Solar panels

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Solar panels for grey nomads
Here comes the sun ... time to power up my rig!

As budget-conscious grey no­mads seek to stay ever longer periods ‘out in the wilds’, the search for the perfect power solution is ongoing.

For many who choose to live their lives following the sunshine, the obvious choice is solar. The decision has been made easier in recent years as the technology has become more affordable, and the availability of expert advice has grown dramatically. Just about every busy camping ground will have a number of solar-powered grey nomads all too eager to share their experiences and advice.

The big advantage that solar panels have over generators as a way of keeping those bat­teries charged up when away from a mains power source is that they are quiet and en­vironmentally friendly. They also don’t smell, require next to no maintenance, and they last for decades.

The first thing solar converts need to decide is the type of panels they want and the number they think they need. This will, of course, depend on both their budget and the amount of power their ‘on-the-road’ lifestyle will require.

To work out their likely daily power usage, nomads should draw up a list of all items of electrical equipment, find how much power each draws, and then estimate how long each item will normally run on a daily basis. Travellers should also anticipate how much time they expect to camp in the bush, and how often they will be moving camps.

It is also important to factor in where and when you will be travelling. The likely solar output will vary dramatically from summer to winter, and also from south to north.

Portable solar panels are a cheap and easy way to get your solar adventure started if you are a fairly light power user and you are not plan­ning ‘go bush’ for extended stays. They are often fold­able and can be positioned a little bit away from your campervan, motorhome or caravan – meaning you don’t have to park up in the blazing sunshine.

For grey nomads looking for a greater degree of power self-sufficiency though, and for those who have a big enough rig, the best option might be to mount few solar panels to the RV roof. Long-termers love the set-and-forget sim­plicity this setup offers.

It should be said that buying a good solar system, including regulators, batteries, wiring and getting it installed is not a cheap exercise.
A heavy duty solar set-up for serious travellers might cost several thousand dollars but most people say it pays – as­suming you need the power – to get the most comprehen­sive system you can afford.

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