A 12v fridge is a must-have item for anyone who spends a lot of time camping, outdoors, or looking for off-the-grid options. One of the most appealing aspects of 12-volt refrigerators is that, with the appropriate arrangement, they can run entirely on solar power. What size solar panel is optimum for running a 12-volt refrigerator? Furthermore, how much power is it going to produce, and how many solar panels do you need?

With a 200-watt battery, the ideal size solar panel required for powering a 12-volt fridge, such as a Bushman fridge or the Engel 60L, is 150 watts. To use the fridge at night, the energy generated by your solar panel throughout the day needs to be stored in a battery. In the case of an overcast day, 150 watts is more than enough to keep you covered.

In this post, we look at whether it is possible to run a 12v fridge off of a solar panel, the various alternatives you have, and everything else you have to know about the procedure in general. Following that, we go through the best solar panel size for supporting a 12-volt refrigerator. Finally, we give the reader a quick buyer's guide for a good solar panel and 12-volt refrigerator. Also view our article on the best solar panels for camping.

Can You Operate a 12v Fridge from Solar Panels?

Individuals interested in powering a 12-volt refrigerator with solar panels are going to be relieved to learn that it is not only doable but also surprisingly easy and simple.

Nevertheless, before you get started, you must learn a few fundamentals about solar technology, how it operates, power consumption, and what to expect. A little bit of market research is necessary, but the good news is that this post is meant to teach you what you need to know to start right now.

The first step is to comprehend how a solar panel generates energy and, more significantly, the elements that influence its ability to generate power.

Solar panels can only generate power when they are directly exposed to the sun. The solar panel draws in light and transforms it to energy using a process referred to as photovoltaics, which involves the use of semi-conductive elements.

Furthermore, your solar panel is affected by a number of factors that may reduce its effectiveness. The following are the most critical considerations for your solar panel:

  • The angle at which your solar panel faces the sun
  • Temperature  (Warmer temperatures pre-stimulate the solar cells [electrons], requiring fewer photons [power from the sun] to activate them.) As a result of the higher temperatures, less solar power is generated. If this element were to become an issue, the temperatures must be quite high.
  • Overcast or shade
  • The quality and effectiveness of the storage battery you're using
  • Quality of power inverter (the inverter is a mechanism that changes direct current power to alternating current)

Solar panels can only generate electricity during daylight hours; thus, a battery is required to store the energy for later use. This is the only way they are able to operate completely off the grid.

The only way to avoid using a battery is to connect the solar panel to the electricity grid. At this point, you effectively share the power produced by the solar panel with the rest of the energy grid's consumers, and the power company credits you for it at a rate that requires a full appraisal to compute.

This article primarily addresses the scenario relevant to people who are running their solar system totally off the grid, using a battery storage generator.

Essential Factors to Know About Running a 12v Fridge from a Solar Panel

We can now start to look at how solar power can operate in particular relation to the powering of a 12-volt fridge, and define the most essential things you need to know, now that we have formed a brief overview of how solar panels function to produce electricity, and a list of the factors to consider when trying to maximize the efficiency.

The good news is that installing a solar fridge unit does not require you to be a specialist in solar panels or an electrical engineer. To complete the work, a basic understanding of a few basic ideas and formulas is sufficient.

Solar panels and 12-volt fridges are available in a variety of sizes, forms, and wattages. Learning how to calculate the size of a solar panel needed to power a certain 12-volt refrigerator must be formulated in such a manner that any mixture of the two can be regarded as inadequate or adequate.

The first consideration is that in order to keep your food cool and safe to eat, your refrigerator must run 24 hours a day. Your solar panel, on the contrary, can only create energy during daytime hours, necessitating the usage of a battery or generator to conserve and consume power at night.

Solar panels and batteries or generators are usually offered individually. Always double-check that you have everything you need.

To calculate the daily energy need for a fridge in kWh (kilowatts per hour), we must first examine the product's specifications, which is most likely offered in watts. Assume the 12-volt refrigerator is rated at 60 watts and is used 24 hours a day.

The following is the formula:

kWp = daily time turned on in hours x wattage x 1,000

If the solar-powered battery/generator you're using is rated at 200 watts, it can deliver 4.8 kWp when fully charged. This is more than enough to keep your 12-volt refrigerator running around the clock.

When it comes to converting watts to kilowatts per hour, RapidTables.com offers a free and simple calculator. If you're unsure about your figures, their calculator can supply you with the information you need right away.

You are going to have enough solar power to run the fridge throughout the day if the kWp output from the power supply (solar panel and battery/generator) exceeds the kWp need of the refrigerator.

However, as described in the preceding section of this post, a solar panel's efficiency is influenced by a variety of circumstances, and as a result, a solar panel's efficiency is never 100 percent consistent every day.

As a result, you must always strive to account for fluctuations by having a little more watts in the panel and generator than required. If the margin is too narrow, you may have unforeseen issues, such as a rainy week leaving you with inadequate power.

The difference in price between two solar panel units of the same brand with varying wattages appears to be minor and appropriate given the benefits of greater power and reliability.

What Size Solar Panel Is Ideal to Run the Fridge?

We've covered the formula, theory, and other essential aspects that go into connecting a 12-volt fridge to a solar panel system.

We are now in a position to discuss the particular sizes, specifications, and models of solar panels that are ideal for powering your 12-volt refrigerator.

The Jackery SolarSaga 60W is a highly rated solar panel on Amazon.  Consider that the ordinary 12-volt refrigerator is rated at 50-60 Watts. This indicates that a 60-watt solar panel is squeezing it too close to the bone.

If you utilize a 60W solar panel to power a 55W fridge, there is not going to be enough spare electricity to charge the battery at the same time. Your solar setup is going to fail as soon as the sun sets and the fridge is forced to rely only on the battery-powered generator.

When selecting the exact size of solar panel necessary, there are numerous aspects to consider. Additionally, because the weather is always susceptible to seasonal and daily variations that cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy, our only option for completely off-grid refrigeration is to remain on the side of caution.

We can take a gamble on the electricity being out if we were fueling something like an air conditioner. When it comes to food storage safety, however, we must ensure that the fridge is always turned on.

Ideally, play it safe and order a size larger than you think you need.

If nothing catastrophic happens to prevent the solar panel from transmitting light photons, a 150-watt solar panel combined with a 200-watt battery generator can sustain a 12-volt fridge of roughly 60-watts day in and day out.

Buying a backup battery helps ensure that you are fully prepared in the event of a power outage.

Keep in mind that all of this is based on the assumption that you are fully reliant on this solar setup for long-term survival.

If you're only going camping for a few days or just utilizing it outside for social gatherings and barbecues, the need for a flawless and consistent system is, of course, reduced.

Assume you want to use solar energy to power other appliances in addition to the 12-volt refrigerator. In that instance, a larger solar panel and perhaps a larger generator is required.

Buyer's Guide

When purchasing appliances, it is critical to take your time, analyze your requirements, and read numerous user reviews based on their experiences with the product in question.

Cheap fridges, batteries, and solar panels should never be purchased.

Recognize that these items are investments that pay for themselves and then some if you get long-lasting, high-quality items.

Durability is the key to contentment, as any seasoned panel owner can tell you. This includes cleaning your panel on a regular basis, storing it appropriately and out of direct sunlight when not in use, and taking care of it in general. Proper panel maintenance extends the life and vitality of the unit significantly.

Power is expensive, irrespective of where it comes from. Anything you can do to save this cost in the long run, such as installing solar panels, makes a significant impact on your life.

When it comes to solar panels, if we only consider the sticker price, they might be quite costly. Keep in mind that a solar panel provides you with an alternate energy source that is renewable.

Consider a panel as a long-term investment rather than a quick means to make money. The goal of any solar panel is to reach break-even point. 

To make a profit, it must be durable enough to last until and after you've produced sufficient power from it to effectively cover its own costs, at which point it becomes a possible source of cash.

The Bottom Line

Last but not least, it is your job and responsibility as a customer to properly read through and ask questions before making a financial commitment to a product. Ensure you have all of the cords, connections, and connectors you need to power the fridge. If not, you have to buy them separately. Planning ahead of time helps to avoid unpleasant surprises when it comes to delivery.

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