So – you’ve got your portable power station picked out, and you’re ready to delve deeper into the realm of renewable energy. The goal? Become completely self-reliant on the power gathered by solar panels and stored in your Yeti. The problem? You’re left questioning which solar panel to choose. In order to make an educated purchase, let’s first explore your needs.
WHAT IS A SOLAR PANEL?
In the simplest of terms, the power supply chain starts with solar panels. Panels absorb the rays of the sun and convert that energy into usable electricity. Energy collected is then stored in portable power stations, for eventual use in powering other electronic devices.
Panel wattage directly correlates to the amount of surface area; that is, the larger the solar panel the more sunlight it collects and converts into energy to be stored. The higher the rated watts, the more electricity the solar panel will generate in a specific time frame. This means that your portable power station will charge faster with higher wattage solar panels.
There are two main factors to consider when choosing a solar panel or panels to pair with your Yeti: use case and number of watts. Let’s break them down:
WHERE WILL YOU USE YOUR SOLAR PANELS?
The first critical factor to consider is the lifestyle and applications in which you will be using your solar panels and portable power stations. Narrowing down when and how you will use your solar panels will help make the selection process simple.
Are you a backpacker looking to keep your camera batteries charged? Or are you a car camper who likes to try out a new location each weekend? Interested in a stationary setup to supply backup power for your home during an outage? Or are you living out of a van, and would prefer to collect power as you drive?
If you’re on the go and portability is important, our Nomad series of solar panels are built with a foldable canvas and laminate design so they are light and portable, with a built-in kickstand. They range in size from 10 Watts to 200 Watts, making them some of our most versatile options.
The Boulder series of solar panels are more rugged and durable, made with aluminum and tempered glass. The 50- or 100-Watt single panels are designed to be installed on a building or vehicle (even a boat!) with mounting brackets and built to last through intermittent weather and continuous exposure to the outdoors. We also have a 2-panel briefcase version of the Boulder that features a hinged design and foldable construction, with a built-in kickstand for easy transport. The Boulder briefcase is available in 100 Watts or 200 Watts.
Our Ranger 300 panel is a happy medium between the Nomad and Boulder lines, constructed with an aluminum frame and three foldable, laminate panels. It’s the largest portable panel we make at 300 Watts yet stays portable and easy to transport with a protective canvas carrying case.
Once you have an idea of how you will be using the solar panels, you can determine the appropriate wattage.
WHAT PORTABLE POWER STATION DO YOU OWN?
The size of the solar panel you should buy largely depends on the capacity of your Yeti. Small portable power stations can charge up with much smaller panels, while large portable power stations require larger panels, or even multiple panels combined together to speed up charge times.
We determine the number of watts based on the “Rule of 5.” This rule means that on an ideal sunny day, a south-facing solar panel will produce roughly 5 times worth the energy than the number of watts indicated in its name. For example, a 100-Watt solar panel will generate 500 Watts hours of energy, so it will fully recharge a Yeti 500X in a day.
If we follow this same pattern, that 100-Watt solar panel will recharge a Yeti 1000X to 50% in a day. For each Yeti, we use the Rule of 5 to recommend solar panels at three levels: Good, Better, or Best (these can be found on each Yeti product page on our website).
Good: This means the panel will recharge about 33% of the Yeti on a sunny day.
Better: The panel will recharge the Yeti to 50% on a sunny day.
Best: Top tier! The panel will recharge the Yeti to 100% in a day with ideal conditions.
Keep in mind that the Rule of 5 is an average in the United States. Various factors like temperature, cloud coverage, panel orientation, and time of year will affect solar production.
Like we mentioned earlier, our panels can combined with our solar combiner cables to speed up charge times of the Yeti. That being said – it’s also important to double check the maximum input of your portable power station, as this differs for each capacity of unit. Any power above the maximum input of your portable power station will essentially be “wasted”. Our Yeti line ranges from 100W to 600W inputs, so our 100W+ solar panels can be used interchangeably with any Yeti unit.
Good news – you're one step closer to energy independence! Solar panels help extend your ecosystem and keep your portable power station charged for any circumstance.