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Old 02-08-2016, 12:18 PM   #1
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Question Best Quality Solar Panels & Solar Controllers to use | Opinions Wanted

Just compling some information for our WanderSlack.com group - curious about folks opinions on these lists, would you add anything? I think I have charge controllers down, but really curious on others opinions/experience of who makes the best panels, to steer newbies towards and what to avoid. Thought I would crowd source the minds/opinions of this group.


Best quality solar panels?
  • Grape Solar
  • Kyocera
  • Renogy - Best discount

Best quality solar charge controller?
  • Blue Sky
  • Morningstar
  • Magnum
  • Victron
  • Outback
  • Midnight Solar

Plus this thread can act as a reference post for newbies on this site too.
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Old 02-08-2016, 06:45 PM   #2
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Best? In what way? Some components work better than others depending on their application.

MPPT is not necessarily the best in every charging system

Not trying to troll the thread, just looking for more direction for determining 'best' 😀


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Old 02-08-2016, 06:50 PM   #3
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Mike, what was important for me was a solar MPPT controller that integrated a battery monitor. I think a good battery monitor is essential for boondocking and maintaining a healthy system. I didn't want to add yet another display panel for the battery monitor so that led me to the Blue Sky series and their IPN Pro remote. The combination satisfied my desire to combine a quality solar controller and battery monitor in one remote.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lewster View Post
Best? In what way? Some components work better than others depending on their application.

MPPT is not necessarily the best in every charging system

Not trying to troll the thread, just looking for more direction for determining 'best' ��
Says the guy who in every thread says Magnum is the best because it's made in America. Those are the opinions I'm looking for. Superfluous or not.

You're clearly opinionated about Magnums, what about panels and controller brands? If a client comes to you with some ebay panels and askes about buying them, do you just say, sure. Or do you want to help him understand the pitfalls of why that 190 watt panel is $110.00 on ebay.



Hopefully that makes sense. Just looking to see what people think are the best brands in the industry with the best overall product quality.
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Old 02-08-2016, 09:18 PM   #5
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As an American small business who has first hand experience with the decimation of our economy by foreign (mostly Chinese) garbage that floods the markets that many in this country buy strictly on a price basis, many products that are made here get a favored spot in my world, AS LONG AS THEY PERFORM AS REQUIRED. Anyone who has a basic understanding of economics will realize the benefits of buying and using products that are made here by US owned companies.

Magnum fills that requirement nicely as they ARE made in USA, work extremely well in mobile environments, are easily field repairable by a national network of factory authorized repair specialists and most importantly, are extremely easy for non-technical folks to operate and understand.

Victron Energy, which virtually owns the marine inverter segment, makes wonderful equipment as well, (even though they are assembled in China….just like the iPhone) but are more complex to operate and program. They are working on better user friendly interfaces (like smart phone apps for monitoring their equipment) along with better integration across their spectrum of offerings; things like battery monitors, solar charge controllers and even their own lithium battery products that all will seamlessly interconnect easily. Look for more of their products to be popping up in RV use soon.

Outback makes high quality inverters as well, but you either need a Masters in EE or PhD to understand their operating systems. Newell Coach uses their inverters, but always have issues when problems arise in the programming or monitoring functions. I recall a problem a client had with their Outback inverters where the Mate-2 remote kept looping thru the programming phase and the tech at Outback, who was totally baffled (an EE as well) could offer no help other than replacement. It eventually began working with no explanation. They were stunned!

Midnight solar also makes some great products, but I haven't had enough time to fully investigate them. Love the Art Deco chassis work they use.

Blue Sky has perhaps the easiest user interface and programming capabilities for a solar charge controller, along with a great battery monitor system that is very easy to use. They are also very simple to parallel for use in larger solar arrays by using a pair of interconnect wires.

Moriningstar also makes a nice product that we used to offer, but they too are unnecessarily complex to program and impossible to parallel, needing their proprietary hub and a laptop.

One characteristic of MPPT controllers that should always be considered is the sampling time algorithm that the manufacturer employs. From what I have seen, Morningstar is among the slowest of the bunch, with Blue Sky significantly quicker and Victron extremely fast. In simple terms, that means more rapid MPPT sampling will be more efficient and will provide for more usable energy from a solar array.

Best solar modules are the ones that most closely fit your available project space and have outputs approaching what their data tag states. It also helps that they are RV rated, as residential panels of larger sizing will have excessive flex that can cause cracking in the surface glass. Testimonials or paid product endorsements don't hold much sway here for a single system installation. Look for long term users who have had repeated success with the products that have continually given them great service.
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:22 PM   #6
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Don't forget Bogart Engineering and their controller and monitor pair SC 2030 and TM 2030. Made in America and solid.


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Old 02-09-2016, 04:14 AM   #7
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I've been using Kyocera panels, a Morningstar MPPT 60 amp controller, Rolls batteries and Litz lofc fine stranded cables. I've had zero troubles with any of it! Calling it all the best! I live fulltime in my 34' and only plug in during the hot summer months, some shore, some real genset. I treat it as a house, run all my power like there is no end to its supply, I have never seen close to 30% discharge, even during weeks of cloudiness.
I run a 2000 watt Kasei true sine inverter 24/7 which is much more reliable than a Xantrex that would use a ton just idling.

You ask about panels and controllers....
Cables are equal or more important to the system. I use superflex oxygen free wire everywhere from the roof to the batteries. You cannot spec too large a AWG rating. It's all about wire and wire quality! Wire from Home Depot will not do!
I've got 1200 watts on the roof into 3 big Rolls batteries.
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Old 02-09-2016, 05:46 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoldAdventure View Post
Plus this thread can act as a reference post for newbies on this site too.
This is just an observation, but if that is part of the intention of this thread, so far it's not working.
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Old 02-09-2016, 06:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
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Don't forget Bogart Engineering and their controller and monitor pair SC 2030 and TM 2030. Made in America and solid.


George
Bogart does make solid components. I did not list them under my solar charge controller recommendations as they are a PWM controller rated for 30 amps. At that level of solar output, IMPO, you are much better off with an MPPT controller.

I'm definitely NOT on-board with their reasoning for staying with PWM and neither are the 6 major solar charge controller manufacturers that I DID list.

Not bad equipment, there is simply better stuff out there!!! After all, this is a 'BEST' list!

As for Xantrex, they were, at one time long long ago, a maker of quality components. All of that went out the window when they started making their components non-repairable and virtual throw-aways (in China, of course)!!

Magnum and Outback (and to some extent Midnight Solar) all came into existence when Xantrex bought Trace and Hart, both excellent inverter manufacturers about 16 years or so ago. The major designers and engineers left to form Magnum, with further employee desertions leading to Outback and then Midnight.

Just a bit of history there.

And just as an aside, I try to visit as many component manufacturers as I can before I will use or recommend their products, as I am ultimately responsible for their performance. I have been to both Magnum and Outback (both are in Washington state) and have excellent production facilities with great folks working there……just as I spent significant amounts of time with Dometic, HWH hydraulics, Norcold, RVP/Coleman, Girard Awnings Suburban and others. The rest listed above are on my 'to do' list.
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:32 AM   #10
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Hi Mike (aka BA) Not too many members of this forum will have had direct experience with more than one set of the equipment for which you are seeking comparisons since most of us get a system and stick with it for the duration. And those of us who may have had experience with two different systems are unlikely to have run side by side comparisons or kept any test data. Someone like Lew is the most likely source to offer the perspective you are seeking. Also, to some extent, Chris Dunphy over at Technomadia has done some side to side comparison of solar panels, you might want to check out his blog. Dig around this blog to find his solar panel comparison and other good info on this topic.

http://www.technomadia.com/solar/
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:46 AM   #11
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Great feedback Lew.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaLevel View Post
This is just an observation, but if that is part of the intention of this thread, so far it's not working.
\_(ツ)_/

Not everything goes as planned. Try, fail, adjust.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnArborBob View Post
Hi Mike (aka BA) Not too many members of this forum will have had direct experience with more than one set of the equipment for which you are seeking comparisons since most of us get a system and stick with it for the duration. And those of us who may have had experience with two different systems are unlikely to have run side by side comparisons or kept any test data. Someone like Lew is the most likely source to offer the perspective you are seeking. Also, to some extent, Chris Dunphy over at Technomadia has done some side to side comparison of solar panels, you might want to check out his blog. Dig around this blog to find his solar panel comparison and other good info on this topic.

http://www.technomadia.com/solar/
In my head it seemed like a good question, maybe it's a moot point to discuss here. You're right. How many folks but different wheels outside of SenDel here? I think I'm in that small minority.

Oh well.
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Old 02-09-2016, 11:11 AM   #12
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A valiant effort non the less!!


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Old 02-09-2016, 11:23 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Blue Sky has perhaps the easiest user interface and programming capabilities for a solar charge controller, along with a great battery monitor system that is very easy to use. They are also very simple to parallel for use in larger solar arrays by using a pair of interconnect wires.
I can attest to long-term flawless performance of the Blue Sky system at my off-the-grid cabin. In addition to the above comments, it has treated my battery bank very well.
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Old 02-09-2016, 11:28 AM   #14
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What's the consensus on Renogy/Zamp/Go Power folding portable solar panels?
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