Solar Panels - Solid or Flexible?

Submitted: Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 16:13
ThreadID: 136180 Views:2076 Replies:11 FollowUps:13
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In the market for a Solar Panel solution for the Landcruiser.
Essentially just to maintain 1 x 105Ah Battery running a 40L fridge.

I'd pretty much decided to get a Bi-Folding traditional style panel of 160Watts
I like that they can be set up free standing and moved to best collect the sun, but mostly that they can be in the sun while my vehicle is in the shade.

The negative would be their footprint in the vehicle when not in use.

I'd like to hear from anyone running the flexible style blanket solar panel.
Obviously they pack away neatly, but what about deployment?

How do you set them up? Do they need to be on your windscreen to hold shape?
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Reply By: RMD - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 16:29

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 16:29
I look at the word "maintain" as preventing a battery which is connected to a circuit or vehicle without effectively running anything, ie clock and memories etc, perhaps.
Charging the battery and running a fridge is perhaps a bit more than maintaining.

I can't comment on flexible solar, haven't used one, but I do use two 80w panels on the roof of the vehicle which can be supplemented if required. A folding panel has some weight to be considered and mine sits upright in the canopy/tub of vehicle on top of the drawers when not in use. Not much room used.
AnswerID: 616475

Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:00

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:00
Thank you for your view on the word "Maintain" :)
That's ripper
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Reply By: GarryR - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 16:32

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 16:32
Hi Saltydog, after a discussion with my son in law, we finally decided to purchase a solar blanket Brand- Projecta 180w. As my daughter could not get a good discount from work for this item, so we searched online and found that one of our local auto parts distributors was selling this item for $950- , whereas they normally sell for about $2005- mark ($1750- was the best my daughter could go). My s-i-l is a industrial electrician and checked all the features out, and we bought 2 with a further discount. Not sure where you are from but, the company is R&E autos in Cranbourne and Pakenham Vic. They are selling online, and we picked up from there Pakenham store. Multi battery combination and only 8kg, far easier to carry than our 240w bifold panels with much greater weight. We also checked that this item was the same part number as we saw on all other sites. We cut off the 2 alligator clips just prior inline fuse and installed an Anderson plug to both sections to make it more universal. how this helps a little
location - Warragul -Victoria
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Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:58

Reply By: HKB Electronics - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:19

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:19
I'm also using a Projecta, nice unit. I also have a Super cheap one and have two normal panels on the van that are detachable. I did also use a traditional folding type but thats been relegated to the spare room these days.

Blankets win hands down, lighter, take up less space etc. The projecta are good units in that they also come with a stand setup, its a bit mickey mouse but is functional. The supercheap blankets put out more than they claim, so do the Projecta from memory. The regulator supplied with the Projecta units though is a rubbish bin job unless they have improved them, the Projecta regulators are a good unit but these days I don't use the regulators on the blankets, I just plug the blankets straight into the car or van controller.

The only bug bear I have with both blankets is the cover material, it collects grass seeds, burrs etc, I always set them up on a plastic tarp or put them on a table etc to minimize.

As above the Projecta have a stand, the supercheap I just lay on the ground, you can more out of the Projectas but continually repointing them but I find you still get a good return from the supercheap just laying on the ground and you don't need to repoint it that way though you might have to occasionally drag it into the sunshine if there are trees about.
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Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:07

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:07
Thanks mate, very interesting that you have all 3 Solar PVs

My only thought with the blankets, is it would be hard to set the correct panel angle to follow the sun most effectively.

As with a solid construction, you can swivel East through West and set the desired angle

Nice to know the Projector has some kind of frame.
To be honest, i was looking at the $269 4WD Supercentre ones

I had previously considered a fixed 250W-300W panel on the roof, but release i'd loose to much with it not being aligned correctly, and vehicle in hot sun.

It is interesting to hear you are so happy with the blankets....
I didn't expect this
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Follow Up By: HKB Electronics - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:09

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:09
MY usage is a lot greater than yours, I have a 40Ltr freezer and a 80ltr fridge/freezer to feed, plus all the other mod cons hence the multiple types.

Laying them flat is not so much of an issue if there not obstructed, most caravans have them flat on the roof, keep in mind they'll always be in the sun as they won't be pointed away from it.

If you point them then you need to keep changing their position if you want to maximise their output, I find if your not there for the day that the blanket laying flat on the ground harvests more than the pointed array. Personally I don't want to hang round all day chasing the sun, I just lay one on the ground and point the others where the sun will be at midday and then take off. Of course it helps if you have excess capacity so that you can tolerate some inefficiency.

I have the three types but generally the 200W on the Van covers us most times, I tend to just raise the panel on the Vista if we there for a day in the sun. If staying a couple of days I'll take the two panels (200W) of the van and set them up. If we're staying longer then it depends on how much sun we get, as to if we break out the blankets.

Personally if I could I would mount flexible panels on the roof and hopefully they would cover the usage without needing to setup the blankets. Problem is don't want to have to park it in the sun, prefer to park under cover.
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Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:31

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:31
Thanks mate, really appreciate the insight into your usage and recovery methods.
As i will be adding a 60lt Fridge and making the 40lt i have a freezer in time.

Yes, you can never have too many panels, shallow discharged batteries are happy batteries, no matter what is asked of them ;)
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 21:33

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 21:33
Road Tech Marine have flexible panels, Salty, up to about 100 watts, from memory. They are a branch of Jaycar, so maybe Jaycar sell them too?

These flexible panels look quite sturdy, have a thin nylon backing and would free stand, up against a tyre, post or similar. They can't be folded like a blanket, but are thin enough you could fit them literally anywhere.

If you're going to run your 40L as a freezer, then shallow discharged batteries will be a thing of the past.......to a degree.

Bob

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Follow Up By: TerraFirma - Thursday, Feb 01, 2018 at 18:13

Thursday, Feb 01, 2018 at 18:13
The Supercheap ridge Rider is a good blanket but ditch the regulator. I have both a Redarc 190w and Super cheap 150w running through a Redarc 30amp regulator for the price of the Ridge Rider was great value $400 at the time. I like the fact they fold up and are easy to stow
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Reply By: Jarse - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:20

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:20
I had a 160w suitcase style folding one, which weighed a tonne and took up heaps of space.
I replaced it with a Projecta 120w. Best decision I ever made. It takes up a fraction of the space the folding one did, which means it fits in a lot of other places for storage. There’s also a not insignificant weight saving.
It takes a couple of minutes more to set up, but its output is better than the previous one.
The only downside was its price in comparison to the 160w.

The only mod I have made is add a second unregulated lead as our camper has a Redarc Manager 30 with its own regulator.
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Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:09

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:09
Thanks mate, that sounds like you are really sold on the blanket.

Yes, i will not be using the reg that comes with it, have Victron and Redarc products to look after Batteries, which allows a better voltage delivery over that longer lead.
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Reply By: rlhydn - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:23

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 17:23
I have the a3 sized 80w folding solar panels from Projecta. Powerful with a small footprint.

If they were to die (going on 6years old now, still good) I would buy them again but probably the 120w size.

Goal Zero make the same - with an even slimmer profile so I’d probably go wth them.

I have 2x 90 fixed panels on the roof and it’s by far the best battery maintenance method I think - if you can afford the roof space.

Be mindful of how some panels and blankets are built - some will stop all charging if one cell or section is obstructed or in shade.
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Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:14

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:14
Thanks rlhydn.

IS it the PV type that determines what effect partial shading has on output or the controller type? IE: MPPT vs PWM
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Reply By: Salty Dog - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:22

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 18:22
Thank you for the input fellas....

Seems more people are taken by the Solar Blankets than i had considered.
Brings me to another point, the cost

And leaving them out at camp while you are gone for the day and the potential for theft.
I know that could happen with any panel, but a suit case style isn't that $$$ and is a bit of a prick to steal.
Where as the blanket in some cases costs $1000 and can be run off with.

I guess don't leave them out un attended is the answer.
AnswerID: 616487

Follow Up By: HKB Electronics - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:15

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:15
Yep can be an issue, we usually camp remotely so not so much an issue for us. If I'm worried about losing them I loop a stainless steel cable around them, through holes etc, and another that has an alarm on it that activates if you cut the wire.
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Reply By: swampy - Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:39

Monday, Jan 29, 2018 at 19:39
Hi
Security
Thin stainless cable
or
cheaper than above ,4.5mtr / 10mtr bicycle shop security cable 8-10mm plastic covered loop either end , 4.5mtr 20$ delivered

or alarm cable

The situation is
fixed solar cheapest /most reliable traditional at least 160w
portable either traditional / flexi / blanket

Depending upon situation individual controllers or fixed mounted solar controller
Redarc 25amp Mppt /dc/dc
IDc Projecta 25amp Mppt dc/dc

AnswerID: 616488

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 at 00:18

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 at 00:18
The thin lightweight flexible panels have been bad news in my experience.
Bought a 100W one and after 6 months it died - we were up in the Kimberley and the panel got very hot and never had an output again.
And last year was up in the Flinders Ranges and one of my travelling friends had 4 of these panels on the fibreglass poptop roof of his hybrid caravan - no output, we checked the panels and many of the cells were cracked. Replaced under warranty and speaking to him today it appears they have failed again.

So I have gone back to reliable glass panels - Got a 60W permanently on the 200 roof to help with the engel, 240W on the caravan roof, 60W on the Tvan roof and I carry a 100W glass panel as a mobile one.
If they are roof mounted, you never have to set them up, they work all the time when in sun, and they don't get stolen.
2012 Landcruiser 200 Altitude
2015 New Age MR16E Deluxe
2003 Tvan

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Reply By: Member - Sue & Joe L (QLD) - Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 at 14:59

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 at 14:59
Hi Salty Dog,

Check out Flexopower , we have 2 roll out camp 79watt panels,
They keep our landcruisers twin battery’s charged when bush camping,
We run a 40litre Engel with no problems via an Anderson plug.this will be our 4th year with them.
They are indestructable used by South African Forces great video to watch we originally had them for our Conqueror UE490 but now we have the caravan they are fantastic both fit into the draws in the back of the cruiser.
Regards Joe.
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Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 at 16:17

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 at 16:17
Thank Joe

That is very glowing review :)
I had just been researching flexible or foldable panels, seems a of cheap one break the electrical connection at the folding points after a while.

Nice to hear you have had a good run from yours :)
Thank you for sharing that.
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Reply By: TTTSA - Thursday, Feb 01, 2018 at 15:03

Thursday, Feb 01, 2018 at 15:03
We have had the 200w rigid type solar panels for a couple of years and they have performed great. They are very heavy, large and cumbersome to handle.

Bought a 190w Redarc solar blanket and couldn't be more happy, 6kg instead of about 22kg, fold up to 30cmx30cmx6cm instead of 80cmx60cmx10cm. We can just tuck the folded blanket away in many spaces in the vehicle compared to the rigid panels taking up a huge amount of space.

We just lay the blanket flat on the ground which works great, of course we could have done this with the rigid panels but they have a frame so you feel compelled to use the frame and that can be painful moving them (3 folding panels all joined together all wanting to go their own way). I wouldn't even consider buying rigid panels now.

Cheers
Peter
AnswerID: 616545

Follow Up By: Salty Dog - Thursday, Feb 01, 2018 at 18:38

Thursday, Feb 01, 2018 at 18:38
Thanks TTTSA,

I was just about to pull the trigger on a Traditional 200Watt Panel for reasons of Output and Price...

Your post has me reconsidering.
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Follow Up By: TTTSA - Friday, Feb 02, 2018 at 19:41

Friday, Feb 02, 2018 at 19:41
Salty Dog

$ per output W is pretty favourable for the traditional panels, the Redarc in particular aren't cheap. The size that they fold up and the total weight just suited us much better.

Cheers
Peter
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Reply By: cruiser80 - Sunday, Feb 04, 2018 at 17:39

Sunday, Feb 04, 2018 at 17:39
I got one of the Ridge Ryder 150w solar panel from Supercheap auto when they were on sale. Got sick of it just laying on the ground or flopping over something to try and catch the sun at the best angle. So got a bunch of water pipe and connectors and made the following frame. It break down to about 6 pieces for packing into the camper.
AnswerID: 616665

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