Among today’s many uses for solar energy, one increasingly popular way to harness sunlight is with battery chargers that can power common home products. Outside of rooftop and utility-scale photovoltaics (PV), battery chargers might be the next best use for solar energy in terms of efficiency and practicality. A small panel can easily be placed next to a window to charge a phone, and a portable charger can be an easy way to power your car’s battery through the sunroof. In this article we’ll discuss the many ways a solar battery charger can be useful, including how they work with cars, boats, RVs and small devices.
Solar car battery chargers
Any automobile owner has experienced the stress of a car battery prone to failure. Issues like leaving on car lights, the radio or even windshield wipers can contribute to a shortened battery life and the price to have a new battery installed for your car can rack up a significant bill from the mechanic. A popular solution is to purchase a charger that can keep the battery’s voltage up and lengthen the battery’s overall lifetime.
The problem: like the battery itself, battery chargers for cars are generally not cheap. A typical 12-volt charger may cost upwards of $300 and will either need to be replaced or frequently recharged, depending on the model. Solar powered car battery chargers on the other hand typically range in price between $25 and $50 and only require exposure to sunlight in order to provide a boost for your car or motorcycle. The best part: they can be used with conventional car batteries, not just electric vehicles.
Solar battery chargers for RVs
Another very popular use of PV chargers for automobiles is with recreational vehicles (RVs). RVs are typically used for long road trips across the country, which makes car battery failures particularly inconvenient. People are beginning to choose solar battery chargers for their long-range RV trips because it is so easy to keep them powered – a cross-country road trip will almost always provide consistent hours of available sunlight. In most cases, the ideal choice for an RV is a solar powered trickle charger which very slowly re-loads the voltage of the vehicle’s internal battery. Trickle chargers are ideal because they reduce the possibility of battery overload.
Solar battery chargers for boats
Also referred to as marine solar chargers, PV battery chargers for boats are a great use of solar for two reasons: sunlight exposure and small scale load. There will rarely be a case when a person will take his or her boat out on the water on a stormy day. Recreational boats are primarily used during the summer months and are meant for calm, sunny weather. Additionally, standard battery chargers are not always waterproof, which means that a solar panel battery charger is often the most sensible option for a boat.
The batteries and motors of a typical boat for personal use are typically small and more likely to overload than a standard car battery. Solar chargers provide just the right amount of electricity without overloading the boat’s battery, which offers serious value to a boat owner. The same concept applies to lawn mowers, which can also benefit from a solar battery charger in certain cases.
Solar battery chargers for phones and other devices
Other than providing battery backup and support for transportation, solar chargers have become a popular option for consumer electronic devices like phones, tablets, computers and even televisions. In the case of solar phone chargers, there is a common contextual use – wilderness hikes or camping trips often call for an off-grid charging solution and can provide good sunlight exposure.
When you consider that the majority of people sleep in a room with a window, these chargers can also act as a wall outlet substitute. A long USB cable can connect to the charger on the window sill and provide simple, grid-free charging. Some of these phone chargers are as cheap as $15 and many of them will also work for bigger devices – you can find solar chargers for iPads or even laptops. However, these devices usually require more voltage and will cost in the $30-$50 price range.
Solar devices and solar uses on the rise
When you look at the many different ways solar is used in 2017 to offer energy solutions, it’s clear that the role of solar technology is diversifying and expanding into new markets. Rooftop and utility scale photovoltaics are clearly still solar’s strongest offering, but concepts like renewable car battery chargers can offer an affordable, automatic solution for a variety of situations. For those looking to explore solar as a complete home energy solution, our instant estimate tool can offer projections for long term savings and upfront costs for a solar panel installation. And for homeowners interested in seeing real time solar bids from local solar installers, check out the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.
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