Ever since they were introduced, portable solar panels have revolutionized the modern-day nomadic lifestyle and off-grid living. These handy and compact systems offer numerous advantages that cannot be paralleled by conventional gas generators, and have therefore become a favorite for adventure seekers.
One of the biggest advantages of using portable solar panels for camping or to power your RV is the money they can help you save. Let's look at what portable solar panels are and how they can save you money on your off-grid adventures.
An Overview of Portable Solar Panels
A portable solar panel can generally be classified as any solar panel that can be shifted around and used to generate electricity away from your primary residence. These panels are usually used for off-grid living, which includes powering RVs and devices on camping trips. Additionally, portable panels are smaller in size and capacity compared to standard residential solar panels. While the latter offers 250-to-400-watt panel capacities, portable solar panels come in 120- or 200-watt options.
Another type of portable solar technology is solar chargers, which are smaller, more portable solar devices designed specifically to charge small electronic devices such as mobile phones.
When it comes to performance, portable panels will always fall short compared to rooftop residential or commercial panels since portable solar panels have smaller profiles and more portability-centric designs. However, this works in their favor as well and grants them a few distinct advantages that make them ideal for a few particular applications.
For instance, portable panels are a low-cost solution that allows you to use solar energy even in remote settings. They are also quite flexible and mobile, allowing you to position or relocate them wherever you may require power at the moment. Their lightweight and compact designs also make it easy to manually adjust their position to keep them facing the sun. This makes a portable solar setup a terrific method to use the free energy of the sun for your on-the-go power needs during a lengthy RV drive, walk, or camping trip.
Since portable panels are smaller in size and are meant for outdoor use, they come with some exclusive features such as handles, a kickstand, an IP certification for dust and water resistance, and even USB ports. The portable solar panels offered by Bluetti offer most of these features and in addition, are foldable as well.
How Portable Solar Panels Save You Money
Portable Solar Panels Can Save You Fuel Cost
Conventional gas generators work by converting the chemical potential energy of fuel into electrical energy. The engine of the generator uses the energy released on the combustion of fuel to rotate the armature inside the stator, thereby generating current.
The higher the capacity of your generator, the more fuel it’ll consume. It has been estimated that an average 5kW portable generator will consume about 0.75 gallons of fuel each hour if you’re using the generator to power off-grid survival or camping equipment such as lights, fans, etc.
With the gas prices in the US reaching unprecedented levels, running a gas generator will cost you somewhere along the lines of $3.75 per hour. Depending on how many hours a day you run your generator, you could end up paying an astronomical amount of money for gas alone.
A portable solar panel, on the other hand, generates electricity using solely sunlight which is not only a free resource but also an abundant one. This means that by using portable solar panels for RV, camping, or an off-grid cabin, you would essentially be enjoying free electricity, for an initial investment, of course.
The best part is that the money you save on gas by going solar will be significant enough to reimburse you for the cost of your portable solar system in just a few years.
Portable Solar Panels Will Save You Maintenance Cost
Gas generators are made up of a number of static and dynamic parts which have to be regularly maintained in order to ensure that the generator keeps functioning optimally. These maintenance procedures can involve steps such as cleaning air filters, changing the oil, filling in fresh gas, etc.
These procedures have to be performed rather frequently; for instance, experts recommend changing the oil after every 50 to 60 hours of operation. This, of course, depends on the model, brand, and age of your generator, as well as various other factors. Doing so ensures that the engine has enough lubrication to keep the friction between moving parts to a minimum.
The failure to do so can lead to excessive friction, which in turn can lead to accelerated wear and tear, overheating, and even engine seizures. All of which can be beyond expensive to deal with.
Portable solar panels, however, have no moving parts and have a relatively simpler construction than generators. This allows solar panels to function for an extended period of time without requiring much maintenance. Since these systems do not have any moving parts or intake or exhaust cycles, there are no lubricants or filters that you would need to change.
Occasional cleaning and washing of the solar panel surface are all the maintenance these systems require. Generally, it is recommended to clean solar panels once every six months or year. However, if you’ve been on a muddy or dirty trail or camping site recently, you may want to bump up the frequency of cleaning and washing your portable solar panels.
Portable Solar Panels Can Save You Replacement Costs
Any power generation source, be it generators or solar panels, have a finite lifespan, after which you'll need to replace the machine for lack of performance and efficiency. However, the lifespan of solar panels and portable generators are worlds apart in terms of length. In fact, portable solar panels can last for more than twice as long as portable gas generators.
Portable generators generally have a lifespan of 2000 to 3000 hours. If you use the generator for 500 hours a year (less than two hours a day), the generator lasts you for 4 to 6 years. The relatively short lifespan of portable generators also reflects the fact that they come with a warranty of only 2 or 3 years.
Compared to this, portable panels offer you an extensive lifespan of 25 years. It is also worth noting that you won’t necessarily have to replace your panels after this period has passed because your panels will still be functioning. All that will have changed is that the performance of your solar panels will have decreased to about 80%, or more, of its original capacity.
Naturally, a shorter lifespan means that you’ll go through multiple generators at the same time a single solar panel system would last you. The cost of replacing multiple generators will undoubtedly be higher than the cost of your portable solar panel system.
Portable Solar Panels Can Help Reduce the Amount of Fuel Required for You to Reach Your Destination
Whether you’re going on a camping trip with friends or journeying across the state in your RV, the fuel consumed by your vehicle will be one of the most prominent expenses of your adventure. However, whether you choose to take a gas generator or portable solar panels with you can make a noticeable difference in how much fuel your vehicle consumes and how much expense you have to incur as a result of it.
Confused? Let us explain. One of the major factors that influence the fuel consumption of your vehicle is the overall weight of the vehicle; this includes everything within the vehicle as well. Seeing as how a gas generator is much bulkier and heavier than portable panels, it will add a considerable amount of weight to your vehicle, forcing it to consume more fuel. Needless to say, a greater fuel consumption means a higher cost.
The additional fuel expense may not concern you too much if you go for camping trips only occasionally. However, if you’re on the road very often or are on a long adventure across the country, this small expense can rapidly add up to a very substantial amount over the course of the trip. Knowing this, going solar on your road trips and camping trips can save you quite a bit on your vehicle’s fuel expense.
Top Uses for Portable Solar Panels
Portable Solar Panels for Camping
Camping is one of the most popular and common uses for portable panels. The panels serve as a great alternative to a portable gas generator and can be easily fitted onto your RV or van. A portable solar panel system with a batter offers clean, silent, steady and odorless energy, even after sundown, in contrast to a loud, unpleasant generator that releases pungent combustion fumes all over the camping site.
These fumes are not only unpleasant, but they are also toxic and can be very detrimental if inhaled in large amounts. Thanks to their portability, you can set up the panels in the sun while keeping your camper, tent, or RV cool in the shade.
Portable solar panels are a great way to go solar if you live in an apartment and your landlord is unwilling to install solar panels on the roof. You can power your high-consumption appliances such as the refrigerator, TV, sound system, etc., using the portable panels allowing you to cut down your electric bill. Since the panels are portable, you can take them with you when you move out of the apartment.
Portable Solar Panels for Boating
You can place the solar panels on a flat surface such as the deck of the boat and use the power generated by the panels to power various electronics of the boat, such as a small motor. When you are at sea, the panel can also serve as a canopy to shield you from the harsh rays of the sun.
Using a complete portable solar panel system with a solar battery to power the motor can enable you to sail without the need for wind or the commotion and smell of a gas-powered engine. The best part is that you can sail for as long as you want to without having to stop for fuel, provided that the sun is still shining.
Canada is no stranger to snowstorms and blizzards. Harsh storms can knock down the transmission lines from the grid resulting in a power outage that may last for days. Other circumstances such as maintenance or faults in the transmission lines can also lead to power outages. Whatever the case may be, having no power can cut off your access to the internet and disrupt your day-to-day activities, especially if you work remotely.
A portable solar system can keep you powered through the outage, ensuring that you remain connected to the world and that your work isn't interrupted by the loss of the grid. Additionally, by using the panels to power a mini-sized refrigerator, you can ensure that your perishable food supplies don't rot away. There are countless other ways a portable solar panel could come in handy during a power outage.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Portable Solar Worth It?
While portable panels won't generate enough energy to power an entire house or large appliances, using portable solar panels for camping, RV driving, or other off-grid activities can be a great way to enjoy clean, noiseless, odorless, and widely abundant energy. This makes them totally worth the cost.
How Efficient Are Portable Solar Panels?
The efficiency of portable panels depends on the manufacturer and the cell technology used. The portable solar panels offered by Bluetti are one of the most efficient panels on the market, with an unmatched efficiency of 23.4%.
How Much Do Portable Solar Panels Cost?
Portable panels generally cost much less than traditional residential and commercial panels. The cost of portable solar panels will roughly range between $1.00 to $2.00 per watt.
Who Makes the Most Efficient Portable Solar Panels?
Bluetti offers the highest-efficiency portable solar panels in the market that come with unique features such as IP 65 certifications, foldability, handles, and more.
Portable solar panels are a marvel of modern-day engineering and the pioneers of green off-grid living. In addition to saving money, these versatile devices offer numerous other benefits for the user as well as the environment, making them the ideal energy solution for all remote and adventures that are off-the-beaten path. With that said, using portable solar panels for camping, boating, picnicking at the beach, or driving across the country in your RV would make for a much more reliable, financially feasible, and safer option than a gas generator. You can get everything you need here at Bluetti!