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One answer to energy shortages was above us all along, and now solar panels have become commonplace and affordable enough for everyone to have one either in their home, garage, car, or emergency kit.
The best part is that you don’t need to travel or live off-the-grid to benefit from these. Having a set of solar panels to use is excellent insurance against power outages, offers a reliable power supply when traveling or not, or even just to save some money on your current electric bill each month.
How to Pick the Best Portable Solar Panel
Here’s what we suggest reviewing before taking a first step into getting portable, powerful solar panels:
Power: On average, 100 watts of power is a safe minimum for portable panels, one that’s going to supply enough energy to use most common devices, (by comparison, the stationary rooftop ones are around 440W). A single-pin output to plug into the power station can help simplify things for beginners. Another thing to remember is that when the temperature rises, the efficiency can take a hit. Though the all-black models can look sleek and modern, efficiency-wise, a white backsheet offers higher power outputs, since it helps the module stay cooler on those blazing-hot days.
Power Station: You’ll most likely need a power station where you can store all this energy that your panels have absorbed. To take it a step further, home integration kits are available to hook up your solar reserves to your home’s electrical system. If that’s the case, and you won’t really be traveling with them, a bigger and bulkier option is much easier to drag outside rather than fold up and stuff into, or onto, a vehicle each time you need it.
Weatherproof: Will these be living outside all the time? If so, make absolute sure that they’re up for whatever nature throws at them, and won’t be affected by wet and moist environments. Also make sure it works well in the shade if you’re not living in a sunny climate or location. If this is for a boat, or you’re even near an ocean, check to see if it’s suited for saltwater exposure too. Rugged tempered glass can also handle the typical damage against things like branches falling on it.
Portability: Along with being weatherproof, think ahead as to where this is going to be. If you’ll be carrying this constantly, you’ll want one that folds up nicely, with a handle, and a strong build like an aluminum frame to keep it light and durable. Installation also goes hand-in-hand with this: Make sure it’s simple to set up, and avoid an unnecessary hassle every time you need to unfold it quickly, especially in an emergency.
Extras: Items like a carrying case should be included to protect it everywhere, from the garage to the back of your RV. Other items like a kickstand are a big help when setting it up and angling it towards the sun, while an included cable can transfer energy to your power station instantly.
1. Goal Zero Ranger 300 Solar Panels
Everything we’ve tried from Goal Zero so far has been a winner, and these portable panels continue that trend. This is a company that tests its gear in the toughest conditions on earth, adjusting products accordingly to handle even the harshest situations.
The panels come in a foldable briefcase form, and have some weight to them at 39 pounds. Thanks to the thinner aluminum frame, that’s still lighter than some competitors’ products and older models. Unfolding the four 75-watt panels is easy, as they span out naturally, reaching about 106 inches across. The amount of items this powers is pretty impressive. Users report running a fridge, multiple computers, lights, and appliances for nearly two straight days.
This pairs perfectly with the Yeti series, and can power up a Yeti 1000X between four to six hours. They’re safe to use in the rain, and when it’s time to pack it back up, magnetized corners help it click into place. It also comes with a carrying case, kickstand, and a six-foot cable to plug into your power station.
2. Renogy Solar Panel
Renogy’s 12V has a smaller physical footprint than most others, making it ideal for spots where space is limited. The monocrystalline cell matrix, which are lighter than polycrystalline solar cells, do an excellent and efficient job of maximizing output, and multiple panels can be strung together to create a permanent installation on a home, cabin, or RV. Tempered glass helps it to be more durable against weather and outdoor damage, and the frame is corrosion-resistant to boot.
3. SunPower Flexible Solar Panel
SunPower’s edge over the competition isn’t really an edge at all. Instead, it’s more of a bend, up to 30 degrees, making this panel ideal for placing on surfaces that aren’t completely flat. This 110W/18.8V panel handles slight curves and bumps on rooftops or uneven terrain. Thanks to the durable laminate and polymer materials, it’s extremely lightweight and even affordable.
4. Goal Zero Nomad 50 Solar Panel
From power banks to power stations, this 50-watt Nomad is extremely portable and lightweight, at under seven pounds. Each of the four monocrystalline panels is enclosed in a protective casing, and when unfolded, span about 4.5 feet wide. The 18-22V Panel has a built-in 8mm charging cable and a USB port, and it’s compact enough to fold down into tight spaces.