Working from your living room couch might be more comfortable than a stuffy office cubicle. However, both workstations can keep you glued to a power outlet. Fortunately, there's a simple way to move your workstation outdoors without worrying about charging battery packs ahead of time.
Portable solar panels are becoming popular as people look for a simple and sustainable way to power their devices while off the grid. Whether you're a hardcore backpacker heading for camping or a sunbather looking to get some work done in your local park, there's a portable solar panel out there to meet your needs.
In this article, we explore the possibility of using portable solar panels as an alternative to electricity.
What Are Portable Solar Panels and How Do They Work?
As opposed to a solar panel that you would install on your roof, which is set in a fixed frame, an ordinary portable panel is generally wrapped in a protective sleeve made of plastic or fabric. Small and inexpensive panels can generate 5 to 50 watts, whereas larger panels can generate 300 watts or higher – the same as an average rooftop solar panel. Smaller panels are often a single sheet of silicon solar cells, whereas larger panels might have two or three panels in a foldable case.
The portable solar panels feature a simple jack or set of jacks to power a number of devices. You are likely to find a DC output jack along with a USB port, allowing you to directly charge laptops or phones. Moreover, a lot of portable solar panels are paired with a portable lithium-ion battery so that their energy can be used under any circumstances. The battery can have a larger range of output devices, from regular household 120-volt AC outlets to DC output jacks.
While the electricity output of some of the bigger panels can be equal to a conventional rooftop solar panel, portable panels aren't intended to be a substitute for rooftop ones. They don't have the voltage regulation and structural integrity of a properly installed rooftop solar system.
Conversely, setting up a portable solar panel system takes a few minutes, doesn't require any inspections or permits, and you don't have to worry about damaging your roof.
Top Uses for Portable Solar Panels
Since these panels are portable, they're often used by travelers, campers, or anyone who needs electricity when unable to access grid electricity. Nevertheless, since these panels come in various sizes, there are a number of other uses as well.
Here are some instances where you can use portable solar panels as an alternative to electricity.
1. Charge Your Laptop
A laptop is one of the devices most individuals carry on their trips. Whether it's a vacation, business trip, or simply visiting a relative, a laptop is an important device for a lot of people. You can use it for communication, entertainment, and work.
You can use a portable solar panel that produces electricity from sunlight to charge your laptop as and when required. It's recommended to keep some spare batteries on hand. This means you can easily work at night and on cloudy days.
2. Charge Your Cellphone
A mobile phone is another device that people keep in their travel bags. It can be of use when you have to call someone on the road and for help if there's an emergency.
You can use portable solar panels to produce the electricity you require for charging your phone so that you stay unaffected even when you forget your charger at home.
Hiking and camping are probably the most common uses of portable solar panels. You can fasten larger panels to the top of your RV or van to provide an alternative to a portable generator. As compared to a smelly, noisy generator burning fossil fuels, a battery-powered by solar panels is quiet, odorless, and clean. Since even the bigger panels are portable, you can put them in the sun while your camper, RV, or tent stays cool in the shade.
4. Heat Water
Whether you reside in a remote area or going on vacation, the need for hot water is generally fulfilled by using electricity or fuel. Unfortunately, both methods can be quite challenging.
With portable solar panels, you can easily heat water for your cleaning or cooking needs. You can even use the electricity for cooking food on a stove, electric grill, or barbecue.
5. Charge Car Batteries
A lot of individuals use car power outlets to charge mobile devices. This puts strain on the car battery, making it drain quite fast. When you have a portable solar panel, you can have a backup ready, which you can use for the car battery and to charge appliances.
Factors to Remember when Investing in Portable Solar Panels
Even though a lot of portable solar panels are easy to install and use, there is always a lot to consider when investing in new technology. We have gathered what we feel are the most important factors to remember before buying portable solar panels.
1. Your Energy Requirements
Start by figuring out how much electricity you require. Portable solar panels are generally available in a number of different wattages – a measure of pure electrical power. For instance, Bluetti Power has options available in 700-watt, 800-watt, 1000-watt, and more varieties. The designs with higher wattages are costlier and larger, so the best system for you will depend on which appliances you wish to power. This can include everything from mobile phones, a coffee maker, a small table fan, or LED lights.
Keep in mind that lower-wattage panels will not prove useless in your mission to use portable solar panels as an alternative to electricity. However, they might charge your devices more slowly than you're used to. For the ideal outcomes, check the specifications of your device and determine how much power their charging cables supply. This way, you won't have to buy a panel with a wattage that surpasses the limits of your devices.
2. Power Storage Options
A lot of portable solar panels come with the batteries and cables you will require to store electricity for later. A power bank is particularly helpful if you want to use solar energy at night or on cloudy days: charging your mobile on a rainy day, illuminating a campsite at night, or keeping your laptop running on a cloudy day are all perfect examples. If you wish to store solar power, consider investing in a home battery backup system or a solar generator kit.
It is also possible to skip the accessories and use your solar energy instantly. Several portable solar panels come with USB ports that you can use to charge your devices directly. A small and lightweight option might be all you need to keep your laptop or phone running on a bright sunny day.
3. Weather Resistance
While many portable solar panels are water-resistant to some extent, not all of them are completely waterproof. The last thing you need is to ruin your brand-new system and get stuck without electricity just because it wasn't designed to stand up against the elements. Depending on the weather in your area and the roughness of your excursions, make sure to determine your portable solar panel's durability before you purchase it.
If weight or space is a concern, such as in backpacking, compare the efficiency of various solar panels. The efficiency of a solar panel is determined by how well it converts sunlight into electricity. A panel with an efficiency higher than 20% is a good-quality product.
A more efficient solar panel requires less room to produce the same electricity as a larger, less efficient one. However, it might be costlier.
If weight or space isn't a major concern, you don't need to spend money on a highly efficient panel on a less efficient, lower-cost panel that is going to get the job done.
Benefits of Using Portable Solar Panels as an Alternative to Electricity
Portable solar panels are an excellent alternative to electricity. You can use them on a camping trip or at home. Here are some of the key benefits of using portable solar panels as an alternative to electricity.
Portable solar panels can work for various activities or functions. For example, a solar panel can work in a fixed position as well for mobile use.
Fixed use primarily involves portable solar panels on rooftops of buildings and homes as well as over RVs or other vehicles. Using solar panels in such circumstances typically entails using the solar panels in conjunction with a battery along with other elements to turn it into a portable power system.
A lot of portable solar panels aren't suitable for fixed use. They are intended for people using them on the go. Mobile use of portable solar panels can be used to charge small devices such as lights and smartphones.
Portable solar panels are perfect for activities such as fishing, hiking, camping, etc. Generally, these portable solar panels work in conjunction with portable solar generators; they power solar generators to provide backup power.
2. Superior Grade Solar Cells
In several cases, portable solar panels are generally monocrystalline. Because of this, they have a somewhat higher efficiency rating.
During the manufacturing stage, the silicon is made into bars and then cut into wafers of monocrystalline cells. An interesting thing to note is that the term "monocrystalline" indicates the use of single-crystal silicon. Because of the single-crystal silicon, electrons can move about more freely and consequently offer additional power from the solar panel to the device that’s being charged.
3. Lower Utility Costs
Paying electricity bills might be challenging for several people. Thankfully, portable solar panels can even overcome that problem. By using a portable panel system in your house, you can significantly cut down your electricity bill.
Nevertheless, your portable solar panels size has a major part to play. The bigger the panel, the more efficiently it can capture the solar energy. All in all, saving costs on electricity bills using portable solar panels is an excellent way to cut down your expenses.
4. Lower Maintenance Costs
Another great benefit of using portable solar panels is that it needs minimal maintenance. It is strongly recommended to properly clean the solar panels once every month for ideal efficiency. Generally, solar panel distributors provide a warranty that can last up to 25 years.
Thus, if you are facing problems with your solar panel system at a particular time, you can get in touch with them. Apart from the warranty, there are additional maintenance requirements. All you have to do is keep up with the required cleaning protocols.
5. Protection from Overcharge
Some portable solar panels come with charge controllers. Thus, these charge controllers provide protection from overcharge.
In addition, some of these charge controllers enable fast charging and other amazing features. Essentially, they restrict the rate of flow of electric current from batteries. Without charge controllers, your devices can get damaged.
Apart from overcharge protection, charge controllers might even safeguard against overvoltage. In the event of overvoltage, there can be a significant drop in battery performance. Keep in mind that overvoltage and overcurrent might pose a safety risk.
Thus, it's best to find a solar panel that has a charge controller that secures against these events.
Last Few Words
Portable solar panels are definitely a greener source of electricity compared to most alternatives. However, to make it worth the investment, consider its financial worth along with its convenience.
At Bluetti Canada, we have a range of portable solar panels that you can use as an alternative to electricity. We also offer a range of solar generator kits, home battery backup systems, and expansion batteries. Check out our website for more information.