There are many factors that should be considered before purchasing a portable solar panel. Those factors include but are not limited to: what location are the portable solar panels going to be placed? How long of a solar cable is needed? What time of year will the portable solar be used the most? Will it be year-round permanent use? Do they need to be portable or can they be traditional frames? How many portable solar panels are needed? And so on.
Major Factors to Consider
The most common factor to consider before buying portable solar panels is what is the main goal of the solar panel. Is it to recharge a car battery? To keep an RV battery topped off during the winter? Recharge a backup solar generator system for a house? There are countless reasons to get a portable solar panel.
The reason the overall goal needs to be established first is that it will often answer many of the questions and factors that need to be considered before buying solar panels. For example, if the overall goal is to have a way to recharge a car battery remotely in case the battery dies, then only one 100w or 200w foldable solar panel is necessary to recharge that battery. But if the main goal is to recharge a solar generator that is running 2 fridges, 2 freezers, lights, fans, wifi, TV, chargers, and a CPAP machine, then the solar generator will need 10 or more portable panels.
By answering that it’s easy to know how many are needed, where they will be used, and how often they’ll be used. Either one, or ten, or however many. In the case of linking many together, it is important to find out how many portable solar panels can be connected together directly to each other and how many need to be broken into different groups. This is important because all solar panels have to use a solar charge controller in order to convert the solar power they make from the sun into usable energy for a battery.
If ten solar panels are necessary for a solar generator then likely they will need to be split into two groups of five panels using a 2 to 1 PV (photo-voltaic) connector. This allows the voltage that the solar panels make to stay within a safe range for the solar charge controller.
Minor Factors to Consider
Often times a 200w folding solar panel is a better option than a 100w folding solar panel. And just as likely, a 400w folding solar panel may be a better option than a 200w folding solar panel. But in the end, four 100w foldable solar panels will produce the same amount of portable solar power as a single 400w portable solar panel. It then comes down to personal preference, body strength, and available storage space in the vehicle on which a portable solar panel is chosen.
Many people prefer to have a single 400w portable folding solar panel because they can move 400 watts worth of power at once. Especially if they have to walk 100 feet or any long distance to where the solar panels need to be, they don’t want to take that trip multiple times if they don’t have to. But others, may not physically be able to carry the 40lb 400w folding solar panel 100ft easily and therefore want two 200w portable solar panels. It simply comes down to personal choice.
The only thing to consider when choosing the wattage of the solar panel is how many volts and amps each solar panel produces. Volts x Amps = Watts. Four 100w portable solar panels will make 400w but it may do it by being at 80 volts and 5 amps. Whereas a single 400w solar panel may make 400w of power by using 28 volts and 14.28 amps. The voltage and amperage combinations never end.
The reason this needs to be considered is that all solar charge controllers have a voltage and amperage range that they work in. Many of them will work from 11-150v and up to 15a. But others will only work from 30-90v and 10a. This means if you have one 200w solar panel that only makes 20v, it won’t work with a 30v-90v solar charge controller because it’s not making enough voltage. On the other side, if four 400w portable solar panels are connected together and are making 160v, that will exceed the 150v range of the 11-150v solar charge controller and will either cause it to shut down, or possibly catch on fire. Both are bad, but the fire is much worse.
It’s not that big of a deal which portable solar panel is chosen, it’s just important to be aware of the volts and amps that the solar panels will make and what the voltage and amperage charge parameters are on the solar charge controller.
Is It Necessary?
Sometimes, it’s simply best to ask “is it necessary?” Does it have to be portable? Could the same task be accomplished by using traditional framed 100w or 200w solar panels? Framed solar panels get a bad reputation for not being portable. But a single 100w solar panel only weighs about 13lbs, is not very large, but is very affordable and easy to stow away. Traditional frame solar panels are designed to last over 20 years of non-stop use in the sun and still be 80% or more usable after 20 years. Portable solar panels are often only intended for up to 5 years of constant use which means they’ll need to be replaced more often.
Portable solar panels from Powered Portable Solar cans serve in many ways. They can fit most of the same needs as traditional frame solar panels but are often easier to move around and set up. They may cost a bit more than framed solar panels but it’s hard to put a price on convenience. If you need portable solar panels that you’ll be moving from location to location then portable solar panels will work better than framed solar panels in many cases.