What if you were helpless and stranded in the dark?
It sounds like something out of a horror movie. However, this can become a reality if you packed the wrong portable solar panel.
Portable solar panels are a technology that has been a long time in the making, and there are many to choose from. Fortunately, you can follow these easy tips and find the panel that’s perfect for your needs.
Keep reading to discover all of our tips and tricks!
What Is a Portable Solar Panel?
We have a solid guide below to help you discover the best portable panel for your needs. First, though, we must define exactly what these solar panels are.
A portable solar panel is basically the lovechild of a portable generator and those solar-powered flashlights you used to take on camping trips. It absorbs energy from the sun that can then be used to charge various devices such as cellphones.
For better or for worse, there are a ton of options to choose from. Use our guide below to make the best choice.
1. Know the Types
Not all solar panels are alike. In fact, there are three possible types of panels for you to choose from.
The first kind of panels are monocrystalline. They are known for being rigid and heavy, but they are also durable and very efficient. You can also find these in a variety of different shapes.
Polycrystalline panels are similar to monocrystalline, but they are blue in color and slightly less efficient.
The last choice are the CIGS panels. This is an acronym that stands for Copper, Indium, Gallium, and Selenide. These panels are flexible and thin, but they are not as durable as the other choices.
Ultimately, the panel you choose should be based on where you will be using it and how long you will need it for.
2. Size Matters
Some people say that size doesn’t matter. Trust us: they never had to haul a solar panel around!
If you will be hiking or camping with a solar panel, you’ll want something that is smaller or, at minimum, foldable. That makes it easy to take with you.
If you’re using these panels for other outdoor activities (such as parties in the backyard or a music festival), larger panels may be more acceptable. And as a bonus, the larger surface area of such panels usually provides you with more power.
3. Staying Flexible
For those who plan to carry their solar panels around, there is an important choice to make: to fold or not to fold.
At first glance, a foldable panel may seem like a perfect choice. It’s lightweight, easy to take with you, and very convenient.
However, such panels are less durable and may need to be replaced more often. An alternative choice is to get a panel that is the right size and shape for your needs.
This allows you to pack “around” it and create a special space for the panel. Such panels are going to be more durable, but you’ll need to tackle the issue of weight.
For solar panels, size and weight are typically inverted. Many foldable panels are large and lightweight, while many smaller panels (like the Powered Portable Solar) are stocky and sturdy.
Choosing the right panel usually involves finding the sweet spot between weight and utility. For example, heavier panels may be hell on your back, but they are often durable and offer more options to users.
If you won’t be hauling a panel far, or if you’ll be using your car to move it most of the way, the weight is a non-issue. Otherwise, you’ll want to make sure this added weight won’t slow you down during various outdoors activities.
5. Weather or Not
Quick question: does it rain and storm a lot in your area? The answer may dictate which portable panel you end up buying.
If it rains a lot, then you are going to want a panel with a higher efficiency rate. This is because there may be very little sunlight and you’ll need a panel that makes the most of it!
Otherwise, you can choose a panel with a lower efficiency rate. And this typically means you’ll save money on your purchase.
6. Doublecheck Devices
Portable solar panels are not exactly the “Swiss army knife” of electronics. Most of the time, they are primarily suited to charging only a handful of devices.
Before making a purchase, you need to determine which devices you want the panel to charge. Next, you must make sure the panel can charge them. For example, if you are a camping person and want to buy camping radio, check if your panel can charge it.
For example, panel wattage makes a big difference. If you’ll be charging items that drain a lot of juice, you may need something with at least 15 watts of power.
Don’t forget to see if your devices need extra accessories before charging. Most laptops, for example, will need a DC/AC inverter to receive a charge from the panel.
One obvious consideration is the price. And how much you are willing to spend should be determined by how often you think you will use the panel.
Prices range from $30 on the cheap end to over $1,000 on the extremely high end. The best choice for your needs is probably somewhere between these two extremes.
If you only plan to use the panel a few times a year, then it’s okay to err on the cheap end. It’s not like the panel will be in much danger of wear and tear.
However, if you’ll be camping and hiking with this thing every chance you get, then treat this purchase as an investment and get something a bit nicer.
8. Integration Sensation
Some models of panels come with batteries. Depending on your needs, these may come in handy!
These are separate batteries that are charged by the panels. You can then use their stored power at a later time, regardless of the weather.
Such solar-powered batteries are also an environmentally-friendly option to use around your home all year round.
The Bottom Line
Now you know how to pick the best portable solar panel. And such technology may have you wondering who will come up with the next business innovation.
We think the answer might be you! We help future entrepreneurs build tomorrow, starting today. Subscribe to our newsletter to get our top tips sent right to your inbox.