portable solar panels

Are Portable Solar Panels Worth It? Everything You Need to Know

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As the cost of solar cells continues to drop, cheap portable solar panels are now widely available for purchase online as well as at several big-box home improvement retailers. 1 You can purchase several foldable solar panels for around one dollar to two dollars per watt, which is roughly half of what it would cost to have solar panels put on your roof. But do you think it's money well spent? Let's find out.

portable solar panels

How Portable Solar Panels Work

A solar panel that you may install on your roof is often enclosed in a protective sleeve composed of mesh fabric or plastic. This is in contrast to a portable solar panel, which is typically encased in a protective sleeve that is made of a permanent, rigid frame and is sealed beneath glass. Small and affordable (less than $50) solar panels can create 5 to 50 watts, whereas bigger panels may generate 300 watts or more, which is the same as a typical solar panel installed on a rooftop. When it comes to size, smaller panels usually have a single sheet of silicon solar cells, while bigger panels may have two or three sheets of silicon solar cells inside a foldable enclosure.

The panels have a single socket or a series of jacks that may provide electricity to a range of different electronic gadgets. Users will be able to immediately charge their phones or laptops thanks to the presence of a DC output jack and a USB connector, which are expected to be there. It is common practice to couple portable solar panels with a portable lithium-ion battery in order to ensure that the energy generated by the panels may be used in any environment. (However, you will not be able to charge the battery while you are using the device.) The battery can connect to a wider range of output devices, from DC output jacks to regular 120-volt AC outlets found in homes.

Portable solar panels are not intended to take the place of conventional rooftop solar panels, despite the fact that the output of some of the bigger panels may be comparable to that of a standard rooftop solar panel. They are not designed to have the structural integrity or voltage control of a rooftop solar system that has been built correctly.

On the other hand, installing a portable solar panel takes just a few minutes, does not require any permits or inspections, and does not raise any concerns about the potential for damage to your roof.

Crystalline silicon wafers that are designed to take in light are the primary component of every kind of solar photovoltaic (PV) panel. As a result of the light (photons) coming from the sun, electrons are jarred free from the silicon material, which results in a current being produced along the electrical conductors in the cells (thus the word "photovoltaic"). Direct current, also known as DC, is the type of current that flows out of the cells in only one direction. This current can either go directly into a device that can use DC electricity (like a battery), or it can go indirectly through an inverter to generate alternating current, which is more commonly used in the home.

The Top Uses for Portable Solar Panels

Because of their portability, solar panels are often used by campers, tourists, and anybody else who needs a source of energy in an area that does not have access to a conventional power system. However, since they are available in such a wide range of sizes and prices, they may also be put to use in a wide number of other applications.


The most common activities for making use of portable solar panels are likely camping and hiking. As an alternative to using a portable generator, you might secure bigger solar panels to the roof of your van or recreational vehicle (RV). A battery that is charged by solar panels is not only clean but also silent and odorless, in contrast to a generator that burns fossil fuels, which is loud and stinky. Because even the bigger panels are moveable, you may position them in the sun while keeping your tent, camper, or RV in the shade. This will allow you to save energy while maintaining a comfortable temperature.

portable solar panels

If you are going on a hiking excursion into the back country for a week and want to keep your phone charged for GPS or emergency needs, a compact solar panel that can fit into your backpack will allow you to stay in touch with civilized society. Because the larger panels may weigh as much as 25 pounds or more, it is recommended that you take them vehicle camping rather than hike the whole of the Appalachian Trail with you.


Installing solar panels on the deck of your boat or any other place with a flat surface will allow you to use the electricity stored in a battery to power an electric engine. When you are out at sea, the panel may also serve the purpose of a canopy, which will shield you from the sun. Solar panels, in conjunction with a solar battery, make it possible to sail without the need for a gas-powered engine, which is both loud and stinky, as well as without the requirement for wind. As long as the sun is out, you may sail for an almost unbounded amount of time without having to make any pit stops for food or water. 

For solar boating, you need to use portable marine solar panels that are made to withstand the corrosive effects of salt water and weather conditions that are worse than what campers might face.


If your panel is exposed to light, it will generate electricity; thus, the best way to protect yourself from being shocked by electricity is to exercise common sense. It must not be disassembled, heated, bent, pierced, or broken, and it must not be exposed to flame or heat.Do not submerge it in water. If it has to be cleaned, use a cloth that is slightly moist but does not contain any soap. Learn about the various precautions to take by reading the user's handbook.

Apartment Living

If you live in an apartment and your landlord is unwilling to put solar panels on the roof, you have two options for producing your own electricity: you can either think about joining a community solar farm, or you may set up portable solar panels on your balcony. You are free to take your solar panels with you if and when you relocate.

Power Outages

If you work from home and your power goes out, your modem and router go out as well. Because of this, if you do not have access to a wifi hotspot, you will not be able to access the Internet. However, if you have a battery backup that is charged by solar energy, you will be able to continue using your modem, router, and laptop until electricity is restored. In addition, there are a variety of portable solar panels that have been developed particularly for the purpose of functioning as solar laptop chargers. Also, depending on the size of the battery, you might be able to use it to power a small refrigerator that would work in a dorm room to keep food or medicines from going bad.

Think Outside the House

You do not need to run electricity from your house in order to warm an outside building such as a greenhouse or hot tub, light up a patio or backyard play area, operate the pump on a fountain or bird bath, or power outdoor Christmas decorations.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

If you obtain your energy from a grid that isn't powered entirely by clean, renewable electricity, you may lessen the impact you have on the environment by utilizing the electricity generated by your solar panels to power some of the electrical appliances and devices within your house. You may reduce the amount you spend on electricity while also giving yourself peace of mind knowing that you are utilizing energy that does not produce carbon dioxide.

What To Look For When Buying Portable Solar Panels

Here are some things to keep an eye out for while searching for portable solar panels.


Evaluate the performance of different solar panels in terms of their space and weight requirements, as would be the case while camping. It is possible to gauge the effectiveness of a solar panel by seeing how effectively it is able to convert sunlight into power. A high-quality product would be a panel with an efficiency of more than 20%. 2 Although it may cost more, a panel that is more efficient uses less space to produce the same amount of power as a bigger panel that is less efficient. If you are not limited by space or weight, it is not necessary to spend more money on a panel that has a high efficiency rating if you can do the same thing with a panel that has a lower price tag but has a lower efficiency rating.

Buy What You Need, Not What You Want

Determine what you will need and do not purchase more than that amount. You may determine how much energy you need by using a simple energy calculator, which can also provide you with information on the amount of wattage that certain equipment uses. Always make sure you check the voltage requirements of any device. For example, the majority of laptops need a steady power supply of 19 volts.

Know Your Watts and Watt-Hours

A unit of power is called a watt. It determines how much energy a gadget will need at a single instant as well as how much energy it will produce. If you want to light up two 50-watt light bulbs, you will need a solar panel (or battery) that is capable of producing 100 watts.

The amount of energy that is used in one hour may be measured using something called a watt-hour. If you want to keep your two 50-watt light bulbs illuminated for ten hours, you will need a solar panel (or more likely, a battery) that is capable of producing one kilowatt hour, which is equal to 1,000 watt-hours (kWh). The number of watts that a device is capable of producing and the number of watt-hours that it can produce may not always match in a one-to-one fashion. A solar-powered generator like the Goal Zero Yeti, which has a capacity of 2000 watts, can give off 1500 watt-hours.


You are more likely to move around a lighter solar panel than a heavier one if you want it to follow the course of the sun throughout the day, which will enable it to create more power. This is only one of the practical reasons why weight plays a role in both the mobility of a panel and the amount of electricity it may generate.

Other Considerations

When compared to the majority of other options for generating power, a portable solar panel is undeniably the most environmentally friendly choice. Yet, in order for it to be worth the investment, both its financial value and its convenience must be taken into consideration.

How often do you plan to use it? When compared to the alternative, would it result in a lower cost for you? You are likely to be able to think of a situation where a portable solar panel would be useful, since there are so many options on the market now in terms of price, power, and size.


Do your research before deciding to purchase a portable solar panel. Consider the possibility of a future update, and choose a solar panel system that can be easily upgraded if necessary. You should be able to add more solar panels to the system to increase the amount of electricity it can make.

portable solar panels


Are portable solar panels useful?

Are portable solar panels effective? They certainly are. The same technology that enables houses to operate entirely on solar energy is used, although in a form that is far more space-efficient. However, despite the fact that they are not able to generate as much power as full-sized solar panels, they are still efficient.

Is purchasing a solar panel battery pack financially viable?

Is the investment in solar backup batteries going to be worthwhile in the long run? Absolutely. A battery is an addition to a home solar system that is both practical and helpful since it helps reduce the amount of energy that must be drawn from the power grid and also provides power to your house in the event of a power outage.

Is the investment in personal solar panels worthwhile?

If you live in an area that has high energy costs and a solar rating that is suitable for your home, and if you can afford the initial investment, it is worthwhile to install solar panels on your home while the 30% tax credit is still available. Doing so will benefit both the environment and your finances. But you shouldn't anticipate a complete disappearance of your monthly electricity bill overnight.

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