How Effective Are Caravan Solar Panels? — The Pros And Cons Outlined

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Jack Ayre

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A caravan or campervan adventure across the UK, or even venturing into Europe or further afield, is a perfect way to unplug and unwind. It’s also a liberating experience that will help you connect with nature and gain some unforgettable moments.

However, if you truly want to embrace the sense of freedom associated with caravanning, and be independent from any power grid, you should consider installing a solar panel system, and that’s where this guide comes into play!

Here, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about caravan solar panels, their effectiveness, and much more. 

What Are Caravan Solar Panels?

Caravan solar panels are a type of solar panel specifically designed to be installed on caravans. They’re quite similar to household solar panels in terms of working concept.

These solar panels are made of photoelectric cells that convert solar energy into electricity to power up your caravan appliances. The system is also connected to a controller to regulate the electricity flow as well as a battery to store the electric energy.

That being said, caravan solar panels are slightly different in terms of design and construction, as they can be slightly smaller and lighter to suit caravans and recreational vehicles.

How Effective Are Caravan Solar Panels?

Now that you know a little more about caravan solar panels themselves, here’s a quick look at the panel’s effectiveness from various perspectives.

Electricity Generation

The amount of electricity generated by a solar panel of any type is usually measured in watts (W), and different solar panel systems can vary dramatically in power generation.

For instance, you can find solar panels ranging from 10W and up to hundreds of watts. A typical caravan solar panel system is around 200 to 300 watts.

This means that a caravan that gets around 7 hours of sunlight can get up to 1,400 to 2,100 Wh (or 1.4 to 2.1 kWh). You can also multiply the wattage by the efficiency factor (in percentage), which accounts for low-light, cloudy weather conditions

As you can see, the above formula can also help you figure out how much electricity you need to generate, depending on the total wattage of the caravan appliances you want to power using the panels.

Ease of Installation

Caravan solar panels are fairly easy to install, and there are various solar panel kits that offer installation instructions with few tools required, especially for smaller setups.

In fact, smaller caravan solar setups can take as little as one day to be up and running. However, larger systems could take up to 3 or 4 weeks for proper installation.

Of course, the larger, more complicated the system you opt for, the more essential it is for you to get professional installation. This helps you maintain the highest efficiency while operating them and can be an excellent long-term investment, as it guarantees proper installation and peace of mind.

Lifespan and Maintenance

As technology advances, the lifespan of solar panels, including caravan ones, has dramatically improved. Today, typical solar panels are expected to last up to 25 years, with some high-end models claimed to last up to 40 years.

Of course, keeping a caravan solar panel this long is heavily dependent on your care level. Like regular solar panels, they also require regular cleaning and maintenance to stand the test of time and outdoor elements.

What Are the Advantages of Caravan Solar Panels?

Installing solar panels on your caravan comes with a lot of benefits that you shouldn’t miss out on. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the top advantages:

1. Massively Boosts Your Independence

As previously established, caravanning is all about enjoying your freedom and venturing into unforgettable adventures. However, if you remain reliant on a conventional energy grid, you will always have to keep your location in mind and whether you have access to energy sources.

On the other hand, if your caravan is powered by solar energy, you’ll be able to camp in more remote areas without having to worry about energy supply.

2. Reduces Your Carbon Footprint

One of the best things about solar power is that it’s absolutely clean and incredibly sustainable, which makes it an excellent alternative to fossil fuels.

In fact, a recent study shows that an acre of solar panels is capable of saving up to 138 metric tons of CO2 emissions every year. 

3. Extends the Life of Your Caravan’s Leisure Battery

One of the most common tips to maintain the health of your caravan’s leisure battery is to keep it fully charged. This can be a bit difficult to achieve with regular methods of power, especially when you’re on the road. 

On the other hand, solar panels will automatically top up your batteries’ charge every morning as long as they’re exposed to enough solar energy, so you don’t have to worry about that.

4. Can Increase Your Caravan Resale Value

While this might depend on a variety of other factors, having a solar panel system already hooked up on your caravan can help you add a nice premium on its price and makes your listing a more lucrative offer to buyers.

5. Silent Operation Compared to Power Generators

Power generators can be a portable solution if you want to go off the grid for a while. However, they can be remarkably loud and annoying. 

This can be quite intolerable, especially when it’s whirring in the background while you’re trying to enjoy nature. Besides being cleaner and more sustainable, caravan solar panels are also completely silent!

What Are the Drawbacks of Caravan Solar Panels?

Despite all their merits, caravan solar panels still aren’t perfect, so here are some downsides to keep in mind before investing in them:

1. High Initial Cost

Solar panels are quite pricey to buy and install, so you’ll take some time to recoup your investment.

However, maintaining them isn’t expensive. In other words, it’s a highly-guaranteed yet long-term investment.

2. Limited Energy Generation and Dependent on Weather Conditions

Despite solar panels’ sustainability, you still need to consider where you’re parking and the weather conditions. 

The panels need several hours of clear daylight exposure to charge properly, so you’ll have to opt for a larger capacity than your system needs to act as a buffer zone on cloudy days.

3. Require Regular Maintenance

If you want your solar panels to work properly and last for many years, you’ll need to take proper care of them. While maintaining solar panels isn’t expensive or difficult, you’ll need to do it more often.

Tips to Maximise the Effectiveness of Caravan Solar Panels

  • Try different locations and angles to find the best possible orientation for the solar panels and maximise their energy output. Test that out regularly as you move from one place to another.
  • Make sure that you fully charge the panel batteries before you store them between seasons
  • Clean the panels regularly and do maintenance on schedule
  • Consider pigeon proofing your caravan solar panels for maximum efficiency
  • Invest in a reliable power regulator to control what appliances get solar power and save power when necessary.
  • Pair the panels with energy-efficient appliances like inverter devices to reduce the wattage requirement
  • Opt for a professional solar panel installation to maximise the system’s efficiency

Caravan Solar Panel FAQs

What are caravan solar panels made of?

Caravan solar panels are made of similar materials as household solar panels, especially silicon-based solar cells. Other similar materials used for the panel frame include glass, metal frame, and polymers for the backsheet. 

The main difference here is that these panels are designed so that they’re lighter and more secure against wind and weather.

What can a caravan solar panel run?

Caravan solar panels can power anything from vehicle batteries to multiple appliances, including water pumping systems, interior lights, TVs/radios, fans, and other appliances. 

You can even power-consuming devices like fridges and heaters if you have a large system with a high-capacity leisure battery.

Do you need permits to install caravan solar panels?

You typically don’t need permits to install caravan solar panels. However, if your caravan is insured, you need to inform the insurance company to have the panels covered in your policy. This may incur extra charges depending on your carrier 

How much does it cost to install caravan solar panels?

The answer here depends on the size and type of setup you have in mind. However, a typical 250W system with a decent capacity battery can cost you around £2,500 to £5,000.

Caravan Solar Panel Summary

Caravan solar panels can be an excellent way to break free from the over-reliance on conventional sources of power and enjoy a more sustainable caravanning experience.

Additionally, solar power is clean energy that massively reduces your environmental impact and carbon emissions. 

While installing caravan panels can be quite pricey at first, it’s well worth the investment, and you’ll start reaping its benefits for a long time!

If you want to find out more about caravan solar panel installation, don’t forget to get in touch with ESE and get a quote!

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Born in North West England, Jack kicked off his career in the insurance arena, dealing with claims for three years. Always up for a challenge, Jack leapt out of his comfort zone and embarked upon 5 years of excitement with the military.

Working for the Ministry of Defence, Jack specialised in counter-terrorism which took him to places such as Dubai, Oman, Iraq, Norway and Bahrain. During this period he worked with various Governments implementing strategic operations to prevent terrorism.

After travelling around various countries Jack increasingly came across various forms of solar from large solar farms to domestic solar panels. From here Jack took a keen interest in all things solar and started reading about the technological capabilities with a view to entering the industry after his career in the Ministry of Defence.

Once home after 5 fruitful years, Jack had 3 months leave in which he immersed himself in a solar crash course and got applying for jobs within the solar sector. He came across ESE Solar, a long-established forward-thinking company whose head office was only a stone’s throw away from him. He picked up the phone to see if there were any vacancies and within a week had a successful interview and obtained a full-time job, starting in the technical team.

Within the first few months, Jack onboarded in various online courses during work and social hours to speed up his knowledge of all things solar. Due to his strong work ethic and thirst for knowledge Jack was promoted to Head of Technical at ESE Solar. He currently leads the team and oversees the product development of new technologies within the company alongside assisting where necessary on their maintenance department.

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