Solar Panels For Your Caravan – Everything You Need To Know

Solar Panels For Your Caravan – Everything You Need To Know

In an age where most of us are concerned about the environment, reducing our carbon footprint is at the top of our minds. Let’s face it; in everyday life, it is impossible not to have a carbon footprint of some sort. Given how vast Australia is, the best option for travel is by car, and when you are travelling in a motorhome or a caravan, fuel becomes a huge cost. It is important for all of us to utilise anything we can to reduce the cost and reliance on fuel and fossil fuels, hence lowering our footprint.

Why should you go solar?

There is a way, however, to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels, by going solar. Solar electric power is the most environmentally friendly option currently available. Solar panels use photovoltaic technology to convert natural light into power. A solar panel will charge your battery whenever the sun shines — even on overcast days when the sun isn’t visible. The ideal source of green energy! In this blog, we take you through the whole process of going solar. How to select the right option, install and maintain it.

Basic Components

Before getting into the details, let us first look at the key components for setting up a caravan solar system.

  • Solar Panels: A solar cell panel, also known as a solar electric panel, photovoltaic (PV) module, or solar panel, is a collection of photovoltaic cells put into a framework for installation. A collection of PV modules is a PV panel, and a group of PV panels is an array. Solar panels produce direct current electricity using sunlight as a source of energy. A photovoltaic system’s arrays provide electricity to the electrical equipment.
  • Wiring: The electricity produced flows through wires that connect the arrays. The primary role of the ‘arrays’ is to allow electricity generated by the solar panel to be transferred to your battery and devices. Use an MC-4 connecting connector to properly connect a cable to a solar panel. MC-4s allow strings of panels to be easily constructed by pushing the connectors from adjacent panels together by hand but require a tool to disconnect them to ensure they do not accidentally disconnect when the cables are pulled.
  • Solar Charge Controller: This manages the voltage and current, flowing in from your solar panels. It is vital in a campervan because the quantity of power generated by your solar panels may fluctuate significantly while you’re on the road. The charge controller prevents your solar charge system from being damaged by fluctuating power input. If you connect your solar array directly to the battery bank, you risk damaging your batteries and shortening their lifespan, as well as risking a fire.
  • Batteries: Solar panels provide electricity only when the sun shines. On cloudy days, the production is lower, and there is none at night. The power created by the solar panels is stored in batteries, allowing you the luxury of using your appliances even when the solar panels are not providing electricity.
  • Inverter: An inverter converts the battery’s 12V DC to 240V AC, which can be used by appliances such as a refrigerator, TV or heater.

Installation

It is best to start the electrical part of your caravan solar panels installation as early as possible. Ensure the wiring is done before you install any of the components. A proper plan before starting work also ensures that you avoid costly reworks and provide easy access to the system later.

Selecting the solar panels

Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film amorphous silicon solar cells are the three primary varieties now available. Polycrystalline cells are made up of silicon fragments, whereas monocrystalline cells are formed up of a single silicon crystal. Thin-film panels employ a fundamentally different technology than the other two. It is currently considered new technology, and while less efficient than the other two (particularly in low light), they are predicted to make significant advancements in the coming decade. They are also comparatively less expensive.

According to experts, modest differences in efficiency are less essential than purchasing a reputable brand panel with high build quality.

You also have freestanding panels, which can be moved and used for different applications. Rigid frame panels that are flat and can be roof-mounted optimising exposure to sunlight. Or, flexible panels that are thin, robust, light and low-profile, and can easily be bonded to the roof of a motorhome.

Fortunately, technology is rapidly evolving. It’s becoming simpler now to find high-quality solar panels for your caravan solar system that are not only lightweight and robust but also flexible enough to fit the topography of your van!

Array Design

You have the option of wiring your solar panels for your caravan solar system in a series or parallel. By connecting all solar panels in a series, they can function as a single unit. This is accomplished by connecting the first solar panel’s positive terminal to the second panel’s negative terminal. By combining them in this manner, the overall voltage provided by the solar array is increased while the amperage remains constant, giving more power.

Each solar panel operates as an individual unit when wired in parallel. This is accomplished by joining all of the solar panels’ positive terminals and all of the panels’ negative terminals. This raises the total amps generated by the array while keeping the voltage constant, giving you longer lasting battery power at the same voltage.

Other Components

When it comes to fitting solar panels into your caravan’s electrical system, there are a few small components that can make your life easier. When combined with all other electrics, this system can have up to 20 circuits, each requiring a specialised fuse, so it’s ideal to have a fuse box that can house several fuses connected to their circuits in one location.

Install a bus bar to the battery instead of connecting each circuit directly, making maintenance, installation, and future expansion of your system easier. You’ll have to have more fuse holders and terminal connecting points than circuits, and the fuse block and bus bars must be able to carry a current larger than your total.

Similarly, when there are switches for the numerous appliances powered by solar panels for you, switch panels keep things neat.

Electrical Regulations for Motorhomes

The cabling in an RV is typically run through the walls and/or ceiling. However, it can also be run beneath the floor or through purpose-built cavities or ducts, usually hidden in cupboards or overhead lockers. Typically, the electrical cabling is placed during the production process and is never referred to again if all goes well.

The Australian/New Zealand Standard for Wiring Rules 3000 and 3001, which apply to “transportable vehicles and buildings,” govern all RV 240V work in Australia.

Tips for getting the best benefit out of your solar power system

  • Park or place your solar panels so that maximum direct sunlight falls on the panels.
  • Regular battery maintenance.
  • Ensure you use energy-efficient equipment.
  • Regularly clean your solar panels with warm water and soap.

Your caravanning experience will be radically transformed if you use solar panels. You will get a new degree of independence that you have never had before if you are on solar power. Because of this virtually unlimited source, you will not be relying on mains electricity when travelling. You will be free to go wherever you want, whenever you want!

Also Read: Tips For Modern Caravan Restorations

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