12v Solar Panels That Are Portable – A Guide

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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

won’t.

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

all day.

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

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