There are many exciting uses of solar power. One of the most recent uses has been using it when you are camping. There are plenty of solar generators coming to the market, each designed to make creating solar power easy.
But to find the right option for you, you’ll need to figure out how much power you require. After all, you don’t want to run out of electrical power in the middle of your camping trip. Let’s look at everything you need to know to find out exactly how much solar power you need for a camping trip.
Finding the Right System Size For Your Camping Trip
If you are thinking of using a solar power generator for your next camping trip, it’s important to decide how much solar power you require. Here are my top two methods you can use to determine this:
Taking a Sample Camp Trip
The easiest way, is to take a few trial “camping trips”. The idea is simple, before you go camping, take a power monitor and plug into one of your home outlets. Then connect all your camping appliances, and use the appliance as you normally would. By doing this you’ll be able to record the exact power consumption of your appliances and plan accordingly when buying a solar panel kit.
There are a few things you should keep in mind as you are doing this. First, it’s a bad idea to discharge a lead battery past 50 percent. This will start to shorten its lifespan. So even though you might have a 100-amp battery, you should only access 50 amps.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on how different appliances affect battery power. As we’ll discuss later, they won’t all be discharging at the same rate.
Finally, it’s best to repeat this process a few times. You can combine this information to form an accurate average, telling you precisely how much power you will require from your solar generator.
Creating an Energy Budget
Another way of determining how much power you will use on your camping trip is by doing an electricity budget. This is simply looking at the appliances or devices that you plan on using and determining how much electricity they require.
This will depend on the type of device that you are using. For example, if there is a heating element, it will often require more electricity to operate. It’s best to convert the electrical draw into amps per hour (Ah), which is what most solar generators will be measured in.
There are a few ways that you can find out how much power the appliance will draw. Two of the eases ways is the owners manual and the manufacturer’s website. Either source should give you the technical insights, on how much electricity an appliance draws. You can also plug them into power and use a watt meter to determine how much electricity they are drawing.
In most cases, though, you can expect an appliance to draw between one to three amps an hour. Here is a rough breakdown of what you can expect from your appliances:
|Appliance||Number of Amps Required an Hour (Ah)|
|Camping Fridge||0.9 to 1.5 Ah|
|Vent fan||4 Ah, when running at full power|
|Camp Lights||Less than one Ah|
|Charging a Phone||3 Ah, though it will only be drawing power when charging|
Finding How Much Power the Solar Generator Can Provide
Once you have a rough estimate of the amount of power you will be using on your camping trip, it’s time to start thinking about the amount of electricity your solar generator will be able to provide. This will often depend on a few factors. These are:
- Size of the solar panels. This is the most important element, affecting the amount of power that you will be able to gather from the sun.
- Battery storage capacity. The next thing you need to consider is the amount of storage capacity that your battery contains. You need to make sure that it will be enough to get you through the night.
When you are searching for a solar-powered generator, you should be able to find the maximum amps. This can often be a misleading figure. It refers to the amount of power that you will be able to generate if you are using it in optimal conditions. In reality, it will often be half this number.
The other number that you need to look for is the amp hours (Ah) of the battery. This tells you how long the battery will last. As an example, if you have a system that has 150Ah, it means that you will have enough to power an appliance that draws one amp of power for 150 hours. Alternatively, you have enough electricity to draw 5 amps for 30 hours.
When you are looking at the size of the battery, it’s important to consider that you shouldn’t discharge it entirely. To keep your battery in good condition you will need to only discharge it to 50 percent.
Furthermore, it’s best to overestimate the amount of power you will require. This ensures that you will have enough to see you through some overcast days.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the variables that go into deciding how much solar power is needed for camping. But, as a general rule, we can look at the type of appliances you want to use and estimate the number of watts your solar generator will need to generate. This means:
- Basic functions. If you only want to get a device that will be able to charge up phones or cameras, you won’t be drawing a lot of amps. In this case, you will only need a small device. Something with a capacity of around 300W should be sufficient. These appliances can also be used to run LED lights. It might even be enough to power a mini fridge.
- Larger appliances. Sometimes, you will want to take some bigger appliances to the campsite. For example, you might want to take along a small fridge or you intend to take a small TV for a family movie night. In this case, you will be drawing more power, so you might need a 1,000W solar generator.
Anything about 1000W will often be too powerful for a camping trip. Keep in mind that you should be able to power an entire house using a 5000W generator.
Benefits of Using Solar Power
Still on the fence about buying into solar?Here are my top 5 reason to pick solar over gas or diesel:
- Gas and diesel-powered models are very loud. Sometimes, you need to build a baffle box to try and quiet them. On the other solar-powered models will be very quiet, so you will be able to enjoy spending time in nature.
- No need to purchase fuel. When you have a good solar generator, there is no need to purchase fuel. You just need to pick a sunny place to place the generator.
- Lack of fumes or smoke. It’s common for traditional generators to have strong exhaust fumes. These will end up stinking up the campsite. Because of this, you will often need to put your generator far away. This isn’t something that you need to worry about when you are using a solar model.
- Better for the environment. A solar generator won’t produce any harmful emissions.
- Easy to maintain. As we’ll mention later, it isn’t hard to keep your solar generator in good condition. This ensures that you will be able to keep reaping the benefits of free power for years to come.
Other Considerations When Choosing a Solar Generator
While knowing the amount of solar power that you will be creating is important, it isn’t the only element that you need to consider when choosing a generator. It’s also important to consider the size and weight. You don’t want to be lugging a heavy generator to the camping site.
It’s also worth considering the type of charge controller that the generator comes with. If possible, you want to choose something that comes with an MPPT system. This will be better at regulating the flow of electricity, helping your battery last longer.
The next thing to consider is how much the generator is going to cost you. This will depend on the amount of power that the system will be able to provide. These are often a little more expensive than other options on the market. For example, you might need to pay around $2,000 for a good camp solar generator. Though a more basic model will start at around $350. While this can seem like a lot of money, it’s important to bear in mind that these generators are designed to last for years. Plus, they will be free to operate.
It’s also vital to make sure that you are getting a high-quality generator. There are a few ways that you can ensure that this is the case. First, you can look at the customer reviews. This gives you an insight into how other people responded to the product. It’s also important to try and find something that comes with a long warranty period. This ensures that the manufacturer will be able to help you deal with any problems that you might encounter along the way.
Using the Solar Generator
Once you have found the right solar generator, it’s time to put it to use. The good news is that these devices are fairly easy to get set up. All you need to do is put out the solar panel. It’s important to think about placement. You pick an area that will be getting sunlight throughout the day. The good news is that, because they don’t make any noise, you can put them close to your camp.
Once the panel is out, it’s time to connect it to the generator. This will allow you to charge up the solar battery. You will then be able to plug in your devices and start drawing power from the generator.
After everything is set up, it should run by itself. The only thing you need to do is monitor the battery levels and make sure that you aren’t taking too much power. This is especially important on longer camping trips when you might get a few overcast days in a row.
It should be noted that there is a common misconception that panels won’t work during the winter months. This is untrue. Though the heat from the sun has decreased, the intensity of the light hasn’t. However, there will a slight difference between winter and summer. This is because of the shorter days during the winter.
You often don’t need to worry about the effect of weather on your solar panels. Some rain can even be a good thing, it will help you keep the panels clean. The only time when you will need to be concerned is if it starts to hail. The force of the failing ice can damage the panel, bending them out of shape. It’s best to put the device under shelter until the storm has passed. Also, you might sometimes need to clear snow off the panels.
Ways to Increase the Amount of Solar Power You Are Generating
When you are working with a solar generator, the amount of solar power that you are generating will largely depend on the weather conditions. If you get a string of overcast days, you will often find that the amount of power you are generating will be lower.
But that isn’t the only thing that will impact the amount of power you are getting. A common problem is that the panels have become covered in dust and grime. This can reduce the amount of sunlight that the sensors are picking up.
Thankfully, cleaning your solar panels doesn’t have to be a difficult task. You should be able to use some soapy water and a soft cloth to get rid of the dirt. There are a few mistakes that you should try to avoid. First, you don’t want to use hot water. This can damage the panels. It’s also a good idea to clean the panels in the morning or evening. By doing this, you will be able to reduce streak marks.
As your power needs change, you might want to consider adding a new solar panel to the array. This will allow you to increase the amount of solar power that you are generating. You will need to consult the owner’s manual to learn how to attach this to the battery.
Storing a Solar Generator
When you aren’t using a solar generator, you will need to make sure that you are storing it properly. Thankfully, this is fairly simple. Unlike a fuel generator, you won’t need to drain it. You just need to pick a location that doesn’t have too many temperature swings. It can help to cover it with a tarp, stopping bugs and dust from accumulating on the machine.
But, as long as you give it a clean before you start using it again, a little dust and grime on the solar panels isn’t a big problem. You just need to make sure that you are wiping it off before your next camping trip.
Replacing a Solar Generator
While a solar generator is a good investment, that doesn’t mean that it will last forever. Even if you choose a high-quality model, over time you will need to replace the device. There are a few signs that your solar generator is past its prime. First, you might notice that your battery is no longer providing the same performance. The most obvious sign is that the battery will start to drain faster.
Another common issue is that the solar panels are taking longer to charge the generator. This might be a sign of problems with an aging panel finding it harder to convert solar energy to power. Or it could be a sign that your battery is starting to die, taking more electricity to recharge properly.
How long your solar generator will last can depend. But if you purchase a high-quality device, it should be able to last for between 25 to 30 years. The good news is that by the time you have to replace the generator, the technology has likely improved substantially. This should let you get a more powerful system for a lower cost.
Conclusion: How Much Solar Power Do I Need for Camping?
Solar generators are one of the most exciting additions to the camping toolbox. They are a good way of powering your camp, without the need for any harmful environmental emissions or any noise. You just need to make sure that you are choosing the right sized system for your campsite. This will ensure you have enough solar power needed for camping.
Ready to get yourself a Solar Generator, but not sure which generator is right for you? Here is an article going over our Top 5 Picks: Best Portable Solar Power Generators Reviews of 2022
What can a 200 watt solar panel power?
As a General Rule, a 200-watt solar panel should provide 10-12 Ah or around 60-70-amps of power per day. However this may vary depending on your solar set up and its efficiency.
Does a 200 watt solar panel provide enough power for an RV?
A 200 watt solar panel most likely does provide enough power for all you appliances in an RV. Especially if your RV has a Mini-Fridge, as the normal draw of a mini fridge is 400 Ah on a 12 volt system.