Opinions on Renogy ultra-light solar suitcase? - Fiberglass RV



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Old 12-27-2018, 08:13 PM   #1
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Name: Mac
Trailer: 2013 Casita 17' LD
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Opinions on Renogy ultra-light solar suitcase?

* I cross-posted this on the Casita forum; sorry if you saw it twice! *
We plan to do more boondocking in the next few years, and have decided that a suitcase solar panel is the way to go. This one looks interesting - it's very light - less than eight pounds - and very thin. We are very new to solar - would any of you experts be willing to look at this, and render your opinion? It only comes with a 3' cable, so I know we'll need to lengthen that. The controller looks like a cheap one, it's not waterproof, but that would almost never be an issue with us (and we could get a new or better controller if needed). The controller's connectors only take 14AWG maximum - too thin for good charging?
Thank you so much! Mac

https://www.renogy.com/renogy-100w-e...0a-controller/
And what few reviews I can find (two got product for free) at amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Contro...ustomerReviews
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:43 PM   #2
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Trailer: 2015 Scamp (16 Std Layout 4) with '15 Toyota Sienna LE Tug
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You ask some very good questions. It is clear you have done some homework.

Renogy is a very well regarded brand. They sold some lightweight flexible panels a few years ago but they had a problem and Renogy recalled them. I get the impression that they have been looking for a similar product that they could stand behind, and now perhaps they have found it. I see they sell this lightweight "suitcase" model as well as some flex panels now.

Lightweight panels would be very nice. And while the panels might be good, the controller might not be as good. As you have noted, the supplied cables are too short, and the controller is not water proof. And its also a positive ground controller. That is OK as long as it is used as designed but care must be taken if incorporating it into a negative ground system in other ways.

What I did, and what is my preference, is to put a good controller inside the camper, and use a receptacle on the trailer to plug the panel(s) into, wired to the controller. Renogy does sell the lightweight suitcase without a controller. It appears that the panels use the standard MC4 connectors so they could be wired to the camper as I described and you could use the controller of your choice and it would be protected from the weather.

All in all.. its hard to eval a new product sight unseen. But I would be willing to take a chance on it. And if I was OK with the controller being exposed, and the connections are in fact MC4, then I would just add a 10-15 foot extension cable. Otherwise I would buy a controller separately and put it in the camper, and use something like a trolling motor plug and jack with longer cables so I could put the panels in the sun.
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:51 PM   #3
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huh. the controller that came with my classic Renogy 100W suitcase has extra terminals for 'sense' wires... you run a 2nd pair of much thinner gauge wiring from the controller to the battery, in parallel to the heavy gauge charge wires, and the controller can offset the voltage to compensate for the resustaince in the charge wires.
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Old 12-27-2018, 08:57 PM   #4
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BTW, If you think the price for the suitcase without controller is a little high.... I actually built my own solar suitcase without controller from two 50 watt panels that I got at good price. When all was said and done, I would have been better off buying the pre-made one. If I saved any money at all, it was not much and the resulting suitcase is heavy and does not even have legs. Sometimes its hard to improve on a commercial product.
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Old 12-28-2018, 07:50 AM   #5
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This one apparently lacks the frame and adjustable legs of the original Eclipse. That's probably how they achieve the weight savings. I think it would be a nuisance to have to find a way to prop it up each time it was used. IME the downside to the original is not the weight but the size, which seems to have not changed much with this model.
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Old 12-28-2018, 10:52 AM   #6
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I have a Recology suitcase model with a controller. I like it but it is somewhat bulky. I like that it has built-in legs. The specifications for the model you are looking at say that it is just 0.35 inches thick. That would be nice, but how do you prop it up facing the sun? Is it rigid or flexible? Might be worth a try.
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Old 12-28-2018, 11:56 AM   #7
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You can find stands or legs for solar panels on-line. People also employ items like clothes drying racks.

I think I would favor some type of mounting bracket with multiple holes for different angles.
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Old 12-28-2018, 12:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom 72 View Post
You can find stands or legs for solar panels on-line. People also employ items like clothes drying racks.
I use a clothes drying rack and spring clamps for 2 100 Watt flexible panels. I can even alter the angle from what you see, to less angled and to horizontal:
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Old 12-28-2018, 12:33 PM   #9
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Name: Mac
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Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. Space and weight are a consideration for us, so we wanted to escape the solidly built 30# panels if possible.
We decided to order the lightweight 100W panel and a Voyager controller with temperature sensor. 10AWG landscape wire was recommended to create an extension cable of 10' or so in order to place the panel where the sun is. One person used the battery cave vent to run the wire through, with a QD (Anderson or other).
I will report back once all is set up and running.
Thank you! Mac
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Old 12-28-2018, 01:01 PM   #10
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I went with Renogy's Adventurer controller. It is a Negative Ground controller designed for use in vehicles and RV's. Unfortunately I bought it a while back. The new version even supports Lithium batteries! The 10 Gauge wire should be good for up to 30 feet of extension.
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Old 12-28-2018, 09:06 PM   #11
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Visiting my local home improvement stores, I wasn't able to find 10AWG landscape wire. But... Harbor Freight has cheap 12' jumper cables that are 10-gauge - for $8.99 before any coupon. Hmmm...
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Old 12-29-2018, 06:09 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Spongelander View Post
Visiting my local home improvement stores, I wasn't able to find 10AWG landscape wire. But... Harbor Freight has cheap 12' jumper cables that are 10-gauge - for $8.99 before any coupon. Hmmm...
OK for occasional use but long term use outdoors will likely result in UV damage to the insulation.
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Old 12-29-2018, 09:06 AM   #13
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Name: K C
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Originally Posted by Spongelander View Post
* I cross-posted this on the Casita forum; sorry if you saw it twice! *
We plan to do more boondocking in the next few years, and have decided that a suitcase solar panel is the way to go. This one looks interesting - it's very light - less than eight pounds - and very thin. We are very new to solar - would any of you experts be willing to look at this, and render your opinion? It only comes with a 3' cable, so I know we'll need to lengthen that. The controller looks like a cheap one, it's not waterproof, but that would almost never be an issue with us (and we could get a new or better controller if needed). The controller's connectors only take 14AWG maximum - too thin for good charging?
Thank you so much! Mac

https://www.renogy.com/renogy-100w-e...0a-controller/
And what few reviews I can find (two got product for free) at amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Contro...ustomerReviews
Why aren't you taking advantage of the Renogy sales staff to answer your questions? They are very good at helping you with your needs and also they can create custom packages for you that contain all the components. If you want to have upgrades to the controller and wiring then they will make that happen for you.



Remember you can ask for discounts by promising you will write about your great experience in social media and provide links to the products when you post about them
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Old 12-29-2018, 10:10 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Spongelander View Post
Visiting my local home improvement stores, I wasn't able to find 10AWG landscape wire. But... Harbor Freight has cheap 12' jumper cables that are 10-gauge - for $8.99 before any coupon. Hmmm...
Likely copper plated aluminum wire. Junk.

I use 12 gauge marine wire for my solar hookups... Plenty good enough for a 30 ft run of max 10A.... Most of the time it will be more like 2-3 amps...
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