Solar Panels- Best place to buy?

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 16:15
ThreadID: 131650 Views:2825 Replies:11 FollowUps:8
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Hi All

Looking at getting some solar for the first time. Don't want to spend a fortune, just want to see how it works for us. We run a fairly power "hungry" camp and will still have other back ups.
Just wondering what people have bought in the way of folding panels. Solar blankets are just still way to expensive. I was looking at a Tri type folding panel then thought at 23 kg it might be a real pain to move around the camp for one person once set up. Maybe a 160w twin panel might be the way to start out. Anyone found good people to deal with when purchasing this sort of thing?
They seem quite cheap, around the $300 mark, give or take a bit. Some advertise a 9m lead which would be handy. I wonder if they have bothered to do the Vd and cable size calc's when putting it together though........
I could just buy a Big arse single panel from the electrical wholesalers where I shop, but then it would be a pain to transport (not looking at a permanent mounting scenario at the moment), and I'd have to buy a controller and wire it up.
Your thought folks?

Thanks

Lyndon
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Reply By: Batt's - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 16:34

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 16:34
I'll be getting some solar panels soon and have read good reports on other 4WD sites about http://stores.ebay.com.au/Bit-Deals/Solar-Panels-/_i.html?_fsub=12521457&_sid=302026428&_trksid=p4634.c0.m322 all positive remarks haven't read any negative comments on the sites I visit.
AnswerID: 596440

Reply By: Frank P (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 16:39

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 16:39
Lyndon,

With the sort of wattage you're looking at you'll need a solar controller.

Buy panels that DO NOT have a controller on the back. Buy a controller to suit the total wattage of your panels with a bit of overhead to accommodate possible expansion of the system.

If you afford it, buy an MPPT controller. Mount it or park it close to the batteries with a short heavy lead to the batteries, eg 8 gauge, ie 8B&S or 8AWG. NOT 8mm. It is between the controller and the batteries that voltage drop is critical.

Now you can have long leads from the controller to the panels so you can chase the sun. They can be lighter gauge, but not too light. Depending on the size and configuration of your panels you could still have a potential 8 to 10 amps there and a long run of skinny wire will waste some of those amps.

I have 2 sets of 120 watts. They were set up by the supplier with 10m each of 5 or 6mm sheathed twin-core. With a cheap regulator close to the batteries I regularly got 15 amps in bulk charging.

I have found these regulators to be very good.

This one is MPPT and considerably more efficient.

You can get both on eBay cheaper than shown here.

Cheers

FrankP

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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 09:09

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 09:09
Frank, Although I understand your comment re buying a panel with no controller, (potential quality) this may restrict one's choice of good quality, cheap panels.

My folding panel was purchased from Bit Deals and came with an on board MPPT controller.
As I have a dc-dc charger with solar input in my camper, I added another circuit to the panel's junction box so I could bypass the on board controller and connect the panel's uncontrolled output directly to the D250S solar port on the camper. Obviously, the best location is as close to the batteries being charged, for optimal performance, especially if you have a longish cable length.

In this way, I can still use the panel if required to connect up to the auxiliary in the back of the vehicle or any other battery I choose and use the original circuit using it's on board controller.

This is easily achieved by adding another cable to the junction box where the two panels terminate and before the input to the on board controller which is actually not too shabby.
In this way I get the best flexibility from my 120 watt panel array without compromising output quality.
The original twin cable has a removable alligator clamp style connection and the "uncontrolled" additional circuit is terminated with an Anderson connector.

Works for me!

Bill


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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 09:12

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 09:12
That's certainly a very flexible arrangement, Bill, and another option for the OP to consider.

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Reply By: dad1340 - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 18:41

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 18:41
Mate; I appreciate $$$ are tight, what's new, but somehow the $ issues fade away when all power delivery is failsafe in the back of beyond, year after year. That equals stress free travelling. I'm talking not to your local Caravan Park.
I went Aux Battery, Redarc BCDC and 120W Solar - trouble free.
Quality = safety = stress free adventuring
Cheers
dad
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 19:15

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 19:15
Hi Lyndon

As you will be aware, not all solar panels are created equal, and do not get caught out by cheap deals on EBay.

I went throught this process just over 12 months ago, and after some very valuable help from EO members, went for the top quality Kick Ass panels. Their business is run up on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and if you need to ask any questions before you part with your hard earnt dollars, as I did, you get to speak with a real Aussie. Their service was second to none and very fast delivery to me down here in South Australia

Them may not be cheap, but their output is what they claim and have many other features.


Happy hunting.



Cheers


Stephen
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Reply By: Member - Barry H (WA) - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 19:52

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 19:52
Hi Lyndon


I cant recommend Bits Deals highly enough.

Had one of their 160w folding panels for about 5 years now, works fantastically well, good company to deal with.

Regards

Barry H
AnswerID: 596457

Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 21:10

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 21:10
Lyndon,

Bit Deals would be hard to beat for cheap, quality panels and they pay the postage. They also have a good range, in both single and folding panels.

Some years ago I bought a 160w panel from Marsol Industries in Qld, but their prices are a little dearer than Bit Deals, and I notice they often are out of stock of the popular sizes. About 12 months ago, we needed an additional folding panel for a trip, and bought a 120w folding panel in Longreach. Little dear @ $299 I thought, but no postage needed. :-)

Just my thoughts Lyndon, but if you have a "power hungry camp", you might find the one folding panel mightn't live up to your expectations, and will have to rely on your "other back ups". The plus with solar is, if you have a capable setup, that it's "set and forget"..........unless it's raining/full overcast.

Good luck,
Bob

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Follow Up By: Member - Trevor_H - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 22:23

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 22:23
I use a folding 180W panel from Marsol, but bypass the regulator on the back of the panel and feed to a CTEK D250S Dual regulator alongside the 2 x 120 AH AGM batteries.....for reasons covered earlier. Works for my loads.
Marsol will work out what what will work for your loads.
Don't forget to claim your ExplorOz Member discount.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 22:39

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 22:39
Marsol don't appear to be Business Members any longer Trevor?

Stuck the 160w panel on roof of our camper, and use the 120w folding panel, with regulator bypassed, as yours is. Seems to work okay, though we haven't used the system as much as we'd like. :-)

Bob

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Follow Up By: Member - Trevor_H - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 23:54

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 23:54
Noticed that also Bob, but they still have the logo on their web site....probably worth asking.
I repeated the set up in our upgrade (14ft 2000 Golf with shr/toilet) after 8mths around Aust in 2014 with a modified early Aussie Swag hard floor camper.

Trevor
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Reply By: rumpig - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 21:44

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 21:44
If you want to go down the solar route, you'd be best to sit down and work out your power usage first up and how many days you expect to go unaided power wise for with the battery set up you have, to see how big a solar set up and battery bank you really need. Without doing this, you'll likely be disappointed with the outcome of getting just one panel that may be way undersized for your needs, and not give the results you might expect. Without anyone here knowing what it is you power off of who knows what size battery bank, it's pretty hard for people to know what to recommend to you i'm thinking.
I know you say you "just want to see how it works for us", but are you hoping to power the camp from the one panel, or just top up your battery bank a touch and then use "other back ups" also, or what?...don't take this the wrong way, but reading your post i'm not sure what your expectations are in regards to getting a panel.
I run 160W of solar and find it's adequate for our needs, but i wouldn't classify our camp as power hungry. That size panel set up is a good starting point, but also may fall well short of what you require to run your camp....everyones set ups / requirements are different.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 11:19

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 11:19
Some good responses here, but I wonder if Rumpig's isn't among the best. First I'd look at your actual requirements -

Like

Do you travel most days, so the alternator can provide most charging?

How long do you want to be independent of outside charging?

Just what do you mean by a "power hungry camp", and could this be minimised?

Do you have adequate battery capacity?

How are you planning on carrying the panel/s? Roofrack? Roof of camper? Inside vehicle/camper?

All these considerations affect your needs, and hence how best they can be met and what assistance we can offer. For what it's worth, we carry two separate panels that slide into the roof rack and deliver about 150W (total). With 200Ah of storage, and assuming we use the alternator at least a couple of short days a week, our needs (lighting and charging cameras etc) are easily handled.

Cheers

John
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Follow Up By: Member - lyndon NT - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 20:08

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 20:08
Hi Guys

Very valid questions indeed. Just getting into solar as said. Likely to ditch what I buy now in 5 ish years, maybe a little more. So not looking for the "perfect" set up at this stage. (Don't get holidays much anymore). Just didn't want to buy crap. Think I'll either go 1 x 2 x 80w folding panel, or I might even splash out and get two. It's really just to try it out. We have two batteries in the boat (75 Ah)
One portable, 130 Ah, think I'll sit this aside with one fridge running off it connected to solar. Hoping 160 w panel in the top end would keep this going?
Three in the back of the Troopy, 3 x 75 Ah + starting battery.
Run two fridges, drink heaps of beer and live in the hottest place in Australia :-)
Total draw could be 150 Ah + per day.
So maybe, with some driving and a little generator power and 2 separate folding 160w kits would do?

Cheers

Lyndon
Now is the only time you own
Decide now what you will,
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For the clock may then be still

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Follow Up By: Gnomey - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2016 at 09:17

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2016 at 09:17
Lyndon, you've got some good advice on assessing needs from folks with a lot more expertise than me so I just endorse what's been said about defining the ask.

I "experimented" with a BitDeals 160w folding set up. Here's the short report. Does the job while it holds together. Wires are scrawny, clamps are average, supports are complete crap, and the controller doesn't like to get wet. Last trip the panels were propped up with a forked stick. It rained and the controller starting shoving 16+v into my batteries.

Upside. The experiment worked. Downside I've got a two year old set of panels to find a use for when I buy something decent - eg Kickass.

Cheers
Mark
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Reply By: swampy - Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 22:38

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 at 22:38
hi
kickass solar panels
bitdeals ebay
Aussie solar and batteries
sunyee ebay

195 watt Triple fold in a bag with handle is reasonable to handle
A double would be a bit awkward in 195watts or bigger

cable AT LEAST 8mm2 size ,
NO MORE than 8-10 mtrs in length

Aussie solar sell with a bag and do whatever size cable and length u want
Aussie solar do a reasonable standard regulator
I have tested there warranty and all is good
Aussie have specials occasionally so keep an eye out

160watt would be a good start with a 120amp agm batt need more just double it

swamp
AnswerID: 596469

Reply By: ctaplin - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 00:15

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 00:15
G'day Lyndon,
Drop me your email as I've got a set-up that might suit your needs.
Hope you and Bernadette are both well?
Regards,
Chris Taplin
email: ctaplin@chariot.net.au
AnswerID: 596475

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 10:30

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 10:30
Hi Lyndon,
I carried around a set of 120W folding panels that did the job very well, but weighed 13kg and were very bulky and awkward to pack.

So I got rid of them and bought a single 100W flexible plastic backed panel for about $200 on Ebay, and a controller that I installed in the Landcruiser. The panel weighs under 2kgs (amazing!) and because its so flat I slide it in under our foldup chairs with some padding to protect it. So far so good - controller said 6 amps going into my aux battery yesterday with it sitting flat on the roofrack.
AnswerID: 596485

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 10:37

Monday, Feb 22, 2016 at 10:37
Bought my 100 watt folding panel from Low Energy Developments (Melbourne area) a few years back. I thought them thoroughly straight forward and reliable to deal with....fast delivery....the whole kit was exactly as described. The panel is in a very sturdy aluminium frame with a solid swing out stand....the regulator is quality (many cheapies are just junk)......a decent connection lead and clamps etc. is included. The carry bag is well made and strong. They were not the cheapest option at the time but still a good buy overall in my view. As I recall, my whole kit is 14kg max.
AnswerID: 596486

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