Buying Guide for Portable Solar Panels
Why buy a portable solar panel?
Portable solar panels operate just like the large, stationary solar panels on rooftops. Sun shines onto a solar panel, absorbing the energy through photovoltaic (PV) cells or mirrors. The energy creates electrical charges that interact with the PV cells’ internal electrical field and causes electricity to flow. This same phenomenon happens in compact and lightweight, portable solar panels, making them ideal for charging electronics, RVs, car batteries, and generators for emergencies. Portable solar panels are also a great way to familiarize yourself with renewable energy. While you may not be ready to install a solar roof on your house, charging a phone or laptop with a small panel can help you gauge the light levels in your area and see how well solar power may be able to meet your needs.
What should you look for in a portable solar panel?
- Wattage: It’s normal to assume that high-wattage capacity is always best. However, that’s not always the case for solar panels. Some portable solar panels for charging cell phones are only 6W. But the advantage is the compact size. Higher wattages mean more power and capability to charge car batteries. A 300-watt, 18V optimum power voltage can work with many power banks and batteries. This type of solar panel is more expensive. A lower-wattage option may be perfect if you want to charge your cell phone while on a hike.
- Portability: Some portable solar panels are more mobile than others. Factors such as design, size, and weight define their portability. What matters to the user is if the portability of a solar panel makes sense for their activity and situation. Many portable solar panels fold up to carry, but only from house to car, for example, because they measure around 11.84 x 7.59 x 9.2 inches. It’s not fixed to the top of a roof, but that size of a solar panel will not fit in a backpack.
- Accessories: Most portable solar panels come with at least a charging cable. The greater the variety of the solar panel charger’s applications, the more accessories you get. A solar charger kit may come with an AC adapter, DC to DC extension cables, alligator clip cable (for 12V batteries), etc. Consider your reason for buying a portable solar panel. If you want a product with a generator, find one you like, then compare it with similar models. Just conducting comparisons between different models should give you an idea of which accessories you want.
How much should you expect to spend on a portable solar panel?
This is an excellent question because the prices vary widely given the variety of applications, technical specifications, and material quality. It’s a common assumption that all solar panels are too expensive. If you want a portable solar panel for daily use for household appliances like grills with a generator power outage backup, you may be looking at prices around $1000. However, you can get a decent product powerful enough to charge car and boat batteries for around $300. For only $40, you can get a good cell phone and tablet portable solar panel charger.
Our Picks for the Best Portable Solar Panels
Pros: The Solar Generator 1000 valuable package includes the Explorer 1000 generator and two 100 W solar panels. The SolarSaga panels feature monocrystalline silicon multi-layered cells for high-conversion efficiency and an ETFE-laminated case that’s water-resistant. The panels feature kickstands, weigh only 9.1 pounds, fold up, and have handles for easy carrying. SolarSaga has one USB-A port and one USB-C port. With a 1002 watt-hour (Wh) capacity and 1000 high-running wattage, the generator can power a full-size generator, an electric grill, charge a 12-V car battery, and more. The Explorer has three standard pure sine wave AC outlets, one USB-C, and one Quick Charge 3.0 port. With a built-in MPPT controller, the generator can get the maximum efficiency during solar recharging. You can also use other convenient recharging ways with a wall outlet and car outlet.
Cons: This product is on the pricy side.
Bottom Line: This comprehensive bundle provides reliable and green energy, runs quietly, and comes with an AC adapter, car charger cable, SolarSaga parallel adapter, and user manuals. If you have the money, the Jackery solar panels and generator is worth a look.
Pros: This 100W portable solar panel charger kit works with most portable power station generators, as well as cell phones, cameras, and laptops. Dual USB A:5V/3A and USB-C: 5V/3A for charging your favorite devices and a built-in Smart IC Technology chip that will identify and protect your devices from overcharging. The 19V DC port for charging portable power stations comes with cables and connectors of different specifications, and the 14.4V DC port has a built-in charging control box. This feature allows you to charge 12-volt batteries without carrying an additional controller. Of course, none of this technology can work without portable solar panels. They have high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells, which are known to outperform polycrystalline solar panels in low-light conditions. Use the kickstand when you set the panel up, then fold it down when you’re done. Carry it by the handle or put it into your backpack.
Cons: You may be disappointed with the quality of the kickstand.
Bottom Line: This Topsolar portable solar panel kit gives you all the accessories you need to get started from DC extension cables, an MC4 connecter extension cable, an aviation plug, etc.
Pros: For cheap RV living, camping, boating, or backup power in any situation, this 300W 18V portable solar panel kit is a must-have. It can charge most 12V batteries and is compatible with most power stations. It comes pre-wired to a single SAE outlet with a 9.8-foot cable for optimal reach. The four solar panels have high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells that reduce mismatch loss or losses caused by differences in electrical characteristics of the installed modules or experience different conditions from one another. The quality solar cells optimize the DC power output. A powerful product, this portable solar panel folds down to 41 x 22 inches and is 0.9 inches thick. It comes with a carrying case and pocket to store the cables and adapters.
Cons: The DOKIO portable solar panel weighs 17 pounds, heavier than most.
Bottom Line: This solar panel kit is handy for everyday use or the occasional power outage. It’s efficient, robust, and reliable—an excellent combination for getting around.
Pros: Perfect for the outdoor enthusiast, this high-capacity solar power bank and four-panel solar charger feature rugged shock, dust, and water resistance. At full charge, the 3.7V / 25000mAh power bank can power your phone eight to ten times and tablet three to four times. If placed in direct sun, solar panels power up to 6W. The dual USB ports supply 5V / 2.1A high-speed charging for two devices at once. Another great feature is the Smart IC Technology that automatically detects the current of the dual output port to give you optimal charging output. It protects your devices from overheating and short-circuiting. Another quality feature is the LED flashlight with three modes (Normal/SOS/strobe) for nighttime safety.
Cons: While you can easily store the charger in a backpack, it will not fit in a pocket.
Bottom Line: The Hiluckey solar charger is packed with desirable features for outdoorsmen and women who want their phones and tablets with them. Its rugged construction and quality charging capability make it a great buy.
Pros: You may know that ammeters measure the current in a circuit. However, you may not know the value of an ammeter in a portable solar panel charger. This 28W SunPower solar panel charger features a digital ammeter equipped to measure the real-time current of two devices simultaneously. SunPower panels are durable and have a high conversion efficiency of up to 24%. The PET polymer fabric provides IPX4 waterproof level. The built-in Smart IC Technology chip detects the level of sunlight and restarts after 30 seconds when there’s sufficient sunlight. Smart technology also delivers the fastest charging speed for your devices. Designed especially for folks on the trail, this 33.1 x 11.1 x 0.2-inch panel charger folds down to a compact 11.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches. It comes with one USB-A to USB-C cable and four carabiners.
Cons: The USB ports and ammeter are not water-resistant.
Bottom Line: This quality SunPower four-panel portable charger is waterproof, durable, and compact when folded. It’s just what you need to keep your phone going while enjoying the outdoors.
Portable solar panels offer convenience and cost savings while you enjoy life on the go. With various features, sizes, and designs, you can choose a portable solar panel that fits your lifestyle and keeps you plugged in while you’re out.