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Old 06-03-2015, 05:52 PM   #1
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Solar panel recommendation

My wife and I are starting to get into Boondocking. I'm looking for a recommendation on a portable solar panel to take with us to recharge our batteries. I'm looking for something relatively inexpensive as solar panels ago, and a recommendation on where to get it.

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Old 06-05-2015, 04:14 PM   #2
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We have the same question. I have seen many of the suitcase style online, and the prices vary substantially. Zamp looks good, but is very expensive. Have any of you used this type, and have pro/con on these kits?


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Old 06-05-2015, 04:43 PM   #3
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Panels are fairly inexpensive, for example you can get a Grape Solar 100 watt panel for $150 from Costco, delivered to your door.

But then you need a charge controller, panel mount system, wire and hookup equipment and knowledge of how to put it together. Those are what you get, a package, from some of the various manufacturers of free standing solar kits.

If you are knowledgeable and handy, you can build your own system, if not you will be package system buyer. Just remember, solar is more than a panel.
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Old 06-05-2015, 04:46 PM   #4
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Most of the portable panels are relatively low output. Start with making a budget for how much power you are going to use. Mine indicated that, if I was going to be camping in moderate weather and not use the furnace, 3 hours of TV or stereo, about 4 hours of LED lights in various places, fan running for 6 hours, fridge on propane, water heater on 3 hours per day that i would need about a 100W panel to make up what I used. If I had a day with no sun, then I would need to charge the batteries too, so figure on doubling that. 200 watts is about what I would want if I weren't using the furnace and probably 300 watts or more if the furnace was on.

To do a budget, find out the amp draw of each thing you plan to use. multiply that by the number of hours you plan to use it. Add them all up. That gives you total amp hours you are going to use. I used 4 hours for nominal sun time, so I divided that number by 4. That tells me how much current the panel needs to put out. Multiply that by 12 and that's a good approximation of the size panel you need in watts. This is just an estimate. Panels put out higher voltage and a more expensive charge controller can take advantage of that. Inexpensive ones (like come with the small panels) do not.

Lewster is the expert on this. Maybe he will chime in.


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Old 06-05-2015, 06:17 PM   #5
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We use a Go Power 120 watt portable, works great for us for keeping the batteries topped off. Fully self contained system but not sure it meets the inexpensive criteria - $544 on Amazon. Kept us fully charged on a 4 night trip to Bryce a few weeks ago when the nights were below freezing. Ran the furnace every night set at 65 degrees and had plenty of juice in the morning on our 3 year old original Interstate flooded cells.

Biggest benefit with the portable as opposed to roof mount is you can park in the shade, position the panel out to the sun and track it as the day goes on. But clearly not as convenient as roof mounts.
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Old 06-05-2015, 08:10 PM   #6
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100 watt Renology Suitcase, comes with charge controller.

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Old 06-05-2015, 09:25 PM   #7
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Yesterday I posted my purchase as post #2745 on the what did you get for your trailer today thread. I spent a few weeks discovering some answers. I cannot attest to the quality level but I can provide some advice based on what I found and ordered.

There are a few Solar Gurus out there. One posted to buy panels based on watt/dollar pricing. I purchased a 100 watt Renogy suitcase as part of my solar package. I got one shipped sitting next to me but it was missing the legs so they are sending me another one. They had the best price. Make sure you check the net for pricing on the same product. Ebay had the best price on the suitcase by Renogy Solar so I called them directly and they price matched their own listing and sent it direct from their store. It is also on Amazon but for more money. The product appears to be of good quality. All the suitcases come with controllers; however, Renogy now offers it without as well. You do not need anything else to use a suitcase. It is rated at around 5.86 amps/hr I believe. Read my post on the other thread to see what I ended up doing to meet my draw each day. TO give you an idea of 100 watts of power. Lets say that your 92 amp hour battery is needing is down 50%. It would take about 8 hours to charge up at optimal sunshine all for around $266. The Zamp unit is 120 watt so add another amp to the mix but it is also about $340 more. I can tell you that by the picture of theirs, the frame type, handle, controller mount, clips, case, etc are exactly the same as the Renogy design. My daily calculated usage was 236 watt-hours. Though 250 watt would do, they recommended a 300 watt. My usage scenario was lights, TV, DVD, coffeemaker, fan, charging phone, laptop, parasitical (fridge, LP alarm), water pump, etc. Of course my usage "time" for each is another factor but this alone gives some idea. I also have an inverter.
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Old 06-05-2015, 10:10 PM   #8
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I just thought of another option for you as well. A flexible panel. You pay more but they are lightweight- like 4 lbs and you can put them anywhere.

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