How to Use Portable Solar Panels

In this article, we’ll explore how to use portable solar panels, ensuring you have a reliable solar energy source when you need it most.

When it comes to harnessing the sun’s energy, understanding the different types of portable solar panels and their key features is crucial.

Additionally, knowing how to set up and connect these panels will make your experience smoother and more efficient. Finally, we will discuss various applications of portable solar panels and the importance of proper maintenance and care.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding portable solar panels is essential for the efficient use of solar energy.
  • Proper setup and connection are crucial for the best performance
  • Use and maintenance of portable solar panels varies depending on the application and their features.

How to Set Up and Connect Portable Solar Panels

Step-by-Step Setup Guide

To set up a portable system, follow these simple steps:

  1. Determine your power requirements: This is a crucial step in setting up a mobile solar panel system, and you need to know the total power consumption of your devices. This way, you can choose the right size of portable solar panels to meet your energy needs. SunWatts provides an excellent guide for calculating energy requirements.
  2. Unfold the solar panels: Carefully unfold and lay out the boards in a sunny location, ensuring maximum sunlight exposure. This is crucial for optimal power generation.
  3. Position the solar panels at an angle: To capture the most sunlight, adjust the solar panels’ angle based on the sun’s current position.
  4. Connect the solar panels: You can connect your solar panels either in series or parallel configurations, depending on your power requirements and available space.

Connecting to Devices

To provide power to any device using mobile solar, I follow these steps:

  1. Ensure correct cables are available: These may include USB, DC, and other types of connectors.
  2. Connect the solar panel system to a charge controller: This is a crucial step to prevent overcharging of batteries and damage. The charge controller regulates the voltage and current output from the solar panel to the connected devices.
  3. Connect the charge controller’s output to your devices or battery: Connect the device or battery to the charge controller using the appropriate cables.
  4. Monitor the charging process and adjust if necessary: Keep an eye on the charging status of what you are charging and the output from my solar panels. If needed, adjust the angle of the solar panels to capture more sunlight and increase power generation.

With a correctly set up and connected system, you can efficiently power your devices on the go. 

Using Portable Solar Panels for Different Applications

Camping and Trail Running

I’ve found portable solar incredibly useful during camping and trail runs. They allow me to charge essential gadgets like my phone, GPS, and running watch. 

I usually set up the solar panel near my campsite. I also attach a smaller supplementary panel to my pack when on the trail, so it continuously charges my power bank on the move. 

RV and Van Usage

Solar panels are perfect for life on the road. By using solar panels, you can minimize reliance on campsite hookups and noisy generators. They’re easy to set up and provide an efficient power source for all the electrical equipment in my RV, from lights and fans to the fridge and microwave.

Feel free to experiment with various mounting options, like attaching the panel to the RV’s roof for maximum sunlight exposure. 

But ensure the panels are properly secured so they don’t get damaged or cause injury while driving. 

With the right setup, portable solar panels can make RV trips greener and more self-sufficient.

Backup Power During Outages

In recent years, I’ve also started using portable solar panels as a backup power solution during outages.

As these become more common, having a reliable source of emergency power for essential devices like internet routers, phones, and lights.

Connecting my portable solar panel to a portable generator gives me the reliability and flexibility I need during outages.

Types of Portable Panels

In the context of this article, they can be classified into three main categories: solar phone chargers, flexible panels (foldable or “suitcase” style), and rigid panels with a kickstand.

Solar phone chargers are small, foldable panels that produce 5 to 20 watts. They are perfect for backpackers (this is what I attach to mine on long hikes) and campers. They are lightweight and portable and typically feature a USB output port for directly charging gadgets.

Flexible panels, sometimes called foldable or “suitcase” style panels, generate between 20 and 100 watts of power. These are more versatile than solar phone chargers and can be used for various applications, like RVs, boats, and off-grid living. 

They can be easily folded and transported, making them an ideal choice for people who need a compact and flexible power source.

Rigid panels with a kickstand usually offer 50 watts or more, providing a higher power output for more demanding energy requirements. These panels are built to be durable and efficient, but they may not be as portable as the other options. 

Despite their size, they can be easily set up with the help of the integrated kickstand, ensuring optimal positioning for maximum energy collection.

While these are the primary categories, it’s worth noting that many types of portable solar panels are available on the market. Picking the right one depends on your intended use, power requirements, and portability preferences.

Key Features of Portable Solar Panels

Size and Form Factors

Portable solar panels come in various sizes and shapes to accommodate different needs and environments. A compact design is essential for transportation and storage purposes. 

Depending on your energy requirements, you can find smaller, lightweight panels for camping or larger ones for home use. You can refer to this article on how portable solar panels work to understand the different sizes and form factors better.

Efficiency and Wattage

Efficiency refers to the conversion of sunlight into electricity. The higher the efficiency, the more power your panel can produce. 

Wattage, on the other hand, represents the panel’s power output. Choosing a panel with the appropriate wattage for your specific needs is essential. 

Remember that higher-wattage panels typically have higher conversion efficiencies, rendering them more suitable for demanding applications.

Use of USB Ports

One key feature of portable solar panels is the use of USB ports. These USB output connections allow you to charge devices like smartphones, tablets, and power banks directly from the panel. 

It’s important to note that not all panels have USB ports built-in, so you should look for models with this feature if it’s a priority. Some panels may offer multiple USB ports to charge multiple devices simultaneously.

🎓 Pro Tip: Remember to consider your requirements and consult the resources mentioned in this section to make an informed decision.

Maintaining and Caring for Your Portable Solar Panels

I regularly maintain and care for my panels to ensure their efficiency and longevity. One aspect of maintaining the gear is ensuring its portability remains intact. 

A sturdy build crafted by a reputable manufacturer often guarantees high-quality materials that can withstand regular packing and transportation.

Follow the manufacturer’s warranty terms to ensure that their guidelines are adhered to should any issues arise and require repair or replacement.

A significant part of maintenance involves regularly cleaning the panels. I’ve written a guide on properly cleaning portable solar panels, which you will find quite helpful. 

Gently wiping the solar panels with a soft cloth and water helps remove any dirt and dust accumulating over time, allowing them to perform optimally.

Be cautious with exposure to moisture, as water damage may reduce efficiency. You can learn more about whether portable solar panels can get wet to improve your understanding of caring for them during bad weather.

In a nutshell, my top recommendations are to choose a solar panel with a durable build from a trustworthy manufacturer, follow the warranty guidelines, clean the boards regularly, and protect them from water damage to ensure their performance remains consistent over time.

Mathew, our founder and chief editor at BloomCentre, combines his passion for renewable energy, commitment to sustainable living, and his rich experience in the solar industry to provide reliable and insightful advice.