A very popular type of portable solar panel system is the 12 volt one, often written as 12v. You might wonder how much energy 12 volts can really provide. Such a system would be inadequate for heating your house, but you could run some portable devices, or you could recharge their batteries, assuming they were the rechargeable kind! Keeping car, RV, boat, and cabin batteries charged is one of their main uses.
The portable panels for a 12 volt system operate in the same way that large solar panels do, but naturally since they are smaller, they generate less electricity. Like larger ones, they operate best when you have direct full sun, without much shading from trees or other things. Most of them will provide some power on cloudy days or even on rainy ones, but expect it to take longer under those conditions to get the charging done.
By the way, 12 volt systems will not necessarily work indoors from the light that comes in your windows, but some do. I show an example at the bottom of this article.
If you decide to get a 12-volt portable panel system, be sure to get one that has some form of built-in regulator. This is essential, because without a regulator the device you are attempting to recharge might get overcharged or “fried.” Not good! A regulator can solve this problem by automatically adjusting the energy produced to the amount that your item needs.
The Foldable Systems are Somewhat Delicate
Portable solar panels can often be quite small; many can be folded to fit into a carrying bag of some sort. The solar cells themselves may be breakable if folded, but they are small enough that in manufacturing they can be attached to a backing which does fold. It’s often made of fabric. Take some care when you are moving them around. Don’t poke them with scissors or knives, keep them out of washing machines even though they are waterproof, and only recharge appropriate, rechargeable batteries — not standard ones.
You’ll Also Need Connectors to Get Set Up
The particular connectors that you will need will depend on how you intend to use your 12v panels. Of course, they must match up with the “recharging plugs” — that is, the place that you will attach the solar setup to the thing you plan to charge.
Using Them with Vehicles
If you intend to use the portable solar panels for trickle charging your vehicle battery, you might need a set of battery clips. Here’s how to keep your car, truck, boat, or snowmobile battery charged up. You put the panel in a location where it will be receiving the largest amount of sunshine per day and then you attach it to the vehicle, in one of two ways. You might plug it into a cigarette lighter socket, or you might attach the clips to the vehicle’s battery. Either way, this can be a very handy thing to have in extremely cold climates or even in ones where temperatures drop below freezing.
Portable solar panels are still comparatively costly compared to using grid electricity. But if you spend a lot of time out in nature as a camper or hiker, or if you work with a computer from your car, they can’t be beat. And how useful to have some on hand if your electricity at home or work goes out for a while!