We’re just about to come into the cooler months, which means one thing – awesome cooler nights around roaring campfires! We’re so blessed in Australia with a massive variety of climates, but regardless of where you want to go camping, whether it’s down south or up in the Top End, winter brings with it cooler camping temperatures.
If you’ve been spending a bit of time setting up your 4WD’s 12v system to let you run a portable fridge and LED camping lights when you’re at camp, you may be wondering about adding portable solar panels to your setup. A portable solar panel is a fantastic way to prevent your auxiliary deep cycle battery from going flat, letting you stay at that perfect campsite for longer. However many campers who are relatively new to camping solar panels ask the question whether it’s worth running a solar panel during winter, and our answer to that is always yes!
Of course, winter brings with it shorter days but here’s the funny thing. Heat is the enemy of electricity in general. The hotter the ambient temperature is, and the hotter the temperature of an electrical system component such as a camping solar panel gets, the less it is able to perform. That’s because a certain amount of the electricity flowing through any circuit gets lost through conversion to heat anyway, but when the wiring is already heated up, that loss of electricity (known as voltage drop) becomes even more prevalent.
Because of this phenomena, the irony is that although winter days are shorter and often not as sunny, when the sun is out, your camping solar panel will perform at its peak during winter! However because the days are so short, especially the further south you get, you need to be very much on top of always pointing your solar panel directly at the sun to maximize the power it can produce. The sun moves a lot quicker across the sky in winter, and stays a lot lower in the sky too. That means every hour you should be re-adjusting the angle of your camping solar panel to make sure it’s getting as much sunlight as possible, instead of every couple of hours like in summer.
One term you should be aware of is ‘Peak Sun Hours’. This is, as the name suggests, the amount of time in a certain location that will get full sun on a sunny day. It’s a lot less down in Melbourne in winter, for instance, than Weipa. To get the most out of your camping solar panel, do a good search for ‘Peak Sun Hours’ along with the location you’re going camping to. It’ll show you what the average mean daily sunshine amount is, which in Weipa’s case is 5.5 hours per day. You can then use that to calculate what sized portable solar panel you need. If you’re running a fridge that draws on average 2amps per hour, plus some LED lights and fans that’ll draw another 10A per day, you’re going to need to replenish 58A of power every 24 hours.
The Adventure Kings 160W Portable Solar Panel has a peak output of 8.75A, whereas the Adventure Kings 250W Portable Solar Panel has a peak output of 13.74A. If you’re getting 5.5 hours of peak sunlight, and need to replenish 58A of power in that time, you’ll need a camping solar panel that can produce at least 10.5A of peak power. That means the Adventure Kings 250W portable solar panel is the one you want in this scenario. However it’s worth mentioning that this scenario focuses only on solar panel power production – you can still produce power to recharge your auxiliary deep-cycle battery by going for a drive, or running your camping generator!
So, if you’re wondering whether winter’s a worthwhile time to invest in solar power for your campsite, the simple answer is yes! Camping solar panels are worth their weight in gold whenever you’re out camping, but they perform at their peak in cool, sunny conditions. Add an Adventure Kings Portable Solar Panel to your 12v system and you’ll be able to forget about the worries and headaches of a flat auxiliary deep cycle battery.