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Old 02-18-2014, 01:43 PM   #15
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It's so cool to read all about everyone's solar experiences and installs. The solar panels on our 89 Excella were top-of-the-line in their day. It's wonderful to see how much less expensive and better everything is now. We still love the ones on our 89 even if they are not nearly as powerful as modern ones. It's just amazing that Airstream was so cutting edge environmentally even way back then. We will put some on our 86 eventually.
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Old 02-18-2014, 02:46 PM   #16
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I too did a lot of research before buying Grape Solar panels. Beware of Amazon's Grape Solar panels. Some are not actually made by GS and are knockoffs. I also looked at Home Depot and Costco, but in the end AM solar had the best price, all of the "fixins'" to get the panels tied together and attached to the roof, offered free shipping, and had excellent customer service.
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Old 02-18-2014, 04:47 PM   #17
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When selecting panels, I would think efficiency is the key metric for those with limited space. However that does not necessarily translate to best value. Many use the price per watt as a general measure of value. Warranties and quality of construction will determine the useful life of your investment.

Personally, I have not gone solar on my Safari, but I have on my house. I did a lot of research on the topic. There are abundant resources at various government sites, to help you assess the potential for your application. I personally like the NREL.GOV site. Do a search on PVWATTS and it will reveal a calculator that will allow you to estimate your power output based on factors such as geography, season, mounting angle, etceteras. This stuff can be easily applied to RVs as well as homes.

As advances in design and efficiency make panels more productive, that does not necessarily translate to bang per buck. In my case, I bought my retirement home (5 years ahead of retirement) with an eye on installing solar. I have a massive south facing roof line which is angled optimally for my latitude thus reducing the mounting costs. Since I had plenty of space to work with I opted for a medium efficiency panel in the 18% range that is USA made and relatively inexpensive. These days, newer technology is boosting efficiency up as high as 40% or more. See this Forbes article for recent information on this topic:

As Solar Panel Efficiencies Keep Improving, It's Time To Adopt Some New Metrics - Forbes

I use Enphase microinverters for simplicity of operation and the added benefit of real time monitoring of individual panels for warranty and performance purposes (I have a 7.8KW system with 30 panels). At some point, I may apply this knowledge to my AS but I am content for now in having tethered camping options.
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Old 02-18-2014, 04:51 PM   #18
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FYI--As of today the Costco GS 100 Watt panels are now under $140.00 each.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:55 AM   #19
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Here's my issue with the Grape solar panels - they're polycrystalline. In AZ, heat is the major problem, and monocrystalline panels are generally rated to stand up to higher heat. I'm liking the Renogy panels from Amazon for being mono, getting good reviews, and being about the same price.
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Old 03-02-2014, 08:15 PM   #20
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GS-100 and GS-135 panels from AM Solar are mono-crystalline.
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:10 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lewster View Post
GS-100 and GS-135 panels from AM Solar are mono-crystalline.
See? The Lewster knows what he's doing! Heat's an issue there in Florida, too!
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Old 03-02-2014, 10:52 PM   #22
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I would not get too excited about polly vs. mono solar panels. You might want to look at this article about the differences between panels:

Which Solar Panel Type is Best? Mono-, Polycrystalline or Thin Film?

Here are three quotes from that article:


1. Monocrystalline solar panels tend to be more efficient in warm weather. Performance suffers as temperature goes up, but less so than polycrystalline solar panels. For most homeowners temperature is not a concern.

2. Polycrystalline solar panels tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline solar panels. This technically means that they perform slightly worse than monocrystalline solar panels in high temperatures. Heat can affect the performance of solar panels and shorten their lifespans. However, this effect is minor, and most homeowners do not need to take it into account.

3. Both mono- and polycrystalline solar panels are good choices and offer similar advantages. Even though polycrystalline solar panels tend to be less space-efficient and monocrystalline solar panels tend to produce more electrical power, this is not always the case. It would be nearly impossible to recommend one or the other by not examining the solar panels and your situation closer.


Bottom line: re read #3 above.
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Old 03-03-2014, 05:34 AM   #23
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Re-read #3. There is a lot more to a panel's operational efficiency than crystal type.

For RV use, weight is also an important factor.
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:03 PM   #24
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Not sure which type of panel this applies to, but I recall reading that the output from some panels is drastically reduced when only a portion of one panel is in shade. Other types are affected to a significantly lesser extent. Seems like that should be taken into consideration when selecting panels, especially for use on RV roofs not parked in open areas (like the desert southwest).
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:16 PM   #25
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Lewster, since you live in both Or. and Fl. which do you use? Do you use, a combination of both?
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:03 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airtandem View Post
Lewster, since you live in both Or. and Fl. which do you use? Do you use, a combination of both?
AT,

I have 500 watts of mono-crystallin GS-100 panels from AM Solar on the roof of my Sprinter service van (see my avatar), which nicely charge 2 Lifeline GPL-6CT golf cart batteries (300 amp/hours). They run all of my 12VDC loads in the van, interior lighting, Engel AC/DC fridge with Danfoss compressor (runs 24/7/365 for 3 years now) and a Magnum MS-2812 2800 watt pure sine wave inverter.

I currently don't have the charger section of the inverter operational as I have no need to plug in to charge the batteries….the solar does it all! It's a nice, tight operation.

The new GS-130 mono-crystallin panels that we have been using are the same width as the GS-100, just a bit longer to accommodate more cells.
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Old 03-03-2014, 09:00 PM   #27
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I can readily believe that in the civilized parts of the country, the heat tolerance differential between the two types of panels isn't enough to matter. However, it does get to 117 degrees in AZ with discouraging regularity; when you add in another 35 - 40 degrees of solar insolation effect, the differences could easily be magnified enough to matter.

Attached - picture of my review mirror temperature readout from a couple summers ago.
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Old 03-03-2014, 09:37 PM   #28
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One thing to remember…………….panels should be mounted above the roof to allow air to circulate beneath them for a cooling effect not on the roof like many types of panels do.
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