In order to function, off-grid solar systems, also known as SAPS (Standalone Power Systems), generate electricity from solar panels and use that electricity to charge a solar battery using a solar charger controller.

The inverter then changes the voltage so that it can be used to power electronics in a home or business. If you have a solar battery, you can use solar energy to power your home around the clock, even when the sun isn’t shining as brightly.

In this blog, we will cover a few tips, ideas, and recommendations that will help you effectively set up your off-grid portable solar technology.

Portable Solar Panels for Off-Grid Living – Tips and Tricks

1) Calculate your Energy Needs

It is important to determine your energy requirements before making any component decisions. Calculating your energy needs may sound daunting, but it is really nothing more than elementary math.

Start by listing down all the appliances that will need to be powered through portable solar power and for how long each day.

Second, look at the product data sheet for each device on the list to determine its power rating. The next step is to calculate the Watt Hour, which can be done using the following formula:

Watt Hour = Appliance power rating x run time (in hours).

Do this for all your devices, and add up the individual Watt Hour requirements. The resulting number is the minimum amount of power your portable solar panel will need to supply on a daily basis.

2) Figure Out the Battery Storage Requirements

After determining your power requirements, the next step is to determine how many batteries will be necessary.

To figure this out, you will need to consider the following factors:

  • The general weather where you live. Are there a lot of low-sun or sunless days? You will have to rely on your battery to see you through days when the sunlight supply is not enough (or strong enough) for the solar panels to produce enough power on their own. Will you only need battery storage for a couple of days or so, or will you have to survive on battery power for four or five (or even more) days on end?
  • Can you rely on an alternate power source (a turbine or generator)during days when solar power is in short supply?
  • Will the batteries be stored in a cold location,or do you have an insulated space for that purpose?

The recommended temperature for storing batteries is around 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). The lower the storage room temperature, the lower the battery efficiency will be, and the larger the battery bank will have to be.

Another factor to consider is the voltage of your battery bank. More power demands mean a higher voltage battery bank, which limits the number of parallel strings and, hence, the current flowing between the inverter and battery bank.

If all you need to do is charge your phone and run 12V DC items in your RV, a 12V bank is good enough. However, 24-volt or 48-volt systems should be considered if you need to power more than 2000 Watts continuously. As a bonus, you can use thinner, less expensive copper wire when connecting the batteries to the inverter because you will not need as many parallel battery strings. A 48V system is ideal for most permanent off-grid dwellings.

3) Choose the Solar Panel(s)

BLUETTI portable solar panels and generator

A solar panel’s job is to turn the incoming light into DC electricity (DC). Mono-crystalline is slightly more expensive but more effective than polycrystalline ones.

It is important that your chosen solar panel manages to charge your battery within a day. This is where things can become slightly tricky, as the amount of sunshine available varies greatly depending on latitude, season, and other factors.

However, it is reasonable to expect that the panel will be exposed to sunshine for at least four hours every day, independent of its location.

Although it is believed that solar panels generate electricity best when the sky is clear, and they are exposed to direct sunlight, this is not the case. Solar panels are capable of producing energy even during cloudy days – albeit lesser. On a partially cloudy day, a typical solar panel will produce about 25% of the energy it would have produced on a sunny day. On very cloudy days, this number goes down to about 10%.

4) Choose the Right Charge Controller

A charge controller is an electronic device used to manage electrical energy flow from solar panels to batteries. As the voltage from the panels increases, it maintains a constant charge to the battery. This prevents the battery from being overcharged by the charge controller. Charge controllers can be found in the following three varieties:

  • PWM (Pulse Width Modulation): Provides satisfactory outcomes at a reasonable cost. We recommend either PWM or MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking),but ultimately, the choice is yours.
  • MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking): Is a very efficient charge controller, but considerably more expensive than PWM.
  • ON/OFF:Considered to be the least efficient controller of the three.

4) Shift to Higher-Efficiency Appliances

With an off-grid solar system, the last thing you want to do is waste power. Power wastage is exactly what will happen if you do not make the move from, say, incandescent light bulbs to LED ones. Out of the total energy that incandescent bulbs use, over 90% is used only to heat them.

We think you should skip the CFLs because they could be dangerous to handle. Instead, choose the best option that gives you the most money back.

Wrapping Up

Two people sitting outside an RV

Getting off the grid is a great way to take charge of your energy requirements and enjoy greater freedom. By properly maintaining the system and its components, you can keep your repair and maintenance expenditures in check.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your home must use electricity wisely if you wish to maximize your portable power station ROI.

If you are looking to go off the grid and are looking for a portable solar panel for your electricity needs, please get in touch, and we can help you choose the perfect option based on your specific requirements, location, and budget.