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Solar Panel Charging

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by campforums, Nov 27, 2014.

  1. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    @Northern Dancer, how well do you find the Solar Panel works when your base camp is in a wooded area? I thought they basically did not work unless they were exposed to direct sunlight or maybe I was wrong.
     
  2. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    The newer technology substitutes for some of the deficiency. I tested the instruments that I used this summer and I was pleased. Like every source of power/energy there are pros and cons. The reality is that there is going to be more and more of this kind of resource in the market place. I think it prudent as a serious camper that I at least give it a good try.
     
  3. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Normally I just accept that when my batteries are dead they're dead but it is good to know they they are usable even in the forest. I recently read an article about some signifigant improvements to solar technology that have been discovered. I hope that doesn't mean yours are obsolete just yet ;)
     
  4. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    It doesn't take long for things to become obsolete - that is why I am more than suspicious when equipment [whatever it might be] is sale price at 75% off. Then again - it's always a matter of what one wants and what one needs.
     
  5. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    As someone who carries solar into the woods myself, I have to chime in on this. With a good panel and an MPPT controller, I think you'd be surprised at how little light is needed to get a battery charged. I have a 100 watt monocrystalline panel that seems to charge almost into dusk. I've never put a meter on it, but the charging light on the controller doesn't go out until it starts getting dark and I've never left the site with a depleted battery - and I do run a lot of stuff. An inverter for a speaker system, LED lights, cell phone charging, mattress inflator, etc. To be fair, the group I go with is large enough that we don't take sites that are too dense with trees so there's usually a spot that's open enough to grab some good sun.
     
  6. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    I'm with you - I have an escape goal zero solar panel kit for base camp because I tend to be out for longer periods of time.
     
  7. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Interesting, to be honest I do not have much experience with solar panels because I have always seen them as kind of gimmicky and never really bothered researching them that much but your post along with some of the things @Northern Dancer has shared is beginning to change my mind. I think for next summer I am going to look into getting one. Do most solar panels have some kind of MPPT controller built in? Or what is the range of voltages that your panel puts out without one? I can imagine it would be really useful in keeping the power flowing as the daylight starts to dim.

    How big is the 100W panel and the battery you use with it? I'd guess it would probably be quite hefty... like a car battery or something?
     
  8. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    There are two types of controllers - PWM and MPPT. I won't go into too much detail as to the difference between the two, other than to say that the MPPT controllers optimize the charge rate and are considerably more expensive than the PWMs. I've been looking at solar for years and I can't say I've ever seen a panel with a controller built in. There are certainly kits you can buy that will include everything you need. You do NOT want to run a solar panel without a controller - the output is too unstable, depending on the sun it gets. In full sun, I'm pretty sure all panels designed to charge 12 volt batteries well over 12 volts. That could be catastrophic to anything you hook to it. Also, even with a controller, the current is too unstable to run electronics directly from the panel - you really do need to have a battery.

    Here's the 100W panel I have, from a company called Renogy. This is the controller. Before I had a way to charge in the field, I used to have to drag a marine deep cycle battery out with me to get through along weekend. SOmetimes, by the end of the trip, I was getting low voltage shut downs on my inverter. But, with the solar set up, I found I didn't need the big reserve minutes. I now carry a 35 amp hour gel cell. Instead of a 70 pound battery (with the potential for spilled acid), it's a 26 pound, safely sealed battery.

    As far as their being gimmicky, I think those days are past. The panel efficiencies are higher than they've ever been and the prices at an all-time low. I bought the Renogy because the specs looked good enough to keep up with my needs and it's a lot cheaper than some of the big names like Sharp and Kyocera. My setup's been out on half a dozen trips and hasn't let me down yet, even when the weekend was overcast. Gotta love that, right? Loved it so much I bought a 50 watt panel last month to keep an 18 amp hour battery going "just in case".
     
    campforums likes this.
  9. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    Goal Zero's gear is SWEET! But when I looked at their generators, I thought I was gonna have a heart attack when I saw the prices.
     
  10. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    "What thou sayest is truest!" I have a little motto - "You ain't buyin nottin until its on sale." And the whole unit [escape 150] that included the battery, panel, and one light was at a good price at Costco. Their lights were cheaper too so I bought two more. Ya...even then it was still a bit costly. BUT...when you get to know me you will find I like my toys. [They have to be good toys.]

    :bear: He ain't kiddin either!
     
    campforums likes this.
  11. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    I use to think that solar stuff was gimmicky until I did some research and study. That's the key I think -
    you have to know what your needs are and then do your homework because it is an investment. Not all solar panels are what the manufactures say they are. Like everything else that is sold on the open market - beware, do your homework, read the consumers reports written by consumers and ask around.


    If you haven't check out Goal Zero, among other things you will find their history rather interesting. There is a Goal Zero centre on both sides of the United States and Canada boarder.

    They have various packs - some for hikers, campers, people in trailers, emergency stuff and so on. REMEMBER "...you don't purchase until it's on sale" or you have found the best possible price. I have found that Costco had the best price for the escape 150.


    upload_2014-12-19_18-4-16.jpeg I have a total of four lights. This kit is used for base camp.
     
  12. BMWPOWER

    BMWPOWER Moderator Staff Member

    I have to agree, I always thought solar panels are pretty doodoo. But then again I am basing my experience on the little lights that you plant in the front yard or backyard. Those things die out after a couple hours without sunlight.
     
  13. actadh

    actadh Explorer

  14. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

  15. happyflowerlady

    happyflowerlady Survivalist

    I have a few solar lights around the outside of the house and they do a good job of adding light, even though they are not very strong. We have one out by the shop that comes on with a motion sensor. It stays on low, and then if you walk out there, it comes on brighter. I have one of the folding solar panels that my daughter gave me in case we have another bad tornado season here. The last time we had bad ones, we had no power for almost two weeks, and we were very glad to have even the few solar lights that we had. I left them to charge every day, and then we used then in the house at night.

    My daughter has one of those tall things that is in your picture on the left of the solar panel, Dancer. She uses it to keep her iPad charged when she can't use a charger. I think that even if a person doesn't go camping, having some of the solar equipment is just a good plan, as part of being prepared fo any kind of a disaster.
     
    MacGyver likes this.
  16. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Thanks for all the great info. It actually like that there are all different components because that way I can upgrade separately and replace things as the need it. Like for example batteries normally have a limited life cycle before they stop being able to hold a charge. And there are always better, more efficient solar panels coming out which might make a good upgrade. I am always seeing articles in the paper or on science sites showing the latest innovations in solar technology. It is awesome :D

    How do you normally carry your battery? Does it have a handle or something, 26 pounds isn't too heavy but it might be somewhat awkward to hold depending on what it's made of.. Is it not a lead-acid one?

    So you can see where I'm coming from then :p
    I guess that just means I haven't done the research yet lol

    What kind of lights? Pshh, I like my camp fire too much to run lights during the night when I am camping. But some speakers, a fan or two or a peltier plate for cooling some drinks would be nice.
     
  17. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    The gel cells are lead core but, as the name suggests, they're encased in a gel instead of the typical acid like car batteries and deep cycles. I actually have several gels, but the 35 amp hour is the only one with a handle. It's really not a necessity because 26 pounds really isn't much.

    Yes, the batteries have a limited life cycle, but I usually get 2 or 3 years out of 'em. I just look at it as another consumable. If you want to really go high-end and get more life out of your batteries, go lithium. They have an infinitely better discharge curve, don't develop a memory like lead acid and gels do and are way lighter. Unfortunately, they're also still very expensive. I've been wanting to put lithiums in my electric powered canoe but can't see putting out $4000 for three 100 amp batteries.

    My lighting solution:
    A 3-watt LED reflector bulb sitting at the top of a modified 15 foot golf ball retriever handle. Lights up a fairly wide area enough to see what you're doing and avoids the glare of lights at eye level. Great in warm weather when the bugs go for the light.
     
  18. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    You can charge your iPad - including hooking up computers, small appliances and such. The strides made in the field are pronominal and they continue to improve the product line. Everywhere, especially agricultural lands, you can see the solar panels. We have a house in the neighbourhood that the whole one side of the roof is solar panel. Interesting stuff. I use if for lighting inside my Alaknak - as you know I'm away for longer periods of time and do enjoy good lighting for that night time reading and socializing when its pouring down outside.
     
    happyflowerlady likes this.
  19. happyflowerlady

    happyflowerlady Survivalist

    I was reading my news tonight, and Steve Quayle had an advertisement for one of these mini solar generators on his website. It works on the same idea as your larger one, but takes up a whole lot less space. It not only is a light, but it has a built-in rechargeable battery, and can be used to charge up cell phones, laptops, or tablets, anything that uses a USB cord. It also has a little hanger, and an be hung up for light when you are working somewhere with no electricity, like under the hood of your car (heaven forbid!), and need to be able to see. Here is the little video that shows all of the things it can do, and costs under $30 for the whole thing.

     
  20. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Wow, that's crazy that there is such a price difference for the lithium ones. I mean especially considering how many electronic devices use lithium batteries these days, I would only assume that the technology would have begun to trickle down to other products like camping batteries. Hopefully these are the kind of things which will be $4000 now but drop to a couple hundred bucks within a few years.

    Talking about battery tech always takes me back to high school chemistry class... :confused:
     
  21. MacGyver

    MacGyver Survivalist

    Prompted by this discussion, I did a little searching for lithium battery price trends. They (whoever they are) say the prices are supposed to start dropping in a few years, sparked by the electric car industry wanting to sell more vehicles. I'd say it's about time. I regularly check prices at a couple of sites and I haven't seen any appreciable change, if any, in at least two years. Some, like Braille batteries, are way over the top with their prices yet. I contacted Lithium Ion Batteries.com, asking if they'd offer me a discount for multiple battery purchases and they agreed to it. But it still came to over $3500 for three 100 amp batteries and three chargers. Hopefully the predictions I read will come true and in a few years I might be able to see taking out a loan to make my canoe scoot a little faster. They'd also be great to have in the home solar array I'd like to set up, but that ain't happenin' yet either!
     
  22. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Thank you for sharing your research, that is probably too expensive for me right now also but I guess electric cars batteries are a more similar comparison than to cell phones given the size difference. Have you bought other types of batteries from those stores before? What prompted you to visit those sites? Or is it something that came up in search?

    For something like a home solar array, what would the advantage be? I mean if you are out camping then size and weight is a huge factor but for home use you just want huge capacity right? I guess the charge cycle and discharge curve you were talking about would come into play but only if it were cheaper than simply replacing other batteries as they wear out.
     
  23. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    ...I guess I will have just have to rely on the candles, kerosene lanterns and my little goal zero pack.:(

    :bear: Don't let him kid yah, as soon as it becomes viable he will think of some way to pay for it and add to his already abundant camp resources.
     
  24. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Little?

    Goal_Zero_Guide_10_Plus_Review-3-sm.jpg

    or LITTLE!!?

    yeti-1250-2500.jpg
     
    MacGyver likes this.
  25. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

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