Making sure you have camping solar power for your next trip holds a number of benefits, as not only does it help you to be kind to the environment but it also allows you to go off grid and be totally self sufficient. Frugal alternative energy also allows you to take advantage of those cheap campsites without facilities or do a spot of free wild camping, helping you bring costs down even further… and in the long term paying for the system you’ve purchased.
There are many ways you can make sure you have the right kit, but so often this seems really expensive. However, when you consider that paying for electricity at a camping site in the UK can cost anything from £3-£8 per night and having solar panels allows you access to the cheap or free sites, it doesn’t take long before you start to see your earth friendly camping bringing benefits to you as well as the environment.
The interesting thing to consider is that you don’t have to fix it to a campervan or caravan as there are ways you can make a portable solar power kit or generator so you can use it while camping in a tent. The solar powered tent concept we reported on is a great idea, however, you won’t be able to upgrade your tent any time you need to without having to trade the solar power with it. And don’t think you have to opt for the more expensive camping solar panels. These simply regulate the voltage to suit the system within a campervan, caravan or tent set up. Instead you can opt for a regular solar panel and invest in a controller that regulates the voltage for you. This brings the added benefit of you getting more charge and running more load off your camping solar power system.
We’ve already highlighted a few ways readers have fitted camping solar panels, but we were especially pleased to find out another cheap option available for the earth friendly camper. It allows them to use their camping gadgets and takes no time at all before the system pays for itself, giving solar power advantages to the user as well as the environment.
This system was developed by our friend Chris for just over £300 (approx. $486) who now uses his campervan completely off grid, while still using a fridge constantly, lights at night, his computer whenever he wants to, music when he’s in the van and still had excess energy to charge his cameras, phone and iPad. In fact the system he’s using has excess power which he wishes he could use to charge a second leisure battery. The only issue with this is the battery weight and the impact this has on diesel consumption. So he’s simply waiting for the development of better battery technology, which we’re hoping is imminent to match the demand by consumers for solar panels and alternative energy.
Where Should You Start?
Firstly you should make yourself aware of how solar power for camping works. This article with the Camping and Caravanning Club gives some great solar power facts and solar energy pros and cons. It’s all you need for calculating what your energy consumption demands are for your caravan or campervan, or tent and finding more links for extra information.
Secondly, if you have no qualifications or experience to fit the system you should find the services of someone locally who does. The ultimate priority you must have is for your living area to be safe for all using it. However, what you can do is assess how much power you need, and research and purchase the equipment you will need to be fitted. This will help you stay frugal and keep costs down.
Now for the disclaimer! The following is given as an example only and you should research what system matches your needs and seek appropriate professional advice. Simply use the following information to help you find the system and fitting method that’s right for you.
How Chris Got Off The Camping Grid
250 watt house panel (giving 32 volts at 8.2 amps). Chris found one by Solarvis Energy Ltd at £220 (including VAT and delivery) from Ebay.
This is not a camping specific panel, which simply regulates the voltage from 10 to 15volts. Instead this creates a larger voltage which is controlled by a panel called a Maximum Power Point Tracking Solar Coltroller (MPPT). Chris found one of these on Ebay for £90 (including VAT and delivery).
The solar panel is fitted to the controller via 1 positive and 1 negative socket. The battery is also fitted by the same and then the load is fitted to the remaining 2. The load gets preference, and the battery gets the rest to charge up in time for sunset. Leisure batteries are reasonable if you haven’t already got one, but as mentioned earlier are very heavy.
Other things Chris purchased for his specific campervan solar project are roof bars to fix it to the roof, wires and a circuit breaker.
We chatted through the system with Chris and had a look at what he had done. Since then have been eager to pass it on to others in the hope it spreads the word that being green can be both frugal and easy. But the most inspiring thing of all is the fact that Chris is now planning a very long trip away, and doesn’t have to think about how much time he can stay on the road without having to park up and plug in. To us this opens up so many options and makes an even greater number of camping possibilities. We’re already planning our next frugal tour of Europe.
A huge thank you to Chris who shared his inspiration with us. If you liked this article and want to keep up to date with all our weekly inspirations and giveaways, sign up for our free updates and bonuses by adding your email to the box. It’s free, you can unsubscribe at any time and we will never share your information with anyone else.
Picture and Copy Credit: Inspired Camping & Orange Communications