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Thread: Need opinions on a portable solar charging setup, before I buy...

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* ChrisGarrett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Miami, Florida

    Default Need opinions on a portable solar charging setup, before I buy...

    First, thanks for any help.

    I had a longer post typed up 5 minutes ago, but the power glitched during a lightning storm and I don't have a UPS hooked up yet, lol!

    I'm in Miami and power can go out for weeks at a time during hurricanes, so I want to do a small, portable 'solar panel>controller>SLA' type dohickey for running my Maha, LaCrosse and Xtar chargers, my cell phone, a SLA Coleman lantern and any other light duty gadgets that I might have handy.

    I want to keep it under $400, otherwise, I'm approaching Honda EF-2000 territory, which will keep the beer frosty.

    I've also read the most recent threads on the topic and I'll be copying what some of you are already using. I'm mostly concerned with making the right choice on each component. I've been price shopping, so I'm confident that I've done my proper homework, once I know what to buy.

    Here we go:

    Solar panel brands: Goal Zero, PowerFilm and Brunton all make either rollable, or foldable 10w-27w panels which will fit into something like my Dokocil 4 pistol plastic case. I'm shooting for a minimum of 20w and I'll go up to that ~27w-28w range.

    Right now, the ~27w folders are betwen $280 GZ and $325 PF. The 26w Brunton Solaris is harder to find and while I missed a new on at $235, they are priced at the upper range.

    There is also the 20w-21w class, but these single panels are close enough in price to the 27w class, that it makes more sense to just get the higher output panel, since they're roughly the same size and I'll only be paying 10-15% more, but I'll get 30-35% more output.

    We also have a 13.5w class which I'll need two of, but again, the single ~27 watters are the better buy.

    Finally, the 10w folders are out there, but one needs to use a Y connector to join them, which isn't a big deal. Best price I've found is at EcoDirect.com for the PowerFilm 15-600 10w/.6a foldable at $108 before shipping. I would need two, to get to that 20w range.

    What to do, what to buy?

    Next up are the controllers. I'm not going to go cheap, but I'm going to have to stay with PWM and not MPPT.

    Sunforce and Morningstar are the two that I'm researching.

    The 12v/30a SunForce is ~$50-$60 shipped, the Morningstar SunSaver-6L-12 (6a max load but with low voltage disconnect) is about $45-$50 shipped and finally, the MS SS-10L-12 is about $60-$70, shipped. They all have separate LOAD connections, but no digital display for voltage.

    Lastly, the brands of SLA 12v/12Ah that I'm eyeing are Yuasa, PowerSonic and perhaps Rhino. Are they all built the same, as I see a lot of generics out there and I'm not spending $70 on a Panasonic. I can get the PS for ~$38 shipped, the Yuasa is about $44 shipped. Rhinos are less than either. This battery will be sitting idle for most of its life span, so keep this in mind.

    Anyhow, I appreciate any guidance/help/suggestions before I start shelling out the cash.

    Last edited by ChrisGarrett; 07-16-2012 at 06:09 PM.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Lost In Space

    Default Re: Need opinions on a portable solar charging setup, before I buy...

    always get WAY more solar than you think you will need, or have "tracking" or manuel tracking, like 2X so when you say it could be done with 30W dont even think it could be done with 20, more like 50 or 60. so go high, mabey not as high as 60 but dont even bother with your lows, you will waste your time and money.

    the more portable it is , the more likly it is plastic cells not glass cells, i dont like plastic cells, they might be lightweight , but they take way to much space and did not work in clouds as well for me in testing, if possible go for the glass foldables as opposed to the plastic, they might have made big improvements on the maleable solar but they can still be crunched/damaged by creasing or crunching anyways , and it always seems to take up to much space , and makes a great kite :-) so rollables still needs somewhere to tie it down like across the roof of your car or something, then how do you adjust for azmiths.

    With such lower wattages like 30W and down potentially just one fat truck sized marine cell (in battery box) would not get destroyed without an expencive controller, assuming you have some sort of usage of the power, and some manuel watching going on. if you use gell cells then it would be required to control the max charge. a controller for gells would have to be way more carefull then a controller for wet cells, bubbles in the gells are death.
    Just like having more solar, always have way more storage than you think you will need, it will then require less maintance, get deep discharged less, and actually still have power in low times.

    when you say portable, how portable? car portable? hand carry portable ? or truck portable?

    back up to the first thing I said, the more you convert, control, transcode and transduce the more you lose, so methods that have the least ammounts of losses are very usefull when working solar, either have a beastly panel and full sun and it pointed AT the sun, or get your gas generator.
    What I did here, was buy the solar first, have an ampmeter (at least) and play with it, and play with it more, hands on seeing what occurs will be the most value to you.

    I cant answer most of your questions, but that is about how it goes. Yusa and panasonic good cells, but freshness of the cell, and never overcharging is going to be most important, stuff that is not maintanced and gathering dust on a shelf it wont matter the brand if it is old and poorly kept in the store.
    Last edited by VidPro; 07-17-2012 at 10:10 PM.

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