If you’re a 12V fridge owner, you’re probably wondering, “What is the minimum solar-panel requirement to power a camping fridge?”
In order to answer the above question you first need to know:
- How much power are you using on a daily basis, and…
- How much time do you have to replace it?
Naturally, your camping fridge uses different degrees of power throughout the day. This is because ambient temperatures can radically fluctuate between morning and night.
It also has a lot to do with opening and closing the fridge, which you’ll presumably do more often during the course of the day, than you would at night
However, typically speaking, most 12V camping fridges use between 30A/h and 40A/h over a 24-hour period.
Depending on daylight conditions, as well as your geographic location, most campsites have anywhere between 2- and 7-hours of usable solar input.
Considering an 85W panel produces approximately 5A per hour (in ideal conditions), you would need at least 7-hours to replenish the 35A you’ve removed.
That said, in order to account for non-ideal conditions such as dew and partly cloudy weather, it’s best to upsize the panel to a 120W or 150W unit. What’s more, upsizing your panel will help to produce enough energy to power additional camping accessories such as LED lighting, and/or a cellphone charger.
Of course, the above calculations are radically simplified in terms of fridge size, performance, operating conditions, and how often you’re reaching for “one last beer”.
That said, it’s not uncommon to find campers using panels that are up to 300W in size. However, bear in mind that your regulator would need to be rated to this capacity, and that such a panel would be impractically large in the case of a non-flexible unit.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1) Does the quality of the panel make a big difference?
Yes, panel quality can significantly affect the performance and efficiency of your solar setup. Panels are typically divided into two main options: Monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are generally more expensive and better performing due to their structure being made from one large crystal. This is in contrast to Polycrystalline panels which are made from lots of smaller crystals.
It also means that Monocrystalline panels produce more energy in relation to their size.
2) Does the quality of the regulator make a big difference?
This will depend on several factors, but generally speaking MPPT regulators are better performing and more costly than PWM regulators.
3) Does my battery type make a big difference?
Yes, battery chemistry (and size) can play a significant roll in the performance of your solar setup.