Why should I use solar power ?
As a ham radio operator in an area that has extended power outages during extreme weather it is important that I am able to maintain communications at all times. Whether providing emergency communications or staying on top of adverse weather conditions.
Everyone’s needs will be different so choosing the right solar power system for the job can be very important. For me the biggest issue is running radio equipment and a small portable laptop computer that I can run from solar power. I have to be able to keep it up and running 24 hours a day during the power outage so I have one battery charging from a solar panel while using the other with my power inverter to provide AC power to my radio gear and laptop. I could probably also run my DSL router to keep in touch with friends and family online. One other important thing is that the power inverter have a pure sine wave when supplying AC power. This affects the receive on my radio and the power supply for my laptop. Without a clean AC source I would get a lot of extra noise on my radio that could mean the difference between survival for someone.
What is the right choice for me
When making the decision to try solar power for the first time one of the biggest issues always seems to be the cost of the kit and what it can do for you. When searching for the cheapest motorhome solar panel kit that is available one thing to keep in mind is how expandable the kit may be. After the initial cost of the kit will you be able to upgrade it at a later time as your needs increase.
Should I put a solar power system together or buy a kit ?
If you start off with a basic kit and find that it is not enough to power all your electrical devices, one way to increase the load capacity is with another battery. Not only will this handle more of a load but it will handle it for a longer time period. Once you increase the battery bank with one or more batteries the next thing to look at is charge time. How long does it take your solar panel to recharge the battery bank once it has been depleted. If you are only wanting to prepare for the occasional power outage then a small portable kit would probably suit your needs. If you are preparing for longer power outages then you may have to consider a larger battery bank to handle this. Whether you have both inline at the same time or use one battery while charging the other is entirely up to you.
You can charge ONE battery while using the other.
What is a power inverter ?
Another bit that causes confusion is the Power inverter. The power inverter takes the 12 volt power from your batteries and converts it to the power found in your household 110 AC. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can go from a minimal crummy square wave power inverter to a pure sine wave power inverter. If you run sensitive computer equipment and other devices you will want to probably stay away from the square wave and modified square wave type of power inverters as these can sometimes harm sensitive equipment.
motorhomes already have a gas powered generator and battery bank so the conversion to solar panels can be a bit less.
One thing also to keep in mind is that most motorhomes already have a gas powered generator and battery bank so the conversion to solar panels can be a bit less. Most motorhomes also already have a power inverter. Again the biggest issue is how long it takes to replenish the batteries once they have been depleted.
Keep in mind that most systems that say they are Plug-N-Play really aren’t unless you have electrical know how to install a solar power system. Most of the reviews that I find are from more knowledgeable individuals, which I find odd since rather than spend the money for a kit you would think they could piece together a decent system that would be a lot less expensive and be able to meet their needs.
The solar panel kits that are available online are geared more for individuals that are looking for a temporary solution to occasional power outages, or have minimum power requirements and do not have a lot of knowledge about these types of systems. If you are looking for a way to keep the lights on and stay connected during a blackout and don’t have a lot of electrical knowledge then a solar panel kit may be the right choice for you.
So the main things to look at when deciding on a solar power system for your home or RV is
Solar panel rating — how many watts — charge time
Sine wave of power inverter — Pure sine wave or modified square wave
battery bank — How many batteries will you need
If you are concerned about the cost and equipment then be sure to purchase from a retailer that offers customer service and a good return policy. And be sure to do your research before you buy.