Premium Van Solar Panels
Walkable solar panels are the most popular
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We provide all sizes of rigid, semi-rigid (walk on), semi-rigid 'light' (walk on, not dance on), and flexible marine grade solar panels for vans. Semi-rigid walk on panels are the most popular. On a van roof space is at a premium and shading is often an issue. Our panels are specially designed to work well when partially shaded (diodes, Sunpower cells). They are also built with the highest grade solar cells available (23.7%-25+% efficient) to produce maximum power per square inch. They are ideal for use on camper vans (lightweight, low profile, robust, highest power output per square foot). For those camping in the south or hot areas, we recommend our new 'light' semi rigids as they dissipate heat much better.
For pricing/purchase/info: Walk-on van solar panels - Flexible van panels - Rigid van solar panels - Portable solar kits
High Performance Van Solar Panels Specification Summary
Walk on panels in BLUE
A Few Facts About Marine Grade Solar Panels
Panel Solar Cell Quality - Because vans have a relatively small available space for solar, maximum power output per surface area is very important. The quality of the solar cells used in solar panels is a key factor in determining the panel output. Solar cells are passed under a standard light source and graded as to their output (1-10). Grades are grouped into classes. Class A (and A+) solar cells are grades 8-10, Class B solar cells are grades 4-7 and so on. Solar cell quality follows a bell curve; there are many more Class B solar cells than Class A. We at CMP specify only the best Class A-9 (A+) solar cells for use in our panels which results in a panel efficiency of 16-24%. Less expensive Class B and C panels are often used on land based solar farms where space is not an issue. Though a bit more expensive, our customers have reported that our solar panels often outperform the performance rating on the panel label.
High quality high performance solar cells will produce more power at various sun angles than lower quality solar cells; up to 30% more power. An important consideration in determining how much solar power you need is how many watt hours or amp hours of power you can expect to generate in a 24 hour period. Let's say you camp in an area that receives an average of 5 hours of full sun a day. The average is computed based on the seasonal sun angle and the sun angle from morning through evening. A 100 watt solar panel with average efficiency solar cells may produce 100 watts x 5 hours or 500 watt hours of power in a day. At 13 volts that's about 38 amp hours in a day. A 100 watt panel with high efficiency solar cells will produce up to 30% more power in a 24 hour period or 100 watts x 6.5 effective hours or 650 watt hours of power in a day. At 13 volts, that's about 50 amp hours in a day. 38 amp hours vs. 50 amp hours in a day is significant in a van. Add more panels in the mix, say 400 watts and we see 152 amp hours vs.200 amp hours, a difference of 48 amp hours. This simple analysis does not take into consideration the impact of clouds or shading both of which will make the disparity even greater. Clearly, the higher the quality of the solar cells the more power produced over time.
Panel Shape - The largest market for solar panels is commercial applications where many many panels are mounted on a home roof or in a field. These panels are usually rectangular in shape often twice as long as wide. Vans solar panels need to have different sizing available as they are a different niche. The 150 watt walkable panels have proven our most popular with camper van owners.
Marine Grade - It's no secret that the marine environment, especially salt water, can be tough on equipment. To withstand the rigors of the marine (and van life) environment, solar panels should have strong stout anodized aluminum framing, should be well sealed and waterproof, and have the electrical box on the back of the panel encased in an inert non-corrosive waterproof material (like silicone) to protect the electronic components.
Quality marine grade solar panels are designed with bypass diodes to significantly reduce the impact of shading that so often occurs when camping and boating.
Choosing the right panel for your needs will require study and/or discussion with PV panel experts. Our staff at Custom Marine Products are ready to help you design the best solar system for your van's needs. Contact us via email or phone for a free consultation.
How much solar power do you need on your van?
Check out our seminar slides titled Selecting the Proper Solar System and our tutorial titled A Cruiser's Guide to Selecting and Sizing a Solar Charging System under our SUPPORT section. Our engineers have developed several worksheets to assist you in analyzing your on board power generation and consumption and estimating your solar power requirement. Copy or print out our Solar Power Calculation Worksheet and use it as a guide to calculate your power generation requirement. Several other worksheets can be downloaded in our Manuals and Info section, 3rd ones from the top.
Easy to Assemble (Marine Grade) Solar System Kits
Properly matching solar panels to charge controllers can greatly increase the system charging efficiency, reducing battery charge time and increasing battery life. Our complete solar panel kits provide everything you need to install and operate a solar system on your van; solar panel, hardware, Solar Controller, solar wire, MC4 connectors and instruction manual. Contact us for help in designing a custom kit specific to your needs.
Unique features of our premium flexible solar panels include the following:
- Quality materials - We use impermeable ETFE laminates that will not cloud of degrade with exposure to intense UV light.
- Grade A+ SunPower solar cells - The panels are comparable in performance to our rigid panels.
- Mounting flexibility - Flexible panels will contour and flex against curved surfaces with a maximum bending radius of 30 degrees, ideal for mounting on a van roof, low profile/windage, low weight.
- Mounting options - Each panel can be affixed by high bond tape, snap, magnetic or screw mounting. Grommets are an added bonus for ease-of-installation.
- Plug and play - All flexible panels come with industry standard waterproof MC4 connectors on 3 foot (1 meter) long pigtails.
- Maximum output with shading - The panels are equipped with blocking and by-pass diodes so a shaded panel has minimal effect on the solar array performance.
- Purchase options - These panels can be purchased individually or as a complete easy to install kit.
- Durable - Although not recommended, the panels can be lightly stepped on if properly mounted.
All CMP (Custom Marine Products) solar panels are high quality, high output Class A+ marine grade and backed with a 5 year manufacturers and CMP warranty.
What are the best van solar panels?
The best van solar panels have five essential components:
1. Sunpower cells - even if a cell is partially shaded they still produce power. Sunpower's A+ grade cells (Maxxeon) are among the best available putting out up to 23.7% efficiency.
2. Potted (silicone filled) junction boxes - so saltwater cannot corrode the electronics.
3. Easily mountable, either rigid or flexible solar panels with stout anodized aluminum framing, depending on the application.
4. A+ grade solar cell quality. Cheaper panels will have lower quality, less efficient cells. Space is always at a premium in van applications so the highest efficiency cells available are imperative. Highly efficient cells produce considerably more power at lower sun angles than lower grade cells.
5. Have bypass diodes to significantly reduce the impact of shading that often occurs when camping.
Are there van solar panels for roof mounting?
Yes for sure, there is a company that coats panels in about a quarter inch of EFTE laminate to protect the cells, Custom Marine Products. This is thick coating is necessary because regular flexible panels get micro cracks in the cells when you walk on them which severely degrades their performance. Many van solar panel providers claim you can walk on their flexible panels - which is true if you don't mind wrecking your performance. These walk on panels are a good solution all around because they are not damaged by hail as flexible panels can be. They are very robust and can be mounted with glue, double sided tape, our J mount aluminum extrusions, or screwed on.
What is the difference between a cheap van solar panel and an expensive van solar panel?
High quality high performance solar cells will produce more power at various sun angles than lower quality solar cells; up to 30% more power. An important consideration in determining how much solar power you need is how many watt hours or amp hours of power you can expect to generate in a 24 hour period. Let's say you travel in an area that receives an average of 5 hours of full sun a day. The average is computed based on the seasonal sun angle and the sun angle from morning through evening. A 100 watt solar panel with average efficiency solar cells may produce 100 watts x 5 hours or 500 watt hours of power in a day. At 13 volts that's about 38 amp hours in a day. A 100 watt panel with high efficiency solar cells will produce up to 30% more power in a day or 100 watts x 6.5 effective hours or 650 watt hours of power in a day. At 13 volts, that's about 50 amp hours in a day. 38 amp hours vs. 50 amp hours in a day is significant in a van. Add more panels in the mix, say 400 watts and we see 152 amp hours vs.200 amp hours, a difference of 48 amp hours. This simple analysis does not take into consideration the impact of clouds or shading both of which will make the disparity even greater. The higher the quality of the solar cells the more power produced over time.
How much solar power do I need on my van?
It depends on how much power your van uses and what you are trying to accomplish. Running a radio for an afternoon will use considerably less power than a refrigerator, lights, water pump, and a computer while living in a van. Sizing your solar system is not an exact science and it may be best to leave space on your solar controller to size up as needed. As they say, you can never have too much power! An abundance of power is much more fun than a deficit. We have a google docs sheet available for edit to help you figure out the power you need, see it here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1CnNTXkCZ6kqdcLZ_kXOVL3F_L_zgdWxvnv8pe7XjC8A/edit?usp=sharing Of course feel free to call us any time to discuss your needs, we've built hundreds of solar systems and are happy to share our knowledge.
Can I power my refrigerator with a 120 watt panel?
Most likely yes. It will depend on the battery bank you have to run it when the sun isn't shining. Refrigerators in vans are one of the most frequent uses for solar power. Here is a google docs sheet available to help you figure out the power you need for your van: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1CnNTXkCZ6kqdcLZ_kXOVL3F_L_zgdWxvnv8pe7XjC8A/edit?usp=sharing Generally a refrigerator in a van draws 5 amps.
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