One of the advantages of having a camping fridge is the luxury of cold beverages. But without a direct line to the grid, campers need to find another source of power. What better way to power your fridge than with free energy from the sun!
But that leads us to the next question - what size solar panel do you need to power a 12V camping fridge?
In this article, I will teach you how to calculate the size of solar power you need for your fridge.
How Much Power Does a Camping Fridge Use in a Day?
Under perfect circumstances, most camping fridges use 0.8-1.0 Ah every hour and 20 to 24 Ah in 24 hours. The numbers are similar for drawer fridges.
However, it isn’t as straightforward as it seems. That number does not take into account the number of times you open the fridge and the temperature in your location.
Technically speaking, your fridge will use more power when it needs to work harder. This happens when the outside temperature is quite hot, or when you have set the fridge to sub-zero temperatures (requiring freezing of the contents).
The coldness also escapes every time you open the fridge to grab a bottle of beer so the compressor has to work more frequently to maintain the desired temperature.
That said, let’s bump our estimation up to 30Ah per day.
What Size Solar Panel Do You Need For A Camping Fridge?
To calculate the size of the solar power you need, you need to know the power consumption of your fridge and convert it to watts. In this case, we estimated 30Ah for a 24-hour period.
30Ah multiplied by 12V is equal to 360 watt-hours. So in a day, the fridge uses 360 watt-hours of power. That means, we need our photovoltaic panels to generate at least 360 watt-hours of power.
To calculate that, we divide the required watt-hours by the duration of usable sunlight. In most places in Australia, you can get around 5 hours of sunlight easily. So you divide 360 watt-hours by 5 hours, you’ll get 72 Watts.
Under perfect conditions, an 85W solar panel should be able to run a camping fridge.
However, that doesn’t take into account the different factors that affect the efficiency of the solar panel such as the sunlight’s intensity, shadow, the solar panel’s angle, or the temperature.
That said, you should bump up the size of your solar panel to 120W-150W to run your camping fridge.
Not only will that make sure that you get enough power to run your fridge in the event that your solar panel efficiency drops, but it also allows you to run or charge other camping accessories like lighting and gadgets.
What Size Battery & Solar Panel Do You Need To Run A Fridge For 3 Days?
But what if there’s absolutely zero sunshine for 3 days? In an article by Bushman, they recommend slightly less than double the Ah of battery storage in watts of solar.
They said if a fridge uses 30Ah in 24 hours, you’ll consumer 90Ah of power in 3 days. Lithium and AGM batteries can be depleted to different levels, but a 150Ah AGM battery should give you enough power to run your fridge without sunlight for 3 days.
Since they recommend double the Ah of battery in watts of solar, you should get a 300W solar panel in order to run your fridge and refill your batteries without sunshine for 3 days.
Although the numbers and the math may seem intimidating at first, calculating the size of a solar panel for your fridge is easy once you learn how to do it.
It’s as simple as estimating how many watt-hours you’ll use, dividing it by the total sunlight duration, and bumping it up to account for a drop in the solar panel's efficiency.
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