ARE ALL SOLAR PANELS BUILT THE SAME? Permanent vs Portable vs Solar Blankets

g;day everyone today we're going to go through 
the question of whether all solar panels are   built the same this is all the essential info you 
need to know before deciding on a solar panel for   your setup this is a crash course in solar 
without all the marketing hype so settle in the latest data from the Australian Government's 
Geoscience Department tells us that Australia   has the highest solar irradiation on average on 
earth that means we get the most sunlight per   square metre looking at it another way before 
we had a single solar power station covering 50   by 50 kilometres with an efficiency of just 10% 
about half the current consumer grade efficiency   it would be sufficient to meet all of Australia's 
electricity needs it's for all these reasons that   solar power makes so much sense for your camping 
or full driving setup plus it's easy to use and   reliable it doesn't require fuel so it's clean and 
quiet and these days it's relatively inexpensive okay let's get into the most commonly used solar 
panels for camping and for driving and their uses   first there are permanent solar set ups that 
means that while you're driving a vehicle or   while you stopped at camp or even while you're 
parked you're charging your auxiliary battery   with the right setup your solar is taking the 
load off your alternator and saving your fuel   even if it's a minor improvement it's still an 
improvement there are a couple of options glass   covered panels with alloy frames are common 
and they offer a good combination of strength   and durability and then there are semi flexible 
panels that are gaining popularity they're much   lower profile lighter weight and can be shaped 
to gentle curves so they can fit almost anywhere   next there are your portable panels these offer 
the benefit that you can choose when to pack them   so if your vehicle is a daily driver you might 
need to keep the roof rack free or you don't   need to carry solar around all the time the most 
common types are folding solar panels and folding   solar blankets and both have their pros and cons 
solar panels a more cost effective and offer more   power for their size plus most will come with 
folding legs that mean you can angle the panel   towards the Sun the higher efficiency but solar 
blankets are much more portable lightweight and   easier to transport and store some solar blankets 
do offer fall out legs for the best of both worlds   all solar panels are most effective when they're 
pointed directly towards the Sun and they're kept   relatively cool so whether you choose permanent 
solar or portable solar keep those two things in   mind you'll need to point them towards the Sun 
as best you can and keep them well ventilated   Plus think about the type of camping and four 
wheel driving that you're actually likely to   do if you spend most of your time sitting around 
at camp then a couple of big portable panels or   blankets might be the way to do it they're easy to 
pack easy to set up and easy to connect that means   you got power running into your vehicle while 
you're sitting at camp otherwise if you're doing   long drives throughout the day permanent solar 
might make more sense particularly if you pair   it with the right DC to DC charger with solar 
priority charging that means that while you're   driving your solar panel will be charging your 
auxiliary battery first and then your alternator   will pick up any slack plus it means your old 
12-volt set up is running off the one system a very basic way to think about how solar works 
is that it's two layers of silicon sandwiched   together and different materials added to each 
layer so there's an excess of electrons on one   and an excess of holes or free space on the 
other now in this case the top layer has an   excess of electrons and the bottom layer has an 
excess of holes those electrons want to travel   through the cell to get to the holes when sunlight 
hits the solar cell the light particles which are   known as photons knock the electrons out of 
those holes and back to the top layer where   instead of going back to the holes they travel 
along these thin wires known as fingers and then   these thicker wires known as bus bars after that 
they go through your battery delivering charge   then back to the base layer where the process 
is repeated each of these solar cells is only   very low voltage and very low current which is 
why connecting many of them together gives you   enough usable output to charge your batteries 
generally more cells equals higher output not only do you need to think about what type 
of solar panel best suit your setup but you also   need to think about the actual construction 
of the cell the three most common consumer   grade solar panels on the market will either be 
mono crystalline poly crystalline or amorphous   silicon each type has its own pros and cons 
so starting with amorphous thin film solar   now they are slightly better in low light 
and cloudy conditions they're thinner and   more flexible but that comes at a massive cost 
they're much more expensive to produce and buy   and they're much less efficient you'd need about 
twice the surface area of a mono crystalline or   polycrystalline to get the same energy output the 
absolute top shelf amorphous solar cells are about   10 percent efficient so they're able to convert 
about 10 percent of sunlight into usable energy   next up we've got polycrystalline solar these 
are the cheapest to produce which means they're   the cheapest for consumers to buy and they're 
more efficient than amorphous panels however   because of the way they're produced which is 
pouring molten silicon into a mold they cool   at different rates so you'll see fractures and 
cracks now they lead to inefficiencies overall   they have a maximum efficiency of just over 
22% finally there's mono crystalline solar   yeah this is the most efficient for its size and 
it performs slightly better than polycrystalline   as it warms up and in low-light conditions but 
it costs more to produce and that's because it's   made from a single piece of silicon that means 
though there's no cracking or fractures and you   do get an efficiency boost about 26.5% overall 
efficiency that's more than the polycrystalline   and much more than the Amorphis these figures 
are achieved in ideal conditions in the lab with   a single solar cell so in the real world with 
a real solar panel those figures will vary but   it's a good place to start when you're thinking 
about what type of solar you need for your setup   before choosing a solar panel do your research 
and find out what cell technology the panel is the next thing to look for on each cell is 
the number of bus bars as I said earlier when   sunlight hits the solar cell it knocks electrons 
free from the silicon they then travel along the   fingers which is the thin wires and then the 
thicker wires known as bus bars if fingers are   the back roads then bus bars are the highways 
and that means the more the better not only   do you get higher efficiency but you get better 
durability and longevity as well early consumer   grade solar cells had two bus bars then they 
evolved into three and more recently four and   five so that means if you're looking at a 
solar panel make sure it's got four or even   better five bus bars any less than four and 
it can be sure that it's old outdated stuff   that's probably being sold at a clearance price 
plus if you have an older panel that seems to   be underperforming and it's got two or three 
bus bars it might be the time to upgrade bus   bars can appear silver like this or they can be 
coated with black silicon which might make them   look nicer but it actually leads to a tiny loss 
in efficiency there are some exceptions to the   bus bar rule though because bus bars are on top 
of the cell they create shade which means a loss   in efficiency so new technology like shingles 
cells are shaking up the industry they have   bus bars on each end of the cell which overlap 
like a tiled roof of the house that means even   better efficiency more power and longer life but 
the trade-off is that they're more expensive too another thing to keep an eye out for when you're 
shopping for a solar panel is what grade or class   the solar cells are that make up the panel so a 
grade A or Class A means that there's no visible   defects there a uniform colour and the output is 
within specifications grade B or Class B cells   show minor defects scratches yellowing or tiny 
parts of the busbar missing but the electrical   data is within specifications Class C or grade 
C cells show visible defects including chips   or cracks large missing sections of bus bars 
and the electrical data is not within spec   finally plus D or grade D cells are essentially 
rubbish with major defects breakages or damaged finally it's important and compare each solar 
panel you're looking at like the like solar   manufacturers and retailers use the same standard 
test conditions in the lab to rate their solar   panel wattage they light up the panel with 
a thousand watts per square meter of light   and then set the ambient temperature up to 25 
degrees Celsius then they simulate the amount of   atmosphere that the light needs to pass through 
that's the am 1.5 figure here AM stands for air   mass 1.5 air mass is a good average for most 
areas as it represents the Sun coming through   the atmosphere on a slight angle directly overhead 
it have an air mass of 1 and as the Sun goes close   to the sunrise or sunset the number would increase 
has to go through more atmosphere the next thing   you'll see on your solar panel specifications is 
the normal operating cell temperature now that's   the temperature that your solar panel will reach 
in normal operating real-world conditions so 800   watts per square meter of light 20 degrees 
ambient and about a 3.5 kilometre per hour   wind now the back of the panel is elevated so 
it's ventilated as well a solar panels normal   operating cell temperature might be listed as 
high as sixty degrees Celsius but the lower   the number the better because it means the panel 
is more efficient at dispelling Heat and that's   important because for every degree of solar panel 
reaches above 25 degrees it could be losing around   half a percent efficiency so here's a hot tip the 
reason power decreases while temperature increases   is because each individual cells voltage drops 
as they heat up the good news though is that the   current increases as the temperature increases so 
if you have a DC DC charger with an MPPT regulator   it can take advantage of that extra current plus 
boost the voltage to the correct level that your   battery requires although you're losing some 
power due to the heat of the panel the MPP T   is more capable of then outputting the correct 
power to correctly charge a battery my last   piece of advice is to go for a more powerful solar 
setup than you that means no matter the conditions   you can always keep your batteries charged up 
any campsite running smoothly now whether that   means you opted for a bigger permanent solar 
panel or at a portable solar panel tear setup   which is easy to use whenever you need it as 
always if there are any questions throw them   in the comments below and make sure you hit like 
and subscribe check out the rest of the channel   too for more camping full driving cooking and 
12-volt tips tricks and techniques cheers guys

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