If you’ve already got solar panels on your caravan or are about to install some there are a few things to remember to ensure you get the most from your solar. There are many benefits to switching to solar or upgrading to a bigger system, and one of the best things about solar is the low maintenance aspect. However, no system is completely maintenance-free, so we’ve put together some tips for how to get the most out of your solar for as long as you can.
Keep the Panels Clean
One of the simplest things to do is give your solar panels a regular clean. Dirt and dust can quickly build up over time, especially if you are heading off-road or to more rural areas. Anything blocking sunlight from the photovoltaic material may impact the output of the panel.
To clean your panels:
- Hose down your solar panels.
- Use a sponge, mop or broom with soapy water to gently clean the panels and remove dust or build up.
- Hose them down again to remove any soap residue.
- Also inspect under the solar panels, removing any leaves or debris that might impede airflow.
Go Bigger with Batteries
When batteries are overly discharged on a regular basis, there is a risk of permanent damage to the batteries, often reducing the life span of the battery. Your solar system should have enough power to charge the batteries back to full during the day so your batteries aren’t discharged too much overnight. The bigger you battery bank means the less each of your batteries will be discharged potentially extending the lifespan of the batteries. This will ideally mean the batteries will have to be replaced less often (reducing future costs), and you will have a larger capacity battery bank to draw from.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for approximately 250W of solar per 100Ah battery capacity. Though this does differ depending on a few factors including battery type, power consumption and how your battery system is configured.
Monitor Your System
One of the most useful devices you can install in your caravan is a battery monitor. These can be simple digital displays or incorporated as part of a battery managment system. To put it simply, the device monitors the input, output and state of charge of your batteries.
It is one of the easiest ways to ensure everything in your battery system is operating as it should be. Armed with this information you can determine if there are particular devices that are drawing more power than others, or components in your system that aren’t performing as well as your system demands.
Maximise Efficiency & Minimise Voltage Drop
We always recommend using a MPPT regulator with your panels. MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) matches the load of the solar regulator to the voltage and current from the solar panel. This helps to achieve the best power output from the panels. It is argued that many MPPT solar regulators are able to recover up to 20% more power that is otherwise inaccessible energy.
Wiring size is also another contributing factor to ensuring efficiency. A common problem with 12V systems is voltage drop. To prevent this, it is recommended to install your regulator close to the battery and always use the correct size cabling.
We hope this information helps you get the most out of your caravan solar panels. If you do have any further questions, give our team a call on 07 5479 6652 or comment below.