11 Buyer Tips For Choosing A Folding Solar Panel

Folding solar panels are one of the more popular types of portable solar panels, and there are some very reputable brands out there now that make some super high quality products.

These brands mainly manufacture folding solar panel types come in the general ranges of:

  • Small Folding Panels – used for mobile handheld devices and USB devices
  • Large Folding Panels – used for 12v battery applications

In this short guide, we’ve outlined buyer tips for those looking at buying folding solar panels.

Here’s some good money and time saving tips…

 

11 Buyer Tips For Choosing A Folding Solar Panel

 

1. Understand the difference between the large and small type folding panels

There are large fold out solar panels with metal ground support stands, and there are the smaller folding solar panels that can be carried around hiking and backpacking with you.

The smaller panels are much lighter and much more portable, whilst the bigger panels have metal frames, are much heavier and have a lot more power.

 

You can read more about the different types of folding solar panels here.

 

2. Decide how many watts you want

The large fold out solar panels can be around 100-120 watts, 18 volts, and can be used for example to charge a 12 volt Rv battery (with a solar controller).

The smaller folding panels can be around 5-30 watts, and can be used to charge small handheld battery and USB devices.

Look at the charging requirements of your devices or batteries, and get the number of panels suitable for those requirements.

 

3. Decide what sort of panel you want – it effects efficiency

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are more efficient in the direct sun that other types of panels like thin film and amorphous panels.

 

4. Check what the folding panel is designed for – what applications, and what devices

The product description should tell you what the panel is designed for.

Can it be used for a wide range of applications like camping, hiking, Rv’ing, marine use?

What devices is it meant to charge, and how many at a time?

How portable is it – can you carry it around, or does it need to be installed or positioned somewhere?

 

5. Check solar controller requirements

The smaller folding panels might come with a built in solar controller, while the bigger ones might come in a kit with a solar controller included that has to be attached separately.

Check the solar controller/regulator requirements.

 

6. Check whether the panel has been rated, or proofed/been made resistant to the elements

For example, is the panel:

Made for durability against sharp and rough objects

Is it waterproof or water resistant

Is it heat resistant

Is it rated for wind, hail, rain and/or snow?

 

7. Do you need any extras with the panel?

Common extras might include:

Extra connectors or attachments

Longer/extender cables

A backup battery regenerator

An inverter

A solar controller

 

8. Check how the panel connects to devices

A smaller folding solar panel might come with DC outlets, and USB connection ports for smartphones, tablets, radios, lights, GPS systems etc.

A bigger folding solar panel might come with anderson attachments, and the option for other types of attachments to connect to a 12 volt battery.

Make sure you have the right connections for your devices you want to charge

 

9. Specifically for small folding solar panels – does the panel have tethers for attaching to backpacks, kayaks etc?

Small folding solar panels will come with either mounting holes, or tethers for you to attach the panel to any suitable object.

If you’re getting the panel solely for one of hiking, biking, kayaking, backpacking etc. – make sure it’s suitable to attach to what you want to attach it to.

 

10. Specifically for large folding solar panels – is this a better option, or is a flexible solar panel a better option?

Large metal framed folding solar panels have very similar power output to a flexible solar panel.

Although a flexible solar panel might be bendable and made of thin plastic film, it can be used for similar applications as a larger folding panel.

You might like to read more about flexible solar panels to decide which one is best for your intended use.

 

11. Check the brand, and the warranty – and whether it’s split

Portable solar panels are still developing in their technology in some areas – so sometimes unreliable brands pop up here and there, and go out of business quickly.

Check the history and reputation of the company you buy from – Goal Zero for example are a high quality and well established company.

Don’t only check the warranty on the panel, but if it comes with a solar controller, it might have a separate warranty for that too.

Always check brand name, and warranty.

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