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How Solar Power Works in a Caravan

Caravans or motorhomes, apart from their function as vehicles, are also used as small homes. These can have televisions, coffee makers, hair dryers, smoke extractors, irons, fans and even refrigerators, among others. As you can see, it is a very complete set of household appliances and electrical devices that consume considerable energy, which can quickly deplete the vehicle’s battery if they are not connected to the network of a photovoltaic solar installation of solar panels

How Solar Power Works in a Caravan

Next, we analyze how photovoltaic solar energy for caravans works and which solar energy kit for caravans is the most recommended. Continue reading for more information.

Considerations to take into account for solar energy installations for caravans

The first thing you should take into account before buying a solar energy kit for caravans like crazy is the power you are going to need according to consumption. It is, therefore, that you know what consumption you are going to have in order to be able to select the dimensions of the solar installation —and even, to calculate whether the investment compensates you or not—. You can look, for example, at the watts consumed by electrical devices and at the hours they will be working. On the other hand, it is essential that you measure the space that your vehicle has on the roof to calculate the number of solar panels that fit on it. You must also take into account that once the solar panels have been installed, it will be necessary to approve the solar installation since in Spain this is mandatory and, otherwise, it may mean the immobilization of the vehicle or that you do not pass the ITV.

It is also essential that you take into account what type of trips you are going to make and the duration of them. The objective of this is neither more nor less than to check if the installation is really worth it or not. For example, if you are one of the people who travels and spends the night in campsites where there is access to electricity, you probably do not need this type of installation. Now, if you usually spend the night anywhere and use the battery, then the situation changes. Finally, you must take into account the position of the installation of the plate in the caravan. If you use the solar panels in summer, they must have an angle of 15º, if you use them in winter the angle must be 45º and if you use it all year round, an intermediate angle of 30º is usually sought so that they remain fixed.

How many panels does the caravan solar power installation need?

As we explained, the number of solar panels depends on the space. If this is not a problem, the next thing you should do is calculate the amount of photovoltaic solar energy for caravans that you need based on the power and consumption of electrical devices and appliances and the hours they will spend working. To proceed to the calculation of the power you must take into account:

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  • Solar panel efficiency: Usually a little lower than what is specified. For example, if we have a 100W board, it can deliver up to 70 or 60W.
  • The place and time of the year: Since the incidence of solar radiation is not the same in the north as in the south, nor in summer or winter.

The formula to calculate the necessary power of photovoltaic solar energy for caravans is as follows:

  • Current intensity that a panel can supply: Intensity = power/voltage · efficiency. With this we obtain the amps that the plate can provide per hour while it is in the sun.
  • It is important that you calculate your daily consumption and that you express it in amps.
  • You must also take into account that the total consumption produced by the plate must be deducted from the losses that may exist with respect to the charge regulator, the wiring and the days without sun, since the power will be reduced.
  • In general, the solar panels will be exposed to the sun for a total of 7 hours in summer and 3 hours in winter.

Can the vehicle batteries be used?

Absolutely not. Batteries for caravans, campers or motorhomes are exclusively for running the vehicle’s engine and their use is not designed for electrical or household appliances. This would cause these to be downloaded immediately and the caravan would not start. It will be essential, therefore, to use auxiliary batteries that also store the electricity that has been generated by the solar panels to be able to use them at night and with the vehicle off.

Batteries to store solar energy for caravans can be of various types. Some of the most recommended are AGM or Gel batteries, these are cheaper and admit, among others, deep discharge cycles. Also, they are very safe.

To calculate the charge capacity of a battery, the total sum of amps that will be needed daily must be taken into account —as we have explained above—. The capacity of the battery is measured in amps per hour, however, it should always be ensured that this figure is a little higher in case in the future you want to expand the capacity or if the storm does not accompany it —with which the capacity of load is reduced.

The formula to calculate the voltage is as follows: Energy (Wh) / Voltage (V) = Ah (Amps/hour)

What other elements does the caravan need to complete the solar installation

The installation of the photovoltaic solar energy system for caravans needs, in addition to the solar panels and batteries, a charge regulator and a power inverter:

  • Charge regulator: The function of the charge regulator is to control the energy that is supplied from the solar panels to the batteries, controlling when they are charged or when it is necessary to start charging them again.
  • Power inverters: The function of power inverters is to transform the direct current provided by the battery into alternating current to be able to connect different electrical devices and appliances to it.

The best solar power kit for caravans

The default voltage in a caravan electrical installation is usually 12V. At SolarPlak you can find the best solar kits and at the best price for caravans, network installations and isolated photovoltaic installations for residences, industrial buildings and others.

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