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Shopping for Solar Power

Looking to get into the market of solar power but not sure where to start? This handy guide will walk you through the commercial options readily available today, and introduce some of the facts you’ll need to know about solar panels.

Start simple

There’s nothing easier, and more effective, than installing some of the garden solar lights widely available today. Simply put the lights in the ground, and they’ll work independently from the moment they leave the box.

Most solar garden lights have sensors built in so that they switch themselves on when it gets dark, and switch themselves off when the sun comes back up again.

Solar garden lights are available in lots of different styles, from hanging bulbs to ground lamps, and they come in a range of great colours. Some even have automatic or programmed colour change options, which make them a great way to accentuate your garden’s atmosphere during parties or barbecues.

With summer just around the corner, solar lights are a must-have for giving your outdoor area a bit more personality for no ongoing cost.

Stay charged

There’s no guarantee you’ll have access to a mains power supply when you’re out and about, but you’ll almost certainly see daylight on your travels (unless you’re travelling at night, but we’ll get to that in a minute).

Solar chargers draw sunlight and store it in a battery unit which can then be drawn out to trickle charge, or even revive, the flat battery of your device.
This is ideal for people going camping or hiking, or those wanting to keep their phone topped up while they’re out in the garden or at the beach.

TOP TIP: When looking for a solar charger, and indeed any solar panel, you’re best to look for one with a storage battery. Without one, you can only use the solar power as it is being harvested. With a battery, you can hold on to your charge and save it to use when you want it – even at night.

Power around the home

When people think of solar panels, they think of the 1.6-metre panels found on rooftops around the country. While these are certainly the most effective ways of harnessing the sun’s rays, they aren’t always the most convenient – or affordable.

If you’re toying with the idea of installing solar panels, look at a smaller version to start with. You can usually generate enough electricity to power a TV with a 150W panel. If you’re clever with your electricity uses, this amount of power can make a nice little reduction to your energy bill.

Power away from home

Smaller panels are also perfect for motor homes, as they can be installed and uninstalled easily. They can cut down the cost of drawing power from the camp site, and even remove the bind of parking near a power supply – just ensure you’re parked in a legal spot!

During the sunnier times of spring, summer and autumn, your solar panel can act as the primary power supply to your mobile home. Some of the best models provide enough energy to power your lights, water pumps, laptops and televisions.

This could cover much of your energy usage when you’re out and about in the great outdoors.

How do solar panels work?

There are two types of solar panel that are suitable for using around the house. The first type is solar thermal, which are used to heat water and can help cut down heating bills. The second is photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which are used to catch the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity.

PV solar panels catch the sun’s light and turn it into electrical energy using semi-conductors within the panels. PV solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to produce energy, as it is the photons in natural daylight that are converted into electrical energy.

As a result, PV solar panels can produce some electricity even on overcast days – although the best results are found on clear, sunny days.

Get the most out of your solar panel

Check the tips below and make your solar panel as efficient as possible. Let us know if you’ve got any suggestions of your own.

  • Make sure the solar panel is installed properly with the correct tilt angle and orientation towards the equator – those in the northern hemisphere should have their panel orientated south

  • Avoid shaded areas, as direct sunlight generates energy the most efficiently

  • Keep it clean, as a layer of dust or grime can block the sun’s rays

  • Keep temperatures down by providing room for air movement – higher temperatures reduce the efficiency of solar panels

  • Keep track of how much energy your devices and appliances use, and find which ones will be best suited to your solar charger or panel and maximise the amount of energy drawn from it

  • Use the charger or panel most during the day, when the energy you use is being actively replaced