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Old 07-25-2021, 08:54 PM   #1
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Suitcase or Residential

Hello all,

Im toying with the idea of upgrading my popup with the addition of a solar suitcase or residential panel. Renogy makes a nice 200 watt suitcase but itís almost $600. Thatís a lot of $$$/watt.

Has anyone built their own suitcase, or used a larger residential panel with a popup?

Just curious what options exist, what makes sense and whatís not worth the time and/or money.

Many thanks

Bryan
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Old 07-26-2021, 12:36 AM   #2
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Here is a 200 watt Renogy for way under $600.
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Old 07-26-2021, 08:03 AM   #3
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I built my own with two Renogy 100W Eclipse panels wired in series and a Victron controller mounted inside the trailer.

You should be able to build a better system yourself for $600.

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Old 07-27-2021, 09:13 PM   #4
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My understanding is that the eclipse panels are more efficient of the two from Renogy. How much was tour build and how is the performance? What do you use for connecting the charger to the battery.

My pup has the built in plug on the front for attaching the output of the charger. I’m guessing this is robust enough the handle 200 watts of solar?
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Old 07-28-2021, 07:13 AM   #5
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My understanding is that the eclipse panels are more efficient of the two from Renogy. How much was tour build and how is the performance? What do you use for connecting the charger to the battery.

My pup has the built in plug on the front for attaching the output of the charger. Iím guessing this is robust enough the handle 200 watts of solar?
I probably have close to $600 into my entire set up, but I have a fairly expensive Victron SmartSolar 75/15 MPPT controller.

Originally we were using the factory SAE plug on the trailer, I've since installed an Anderson plug.

The suitcase works great. I prefer having the panels wired in series so I don't have to worry about voltage drop between the panels and controller. I have three different extension cords made up from 10 AWG landscaping wire with Anderson plugs so I can get about 50' from the trailer if needed, this is important since we always to seem to be camping in heavily wooded areas.





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Old 07-28-2021, 08:04 AM   #6
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Snazzy Set-up. Just about what I am looking to do.
how much energy are you claiming on a good sun day and where are you located?
Is the phone/web interface part of the Victron charger?
Thanks!
Bryan
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Old 07-28-2021, 08:31 AM   #7
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Snazzy Set-up. Just about what I am looking to do.
how much energy are you claiming on a good sun day and where are you located?
Is the phone/web interface part of the Victron charger?
Thanks!
Bryan
Located in middle TN.

That last picture was the panels sitting out in the sun on a mostly clear day around 11:00AM.

So 12.5A is a realistic charge input to the batteries in good conditions thanks to the MPPT controller and series wiring, not bad for panels rated at an optimum operating current (Imp) of 5.70A.
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Old 07-28-2021, 12:19 PM   #8
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Other than size, why are people not using residential panels?

Does anyone make a more powerful monocrystaline in a compact size greater than 100W?
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Old 07-28-2021, 01:13 PM   #9
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Other than size, why are people not using residential panels?



Does anyone make a more powerful monocrystaline in a compact size greater than 100W?
Solar panels wattage comes from number of individual cells in it's construction.

More power equals more cells, thus larger size.

Only differences in panels is usually whether rectangular or square. Square footage will remain same on same output rating.

As for building your own, I built my own just like previously pictured. However I used two HQST 100 watt panels I purchased for $160 on Amaxon. Wired in series and used an MPPT controller which can be purchased starting around $50 and up.

I have a Smart MPPT controller and when panels are under full sun I've recorded MORE than the 200 Watts the two panels are rated for.

Here are screenshots from my monitor showing peak output and "solar harvest" for the day.

Note, previous day was cloud covered sky and raining. Still charged batteries and next day finished the job. Bank is two LiFePo4 Battleborns
.Click image for larger version

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Old 07-28-2021, 02:18 PM   #10
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Solar panels wattage comes from number of individual cells in it's construction.

More power equals more cells, thus larger size.

Only differences in panels is usually whether rectangular or square. Square footage will remain same on same output rating.

As for building your own, I built my own just like previously pictured. However I used two HQST 100 watt panels I purchased for $160 on Amaxon. Wired in series and used an MPPT controller which can be purchased starting around $50 and up.

I have a Smart MPPT controller and when panels are under full sun I've recorded MORE than the 200 Watts the two panels are rated for.

Here are screenshots from my monitor showing peak output and "solar harvest" for the day.

Note, previous day was cloud covered sky and raining. Still charged batteries and next day finished the job. Bank is two LiFePo4 Battleborns
.Attachment 259966Attachment 259965
That's impressive.

I figured We'd get more out of ours in better conditions. Haven't had the chance to really test them yet unfortunately.
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Old 07-28-2021, 06:43 PM   #11
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Originally we were using the factory SAE plug on the trailer, I've since installed an Anderson plug.
Great setup. Why did you change out the plug?

I have a Renogy 200W suitcase going into the GoPower SAE plug on the side, but am thinking about building my own over the winter to extract the greatest efficiency out of the setup.
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Old 07-28-2021, 07:06 PM   #12
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Most suitcases have the charge controller built into the suitcase and send the charge voltage directly to the battery ( subject to line losses). Panels supply a higher voltage ( lower current /less loss) to a controller near the battery. Portable panel stands can easily and inexpensively made from PVC ( selectively glue joints ) which collapse for easy transport.
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Old 07-28-2021, 10:09 PM   #13
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Most suitcases have the charge controller built into the suitcase and send the charge voltage directly to the battery ( subject to line losses). Panels supply a higher voltage ( lower current /less loss) to a controller near the battery. Portable panel stands can easily and inexpensively made from PVC ( selectively glue joints ) which collapse for easy transport.
Yes.

To add, more efficiency is achieved by wiring panels in series (which can also be done in most suitcase setups) and utilizing an MPPT controller next to battery rather then the less expensive PWM controllers that are often standard with a suitcase. MPPT controllers are down in price from just a few years ago with only the smart, bluetooth equipped, controllers being higher priced.
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Old 07-29-2021, 06:51 AM   #14
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Great setup. Why did you change out the plug?

I have a Renogy 200W suitcase going into the GoPower SAE plug on the side, but am thinking about building my own over the winter to extract the greatest efficiency out of the setup.
I just prefer the connection of the Anderson plugs.
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Old 07-29-2021, 09:58 AM   #15
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I just prefer the connection of the Anderson plugs.
No question that the Anderson plugs are superior. That said, the SAE connectors aren't all that bad for most solar connections to suitcase units. Current is low and well within the capability of the SAE connector.

Either one will do the job.
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Old 07-29-2021, 12:30 PM   #16
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Other than size, why are people not using residential panels?



Does anyone make a more powerful monocrystaline in a compact size greater than 100W?
For silicon solar panels, Area = Amps. Every solar cell makes about 0.5V. Mono cells are more efficient than poly cells since they do not have to deal with grain boundaries in the cell.

Silicon cells are getting close to thier theoretical efficiency limit so getting more power out of smaller footprints is unlikely. There are some tricks manufacturers are trying but it will not be a significant boost in efficiency.

If you can fit and mount residential panels they will work fine. Being larger they are harder to mount in mobile applications.

I am not a fan of the flexible panels for a few reasons. You are taking a brittle material and asking it to flex. It can bend to a certain degree, but the silicon and the collection grid on the cell start to develop micro cracks hastening thier failure. Also, solar panels loose efficiency as thier temperature increases. Rigid panels allow air to flow around them. Flexible panels do not limiting thier ability to cool. Finally, flex panels are usually mounted on curved surfaces. This limits the amount of the panel at the optimum angle to the sun.

Lots of minutia with solar setups if you want to get into it. Basically, figure out what you need and then find the most effective solution for you.
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Old 08-01-2021, 08:30 PM   #17
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Yes.

To add, more efficiency is achieved by wiring panels in series (which can also be done in most suitcase setups) and utilizing an MPPT controller next to battery rather then the less expensive PWM controllers that are often standard with a suitcase. MPPT controllers are down in price from just a few years ago with only the smart, bluetooth equipped, controllers being higher priced.
We have two 100 watt hgst panels, I find better overall performance in parallel. I use 10 awg solar wire, about 40í. The panels are SO sensitive to shading, and since we are woodsy campers, seem to be chasing sun spots around the site. In series, when one panel is shaded, you lose at least 3/4 output, but if one starts to get shaded in parallel, the performance loss seems to be much less. In either configuration, max output is about the same. Advantage goes to series in low light, but overall I think parallel works better. Itís certainly easy to experiment, I have a cable to interconnect in series, and a pair of y connectors for parallel.
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Old 08-01-2021, 09:05 PM   #18
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We have two 100 watt hgst panels, I find better overall performance in parallel. I use 10 awg solar wire, about 40í. The panels are SO sensitive to shading, and since we are woodsy campers, seem to be chasing sun spots around the site. In series, when one panel is shaded, you lose at least 3/4 output, but if one starts to get shaded in parallel, the performance loss seems to be much less. In either configuration, max output is about the same. Advantage goes to series in low light, but overall I think parallel works better. Itís certainly easy to experiment, I have a cable to interconnect in series, and a pair of y connectors for parallel.
Last trip I played around with shading parts of my HQST panels. Wasn't a big deal where I was. The series panels feeding my MPPT controller start charging almost as soon as the sun comes up and keep charging until sun almost disappears. Length of charging day, at least to me, makes up for any shading issues. Shading where I camp is usually from clouds and that reduces output on any configuration.
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