Solar Power - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-15-2006, 01:33 AM   #1
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I came across this website after looking at an online parts catalog from a local RV dealer. Is anyone familiar with this company, & would you have any testimonals to provide on their products?

I would like to learn more about solar power, & this website looks like a good one. There is even a handy online solar calculator for determining your power needs.

I assume the prices are in U.S. dollars. As it is listed in my local RV dealer catalog, I would have to assume I could purchase from up here in Canada?

Here is the link:

http://www.icpsolar.com/4105/home.asp

Regards,
Andrew
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Old 08-15-2006, 11:21 PM   #2
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The Coleman solar kits available at Costco in Canada all have ICP solar panels. I have had mine for a few months and everything is A OK. They look to me like well built panels and i dont forsee any problems. I run a 55 watt array and the panels keep both my deep cycle batteries up to charge. My last outing was a 4 day boondock and the panels kept my batteries up. I run a 12volt fridge,lights,fantastic fan .
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Old 08-15-2006, 11:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
The Coleman solar kits available at Costco in Canada all have ICP solar panels. I have had mine for a few months and everything is A OK. They look to me like well built panels and i dont forsee any problems. I run a 55 watt array and the panels keep both my deep cycle batteries up to charge. My last outing was a 4 day boondock and the panels kept my batteries up. I run a 12volt fridge,lights,fantastic fan .
I haven't come across the Coleman set you mentioned in your solar thread which began in May. Perhaps they were only in stock for a short while. Seems to be the case with Costco-if you see something you like - buy it, as their stock changes frequently!
Glad to hear your solar setup is working well. I am still pondering the whole solar idea. Main thing holding me back is price - not cheap, but I guess these solar panels will last a long time. Seems like we do more camping at sites without power than with lately.
Yes, the ICP products look well made.

I also found on the ICP website, as well as Costco's website another one of their products:
http://www.costco.ca/en-CA/Browse/Product....opnav=&cat=

I don't suppose anyone has looked into the use of on of those? Just wondering.......

Happy solar-ing............

Andrew
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Old 08-17-2006, 04:47 PM   #4
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The Coleman three-panel setup was in at least one of the Edmonton Costco stores for a long time - months or years. A couple of weeks ago I saw the current three-panel kit, but I don't remember if it was Coleman-branded, and I did not open one up to check panel brand. It was in the middle with the other variable large stuff, not in the shelves with the regular stock, in case that helps with searching.

Edmonton-area members should remember to check the new Sherwood Park store if looking for items that may not be in every location.

One reason that I am not likely to get this set is that it uses the low-efficiency amorphous silicon panels (which I what I belive ICP is referring to as the "thin film" design) - they are twice as big as high-efficiency single-crystal silicon panels for the same power (ICP makes both types). For instance, the Canadian Tire selection includes two panels which are nearly the same size and weight, but one is 15W and the other is 30W. I don't want to carry and excessive amount of equipment weight (it all adds up), nor do I want to mount twice as much panel as I need to.
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Old 08-17-2006, 10:57 PM   #5
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The Coleman three-panel setup was in at least one of the Edmonton Costco stores for a long time - months or years. A couple of weeks ago I saw the current three-panel kit, but I don't remember if it was Coleman-branded, and I did not open one up to check panel brand. It was in the middle with the other variable large stuff, not in the shelves with the regular stock, in case that helps with searching.

Edmonton-area members should remember to check the new Sherwood Park store if looking for items that may not be in every location.

One reason that I am not likely to get this set is that it uses the [b]low-efficiency amorphous silicon panels (which I what I belive ICP is referring to as the "thin film" design) - they are twice as big as high-efficiency single-crystal silicon panels for the same power (ICP makes both types). For instance, the Canadian Tire selection includes two panels which are nearly the same size and weight, but one is 15W and the other is 30W. I don't want to carry and excessive amount of equipment weight (it all adds up), nor do I want to mount twice as much panel as I need to.
Some good points Brian.

I assume as with most things, as the technology changes, things will become more efficient and likely smaller. One example that comes to mind is the size of home satellite dishes. Remember how big those monsters used to be?

I didn't see on ICP's website where they get into specifics about the different types (efficiencies) of their products. Perhaps I missed it.

Regardless, thanks for your shopping & buying advice Brian.
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Old 08-18-2006, 01:35 PM   #6
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Andrew, when I followed your ICP Solar link (to a site which I have briefly looked at before), I was disappointed to see now little information they provide about the actual photovoltaic cells.

Here's a comparison of a couple of the smallest three panels in ICP's Sunsei Solar Charger RV product line:
SE-1200 (1200 mA, 18W) 100x35x3 cm / 4.3 kg / $169
SE-6000 (6000 mA, 100W) 127x59.4x3.6 cm / 10 kg / $999
Only the SE-1200 is a thin-film product; it looks different, with the active cell area covering the whole panel, and with thin electode lines running parallel down the whole surface, as compared to the larger units, in which you can see individual small cells which are connected together. The SE-6000 has five times the power output, but only 2.2 times the area and 2.3 times the mass.

I'm not saying that either technology is "better"; the SE-1200 is a bit cheaper per watt (and usually bigger is more economic), and thin-film technology allow the construction of panels which are flexible, so there are advantages to both (and more factors than I have mentioned here). I think the trick is to pick the right one for each specific application.

My panel from Canadian Tire is an Eliminator 30 Watt, constructed similarly to the larger Solar Chargers. The Eliminator 15W panel is of similar physical size to the 30W, but like the Solar Charger SE-1200, is has much lower power output for it's size. I have no idea what company builds either unit, but they illustrate the same design and performance differences as the ICP products.

The satellite TV comparison is interesting: the newer and smaller systems aren't actually better or more efficient technology - they just run at a higher radio frequency (making some components smaller), depend on massively more powerful satellite transmitters (allowing for smaller dishes to receive the signal), and are cheap. Like the solar panels, I think it's a matter of having a technical choice, to get the right stuff for the job.

(If anyone saw the first version of this post, I apologize for the posting of an incomplete version due to technical difficulties.)
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Old 08-18-2006, 02:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
low-efficiency amorphous silicon panels
This is a good consideration when setting up your house to run on solar, but in the realm of simple RV battery charging, the efficiency drop on these is insignificant.

The + sides of an amorphious panel are:

1. They are significantly less expensive, because they are easier to manufacture.
2. They make up for the ineffecient comparison #s in full sun by being MORE efficient in overcast conditions according to what I have read. This makes for less futz and precision "aiming". Point towards general direction of sun.. instant DC. This is a major consideration if roof mounting.

The Coleman set has OEM ICP amorphous panels.

I have never seen mine put out LESS than 14v in any weather condition. You regulate down to that anyway.

I have discussed panels with many who have single-crystal silicon panels, and they complain that "When it's cloudy, they don't do anything at all".

Mine don't do anything at all if shaded. Thats the only time I see them below charge level output.

My set IS heavy and larger than theirs tho.

Take your pick.. 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.
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Old 08-20-2006, 07:14 PM   #8
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That's some good food for thought, Gina. Since I had to choose one panel or the other, I have no part-sun comparison, although I have seen my panel charge my portable power pack effectively in full shade on a relatively cloud-free day.
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Old 08-20-2006, 07:16 PM   #9
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I would be cautious about interpreting voltage readings from solar panels. If the voltage is measured with no load (nothing connected to the panel), then it is like measuring pressure in a hydraulic system when there is no flow: it doesn't say anything about how much power is available. I noticed that my "30W" panel produces 18 to 20 V with no load in full sun, but connect it to a partially discharged battery and the voltage comes down to whatever the combination of battery and panel conditions dictates, just as with any battery charger.

I would expect any size of panel built of the same type of cell to have the same output voltage when observed in the same sun conditions. The area of the panel will determine how much current will be delivered when the load is hooked up, and power is the product of voltage and current.
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Old 08-20-2006, 07:27 PM   #10
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Gina has a better controller than mine: the cheap unit I bought (the Eliminator 7A model from Canadian Tire, product ID 11-1890-8) just works like the controller stage of a basic automatic charger: it turns on if the battery side is at less than 13 V, then turns off again when the battery side reaches 14.2 V, to prevent over-charging. While it is on, the input (from the panel) and output (to the battery) are at the same voltage.

I haven't actually used this controller yet, because so far I have been using my panel to charge my power pack, which has the same type of controller built into it. Before I got the controller, I did charge the Boler's battery a couple of times, but manually monitored voltage to ensure that it did not get too high (and there wasn't enough time to get there).

If Gina's controller is maintaining 14V, it is proportionally regulating - probably by rapidly switching on and off, in a pulse width modulation (PWM) technique, like a "switching" power supply in a computer or other electronic device. My basic on/off controller protects from overcharging; the PWM controller allows a larger panel to stay connected continuously, while protecting from charging too rapidly.

If money were not a concern, I would have a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) type of controller, which allows the panel to run at its optimum voltage for best power (the max power point) despite the changing voltage on the battery side (which depends on the battery's state of charge).
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