Be perfectly prepared with a camping solar system
A solar system offers the possibility of generating your own electricity with the help of sunlight. What many renters and homeowners already benefit from in lowering their electricity costs can also be a great convenience for camping trips or time spent in the backyard. In this article, learn what to know about using solar power while camping and how you can also use your balcony power plant to generate electricity away from home.
Camping solar systems: from solar kits to plug-in solar systems
From traveling for weeks in a camper van to a short trip to the lake, the term ‘camping’ can be very wide-ranging. And just as diverse as camping itself are the possibilities for generating electricity with solar systems.
Solar sets in a wide variety of forms are widespread. Foldable solar modules are easy to handle and transport due to their size and light weight as solar bags. Solar cases usually have slightly larger dimensions, but are more stable because the foldable solar modules are equipped with a frame.
Small foldable camping solar systems start at outputs as low as 20 watts and are available for less than 50 euros. Solar cases with foldable modules are often more expensive due to their robustness. They start at around 100 euros with nominal outputs of 60 watts. Both foldable and collapsible solar modules are on the market in a wide variety of designs, for example with USB ports or storage unit. In terms of performance and price, the range here is wide.
Tip: When choosing the cell technology for the camping solar system, it pays off for you to rely on monocrystalline solar cells. They have the highest efficiency among solar cells and generate considerable electricity yields even in diffuse light or partial shading. Read our article on solar cell types to learn more.
There are also solar modules that are flexible but cannot be folded. That is why they are often used in the installation on mobile homes. Here they are easy to place in changing locations due to their relatively low weight. With outputs from 30 to approx. 180 watts, the price range extends from under 100 to over 300 euros per solar module.
But also for your balcony power plant there are application possibilities in the topic ‘camping solar system’. With the right equipment, it is also suitable for power supply during your stay in the countryside. Our plug-in solar power system complete set priFlat is not only suitable for power generation in your garden, but can also be quickly installed on your camping trip with an external power supply. The elevation ensures ideal rear ventilation of the modules to prevent them from getting hot and losing power. With the priBasic sets from priwatt you also have the option of doing without the mounting bracket.
By the way, some camping professionals also use the sun’s energy to heat hot water for their RV. In our article on hot water through photovoltaics, we show how this works in the home and explain the difference between solar thermal and photovoltaic systems.
Storing energy as the crux of camping
At home, you can simply feed the self-generated electricity into the socket. On the road, however, you do not have a fixed connection possibility into which you can feed the solar power of your camping solar system. So you need a way to directly collect the generated power and ideally store it for later use.
If you are traveling with the camper, you can charge both the starter battery and the supply or on-board battery with solar energy. In the case of a caravan that you attach to your car, only the latter applies.
If you want to use the camping solar system to protect the starter battery of the camper from discharging during longer periods of standing, a low output of less than 100 watts is usually sufficient. That is why it makes sense to charge the supply battery with solar energy via direct connection. Some larger caravans and motorhomes are equipped with several of these batteries. They provide power to your consumer devices such as the refrigerator and heater, and also allow you to charge your smartphone and laptop when there is enough power available.
Caution: your solar system should not simply be connected to one of the motorhome’s batteries, as this can lead to overcharging. An appropriate solar charge controller ensures safe charging and protection against overcharging.
Camping is of course also possible without a camper or caravan. Even if you only plan a short trip to the countryside, a camping solar system can help you. The prerequisite for this is that you can also consume the generated solar power. Some smaller systems are therefore equipped with an integrated chip solar controller and USB ports, for example, to charge your smartphone on the road. However, most portable products are not designed for anything beyond that, so you should resort to other solutions for higher consumption.
The power station: useful help or uneconomical additional investment?
If you already own a balcony power station, you have the option to use it for your own benefit on short trips or festivals. A so-called power station, i.e. a portable power storage unit, can be charged with electricity from your plug-in solar system via the MC4 plug as well as via the usual Schuko plug and store it for later delivery to consumer devices. They have an integrated charge controller, various connections such as USB and the Schuko socket that you know from home and can also often be controlled via app.
In nature or at the festival, you don’t have to do without your smartphone or laptop, but also your kettle and other electronics. This makes a power station in combination with your plug-in solar system the ideal supply source if you have the transport capacity.
What sounds like the ultimate solution up to this point, however, does not come without a catch: In the current market situation, electricity storage systems are generally very expensive. You can expect prices of more than one euro per watt-hour of capacity, which means that larger devices in particular can quickly become an investment of several thousand euros. At these costs, the payback period of a power station is currently much longer than its average lifespan of about 20 years.
Financially, a power station is therefore not worthwhile at the moment. Looking into the future, however, this may change: On the one hand, the feed-in tariff for solar power systems is not lucrative, and on the other hand, technical developments will ensure a price reduction for power storage systems. In addition, for many people, financial considerations are less important when camping, and especially with its practical use as a storage option for the camping solar system, a power station can definitely become a sensible purchase for the next trips. You can find more exciting topics in the blog overview.
FAQ: Your questions about camping solar systems
What are the benefits of a 100-watt solar module?
A 100-watt solar panel can reach the mark of 400 to 700 Wh per day in ideal sunlight. Depending on the intended use and the electronics used, this is often enough to keep the camper’s starter battery from discharging, for example.
What does a camping solar system cost?
Prices for camping solar systems vary depending on the power of the system. To supply the motorhome with solar power can quickly cost more than 1000 euros. If you have a balcony power plant, you can use it on trips with the right equipment.
How big does a solar power system need to be when camping?
In order to determine the size of the solar power system, one’s own energy consumption should first be recorded. The capacity of the storage unit is also important: if you spend several days outdoors, as a rule of thumb, the usable capacity of the solar battery should be selected to be about three times as large as your daily energy needs.
How big can a balcony power plant be without a permit?
For balcony power plants, the maximum feed-in power of the inverter is 600 watts. The solar module size does not matter. Since the electricity is exclusively self-consumed on the road, there is no legal limit for the solar panel power here.