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Old 07-12-2015, 02:33 PM   #1
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Solar on a Shoestring

Due to the constant drain on our batteries from the propane detector and the occasional use of power when doing routine maintenance on our AS during storage, I was looking for a way to charge the batteries without resorting to a generator. We store our AS in a covered storage facility with no electric power. So after some research, I purchased a 100W solar suitcase from Renogy (see pictures). On a sunny day, it generate 5 or more amps to charge the batteries. However, on a partly cloudy day, it drops down to 3 amps or less and 1.3 amps on an overcast day. Still, the price is right and I could possibly use it while dry camping if left out all day and it was sunny. I do not plan on leaving it unattended, however, for fear of theft. Strangely, my suitcase looks almost identical to the 120W suitcase from Zamp Solar, but cost about half as much. I made a 15' cable of 10 AWG wire to go from the solar changing box on the panels to the batteries to reduce resistance. I used SAE connectors at both ends for an easy hookup. Not bad for $260.00 purchased directly from the manufacturer. The manual that comes with the unit is a bit outdated and not very useful. The charger manual on-line on the Renogy web-site is much more helpful, but the technician on the phone was most helpful when I asked whether I really had to hook the batteries up to the charging box first before hooking up the solar panels. BTW, the answer is "no", the new changing box has built in protection from hooking things up wrong.
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Old 07-12-2015, 03:40 PM   #2
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I have read some very good reviews of the company and their products. Cutting out the middle man really makes the prices reasonable.
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Old 07-12-2015, 03:48 PM   #3
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Yep, have the same unit along with their rooftop 150 watt panel and their flex panel. They are good quality. I plug the two portables into the SAE2 connectors on the battery box I added.
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Old 07-12-2015, 04:35 PM   #4
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I wish Renogy would make 160w or 200w portables. I wanted 200w and ended up buying the Zamp. I will eventually upgrade to better cables but even with the supplied cable and extension it delivers over 9 amps in full sun. The only thing I don't like about the Zamp are the legs. They seem flimsy so you have to be careful when pulling them out from the stored position. As long as the base of the panels are on steady ground it doesn't wiggle. I've recommend this Renogy system to a few Casita owners with the single group 24 battery.

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Old 07-12-2015, 04:44 PM   #5
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I used (2) Renogy monocrystalline 100 Watt panels on my trailer roof, and I'm completely happy with them.
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Old 07-12-2015, 05:27 PM   #6
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They have expansion panels/kits that can easily be added to both fixed and portable panels. Cost is still lower than other quality brands.
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Old 07-12-2015, 06:39 PM   #7
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I have suitcase, I think that brand, just hook to battery and the little box with status right on panel. So far good.
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Old 07-12-2015, 08:48 PM   #8
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Wow, what great suggestions. For the price, I might just buy another 100W solar suitcase from Renogy for a total of 200 watts. The total cost for both would only be about 15% more than Zamp's 120W suitcase and I could generate about 10 amps on a sunny day. As mentioned, I found the tech support at Renogy to be detached, but helpful. However, the receptionist couldn't have sounded more disinterested. I have a sneaking suspicion that Renogy makes all of the Zamp products. Just a hunch. They look very similar.
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Old 07-12-2015, 09:10 PM   #9
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Here's a hint: neither company actually 'make' their products .....


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Old 07-12-2015, 10:18 PM   #10
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The Renogy solar production plant is in Wuxi, China and is quite large. Yes, I too noticed the similarities, same latches, materials, etc of the two companies' products. I read about Renogy online. Their headquarters is in Baton Rouge, LA. They have contracts with several American firms to make solar panels.
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Old 07-13-2015, 11:43 AM   #11
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I had 8 of their panels put on top of my Moho. Despite some negative things I've heard on here I really haven't had any issues besides how long it took me to figure out the controller that it came with. I heard the biggest factors are the wiring (I had my dealer upgrade what the kit came with) and the inverter. The PO of my Moho upgraded the standard one used on AS pushers of the era and yet he didn't have solar. I think he used a portable unit too
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Old 07-14-2015, 06:30 AM   #12
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Quote:
The total cost for both would only be about 15% more than Zamp's 120W suitcase and I could generate about 10 amps on a sunny day. As mentioned, I found the tech support at Renogy to be detached, but helpful.
I spoke with customer service from Zamp, Renogy, GoPower, Morning Star and a few others. Renogy spent a chunk of time with me calculating my needs factor before any purchase. Morning Star was the ONLY company that explained in detail why using multiple controllers was completely possible and even encouraged my solar quest. I found them both having 5 star support. When I got my solar 100 watt suitcase from Renogy it was missing the tilt legs. They were so surprised that they had me take a picture. They ended up sending me another one and sent me a label for the first. Some of the companies I contacted were short of knowledge. They were just selling solar items. Most of the negative reports I found on Renogy were regarding an earlier controller that I guess was a bad model. The products I received are very well built and look great. I saw a picture of one guy's flex panel that had what looked like caulk all over the connection points, mine was not like that at all. Zamp was a bit reserved in their help and let me know that I had to buy everything from them to make sure it worked. Proprietary attitude common in IT as well. Others' service results may vary as it is the individual support person that makes the difference.
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