Have you ever wondered how you can harness the suns energy to run electric devices like your coffee machine and car fridge while camping off grid? …because your daily caffeine hit and cold beer or wine are a priority right?! Yes us too!!! So we thought a non-techy explanation on how it all works would be helpful to all those who love the great outdoors.
What is Solar Power?
Solar Power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity. It has been used as an easy, cost-effective alternative power source for years. As a travelling family, living in our caravan full-time the wonderful science of solar power plays a huge part in how we live while we are off-grid, exploring wild and wonderful destinations, away from the luxuries of man-made power supply that comes with suburban living.
Portable solar power has become more and more popular with the recent invention of lightweight folding solar blankets like our Redarc 150 Watt blanket, which allows us to use those nifty 12 volt camping gadgets we all love, or even electric coffee machines and thermomix’s!
So, how does it all actually work?
A simple solar setup could include –
- Solar Panels or a Solar Blanket
- A Solar Regulator – This protects the battery from overcharging.
- A Deep Cycle Battery – Preferably AGM type. This battery stores the power produced by your solar panels.
- 12 Volt sockets (the old school cigarette lighter), or USB outlets that are connected to the battery.
This simple 4 piece setup would allow you to run or charge 12 Volt appliances and accessories such as portable car fridges, TV’s, DVD players, radios, led lights, fans, air/water pumps, air compressors, mobile phones, tablets and cameras.
This system will only recharge the battery via the solar panels and does not necessarily need to be fitted to a car or caravan. This means, if you are camping you have the option to leave it at your campsite to charge up during the day while you are out and about exploring.
A slightly more advanced system fitted to your car could include –
- Solar Panels or a Solar Blanket
- A BCDC Charger with a built-in Solar Regulator – This not only charges your Deep Cycle battery as you drive, but also stops the solar panels from overcharging the battery when you’re stationary. The Deep Cycle Battery which you usually have mounted somewhere inside your car is not to be confused with the battery under the bonnet that starts your car’s engine.
- Deep Cycle AGM Battery – Again not to be confused with the battery under the bonnet that starts your car. Off this Deep Cycle Battery you can run things like a 12 Volt Fridge, LED strip lights and a few USB charging ports etc.
- Inverter This is connected to the Deep Cycle battery and cleverly converts the 12 Volt power stored in this battery to 240 Volt power.
This means you can use any household appliance that plugs into a normal power point – think coffee machines and thermomix’s!! The size of the inverter you require will depend on the wattage of the appliances you intend to use. You can check on the tag or sticker on of an appliance, to find out its wattage. eg. a coffee machine or thermomix is about 1500 Watts.
Here is the basic chain of solar power – from ‘Sunlight to Coffee time’!
As you can see from above the Simple Solar Setup includes;
Solar Panels or a Solar Blanket + A Solar Regulator + A Deep Cycle Battery + 12 Volt sockets
The more Advanced Solar Setup includes;
Solar Panels or a Solar Blanket + A BCDC Charger with a built-in Solar Regulator + Deep Cycle AGM Battery + Inverter
If needed, any 4×4 shop or Auto Electrician can help you set up and install a solar system to suit your needs.
We love our solar setup powered by Redarc and use it regularly whether we are camping off grid in remote locations or simply ‘glamping’ in a caravan park. As travel bloggers we use so many devices and mod-cons including laptops, tablets, drones and an array of cameras so we wouldn’t be without our solar set up …and not to mention the luxury of a cup of coffee on the beach or a cold beer in the bush. Cheers!
See our set-up in action –
Planning a lap of Oz? We share some helpful hints and tips on our Lap Of Oz page.
We are currently travelling around Australia and love inspiring others to get out and enjoy nature, travel and live simply.
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