This article is all about 12v solar panels. More specifically I’m going to discuss, what they are and how they’re used, 12v battery chargers and finally solar panel 12v vs 24v panels. As some of you may, or may not, know, 12v solar panels are mainly used for vehicles such as camper vans, caravans and motor homes as well as marine vessels like boats and yachts. The portability of these units makes them ideal for this type of usage. If you get enough of them you can also use them in series as . You can easily pick these up for under a hundred bucks a pop, however there are a few things you need be aware of, especially if you’re new to solar technology.
Most people looking for a solar panel 12v unit are usually doing so in order to charge their 12v battery in their vehicle or boat. This seems likes a good idea, right? Unfortunately, it’s really not as straight forward as that. This is because 12v batteries are not consistently supplying 12v, they will range anywhere from 10v up to 14v depending on the usage and other factors. Furthermore, 12v solar panels also don’t supply a consistent power supply. The panel itself may be rated at 12v, but by the time the current passes through the panel, diode, internal wiring and into the battery the output will be somewhat dwindled down again.
The whole point of me explaining this is that it’s important to make sure that of you’re buying a solar panel 12v, that it’s actually going to give you 12v. Most of the 12v panels nowadays are actually rated at around 17v –
Diodes are cheaper and most of the panels nowadays have them installed. If the panel you get doens’t have a diode you can use a seperate charge controller, which is an item you’ll most probably get anyway if you intend on getting more than one panel. Both of these items essentially do the same thing. Their purpose is to make sure that the current produced by your panel travels from the panel to your battery, not vice versa! If left unprotected, current discharging from a fully charged battery
back into a solar cell, which could easily happen at night, will fry your panels for good!
There’s no real advantage in either 12v solar panels vs 24v solar panels in price or performance. As mentioned above the 12v panels are mainly preferable for mobility, whilst the 24v and above units are more designed for domestic solar panels. If you do go for a 24v panel or above it’s advisable to get a charge controller with maximum power point tracking (MPPT). MPPT will make the most energy in the panel and convert it towards the proper charging current for the battery bank.