If you’re on this page, then it is because you want to know if a 200-watt solar panel can run a refrigerator.
The answer to this is not straightforward.
In this article, we aim to answer this question for you. We will discuss how much power a home refrigerator needs compared to an RV fridge.
We explain the different aspects of a solar-run power system and why each is important. Solar panels are only effective while the sun is out. For constant, 24/7 power, you will need more than solar panels.
Running a Fridge on Solar Power
All electronics need a specific amount of power to work. We call this the “running wattage” of the appliance or electronic device. Refrigerators are no different.
To determine if a 200-watt solar panel will be enough, you need to know how much power the fridge needs.
Calculating this can be complicated. But you can usually find the necessary information at the back of the fridge.
There should be a sticker with “energy use information”. This will tell you the running wattage it requires daily (for 24 hours).
You can also get the information from the user manual. If you can’t find the booklet, the manufacturer's website should have it too.
It is not only about the size and energy needs of the refrigerator. The more you open a fridge, the more power it consumes. And remember that the fridge needs to have constant power, including overnight.
So, can a 200-watt solar panel run a refrigerator? Let us compare a home fridge to an RV fridge.
200W Solar Panel for a Home Fridge
Is a 200W solar enough to power a home refrigerator for 24-hours? This depends on the size of the fridge and its running wattage.
For a big, family-sized fridge, no. Especially if multiple people are opening the fridge throughout the day.
You would need at least two 300W solar panels for a big refrigerator. And then it would only power the fridge. If you intend to power other electronics as well, then you would need bigger solar panels.
200W Solar Panel for an RV Fridge
RV refrigerators average between 50 to 60-watts and consume about 2.5 amps per hour. A 200-watt solar panel amperage averages between 10 to 12 amps per hour.
In this case, 200W solar can power an RV fridge for 24-hours. You could get a 150W panel, but it’s always better to overestimate.
With 200W solar, you won’t have to worry about your food going bad. You can use it to power other small electronics as well.
Factors to Consider When Using a Solar-Powered Fridge
If you are considering using a solar-powered refrigerator, there are factors to consider. First, make sure you know the wattage of the fridge.
Second, to be effective, solar panels need direct sunlight. It will only generate power as long as it can capture the sun’s rays. Of course, this makes it obsolete overnight or on rainy days. This leads us to the next point.
Third, you will need a full solar power kit. This includes:
- Solar panels
Only buying solar panels is the cheaper option. But it will not help you with powering your refrigerator overnight. Fridges need constant power to keep your food fresh. A complete solar power kit is the best choice.
The battery will store the power for use when the sun is not available. The inverter ensures that you can use the power from the solar panels. And the controller will protect the battery from overloading.
Solar panels are the most important part of the solar kit. It consists of a collection of solar cells that absorbs the sun’s rays.
It then converts the energy from the sun into electricity or heat. The electricity generated by solar panels is DC (Direct Current). We use Alternating Current (AC) in our households.
This is why we need a solar power inverter.
Having solar power is great, as long as you can use it. You need an inverter to convert the solar DC power to the AC power we need.
Inverters can have system-monitoring capabilities. They can also act as a communication portal with home computer networks.
In other words, solar systems are not much use to you without the solar inverter.
Battery for Solar Panels
Utilizing a battery with your solar system is ideal. The solar panels will power the fridge as long as it gets sunlight. But there is no sun at night.
You will need a battery to store the solar power for use at night or on rainy days. A 12V battery should work for a refrigerator. You can either use lead-acid batteries or lithium batteries.
Lead-acid batteries are cheaper but only last up to 5-years. Lithium batteries last up to 10-years or more. Lithium batteries are more expensive because they are less toxic and more efficient.
How long does it take a 200W solar panel to charge a 12V battery? It should take between 5 to 8 hours to charge. This, of course, depends on the amount of sunlight the solar panels receive.
Portable solar panels are ideal. You can place them in the sun even if there are a lot of shaded areas.
Batteries can either charge with DC power or converted AC power. If it collects power directly from the solar panels, it will still need to be converted to AC.
If you plan on using a battery then you will need a solar charge controller. This optimizes the solar system and ensures that it does not overcharge. It might seem like a good thing for the battery to be charged to the brim, but it is not.
If you are using a 500W battery then you should only charge it to its capacity. Overcharging will likely lead to overloading and damage.
Using a charge controller prevents this from happening. It will ensure that the battery does not degrade for a good long while.
A 200W solar panel’s output per day varies depending on the time and weather. The sun is always there, but the rays need to touch the solar panel. And at certain times of the day, there is little to no sunlight.
This is why it is important to use a battery too. Once the solar panels charge the battery, you will have power throughout the night.
The highest power output will be between 11 am and 3 pm when the sun is at its peak. Of course, this is only possible if it’s a perfect sunny day in summer.
Factors That Influence Power Output
A solar panel will only produce the maximum watts under perfect conditions. There are a number of factors that can influence the power output of a solar panel.
These factors include:
- The season: You will get more power during the summer than in winter.
- Time of day: Midday is when the sun peaks. This is when your solar panels will get the most power.
- Clouds and rain: The solar panels will absorb little to no sunlight without clear skies.
- Local shading: Solar panels need the sun to produce power. If the panels are in the shade often, you will not get much power out of them.
- Position of the solar panel: The tilted position of the solar panel plays a big factor in the amount of sun it gets.
Benefits of a Solar-Powered Refrigerator
Having a solar-powered refrigerator can seem complicated at first.
The truth is that it is a good investment. We all know how expensive the power grid can be. And fridges are big appliances. They can use a ton of electricity each day and they need to run 24/7.
Using solar power to run a refrigerator is a good way to save money.
But isn’t getting a solar system expensive? Initially, yes. It can be pricey. But consider the long-term benefit.
Once the system is up and running, that’s it. You will be powering your refrigerator with safe, clean, and renewable energy. It will cut down your utility costs and save you more money in the long term.
The power is constant, reliable, and free.
But, is a 200 watt solar enough for an RV? It’s possible to power your entire RV with 200W solar. But remember that once you have the solar system in place, you can expand it. You could live completely off the grid on solar power alone.
It’s not only for the little things. If a solar panel can sustain a refrigerator for a constant 24/7, why not use it for everything?
You should also consider reading these articles:
- Finding the perfect small solar power system
- How to assemble a solar power system
- Connecting solar panels together
- Accurately measuring solar power output
- Connecting solar panels to batteries, charge controllers, and inverters
- How to install solar panels on an RV
- How much solar power do you need to run a fridge?
- Calculating specifications: solar panels, batteries, and inverters
- How to install solar panels
- Best solar panels made in the US
- Equipment you need for a complete solar panel system