fiberglass asphalt shingle roofs, clay, wood shake, or tile roofs). This makes it perfect for applications such as sheds, barns, workshops, detached garages, and lofts.

There are also additional accessories that can be integrated into the solar vent such as a fire safety cutoff switch, a flashing skirt for tile roofs, a thermal snap switch, and an additional remote solar module that can be placed in the area with highest sun exposure.

For this product, the venting capacity reaches 1,260 sqaure feet.

4. ECO-WORTHY Model 1

front facing eco-worthy model 1

Key Features:

  • Foldable and adjustable solar panels
  • DC motor lifespan is nearly 10,000 hours
  • Blades designed with high strength aluminum alloy

Key Specifications:

  • Venting capacity: 2,200 square feet and 1960 CFM.
  • Weight:14.3 pounds.
  • Dimension: 15.2 x 14.5 x 9.8 inches.

Where To Buy

The ECO-WORTHY 25-watt solar powered attic ventilation fan is an interesting solution from the brand that offers many home solar products.

In this case, we review a solar gable vent type that has a high-efficiency brushless fan motor that is able to vent up to a 2,200 square ft. area. It also provides nearly 1,960 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air ventilation.

The poly-foldable solar panel angle can be adjusted using its mounting brackets to optimize the tilt angle and increase efficiency values. The kit also includes a 16 feet solar cable to make the installation.

Moreover, voltage operation ranges of efficient brushless motor integrated into the solar vent are located between 4V and 17.2V, therefore, even during cloudy days, the fan can still work perfectly since the minimum operating voltage of the foldable solar module is at 12V.

Among other interesting facts related to the ECO-WORTHY solar powered attic fan, you will find that the motor lifespan is approximately 10,000 hours. Also, the blades are designed with a high strength aluminum alloy and the shell material is made out of a high-strength 304 stainless steel.

5. Natural Light Ultra Low-Profile 24-watt

front facing natural light ultra low-profile 24-watt

Key Features:

  • 25-year warranty
  • Suitable for asphalt shingle and tile roofs
  • Integrated solar cells for low profile visibility

Key Specifications:

  • Venting capacity: 2,100 sq. ft. and 1,339 CFM
  • Weight: 27 pounds
  • Dimensions: 27.2 x 27.2 x 8 inches

Where To Buy

Among solar powered attic fans, this is perhaps the most innovative and aesthetic option from Natural Light

The ventilation fan offers 24-watts with a 25-year warranty and a low visual impact; the attic ventilator integrates the solar cells into the shell of the vent. This feature also provides better performance against hurricanes and high-speed winds that could damage the mounting brackets of the modules. Even if the solar cells get damaged, they can be replaced without having to remove the entire unit.

The solar attic vent also has a powder coating on the inside and outside of the hood, along with flashing. It is suitable for asphalt shingle roofs, and it works well for tile roof applications.

Among one of the useful accessories of the product, an optional snap-on thermostat can be used in colder climates or during the winter. It has also been designed with some of the highest quality materials available among solar companies

Finally, among our solar attic fan reviews, some of the most positive feedback comments are for this product. We can truly say it is one of the top-rated solar attic fans that can be purchased at a price on Amazon of nearly $430.

6. Remington SF25-GR

front facing remington sf25-gr

Key Features:

  • 24DC Volt motor
  • Thermostat/humidistat integrated
  • Lifetime limited warranty

Key Specifications:

  • Venting capacity: 1,800 sq. ft. and 1,280 CFM.
  • Solar vent is activated at 80°F and 75% relative humidity
  • Weight: 28 pounds

Where To Buy

Designed with a 24-volt motor, the Remington SF25-GR is a remarkable solution to extract the hot air from your warehouse, barn, or attic during the summer season and extracting the moist air during the winter season. This allows the solar vent to reduce the demand or load for your HVAC system and reduce the electricity bill at the end of the month.

The rooftop ventilator is completely powered by solar energy through the 25-watt solar panel (not adjustable), with no additional wiring required to make the installation.

Regarding some technical specs of the fan, the venting capacity is designed to provide air ventilation up to 1,800 sq. ft. with air circulation of 1,280 CFM. Moreover, the product has an integrated thermostat/humidistat that activates the vent fan at 80°F or at 75% relative humidity values.

The solar vent has also been designed with a powder-coated steel cover and has a lifetime limited warranty. Suitable at a price on Amazon of $400.

7. HQST All-In-One Unit

front facing hqst all-In-One Unit

Key Features:

  • Adjustable and detachable solar panel up to 45°
  • 30W solar panel
  • Aluminum-based product

Key Specifications:

  • Venting capacity: 2,625 sq. ft. and 860 CFM.
  • Fan Blade sizes: 14 inches
  • Weight: 36 pounds

Where To Buy

The HQST All-In-One Unit 30-watt solar attic fan has been entirely designed to reduce both the attic temperature and the impact of moisture in cold-climates.

Integrated with a built-in 30W solar panel, adjustable up to 45°, the HQST fan has been designed to maintain a strong air flow within the area where the solar vent is placed. An interesting feature of the roof vent fan is that the photovoltaic module can be mounted on site. It can also be detached and mounted in another location of the roof to increase sunlight exposure.

Since it is powered by the solar panel entirely (no extra wiring is required), the fan works automatically as soon as the sunlight hits the module. Keep this in mind when approaching the solar vent. You may want to purchase an optional snap-on thermostat to configure the fan activation according to temperature values.

The venting capacity of the product is able to reach an area of 2,625 square feet and provide an air flow of 860 CFM.

We can obtain this aluminum based HQST solar attic fan at an affordable price on Amazon of $300.

5 Things to Consider Before You Buy a Solar Attic Fan

Venting Capacity and Attic Space

an attic solar fan on the roof of the house

The first and most important thing that must be considered when selecting solar attic fans is the venting capacity and square footage of the attic.

A typical household attic has insulation above the ceiling in the vents, soffits, and attic walls. Now, as the sun rises, a process called conduction occurs where heat radiates into the attic, just like an oven. If you have ever gone upstairs to the attic in the middle of a summer day, you know how hot it can get (up to 160°F).

A solar powered attic exhaust fan is designed to extract air from the attic to remove all of that contained heat, reducing temperature values to a cool range (between 40-50°F).

However, in order to be capable of reducing and regulating temperature values to acceptable ranges that will cool your attic and reduce air conditioning costs, you must make a good estimation of the attic venting load required. It is also imperative to assess the associated venting capacity of the solar attic vent.

Manufacturers typically provide two values as a reference. The first one of them is the cubic feet per minute (CFM) which is a reference of the speed at which air flows through the vent. The second term that is also generally available is the direct square footage that the solar powered fan can cover to provide up to 10 extractions per hour.

To estimate the CFM that your attic needs, a typical approach is to calculate the square footage of your attic (length times width) and multiply by 0.7 (according to principles of attic ventilation).

The pitch of the roof also influences the CFM needed (20% more for 7/12 to 10/12 pitches and 30% more for 11/12) as the volume that needs to be ventilated increases.

Tilt Adjustment

The possibility to adjust the tilt angle of the solar panel is a very important feature, as not all locations have the ideal roof slope for optimum energy production. Therefore, it is always advisable to select a model with this feature.

For instance, a 20-watt solar attic fan could be capable of effectively extracting air from a 2,000 square feet attic if it is adjusted at the right angle for optimum solar power production. However, it may not be able to do so if the solar cells are attached to the vent.

Solar Power Capacity

The solar power rating of the module integrated into the vent is also a matter to take into account.

Combined with the previous feature, if the tilt of the module can be adjusted accurately, then the solar panel is able to produce more power and keep the vent activated for a longer period of time.

Sometimes meteorological conditions may not be suitable for solar power production, even when the device is the proper size and has the tilt adjustment capability. That is when having the possibility to add a second solar panel is a great feature to take into account.

Quality Materials

Solar powered attic fans should last many years. Since they consist of spinning blades exposed to heat and moisture, it is important that the product is made of high-quality materials.

Typical materials used for these products are:

  • Aluminum powder-coated for housing and flashing
  • Non-corrosive aluminum for the blades
  • Stainless steel protective animal screen

Accessories

Check if the brand offers additional features or products that could be useful. For this purpose, a free thermostat and humidistat are very important accessories, as they regulate the switching of the solar powered attic fans.

Other useful accessories may be a fire safety cutoff switch or a tile roof flashing skirt to ensure weather-tight installations.

Which Type of Fan is Best Suited for Your Attic: Gable Mounted vs Roof Mounted

There are mainly two types of solar powered attic fans: roof mounted and gable mounted attic fans.

The roof vent fan type has a slightly faster installation process but can have a bigger impact in your roof since it requires to remove entirely the wood, roof shingles, or tiles from the roof according to the shape of the ventilation fan (circular or rectangular shapes are most common).

Once the solar vent fits in this space, the installation procedure is simple. All that needs to be done is attaching the product to the roof with some screws. The solar panel is already integrated, so no connection is needed.

Meanwhile, the gable mounted type is suitable for attics where a gable vent already exists. On some occasions the space needed may be larger for the new solar vent, which will require adjustments and enlargement of the opened area for the vent. A solar gable vent will also require you to make the connections to the solar panel and install the module on another place within the roof.

Basically, if you do not have an existing gable vent in the attic of a similar size, then it’s better for you to consider a roof vent fan. Otherwise, a solar gable fan is a better option.

Keep in mind that you will need to use lot of sealants if you want to extend the life of your roof.

How Much Does it Typically Cost to Install These Types of Fans?

solar attic fan on the rooftop

Installation procedures associated with solar powered attic fans are very simple and they are suitable for Do-it-Yourself projects. This makes them affordable and therefore require minimum costs.

All that is needed to make the installation can be found below:

  • String
  • Marking pen
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Caulking gun
  • Screw gun
  • Ladder
  • Measuring tape
  • Razor knife

Assuming that most of these materials can be found in an average household, you could estimate costs on installations around $50 at most if you are missing some material. Adding the estimated capital costs of the solar vent, you could estimate a maximum cost of $450.

What is the Average Life Span of a Solar Powered Attic Fan?

Among the pros and cons of solar attic fans, the greatest advantage of these products is that the warranty periods can reach the 25-years.

However, real-time operations could even reach 27-30 years. Solar technology has evolved recently, and some can now last even longer than what the warranty establishes.

We hope you liked this article. Please rate it or leave us a comment.

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10 Best Solar Generators in 2021

a couple camping

10 Best Solar Generators in 2021 (Review)

Having a reliable backup generator for emergency situations, like the presence of a blackout or power outage, is essential. The same concept goes for fun activities like camping, fishing or even RV trips: for those, you will need a portable generator system.

Fuel generators may serve this purpose, but they have many disadvantages. They are noisy, contaminating, and they also depend on a nearby fuel source. Under critical situations like blackouts, floods, earthquakes or hurricanes, you may not be able to have access to a fuel source, making your generator useless.

Now, thanks to a new technology that combines lithium ion batteries with solar power, you can obtain a green energy backup source whenever you need it.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

Here you will find all the information you need to know about the best solar generators in 2021.

The Best Solar Generators

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1. Jackery Explorer 240 Solar Generator

side facing Jackery Explorer 240 solar generator

Key Features:

  • Three charging modes: solar energy, car, or AC outlet
  • Pure sine wave inverter with a single AC output/input
  • 29 m AC adapter and 1m car charger cable included

Key Specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 240Wh/16.8Ah
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs
  • Dimensions: 5.2 x 9.1 x 7.7 inches

Where To Buy

Equipped with lithium-ion technology, the energy capacity of the generator reaches 240Wh (or 16.8Ah at 14.4V). It can be recharged in 10 hours, assuming it has complete sun exposure, using a 50W solar panel. You can also use a plug-in connected to a car port, or with a power cube using an AC port. Both of these The Jackery generator power station is the best portable solution for the methods take 8 hours to charge.

Moreover, the Jackery Explorer 240 also has multiple outputs available. One of them is a single 12V output as a car cigarette lighter of 12V/10A, another one is an AC outlet that is connected to a pure sine wave inverter that provides surge and voltage stability protection under US standards. This AC  200W/110V outlet is suitable for charging laptops, AC lights, TVs, drones and even a small mini-fridge. Electronics such as smartphones, kindles, GoPros can also get charged through two USB outputs as well.

This product is perfect for any camping, fishing, or outdoor situation due to its lightweight and compact size design. Its high capacity also makes it perfect for emergency situations such as hurricanes or floods, where you might need a reliable power supply that can be used for CPAP machine purposes.

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2. Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Generator

side facing jackery explorer 500 solar generator

Key Features:

  • Three USB output ports: 5V/2.4A
  • Car Port: DC 12V/10A
  • Lantern included

Key Specifications:

  • Battery Capacity: 518Wh/24Ah
  • AC power output: 500W/1000W (surge)
  • Weight:13.2lbs.

Where To Buy

The Jackery Explorer 500 solar generator is an excellent option for those who are looking for extra power.

Jackery that specializes in providing clean energy and portable solutions for outdoor purposes brings this versatile option that has a pure sine wave AC outlet of 110W and capable of providing up to 500W, making it perfect for TVs, projectors, blenders, laptops and other related devices. This same outlet has a surge capacity of 1000W for those applications that need a little extra power for a limited period of time.

The unit also comes with a standard 12V/10A carport and up to three 2.4A USB ports intended to power and charge all your car appliances along with small electronics such as phones, coolers or car vacuums.

Regarding is charging capabilities, the Jackery Explorer 500 can be completely charge in 14hr by using a 100W Jackery SolarSage portable solar panel as you are living outdoors. The unit can also get charged by using the carport in just 16 hrs while you are on the road. Finally, you can also charge it in 8hrs by connecting it to an AC outlet.

3. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator

front facing goal zero yeti 400 solar generator

Key Features:

  • Charging system through a solar, wall
    plug or via 12V car input
  • 600W surge pure sine wave inverter
  • 300W of continuous power output

Key Specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 396 Wh
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Dimensions: 8 x 10.2 x 8 inches

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 portable power station is another common choice among solar backup generators. The brand is recognized for developing products that offer a reliable source of power.

In this case, the brand promotes 396Wh of energy capacity from a lead-acid battery that can power up to 7 devices at once using 12V and 33Ah. The device has been designed with a continuous 300W output and with up to 600W surge pure sine wave inverter that has two AC 110V outputs. Moreover, you will also find two 2.1A USB outputs and 120W power for 12V DC ports.

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 is a power cube that will allow you to charge phones, tablets, LEDs, laptops, TVs or even small fridges from RVs.

As with other solar generators, you will be able to connect to a portable solar panel via a DC input or with a wall plug. An interesting feature of the solar power station is that it comes with an LCD display that will show you everything from the watts of power that you are consuming or that are charging the solar-powered generator, to the battery capacity available.

4. Goal Zero Yeti 150

front facing goal zero yeti 150

Key Features:

  • Single AC 80 watt power output
  • Lead-acid technology
  • Two USB ports

Key Specifications:

  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Dimensions:7.8 x 6.8 x 5.8 inches
  • 160W surge capacity
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Finally, the most portable solution from Goal Zero is the Goal Zero Yeti 150.

With 168 watt-hours of lead-acid battery storage, the product is able to charge up to 5 devices at once assuming 14Ah at 12V. Using this energy capacity, the Yeti 150 is able to charge a smartphone around 15 times, a tablet around 6 times, and a laptop around two times.

Easy to carry and easy to set, the Yeti 150 solar generator is definitely the choice for the camper who wants a simple solution to provide power to simple devices.

The product features 80-watt continuous power with a 160W surge capacity for AC loads, along with two 2.1A USB outputs and 120W at 12V. Goal Zero lights can also be turned on using the 12V output. Using these power outputs, you can charge smartphones, tablets, cameras and other devices as well.

In this occasion, the Yeti 150 power cube can only get charged via AC power or via Goal Zero solar panels.

Truly among solar portable generators, you won’t find a more simple, and yet reliable solution for your camping trips.

5. Renogy Lycan Powerbox

side facing renogy lycan powerbox

Key Features:

  • Three charging methods: Car socket, AC, and solar
  • MPPT solar charging technology
  • Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Key Specifications:

  • Power rating: Up to 1,200W
  • Battery capacity: 1,085Wh
  • 2,000 cycles

Where To Buy

The Renogy Lycan Powerbox is the new state-of-the-art solar generator from the brand. The device is equipped with a lithium-iron phosphate battery that allows up to 2,000 charge and discharge cycles across its lifetime.

Besides, it also counts with a large storage capacity of up to 1,085Wh, enough as to charge a smartphone over 100 times or a laptop nearly 13 times, more than enough in multiple outdoor or backup applications.

To charge these devices, the item has multiple universal ports including four 110V AC ports, four 5V/2.4A (up to a maximum 7A) USB DC ports, a 12V CIG port (with up to a maximum 150W) and finally three 12V DC ports that can provide up to 60W combined. The total capacity of the solar generator reaches up to 1,200W.

More than that, the solar power generator has three different ways to get charged. You can use AC power from a local outlet, you can also use the 12V car charging socket and you can also power it by using solar power (in which case you can use up to 300W solar power).

6. Renogy Phoenix 210Wh Solar Suitcase

side facing renogy phoenix 210Wh solar suitcase

Key Features:

  • Chargeable through solar panels, AC power or external battery.
  • Includes four USB ports for multiple devices.
  • Compact and lightweight design.

Key Specifications:

  • Power output: 150W (maximum continuous output)
  • Battery capacity: 16 Ah
  • Maximum Inverter Efficiency: 80%

Where To Buy

Renogy is one of the most recognized companies in the portable solar power industry since it offers foldable solar panel kits, charge controllers, inverters and more accessories.

This time, the brand developed one of the best power sources for camping. The Renogy 210Wh/150W Phoenix Portable Generator is an all-in-one product that is suitable for emergency charging and for people that is looking for a camping power source.

The Renogy Phoenix 210Wh Solar Suitcase contains within a suitcase a Renogy 20W monocrystalline solar panel integrated with the product. However, the power output capacity can be extended by adding a 100W module or less.

Moreover, Phoenix is a valuable portable power supply for camping that can also get fully charged by AC power. The kit is integrated with a 16Ah Li-ion (NMC) battery (that can be replaceable) to supply loads such as smartphones, laptops, Ipads and other electronic devices.

One important tip to consider is not to leave the Phoenix outdoors in excessively hot environments (104°F+) for long periods of time since doing so could overheat the product.

7. Anker Powerhouse

side facing anker powerhouse

Key Features:

  • BMS optimizes battery performance
  • Designed to be durable in outdoor environments
  • Suitable as a backup power supply for CPAP machines

Key Specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 434Wh
  • AC peak power: 120W
  • Weight: 9.26 pounds

Where To Buy

The compact Anker Powerhouse portable station is the perfect solution for the customers that are looking for a solar generator for camping.

Easy to carry and easy to set, the Anker Powerhouse is designed as a lithium solar power station of 434Wh that will act as a portable power source to do all the activities that you may want to do while going camping. Charge your smartphones, laptops, mini-coolers, GoPro, and even a small cooking stove that can get connected to the AC output!

The PowerHouse has a 12V car socket output, a single 110VAC outlet that can charge devices up to 120W and also four USB outputs designed with PowerIQ for optimum electronic charging. The product also features a BMS for voltage regulation, temperature control and surge power protection as well.

The PowerHouse lithium portable power station can also be used as an alternative source of power for medical devices such as CPAP machines.

It is one of the smallest most beautifully designed products among other generators on the market, with an 18-month warranty.

8. Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium

side facing goal zero yeti 1400 lithium

Key Features:

  • Multi-stage surge protection
  • PWM charge controller included
  • Complete LCD display

Key Specifications:

  • Maximum power capacity 1500W
  • Surge capacity: 3000W
  • Battery capacity 1425Wh

Where To Buy

The Goal Zero Yeti 1400Wh Lithium (10.8V and 132Ah) is the most powerful solar generator in this list and on the market. The product acts as a lithium portable power station that can power up to 10 devices at the same time.

Moreover, the integrated pure sine wave inverter has two outputs of 120VAC and 10A with a maximum power capacity of 1500W and a 3000W surge capacity. An interesting feature of this product is that the inverter integrates multi-stage surge protection that adapts to the AC devices that you plug in to provide the ultimate compatibility and protection.

The product also has a line of [email protected] USB ports to charge electronic devices. Finally, you can also have access to a 12V DC output port that allows you to plug into a car cigarette lighter for instance, but also to small fridges as well.

The portable power station has an input section to get charged from the wall outlet or through solar panels as well. Moreover, the generator has an integrated PWM charge controller to effectively charge the lithium batteries through solar power.

Among other portable generators, this is probably the power station that you would like to have during a power outage, since it provides enough backup energy as to charge fridges, fans, smartphones, laptops, small cooking stoves, and other appliances and devices for some time. You can also consider it as a good solar generator for RV’s.

9. SUAOKI 400Wh

side facing suaoki 400wh

Key Features:

  • BMS integrated
  • Suitable for CPAP machines
  • Depth of discharge: 80%

Key Specifications:

  • 600 W surge capacity
  • 444Wh storage capacity
  • Weight: 12.35 pounds

Where To Buy

The Suaoki 400Wh portable generator power station has two 300W continuous AC power outputs with a 600W surge pure sine wave inverter suitable to charge laptops, fans, and other small AC appliances.

Integrated with a BMS to control voltage, temperature, and current that protects the battery itself and your appliances as well. Also features three ways of charging: using energy from the sun, through a wall socket, or via a 12V car charger.

Its 444Wh battery storage capacity and its lightweight (12.35 pounds) make it a reliable power source that is easy to carry and easy to transport to any travel that you want. You can take it for fishing, hunting or camping.

The Suaoki 400Wh portable power generator can also be used for CPAP machines as an emergency backup power source.

As with other solar power generators, there is no noise created as fuel generators would produce and there are two DC ports that can be used for lighting. Finally, up to four USB outputs are also available for electronic devices.

10. Paxcess 100W

side facing paxcess 100w power station

Key Features:

  • Suitable for CPAP machine charging
  • Battery Management System integrated
  • Charge by solar, wall charger or car charger

Key Specifications:

  • 155Wh of energy capacity
  • Maximum AC output 100 watts of power
  • Dimensions: 6.5 x 3.1 x 6.9 inches

Where To Buy

The Paxcess portable power generator offers a beautiful and compact size solution for emergencies.

Integrated with an AC power output of 150-Watt peak power capacity, this portable solution offers guaranteed safety protection with its battery management system that performs voltage regulation, temperature control, and even more advanced operations. More than technical protection, Paxcess also offers a 1-year product warranty.

The 100-Watt portable generator power station can get easily charged through a wall outlet, via a 12V car charger or by using a 50Watt solar panel. Average charging times are estimated between 7 and 8 hours while using the wall outlet and between 7 and 12 hours while using solar energy.

By obtaining the Paxcess 100W power station you will also have three 12V DC ports with a maximum power output of 180W (ideal for small fridges and fans), two 110 AC power outputs (suitable for laptops or camping lamps) and two 5V USB ports perfect for electronic devices.

Use Paxcess as a valuable emergency solar generator that will provide you 155Wh of energy capacity at 3.7V. Maybe the most unique feature of this product is that Paxcess can also power a CPAP machine with its 12V DC plug or even with its 110V AC plugs.

5 Key Things to Think About When Buying a Solar Powered Generator

solar generator giving light to some spotlights

Surge Power Capacity

The first thing that you need to keep in mind at the moment of purchasing a solar-powered generator is related to the surge pure sine wave inverter rating.

This value will indicate the maximum power capacity that the solar generator system will be able to supply to you loads instantaneously. This applies mainly to motors or fridges, which have an instantaneous electric current surge that lasts only a few milliseconds.

Check the surge power demand of the fridge or small motor that you may need and verify that is located below the maximum surge inverter rating.

If the nameplate of the equipment does not show, then you must take the nominal wattage of the motor and multiply it by 2.5, that should give you a good reference of the surge power needed. Keep in mind this is an average value for typical applications in homes, other bigger electrical machines such as an induction motor may need up to 6 times the nominal value for surge power

Storage Capacity

Another important factor to consider is the storage capacity of the battery which is measured in watt-hours (Wh).

This will indicate the amount of time that your small appliances can stay connected (fridges, fans, mini-coolers) or the amount of times that an electronic device can get fully-charged.

It will also influence the amount of time that you will need to get the solar-powered generator charged. Built-in solar panels are not very common in these sorts of products, so if you are looking for an off-grid power supply totally independent from the grid that is suitable for camping or RVs, then you would need to purchase a solar panel in addition to the generator. Remember that charging times will depend on the weather conditions, as well.

Sometimes you may find the storage value expressed in ampere-hours (Ah). Although it is less common, it simply means a unit conversion. To obtain the value in Wh that can be compared with typical consumption from loads, you must multiply by the voltage output of the battery (typically 12V).

Charging Modes

A high-quality solar-powered generator should have several options to get charged besides using solar panels.

Charging times using energy from the sun will vary according to weather conditions and Sun exposure as well. Sometimes, it might not be fast enough to charge the generator system. Therefore, the power station should be able to get charged directly from an AC source through power outlets, but also through the 12V car battery, suitable under RV and camping trips.

Remember to keep your alternator active when charging the power station, otherwise, you might end up with a dead car battery.

Appliances that you can charge

Not all solar generators are suitable for every application. It does not mean that the product is bad, it just means that it has not been designed for the purpose that you want to use it.

One of the most important details to keep in mind is what do you want to charge? What do you want to back up?

These questions are also important to help you accurately decide which solar-powered generator fits your needs, avoiding under or oversizing.

Evaluate which appliances you can get connected to the power station, how many devices can be connected at once, how much time can you run the appliances or how many times you can get them charged.

Unique features

Something that never misses when you are selecting a new product among many is to take a look at what additional features is this brand or product offering that others do not.

You will find that some portable solar generators on the market will only be able to get charged through solar power, while others will have three possible ways to get charged.

Also, you will find that some power generators will also come with an integrated charge controller, essential for solar charging, while others will demand that you purchase it separately. Furthermore, some will have an integrated PWM chip while others will have an MPPT charge controller which maximizes solar energy yields and charges your generator kit even faster.

Moreover, additional features such as multiple USB outputs with a Quick Charging capacity, integrated flashlight, BMS protection, integrated fuses and surge protection for the sine wave inverter are all interesting features that can help you decide between two similar products.

What Size of Portable Solar Generator Should You Buy for Travelling?

Most portable solar generators have been designed to be easy to transport and easy to set in every situation.

To take a generator like this into the wild, you need to consider two aspects: dimension and weight. Think about the space that you will probably have available on the trunk of the car. If you are going camping it probably won’t be much.

That is why portable solar power generators need to be compact in size, but also effective enough as to power the appliances that you need.

Probably a 12 pounds solar generator would be the heaviest option that you might consider to go on a trip for camping. This weight should be enough to give you up to 400-watt-hours of energy capacity, in some cases such as the Suaoki 400Wh or the Anker PowerHouse solar-powered generators. Although, you may find it more common to see 150Wh options for this purpose.

What Pieces of Camping Equipment Can Be Powered by Solar Generators?

Many of them! Flashlights, for instance, cannot be missing in any camping experience. These devices can get charged via an AC adapter or via a 12V Dc plug-in. Actually, as you could see on this list, many solar generators already include a flashlight and a friendly handle that will allow you to easily carry it everywhere you go in the woods.

A small electric stove is another essential camping item. After all, who enjoys being in the outdoors without good food to share! Besides, not everybody is made to cook in an open-fire situation, it may look easier than it is (not to mention that a campfire is prohibited in many places). These electric camping stoves are generally connected to the AC output of the solar power generators. Unlike fuel or gas generators, solar-powered products will not create any noise and they won’t be dangerous either if you have any kids around.

LED lights to hang on your camping tent are also an important gear to consider. These can be easily powered through the DC output.

Moreover, any good camping experience should have some cold drinks around. A mini-cooler is another useful appliance to keep your drinks cold and that can be powered thanks to a solar generator. It can generally get connected to the 12V DC output of the portable power source.

Also, sometimes camping sites can get hot during the day, this can make the camping experience less attractive. However, a mini fan can help you overcome that short phase during the day to have a good time. Thanks to the AC power outputs, solar power generators can also power mini fans (generally close to 40W).

Finally, who does not like to wake up in the morning in the mountains with a nice cup of coffee? You may use a traditional fire-based coffee maker, but if you want to go for another option, you can also use a solar generator to power a small electric coffee machine. Keep in mind that this will draw a good amount of power, and that only a generator with a continuous power capacity of nearly 500W (Chafon generator system) will be able to supply the required demand for the coffee machine

So bottom line, what useful camping equipment can be powered by a battery powered generator?

  • Flashlights
  • LEDs
  • Camping electric stoves
  • Mini-cooler
  • Mini-fan
  • Coffee machine

Can you Power the Appliances in an RV Using a Solar Power Generator?

a woman holding in her hands a solar generator

Absolutely! For instance, using a solar generator kit, you can power a small fridge (which is a very important RV item). The amount of time that you can power this item will of course vary depending on the size of the power generator. For this purpose, you will need to consider portable generators that have around 400-watt-hours of energy capacity to be able to power the small fridge around 7 hours.

Also, a TV can get powered by solar generators for at least 3 hours. Again, at least a 400-watt hours power station might be needed. Keep in mind that smaller portable stations might not have enough continuous power to turn on the LCD TV. Also, remember that old-style TVs demand more power, and even a 400Wh solar generator might not be able to supply the required demand. Choose an LCD TV for this purpose.

Can we power more devices? Sure! Let’s take a look at some.

  • Blenders
  • Clock Radios
  • Small coffee maker machines (up to 500W)
  • Can openers
  • DVD players
  • Desktop computers
  • Printers
  • Fans
  • Shavers
  • Stereo system

All of these devices can get powered with a 400Wh solar generator. You could expect to get them connected at the same time if you choose a bigger size like the Goal Zero Yeti 1400. However, do not ever think of adding a microwave, an iron, an electric blanket and much less an air conditioner, these appliances demand too much power.

Which Backup Solar Generator Should You Buy for Use in Emergencies?

If you are looking for a backup solar generator system mainly for emergencies, the Paxcess 100-watt station is a great option for you.

The product has been designed as an emergency power supply that is lightweight, compact and reliable whenever your area suffers a power outage. If you have any relatives that are connected to a CPAP machine, you can provide him/her with another power source.

The Chafon backup generator is another good option as well which can even provide more power and that acts as a UPS unit when a blackout occurs.

How Much Should You Expect to Pay for a Top Solar Generator Kit?

a man holding with his hand a solar generator

This is another crucial question for every customer. How much will I have to pay?

Prices change according to power capacity and brands as they do regularly with solar products.

Portable solar generators which have an energy capacity close to 150Wh have a lower capacity and usually have less features available. Therefore, price ranges should be located between $120 and $200.

On the other hand, 400Wh solar-powered generators have more capacity and will have price ranges located between $350 and $450.

Finally, solar generators with capacities over 400Wh can have prices between $600 and $1,500 depending on the size. For these sizes and the American market, there is truly no other brand that is more reliable than Goal Zero.

Goal Zero Yeti 1400 lithium power stations can cost around 1400$. Other available sizes for this brand are the Yeti 1000 (approximately $900) and Yeti 1250 (around $1,000).

For large backup purposes or for RVs, the best choice is to go with a Goal Zero Yeti 1000, 1250 or 1400 option.

How to Calculate the Number of Watts Your Generator Will Need

You need to think of all the appliances that you want to power up before you decide which solar generator to buy.

Here, you must sum up all the power ratings of your appliances: smartphones, laptops, tablets, small fridges, mini-coolers, electric stoves, fans, goPros, drones or any other device that you may want to cover with off-grid power.

You may realize that you will not be able to power all of those devices at the same time for a long time, therefore you must accurately make a selection of which appliances are the most important to you.

Generally, on travel trips you will expect to be able to charge electronics such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, drones, or speakers that have a low power consumption. With a 150Wh portable generator power station, you will be able to charge them.

However, you may also want to power other appliances like small fridges, coffee makers, electric stoves or any other appliance that uses a small motor. If that is your case, you will need to add the wattage consumption and find out which power generators can supply the required wattage demand.

Remember that you must compare this estimated total wattage consumption with the maximum AC continuous power rating of the solar power generators. This is the value that the generator will be able to supply in a long-term scheme. Do not get confused with the surge or peak power capacity, this value is intended to last only a few instants.

Keep in mind that fridges and appliances that use a motor will need a starting wattage which is different from the continuous consumption. This happens because the motor needs an instantaneous current value that can be located between 10 and 12 times the nominal electric current value.

After a few milliseconds, the motor will enter into a permanent regime which will demand its nominal current value. However, if the off-grid solar generator is not able to supply this electric current (or starting wattage if you refer to power), then the appliance won’t even turn on.

In order to know if the starting wattage can be supplied by the portable generator power station, you need to verify that the surge power capacity is located above the starting wattage of the device.

Keep in mind that the surge power needed by the appliance may require all the peak power capacity of the inverter. However, the continuous power demand of the appliance may be low enough as to be coupled with another device. If that is your case, and you want to power both items at the same time, you must connect the appliance that demands the surge power first, and then, after a while, connect the other device.

You can check the typical consumption values of multiple appliances that are used in an RV here.

How Much Power Does the Generator Need?

To charge these generators with solar power, you must know how many watts in solar panels you will need to use to properly charge them within a reasonable period of time.

To find this out, we must refer to the expression below for a quick estimation.

equation for solar panel estimation

The expression above represents the nominal power (P) that a solar PV system must have to cover up specific energy demands. As an example, let’s take the Renogy Lycan Powerbox for reference. The battery capacity of this solar generator is stated at 1,085Wh. This represents our energy demands (Ed in the expression above).

The other parameters in the expression were deeply explained in the best solar portable panels article.

However, to obtain irradiation values you can now use a new tool for this purpose, the Power Data Access Viewer NASA application. By clicking on the Power Layer list icon below and selecting Direct Normal Radiation (DNR) as parameter, you will able to click on a space on the map and obtain the Irr value to be substituted on the expression above. This will give you simple and exact radiation values for your specific coordinates. Now, let’s assume you are located in Sacramento, California and that you want to charge the battery in a single day. The expression results in.

equation for example

This represents the minimum wattage of solar power that must be available (nominal power of the PV system) to charge the battery in a day. However, since the value considers DNR, which assumes that the panel and the sun are perpendicular to each other all the time (case for tracking systems but not for fixed-tilt systems) then we would need to oversize the system between 10-15%, maybe up to 270-280W.

You must remember to keep in mind the limit solar power values for each solar generator which in the case of the Renogy Lycan is 300W. If the size needed would be bigger, then you must set it to the maximum possible value (300W in this case), it simply means that the generator will take more than a single day to get completely charged.

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10 Best Solar Powered Motion Security Lights in 2021

solar powered motion security light on the door of the house

10 Best Solar Powered Motion Security Lights in 2021 (Review)

Are you concerned about safety in the surrounding outdoor areas of your house? If so, installing solar-powered motion security lights for your home can definitely help you!

Sensor solar lights are cost-effective, durable, and independent from any connection to the grid. In the event of a blackout, your house could be at greater risk since thieves take advantage of these situations. By installing a solar-powered motion sensor, you can ensure that no person will be sneaking around your house unnoticed.

In this article, we review the best solar-powered  motion security lights in 2021. We will also provide you with specs, important details, and tips on how to accurately select the model that is best for you. Let’s take a look at these amazing products and get started with this valuable guide on outdoor solar security lights.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

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The Best Solar Powered Motion Security Lights

1. LITOM Solar Powered Motion Security Light

great-value-badge-long
side facing litom original solar powered motion security lights

Key Features:

  • Water-resistant and weatherproof
  • 3-year lifespan
  • Three operation modes

Key Specifications:

  • Motion detection at 10m
  • Wide-angle design: 270°
  • Weight: 7.4 ounces

Where To Buy

Litom is one of the world’s leading solar light brands, Weather-resistant, with over 5,000,000 solar lights sold in the market.

The great advantage of the Litom is the combination of two of the most efficient and green technologies: LED and solar. The Litom light is able to harvest solar energy and store it in a battery for later use at night. This model will  light up for 20 seconds if any motion is detected

The product is a new version of Litom with 24 LED solar lights, and it has a wider range of lighting with the ability to light up nearly 200 square feet (and even 800 square feet if 4 lights are used simultaneously).

Its wide-angle design that is close to 270° (much wider than other versions, which only account for 120°) makes it the brightest motion security light. Moreover, the LED lamp has a sensing distance for motion detection that reaches between 10m and 11m , which increases security in any location.

Moreover, the Litom led light has three modes of operation: light mode, dim light, and sensor mode. For security purposes, choose the sensor mode operation. The Litom models are the perfect solar-powered yard lights; these will be turned off on normal operation and will turn on only when motion is detected.

2. URPOWER Solar Powered Motion Security Lights

best-overall-badge-long
front facing urpower solar powered motion security lights

Key Features:

  • 50,000 hours of operation
  • Single motion detection mode
  • Weather resistant

Key Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 125 x 96 x 50 mm
  • Rechargeable battery capacity: 3.7 V 900 mAh
  • Motion sensor: 120° sensing angle and 10 feet range

Where To Buy

Urpower solar lights are another interesting option to consider.

The design of this product has been made specifically for this purpose and uses solar to power up 8 LED solar motion lights. Urpower guarantees that the 8 LED lights have a longer lifespan and better performance than other common 12 LED lamps combined.

To increase security in any house or building, the product includes an outdoor motion sensor that is activated only when movement is detected and that automatically turns the solar motion lights off after movement stops.

Regarding the sensor range, it is estimated to cover up to 10 feet with a sensing angle of 120°. Keep in mind that when the motion detector is activated, the light shines for up to 30 seconds.

The Urpower solar lights also have an amazing 5-year lifespan, which is approximately valued at weather-resistant  50,000 operation hours. One important feature to consider is that it takes around 6-8 hours to charge the  lamp and that to activate it, you must unlock it with a key pin.

3. Aootek Outdoor Solar Security Lights

premium-choice-badge-long
side facing aootek new upgraded outdoor solar powered motion security lights

Key Features:

  • Three operation modes
  • 48 LED lights
  • LED ranges: 26 ft. distance and 120-degree angle

Key Specifications:

  • Solar panel efficiency 20.5%
  • Battery capacity 2200mAh
  • Dimensions: 3.8 x 3.9 x 8 inches

Where To Buy

Aootek also offers these motion sensor lamps that can be considered one of the brightest solar security lights.

Your house or business can now be protected by installing the Aootek motion security lights that detect motion at 26 feet of distance with a sensor angle of 120° . This product also provides one of the brightest LED lights.

The solar-powered motion light uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 2200mAh that allows performance over longer periods of operation.

Similar to the Litom LED product, the Aootek motion security light has three modes of operation: bright light mode (continuous light overnight), dim light motion sensor (low bright at night unless it detects motion and bright light is activated for 30 seconds), and sensor mode (normally off and when motion activated turns bright light for 30 seconds).

Moreover, the outdoor motion sensor is constantly charged using solar panels with efficiency values around 20.5%. These features make it one of the most valuable solar powered dusk to dawn security lights for the garage, driveway, yard or pathway. If you are looking for lights that are a little easier on the eye for your garden, then take a look at these solar pathway lights.

4. BAXIA TECHNOLOGY BX-SL-101

side facing baxia technology bx-sl-101

Key Features:

  • Waterproof and heatproof solar motion sensor
  • 28 LED outdoor lights
  • Single infrared sensor mode

Key Specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 1200mAh
  • .Solar panel efficiency 17%
  • Dimensions: 4.33×5.11x 2.67 inches

Where To Buy

As a valuable LED solar security light, the Baxia technology offers a design that maximizes lifespan by only activating bright light when the PIR motion devices (passive infrared) sense movement.

The sensor can detect movement between 3 m to 5 m distance with an angle of 120°, and when detected, the solar-powered lights will automatically activate in such an event.

Among other interesting features to consider of Baxia is that up to 28 LED solar-powered lights are included inside the product, which maximizes lux values and provides an excellent level of illumination in any dark space.

The product uses polycrystalline solar panels with efficiency values close to 17% that are covered with waterproof IP65 protection that makes them weather and heat resistant against harsh environmental conditions.

The solar motion light also includes a lithium-ion battery of 1200mAh that gets charged with 8 hours of direct sunlight, and when fully charged, it works up to 12 hours.

5. Dimunt Solar Pendant Lights

Key Features:

  • Waterproof wireless solar powered
    motion sensor
  • 236 LED Motion Sensor Lights
  • Smart Brightness Control 

Key Specifications:

  • High Efficient Solar Panel
  • Enhanced PIR Motion Inductor
  • All-Weather Resistant

Where To Buy

Beautifully and aesthetically designed, solar security lights from Urpower 20 led are definitely your choice for the safety of any installation or street.

This wireless waterproof motion sensor has been designed with solid stainless steel that guarantees absolute protection against harsh weather conditions such as rain, snow, wind, and even ice. Also, the Urpower solar lights include a battery with a capacity of 1,000mAh that is constantly recharged through solar power, and that can provide up to 10 hours of lighting when it’s completely charged.

The light sensor is only activated when it detects movement up to a 10 feet distance and changes from a standby mode to a bright light mode for approximately 20 seconds. This means that this product only works under the PIR sensor mode.

A great feature of any motion sensor outdoor light is that the process of installation is very easy, as it only requires simply screw the lamp into the wall.

6. BAXIA Technology 2000LM

front facing baxia technology 2000lm

Key Features:

  • 100 LED solar motion lights
  • Weatherproof design
  • 30 seconds of illumination under motion
    sensor mode

Key Specifications:

  • 2,000 lumens of light intensity
  • 2600mAh battery capacity
  • Dimensions: 10.3 x 5.2 x 2.7 inches

Where To Buy

Baxia Technology 2000LM outdoor solar lights have one of the brightest intensities among similar products with up to 2,000 lumens (intensity or amount of light produced). This super bright capacity is possible thanks to its 100 LED solar lights that make it more than suitable for lighting and for home security.

The detection range of this amazing product is up to 16 feet with an angle of 125° that will automatically turn on the lights when movement is detected. It will then stay on for at least 30 seconds. It is important to mention that this outdoor solar motion sensor does not include dim light or continuous light modes of operation.

This outdoor motion sensor light has a built-in lithium-ion battery that can get charged in  8 hours. By absorbing sunlight, it will last up to 12 hours after being completely charged, thanks to its 2600mAh capacity.

Moreover, the Baxia Technology product has been designed with an IP65 waterproof standard to protect its polycrystalline solar panels against water and most harsh weather conditions.

The outdoor light uses a key pin to activate the motion sensor, and it is perfectly suitable for your garage, front door, garden, aisles, and balcony as well.

7. LITOM LTCD151AB

side facing litom ltcd151ab

Key Features:

  • Wireless waterproof motion sensor
  • 3-year lifespan – 30,000 hours of operation
  • 270° angle range and 26 ft. detection range

Key Specifications:

  • 20 Litom LED lights
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 4 x 1.9 inches
  • Weight: 1.52 pounds

Where To Buy

LITOM LTCD151AB solar lights are one of the few available on the market that offers a wider angle cover for motion detection and lighting that allows it to reach up to 800 square feet when combining 4 lights simultaneously.

In this case, a solar motion security sensor with 20 wireless LED light bulbs has been designed by Litom to improve light utilization up to a 25% angle and cover up to 50% when compared with other products.

This wall light uses polycrystalline solar panels with conversion rates that reach 20%. It converts sunlight into electricity and stores it in a lithium-ion battery that is able to provide illumination all night long if required.

As with other Litom solar products, this light fixture will turn on for at least 30 seconds after the first movement is detected. If movement is continuous, the solar security lights will stay on until motion stops.

The solar motion sensor is able to detect the movement with greater sensitivity than other brands when located ideally at 6.5ft height.

8. Sunforce 82080

side facing sunforce 82080

Key Features:

  • 30 feet and 180° sensing range
  • Adjustable timer
  • Amorphous solar panel

Key Specifications:

  • 900 Lumens of light intensity
  • 80 LED solar lights
  • Dimensions: 5.9 x 3.2 x 8.4 inches

Where To Buy

Solar security lights are always desirable in any porch or garage to provide a sensation of security at night. However, unlike other lights that you could purchase with incandescent bulbs, Sunforce 82080 brings up technology with high energy efficiency that combines solar charging with bright LED lights.

This separated kit includes a particular amorphous solar panel technology and a wire of 15 ft. to get connected to the 80 LED outdoor light, and it also includes 3 AA rechargeable batteries that are able to provide 900 lumens light intensity under motion detecting.

The powered motion sensor can detect movement up to 30 feet (one of the highest ranges among motion sensor lights) with an angle range of 180° (wider than most products that only reach 120°).

The product also has a weatherproof design that allows it to be mounted anywhere in the house. The best feature of this LED security light is that you can adjust the time that you want the light to stay on when it detects motion.

9. ZOOKKI ZK-SL-101

side facing zookki zk-sl-101

Key Features:

  • Waterproof and heatproof
  • Motion sensor range: 3-5 m and 120° angle
  • 28 LED security lights

Key Specifications:

  • 400 lumens of light intensity
  • 1200mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 4.3 x 2.7 inches

Where To Buy

Zookki ZK-SL-101 solar motion sensor lights are the perfect choice to increase the security and safety of any installation or house.

Each of these security lights includes 28 bright LEDs that provide 400 lumens of intensity that will be able to illuminate large areas. They have been tested and passed through certifications such as TUV, RoHS, and FCC.

Moreover, Zookki security lights are integrated with a 1200mAh lithium-ion battery that provides over 12 hours of working time with barely 8 hours needed for charging.

The motion sensor of this device has a 120° wide angle with the possibility to turn on the LED lighting after detecting motion at 3 or 5 meters distance. The solar motion detection will stay ON for around 30 seconds and will go OFF after that time has passed without any movement detected.

These sensor lights are easy to install. All that needs to be done is adjusting a pair of screws and using the key pin to activate the solar motion security lights.

10. DrawGreen DG08-A

side facing drawgreen dg08-a

Key Features:

  • 360° rotation for LED lighting
  • 1400 lumens of bright light
  • Waterproof and heatproof

Key Specifications:

  • 50,000 hours of operation
  • 2600mAh battery capacity
  • Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.7 x 3.5 inches

Where To Buy

DrawGreen DG08-A certainly offers one of the best solar-powered outdoor security lights.

One of the most important features for outdoor solar lights is the option to adjust the LED light bulbs in as many directions as possible to be able to light up the widest possible area.

For this security lighting device, a rotation of 360° is possible thanks to its light head all-directional adjustment. Unlike any other product on this list, the solar panel’s tilt angle can also be adjusted to maximize energy yields according to the location, a very interesting feature. However, our favorite feature of the product is that, unlike any other outdoor solar motion device, the metal bracket can also be removed and can be used as a solar-powered flashlight as well.

Moreover, the amount of light that this Draw Green product offers is 1400 lumens, but it enhances its capacity by introducing an optics-grade PMMA lens that increases by 60 feet in distance.

Regarding the PIR motion detection sensor, it is able to detect the presence of movement up to 26 ft. away with an angle range of 120°.

Durable, with waterproof IP66 protection against cold or hot (-30° to 120°F), and with dusk to dawn capability, it is able to last up to 50,000 hours. It also harbors an incredible 2600mAh battery capacity.

The product design is a truly remarkable solar-powered security system.

How to Choose Motion Security Lights – 5 Things to Think Of

two solar powered motion security lights hanging on the wall

When choosing motion sensor solar lights, you may realize that there are tons of brands, models, and features available. So, how do you know which is best for you? Let’s examine some of the specs that you must think of before taking a decision.

Range Capacity

If you are looking forward to increasing your home security, then installing motion sensor lights is a very good option. These are easy to install, and they will definitely alert you when someone is trying to sneak into your house. Now, since you want to detect any possible intruder or guest that might come out to your front door, garage, or porch, the coverage distance and sensing angle are of great importance. The LED motion sensor must be able to detect movement as far away as possible and from as many directions as possible to be more effective. For this, the distance range of the product is essential to determine if the outdoor security light is able to detect intruders within the corresponding area.

Light intensity

The amount of light that is generated is also important to consider. Especially if the purpose of the solar LED device is to provide a source of light in a specific area, to quantify the light intensity between outdoor security lights, you could use the unit lumens as a reference, which is referred to as the flux of light emitted by a source of energy.

Battery Capacity

Another important thing to think about is related to the lithium-ion battery capacity of the solar-powered motion sensor. This will deeply influence the amount of time that the solar LED light can work overnight. If the battery has a higher capacity, then it will work more hours without the Sun’s energy. This is increasingly important if the security lights have a dim mode feature.

Flexibility

The possibility to rotate, ease of installation, and available modes of operation are also very important. The motion security light that offers more modes of operation, such as continuous light, dim mode, and motion detection, is always better than the one that only offers a single mode.

Estimated Lifespan

Also, consider the lifespan of the outdoor security light. Longer lifespans guarantee fewer replacement costs and are also a sign of a trustworthy brand.

How Much Should You Expect to Pay for a Top Solar Powered Motion Security Light?

One of the best things about solar-powered lights is that they are not expensive at all.

Prices vary a lot among manufacturers, and this depends on the features, lumens, battery capacity, and the brand itself. On average, a single top solar-powered motion security light should be located between 20$ and 40$. When you think about the lifespan of these devices and compare it with the prices, you will realize that they are not expensive.

You may also find some brands that offer 2 or 4 packs for a similar price. It is okay since this depends on light intensity capacity, the size of the solar light, motion range, and other features.

In this list, the top solar-powered motion light is the model from Draw Green which costs nearly 40$. The product that you purchase should not cost more than that.

Do These Lights Help Make Your Home or Business More Secure?

two houses with some solar powered motion security lights in the doors

Absolutely! Nothing scares more a criminal than an unexpected super bright light in the middle of the dark. By installing the brightest solar motion security lights, any attempt  approaching  your business or home will deter the criminal since the motion sensor will detect someone close and will activate the security lights. It is always a good idea to have some sort of light active outside your property as it may make criminals think twice. If you like to fly a flag outside your home or business, why not purchase a solar light for a flagpole that you have in your front or back yard.

Solar floodlights, in particular, are able to illuminate an area with enough light to allow facial recognition at 30 feet of distance. Moreover, by combining these sensor lights with a solar-powered security camera , you will be able to instantly record and recognize the face of any unwary criminal that could be prowling around your house or business.

Besides, even if it’s not for security itself, people who approach a business at night psychologically feel safer if there is a bright light in front of the business. By installing these solar motion detection lights, you will increase the number of visitors that will come to your business at night!

How Long Does an Outdoor Solar Security Light Last?

The answer to this question depends on several factors: battery capacity, modes of operation, and lifespan.

The battery capacity determines the amount of energy that can be stored and therefore determines the amount of time that the solar motion sensor lights can last. On average, this is typically between 8 -12 hours, which is enough to light up the night.

The available modes of operation determine how constantly the LEDs are used. If you choose only a sensor mode of operation, then it will last much longer than on a continuous light mode.

Finally, lifespans of high-quality motion sensor solar lights are typically between 3 and 5 years.

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7 Best Solar Power Banks in 2021

a solar power bank hangs in a man's backpack

7 Best Solar Power Banks in 2021 (Review)

Are you looking for power backup when your laptop, smartphone, or tablet runs out of energy?

If you are constantly on the move or regularly perform activities such as camping, hiking, trekking, and more, then you need a portable source of energy. The best choice for that is to opt for a solar power bank!

Here in this article, you will find some of the best solar power banks in 2021. Moreover, you will also find valuable tips on making an accurate choice for your needs. You’ll also learn about charging times, compatibility with cell phones, and much more.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

After reading this short article you will learn everything you need to know before purchasing a solar power bank. Are you ready? Then let’s get started with the most valuable products available!

The Best Solar Power Banks

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1. BEARTWO 10000mAh Solar Power Bank

front facing beartwo 10000mah solar power bank

Key Features:

  • Waterproof USB ports
  • Built-in LED lights
  • Smart IC technology integrated

Key Specifications:

  • 10,000 mAh battery capacity
  • 4-5 hours to get charged
  • Weighs 7.4 oz

Where To Buy

The first of the best solar power banks we are going to review today is this product from Beartwo.

The Beartwo 10,000 mAh ultra-compact external battery with dual USB ports is one of the lightest, economically smart, and most reliable solar chargers in the market. The product only weighs 7.4oz and can provide power to your smartphones by simply paying $25. This makes it an ideal solar power bank for cell phones.

Given the purpose of this portable solar charger, it can be easily hung onto your backpack, which makes it perfect for a camping trip, hiking, and many other outdoor activities.

The amazing feature of the dual USB port is great because it is able to charge up to two devices at the same time, at a maximum output of up to 5V/2.1A using the smart IC technology to detect the device and charge at optimum speed.

The best thing about this simple but efficient solar power bank charger is that it only takes between 4 and 5 hours to get charged using its 5V/2.1A USB port. Every single USB port is usually covered by an IP67 rubber cap that protects your battery from complete immersion 1 meter under water and that deeply protects it against dust.

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2. Nekteck 10000mAh Solar Power Bank

front facing nekteck 10000mah solar power bank

Key Features:

  • Anti-explosion warranty
  • Waterproof solar power bank
  • LED lights included

Key Specifications:

  • 10000mAh power bank capacity
  • Lasts over 1000 recharge cycles
  • 21-24% solar panel efficiency

Where To Buy

The Nekteck 10000mAh travel solar power bank with 10000mAh capacity is a remarkable product designed with a lithium polymer battery technology to maximize outdoor experiences.

The most amazing thing about Nekteck is that the portable solar charger is integrated with SunPower’s high-efficiency solar panels that reach between 21-24% efficiency under direct sunlight conditions.

This reliable solar power bank is guaranteed to last over 1000 recharge cycles with anti-explosion protection under fast charging scenarios based on its lithium polymer technology.

Moreover, you do not need to worry about taking it out to the outdoors because the cover of the power bank is water-resistant, dust-resistant, and is guaranteed to protect the lithium battery against shocks or dust as well.

It is also a cheap solar power bank, therefore, if you are looking for a simple, but effective solution to cover your energy needs while being off-grid, then Nekteck is a great option for you.

3. Goal Zero Guide 10 Solar Power Bank

front facing Goal Zero Guide 10 solar power banks

Key Features:

  • Charging and low-charging battery protection built-in
  • AA/AAA/USB power possibilities for devices
  • Charged by solar or by USB

Key Specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 2300mAh
  • Battery lifecycle: 500 cycles
  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 4 x 0.75 in (6.4 x 10.2 x 1.9 cm)

Where To Buy

While other power banks in the market only focus on a single battery option within the power bank, this product offers to its users multiple options to charge their devices whether they are USB-based or battery-based.

The Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus integrates 4 packs of AA rechargeable NiMH batteries from Goal Zero that have a total battery backup pack capacity of 2300mAh and 500 lifecycles. Integrated into a single portable device, they can get charged in between 6 hours by simply connecting a wall charger to the USB port input with 5V and 0.8A.

Moreover, they are compatible with solar power technology which can get connected through a mini-solar input of 6.5V and 1.1A which can be found in gadgets such as the Nomad 7, Nomad 7 Plus, Nomad 13 and Nomad 14.

The best thing about this product is that you can charge your USB devices such as smartphones, cameras, tablets, GPS and more, but you can also use the integrated AA rechargeable batteries to power headlamps, remote controls, radios or even flashlights (not that you need an additional one because it already includes one). Additionally, you will also have the possibility to charge and use AAA batteries, although these are not included in the package.

4. Goal Zero Venture 30

front facing goal zero venture 30

Key Features:

  • IPX6 waterproof rating
  • Beautiful aesthetic design
  • Two USB charging ports allow to charge two devices at once

Key Specifications:

  • Battery backup capacity: 7800mAh
  • Dimensions: 4.5 x 3.25 x 1 in (11.4 x 8.25 x 2.5 cm)
  • Weight: 8.8 oz (250g)

Where To Buy

 

The Goal Zero Venture 30 is an exquisite piece of art in the power bank world. Equipped with an 18650 LG Chem battery cell based in Li-ion NMC that provides a total 7800mAh of battery backup capacity can charge technically almost every gadget that you carry on-the-go for your next travel adventure, multiple times.

For instance, you can charge a smartphone up to 5 times on a full charge, same with a GoPro camera. Headlamps and digital can also get charged multiple times and even a tablet can get a full charge with its power capacity.

One of the most unique features it has is its beautiful design combined in green and black colors and reinforced with a built-in LED light that makes the power bank look even better on the dark. Besides, this rugged power bank is also resistant to water, designed with an IPX6 waterproof protection rating which means it is capable of withstanding powerful water jets without damaging the battery.

The Goal Zero Venture 30 has two USB ports, one for input (USB micro port 5V/2.1A) and one for output (5V/2.4A) while it can be charged either via USB or by solar power taking less than 5 hours for a complete charge with the Nomad 28 and between 7-16hours with the Nomad 7 rugged solar charger.

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5. Goal Zero Sherpa 100

side

Key Features:

  • Interactive OLED display
  • Three ways to charge it solar/USB/ 12V car charger
  • Six different ways to charge a device (Two USB-C/Two USB-A/ Single AC port/Wireless Qi)

Key Specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 6400mAh (97.37Wh)
  • 100W integrated inverter (150W surge capacity)
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.0 x 5.68 in (19.0 x 2.54 x 14.4 cm)

Where To Buy

Designed by the top-quality manufacturer Goal Zero Sherpa 100 is a power bank that is different from the others in the market. The reason is that while most power banks are designed to charge USB electronics, the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 can do that and also charge AC related appliances.

Designed for the on-the-go type of user, the Sherpa 100 is equipped with USB-C (up to 20V/3A output) and USB-A type ports (5V/2.4A) suitable for all electronics including Apple products. Moreover, it is also equipped with a wireless Qi charge output of 5W capable of charging smartphones with such capability. Finally, the Sherpa 100 can also be used to charge a laptop two times and even TVs and a small fridge thanks to its built-in 100WAC inverter (with a 150W surge capacity). Making it similar to a small solar generator.

Besides, you will be able to charge the Sherpa 100 in 3 different ways, including solar power, USB connection and even through a 12V port that can be connected to a car battery. Finally, you will enjoy 6400mAh (97.7Wh) of battery capacity integrated in this Li-ion-based high-quality power bank.

6. Qi Wireless Charger 10000 mAh

side facing hobest 10000mah

Key Features:

  • Compass whistle included
  • LED light integrated into the solar power bank
  • Two charging methods

Key Specifications:

  • 10000mAh power bank capacity
  • Weight: 7.4 oz.
  • Dimensions: 5.51 x 2.95 x 0.7 inches

Where To Buy

Another important solar product for camping is the Qi Wireless Charger 10000mAh solar power bank.

This water-resistant product has two main charging methods. One of them uses a direct 5V/2A input that can be connected to a power outlet to save time by increasing the charging speed. The other one uses a free energy resource as it is solar energy.

Moreover, the Qi Wireless Charger 10000mAh power bank has the ability to support two rechargers for the Galaxy S6, and its dual USB output allows it to charge two devices simultaneously.

An interesting feature of this high-quality solar power bank is that includes a compass whistle to use it when no GPS or Google Maps is available in the outdoors; mainly for emergency situations. As part of this survival device, the power bank also integrates a built-in LED flashlight that has three modes of operation in the dark.

The product has also included smart IC technology for its USB ports and has a short circuit and over-discharging protection as well, making it the perfect cell phone solar power bank.

7. OUTXE 20000mAh

side facing outxe 20000mah

Key Features:

  • Quick Charge integrated
  • SunPower solar panels
  • 4A dual USB ports

Key Specifications:

  • IP67 protection
  • Maximum charge at 8W
  • 20000mAh power bank capacity

Where To Buy

A lithium battery integrated as part of this portable power bank is the most valuable solution offered by OUTXE 20000mAh. It provides a reliable source of energy to charge your phone, your iPad. or even your laptop

Integrated with the IP67 waterproof and dust protection, it is also a military-grade design that protects against shocks, bumps, or even rocks.

Unique 4A dual USB ports are included as part of the design, along with a type C and Micro USB ports as well that allow fast charging in 6 hours.

The OUTXE power bank gets charged by using SunPower solar panels with high-efficiency and supports Quick Charge as well, allowing you to charge any device four times faster than a normal USB 2A output would

A bright LED light is also included as part of the device and taking into account the large capacity of the power bank it is advisable to use a power outlet to increase the charging speed of the power bank.

5 Tips for Choosing a Solar Power Bank

complete camping equipment

When going to purchase a portable solar power bank, there are many questions that may arise as you check on the products. If you have any doubts about which factors you should take into account when choosing one of these products, then you will find these tips very useful.

Check the Battery Capacity

Maybe the most important factor of any solar power bank is the capacity that the lithium battery has.

The battery capacity represents the amount of energy that can be stored inside the backup battery and is generally expressed using mAh or Wh units. 

A portable solar power bank could have as low as 2000mAh of battery capacity which could be enough to charge your device (probably a single charge of a cellphone), this can be classified as a small solar power bank.

On the other hand, the device could also have as much energy capacity as 50000mAh which could be enough to charge tablets, charge your smartphone or laptop several times. This can be classified it as a large solar power bank.

As you can presume, cost and also weight vary according to these facts. Therefore, you must select the solar power bank taking into account the purpose for which you are going to use it.

If you are going to use this external battery for your daily life on the city or town and you simply want to have a backup battery in case you run out of power, then you will probably only need a simple 2000mAh portable solar power bank.

However, if you are looking to have a backup battery that lasts for days while being off-grid on a camping trip or when going hiking, then you will need a larger solar power bank with capacities between 10000-50000mAh depending on the number of days.

Also, remember that a large capacity always demands more time to charge completely.

Think About Portability

The main idea of a portable solar power bank is to provide a reliable power source while being off-grid, but without representing any important sacrifice in the process of carrying the device from one place to another.

Top portable solar chargers should take this fact into account and offer the small, lightweight, and easy to carry solution.

If you are evaluating several options, then consider which ones are foldable, which power bank includes a steel loop to hang it on the backpack while you walk (it’s crucial to take advantage of the time to charge the battery while you walk), and which one is smaller.

Another important fact must be taken into account in portability is related to durability. Since it will probably be performing in outdoor activities, it is very important that the battery and the solar panel have a protective cover against water, dust, and shocks

Verify Solar Panel Specs

The main purpose of choosing a solar power bank battery charger is that it charges the battery using the Sun’s energy without depending merely on power from the grid.

Since the main source of power here is the solar panel, it is crucial to examine the quality of the solar cells.

Efficiency is the most important factor here. If efficiency is low, the device will need larger portable solar panels and much more time to get the battery fully charged, which impacts portability.

No other brand in the world offers a better efficiency for solar cells than SunPower. Therefore, if you have to choose between a solar charger power bank with SunPower solar panels and another product that is less expensive but that uses unknown solar panels, the best choice is to go with the SunPower one.

How Many Available USB charging Ports Does the Solar Power Bank Have?

One of the greatest features a power bank can have is to be able to charge multiple devices at the same time.

Most power banks will have dual USB ports. However, you will find some that may have three USB ports included of different types and for different devices.

This is very useful as it means that within the same time range you could charge your laptop, your smartphone, and your iPad. If the solar power bank you are evaluating, only has a single USB port, then it is not worth it.

Additional Features

As usual, the extra feature that the manufacturer wants to add to the power bank always balances the equation.

Features such as LED indicators, LED light modes of operation, steel loops for hanging, aesthetic design, Quick Charge 3.0 USB ports, and included accessories such as a USB cable or an adapter are always factors that could help you take a decision.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Top Solar Power Bank?

two people walking in the mountains

As we mentioned before, the price will be directly related to the battery capacity, but also to the solar panel technology and the brand.

A good quality solar power bank should never cost more than 60 USD.

Price ranges for power banks with capacities between 10000mAh and 20000mAh should be located between 20USD and 30 USD. Over 20000mAh you could expect prices to rise to 40-50USD.

What Devices Can I Charge?

In most cases, solar power banks are used to charge the following electronic devices:

  • Smartphones
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • iPhones
  • iPads
  • GoPro Camera
  • GPS
  • Portable speakers
  • Portable radios

The possibility to charge an electronic device or not will depend on the USB port type of the solar power bank. Most products have a universal USB output, but some have micro-USB or type C charging ports. In any case, you can always look for an adapter to connect your phone.

What Phones Are Compatible?

Most cell phones are compatible with solar power banks because most cell phones can get connected to a universal USB port.  Therefore, you can use a power bank to charge smartphones such as:

  • iPhone X, 8 7, 6.
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung S8 Plus
  • LG Stylus 2
  • Windows Phones
  • Sony Xperia Z2
  • Nokia 1 Plus
  • And many more

Every smartphone has a lithium-ion battery that you can check on the specs of your phone. All you need to do to verify whether or not your solar power bank is suitable to charge your phone. First, check the battery capacity of the smartphone in mAh.

Then, divide the battery capacity of the power bank when its fully charged by the energy needed by the smartphone. You will then will find the number of times that the power bank can charge your phone.

Also, take into account the type of charging ports that the smartphone needs and see if the USB solar power bank includes it. If not, simply purchase an additional adapter.

Another fact that you could take into account, which is not limiting but worth knowing, are the amperes that your cell phone needs to charge.

Universal USB outputs have a 2A output, however, you may find some with 2.1 A, 2.4A or even 3A. This will influence the charging speed of the mobile phones, but could also impact the performance of the battery since cell phones are designed with a specific nominal electric current.

Check the battery specs of your smartphone to see if the nominal electric current demanded is lower or higher than the one of the USB port, if it is lower, then there is no problem, the power bank will only provide the current that the phone needs. But, if it’s higher, consider looking for another power bank.

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7 Best Portable Solar Chargers in 2021

a man in front of a mountain

7 Best Portable Solar Chargers in 2021 (Review)

If you want to have amazing outdoor experiences while staying connected to your devices, you won’t need to be close to a wall charger anymore but just need to get yourself one of the best solar chargers in 2020. These offer reliability for long-term trips, they allow you to continuously charge a portable battery and they work perfectly as phone chargers. They’re also small in size and have lightweight designs for optimum performance outdoors. We will give you an insight into the top solar chargers in 2021 helping you decide which product is best for your needs.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

The Best Solar Phone Chargers

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1. Anker 21 Solar Phone Charger

Key Features:

  • Industrial-strength PET polymer
  • Steel eye-holes to hang on trees or tents
  • Dual USB solar charging

Key Specifications:

  • Weight: 14.7 oz
  • Dimensions: 11.1 x 6.3 inches
  • Efficiency: 21.5-23.5%

Where To Buy

The Anker 21W dual USB has an energy conversion rate between 21.5-23.5%. Using 21W from SunPower solar cells, the product provides enough power to charge two USB devices simultaneously. This valuable phone charger works perfectly for iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S7/S6/Edge and Plus, Nexus, HTC and more.

Also, the Anker 21W USB solar charger incorporates the fast charging technology that allows it to deliver up to 2.4 amps per USB port under direct sunlight.

Moreover, the simple design of the product makes it the ideal backpack solar charger. The compact size of 11.1 x 6.3 inches and the ultra-thin design of 1.1 inches when folded, offers portability and simplicity, making it suitable for the camper or the adventurous one. Lightweight is also an important property, representing only an additional 14.7oz of weight to your backpack.

The Anker 21W solar panels have an incredible durability thanks to its PET polymer faced panels that are sewn into a rugged polyester canvas that provides water-resistant protection as well.

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2. Nekteck 21W Solar Charger

Key Features:

  • Waterproof
  • Smart IC technology
  • Lightweight

Key Specifications:

  • 800-1000 mA electric current production by module
  • Conversion efficiency: 21-24%
  • Power Output: 21W

Where To Buy

The Nekteck 21W solar charger is a smart solution developed to provide portable solar power rapidly to charge your phone.

The three high-efficiency panels are based on SunPower Maxeon technology, that allows them to reach 21-24% of conversion efficiency while providing enough power to charge two devices at the same time, using its dual USB 5V power output.

The USB solar charger is embedded with the smart IC chip technology (maximizing charging speed to 2A per port) and also has a durable canvas to withstand possible damages that could be incurred during experiences in the outdoors. Moreover, each section produces up to 800-1000mA under direct sunlight conditions, making it suitable to charge an iPhone, tablets and smartphones, GPS, cameras, and other USB supported devices.

The universal waterproof solar phone charger also contains two outdoor hooks that can be used to hang the foldable modules on a tree, a tent, or inside the RV. Portability is also important for these types of products, and this is why having an ultra-light weight (18 oz) and compact size of 6.3x11x1 inches when folded is a remarkable feature of this product. Based on these features, you can also consider it as the ideal GoPro solar power charger, since these cameras only demand 2.5W and need portability as well. Moreover, if you are looking for solar chargers for hiking, then Nekteck is also for you.

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3. Goal Zero Nomad 7 Portable Solar Charger

front facing goal zero nomad 7 portable solar charger

Key Features:

  • Monocrystalline solar panel
  • 12V output port
  • Mesh storage pocket included

Key Specifications:

  • 5V/1A USB output
  • 7W power output
  • Dimensions (folded): 9 x 1.5 x 6.5 in (22.9 x 3.8 x 16.5 cm)

Where To Buy

 

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 portable solar phone charger is another amazing option for those who are looking for portable solar power for camping coming from the highest quality brand in the sector.

These lightweight and easy-to-carry solar panels are designed specially to charge most handheld USB devices such as phones, GPS, headlamps, and small power banks. They also work great to charge power banks such as the Flip 10 (2.5-5 hours to charge), the Guide 10 plus (3-6 hours to charge), and the Venture 30 (8-16 hours to charge). Besides, it also comes with a 12V-output for car chargers.

The Nomad 7 solar panel is equipped with a water-resistant cover that is foldable and that also serves as a protection for the PV cells. This cover allows you to take the portable product to camping experiences, hiking or even to the beach if necessary.

Moreover, these solar power chargers feature an integrated indicator light that will turn on whenever the solar panels are facing sunlight and are generating electricity. Regarding some important specs of the monocrystalline solar panel, the rated power output is 7 watts and it weighs as little as 16.2oz (460g).

4. BigBlue 5V 28W Solar Charger

side facing bigblue 5v 28w

Key Features:

  • Ammeter included
  • Steel-eye holes
  • PWaterproof

Key Specifications:

  • Power Output: 28W
  • Dimensions: 11 x 6.3 1.3 inches
  • Weight: 21 oz

Where To Buy

The BigBlue is another remarkable solar energy-based product that uses SunPower solar panels with a 21.5%-23.5% conversion efficiency to provide off-grid power for many outdoor activities such as camping, climbing or even fishing.

Integrated with Smart IC technology, these portable solar power chargers assure the fastest charging speed up to 4 Amps. Moreover, the product is equipped with a special PET Polymer surface with an industry-strength that protects your device from any damage. It additionally guarantees IPX4 waterproof level protection.

Considering the 28W of power output available, the weight of the device exceeds the expectations at 21 oz, and the folded dimensions are 11 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches. The dual-port power applies to all the Android devices, making it the ideal solar cellphone charger.

Additionally, this product has an interesting feature. Unlike other products, the product includes an ammeter to verify the actual electric current production of the units. Typically when you charge an iPhone it will demand 1A, and with the ammeter, you will be able to check the values between 1A-0.8A. This will also become handy to check if the device is working or not.

5. UPGRADE Solarfairy

Key Features:

  • iSmart Technology
  • Smart IC frequency technology
  • Compact size and lightweight

Key Specifications:

  • Solar energy conversion efficiency: 21.5-23.5%
  • Folded dimensions: 28x12cm
  • Power Output: 24 W

Where To Buy

UPGRADE Solarfairy is an American brand with almost 7 years of experience, delivering portable power banks and chargers for mobile devices to America and Europe, reaching almost 400 thousand members in 2018.

These solar phone chargers have a high energy conversion rate. Designed with high-efficiency cells that can convert up to 21.5-23.5% of solar energy into electricity, this represents 23.7% more power conversion than traditional cells.

Moreover, this device incorporates the Smart IC frequency technology which detects all the connected devices and efficiently distributes the current output up to 4.8A when used under direct sunlight.

The compact size of the USB solar charger is crucial. When folded, the dimensions are barely 28 x 12cm, a size that can easily squeeze in your backpack when you go hiking. Another important detail is weight. RavPower offers chargers that have the perfect size for a portable power source.

This outstanding but cheap portable solar charger has three integrated USBs ports of 5V DC and at least 2.4A to charge three USB devices such as iPhones, iPads, Galaxy Note, LG, and many other cell phones using the iSmart charging technology. This feature allows the product to detect the small device and adjust the maximum current allowed to increase the charging speed.

6. Foxelli Dual USB Solar Charger

front facing Foxelli Dual USB

Key Features:

  • PET polymer protection
  • Dual USB charging ports
  • Waterproof

Key Specifications:

  • Weight: 16.66 oz
  • Power Output: 10W
  • Thickness: 1.2 inches when folded

Where To Buy

Foxelli offers one of the greatest solar powered portable chargers for the camper and the adventurer.

Using a polycrystalline solar panel, the Foxelli solar charger is able to charge up to two devices at the same time. Integrated with smart charging technology, the product powers devices delivering up to 1.85 A in total.

As with other portable solar chargers, Foxelli offers this dual USB charging ports option to the market to charge multiple devices such as an iPhone X, an iPad, Samsun Galaxy Note, Edge, mini, S8, S7, an LG smartphone, a GoPro camera, a Kindle, and other electronic devices.

Given its power output, the device has a small size and weighs only 1.1 lbs. It’s ideal to use for backpacking, hiking, camping, or other activities since it has 11 built-in loops to attach the modules to the backpack.

Another advantage is that this valuable solar phone charger is waterproof, which also makes it suitable to do other extreme activities such as kayaking or canoeing. And in case you are worried about its durability, you will realize that the PET polymer cover will make the device resistant to water and even dust.

7. Sound Revo Solar Charger

side facing x-dragon portable solar chargers

Key Features:

  • Built-in Smart IC chip
  • Surge and short-circuit protection
  • Weather-resistant durability

Key Specifications:

  • Conversion efficiency: 22-25%
  • 5V/2A dual USB output
  • Net weight: 40.8 oz

Where To Buy

The 40W Sound Revo solar charger is a remarkable power supply with a high-output rating making it ideal for those who are looking for portable solar power for RV’s.

To maximize its power output, the X-Dragon is built with panels from the top efficiency brand in the market, SunPower. Designed with monocrystalline solar panels that have a conversion efficiency that varies between 22-25% under direct sunlight exposition.

Efficiencies are usually between 15-18%, which means that you could obtain up to 50% more solar power with these cells than with others available in the market.

As with previous models, the product includes a dual USB port that has a 5V/2A output, but to be considered a good solar charger for camping, it also has an 18V DC voltage output that makes it perfect to charge electronics like laptops, tablets and other 18V devices or even 12V car batteries.

The X-Dragon has also a built-in smart IC chip to optimize the distribution of electric current up to 2.8A under direct sunlight. My favorite feature about this product is that unlike other models available, the X-Dragon includes surge and short circuit protection for the multiple devices that may be charging. Based on these features, you can consider this product as a great solar charger for laptops.

How to Choose Your Device – 5 Things to Look For

portable solar charger on the grass

Weight

One of the most important variables to consider at the moment of choosing a portable solar cellphone charger is the weight of the device.

Depending on the outdoor activity that you want to do, the weight will become less or more important. For instance, if you are looking for a solar phone charger for camping purposes, a lightweight device will not be as crucial.

You will be able to place the device hanging on the tent or in the ground, and if you want to save it, you can simply put it back inside the tent or the RV.

But if you are going hiking or trekking, every additional gram counts. Solar chargers for backpacking must be lightweight, and it must also be the first variable to take into account. Otherwise, you will start thinking that these solar phone chargers do more harm than good.

Portability – Size

Another important factor is the portability of the solar phone charger. Here, two aspects enter into the scenario.

First is the way that you can carry the solar panels. Some products have included steel loops that can be used to attach the device to a backpack or to hang it on a tent, but many do not include this feature.

When you go to the outdoors there are high probabilities that you will have to carry water, bags, lanterns and other things, and is most probable that your backpack will eventually get full with other stuff.

Therefore, adding solar phone chargers inside the backpack is not always possible. The best solar phone charger for hiking should have included a steel loop or steel eye-holes for easy carry on the exterior side of the backpack. In other words, the ability to hang the solar panels is very important. However, if you are going camping, this variable could be considered as an additional since the solar panels won’t be constantly moving and won’t represent a valuable space inside the backpack.

The second is the size of the USB solar charger. Unfolded dimensions are important to have an idea of the surface area needed to start charging multiple devices. That being said, folded dimensions are also crucial since they will give you a reference of how much space you will need in your backpack or in your tent.

Power Output and Efficiency

The next thing that you need to look at are the specs. The efficiency of portable solar panels is essential. This is a parameter where you cannot save expenses because doing so will imply a disappointment in performance every time.

Decent efficiency values should be between 19%-25%. In this case, purchasing brands that use solar panels manufactured from the most efficient brand in the market (SunPower) is probably a good idea since you will receive additional power.

The power output is also very important since it will give you an idea of whether or not your solar panel is able to handle a single USB device or if it will be able to charge multiple devices.

Accessories and Features

Another important detail is the accessories that the solar phone chargers include. Does it have a single USB port? Or dual USB ports? Are there any adapters included? Does it have a built-in LED light or any other features built-in?

Considering any valuable additional feature or accessory included without representing an important additional cost is a variable to take into account in the selection process.

Cigarette lighters, overcharge or short-circuit protection, or a solar power bank are typical accessories or features that are always well-received by the customer.

Protection

Finally, given the nature of the activities and the environment where the phone chargers will be performing, there is absolutely no doubt that having a weather-resistant solar energy based charger is a crucial factor to take into account.

Many products have a PET polymer-based protection that guarantees that the solar chargers will be guarded against any possible damp or drop in hard landscapes. Take a look at this feature. Also, if you are going to practice kayaking, fishing, or sailing, make sure that the product you buy is waterproof.

What is the Most Powerful mAh Device?

portable solar charger on top of a car

The most powerful mAh solar charger is the one that contains the highest solar power bank capacity.

The best solar battery charger from a capacity perspective is the CXLiy Portable Charger Power and Solar Charger with 25,000 mAh of energy capacity. These solar chargers have a relatively small surface area and have two USB ports that can be used to charge multiple devices when fully charged. It also features built-in LED lights for illumination and SOS lights as well.

Besides, its light weight and portability make it the perfect solar phone charger. The warranty provided up to 24 months is also another interesting feature to take into account.

It is important to mention that there is a difference between the most powerful mAh solar charger and the most powerful watt portable solar phone charger. The first one acts as the best portable solar battery, able to store a lot of energy to charge multiple devices, several times, but the instant power output to charge the power bank will probably be low.

The second one is referred to as the portable solar charger with the highest instantaneous power output. Based on this, we can select the X-Dragon solar charger as one of the best available choices in the market that will allow you to charge a phone, a solar power bank, a tablet, an iPad, a laptop and so powerful as to be considered as a 12 volt solar battery charger.

What is the Lightest Device?

Based on our top 7 products on the market, we can conclude that the brand that offers the best balance between power output and weight is the Anker 21W Dual USB small portable phone charger.

As we discussed in the product section, this charger has included solar panels from SunPower at a maximum efficiency of 23.5%, which maximizes the power output that the cells can produce, and reduces the size of the product as well.

However, there is another solar phone charger that offers the lightest and most reliable solution for the entire market: The Solar Paper by Yolk Station: considered as the world’s thinnest and lightest solar phone charger.

At only 4.8 oz., the also have a 0.4-inch thickness with a 5W power output and 1A output. The phone chargers do not have an integrated battery and features 23.7% efficiency values with an LCD amp meter that shows the charging speed.

The solar paper is only suitable to work as phone chargers, but you can add more capacity by using expandable magnets that will give you enough power to charge a tablet (including 2 or 3 solar papers).

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7 Best Solar Panels for Camping in 2021

two people camping on the grass near the lake

7 Best Solar Panels for Camping in 2021 (Review)

Going camping is always an amazing experience, and it’s different every time. But in anytime you might just end up with a dead battery on your cell phone, tablet or laptop.

That’s why every person that enjoys living in the open must have camping gadgets that help him/her to live as comfortably as possible. The best solar panels for camping in 2021 can help you achieve a comfortable lifestyle where no electronic appliance has to be turned off due to the absence of electricity.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

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The Best Solar Panels for Camping

1. Goal Zero Nomad 100 Camping Solar Panel

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front facing goal zero nomad 100 camping solar panel

Key Features:

  • Lightweight, portable, and foldable
  • Weatherproof for harsh environment
  • Chainable with multiple other solar panels

Key Specifications:

  • Rated up to 100W
  • Folded dimensions 20.5 x 15.5 x 2 inches (52 x 39.37 x 5.08 cm)
  • Monocrystalline cells of 20% efficiency

Where To Buy

The Goal Zero Nomad is the line of portable solar panels for mobile base camps and off-grid applications of Goal Zero.

The Nomad 100 is the middle size panel of the line. This foldable, weatherproof, and lightweight solar panel is the perfect match for the camping experience.

The compact and durable packing protects the 4 monocrystalline panels and comes with attachment loops to hang it anywhere required. The back part of the package comes with a mesh to store the 8mm charging cable, the USB A, 2.5A port, and the 8mm combiner cable port.

With the APP 4x8mm combiner cable attachment, it can be combined with up to 4 Nomad 100 to harvest the most energy out of the sun and into the Yeti power stations, or any of your electronic device.

Having 4 panels fold into one makes the Nomad panels some of the most space-efficient panels on the market. Unfolded it extends 20.5 x 59.5 x 1 inches (52 x 151.1 x 2.54 cm), but folded, it only takes up to 20.5 x 15.5 x 2 inches (52 x 39.37 x 5.08 cm).

2. Renogy 50 Watt Flexible Camping Solar Panel

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side facing renogy 50 watt flexible solar panel

Key Features:

  • Waterproof junction box
  • Ultra-lightweight design
  • Maximum power from the Sun due to refraction of light

Key Specifications:

  • Tested to withstand 2400 Pa of wind and 5400 Pa of snow
  • 50 Watt power output
  • 248 Degree Arc

Where To Buy

 

The Renogy 50 Watt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel is an excellent choice for boats, RV, or camping purposes.

Flexible solar panels have an amazing advantage on curved surfaces where traditional modules would represent problems due to the fixed mounting structure. Since most people choose to go camping while riding an RV, these products are considered one of the best solar panels for camping.

Particularly, this module has an ultra-lightweight design thanks to advanced polymer materials that make it 70% less heavy than traditional modules. This also represents an important factor for transport purposes.

The flexible solar panel has a waterproof junction box and has been tested to withstand extreme winds of up to 2400 Pa and snow loads that are as heavy as 5400 Pa. Besides, the technology used to manufacture the product guarantees that there will be no hot spot formation.

My favorite feature of this product is that it has been designed with transparent dots on the surface to gather sunlight from any angle and use the distributed dots to cause refraction which allows using the energy from the Sun twice. Based on these features we can say it is one of the best solar panels for camping trailers.

3. ACOPOWER 120W Portable Camping Solar Panel

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front facing acopower 120w portable solar panels for camping

Key Features:

  • SunPower top efficiency panels
  • Compatible batteries such as AGM, flooded, sealed or GEL
  • Portable and lightweight solar suitcase

Key Specifications:

  • Efficiency of 25%
  • Power output: 100W
  • Folding Size: 560 x 440 x 20 mm

Where To Buy

Another popular brand among campers is Acopower. A company that, as Renogy, is completely involved in the market to provide portable power for camping with foldable solar panels, power stations, and solar kits.

In this occasion, the brand offers a 120W portable and foldable solar panel kit that has a lightweight and compact design. As one of the best solar power kits for camping, the product uses monocrystalline cells from the most efficient and remarkable brand of the industry (SunPower) with a performance that increases the conversion of efficiency up to an amazing 25%.

The solar charger and all of its components are contained inside a suitcase that weighs 8.4 lbs. When we compare this weight to a solar panel with a similar power output module (21 lbs.), we will notice a big difference between both options. There is also the possibility to choose other available sizes such as 50W, 70W and 105 W.

Moreover, there is also a 10 A LCD Charge Controller included with two 5V USB ports and MC4 connector cables to safely charge an external battery (not included) at 12V. 

Since it is all pre-wired and ready for connection, you would only need less than 10 seconds to mount the solar panels and connect them to your car battery, a marine boat battery, or another 12V lead-acid battery type such as AGM, flooded, sealed or GEL.

The best solar panels for camping must be lightweight, foldable, and have as much power available to charge your appliances. The Acopower solution meets all these requirements!

4. Goal Zero Nomad 50

front facing goal zero nomad 50

Key Features:

  • Chainable with up to 3 more Nomad 50 panels without any attachments
  • A weatherproof, portable, and foldable
  • Small pack and lightweight suitable for walking trips

Key Specifications:

  • Rated up to 50W
  • Weight 6.85 lbs. (3.1 kg)
  • Folded dimensions 17 x 11.25 x 2.5 in (43.2 x 28.6 x 6.4 cm)

Where To Buy

The Goal Zero Nomad 50 is the smallest portable solar panel of the Nomad line of Goal Zero. Featuring a four monocrystalline panels design, the Nomad 50 is a 50-watt panel versatile for small spaces at your car or basecamp.

As the Nomad 100, its packing comes with attachment loops around the panels, a back mesh to store the 8mm charging cable, the USB A, 2.5A port, and the 8mm combiner cable port. Besides a secondary mesh is also available to store the Goal Zero Guardian charge controller or any electronics.

By using the built-in combiner cable port, it can chain up to 3 Nomad 50 solar panels for a total of up to 150 watts of maximum output.

Its small and lightweight design makes it a suitable choice for walking trips where you will need some extra energy for your electronics. In its folded position it is only as big as a paper folder reaching 17 x 11.25 x 2.5 in (43.2 x 28.6 x 6.4 cm) and unfolded it can reach 53 inches long (134.6 cm).

5. Renogy E.FLEX 50

side facing renogy e.flex 50

Key Features:

  • Plug and play directly to essential electronics
  • Foldable, portable, and easy to carry
  • Lightweight package great for walking trips

Key Specifications:

  • 50 watt rated power
  • Weight of 5.25 lbs. (2.38 kg)
  • High-efficiency up to 20%

Where To Buy

An amazing option on the 50-watt portable solar panel world is the E.Flex 50 from Renogy E.FLEX 50.

Made to harvest solar energy and power your essential electronics, it offers multiple output options in a simple plug and play experience. With a switchable 12 volt DC port and 5-volt USB port, USB-C port, the intelligent built-in chip makes the panel ready to directly charge smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

The panel’s package is made of industrial-strength PET polymer and polyester canvas, along with its two integrated stand legs which makes it a self-stand panel. The best is that the panel can withstand the worst climate conditions of the field.

This lightweight and compact design of the panels makes it another great option for walking trips where some extra energy is needed on the go. On its folded position it reaches 19.9 x 16.1 x 0.8 inches (50.6 x 40.8 x 20.8 cm) and has predesign handles for easy transportation.

6. Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel

tside facing renogy 100 watt solar panel

Key Features:

  • Rigid and long-lasting aluminum frame
  • Adjustable aluminum stand
  • Lightweight easy to handle suitcase

Key Specifications:

  • 100 watt rated power
  • Weight 27.05 lbs. (12.26 kg)
  • Kit includes battery charger and MC4 assembly tool

Where To Buy

Renogy 100 Watt foldable solar suitcase is another great option in the solar portable panel market.

This 100-watt panel consist of two 50-watt monocrystalline solar panels attached through a rigid aluminum frame with an integrated heavy-duty handle for easy transportation. The suitcase comes with an integrated adjustable stand to maximize the solar exposure of the panel.

The output power cables of the panel include the MC4 connectors for easy interconnection. Allowing easy parallel or series connection with any other solar panel.

This suitcase kit includes a lithium and lead battery charge controller capable of handle up to 20 amps. Throughout the controller, the panel can directly charge a battery and show the state of charge of the battery over its LCD screen. The kit also includes an MC4 assembly tool for rapid and easy assembly of MC4 connectors to your solar cables.

On its folded size (suitcase) it reaches 19.9 x 27.2 x 2.8 inches (50.54 x 69.08 x 7.11 cm) making it perfect for a handy transportation.

7. SUAOKI 80W Camping Solar Panel

front facing suaoki 60w portable solar panels for camping

Key Features:

  • TIR-C technology for maximum charging
  • 10-IN-1 connector for any laptop
  • 18V DC dual output and 5V USB port

Key Specifications:

  • 60W power output
  • 20% conversion efficiency
  • Folded size: 11.5 x 6.3 inches

Where To Buy

Another giant Chinese company created in the Silicon Valley of the East is Shenzhen. The Suoaki offers some of the best camping gadgets in the market.

In this case, the Suoaki 80W portable solar panel is a very interesting and foldable product with remarkable features.  One of them is the high efficiency of the module with a 60W output at 20% efficiency. Moreover, the portable power source has a 5V USB port and an 18V DC dual output to keep your USB devices completely charged. More than a simple foldable solar panel, the product also includes SAE and DC cables for energy storage devices. There is also a car charger that can be used in cases where your battery runs out.

Also, when folded, the solar panel looks like a normal briefcase that is easy to transport and put in your RV, tent or car.

My favorite feature of the Suoaki solar charger is that it has a built-in smart TIR-C technology that is developed for the USB port. This technology identifies the current of the equipment and speeds up the charging process of the device while providing overcharge, overcurrent and overload protection. Moreover, the briefcase includes a 10-IN-1 connector that allows you to get connected to any laptop.

How to Choose Solar Panels for Camping

the man is inside the tent

You have noticed that you need additional power for your camping trips, and you have realized that solar panels are the best choice to achieve this.

Having solar power camping gear is one of the best ways to ensure that your batteries won’t run out of power when you are enjoying your vacations in a remote location. However, with so many brands, models, and possibilities, it might be hard to select the right solar panel for you.

First, you need to select the type of solar panel that best suits your needs. To evaluate this aspect, ask yourself these questions: How frequently you go camping? Are you an occasional or regular camper? Are you a nomad? Are you low on budget? What would you use the solar panels for?

For instance, there are three types of camping solar panels.

Solar Chargers

The best solar panels for camping are the so-called solar chargers. These devices generally have a small size mainly designed for charging electronics such as smartphones, laptops, iPads, etc. They integrate monocrystalline or polycrystalline technology in a foldable solar suitcase that can be easily put away or taken out. 

The portability of these products makes them an attractive option for those campers that constantly travel and that are mainly looking for a camping phone charger. There are also bigger solar chargers that are occasionally called solar blankets that can be easily folded to put under the seat.

Portable Solar Panels

The second choice is the so-called transportable solar panels. These are generally traditional modules that can be folded and safely installed or kept away. The size of these modules is bigger than the solar chargers and they can be used for more demanding applications such as charging appliances and 12V battery packs. This is a good option for campers that do not regularly go on trips, but instead go for vacations.

Fixed Mounted Solar Panels

The third choice is the typical fixed mounted solar panels. These are the traditional modules that we constantly see on top of the roof. In this case, it would only be applicable for people that have a camping trailer or that want solar kits for an RV.

The greatest advantage of these products is that you won’t have to set up the power station kit every time that you go out camping and it avoids the possibility to get the modules stolen since they are fixed on the roof. These are the perfect options for campers that have a nomadic lifestyle.

Flexible Solar Panels

A small variant from the third choice is the flexible solar panels. These have the same advantages as the previous ones but the main difference is that they are ultra-lightweight and that they can be easily hidden. Moreover, the main advantage against the fixed mounted option is that for campers that have a curved roof on top of the trailer or RV, flexible solar panels can bend up to 30°.

Other people might just be looking for a camping power station, in which case it is essential to take into account the battery life and capacity to estimate the energy that your appliances need.

What Devices Can You Power or Charge

Installing a camping solar panel is a great way to charge many appliances that are generally used during camping trips. Multiple devices demand electricity and are important to enhance your camping experience and to stay in touch with the rest of the world while you are in the wild: Some of the ones that you can consider are:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • LED Lights
  • Lanterns
  • Fans
  • Coolers
  • Speakers
  • Cigarette Lighters

Solar power kits for camping are a good option to charge a 12V battery bank for your trailer or RV if you are going on long trips. In this case, it is necessary to install a higher wattage module or an arrange of them to completely charge the battery bank. Typically, foldable but traditional solar panel kits of 100 W or 200W are used on trailers to serve this purpose.

What Is a Good Number of Solar Panels For a Camping Trailer?

This is a complicated question to answer because it isn’t simple. Two factors must be taken into account.

The first of them is the space available on the roof of the camping trailer. The average camping trailer has a length of 6-9 meters and a width of 2.5 – 3 meters. This is enough space to install around 6-8 flexible solar panels of 100W on the rooftop (without considering possible obstructions).

In many cases the shape of the trailer could be rounded, so the best solar panels for camping trailers are the flexible models that can be bent up to 30°. These will allow you to install more solar panels on the roof than a fixed mounted option would. Now, once you have selected the brand and type of module that you will install, you must check the available space on your roof and calculate how many panels could fit on the roof based on the dimensions of the modules.

The second factor that must be measured is the number of loads that you want to charge and supply with the modules and a solar power bank. Take into account the minimum power size that you need for your loads and calculate how many 100W flexible modules would be needed to cover them.

Make a balance between these two factors, and if the estimated size that you need exceeds the available space on the roof, you must consider reducing the number of loads that would be backed up. An average of four 100-watt solar panels should be enough to cover most of the appliances that you would normally have in a camping trailer.

What Size Panels Should You Buy?

solar panel hanging from a tree

Purchasing a solar power station for camping is deeply related to the size of the solar panels since they determine the amount of power and energy that you can obtain every day.

Solar energy varies according to environmental conditions such as temperature, shadings, irradiance, soiling and more. To understand how these factors influence the power output of the module requires some technical knowledge. However, if you are still interested in solar power for camping,  there are some things that you must keep in mind to estimate the size of the modules that you need.

The first thing to consider is the region where you are located.  Does the region count with a valuable solar resource? Some areas in the US are perfectly suitable for solar panels since the available resource is quite extensive. Cloudy days have an important impact on electricity production, which is why it is important to take a look at regular meteorological conditions of your area.

The next step is considering the energy demands that you will have.

To estimate the energy demands of your needs, you must simply check the wattage that your appliances require and estimate the number of hours that each appliance will be consuming. Once you multiply the wattage by the hours of use, you will have the energy demanded by each appliance. Afterward, all that needs to be done is summing up each energy consumption to obtain the total energy demand. An easy way to establish this energy demand is through a chart.

Once you have this energy estimation, you must find the average daily irradiance available in your area. This parameter represents the hours of full sun available in the areas where you normally go camping.  You can go to the most reliable source of solar irradiance data in the US, which is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and check in the map the average value.

Later, the final step to estimate the size of the solar panels that you need is to apply the following expression. Remember that the k factor (0.66) represents the estimated typical losses of solar energy conversion according to NREL.

expression to estimate the size of solar panel you need

In the expression above, Ed represents the energy demanded and Irr represents the average irradiance value of the region. This expression assumes the energy demands will be met over the course of a day.

This expression is applicable mainly if you constantly go camping on an RV or travel in a trailer (nomadic lifestyle). This, of course, is useful if you are going to keep in mind the solar system as a 12V battery charger, or running small appliances inside your trailer such as microwaves, small fridges, coffee makers and electronics.

If your camping style is a more occasional-type and you only want to use the solar energy to charge multiple electronic devices and maybe an LED light, your best option is to purchase a 50W -100 W foldable solar charger. Moreover, if you are looking for a module that can charge your phone while you walk through a mountain, then it might be better to focus on finding the best solar panels for backpacking (typically 2-10W).

How to Make Sure Your Solar Panels Don’t get Stolen

Camping trips are amazing experiences that most people enjoy. Contact with nature, sharing with friends, family, and of course eating around the campfire.

However, things can get stolen so you may be worried about the possibility of getting your gadgets stolen while walking around the woods or the beach. Let’s discuss some valuable tips that will help you avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the day

The first thing that you should take into account is the type of solar panel that you purchased. For camping purposes, you have several choices.

If you chose a flexible module to be installed on the roof of the trailer, then you must simply make sure that the solar panel is completely secured to the trailer. Since these products are really thin, the only way for thieves to really know if the module exists is if they see them from above (a higher terrain), so you should not worry too much about them.  Besides, even if they see them, is hard to imagine that a thief will focus on stealing your flexible solar panel while it is already mounted on the rooftop.

However, if you purchased a solar charger or a foldable kit, then things change. Since they can be easily transported from one place to the other, they can be stolen easier than other products. For instance, the best solar panels for hiking are directly attached to your backpack. The best way not to lose them is to not take off the backpack unless is necessary.

If you are charging your appliances with modules, here you must remember that every time you leave the camp tent or site, your solar panels must be secured through a chain to an object that cannot be easily be moved (car, trailer or another heavy object). Since foldable kits often have a suitcase handle attached to the modules, it is easy to pass a bike chain through it and lock it with a padlock.

Another important tip to take into account when having a camping solar system is to know when you should be using it. These gadgets use direct sunlight to generate electricity, if there is no sun, it is pointless to have the solar charger opened outside.

Now, this does not mean that on a cloudy day you cannot obtain power from your modules. The power output will be reduced, but it might still be able to charge your cell phone if you need it. However, under the rain or at night when thieves might take the opportunity to pass through your campsite to steal, it makes no sense to keep it outside. Simply remember to keep your solar charger locked inside the car or the trailer where you will be sleeping.

Maybe a precaution that won’t avoid thievery of your solar panels but that will help you recover them if they are stolen is installing a small GPS unit tracker inside the suitcase, such as Ping. It is a small solution with a long-lasting battery that can be easily put inside one of the pockets available. It can be tracked miles away from your location via smartphone.

How to Set Up the Solar Panels When Camping

two solar panels on the camping house

This will also depend on the type of solar panels that you have purchased.  For instance, the camping solar chargers are the easiest to set up. All you need to do is unfold them (if they are folded) and open them on the ground. Once they are outside, you can connect the electronics to the USB outputs and charge them over time.

Now, if the purpose is to charge a 12V battery bank, the setup process might take a bit of time The first thing that you must remember for folded solar panels is that despite their small size, they can still generate enough electricity to be considered dangerous. Before opening them, it is better that you connect all the wires that are needed to charge the battery bank.

In solar panel kits, the charge controller also includes alligator clips to connect the device to the battery bank. Put the batteries in a safe, dry place. Connect them to the charge controller, then unfold the solar panels and carefully wire them to the DC input. Remember to take into account the polarity of the positive and negative leads.

Once the charge controller has the green light to ensure the charging stages of the corresponding battery bank, your solar system will be ready.

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7 Best RV Solar Kits in 2021

RV solar panel kits installed on the truck

7 Best RV Solar Kits in 2021 (Review)

Some of the greatest experiences you will ever have will be crossing the country in your RV, exploring the U.S. with your family on a well-deserved vacation.

While you go on a trip you might find yourself at multiple destinations inside mountains, lakes, or beaches where no shore power will be available. That’s when an eco-friendly solution will become the most attractive option.

Solar energy is a free power source that can be used when you go on a trip by installing a simple portable solar system on the roof of your RV.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

Here you will find a valuable guide of the best RV solar kits in 2021 which will help you choose wisely, learn how to power your RV with a self-sustaining and eco-friendly power source, and make the right decisions when going solar!

The Best RV Solar Kits

1. Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts RV Solar Kit

best-overall-badge-long

Key Features:

  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum frame
  • Remote temperature and voltage sensors
  • Multiple power options

Key Specifications:

  • Monocrystalline solar efficiency: 18.4%
  • 5400 Pa and 2400Pa resistance against snow and wind loads
  • 16 ft 10 AWG tray cable

Where To Buy

Renogy is one of the best solar brands in the off-grid market. Renogy solar kits often include monocrystalline panels, a charge controller, mounting hardware and more components that make it an attractive solution.

In this occasion, the Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts RV Solar Kit for an RV includes a highly efficient 100 W monocrystalline solar panel with an efficiency of 18.4% and a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame that withstands 2400 Pa of wind loads and 5400 Pa of snow loads. There are other solar power kit options of 200 W, 300 W, and 400 W.

One of the best RV solar kits includes the Adventurer 30A PWM charge controller, aesthetically designed for RV flush mount applications. This device includes an advanced negative grounding to be coupled with batteries, remote temperature, and voltage sensors. It has its own internal electronics to protect the device and your batteries against a short circuit, overvoltages, reverse polarity, and overcharging.

Finally, the kit also includes MC4 connectors and a waterproof / UV-resistant cable entry housing.

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2. WindyNation 400 Watt RV Solar Kit

Key Features:

  • The kit will produce approximately 1600 Wh or 135 Ah charge per day.
  • Anodized aluminum and stainless steel mounting brackets
  • Perfect for 12 V or 24 V battery charging

Key Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 101.6 x 3 x 67.7 inches
  • Weight: 80 pounds
  • 5-year warranty

Where To Buy

WindyNation manufactures some of the best RV solar kits in the US. The brand offers a wide range of products like polycrystalline solar panels, solar cables, MC4 connectors, monocrystalline solar panels, MPPT, and PWM charge controllers.

In this occasion, the WindyNation 400 Watt RV Solar Kit offers four 100-Watt solar panels, a 30A PWM solar charge controller with LCD screen, MC4 connectors, solar cables, and all that you need to install the kit.

The 100-Watt polycrystalline module is a great option for RVs, cabins and other off-grid purposes. The solar panel has been tested under low irradiance and high-temperature conditions and has proven outstanding electrical performance.

Also, the kit includes a 30A PWM charge controller with an LCD screen that shows voltage, amperage, ampere hours, temperature and DC load draw (if connected). The charge controller is ideal for your portable solar power bank because it has a battery temperature sensor, is compatible with AGM batteries, and is protected against short circuit, overload and reverse polarity.

3. SUAOKI Foldable 120W Solar Panel

Key Features:

  • Water resistant module with IP65 protection
  • TPE rubber handle and bracket stand,  to mount at 45°
  • Includes PET layer for scratch protection

Key Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 70.8 x 20.9 x 0.4 in
  • Net weight: 12.5 lbs
  • Power output: 120 W

Where To Buy

Suaoki is a company focused on providing portable power supply solutions to the market. Products include foldable or flexible solar panels, power inverter options, and reliable portable power stations.

In this case we highlight a great flexible option to the RV market. SUAOKI 120 W Monocrystalline Solar Panel has an efficiency of 20% and has a stronger absorption capacity under low-light conditions than other modules. This particular model can also be used as a solar panel kit for camping.

Moreover, the great advantage for RVs is that the module can be curved up to 30° which is very useful trailers, vans or boats where many available surfaces are not completely flat. The Suaoki panel is also water resistant with IP65 protection and weighs only 7.1 lbs.

As with other flexible modules, this product is designed with a frameless designed and four metal reinforced mounting holes that make the installation much easier and faster, as only suction cups are needed to be introduced in these holes. On the other hand, the panels come with a 2-year warranty that will ensure you a good performance of the product in that period of time.

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4. ECO-WORTHY 100 Watt

Key Features:

  • Corrosion resistant aluminum frame
  • IP-65 junction box protection
  • 4 stage charging

Key Specifications:

  • Power output: 100 W
  • 12/24 V battery bank charging
  • Antireflection coated glass included in the polycrystalline solar panel

Where To Buy

The ECO-WORTHY 100-Watt solar panel kit is a simple and portable solution for campers that are looking for easy installations.

The kit includes a 100W polycrystalline solar panel ideal for a 12V battery with a corrosion resistant aluminum frame and a 20V open circuit voltage. The 100W polycrystalline module also includes an IP-65 rated junction box to protect it against low-pressure water jets (when doing the cleaning for instance) and small environmental particles.

As one of the best portable solar charger kits, the product includes a 20A PWM solar charge controller that provides short circuit, over current, over discharge, overcharge, open circuit and reverse polarity protection. In other words, your solar power bank will be completely electrical failure proof.

The solar charge controller also offers 5V dual USB ports for smartphone charging and a 4-stage charging (bulk, absorption, floating and equalization) intended for 24V or 12V batteries.

The kit also includes a red and a black 16 foot solar cable with MC4 connectors to make an easy installation.

5. Newpowa 200W Monocrystalline

Key Features:

  • Heavy-duty anodized aluminum frame
  • IP-65 junction box protection
  • 5 stage charging

Key Specifications:

  • 99% tracking efficiency of the charge controller
  • 12V battery bank charging
  • Power output: 200 Watts

Where To Buy

The Newpowa 200W Monocrystalline is a high-cell-efficiency solar kit that has a high light converting rate. With a maximum power of 200 watts, this solar kit will take care of your lighting needs.

Boasting a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame panel, this will be something you’ll use for a long time. Even better is the fact that the Newpowa Monocrystalline can withstand both strong winds and snow.

The panel’s output is compatible with a majority of solar systems, especially those with 12-volt or 100-watt charging systems. However, in order for this solar kit to charge properly, it should be connected to a charge controller.

The panel also comes with the standard IP65 junction box and a bypass diode. This tells you that it is ready to light your world.

Finally, the Newpowa Monocrystalline has a 25-year performance warranty. This lets you know that this solar kit will work exactly as intended.

6. Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline

Key Features:

  • MPPT solar charge controller for maximum power performance
  • IP-65 rated junction box
  • Anti-reflective and low-iron tempered glass

Key Specifications:

  • 99% tracking efficiency of the charge controller
  • Efficiency: 18.35%
  • Power output: 100 W

Where To Buy

The Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline RV Solar Kit is one of the best RV solar panels from the brand that includes a 100 watt solar panel, an MPPT charge controller and other components needed to install the kit. 

The Eclipse module is a monocrystalline solar panel with highly efficient cells that allow you to have 18.35% conversion efficiency. As with other modules, the junction box includes bypass diodes to reduce the impact of shades and ensure good performance under low-light conditions. It is also protected against low-pressure water jets and small particles. 

The reason why we can consider this as one of the best RV solar kits is that the kit includes a 20A MPPT charge controller. As we have discussed previously, the great advantage of an MPPT model is focused on tracking the maximum power point of the I/V curve at 99% efficiency. 

This means that the charge controller finds the maximum power point (MPP) of the solar cells and charges the battery at 12V while increasing the electric current to match the MPP. Therefore, your MPPT solar charge controller will have a much better performance than any other kit with a PWM model.

7. KOMAES 200 Watts Polycrystalline

Key Features:

  • Tempered glass with 93% light transmittance
  • Anodized aluminum frame
  • Drainage holes included in the borders of the frame

Key Specifications:

  • Power Output: 100 W
  • Dimensions: 1200 x 550 x 35 mm
  • Weight: 8.2 kg

Where To Buy

KOMAES is a Chinese manufacturer of portable solar kits, pure sine wave power inverters, and charge controllers for off-grid purposes. 

The KOMAES 200 Watts 12Volts polycrystalline solar panel kit tech kit is a simple starter kit to provide you with an off-grid solution for your RV.  It is composed of two 100-Watt panels that together can produce almost 1000 Wh per day. 

Each polycrystalline panel is manufactured with high resistant aluminum frames that have pre-drilled holes to make a fast and safe mounting. The solar panel is also designed with tempered glass that withstands wind loads of 2400Pa and snow loads of 5400 Pa and its performance warranty is of 25 years. 

The KOMAES kit also includes a solar charge controller with PWM technology and a 20 Amp output, along with a pair of 20 ft tray cables and 20ft MC4 solar cables. 

Other wattage outputs are available for 100 W and 400 W. 

How Do RV Solar Kits Work?

To live completely off-grid and use solar energy to power your appliances, you must purchase an RV solar kit.

RV solar system kits are composed of several electronic devices that we must analyze in order to understand how they work.

Solar panels are electronic devices that convert sunlight into electricity.  They use the kinetic energy from small particles contained in light (called photons) to release electrons that generate DC electricity.

Charge Controllers

Charge controllers are electronic devices that set the electrical output at the nominal voltage of the battery bank (typically 12 V or 24 V for RV purposes) and stabilize the current values from the solar panels to safely charge your batteries.

There are two main types of charge controllers. The Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) model and the MPPT charge model.

The PWM charge controller sets the voltage output at 12V or 24V and supplies the corresponding current in the I/V curve of the solar panel. On the other hand, the MPPT charge controller locates the maximum power point of the panel to optimize the power output while effectively charging the battery. In simple words, the MPPT model allows you to obtain higher energy yields than the PWM charge controller. However, since MPPT models are more expensive and an RV solar kit generally has a low power size, the pulse width modulated model is used more frequently in RV solar kits.

Finally, the last component is not generally included in the solar kit, but it is essential for any RV solar system: the power inverter. This device converts the DC power into the AC electricity that our electronics and appliances use. The input of the power inverter is connected to the battery and the output is connected to the electrical panelboard of the RV. These products can be either pure sine wave or modified sine wave.

If you want to know more, you can see a schematic of all the solar components inside an RV.

How Well Do RV Solar Kits Work?

RV solar kits are generally associated with thin-film technologies that have been designed with silicon wafers of 200 micrometers thick (slightly thicker than a human hair). This design makes them extremely lightweight and flexible enough as to bend around 30 degrees without breaking apart (very useful for curved roofs in RVs).

Moreover, they have a frameless design and they can hide easily thanks to their thin plastic sheet. Also, they can be easily glued onto the roof without any mounting hardware or any perforations, making the installation process easier and faster.

The main disadvantage of flexible panels is related to heat dissipation and product warranties. Since they are glued onto the roof, they do not have any air circulation on the backside to cool down the solar cell, this translates into higher thermal losses. Also, performance warranties are only 5 years and product warranties only 2 years.

On the other hand, rigid panels are the typical models that we can find in households that have installed a PV system. They have an anodized aluminum frame, tempered glass, and monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity. These modules have been established as reliable, highly durable, and they’re even classified as the most efficient solar panels in the market.

Rigid RV modules are designed to last up to 30 years with performance warranties that guarantee at least 80% efficiency over 25 years. They are also tested to endure severe environmental conditions with snow load and hail tests. In addition, they have excellent performance in hot summers because they have better air circulation on the backside.

As you can see, flexible panels are best suited for RVers that go on short trips so the modules won’t overheat. Meanwhile, the rigid ones are ideal for boondockers that live off-grid for a long time.

How Much Power can They Run?

Each PV system is different because each design will change depending on how much power the customer uses. However, we can estimate some typical appliances inside an RV.

Appliance

Estimated Power Consumption (W)

Estimated Hours of Daily Use (h)

Energy Consumption (Wh)

Small LCD TV

25

3

100

Fans

25

4

100

14-15” laptop

60

6

360

LED Lighting

30

4

120

Microwave

800

0.2

160

Water Pump

100

0.5

50

Smart Phone

5

3

15

Refrigerator for RV

150

8

1,200

Total

   

2,105

As we can see the most demanding load draw is the refrigerator. If we take into account only the remaining loads, we would only be accounting for 905Wh per day, which we can round up to 1000Wh.

In order to compare with a deep cycle battery capacity, we need to convert watt-hours (Wh) units into ampere-hours (Ah). Nominal battery bank voltages are 12 V or 24 V, so if we divide energy into watt-hour units by voltage, we obtain ampere-hours.

In our case, if we use 24V (two 12V batteries in series) and 1000Wh energy consumption, we could translate it into 41-ampere hours. Therefore, with a 50 Ah battery bank capacity, you could power those loads every day. Using a 200-watt solar kit for an RV could be enough to completely charge a 50Ah battery bank of 24V in a couple of days and increase your grid independence.

However, if we factor the refrigerator in the balance, we would have 2,105Wh of energy consumption. It is important to know that despite the refrigerator is used across the whole day, we do not take into account the whole 24 hours, but only use 8h as reference for the duty cycle in which the compressor is working. Another more common and valuable approach is using the annual energy consumption that is generally provided by the manufacturer and take it to daily consumption.

If we apply the same procedure but add two more batteries to have a 48V system, then we would need 44Ah daily. This can increase costs radically, but you would be able to power all appliances with the same solar panel array and by adding two more batteries in series to reach the 48V.

How Many Do You Need?

As we mentioned before there are many appliances that our RV solar power kits can run for us. However, you may be asking yourself how many panels you need.

The first thing that you must do is make a load demand table. Then, you must apply this simple equation to estimate the amount of power needed to run your appliances within a single day.

Ed stands for energy demand, Irr means irradiance in kWh/m2/day, and k is referring to a derating factor. The irradiance values vary according to the location, season, and year. Since it is hard to accurately predict the irradiance values on portable RV solar kits, it is recommended to estimate an average value according to the regions that you regularly visit. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) offers us an intuitive solar resource map of every State across the US that we can use. You can check the resource map here

For instance, if you are located in Colorado, we can estimate the irradiance values between 4 and 7.3 kWh/m2/day. If we assume and average of 5.5 kWh/m2/day and energy consumption of 1,000 Wh, then we can apply the equation.

We could use solar kits for RVs with 300 W of maximum power to cover the energy needs of our appliances within a single day. The same procedure can be used to estimate the solar power that you need.

Keep in mind that the k factor is referred to the balance of system efficiency values from NREL. It represents the typical losses in any off-grid solar system including the PV module tolerance, mismatch losses, AC and DC wiring, soiling, power inverter´s conversion efficiency, and battery round trip efficiency.

What Size Do You Need?

rv panel kits on the roof of the house

To invest in a solar system, you need to keep in mind the power output that we calculated in the previous section. That value represents the maximum power that you need for your solar system.

Solar panels have many maximum power values. Most solar kits for RVs have 200-watt or 100-watt sizes, but that does not mean that you cannot expand your off-grid system. You can also purchase extra portable solar panels to increase your grid independence and power more loads.

Actually, you can choose several small-sized 50W panels (just as the flexible module from SunPower) to have a 300W system. Or you can purchase three PV panels with a higher wattage (100 W) to cover the same amount of power.

Purchasing modules with a higher wattage reduces the number of modules and costs as well. But it also means installing a bigger panel, and you may not have enough space to cover the amount of power that you need.

A 200 W solar panel from SunPower can be 1,500 mm long and 800 mm wide. Do you have enough space on your roof for that? No? Then, try with 100W panels (1100 x550 mm).

Can you put two 100W panels right next to each other to obtain a 200 W power output? Is it better than placing four 50 W panels?

The available roof space in every RV is different, therefore there is not a simple answer. You must ask yourself these questions and try several configurations to find which is the best option for you.

Another important fact to take into account is weight. Flexible panels have the great advantage of being lightweight, while the rigid ones are much heavier and require mounting hardware. Based on this decision, the available sizes for a solar panel will change.

How Do You Install the Kits?

Once you have purchased your solar kit, the next step is the installation process.

If you are up for DIY projects, then installing a solar power system kit is a nice challenge for you.

Once you have opened the box, separate each component and try to visualize the whole schematic. Then, follow these easy installation steps:

  1. Check if you have every component ready: solar panels, charge controller, mounting hardware, cable entry plate, AWG solar cables, battery wires, fasteners, bolts, fuses, and breakers.
  2. Verify the conditions of the products and if possible, buy an additional tilting kit that will help you maximize the solar power that your panels can produce.
  3. Install the mounting brackets in the solar panels while you are on the ground.
  4. Measure the size of the module and compare it with the available roof space on the RV.
  5. Draw a schematic of the positions where you will install each panel. Having a clear idea of where to place each module before you go to the roof will help you a lot. Keep in mind that you need to place the panel as far away as from any object that could cause shading as possible.
  6. The charge controller is easy to install, but you need to place it as close as possible to the batteries in order to minimize DC wiring losses. Locate an area where you could place it and install it using simple screws.
  7. Examine your RV and imagine the shortest possible path from the roof to the charge controller. Longer distances or low AWG solar wire sizes will translate into higher voltage drops and power losses.
  8. Once you have decided the path, the next step is drilling a hole through your roof to pass the AWG solar cables. Once the wires reach the charge controller, it is time to install the electrical protection devices to cover your investment against a short circuit.
  9. Install DC breakers between the cable run and the charge controller. Keep in mind that you need to install the DC breakers in an easy access location, just in case that you need to turn off your solar system quickly. These are easy to install.
  10. Install fuses between the charge controller and the deep cycle batteries to protect them from any overcharge. Then, connect the battery bank to the PWM charge controller using battery sized wires.
  11. Now it is time to install the waterproof cable entry plate with the MC4 connectors that should be connected to the 10 or 12 AWG solar extension cables. Use waterproof tape and a sealant around the cable entry plate to make sure you are totally waterproof.
  12. Drill the holes for the mounting hardware and install each panel on its position. Solar panels are easy to install, you just need to secure them to the roof.
  13. Make the corresponding series or parallel connections between the modules. Use the MC4 connectors and extension AWG solar wires to connect them with the cable entry plate. Remember, series connections add voltages, while parallel connections add electric currents. Check your charge controller’s voltage and electric current range before doing this.

For ease of installation purposes, keep a small note inside your pocket to remember numbers and steps. Also, if you are looking for a PV system that is easier to install, choose flexible panels. You will avoid the need to drill holes and install mounting hardware for each module.

How Do You Ground Everything?

two people installing a solar panel on top of a van

An off-grid power system also requires to ground the solar panels. Grounding is necessary to provide a safe pathway to any possible short circuit that may occur. Moreover, grounding your modules also ensures that you will always be able to touch them without any danger.

The grounding is easy to install.

The first step is choosing a small size AWG cable. Remember that there will be many cables in your RV, so to guide yourself, choose a green color for grounding.

Then, you must connect this wire to the aluminum frame of every module.  Keep in mind that there can only be a single ground wire for all the panels

Once you have connected all your modules system with the same ground wire, you must send it through the cable entry plate to your RV. It will reach the room where the charge controller is located and it must continue to the base of the RV (via conduit if it passes through propane or batteries).

Once there, drill another hole to the chassis of the RV and send the wire through that hole. Finally, you must bolt the ground wire from the panels to the chassis. Keep in mind that the pulse width modulated charge controller and the sine wave power inverter will also need to be grounded, and you must do it to the same reference spot.

How Do You Test Them?

Testing a solar panel is really easy. All you need is a digital multimeter.

Each module brings a nameplate on the backside with all the electrical output specs. Among those, two are crucial for our test. The open circuit voltage and the short circuit current. The first one represents the maximum voltage output and the latter represents the maximum electric current of the panel.

Choose a sunny day to make the test, and at midday, place the panel with direct sunlight exposition. The junction box is located behind the module where two MC4 connectors are located. One represents the positive lead and the other one represents the negative terminal.

You must measure the voltage using the digital multimeter and it should be slightly different from the open circuit voltage that appears on the nameplate. Meanwhile, the measured amount of current should be very similar to the short circuit current.

How Do You Winterize Them?

rv panel kits near the beach

If you will continue using your solar kit during winter, the first thing that you must consider is tilting your panels South. You would be amazed at how much power you could draw by tilting your modules during the winter season. You do not need to worry about snow on top of the modules because the snow melts down as the panels produce energy.

However, if you are an occasional RVer and the snowfall is coming, you will need to winterize your solar power system.

The first thing to keep in mind is to turn off the DC breaker of the solar power system. Then, disconnect the wires that go from the charge controller to the battery bank.

Afterward, cover the panels with a black protective material that does not allow light to pass through. Remember that even when you are inside your home, the panels can generate some electricity with artificial light, so be careful handling them.

More than getting worried about the panels during winter, you should be careful with your batteries. In order for them to have a long lifespan, you must store them in a safe, dry, and warm place with limited humidity. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t discharge your batteries below 50 %  and that you should complete a 4 stage charging before storing them.

Batteries get discharged over time, so make sure you charge a battery at least once every 1 or 2 months and remember to do maintenance as well. Choose AGM or GEL batteries to reduce the required maintenance.

How Do You Protect Them From Hail?

RV solar systems are exposed to outdoor conditions all the time. Constant and abundantly salty environments can lead to corrosion in the panels, soiling can reduce their efficiency, and hail storms can impact your modules at any time.

However, the solar industry is aware of this. Manufacturers have designed their panels in order to endure severe environmental conditions. Every module must pass through quality tests to ensure it will be able to withstand standard climate conditions. These tests include thermal cycling, damp heat, twist, hot spot, hail impact tests, and more.

The typical hail impact test involves throwing multiple 25 mm ice balls at 23 m/s against the panel’s tempered glass in different spots.

Basically, tests and experiments around the world have proven that it is highly improbable that your solar panel will break due to a hail impact since it is designed to resist it.

Nevertheless, if you are still skeptical and want to protect your solar panel kit against hail, you have two choices. The first is insurance. The second involves installing an iron or aluminum frame on top of the panels, ideally a little above the surface of the module. Also, you could use the foam included in the box to cover it and fasten it with a rope. That way the PV generators won’t receive the direct impact of hailstones. However, it could be a complex and unnecessary procedure.

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solar panels in the middle of the hot desert

Can Solar Panels Overheat?

Can Solar Panels Overheat?

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

Solar panels can overheat. It is a common assumption to relate hot climates with excellent conditions for solar panels, however, the truth is that high ambient temperature conditions are not good for solar panels. Actually, this is one of the major causes of a drop-in performance and can reduce energy yields if not considered properly. Therefore, if your location is very hot then it will be great for products such as camping solar showers, but definitely not for solar PV.

In order to accurately describe how solar panels can overheat, we must first understand some basic theory behind solar PV system designs.

Solar Panels and Test Conditions

New solar panel models must pass through a set of lab tests known as Standard Test Conditions (STC) and Nominal Operating Cell Temperature (NOCT) which are related to the performance and power output of the module under specific environmental conditions. This post is useful to learn more about how solar panels are rated.

STC are referred to the following lab conditions:

Irradiance = 1kW/m2                

Temperature = 25°C

Air Mass = 1.5 AM.

On the other hand, NOCT conditions test solar panels under the following parameters:

Irradiance = 800 W/m2          

Wind Speed = 1 m/s     

Ambient Temperature= 20°C

Surface Temperature = 45°C

As you can see, there are important differences between STC and NOCT. NOCT conditions represent a more realistic approach than STC because they consider irradiance values of 800 W/m2 and operation temperatures of 45°C in the solar cell.

However, STC is considered as the main reference for sizing PV systems. Power outputs, efficiencies, voltages, and current values are generally referred to STC conditions. The problem lies in the fact that real-world conditions can be very different from STC, therefore solar designers must use technical mathematical expressions to estimate the new values according to real-world conditions.

The Influence of Temperature in Solar Panel’s Performance

Temperature is an environmental parameter that deeply affects the voltage of the PV module. The effect in the power output is also important since the voltage is deeply affected. On the other hand, the effect of temperature in current values is technically negligible.

Low-temperature values rise the voltage in the module, while high-temperature values reduce the voltage of the solar panel. Since power is equal to current multiplied by voltage (P= V*I), low-temperature conditions improve the performance and efficiency of the module, while high temperatures reduce the power output and lead to other thermal losses.

Operation temperatures values of the PV cell change according to ambient temperatures and irradiance values. To estimate the new operating temperature values of the module, solar designers use the expression below, where Ic represents the estimated irradiance on the module.

expression to estimate the new operating temperature values of the module

Then, using this new operation temperature (Tcell), another important parameter must be considered and can be found in any datasheet of any solar panel: the temperature coefficient of voltage. This coefficient indicates the rate at which the solar panel will change its voltage output according to an increase of 1°C in the operating temperature of the module. 

Using another expression and this coefficient, it is possible to estimate the new open circuit and maximum power point voltages. This expression can be found below, where is the temperature coefficient of open circuit voltage.

estimate the new open circuit and maximum power point voltages

Solar panels under cool temperature conditions are similar to the NOCT temperature value (45°C), however, under hot temperature conditions, operating cell temperatures can reach values as high as 70°C.

How Do Solar Panels Work in Hot Climates?

We have learned that solar panels use solar radiation to generate electricity, but this source of energy has two components: light and heat. Solar panels use the incoming particles of light as the main source of energy to be transformed into electricity, however, the heat component is not used to generate electricity.

Heat is generally associated with high temperatures and high relative humidity. As we discussed above, high temperatures have a negative effect on the performance of the solar panels. Elevated relative humidity values are not good either for PV systems because they can lead to other problems like the presence of moisture, delamination, leakage currents, module degradation, and reduction in current values.

Moreover, if we are installing solar panels in a sloped roof, then another problem arises as well in hot climates. Air circulation behind the module is necessary to keep the module cool and to reduce thermal losses as well.

If the module is too close to the roof, then there is not enough airflow behind it, which also leads to higher temperature values, further losses in power, and reductions in voltage values as well. Ground mounting systems do not have that problem because air flows freely behind the module.

In other words, solar panels can indeed overheat. If your solar panel is overheating, then it will mean a reduction in the efficiency and performance of the module. That being said, it won’t mean that the module will be damaged by the excess of heat.

Depending on the application that you are using solar technology for, the effects of overheating can be bigger or smaller. If you intend to use solar technology to power some solar LED camping lanterns or a solar sliding gate opener which serve very small applications, the effects of overheating can be neglected. However, on residential and commercial scale PV systems the effects of overheating on solar panels can be considerable.

Solar panels are tested under damp heat tests, which submit the module to 1,000 hours of elevated temperature values such as 85°C with 85% relative humidity. In order for a module to be commercially available, it must pass this test and the thermal cycling test as well, which includes 200 cycles of temperature variations between -40°C and 85°C.  As you can imagine, if the solar panel could pass that, then it is unlikely that it will get damaged by the temperature values available in your location.

What to Do if Your Location is Hot

The first thing that you need know is that if your location can reach to ambient temperature values as high as 40°C – 50°C during the summer season, then your solar panels will not perform at high efficiency, and unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it.

However, there are a few details that you might want to think about when installing the PV system to minimize those losses.

We discussed the influence of temperature coefficients in the solar panel’s voltage. Choosing a solar panel with a high-temperature coefficient in an extremely hot location is an extremely bad idea. Here, it is a duty of the solar designer to pay attention to temperature coefficient values and choose the solar panels that have the lowest coefficients in order to minimize the effect of temperature in the module.

If you are wondering which is the solar panel with the lowest temperature coefficient of the industry, then check the HIT modules from Panasonic (the temperature coefficient is -0.258 % / °C – the lowest of the industry).

Moreover, forget about a rooftop mounting system. In a hot climate environment, you must maximize air cooling, therefore you must install a ground mounting system to allow the module to cool itself as much as possible.

Finally, hot locations are generally attributed with deserts or areas with a lot of dust. Considering the presence of dust, sandstorms, and the impact that soiling factors could have in the energy yields of the PV system, is also important the solar designer of your array takes that into account.

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two engineers checking solar panels

How are Solar Panels Rated?

How Are Solar Panels Rated?

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

The solar industry rates solar panels based off of factors such as wattage, efficiency, temperature coefficient, tolerance. Rates are also based off of more financial parameters like the tiering system, which is useful to measure and compare solar panels.

New solar panel models come out every year and add themselves to an extensive market with hundreds of modules and technologies, sometimes even combined with other products such as solar LED flood lights. However, when you go out to purchase solar panels, you might get overwhelmed with so many brands, models, and technologies.

Establishing a rating system is essential for the industry because this allows solar panel buyers to compare performance between different modules, and it establishes an equal ground base for the development of the industry. Solar panel buyers should fully understand the decision factors that must be taken into account when choosing modules based on their ratings. This is not only important when you choose a solar panel for your home or RV, but also if you are choosing a module to charge solar backup generators.

These ratings are referred to lab conditions that test the performance of modules under specific parameters, equal to all manufacturers. The performance of the solar panel under such conditions will determine how good or bad it is when compared to other models. We can divide these lab tests into two categories: STC and NOCT.

STC

Standard Test Conditions (STC) are referred to lab tests for solar panels evaluated in a solar simulator called flash tester. During the test, the modules are exposed to artificial sunlight with an irradiance equal to 1,000 W/m2. This irradiance value is associated with the maximum solar radiation typically at noon and assuming the Sun directly reaches the module. Moreover, the temperature of the module is established at 25°C and the atmospheric density or air mass is equal to 1.5 (shortest optical path length of sunlight through the Earth atmosphere).

NOCT

Nominal Operating Cell Temperature (NOCT) was established because STC tests did not represent real-world conditions under no circumstance. Therefore, NOCT acts as a better reference for utilities and other government entities of how the module would perform under normal or real-world circumstances, this allows them to establish rebates and tariffs more accurately.

NOCT assumes irradiance values of 800 W/m2, an atmospheric density of 1.5, an ambient temperature of 20°C, an operating temperature of 45°C and a wind speed of 1 m/s to represent air circulation on the backsheet (ground mounted systems).

All solar panel manufacturers must include in their datasheet the results of both STC and NOCT tests which outputs include: power, open circuit voltage, maximum power point (MPP) voltage, short circuit current, and MPP current. From these results, the most important one for reference in solar panel ratings is power. It is advisable to learn a little bit about how solar panels work to fully understand the meaning of these parameters.

Wattage

Solar panels can be rated according to their wattage or power output. Lately, the industry has been pushing forward new modules with 400 W output or more, however, the big market share of solar panels is generally located between 300 W and 400 W.

Some solar panel manufacturers still produce power outputs around 250 W that can have residential applications. Power outputs below 200 W are generally attributed with off-grid applications, for RV’s or battery charging. Here we can see average power outputs of several manufacturers from June 2018.

bar chart to show the average solar panel wattage

Average solar panel wattage as of June 2018. (Source – Solaris-Shop)

Efficiency

Maybe the most common solar panel rating is referred to efficiency. This parameter acts as a reference of how much solar radiation can be transformed into electricity, generally tested under STC.

Given its importance, many homeowners, solar designers, and manufacturers rate the industry of solar panels according to the efficiency of modules. Only top-rated brands can produce the top solar panel efficiency, which is why every year there is a race or competition between manufacturers to release the ultimate and most efficient solar panel. We have developed our own top solar panel efficiency list according to the latest product releases of 2019.

Temperature Coefficient

The temperature coefficient is another common rating used to compare solar panels. They are referred to the changes in power, voltage, and current of the module due to the changes in operating temperature of the module. There are three of them in every solar panel. The most negligible is the current temperature coefficient because changes in temperature do not represent important changes in current.

There are also the voltage and power temperature coefficients which effect is deeply important because changes in temperature can have a radical impact in voltage.  If temperature increases, voltage drops, while if temperature decreases, voltage increases.

Solar panels with low power or voltage temperature coefficients are extremely desired because they mean that the voltage will be less dependent on ambient temperature values that are extremely variable.

The solar panels with the lowest temperature coefficients of the industry are the HIT modules from Panasonic with a value of 0.258 %/°C. 

Tolerance

Tolerance is another rating value of solar panels. It is referred to variations in power output due to manufacturing differences that could lead to less or more power than its nominal power rating. Older solar panels established variations on tolerance from negative values to positive values. Eventually, developers realized that solar panel’s power output was within the tolerance range but generally closer to the negative values.

This reduced the performance of the PV array and created disagreement and unpleasant experiences for developers in large-scale projects where the effect of tolerance is more important. Some people believed that solar panel manufacturers deceived developers in the power outputs of their modules which put at risk the confidence in the industry.

Therefore, today solar panel manufacturers must establish their tolerance value from 0% to a positive number. That way if the power output varies in the tolerance range, it will only imply a positive addition to the PV array.

Tiering System

Finally, there is another rating by solar panel manufacturers that is not related to the technical characteristics but to the economics of the company that manufactures the modules.

The tiering system is a list of the most reliable and financially stable solar panel manufacturers in the world. The list is very important for developers who wish to install a large PV system and may need funding from banks to install the solar power plant. This is also a key factor when deciding whether or not solar panels will pay for themselves over time.

If the solar panel selected for the power plant belongs to a brand that is included in the list (like Trina Solar), then there are higher probabilities that the bank will provide funding for the project because the quality, bankability, (useful for claiming warranty) and manufacturing process of the company have been verified to guarantee that the modules will perform perfectly over the 25 years of the power plant.

Some financial entities like Navigant Research create their own Tier 1 list, however, the only reliable and commonly accepted list comes from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and it is not cheap. For homeowners, it makes no sense to purchase the list, but for a developer, it may be crucial and may be worth the investment.

References

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multiple solar panels oduring the night time

Can Solar Panels Work at Night?

Can Solar Panels Work at Night?

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

Solar panels won’t work at night because they depend on sunlight to generate electricity. Some people get confused with the simple way that we commonly refer to solar energy and how we use it. However, the truth is that solar panels cannot generate electricity at night.

What is possible is that you can use solar power generated during the day and store it in devices such as lithium-ion batteries that will allow you to use it during the night. In other words, if for instance you need some light during the night, you can use solar powered lanterns which will generate electricity during the day to charge the internal battery, and then work during the night to light up your yard.

Let’s give you a little technical approach on how electricity is generated from solar panels and how you can use this generated energy during the night.

How is Solar Power Generated?

Solar panels are electronic devices designed with an aluminum frame, glass, wires, and semiconducting materials that are placed in thin layers called solar cells.

The semiconducting material used by excellence in solar panels is silicon, one of the most abundant semiconductors in the Earth. The silicon has a crystal structure composed of strong bonds between atoms. However, by adding or “doping” the structure with other components such as boron and phosphorous, it is possible to increase the conductivity of the layer. In other words, increases the amount of electricity that can be generated.

Now, sunlight can be described as a particle or a wave. If we refer to sunlight as a particle, then we are referring to atom level particles called photons that impact the surface of the Earth every instant during the day.

When these photons reach the silicon solar cell doped with boron and phosphorous, they release free charge carriers (called electrons). The movement of electrons leads to the generation of electricity, therefore, while more electrons are released, more power is generated.

Summarizing, photons reach the surface of the solar panel, photon’s kinetic energy is transmitted to electrons, releases electrons, generates electricity, and they are then conducted to harnessing points called busbars that are connected to the output of the PV cell.

image showing how solar energy is generated

(Source – Solar Energy Technologies and Project Delivery for Buildings, Andy Walker)

As you can see, the main source of energy in photovoltaic electricity is the kinetic energy of the photons. Therefore, if there is no sunlight, then there are non-photons. If there are non-photons, then it is impossible to harness electricity from solar panels.

Then, How is It Possible That My Neighbor’s House is Powered at Night By Solar Energy?

Solar energy harnessing has a particular curve shape that can be usually simulated as a Gaussian Curve.

solar power self-consumption

Solar Power Self-Consumption (Source – My Solar Quotes)

As you can see above, solar harnessing starts producing a little energy in the early hours, maximizes its production during midday, and reduces as evening hours get closer.

However, in many instances, solar energy production exceeds the consumption during midday hours when loads are low because you are outside of the house working or doing businesses. Then, the patterns of consumption generally increase at night, when we turn on the lights of our homes, turn on the TV, start cooking, doing laundry, etc. Unfortunately, solar energy is no longer being generated by then.

Since these two peaks of generation and consumption cannot be mixed, a solution needed to be put in place to make the balance of electricity possible. Actually, in the US, there are two solutions for this issue: Net Metering and Energy Storage.

Net Metering

The Net Metering scheme allows any homeowner or user that produces excess solar energy during the day to sell it to the utility grid and receive a credit for the electricity injected on the energy bill. In other words, the credit offsets any consumed electricity from the grid overnight, it translates into a reduction of the energy bill cost every month.

The problem with net metering is that the tariff or credit that you obtain to offset your production overnight changes from State to State and from time to time in the US. Some States also have capacity limits that can be applied for distributed energy generation, others have restrictions in renewable energy sources that can apply, and others simply do not have that scheme.

However, around 38 States have implemented the Net Metering policy, so it’s not a bad number either as you can see below.

map of the United States to show the state net metering policies for each individual state

(Source – National Conference of State Legislatures)

Other States have special tariff rates, like Minnesota and Texas (specifically Austin). These offer a Value of Solar rate that take into account not only the energy injected to the grid, but also the benefits that solar energy offers to balance the grid every day. The main difference with Net Metering is that Value of Solar rate is fixed over 20 years, which offers stability in your electricity earnings.

Energy Storage

The other solution that came out to the market was to install PV systems with batteries for backup. These systems are usually called grid-tied with battery backup because they do not normally work off-grid, yet when there is a blackout they can power your house.

Coupling energy storage with PV systems has become very popular thanks to the appearance of hybrid inverters that do not require the presence of a charge controller that increases costs. They are also popular now thanks to companies like Tesla, LG Chem, and Sonnen that have promoted lithium-ion batteries that are more efficient, safer, occupy less space, last longer, and are certainly prettier than previous lead-acid battery models.

Based on this approach, some solar designers take into account the use of batteries to improve your self-consumption. The reason for this is that sometimes, net metering schemes may not compensate you enough for the value of solar energy when compared to the electricity rate that you must pay later.

That’s how models like the AC battery from Enphase Energy came out. They do not provide backup, but they save the excess energy generated during the day to use it later at night.

However, when comparing the extra capital costs of improving self-consumption through a battery with the earnings obtained by saving your solar energy for later use, the average answer is that it is not worth it.

Therefore, the true purpose of adding a battery must be to provide safety against blackouts to your house or business, and the additional benefit must be that you can increase your self-consumption and possibly obtain better savings in the long term.

Will Solar Panels Ever Produce Electricity at Night?

Now you know that the “solar energy” used by your neighbor at night is actually stored in batteries or in the grid (Net Metering case).

But, will it be possible that solar panels eventually come to generate electricity at night as well? That would be amazing, right?

Nevertheless, there are still no signs that it can be possible (in the near future, at least).

Attempts of technologies that approach this idea are the nanoantennas from the Idaho National Laboratory that tried to harvest energy from the Sun using the heat generated during the day to generate it later at night, but that research got lost in time because it was from 2008 and we never saw it on the market.

Other technologies as Solar Thermophotovoltaics (STPV) may be able to use the heat during the day to produce electricity for later use, however, it is still too soon to jump to conclusions. Time will let us know if it can be possible!

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Are Solar Panels Dangerous?

Are Solar Panels Dangerous?

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated:

Solar panels are not dangerous if you know how to handle them safely and how they work. The truth is that they are not any more dangerous than the main panelboard that you have installed in your property.

Getting familiarized with something that we do not completely understand may be scary sometimes, however, in most cases it all comes down to know how to use or how to interact with it.

To give you an example, about this, think about electricity, today we all use it in our homes, and feel comfortable using products that work with it. However, there was a time when this was not that simple.

A Short Travel Back in Time

Back in the Nineteenth Century, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were fighting each other over the control of the electricity industry in the United States. Thomas Edison was the advocate of DC while Nikola Tesla was the advocate of AC electricity.

Since DC electricity came first with the invention of the light bulb from Thomas Edison, people were more interested in this type of electricity. Nikola Tesla stood up for a new type of electricity, AC, which required high voltages to generate power; a scary for most people.

Actually, Edison’s campaign to discredit Nikola Tesla’s inventions was focused on promoting that AC electricity was dangerous and that it could kill people. As a matter of fact, the first electric chair execution was done with AC, and it was a disaster.

On the other hand, Tesla challenged public opinion by exposing himself to amazing public experiments that included a lot of lightning and sparks as you can see below. Moreover, he showed people that he could light up the entire Science Fair with AC electricity.

nikola tesla seated in his lab with electrical discharges around him

Nikola Tesla Seated in His Lab with Electrical Discharges Around Him (Source: INC)

Today, the whole power grid works with AC electricity.

What I am trying to say is that AC electricity was considered dangerous, but today we all use it in our homes. In the same context, solar panels were once considered possibly dangerous or unsafe. But the truth is that they are very safe if you have the knowledge required to use them properly. On our website you will find an interesting article all about the history of solar panels.

Possible Dangers from Solar Panels

Electrical Shock Due to Improper Handling

Solar panels are sources of DC electricity generation. As such, their terminal outputs have voltage and current.

Most solar panel installations today generally contain modules above 300W. A typical size solar panel around 300W could have open circuit voltage values close to 40 V and current values that could be between 7 A and 9 A. When you realize that 1 A could easily kill you, then you realize what could happen to you if you put your hands in the terminal outputs of a solar panel.

The thing about solar panels is that you cannot turn them off; there is no switch in every module to reduce their voltage to zero. Therefore, as long as there is sunlight, the solar panel will have an open circuit voltage in its terminals, waiting for some media (wire, metal or in bad cases human hands) to close the path between the terminals in order for current to flow.

If you are not aware of this and you think that your solar panels are turned off just because they are not connected to the grid, then you are making a mistake that could cost you your life.

Things can get as creative as we want. Actually, solar panels can be used to power a small solar electric fence charger. These devices designed to contain animals within a fence can generate a discharge of up to 5,000 volts! This does not kill them or anything close to that, but it definitely gives them a good shock, giving them a mental barrier and keeping the animals away from the fence and inside the desired perimeter.

Of course, here the solar panel is only used as a source of power to charge up a capacitor that provides such discharge to ground throughout the fence whenever an animal touches it. However, this provides an idea that solar panels can be small and safe, but they can also be used to power dangerous applications.

Nevertheless, it is important to know that this doesn’t mean that you cannot touch the solar panels. Actually, installers need to touch the frame to put them in place. Solar panels are designed to be safe and to be touched, as long as you touch the glass or the aluminum frame.

Moreover, once the solar panels are installed, the system is grounded via copper wire to avoid any possibility of shock hazard from touching solar panels (even if they are installed in a 1,500 V PV system). In any case, solar installers generally use electrically insulated gloves to make the connections of the PV system

Fire

This is maybe the greatest danger with solar panel installations, however, cases related to fire caused by PV arrays are extremely rare. Actually, a German research study from 2013 concluded that in the last 20 years, only 0.006% of the 1.3 million PV systems in that country caused a fire, of which only 75 caused damages.

Fires in solar panel installations could be caused by damaged wires (arc fault creation), bad installation procedures, or electrical surges.

Arc fault creation is probably the most dangerous cause of fire related to solar panels. This is created when there is a high DC voltage installed and there is a sudden interruption in the electrical current flow of the circuit, mainly related to a cut wire or to an abrupt disconnection of the wires between the panels while they are still connected in a closed circuit. Depending on the voltage of the PV system, a small or a large arc fault can be created as an attempt of the electrical current to keep flowing through the close circuit by breaking the dielectric resistance of the air.

These arc faults have very high energy concentrations and heat up everything near them, most likely to cause a fire if anything that can catch a flame is near them.

Does this mean that you should avoid solar? Not at all. Just as you do not have to keep your solar LED Christmas lights off for the next Christmas season to avoid your tree from getting burned, you also must not be afraid of solar.

Keep in mind that this is not common and it can only happen in solar panel strings that have a DC voltage of 400VDC or higher. It is not very common in residential PV systems. This means that if you want to install a simple solar light system for a shed or install a small solar attic fan, it is impossible that an arc fault would occur because to break the dielectric resistance of the air, a high DC voltage is required and these are more typical in large commercial and utility scale applications.

To avoid arc faults wire insulation is also very important. Wire insulation can be very different from one model to another, and this is why it is important to know that not just any wire can be placed in a PV system. PV wires are specially designed wires with insulations capable of resisting constant ultraviolet (UV) radiation. That way, they do not get damaged over time and do not lead to short circuits that could cause a fire.

Despite the fact that it is unlikely for this to happen, it is recommended that every now and then, you check if there are any possible damaged wires. If possible, also check for any signs of burned wires or burned panels.

Regarding electrical surges, they are related to high peaks in the voltage waves that come from the grid or from nearby lightning strikes. These elevated waves could reach your house and destroy appliances or even your modules if they do not have the proper grounding path to deviate the wave.

To protect your PV system from electrical surges, it is recommended to install surge protection devices (SPD) in areas with high lightning activities. SPD’s are able to safely deviate the high voltage wave to a ground path, protecting your PV system from damage and eliminating the possibility of fire. One of the most popular SPD’s are the ones from Midnite’s Solar.

Hazards for Firefighters

When firefighters reach a house on fire and they find that the house has solar panels installed, it becomes annoying for them. Whether the cause of fire was the PV system or not, a commercial property or house on fire with an electrical system in one of the most common access points for firefighters is never pleasant.

During a fire, the probabilities that the wires of the PV system get damaged, or that the mounting structure fails, increase radically. Therefore, stepping out and walking around a roof with damaged wires conducting electricity is not the safest environment. Here you can watch a video describing the situation from a firefighter’s perspective

Experience has shown us that it is important for firefighters to be trained and to understand how to effectively deactivate PV systems. According to the National Electrical Code 2017, all new PV systems are required to have pathways for firefighters to pass safely. They are also required to install a Rapid Shutdown System that instantly reduces the voltage of the solar array to zero. There are several options to do this in the market, but again, Midnite’s Solar Birdhouse is a nice choice.

PV systems with microinverters or DC optimizers perform perfectly on this aspect because not only the system is deactivated, but since these products act at module level, they reduce the voltage of each module to zero! Totally eliminating the possibility of damage from solar panels. Here you can watch another video explaining the advantage of a microinverter against arc fault risks in PV systems.

Solar Panels Are Not Dangerous, but They Are Not Toys Either

PV technology in general is not dangerous. Think about it, if it were dangerous, companies would have never manufactured a product such as a solar power backpack which is so often in close contact with the consumer. Moreover, if it were dangerous scientists wouldn’t have considered solar technologies to power the international space station which is so expensive and sophisticated.

Now on a more specific installation aspect, Millions and millions of PV systems are already installed across the world, and they will continue to be installed because the advantages of solar energy deeply overcome the low probability scenarios in which they can represent danger.

Solar panels are not more dangerous than any other electrical installation, after all, we all know the dangers that electricity represents and we still use it. Look at all the progress humankind has made thanks to electricity, it’s not like we are going to stop using it, it just means that we need to learn how to use it and establish safety measures to protect ourselves from its dangers. We must do the same with solar panels. Fortunately, the US is quite advanced in this aspect. It is one of the few nations that require Rapid Shutdown in PV systems.

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7 Best Portable Solar Panels in 2021

portable solar panel on top of ice

7 Best Portable Solar Panels in 2021 (Review)

People choose to buy portable solar panels because they are an incredible source of power. Travelers can use these to charge smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

We reviewed the best portable solar panels in 2021 so that we can help you buy the best product for you. The buying guide includes tips on what to look for, how to estimate the watts of power that you need, and how to protect your devices.

Outdoor activities usually take place in wild areas with no access to power from the grid-like camping trips. Despite wanting to go into the wild for new experiences, we also want to connect ourselves to the world and use our electronic devices to share our lives with the people we love.

Carlos

Written by qualified solar engineer Carlos. Last updated: