Alas, the 2006 $179 Harbor Freight price for the Chicago Electric 45 Watt solar panel
kit is now listed as $219 (ITEM 90599-8VGA. Bummer! But wait! The same unit is sold on Ebay in June 2008 for $177
. . . see this link:
The above kit weighs 9.7 lbs. and the panel dimensions are: 12.40'' x 36.42'' x 0.75'' (each panel.) But is 45 watts really enough? I also found an 80 watt panel (not a kit) on Ebay for $335. It's dimensions are 38.9x 26.4 x 1.57 and it weighs 20 lbs.
Here's what the seller has to say about the 80 watt unit:
Brand New 80 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel
From Solar Cynergy with cells from Q-Cells PV-SC080J12
Manufacturer: Solar Cynergy
Model Name: SLP80-12
Max Power: 80 W
Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 21.6V
Short Circuit Current (Isc): 5.17A
Optimum Operating Current (Imp): 4.65A
Optimum Operating Volatage (Vmp): 17.2V
Solar Cynergy photovoltaic modules are designed for commercial and domestic applications and suitable for both grid-tied and off grid systems. Solar Cynergy offers both high performance and reliability. The silicon solar cells, held by heavy duty anodized aluminum frames, are laminated with TPT & EVA for longer working life and high efficiency output. An ideal power supply for boats, traffic signs, lights
, pumps, vehicles, RVs, homes, camping and caravans.
Q-Cells wafers are cleaned with acids and alkaline solutions and electrophysically altered. An anti-reflection film made of silicon nitride is applied to them to increase their efficiency. And finally electrical
contacts are attached. Q-Cells sells the finished cells to solar module manufacturers.
for more info!
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about all things electric. However, my brother has an 80 watt panel that he uses for boondocking
for weeks at a time and is quite happy with his not-too-skimpy lifestyle out in the middle of the desert. He listens to satellite radio and watches Direct TV shows to his heart's content. He gets all the power he needs for his 22 foot trailer (not a FGRV, but I plan on making him a convert) from this single panel. As for me, I usually meet up with him and bring the laptop camping to work on report cards for 3 consecutive days before I allow myself to go hiking, kayaking, or fishing. If I do the fun stuff first I'd never finish my report cards! But the laptop is a big energy drain and even when I'm not working on report cards I always have some kind of a project in the works. I recently learned from Gina's website that I shouldn't work on the laptop while plugged into the inverter because this draws more juice than if I turned the laptop off and recharged it's battery. I'm trying to plan ahead for the future in terms of what appliances I'll be using on the road. I'd also like to get the TV adapter gadget that goes into the BUS port of the laptop instead of buying a TV for the trailer. Weight
is also one of my considerations since my Highlander can only tow 1500 lbs.
So, back to the two panel comparison. . . in term of portability, which seems to be an issue for many, the 45W panel 328sq" larger than the 80W unit but weighs half as much. The interior of my Campster
is roughly 6' X 9' so space is important to me. If I had to add more 15W panels to the array to beeter meet my needs I'd be stuck hauling around something even bigger. The 45W unit costs $3.93/watt and the 80W unit costs $4.19/watt, which in my book is a nominal difference. However, the 45W kit includes 3, 6, 9, 12 volt DC adapter outlets; Easy-to-read LED charge indicator; mounting hardware, light
, 12V socket and battery clamps. The 80W unit is only a panel and needs all the other dohickies to make it function. The Techie from the Cynergy Company suggested a 10 amp controller at $60, so this would also need to be factored into the equation (but I also got the impression that he was really trying to upsell to me when he told me that a CCFL light
equivalent to a 60W incandescent bulb requires 14w of power and since I like a lot of light, he suggested that I get at least a 120W panel!)
Perhaps I have wattage envy. Perhaps I'm overanalyzing things. I'm trying figure out how to get the maximum wattage for the best price without having to tote a lot of cumbersome equipment around in my tiny trailer. Does anyone have any thoughts on the subject? Am I comparing apples to oranges? I have no clue!!!