Portable solar panels are increasingly recommended for outdoor activities. Smaller and less powerful than conventional solar panels, they are nonetheless very useful. In fact, they are transportable panels that can be used as an energy source in various situations. There is a wide variety. Discover in this article the criteria to consider when choosing your portable solar panel.
As you probably suspected, portable solar panels are available in different sizes. You will find pocket models on the market, as small as a smartphone. Panels of this size are usually paired with 10,000 mAh batteries. Enough to charge small devices, no more. These are models that should be preferred if you do not want to mess around.
You will also find foldable models that can be carried in a backpack. Models of this kind are composed of several solar panels the size of a slate. You need to unfold them on the ground and then point them towards the sun. They are therefore larger and more cumbersome, but still provide more power.
There are two types of portable solar panels: classic solar panels and solar panels with built-in battery. The classics require you to recharge an external battery in advance. Thus, you can leave the panel at home and only take the battery with you for your outdoor activities. You will travel easily.
As for the panels with integrated battery, they are connected to a powerbank model battery. As soon as it fails, the panel continues to create energy. In fact, it stores photovoltaic energy that can be converted into electrical energy that you will use later. Here you will be forced to pull the panel with you.
The battery type is a detail that should not be overlooked when choosing a portable solar panel. Remember, batteries store the energy that the panels produce. Like the latter, there are different types:
- Lithium-ion batteries: lightweight and durable, they are also very efficient;
- NiMH batteries: they are used to recharge batteries or small devices with batteries;
- Lead batteries: they are heavier and rarer than the previous ones. However, they offer better performance and more power; very useful for charging large devices.
The rated power of the portable panel corresponds to its maximum power under ideal conditions. It is expressed in kilowatts (kW). Depending on the power of the panel, you will be able to determine the charging speed of your device, know the required charging time and thus select the panel that is best suited.
To do this, a small calculation is required. Let P = U x I, with the U voltage in volts, I the intensity in amperes and the P power in watts. If the panel that attracts your attention produces 12 watts with an output voltage of 6 volts, we will have: I = P / U.
So 12/6 = 2 amps produced in one hour. A device equipped with a 2 amp battery will therefore recharge in 1 hour.
In addition, you also need to think about the output power. Today, all panels are capable of recharging small devices (smartphones, portable consoles, etc.). For slightly more powerful devices (eg laptop), however, a suitable output voltage is required.
If you just want to charge your smartphone during your excursions, you should prefer a portable panel with an output voltage of 5V. But for larger devices such as laptops or electric kettles, aim for panels with an output voltage of 12-24V.