12v solar panels (12v) are some of the most popular types of portable solar panel
systems. How much energy does a 12v solar panel give you? Perhaps not enough to heat your
house, but enough to run some of your smaller electrical devices, or recharge
their rechargeable batteries.
These portable 12v solar panels operate like large solar panels, but produce less
electrical power due to their smaller size. Like their larger cousins, 12v solar panels
operate best under direct full sun conditions. Most of them will work on cloudy
and rainy days, but it will take longer to produce the electricity to charge
your device. Most won’t operate with indoor lighting, but there are solar
panels under development that will be able to use indoor light. They’re likely
to reach the consumer market in another 4 or 5 years.
Good portable panel systems have built-in regulators, meaning they’ll
automatically adjust the amount of energy they produce to the amount that the
device draws. So be sure that the portable panels you buy have this feature,
otherwise there’s a danger of overcharging (or “frying”) the device that you’re
trying to recharge.
Most portable 12v solar panels fold down into sizes small enough to fit into a large
pocket or purse. But you can’t fold the cells themselves. Think of a weight
belt. It’s foldable and flexible when compared to a barbell. But it folds
because small weights are sewn into a flexible fabric, not because the weights
are foldable. It’s the same with the foldable 12v solar panels: they fold because
the solar cells are small enough to be mounted on foldable fabric.
So even though portable 12v solar panels are sold as being durable and waterproof,
you still need to be careful when handling them. If you fold or crease the
solar cell itself, you’ll probably break it. So don’t fold the cell, or put the
portable panels in the washing machine, or poke them with sharp objects. Your
weight belt will survive that kind of treatment, but your portable 12v solar panel
One more word of caution: portable 12v solar panels can’t recharge regular
batteries. It can only charge the rechargeable type. This may be obvious, but
many people try to recharge regular batteries with 12v solar panels.
You will need additional connector equipment in order to use the portable
panels, so plan for the additional expense. You’ll need connectors that fit
with the recharging plugs on your portable devices. And if you plan to use your
portable solar panels to trickle charge your car, boat or snowmobile battery,
you might need a set of battery clips.
“Trickle charging” can keep your vehicle’s battery fully charged. Here’s how it
works: place the portable 12v solar panel on a surface where it receives the most
sun; then plug it into the cigarette lighter socket, or attach the clips to the
vehicle’s battery. This can be a great help in really cold climates where
temperatures drop below freezing, and you have to keep your car parked outside
Portable solar panels are still relatively expensive compared to using grid
electricity at home or in the office. But they make sense if you spend a lot of
time camping, hiking or working from your car. And 12v solar panels are a great backup systems
for times when the power goes out.
12v solar panels