Are you wondering if portable solar panels are worth it? Portable panels have their advantages because they are perfect for generating electricity outdoors. Those who go camping, hiking, or similar can benefit from using portable panels.
Portable solar panels are worth it due to their space-saving, efficient, and convenient features.
- They are lightweight
- Space-saving size
- Flexible and versatile
- Higher quality
- Charge controller often included
- Cheaper than full size panels
- Low maintenance
- Energy available off-grid
- Affordable in general
- Easy to set up
- Quiet operation
So how important are those factors? This article cover in detail all the reasons why portable solar panels are worth it and how they work. Let’s take a look.
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What Is A Portable Solar Panel?
In general, portable solar panels are built to be mobile and thus have a smaller size and different feature that makes them easy to carry around or use outdoors. They function similarly to fixed panels, but they are portable.
Like any other solar panel, portable panels can convert sunlight into electricity to power various devices or recharge solar batteries. Each panel is made of photovoltaic cells (made of silicon layers) and has a different size. However, even the biggest portable panels fit into cars.
The wattage can vary from the type of portable panels, but it is possible to find 100, 250, 365, and 400 watts. It is common to buy portable solar panels as part of a kit for ease of use.
What Is In A Portable Solar Energy Kit?
In a kit, it is possible to find tools to help connect the solar panels with the appliances and the battery; in this way, it is easy for the buyer to use it right away, and all the elements are compatible.
In a kit, besides the solar panel, you can get things such as cables, inverters, stands, storage cases, a solar charge controller, and a battery. It is up to you to choose the suitable kit that suits your needs best.
How Do Portable Solar Panels Work?
Portable solar panels consist of photovoltaic cells made of layers of silicons, and they contain positive and negative layers so they can create an electric field. The sunlight that hits the cells releases photons, making it possible to produce electricity.
Then there is a transfer of electricity to the batteries or appliances. If there is a charge controller, the electricity passing through is monitored, avoiding damage to the battery. Since the electricity stored in a batter or produced by the solar panel is DC (direct current), an inverter is required to power the various appliances from this electricity.
They cannot power an entire house but are suitable to power the few appliances you bring with you outdoors. The best use of portable solar panels is made by calculating the power consumption of your devices and getting the kit that can satisfy them.
It is necessary to ensure that the voltage output of the batteries and the panels matches one of the charge controllers and the devices you are connecting to ensure that everything is working correctly.
Where Can I Use Portable Solar Panels?
Portable solar panels can have various uses and be helpful in different situations. Here are some instances of portable solar panel uses:
- You can use it in the house to power smaller appliances
- Can heat water in off-the-grid areas
- Can charge a car battery
- Recharge laptops and other small devices
- They can be used in an emergency by homeowners
Portable Solar Panels Serves Many Purpose
Portable panels are best for camping purposes; people use the sun to power cell phones, laptops, LED lights, cooking devices, small fridges, car batteries, heating water, and other smaller things.
Some people have portable solar panels in their houses as an emergency backup in case of outages or problems with electricity. In addition, you can carry some portable panel models at the back of a backpack during hiking trips.
But in this last case, it is possible to power only small devices such as mobile phones. When used in an RV, portable solar panels charge a battery, providing power to various appliances.
Are Portable Solar Panels Worth The Investment?
Portable solar panels have benefits and features that make them perfect for travel and people moving around. Although they are not as powerful as the typically fixed panels one can see on top of some houses’ roofs, they still have positive points. (source)
They are lightweight
Portable solar panels have unique features such as waterproof capabilities to resist bad weather conditions. They also come with special covers and handlers to make it easy to carry them around.
Portable panels are lightweight, so you can easily transport them and find them as part of a kit. In addition, it is possible to buy foldable and flexible solar panels which can be packed and occupy minimal space.
One of the great benefits of portable panels is space-saving. You can find different size portable panels, and you can even fold some to fit into a minimal area or even under the seat of a car.
Flexibility And Versatility
You can use portable panels for different situations and activities; you can place them in a fixed location or use them on the go. People can be creative in setting up a portable panel and using it.
You can combine them with different devices and power a variety of appliances. For example, some people have used portable power to start their cars when the battery is down. The uses are manifold.
In general, portable panels can resist falls and withstand blows due to numerous travels, so they have high-quality materials (it can vary with each brand).
In addition, solar cells are often made with monocrystalline cells, which are the most efficient in harvesting the sun and converting it into electricity.
Charger Controllers Often Included
Many portable solar panel kits already have a charge controller, which protects the batteries from overcharging and, thus, from damage. Overcharge protection is necessary to control the flow of electricity from solar panels.
The charge controller can help prolong the battery life and even can help you prevent spending money on a new battery because of damage or decreased performance.
One of the most apparent advantages is money saving. Once you have the solar panels, you do not need to spend fuel or gasoline on a generator.
Once you make the initial investment, you can use the solar panels as much as you want to generate electricity without spending additional money.
Low Maintenance Required
Portable solar panels do not require a lot of maintenance. Once you finish regular cleaning, you can use the panels for a long time. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning, typically in the manual received at the purchase.
Solar panels can last up to 15 years, and through this time, the maintenance expenses are very low.
Another great advantage of portable solar panels is the lack of pollution. Solar energy is an environmentally friendly energy source and one of the main reasons many people use solar energy to power their homes instead of traditional electricity.
Portable solar panels vary greatly depending on the brand, model, quality, accessories, etc. But in general, they are affordable. It is possible to find solar panels that cost as low as $200 and over $1000.
However, this is all the money one will spend to generate electricity off the grid for many years.
Safe And Easy To Set Up
Portable solar panels are easy to set up, especially with a complete kit. It is necessary to unfold them and connect them correctly with the battery or the appliances.
Since they come with all the necessary connections, they are also safe since you can correctly do the wiring.
Low Level Of Noises
Portable solar panels do not make noises, contrary to generators operating with fuel. Therefore, they are better suited for people who want to spend time outdoors without distractions.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Portable Solar Panels?
Solar panels also have some disadvantages. The main ones are:
- Dependence On The Weather
- Easy to steal
- Environmental impact from manufacture
- Set up and take down required with each use
Dependence On The Weather
The main disadvantage is the dependence on the weather. For example, it is impossible to generate electricity without sunlight.
The buyer cannot control this, but one can figure out ahead of time if it is worth getting portable solar panels based on the general climate of the area in which one lives.
In most cases, this is not an issue if the portable panels are used mainly for holidays during the summer period.
Easy To Steal
Portable solar panels are smaller and easy to carry and, for this reason, are subject to theft. If you place your portable solar panels out in the open, others can come around and grab them when you are not watching.
Those buying portable solar panels must be constantly aware of who is getting near them and that no one is attempting to steal them.
Environmental Impact of the Manufacturing Process
While solar panels do not produce pollutants while in use, during manufacturing, a lot of toxic waste is made, which is harmful to the environment, the main harmful elements are cadmium, lead, silicon waste, and other things.
Although solar panels last for decades and produce clean energy, it is not possible yet to make them without creating toxic waste. Recycling isn’t where it needs to be, as well. But that will work itself out over time.
Set Up Required Each Time
You must install the portable panels each time you are using them. While it is not a big deal in most cases, they are not a fixed solution like the typical solar panels mounted on a rooftop.
Are There Any Waste Products From Solar Energy?
Solar energy is clean and environmentally friendly, but solar panel waste can include heavy metals (lead, silver, cadmium, and arsenic). When a solar panel is dismounted, and it is not going to be used again, it is considered waste.
But not all brands of solar panels are necessarily hazardous waste. Those considered hazardous contain harmful elements. In a recent study, researchers reveal that the toxic waste of solar panels can be way more than the one created by nuclear plants.
Solar panel disposal can be a problem in the near future; however, many are at work to resolve the issue of recycling solar panels effectively. (source)
What Can I Run Off A Portable Solar Panel?
Portable solar panels can run a lot of devices and appliances. A lot depends on the size and the wattage, and how many panels are used, but in general, you could run the following things out of solar panels:
- Charging power packs
- Portable refrigerators
- Power and run electricity in an RV
- Power tools outdoor
- Heat water
- Recharge, an electric bike
- Mobile phones
- LED lights
- Small portable air conditioner
Portable panels can power many other things. If you have many things to power, you might need more than one portable panel.
How Long Do Portable Solar Panels Last?
Portable solar panels, and solar panels in general, can last for a very long time. In the best case, one can expect to use a portable solar panel for up to 25 years. However, through the years, the efficiency of a solar panel can decrease and provide less electricity.
Solar panels are not 100% efficient, so they do not convert all the sunlight they get into electricity. Generally, a solar panel can be 80% efficient, but for every year of usage, solar panels become less efficient.
Solar panels reduce their efficiency by about 1% every year, so it is reasonable to expect a solar panel to be efficient by over 50% even after 20 years.
How Do You Prolong Solar Panels’ Life?
Although portable solar panels have already lasted for decades, you can do things to make them last longer and, more importantly, maintain a higher efficiency level. (source)
Some Things You Can Do
- Get a high-quality product in the first place
- Replace the inverter and charge controller after a few years
- Regular maintenance
Get A High-Quality Product
Getting a quality product in the first place is one of the better ways to have them last longer. They could cost a bit more, but they can be worth it over an extended period.
If you get high-efficiency solar panels, they can last longer because they can still provide good service after many years despite the degradation that comes with time.
Replacing Components And Maintainance
Charge controllers and inverters usually last between 3 and 5 years, which is way less than the duration of the portable panels. For this reason, they must be replaced every 3 to 5 years to ensure they are not damaging the solar panels or the system.
The same is true for the other components of the solar kit, such as batteries, cables, and other devices. The chances are that they last less than solar panels, and you need to replace them when they reach the end of their life cycle.
In addition, regular maintenance can be very effective in increasing a solar panel’s life.
Can Portable Solar Panels Get Wet?
Portable solar panels have a protective layer that protects them from water; however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the portable panel is waterproof. In general, it is specified when a portable panel is waterproof.
Therefore, you can decide if you want to have a portable solar panel that is waterproof or not at the moment of purchase. The best products can protect the inner part of the solar panels from water dripping and damaging the system.
But, because a solar panel is waterproof, it doesn’t mean you can place it in a water pool. But if the weather rapidly changes and a storm or heavy rainfall hits them, your solar panels are probably not getting damaged.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Portable Solar Panels Work In The Rain?
Portable solar panels can work in the rain if they are waterproof and if they can get at least some indirect sunlight. Solar panels can generally work on cloudy days but with reduced efficiency.
Are Portable Solar Panels Any Good?
Portable panels are suitable for use when there is no possibility of getting electricity from the grid. Some models are made with high-quality products and high-efficiency solar cells and are excellent for outdoor activities.
Are Foldable Solar Panels Worth It?
Foldable solar panels are worth it if you need flexible and portable solar panels for your trips. Foldable solar panels work perfectly in generating electricity and powering devices outdoor, and you can place them on uneven surfaces. Specifically, foldable panels are perfect for frequent travelers with limited space.
- Adventure.com, “Are solar chargers worth it?” https://www.advnture.com/features/should-i-buy-a-portable-solar-power-charger. Accessed August 9, 2022
- Economic times, “Portable solar panels: Green products that can charge cellphones, heat water in remote areas,” https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/productline/power-generation/portable-solar-panels-green-products-that-can-charge-cellphones-heat-water-in-remote-areas/articleshow/69141171.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst. Accessed August 9, 2022
- American Experiment, “Solar Panels Produce Tons of waste literally,” https://www.americanexperiment.org/solar-panels-produce-tons-of-toxic-waste-literally/. Accessed August 9, 2022
- SCDHEC.GOV, “Shining some light on solar panels,” https://scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/Library/OR-1695.pdf. Accessed August 9, 2022
- Whattsupwiththat.com,” Solar Panel Waste: A Disposal Problem,” https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/12/23/solar-panel-waste-a-disposal-problem/. Accessed August 9, 2022
- Portablementor.com, “Average lifespan of portable solar panels,” https://portablementor.com/lifespan-of-portable-solar-panels-tips-to-make-them-last-longer/#:~:text=Conclusion-,How%20long%20do%20portable%20solar%20panels%20last%3F,at%20a%20less%20efficiency%20rate. Accessed August 9, 2022