The milk’s gone off, everything frozen has thawed and you guys have been out fishing all day!
Those words clearly summarized my first attempt in going camping with a 12v fridge
and solar panel combination. My wife was clearly not impressed and to be honest,
that camping holiday was a disaster. I was ill-
The setup I had simply did not work-
On my return to Melbourne I was determined to investigate this topic further and subsequently spent many hours talking to manufacturers and suppliers of solar panels, fridges and batteries.
This has not made me an expert on the subject but with some of my new found technical
knowledge behind me and ten or so years camping for a month each year on an un-
I remember a doctor friend who once said that there is a point in medicine where its no longer a science but an art form! to a certain degree the same can be said about this subject. We can control the technical aspect but we can’t control the most important element, the sun!
First determine whether you intend to use the fridge occasionally on a short term
stay. i.e. long weekends [3-
SHORT TERM [3-
A 50Lt to 80Lt fridge will require a 100w or preferably a 120w solar panel and a 100AmpHr battery as a minimum.
LONG TERM [1 week or more]
A 50Lt to 80Lt fridge will require two 80w solar panels and sufficient batteries to hold 340AmpHrs as a minimum.
Some may argue with the above figures however as I mentioned before we can t control the sunlight, its duration or clarity and we are preparing for the worst case scenario not just hoping for the best.
The Solar Panel
The solar panel simply harnesses the sunlight, converts it into energy or power and stores it into a battery or batteries.
The regulator limits the amount of power the solar panel is putting into the batteries. Its function is to stop the solar panel from overcharging and therefore damaging the batteries.
The battery is the store room of power. It receives power from the solar panel, stores it and disperses it to the fridge as required.
Here we are talking about portable fridges which work on 12v power. Most work on 240v as well but that does not concern us for the purposes of this article.
Some smart fridges are designed to work on either 12 or 24v and will automatically
adjust to suit. The Waeco-
Duty cycle , when referring to the fridge, means what % of the the time the motor of the fridge is working over a 24hr period. Just like your fridge at home the motor only works in order to keep the contents at the desired temperature which you have set.
NOTE*the bigger the solar panel the more power will go into the battery. The bigger the battery the more power it will store. The bigger the fridge the more power it will draw from the battery.
TIPS and TECHNIQUES: SOLAR PANEL DIY by George Linardos