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The practical guide to going solar with your caravan

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If you’re planning on heading out into the bush where power outlets are scarce, caravan solar panels can help keep your caravan battery charged, your fan running and your lights on. Here are some things you should look for when shopping around for solar panels for your caravan.

How many caravan solar panels do you need?

Solar panels are available in various sizes, each providing a different level of battery charging power. If you need more power, you can install multiple panels. For most caravans, however, the addition of one or two solar panels is usually enough.

To find out what’s best for you, find the instructions and check your caravan’s battery capacity (it’s measured in ampere-hours, or Ah) against the output of the solar panel unit. You then add up the amount of power your electrical appliances use during the day and make sure the panel’s output can meet this demand.

Note that solar panels tend to lose some of their efficiency when they get hot, so check this with the manufacturer.

Power regulation

Most caravans have a 12, 24 or 48-volt battery system, which is charged by the vehicle’s alternator during towing or by a 240-volt charging unit if a power outlet is available.

With caravan solar panels, you must insert a power regulator between the panel and the battery. Look for a quality regulator that automatically disconnects the battery from the panel when it’s full to prevent overcharging.

You should also make sure the regulator has Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), which ensures that your solar panels generate the maximum amount of power possible, even on cloudy days.

Caravan Solar Panel Installation

On larger caravans, the solar panel can be mounted on the roof. It has to be able to withstand high winds and vibration while you are towing, so it’s usually worth spending a little extra to get it professionally installed.

If you prefer the DIY option, choose a panel with a sturdy aluminium outer frame to which you can securely attach mounting brackets. Unless you are experienced in this area, for safety’s sake we recommend you get an electrician to help install the wiring and regulator.

Caravan solar panels can be an excellent investment. They don’t produce any noise or pollution and can work reliably for 20 years or more with little or no maintenance – and sunshine is free.

Installing solar panels on your caravan is just one way you can supercharge your vehicle – pun not intended. Read about some other modifications and accessories you can use to tailor your caravan to meet your needs and taste.

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