Solar panels: A little technical help for motorhome, boat and caravan owners. Part 1

A few notes for those of you who would like a little more information about installing solar panels and charge controllers on a motorhome, boat or caravan.

These straightforward notes cover the best types of solar panels to use and also provide information on solar panel charge controllers and and all of the other components needed to successfully install a solar panel system.

Which solar panels should I choose?

SunWorks -50-watt-framed

Rigid framed solar panel

SunWorks solar panels are all made using monocrystalline silicon technology. This is the most efficient material in common use.

Other technologies include polycrystalline silicon which is not as efficient and is now a little out of date. Also available are “thin-film” amorphous silicon panels but these have a very low efficiency so you will need about twice the area of solar panel to achieve the same power output as a monocrystalline silicon panel.

Solar panels are usually supplied with rigid aluminium frames, but we also have a range of semi-flexible panels. These are useful if you want to mount the panel to a curved surface such as a caravan roof. If you are looking for a semi-flexible panel make sure it is of  the monocrystalline type and uses ‘back-contact’ technology, for the best efficiency.

semi flexible solar panel

Semi-flexible solar panel

Semi-flexible solar panels are great for curved surfaces such as the roofs of motorhomes and caravans. They can also be used on yachts and boats, with a little caution. These panels are very thin, generally under 3mm, and have a TPT backing. TPT is a form of rugged plastic suitable for intensive outdoor use. This backing helps with the flexibility of the panel and so when used on a boat or yacht should be kept away from areas where the crew are likely to walk. Mount them instead on cabin sides, or Velcro them to a bimini-top, wheel-house roof or spray-hood. In these locations, the panel will give a long, reliable life.

solara S170P43

Solara marine solar panels

For the ultimate in rugged solar panels for yachts, take a look at our range of Solara marine solar panels.

SOLARA M-Series marine solar panels are one of most successful solar panels in use for maritime applications. These marine solar panels are built to withstand the harshest conditions. Solara panels have been used during several Vandee Globe races and many skippers sailing around the world rely on SOLARA quality. They are suitable for all yacht and boat applications, and can also be used on off-shore platforms, buoys and life-rafts.

The total thickness of these panels is only 3mm, but they are backed with a strong embedded aluminium mounting plate. An extremely resistant Nowoflon protective film on front and back makes them rugged enough to withstand the harshest off-shore environments.

They can be very bent slightly to follow a curved surface, and can be walked on. They are generally glued or screwed to the deck.

Two or more solar panels can be combined together to increase the power produced, but you should use panels of the same technology wherever possible.

Connection of solar panels is by two wires, the positive and the negative. These must be connected to a charge controller to protect your batteries from overcharging and to optimise the energy stored in your battery.

We will be publishing the second part of this post in a few days time. If in the meantime you would like to see the entire article, please visit the technical page on our website: