Words of Wisdom: I'm not sure people always grasp the concept of “minimum” either; they tend to think it means “all that you really need” when it fact it means “the least you can get away with provided everything else goes right”. After all, the sun does not shine brightly every day. – Cariboocoot1)
[Note: a gentle introduction to solar is also available]
Solar (photovoltaic or PV) power is an excellent fit for 'dwellers and especially for boondockers. It is silent, nearly maintenance-free, and requires no infrastructure or grid. Downsides include expense, bulky panels, and the requirement for access to direct/unshaded sunlight.
Under normal use solar setups charge fully during the daytime and discharge at night; the lowest State of Charge will likely be just before sunrise. On a properly-sized deep cycle system the bank will have used no more than 50% of its capacity at this point. Then the sun comes up and charging begins again. 'Dwellers running small solar setups (or experiencing poor insolation or heavy loads) may have to ration their use of solar power.
Maybe not. If any of these conditions are met you probably don't need solar:
When you use power from your system can be as important as how much power you use.
There are times (bulk, early absorption) when the system is struggling to charge the lead-chemistry bank; loads should be minimized during these periods.
At other times like late absorption and float the system will have surplus capacity that can be used to run loads.
Solar sizing has been moved to its own page.
Most house banks and accessories are nominal 12v.
Reasons to go 12v:
Reasons to go 24v (or higher):
Cloud cover can have paradoxical effects:
Rainy weather causes a drop in current due to the cloud cover effect. An upside is it can wash dust off panels.
Dusty or snowy weather can cause a loss of output due to physical presence on the panels.
Panels yield the most power in cold temperatures. Since panels are dark and get very hot in the sun they are generally raised rather than directly mounted; this allows air circulation/cooling underneath.