Portable Solar Panels
Portable solar panels come in a variety of wattages and price ranges. They are used by hikers, campers, farmers, RV enthusiasts and the military to charge batteries and provide power for a variety of appliances and equipment. Solar panels can power electric fences, wildlife feeders, video equipment, laptops, lights, TVs and satellite phones. They can be used to keep batteries charged in boats, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, RVs, and cars.
A Web search of “portable solar panels” yields a variety of products ranging from a $35 device for keeping batteries charged to a portable solar power pack costing several thousand dollars, suitable for use in battlefield conditions.
Whether portable devices are a good choice for you depends on how often you’re away from conventional power sources and whether or not you really need to check your e-mail or use a laptop on vacation in Bora Bora. If you can’t bear to be away from electronics, a portable solar device could be right for you.
But think about how you’ll use a portable solar device. Much like assessing what type of solar electricity or water heating system you need for your home, your lifestyle will help determine what type of portable device suits your needs.
For example, one company offers a 10.4 watt portable solar panel, battery pack, converter, built-in charge regulator and related equipment for $344.95, marketing the product as useful for campers, RVers, backpackers and for emergency power use. Sounds good, but you’d have to decide how often you would actually use the unit to make the initial investment worthwhile. The unit powers radios and other small electronic appliances. It is not recommended for use with a laptop; the company has more powerful units to power those.
Another site offers a 6.5-watt portable solar panel for $89.00 that the manufacturer says can power GPS units, MP3s, portable video games, PDAs, and portable DVDs. Do you really need such things on a camping trip? It’s up to you to decide.
When shopping for portable solar power devices, be clear about what your needs are, pay careful attention to the manufacturers’ specs for the products and descriptions of what they do. Shop around. There are lots of products and price ranges available.
Now let's turn to the question of whether you should consider building your own solar panels.