Solar isn’t a one size fits all solution, and with a wide variety of solar products available to 4WD tourers, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the technology, its benefits over traditional charging methods and how to ensure the system you’re considering is suitable for your application.
By turning sunlight into electricity.
Solar or photovoltaic (photo = light, voltaic = voltage or electricity) cells are created from special materials such as Silicon (Si) mixed with other elements. When exposed to sunlight, these materials will generate an electrical current.
During this process, sunlight is absorbed into the photovoltaic material, which in turn knocks electrons within the material loose. This allows the electrons to flow freely within the material structure, creating an electrical current which can be used to power your accessories.
Energy stored in batteries is the preferred source of power for today’s modern day tourer.
Unfortunately, despite advances in battery technology, they can only provide a finite source of power, eventually requiring some form of recharging.
Traditionally, recharging methods have included the use of generators (which are noisy and require fuel), mains power (which isn’t readily available in remote areas) or vehicle power (which requires the engine to be running and is not suited to longer stays in the one location).
Some of the many benefits that Redarc solar panels provide over these traditional power sources include:
Due to the high tech nature of solar technology, there are often many questions surrounding the subject. Here we’ve answered many of the popular ones to ensure you’re well informed when considering solar as an option to power your next adventure.
Can I leave my panel out in the weather?
Both Redarc thin film and rigid type panels are protected against the elements and will be fine if left out in the weather. Redarc solar panels are tested to handle rain and hail. The portable panels can also be tied or pegged down so as not to lose them in windy conditions. Generally though, when the weather is stormy, rainy or there is hail about, sunlight levels are not high enough to generate power from your solar panels. Therefore, if possible, it would be best to bring your panels out of the weather during these conditions.
Can I upgrade my solar system?
Redarc solar modules are designed to be upgradable and expandable. All Redarc panels, thin film, portable or fixed, are designed to be interconnected regardless of their type. There is also adaptor plugs available should you wish to add Redarc solar modules to an existing non-Redarc solar setup.
For a full list of FAQs, including typical usage calculations, visit www.redarc.com.au/solar.
How do I connect my panel to my battery?
Your solar panels should always be connected through a regulator and then the regulator connected to the battery/s. A regulator is required to ensure that none of the high voltages present at the output of a solar panel during good light conditions can damage the battery/s. Each panel/regulator comes with a set of instructions outlining how they should be connected to the system.
What are the most common units used for solar calculations?
Watts: The Watt is the basic unit of power. It is named after the eighteenth-century Scottish inventor James Watt. Power = Voltage x Current, so Watts = Volts x Amps.
Volts: Volts are a unit of electromotive force, measuring how much “potential” there is in an electric circuit. The higher the voltage, the more electrical current will flow in the circuit.
Amps: Amperes (or Amps), are the measure of electric current. One Amp is equal to a number of electrons passing a point in a circuit each second at a certain voltage.
Amp hours: Amp hours are a measure of stored power and represent the number of Amps drawn, for the amount of time in hours that this current is drawn. Amps x hours = AH
What’s the best time of day to use my panel?
Your panels will provide the most power at peak sunlight, which occurs in the middle of the day when there is no cloud cover. As long as the sun is out, your panels will continue to provide power at a reduced rate before and after this peak sunlight period.
Where do I place my panel with regards to the sun?
Ideally your solar panel should be in direct sunlight for best performance. As much as possible your solar panel should be perpendicular to the direction of the sun’s rays. In practice this is not always easily achievable or convenient and so Redarc recommend that you orient your panels so that they are facing north at about a 45° angle.
Will my panel work when it’s cloudy?
Solar panels do generate electricity in cloudy weather although their output is diminished. The output can drop to as low as 10% of the full sun intensity. The use of an MPPT regulator will help get the most out of your panels during these conditions.
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