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Old 05-08-2007, 09:11 AM   #1
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What do you guys think of this solar kit available at Costco?

Costco Solar Panel

Keep in mind that my solar panels will be mounted remotely off my trailer so size is not an issue. What is the difference between panels like these and the darker looking panels? Are the darker ones better?
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Old 05-08-2007, 09:48 AM   #2
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I would imagine the darker ones have more capability for heat gain than white ones...don't know how that effects their ability to do what you want them to though.

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Old 05-08-2007, 10:05 AM   #3
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Size matters................

The web page didn't actually give the size or weight of the panels. It just showed a picture next to a battery.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:54 AM   #4
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Each of the four panels are 42 1/2"L x 16"W x 3"D
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:56 AM   #5
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Looks interesting. Best thing about Costco is that if you don't like 'em, you can usually return 'em.
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Old 05-09-2007, 11:33 AM   #6
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I don't thiink you can judge the panels by the darkness of the solar cells. It is more impoortant to know the technical data on the panels and the charge controller. Costco is marketing the system without any data on the panels or controller so there is no easy way to compare them to other systems. What is the maximum unloaded panel voltage? Where are they made (best choice is USA or Japan)? What is the warranty on the panels (quality panels are usually waranted fro 25 years)? What brand of controller is it? Does the controller include either a 3 stage charging circuit or utilize maximum power point tracking (MPPT) to maximize charge output to the battery and offer adjustable float voltage to protect the battery from overcharging. Without doing a lot of research, possibly going to the store and collecting info on the manuifacture and then researching all the pieces you can not compare it to the excellent commercial solar systems on the market from many suppliers such as Solartron Technology and others.

It also comes down to how you will use it. Ignoring my previous comments, if you want something to maintain your battery, don't camp in extremely cold weather and don't go boondocking for extended periods of time (say no more than two days) and only want to run a flat screen TV it will probably do the job.

I would suggest a system with an output of 100 watts or more with a MPPT charge controller from a established solar power vendor. The downside is that it will likely cost you $600 to $750 and you may have to make the support frames but it will be far superior to the 60 watt system at Costco.
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Old 05-09-2007, 12:27 PM   #7
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It would be used to top off the charge on my battery in the summer and maintain it while I am gone (spring, summer, fall). Generator is still primary source of power.

Country of origin is China of course. I think max voltage at panels is 15 volts. The controller is a simple on that cuts in at 13.1 volts and cutout at 14.2 volts. It does say it offers battery overcharge protection (but it's hard to determine just what that means). I'm not so worried about the warranty on the solar cells themselves as I figure by the time they might break, newer cheaper and more efficient ones will be available. Not sure which way to go on this one, just thought at a glance this might be a good option for my application.
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Old 05-09-2007, 12:33 PM   #8
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Just make sure whatever solar panels you buy, they aren't from China. Some of the lesser quality panels, altho rated quite high for output, will have a great reduction in output when they become overheated from full sun. Then they are less efficient than higher quality panels that are rated lower. My 2 cents.
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Old 05-09-2007, 12:50 PM   #9
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And solar panel brands that are made in the USA include?.......
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Old 05-09-2007, 01:32 PM   #10
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Shedding a bit more light ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by wacnstac
And solar panel brands that are made in the USA include?.......
Hi: The fact that each Costco solar panel is only 15 watts and you need four of them to obtain a 60 watt charging rate suggests to me they are inefficient and take up alot of real estate for little output. I suggest you spend some time learing a bit more about solar panels for use on RVs here:

Welcome to RV Solar Electric!

and here:

Welcome to AM Solar - Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987

It will be time well spent, hopefully leading to money well spent down the road or, as the Drifters would say, Up on the Roof ... .
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Old 05-09-2007, 01:55 PM   #11
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Yeah I hear ya, but you didn't read the basic premise of my original post. The solar array will be stationary and can basically use unlimited real estate.
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Old 05-09-2007, 02:14 PM   #12
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You basically are buying the warranty with 1st tier panels, 1-year is usual though BP and GE offer 3 and 5 year limited materials and workmanship warranties. Discard their charge controller if you got to have that system, I may be surprised but similar harbour freight kit controller is junk.

The ones you asked about are essentially disposible panels. With quality mono-crystalline panels you can expect them to be still going in 40 or 50 years meaning that in 5 years you get 90% + of your purchase price back if you sell them. Most likely in 5 years constant use the costco panels would not be saleable.

Figure $6 a watt for panels and $40-75 for quality charge controller. If you are worried about the "steal-me" factor, don't, they would both be equally attractive to the curious...
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Old 05-09-2007, 02:33 PM   #13
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Ok so what online retailers have the best bargins on good solar cells?
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Old 05-09-2007, 11:07 PM   #14
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I liked Solartorn Technologies in Victorville, CA. One benefit was I coul ddive there in an hour and pick up my kit. They do ship all over the USA though. Check out their site and compare to others.

http://www.partsonsale.com/

go to Solar Panel Kits and select Solar Panel Kits for RV, Trailers and Bus Conversions

They have every thing to 65 watts up to 780 watts with a 4K inverter.
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