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Old 02-16-2018, 08:40 AM   #41
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"Another source of portable panels is to use flex panels. They don't break and are easy to store."

Both true. They're very convenient. They are not, however, very durable. Manufacturers' warranties reflect this--for example, Renogy warrants the material and workmanship of most of their rigid panels for ten years, but for their flexible panels, the warranty is only three years. For performance the difference is even greater: Renogy's rigid panels are warranted to deliver 90% of rated watts after ten years, and 80% after 25 years. For their flexible panels... "No Performance Warranty."

Personally, I've seen several flexible panels fail after less than a year of use. In one case, the junction box on the edge of the panel was partially melted. (A few years ago one manufacturer recalled a bunch of flexible panels due to a fire hazard; this might have been one of those.) Another simply stopped working for no obvious reason.

If this sounds as if I'm trying to scare you away from flexible panels for portable use, I'm not. I own a couple of HQST 100-watters, and used them regularly as portables until I mounted 600 watts of Renogy Eclipse rigid panels on my roof recently. I just wouldn't expect them to last very long.

Oh, and speaking of roofs--mounting flexible panels on your roof to make them invisible sounds like a great idea. But before you do it, think about this: solar panels collect light, but they also get quite hot in operation. If you have a contactless (IR) thermometer, try measuring the temperature of the underside of one of your panels after it's been out in the sun for a few hours. I think you'll be surprised. Well, if you mount a flexible panel directly to your roof, all that heat is transferred directly to your trailer. It's like painting that part of your roof flat black instead of silver or white--not something most of us would choose to do.

Moreover, a flexible panel mounted directly to a roof, and hence with no air circulation underneath it, will run even hotter... and a hot solar panel is an inefficient solar panel.

"You just need to rig a stand."

A quick and easy way to do this is to use plastic folding step stools. They're available for ten bucks or less, they take up very little space when folded, and they can be used for other things when not propping up panels.
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Old 02-16-2018, 09:53 AM   #42
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Coffemaker??? maybe one time. Microwave, sure, but limited warming, not cooking a roast. TV, sure.

I would guess that with 400 watts, you will realistically re-capture about 115 - 140 Ah per day. So you'll have to do some figuring and behavior modification.
Latitude and sun exposure is key..as is time of day.

I use about 28 - 30Ah per day with no TV, microwave, nor coffeemaker. Just lighting, some audio and the electronics for the fridge, h20 heater, etc.
Thanx for the info.
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Old 02-18-2018, 06:46 PM   #43
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Fixed vs Portable panels

I vote for both. I have 2- 90 watt panels on the roof and a Zamp 200 watt
fold out for dark days. I installed a connector in the refrigerator compartment where Airstream installed prewiring, for the portable. It puts the panels in series so I can send a higher voltage (up to 70 vdc) to my MPPT charge controller. I can boondock in the winter for about 3 days before using a generator.

That said, where are you going to store your portable panels. Remember you will have to drag it out and connect it every time you move.

Remember, it's your adventure, follow your gut.
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Old 02-21-2018, 04:15 PM   #44
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I purchased the 200 W Zamp portable solar panels and wired a connector to my batteries through my battery vent. FWIW, discount solar in Quartzsite Arizona sells that model for $799!

I am fortunate in that we have the lounge model and we can store the solar panel behind the drivers side second row seat. The picture shows it laying down on its side but it actually stores better standing upright!

For security I have a light cable that will connect the panel
to my hitch.
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Old 02-21-2018, 06:22 PM   #45
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Randy at Best Converter Zamp 200 watt portable is $847.00 shipping included. Amazon is $974.00 shipping included. Does Discount Solar $799.00 include shipping? That's a great price if shipping is included Mister B.
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Old 02-21-2018, 06:48 PM   #46
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Randy at Best Converter Zamp 200 watt portable is $847.00 shipping included. Amazon is $974.00 shipping included. Does Discount Solar $799.00 include shipping? That's a great price if shipping is included Mister B.
The Renogy 200W suitcase w/ controller and free shipping from Amazon is $682.99.

I have no affiliation with Renogy or Amazon, just posting for the benefit of the solar community.....
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:22 PM   #47
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Randy at Best Converter Zamp 200 watt portable is $847.00 shipping included. Amazon is $974.00 shipping included. Does Discount Solar $799.00 include shipping? That's a great price if shipping is included Mister B.
************
Sorry I don't know about shipping costs, I purchased it in person at the store. However, there is no Az sales tax for solar use!
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:57 PM   #48
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Fixed panels are most often installed in systems that support enhanced battery capacity and control systems. They can be quite costly and are best done if you are committed to your Airstream for more than three or four years (don't get the urge to move-up).

I used a Zamp 200 panel for almost a year before A&M Solar installed the permanent system in my 25FB. I sold it for nearly what I paid for it new.
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Old 02-26-2018, 09:32 PM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister B View Post
I've read the many posts about adding solar panels to the roof of our AI's and upgrading the controller to a MPPT to solve boondocking battery issues.

Have any of you considered the option of doing portable solar panels instead of fixing additional panels to your roof?

Thanks

Mark
Mark,
We have a 2012 Interstate and on the rear external body above the propane fill bracket is a cover with connectors for electrical. One is a cigaret lighter connector for 12 volt power. I have been told that if you plug in your portable solar panel into it the flow will charge the house batteries. You have to have a controller built into the portable solar panel. I just bought a Recology 100w suitcase panel with controller to plug into my interstate on our next trip.
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Old 02-27-2018, 06:59 AM   #50
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Wondering how the roof panel controller (I upgraded to a Blue Sky MPPT) will cooperate (or not) with the portable panel controller? Is there a risk of overcharging the batteries if you have too much solar power and if the batteries are at (or near) 100%. I can see both working fine when doing bulk charging, but what about in absorb or float? Does the portable panel controller have settings for different battery types - AGM, etc?
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Old 02-27-2018, 07:58 AM   #51
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We have two Goal Zero Boulder 100w suitcases. I'm installing 3 100w fixed on the roof in addition to the existing 50w. The fixed will go through a Victron 100/30 MPPT. The portables will go through cable glands near the battery box vent to a combiner when needed.
It is my understanding that the MPPT will limit out at 440w but I doubt the 550w total will ever be reached anyway as we wouldn't plug the suitcases in unless the fixed were shaded. Besides, we have other plans for the portable suitcases - they aren't limited to use with the AI.
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Old 02-27-2018, 09:59 AM   #52
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Mark,
We have a 2012 Interstate and on the rear external body above the propane fill bracket is a cover with connectors for electrical. One is a cigaret lighter connector for 12 volt power. I have been told that if you plug in your portable solar panel into it the flow will charge the house batteries. You have to have a controller built into the portable solar panel. I just bought a Recology 100w suitcase panel with controller to plug into my interstate on our next trip.
JoAnn
JoAnn,
Hopefully you read earlier posts #16,18 & 20 on this thread cautioning about using the outside plug!
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Old 02-27-2018, 10:02 AM   #53
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Wondering how the roof panel controller (I upgraded to a Blue Sky MPPT) will cooperate (or not) with the portable panel controller? Is there a risk of overcharging the batteries if you have too much solar power and if the batteries are at (or near) 100%. I can see both working fine when doing bulk charging, but what about in absorb or float? Does the portable panel controller have settings for different battery types - AGM, etc?

Yes the built in controller has a setting for AGM's!
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Old 03-01-2018, 08:18 AM   #54
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Wouldn't the last controller in line be the one that "sees" the battery condition?
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Old 03-01-2018, 01:55 PM   #55
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Wouldn't the last controller in line be the one that "sees" the battery condition?
Both controllers will "see" the battery state....and that can be a problem. For example, if both sets of panels are getting sun, and therefore both controllers are "on", one may see a battery voltage of 13V+, think the battery is full, and go into "maintenance mode", which basically puts it to sleep. Which one is on and which one is sleeping is anyone's guess, but regardless, one set of panels will be doing nothing useful. The good news is there's no worry about overcharging because both controllers are voltage sensing, so they will just shut off if they see a voltage indicating a full battery.

Honestly I think the best setup is to have 2 sets of panels but only ONE solar charge controller (MPPT). This has several benefits: First, you can run your panels in series to increase the voltage, thus ensuring the total voltage into the charge controller is enough to turn it on....typically 14v+ is sufficient, which will REALLY help on cloudy days or if a few panels are shaded (this has a secondary benefit of reducing panel-to-panel and panel-to-controller wire size because you're keeping your current at 5-6A). Second, the MPPT controller will convert the extra voltage into current to fill the batteries as fast as possible (keep that in mind when sizing controller-to-battery wiring). And third, ALL of your panels are contributing to charging the batteries with no worries about one bank shutting off because it sees a charge voltage from another controller.
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Old 03-01-2018, 02:23 PM   #56
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FlyFishinRVer hit the nail on the head.

I tried a dual-controller setup (Victron 100/50 and 75/15) on a previous rig and ran into exactly what FlyFishinRVer described: one controller would always go into float mode when it saw the other controller working. Result: wasted power.

Later, I tried a dual-controller setup using Blue Sky 3024 and 1524 MPPT controllers, which can be networked together in a master/slave setup so that they cooperate properly. It worked, but it was a hassle to setup up, and the total cost of the two controllers plus the required IPN ProRemote was several times what a good MPPT controller would cost.

I ended up switching to a single Victron MPPT 100/50. My roof and portable panels all output the same voltage (Vmp=17.7 V), so the controller is happy with them together or separately. I have them connected in series-parallel pairs to minimize voltage drop and maximize MPPT efficiency. It all works very smoothly.

In short, my experience confirms everything FlyFishinRVer said.
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Old 03-01-2018, 02:51 PM   #57
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Zamp 120 Portable

Very happy with this unit. It is effective, efficient, and easily setup. Get the extension cord, a security cable, and a good lock. You're good to go. Oh yes, if you decide to get a new Airstream you can take it with you.
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Old 03-01-2018, 05:54 PM   #58
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One more thought on this: Paprika brings up a good point re. series/parallel. Since topics like solar apply equally to trailers and B vans, for configs greater than 5 panels (for B vans that's 300W on the roof and a 200W suitcase), you need to go w/ a config of series/parallel if you have something like a Victron 100/30 or 100/50 so you don't exceed the 100V input limit on your controller (voltage adds in series, so 5 panels with an OCV of 18v is getting close). If you have the 150/X, you can go with a few more in series, but still be mindful of the voltage limit.

I have a tendency to focus on the smaller configs since I have a van, which is ironic considering I have 35 panels on my house!
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Old 01-26-2019, 06:41 AM   #59
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Re: portability of solar panels --

Here's an interesting product that I saw this morning for the first time - the "solar flower".

They don't have a portable version yet that I know of, and I don't know how accurate their technical claims are. But the way this thing folds up seems like it would have potential for mobile off-gridders. Maybe we'll see future development for additional applications.

http://smartflowersolar.com/for-home/
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Old 01-27-2019, 11:12 AM   #60
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Re: portability of solar panels --

Here's an interesting product that I saw this morning for the first time - the "solar flower".

They don't have a portable version yet that I know of, and I don't know how accurate their technical claims are. But the way this thing folds up seems like it would have potential for mobile off-gridders. Maybe we'll see future development for additional applications.

http://smartflowersolar.com/for-home/
16' clearance needed and weighs 1500lbs? Interesting idea, and like that it cleans itself, follows the sun, and folds when winds get above 34mph..but what about price? I could not find the price...
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