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What To Look For When Buying Camping solar panels

When shopping for camping solar panels, here's what to look for. Treehugger has reviewed some of the best of them.


Efficiency

If space or weight is a concern, such as in backpacking, compare the efficiency of various solar panels. The efficiency of a solar panel is measured by how well it converts sunlight into electricity. A panel with an efficiency over 20% is a quality product. A more efficient panel needs less room to generate the same electricity as a larger, less efficient one, but it may cost more. If space or weight is not a concern, don't waste your money on a highly efficient panel if a lower-cost, less efficient panel will get the job done.


Buy What You Need, Not What You Want

Know what you'll need and don't buy more than that. You can calculate how much energy you need with a simple energy calculator which tells you how many watts different appliances use. Check the voltage requirements of any gadget. Most laptops, for example, require 19 volts of constant power.


Know Your Watts and Watt-Hours

A watt is a unit of power. It measures how much energy a device will consume or produce at a single moment in time. You'll need a solar panel (or battery) that can produce 100 watts to light up two 50-watt light bulbs.


A watt-hour is a measure of how much energy is used over the course of an hour. If you want to keep your two 50-watt light bulbs lit for 10 hours, you'll need a solar panel (or more likely a battery) that can produce 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kilowatt hour (kWh). There's not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between the watts and the number of watt-hours that a device can output. For example, the 2000-watt Goal Zero Yeti solar-powered generator can deliver 1500 watt-hours.


Weight

Weight is not only a factor in terms of a panel's portability but in also terms of the amount of electricity it might generate, if only for the practical reason that you are more likely to move around a lighter solar panel than a heavier one if you want it to follow the path of the sun throughout the day, allowing it to generate more electricity.


A portable solar panel is certainly a cleaner source of electricity compared to most alternatives, but to make it worth the investment, consider its financial worth as well as its convenience.


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Tina Yu

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