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Choosing the Correct Battery Type for Solar Panels

In this blog I will break down the different battery types available to use with your Solar Panels. Lead acid batteries have large capacities and are often available in many places around Australia. A lot of people ask me "which lead acid battery should I use with solar panels?" I always recommend using sealed AGM lead acid batteries wherever possible and will describe in this blogs the benefits of using this type of battery with iTechworld portable solar panels.Starter vs. Deep-Cycle Batteries
Starter batteries are designed to deliver short, high-current bursts for starting a vehicle engine, and are designed to discharge only a very small part of their capacity. If you were to use a starter battery as a way of running your caravan/motor home/camper trailer it would corrode very quickly, the plates and the chemistry are designed to stay nearly 100% fully charged most of the time. They cannot handle the discharge and charge needed when running your RV on Solar Power.

For solar charging applications, I always recommend an iTechworld deep cycle battery. Cheap knock off batteries are available via eBay but come with very little warranty and you can never be sure you are getting the correct Amp Hour battery that you have paid for. Typical car batteries can be used but will not be suitable long term. ITechworld Deep cycle batteries are designed with larger plates and different chemistry to avoid the corrosive effect of frequently using the full capacity. They are designed to be charged and discharged by solar and can handle the strain of using most of its capacity.

Flooded, vs. Gel vs AGM
There are a different types of deep cycle batteries available in Australia: flooded, sealed gelled, or fully sealed AGM. For most situations a fully sealed AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) is the safest and best option. ITechworld fully sealed AGM batteries require absolutely no maintenance whatsoever. There is no need for ventilation and they will not spill. You can use flooded batteries and they will cost a lot less, but they require adequate ventilation, maintenance, and also have the potential liability of tipping or spilling. Not ideal when there are kids around and not ideal on bumpy roads.

If iTechworld AGM batteries are maintained properly, they will function at 80-90% efficiency for 7 - 10 years. Most people would agree that its a decent return for a $270 investment. The key to obtaining this life span is to maintain a full charge when ever possible. This simple rule of thumb will extend the battery life and maintain a higher efficiency.

 

FULLY SEALED MAINTENANCE FREE SOLAR BATTERIES

 

 

 

Article author

Ian

[email protected]

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iTechworld Generator Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Determine which items you consider essential to have access to when you are the road. Consider such items as fridges, microwaves, air con units or fans, lights and other small appliances as well as medical devices such as oxygen machines.
  • Determine the wattage you will need to power the items you wish to access simultaneously. This is the continuous watts. This will determine the size of generator needed. For example, a 3000 continuous wattage generator will power a fridge, small air con units, microwaves and household items.

Place your generator outside in an open area. It should be located away from doors or windows to prevent carbon monoxide from entering your living area. Make sure the area is dry. If using during rainy weather, place it under a canopy or other covering.
  • Consider that generators will make noise. You may want to experiment with different locations. 7-10 meters away is usually a good starting point.

4.8KVA Inverter Generator Fuel Tank

Follow manufacturers' instructions for recommended fuel and oil and for starting and running instructions. A typical 3000-watt generator will hold 6-7L of fuel and will run for approximately 6 hours.

Plug appliances and other items into the generator using a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord that is grounded. You can then plug power boards into the extension cord indoors. Charge your caravan batteries using generator power via the battery charging cables provided.

Tips

  • Shut generator down and let cool before refuelling.
  • Use only the oil listed in the instructions.
  • Store fuel in an approved container in a locked shed or another safe area.
  • Seek advice from iTechworld if you are unsure of wattage needs.
  • Consider starting wattage as well as running wattage when purchasing a generator. Appliances require greater power on initial startup. Check appliances for wattage info.
  • Note that Watts/KiloWatts is different from KVA.
  • To prevent theft, consider running a metal ring into the ground and secure the generator with a chain.
  • Make sure fuel is clean and no water or other liquids have been kept in the jerrycan.

 

 

Read iTechworld Generator Reviews HERE

Read how to avoid a drained battery HERE

Read about light weight Solar Panels HERE

Read 5 great tips to get the most out of your Solar Panels HERE

Read our comprehensive guide on Inverters HERE

Read about the benefits of travelling with Solar Power HERE

Article author

Ian

[email protected]

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Travelling with Solar Power

The benefits of Travelling with solar power

Solar power is a clean form of energy that’s natural, renewable, and best of all free. Using the correct portable solar system allows you to free camp at remote locations without sacrificing luxury items such as fridges, LED camping lights, mobile devices and more. Using the correct solar system in these locations will generally mean you can avoid paying heftier fees for powered sites. Additionally, adding some portable solar panels means you don’t have to detract from the peace and quiet you went outdoors to find.

 

What you need to travel with solar power

A self-sufficient solar setup requires fit for purpose solar panels that combine compactness, portability and functionality. All iTechworld Solar Panels will come with a solar regulator. Other important equipment you need will be a deep-cycle auxiliary battery and an inverter if you’re planning to charge 240v appliances such as a laptop or television. The way these products fit together is simple: solar panels gather power from the sun, which then flows into the battery via the solar regulator. Also known as a charge controller, solar regulators are important because they prevent damage to your battery from fluctuating charge or overcharging.

Solar panels come in different forms: mono-crystalline, poly-crystalline and thin film amorphous. Mono-crystalline panels lead the way because they are more affordable but also more efficient than poly-crystalline, meaning out of two panels the same size, a mono-crystalline solar panel will gather more solar power. Amorphous panels need greater surface area compared to mono and poly crystalline panels. Amorphous panels are generally 5 - 6 time more expensive than poly and mono panels for the equivalent wattage and do not represent good value for money. On going reports of connectors in amorphous panels becoming damaged due to extensive folding also can not be ignored. All iTechworld solar panels are high quality, Mono-crystalline, German Certified, hail proof solar cells. The best cells available in the Australian market today. These cells come with full performance guarantee.

 

 

What are your solar power requirements

Calculating your equipment’s power usage is key to creating a solar power system that’s tailored to you. Without a basic understanding of how much power your equipment is using, you could end up purchasing the incorrect battery, solar regulator or wrong-sized solar panel. If any one of these products is too small you could end up with a flat battery earlier than expected, or worse, a damaged solar regulator or battery. To calculate your usage, keep in mind most devices will have its power draw on the label that’s on the product, after which you need to work out how long per day you will operate the equipment to calculate it’s overall power draw. A handy tool to use if the power consumption is not marked on the label is the iTechworld in line Amp Meter.

Here’s an example of a basic setup: to run a medium-sized fridge that draws 4amps and some LED camping lights that draw 0.25amps each, a 120W folding solar panel kit coupled with a 100amp deep cycle battery  would cover your needs and then some. To find out what products you require to fit your needs call iTechworld on 08 9472 7200 or send an email.

 

What bearing does my position have on Solar Power?

How much power your panels gather depends on their size, how they’re used and the amount of sunlight hours in a day. To start off with, the biggest misconception of solar power is that ‘all sunlight is created equal’. While the output of a solar panel is dictated by sunlight, other factors including geographic location, ambient temperature and time of year have an influence over how much power is on offer for your solar panels to gather. Check out iTechworld's handy sun tool below.

 

Solar power do's and don'ts

The most common equipment to power with a solar setup include 12v fridges (which can account for upwards of 60% of your total power draw), camping lights, satellite TV systems and inverters, which would then be responsible for charging 12v appliances such as laptops and televisions. When it comes to lighting, LED lights are preferable as their light patterns are highly focused and their power draw is minimal in comparison to fluorescent and halogen lights. Additionally, avoid powering major heating appliances like hair dryers from your power inverter, as these are energy-intensive and will waste your battery’s hard-earned power.

 

 

Using solar panels when travelling

Getting the most from your solar panel set up is the main aim of the game. For people who are on long distance trips, roof-mounting Semi Flexible solar panels on your camper trailer or caravan is ideal, as this allows you to gather power as you travel. Meanwhile for shorter trips, a folding panel is the best option to save space.

Keep your solar panels clean, dust that gathers on solar panels will obstruct sunlight and detract from the panel’s performance. This is a greater problem for mounted panels, as they are constantly exposed and have to contend with any dust kicked up from travelling off-road. To remedy this, regularly wipe them down with a microfiber cloth, as using a more abrasive material will potentially scratch and damage a panel.

Understanding solar power terminology

The relationship between Watts, Volts and Amps can be confusing when misunderstood, though basically:

 

 

Watts (Power) = Volts x Amps

 

Watts, volts and amps form the basis of most solar power jargon, though on their own or even in a formula probably won't make much sense to most campers. To get a better understanding of what these terms mean and how they fit into your understanding of solar power call iTechworld on 08 9472 7200 or send us an email

 

VIEW THE BEST PORTABLE SOLAR PANEL RANGE IN AUSTRALIA

 

Learn how to choose the correct Generator HERE

Learn how to avoid a drained battery HERE

Learn about light weight Solar Panels HERE

5 tips to get the most out of your Solar Panels HERE

Comprehensive guide on Inverters HERE

 

 

Article author

Ian

[email protected]

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Connecting Batteries in Series or Parallel

12 Volt Battery Systems

Finally an illustrated description of what it means to connect batteries in series or parallel.

We frequently get asked the question, "How am I supposed to connect my battery if I want to double the capacity but not the voltage?", or similar questions. It can be confusing if you've never done it, but hopefully this will make it simpler.

Connecting in series

When connecting your batteries in Series you are doubling the voltage while maintaining the same capacity rating (amp hours). Just use a jumper wire between the negative of the first battery and the positive of the second battery. Run your negative wire off of the open connector from the first battery and your positive off of the open connector on your second battery.

Connecting in Parallel

When connecting in Parallel you are doubling the capacity (amp hours) of the battery while maintaining the voltage of one of the individual batteries. Use a jumper wire between the positives of both batteries and another jumper wire between the negatives of both batteries. Connect your positive and negative wires to the same battery to run to your application.

 

Still not sure?

Call 08 9472 7200 to talk to an expert.

 

Read how Generator Inverters work HERE

Read iTechworld Generator Reviews HERE

Read how to use a Generator Inverter HERE

Read how to avoid a drained battery HERE

Read about light weight Solar Panels HERE

Read 5 great tips to get the most out of your Solar Panels HERE

Read our comprehensive guide on Inverters HERE

Read about the benefits of travelling with Solar Power HERE

 

Article author

Ian

[email protected]

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Solar Panels Australia

Introduction 

Before you start harnessing the elements to heat, cool or light your home, caravan, tent or truck, it is worth considering your motivation as it will determine what systems are best for you. You will also need to assess your site as you may not have suitable resources. Are you able to connect or remain connected to the national infrastructure as a backup? Do you need to have an uninterrupted power supply (UPS)? Are you relocating daily or is it a more permanent arrangement? What is your budget?

We recommend that you focus on what you consider to be essential and then be prepared to compromise if nature temporarily leaves you a bit short. Establish what are your MUST and WANTS are. Once you have established your MUST and WANTS you can calculate your energy requirements and usage. We also recommend that you develop a modular and scalable approach so that the system can be easily changed as your requirements or financial circumstance changes.

 

Solar

The photovoltaic (PV) cells of a solar panel harvest sunshine in the form of photon rays and converts them to direct current (DC) electricity. The life of a solar PV system is impressive as there are no moving parts to convert the solar energy into electricity.

 

How Solar Panels Work  

Each solar panel is a remarkable lattice of layers of silicon-based cells. When the sun’s photons hit a layer of silicon that has free outer electrons around the atoms, these move to the layer beneath, which comprises atoms with electrons missing. The resulting flow causes a small current, but because there are many cells linked together, the whole panel produces a useable voltage of DC electricity. It remains as DC current it is going straight to a battery. This is a 12V system.

 

Power capability  

Solar PV systems are specified as having a ‘peak power capability’, because they depend on how much sun shines on the panels. The systems do still make electricity on overcast days, though obviously make more power on a sunny day.

Solar panels are extremely useful for charging batteries and so are ideal for powering “stand-alone” or “off the grid” systems that are remote from mains supply. For a stand-alone system, it is important to be sure that your solar panel can provide enough energy to power whatever you intend to use it for. As long as your panels are a suitable size and you have sufficient batteries you should seldom have an occasion when there is not enough power. You should aim to have enough stored energy for those “just in case” situations.

 

Storing energy  

In a battery, a chemical reaction occurs and then electrons travel through a wire from one terminal to the other, and the result is Direct Current (DC) electricity. Batteries are particularly useful for standalone systems as they are fairly cheap and power can be stored and used when needed. If you wish to store electricity that you have generated in the battery bank then deep cycle batteries are designed to deliver less current for a longer period of time. Once flat they are designed to be recharged.

Car batteries can be used but they are not suitable as they are not designed to be fully discharged. The deep cycle batteries are designed to be recharged once flat and will last longer.

The amount of energy that a battery can supply is specified in ampere hours (Ah). So, a 12-volt battery that is specified as 100Ah can theoretically deliver 1 amp for 100 hours or 100 amps for 1 hour.

Multiplying the volts and amps, gives you the power (watts) the battery will produce.

So for our 12 volt battery it is possible to have:

  • 12 volts X 1 amp = 12 watts for 100 hours

Or

  • 12 volts X 100 amp = 1200 watts for 1 hour

Back in the real world, these numbers don’t quite add up as you can’t expect to get more than 80% capacity from your battery, i.e. 80 Ah.

The smaller deep cycle batteries are not designed to deliver masses of current so you shouldn’t really drain more than about 10 -15 amps (that’s a device of about 120 – 180 watts). So if a pump needs 60 watts to function we divide 60 watts by 12 volts, which gives 5 amps.

If you use the pump for 2 hours a day, a fully charged battery therefore lasts about 8 days.

 

How to work out Watts, Amps and Volts 

Common sense states that a larger Solar Panel will collect more energy than a smaller solar panel, but what size is correct for your needs?

Most power consumption of appliances is given in Watts. It is a relatively simple calculation to work out power your energy use, just multiply the power consumption by the hours of use. For example:

100 watt device used over 5 hours equals 100 x 5 = 500 Watt hours (Wh)

 

Converting Watts to Amps  

If you want to figure out if your 100W solar panel is capable of running a fridge that draws 2A, then it’s a matter of one formula. You cannot directly convert watts to amps, since watts are power and amps are the current. It’s kind of like trying to convert litres to kilometres. But because the voltage in a 4WD is fixed at 12V then converting the watts into amps becomes achievable via the following equations:

W/12V=A

So in the event of the 100W solar panel, 100W / 18.97V = 5.28A. That shows that the 100W solar panel can provide a maximum unregulated output of 5.2A whilst the fridge is drawing just 2Ah. A common mistake people make with solar power is taking the wattage of the panel and dividing it by 12V, this is the wrong calculation to make as no solar panel is 12V they are generally between 18V and 21V. False statements about 120 Watt panels being able to produce 10 Amps per hour are un true, un realistic and an unfortunate selling point used by people in the industry who do not fully understand solar power. To combat the “cowboys” out there all iTechworld solar panels have the full power ratings clearly marked on each and every panel we produce.

 

If you would like to find out more about Solar Power then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Read how Generator Inverters work HERE

Read iTechworld Generator Reviews HERE

Read how to use a Generator Inverter HERE

Read how to avoid a drained battery HERE

Read about light weight Solar Panels HERE

Read 5 great tips to get the most out of your Solar Panels HERE

Read our comprehensive guide on Inverters HERE

Read about the benefits of travelling with Solar Power HERE

Article author

Ian

[email protected]

Read more +