SuperAwesomeDOOD’s TUFPORT build

200w Renogy solar panels are down from $299 to $219. I was thinking about picking up two of them to have 400w of solar. Any reasons to not go with Renogy 200w panels?
 

1000arms

Well-known member
200w Renogy solar panels are down from $299 to $219. I was thinking about picking up two of them to have 400w of solar. Any reasons to not go with Renogy 200w panels?
100W Renogy solar panels are currently $85 at Amazon. The 100W panels might be easier to fit to your application. It might be cheaper to replace one 100W panel than a 200W panel if damage occurs.

 

1000arms

Well-known member
Fair enough, I get what you are saying. I'm in my 30s still. I haven't earned the right through adequate life experience to be tired of anything yet!

*and yes, in my opinion a camper shell counts as a camper--it's even right there in the name just in case anyone forgets!

We have the larger camper for going to family camp trips with my parents and siblings. My sister has the same camper as we do and has no interest in roughing it when camping. My (74 going on 24 year old) dad is in the same boat as me: has the larger camper for marital purposes, but sleeps in a little tent that fits in his BMW GSA hard bags when he's by himself.

I wanted something to get a bit further off the beaten path too, but as a family unit. I tried talking my wife into a camper shell and RTT, but this was the smallest thing I could convince her to do. I showed her videos of couples with mom's breastfeeding infants in RTTs, she wasn't convinced. She's tough, but still has a longer list of "musts" than I. I'll pitch a tent.

Side note:
When I first got back to my home town; I lived in a cold, leaky little camper for 18 months to save money to build my business and buy property. I didn't know it was leaky at the time and the price was right. It was an 80s era Layton bumper pull. I filled the propane bottles when I picked it up, but they didn't last as long as I would have hoped making hot water for showers--about 4-5 weeks, if I remember correctly. I figured I could make do without hot water and took cold showers for the remainder of the duration to reduce costs. I still take cold showers, but for other reasons now.
:) ... I designed (and welded up) my first roofrack for my Jeep TJ so that I could sleep on it in a backpacking tent. It was quite useful, and I even slept on the roofrack under the stars in mosquito free areas, but I did sleep in the front seat of my Wrangler when there was lightning. :cool:
 
I read the reviews for the Renogy panels. There were just enough that mentioned they were shipped bad panels, ordered two panels at the same time and they were physically different dimensions, Renogy customer support is not good, etc to give me pause before purchasing.

That, and I looked around and the price isn't so good that I need to hurry up and buy. I read quite a bit about the Harbor Freight 100w panels. Many reviewers said the opposite of what some said about Renogy panels; that the HF panel output wattage exceeds rating. Other nice thing about HF, is that they are everywhere; so returns should be easy.

Only downside is that panels like Renogy and HF are probably chinese. I do as much as I can afford to avoid supporting the ccp. Are there any American or Canadian panels that you folks would recommend?
 
I ended up purchasing the Renogy 50 amp DC-DC/MPPT charger and the Renogy 2000w inverter charger. I’ve pretty much decided on 200w of flexible panels on the roof and 200w portable. The part I’ve been back and forth on is the battery bank.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I am ever so close to pulling the trigger on the battery portion of my setup and here’s where I’m at:

I don’t need low temp protection. My batteries will be in the conditioned space of the camper. As an additional safeguard, I can use a temp sensor of a thermostat switch in the battery compartment. That switch can be used as signal voltage to open and close a relay inline of the charging circuit from the dc to dc / mppt unit and inverter charger. Does this sound problematic?

This makes it very difficult to pay the premium for a battery such as an SOK or Battle Born, when I can get a Chins or Amperetime for roughly 60% of the SOK. Will Prowse (YouTube diy solar/battery guru) has already demonstrated that the Chins and Ampertime batteries have really good cells (grade A), however doesn’t like the lack of low temp protection. The cells are all made in china from my research, but grades of cells vary. Am I missing something?

Then I push that cost per Wh rational a step further. Why not buy individual cells on Amazon or eBay and build my own bank?
-The obvious upsides to this would be a much more flexible form factor, greater serviceability with individual cells and a price advantage over Chins and the like.
-the obvious downsides would be more wiring, protecting more wiring, less guarantee that I’m getting grade A cells and little to no warranty.

Which brings me to another question, if you don’t think my logic is flawed up to this point. Are there any sellers on Amazon or eBay that have a reputation for delivering what they are advertising?
 

andy_b

Active member
I ended up purchasing the Renogy 50 amp DC-DC/MPPT charger and the Renogy 2000w inverter charger. I’ve pretty much decided on 200w of flexible panels on the roof and 200w portable. The part I’ve been back and forth on is the battery bank.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I am ever so close to pulling the trigger on the battery portion of my setup and here’s where I’m at:

I don’t need low temp protection. My batteries will be in the conditioned space of the camper. As an additional safeguard, I can use a temp sensor of a thermostat switch in the battery compartment. That switch can be used as signal voltage to open and close a relay inline of the charging circuit from the dc to dc / mppt unit and inverter charger. Does this sound problematic?

This makes it very difficult to pay the premium for a battery such as an SOK or Battle Born, when I can get a Chins or Amperetime for roughly 60% of the SOK. Will Prowse (YouTube diy solar/battery guru) has already demonstrated that the Chins and Ampertime batteries have really good cells (grade A), however doesn’t like the lack of low temp protection. The cells are all made in china from my research, but grades of cells vary. Am I missing something?

Then I push that cost per Wh rational a step further. Why not buy individual cells on Amazon or eBay and build my own bank?
-The obvious upsides to this would be a much more flexible form factor, greater serviceability with individual cells and a price advantage over Chins and the like.
-the obvious downsides would be more wiring, protecting more wiring, less guarantee that I’m getting grade A cells and little to no warranty.

Which brings me to another question, if you don’t think my logic is flawed up to this point. Are there any sellers on Amazon or eBay that have a reputation for delivering what they are advertising?
TL;DR - buy an SOK and be done. Better value than either Battleborn, Chins, et al.

For solar, my experience has been that the flexible panels are cheaper and lighter at the cost of durability. I bought some extras when I got mine and put more effort at the front end to mounting them securely. My Sunpower flexible panels are made in France. For some reason I had to wire them only in sets of 3 or more. Weird.

I bought cells and BMS's and built my own from Current Connected. They have pretty good pre- and post-purchase support. Their BMS's have low temp protection so you're good there. You need a BMS anyhow and there isn't a good reason to search for one that doesn't have those features.

An alternative to the commonly seen blue prismatic cells are the Fortune cells. They have tougher cases that can be bolted together so no need for additional fixturing/compression. Their individual cells have lower amp hour ratings so you may need more to get the capacity you need.

From my experience building my own - the theoretical advantage of lighter weight and more adaptable form factor lured me in, but the headache of building everything from scratch makes me think I'd get something like an SOK. In addition, a commercial option has only two exposed terminals and their connections; my homebrew has wiring everywhere despite way too much time invested into making look as neat as possible.
 

NOPEC

Well-known member
I read the reviews for the Renogy panels. There were just enough that mentioned they were shipped bad panels, ordered two panels at the same time and they were physically different dimensions, Renogy customer support is not good, etc to give me pause before purchasing.

That, and I looked around and the price isn't so good that I need to hurry up and buy. I read quite a bit about the Harbor Freight 100w panels. Many reviewers said the opposite of what some said about Renogy panels; that the HF panel output wattage exceeds rating. Other nice thing about HF, is that they are everywhere; so returns should be easy.

Only downside is that panels like Renogy and HF are probably chinese. I do as much as I can afford to avoid supporting the ccp. Are there any American or Canadian panels that you folks would recommend?
I am on my third build using "GoPower" brand flexible panels from BC. I can't vouch for where they are made (I have my suspicions) but I did have a warranty issue with the original designed first ones I had. The service/warranty department was really amazing, at one point I had two guys on speaker phone in Victoria and me on my camper roof on a sunny day with my multimeter and cell phone, being walked through a diagnostic session. (I think part of their diagnostic session was figuring out that I am a little thick when it comes to electronics..... My new panel arrived in a few days).

Now if you are interested in "Going all Tactical" :rolleyes: , here are some black carbon fiber backed panels that are made in Saskatchewan. I don't know anything about them other than from their website but they do look interesting. (I guess techically not flexible but also nice in that they have no frame)

PS: Good comment on the ccp, I have a couple of good friends that are recent ex-pats from there. They say it is becoming a bigger Sshow there everyday, most of which is just not getting to the western media.
 
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simple

Adventurer
For reference I've been using a Renogy 100w bonded to the roof to charge a Goal Zero yeti 1000. I consider this the minimum charging and battery storage for a low power consumption weekend warrior setup. So far I haven't fully drained the battery but after a few days, It's low when I get home and ready to charge from shore power. Your thoughts on 200w panel plus a remote if necessary sounds pretty right on.

There have been a couple times where a battery heater would be helpful. Mostly when the battery is low and I'm in the driveway and want to charge on shore power.
 
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