Solar Panels: Advantages of 12-Volt Portable Systems

March 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Panels

What is a 12-volt (12v) portable solar energy system? It’s a popular type of portable system that operates like larger solar panels, but isn’t large enough to generate as much electricity. It might not generate enough energy to run or heat your home, but it can power some portable machines, or recharge their batteries. Like any portable solar energy system, it has advantages and disadvantages, and various factors to consider before making the investment.

Any solar panel needs to be exposed to direct sunlight to work, and 12v portable systems are no exception. They might still work when the weather is overcast. However, it will take a longer time to work up enough power to charge. Most 12v systems don’t work with artificial light, but there are some solar panels in development that, thanks to new solar technology, will work indoors. They should be available to consumers within five years.

Good portable solar panels can adjust how much energy is produced to match what’s needed through the use of built-in regulators. When purchasing a portable solar panel system, look for this feature. Without a built-in regulator, you risk overcharging devices, and no one wants that.

A great benefit of portable systems is that most are compact enough to fit in a purse or oversized pocket. That is due to the fact that the solar cells themselves are small. But they are not flexible. You can’t fold solar cells without harming them. Portable 12v solar panels are marketed to be waterproof and durable, but they still require care when handled. The solar cells can’t be folded or creased without breaking them. So when testing the durability of your 12v solar panels, don’t allow the cells themselves to be folded, let the panels go through the washer, or let any sharp objects near them that could poke the cells.

If you intend to use a 12v portable solar panel system to recharge batteries, keep in mind that it only works with rechargeable batteries. Using the panels to recharge standard batteries will not work.

When budgeting for your portable system, remember that additional equipment is required. Connectors are necessary, and they must be compatible with the recharging ports of your devices. You might also need some battery clips if you have plans to use your panel system to trickle charge the battery of your car, snowmobile, or boat.

Trickle charging is a great way to keep a full charge in the battery of your vehicle. All you have to do is put the 12v portable panel in a place where it can take in direct sunlight, and then connect it to the socket of the vehicle’s cigarette lighter, or attach clips to the battery. This is especially helpful in frigid climates for cars that are not garaged.

Unfortunately, for the time being, portable 12v solar panel systems are relatively costly compared to using your utility company’s electricity for the home or office. But they are very useful for camping or outdoor activities such as working around your car. They also make ideal backup systems when there is a loss of power. Portable 12v solar panels are definitely useful, and will most likely have wider uses in the future as technology improves and costs decrease.