Chasing the Golden Rays: Making the Most of Your Solar Panels

Tired of having to chase the golden rays and do the ‘solar dance’ to get the most out of your portable solar panels? Our friends Four Hands in a Tin Can have just come up with a nifty and innovative solution that allows you to just sit back and relax. 


How to avoid doing the exotic solar dance

Doing the exotic solar dance is something that we have watched many an intrepid travelling nomad do on many, many an occasion. Chasing the elusive golden rays of free power, day in and day out; having to move a panel, or four, to get the right angle and pointed in the optimum direction to charge their vehicle's battery setup is something that we have watched with half-hearted interest. 

We had a need to change our battery setup and, in the process, we were asked to test drive the solar blanket from REDARC. But us being just plain old lazy, we didn’t want to have to do the ‘solar dance’ and move the solar blanket around to get it working at its peak performance. 

I could not imagine checking the battery monitor (I know its connected via Bluetooth to my phone) every hour or so to make sure I was getting optimum input. Not only that, what if we had to go out and would then miss out on those important sun rays? But, there was no way the kids would forgive us if we said they couldn’t charge their iPads or watch TV before bed.


A great example of multitasking

After a little think about the dance and still coming up with the same conclusion that there must be a better way, we noticed that our solar panels, on the roof of the van, only get peak sun for a short time of the day. However, early in the day and late in the afternoon, the sun’s rays were not being utilised fully. Maybe, just maybe we could use this knowledge to our advantage.

We first thought that the windscreen of our vehicle was a good option. It could be positioned to orientate the solar blanket in the direction of the morning sun or afternoon sun. Not bad, but, what if you wanted to go out? The blanket would then need to be folded up and put away – then, of course, we would be missing those rays of sunshine which could mean the difference between having the laptop charged or not.

So back to the drawing board, and our solution to not wanting to do the solar dance was this:


The solution

Our REDARC solar blanket, which is of a very sturdy construction, had eyelets. We attached to two of the eyelets, a U-bolt that had a slight twist in its middle (sourced from a well-known hardware store). This U-bolt was then attached to an eyelet system that could slide into a sail track. Now we have a sail track that had been installed on the fridge side of our van for a shade sail or a fridge shade so it made it easy for me to slide in the two eyelets (I had these in the toolbox already but think they were either sourced from a camping store or eBay) to support the weight of the solar blanket. 


A secure and effective way to manage your solar charge

The first time I hung the blanket up, I wasn’t sure if this would work, but on checking the battery monitor, the solar blanket was pumping that much-needed power into the van and being stored in the batteries. I Gave myself a little pat on the back and thought I was a genius – I was doing a different sort of dance then. Then I thought, why isn’t everyone doing this? 

We have left the blanket out in a breeze and it hasn’t blown around while it was hanging from the sail track doing its thing. Also, if you had a long enough lead you could possibly hang the blanket from either end of the van too. This would give you options in capturing optimal golden rays without having to move it every couple of hours. Granted, you may lose some of the energy going into the battery if you are too far from the battery bank, but worth a shot if it means getting your batteries charged back up to 100%

The window of our van can change the angle of the blanket to take advantage of the sun at three angles - flat against the van and the two tilt angles available when we open the window at different levels.

We have found our REDARC solar blanket to be a very handy piece of kit. It allows us to keep charging our batteries right up to when the sun goes down and well and truly after our van’s solar panels have become ineffective. And, being able to hang it off the side of the van means we don’t have to do the elusive exotic solar dance ever. 


Keep up with Four Hands in a Tin Can's adventures and travel tips on their website.