Inexpensive solar blanket comparison and performance

I m sure most here have their solar set up well sorted out for what they do. Below is a quick test I did of an inexpensive solar blanket if you are in the market for one.

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When camping every one knows solar is a great way to go for keeping your batteries charged up, your fridge and lights on. But there are so many ways to go with solar panels. Some are over the top expensive, some are over the top with their unfounded claims.

I bought a $200 AUD solar blanket (not from Ebay) and pitted it against my good quality and expensive foldable rigid panels to see how it compared, and to show some of the things to look out for, and how to get the best performance.


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Reply By: Member - pedro1 - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 11:17

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 11:17
Thanks for a well made video, particularly interesting in the ineffectiveness of the cheap blanket in partial shade
AnswerID: 629248

Follow Up By: Dave B18 - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 14:31

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 14:31
Why would you have a solar panel in partial shade? Pretty dumb idea eh!
Because a panel doesn't perform in partial shade means nothing, and certainly nothing about the quality.
Depends on the type of panel and how the panel is wired, and if the cell material is crystalline or amorphous. Personally wouldn't touch an amorphous panel.
Have a cheap folding blanket panel purchased from eBay, and it has outperformed 5 other panels per watt costing up to 6 times as much. Sure it was listed at 200W, but knew by calculating out the area was a genuine 140W and would do what we wanted, but at under $200 didn't care as I knew what we were buying.
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Follow Up By: RMD - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 15:25

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 15:25
A panel without bypass diodes will not work in shade so pointless stating so. Even with the diodes the output is severely compromised. Shade is similar to night time. Mine won't work at night either.
As Dave mentioned, calculated on area and claimed efficiency and reducing that a little bit is realistic.
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Follow Up By: Member - pedro1 - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 19:24

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 19:24
In the real world you can be away from your van /car and the shade can sneak upon you , so if that happens , I like to think I am still getting some input from the solar . Especially late in the day .
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FollowupID: 904012

Follow Up By: Batt's - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 19:45

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 19:45
Why would you have a solar panel in partial shade? Pretty dumb idea eh!

Depends how you look at it I found it a pretty good tip as I expect others will as well. Not every one goes into the tech details of how they work and how much the output is effected from a bit of shade. Not everyone parks in the hot sun all day and depending where you park taking availability into account at times, the set up you have you may get shadows during the day from trees buildings off roof racks even an awning mounted next to the canopy etc. So he has now made people more aware of how a little shade can make a big difference good work well done thankyou for the video and the info not sure what was wrong about that.

My fixed solar panel on my alloy canopy still produce power sometimes parked in the shade under my carport which is 12mts long, attached to the side of the house be it a small amount I expect the glare off the neighbours white shed wall 3mts away may help contribute to that.
I also have tinted polycarbonate panels up the centre of the carport with 2 metal panels each side the voltmeter in my dash gets up to 13.7v sometimes when the sun is overhead shining through the poly sheets something else others or myself didn't expected would happen.
The solar panel I mounted in the rear window of my wife's Elantra is under a tinted window it works fine with a small reduction in output. Just some extra useless info some may find interesting or handy.
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Reply By: Rangiephil - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 14:39

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 14:39
MPPT(Maximum Power Point Tracking) controllers work best with higher voltages.
You can get more amp output by wiring the folding panel in series rather than parallel, as his is. This is why it still charges while partly shaded, but if a portion of both sides was shaded it would be the same as the folding panel ie nil charge.
The tradeoff for wiring in series is that the panel is now working as one panel and if a part is shaded you lose all amps.
Otherwise quite a good presentation.
One thing that has stopped me from buying a blanket is the difficulty in following the sun. A solid panel can more easily be angled to get maximum sunlight particularly in the morning and afternoon.
I have a frameless flexible panel to which I have fitted a light frame and stand . The aim being to lay flat on the bed of my camper trailer.
AnswerID: 629250

Follow Up By: Dave B18 - Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 17:21

Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 at 17:21
Thing is most of the elcheapo MPPT controllers for sale are not true MPPT at all or temperature compensated. A quality precision buck boost MPPT controller is good money. Users do not realise the importance of good solar controllers and the added longevity on AGM batteries.
I am not at all fussed on blanket type panels. In the inflatable boat a necessity. Like flat/flexible panels the failure rate is huge. The other issue is all the heat goes directly into the roof on whatever they are mounted.
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Follow Up By: qldcamper - Monday, Dec 30, 2019 at 08:08

Monday, Dec 30, 2019 at 08:08
I also believe series is the way to go but you need a devoted reg, most dc dc units have a max input voltage well below 36 volts. I use a victron reg.
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Follow Up By: eaglefree - Monday, Dec 30, 2019 at 12:37

Monday, Dec 30, 2019 at 12:37
Good video. Much appreciated.
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Reply By: ian - Monday, Dec 30, 2019 at 22:43

Monday, Dec 30, 2019 at 22:43
I found it useful. Thanks for your efforts
ian
AnswerID: 629261

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