(I think you should buy an Engel :) - Solar panels for real men!

Submitted: Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 14:27
ThreadID: 34093 Views:3590 Replies:8 FollowUps:2
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We need to maintain standards when we go bush: so in order to ensure my electric toothbrush is always fully charged I'm thinking of buying a solar panel (settle down Derek - I have trade accounts :) probably something like a 50W or 80W unit.

How robust have people found these mid size solar panels to be in _real_ situations when you tend to fall over them in the night or drop them off the roof rack when setting up, the normal (accidental) rough treatment things sometimes get in the bush. I don't want $500 or $600 worth of item I have to nursemaid - I already have that with a computer and a camera.

Mike Harding

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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:14

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:14
Mike, Jim mounted our first panel on a frame made of lightweight timber, with a stand. It could be propped up safely to face the sun, or put on top of the wind-up caravan, when stationary. It travelled safely with all the other junk on the floor of the van and we went on some rough roads. The frame had the added benefit of reinforced it so no flexing. Now you can get flexible ones which would be safer if you tend to drop everything!?!


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AnswerID: 173789

Reply By: djpatrol - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:54

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:54
I use a 64watt Unisolar Panel in a aluminium frame its has a flexible panel no glass does the job to run my Bushman Fridge with plenty in reserve charges about 3.8 amp with a small 5watt regulator fitted into the junction box the panel is a bit on the large side but fits neatly accross behind the front seats of the Patrol it measures in frame 137x74cm .Also hav a 125watt Kyocera on top of Caravan plenty of GRUNT for our offroad camping.
AnswerID: 173794

Follow Up By: V8 Troopie - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 01:00

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 01:00
I have that same panel. Took it out of the stiff aluminium frame and mounted it on a curved plywood backing. Why curved? To fit snug over the bimini sunshade on my boat of course! The panel itself is only 3mm thick. The massive connector box can be removed too and replaced with something a lot slimmer, if one wants a low profile panel.
Then there are the 32W flexible Unisolar panels which require no frame at all. These would be plenty to charge the original posters toothbrush ;-)

FollowupID: 429857

Reply By: Steve - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:59

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 15:59
They're not actually that fragile Mike. Not as much as a computer or camera, anyway. It should come in a box complete with packaging which we've found sufficient when transporting. Once you're set up you'd have to be Blind Freddie to fall over it, even at night.
AnswerID: 173795

Reply By: Member - Brian (WA) - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 16:19

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 16:19
Mike. Have mine on the roof when we go away. Out the way no tripping over them.
Had frames made for them which I can tilt if need be. fit on RHINO racks. They
must be quite tough I have had no trouble with them, h ad the about 5yrs now. Hope this works. Brian
AnswerID: 173798

Follow Up By: Member - Brian (WA) - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 16:21

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 16:21
FollowupID: 429750

Reply By: Mad Dog (Australia) - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 16:32

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 16:32
Mike, I've been using a 55 watt BHP job for the last 10 years, it's done service on top of a caravan, in the back of a 4x4, on top of the shed and now on top of my pergola to keep the security light going at night, no special precuations, it's been dropped, bumped and chucked around, go for it.
AnswerID: 173800

Reply By: Derek from Affordable Batteries & Radiators - Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 20:31

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 20:31
Hi Mike,

Thank you for thinking about me.

My ABR 100W Bi-fold will suit most people. The BP panels used are quite strong and don't need to be nursemaided. Don't drop them on a rock or likes but they will give you years of good service. Keep them in the carry bag and when travelling use a piece of 3mm ply to protect the cells if you intend packing things on top of them.

Regards Derek.
AnswerID: 173837

Reply By: pilbaradisco - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 03:01

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 03:01
Most are designed to take hail stones up to a certain size and gailforce winds over 220km/h!

AnswerID: 173887

Reply By: VK3CAT - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 18:57

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 18:57
Hi Mike. I have been using 3 Solarex 55 watt panels for the past 8 years. They are about 1 metre long and 450mm wide and are mounted in a 50mm aluminium frame. I have dropped them a few times (not from hight) and they are close to as good as new! Been through the high country, Big Desert, Simpson & Innamincka & around VK2 & 6.
Storing them is a bit of a pain. I now mostly use just 2 and have them mounted under the roof rack along side the Rhino bars of the roof rack.
2 panels will keep you going for a few days running the 40 litre Engel.
With a good AGM battery (Hi Dereck) you should be able to do a fast top up charge via the alternator. you need to position the panels during the day for best output. Panel efficiency will decrease with an increase in heat whilst the drain on the battery will increase with heatdue to the fridge running harder.
Solution, drink Scotch & not beer!!
Cheers, Tony.
AnswerID: 174033

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