Solar power is one of the most confusing topics for RV travelers in general, and it really shouldn't be. It's a simple technology that adds free power to your Airstream's batteries that just works.
For most people, it's the obvious choice for extending their off-grid camping time, especially since Airstream switched to power-hungry electric-only refrigerators. It's silent, reliable, maintenance-free, and it does a better job of charging batteries than a generator. That's why most Airstreams sold today come with solar panels pre-installed on the roof.
So why would you want portable solar panels? Several reasons:
Portable solar adds to your rooftop solar capacity
People often ask if they can have both rooftop solar and portable solar at the same time. Yes, you can! Both systems will contribute power to the batteries when they need a lot of charge and the sun is shining.
Adding portable panels to your rooftop setup is by far the least expensive and more effective way to expand your charging capacity, as we'll explain next.
Portable solar is more effective
Rooftop panels generally point straight up. That's great when the sun is directly overhead, but not when the sun is low on the horizon. If you camp in winter, spring, or fall, or in areas that tend to be cloudy during the day, you need to be able to capture solar energy when the sun is at a low angle.
That's where portable panels blow away rooftop panels, because they can be angled and pointed directly at the sun. The net result is more effective gain of the sun's power from dawn to dusk. Over the course of a day, portable panels can provide more power than larger rooftop panels, and that's what matters.
Portable solar is a lot less expensive
Solar sometimes gets a bad rap because installation costs are very high, for rooftop panels. Portable panel kits, on the other hand, are pretty cheap when you compare apples to apples. They don't need installation, or any equipment added to your Airstream.
How much cheaper? A typical 200-watt solar installation on the roof will cost $2,000 to $3,000 with parts and labor (most installers charge about $200 per hour.) The AIR GEAR Portable Solar Kit provides the same watt rating, with higher overall effectiveness, for $699—and you don't need to wait for a service appointment!
Portable solar works when your Airstream is in shade
Imagine a hot summer day of camping. Wouldn't it be nice to park in the shade of a tree? Too bad your rooftop panels won't work in the shade.
Portable panels to the rescue! Our panels come with a 25-foot extension cord, so you can place the panels in a sunny spot while keeping the Airstream comfortable in the shade.
A final word of warning: Not all portable solar kits are equal, even when comparing identical wattage ratings.
If you're going to invest in a portable kit, be sure it's not one of those 40-pound "suitcases" because you'll get sick of hauling that around. Also be sure it comes with a really good weatherproof controller, heavy gauge wires, quality panels, the correct connectors for your Airstream. Read this blog to see why cheap systems aren't worth the money.