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Old 09-15-2022, 07:40 PM   #1
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Name: Lauri
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Solar Panels Opinions needed

Hey guys..

Pretty much a newbie here, bought a 2022 Casita 17' Spirit Deluxe a couple of months before. Iím considering attaching a solar panel to the top of my trailer. I read hell lots of customer reviews of each panel but there are so many of them Iím kinda lost lol..

Anyway, Iíve decided to find one or two flexible panels on it, the reason why I decided to get them instead of rigid one is that I donít want too much weight on my top. But I also read that many of the flexible solar panels seem to fail within 2~ 4 years. So Iím wondering if you guys could share me with some stories about your experience using flexible solar panels..Is it really worth what it costs?

Thank you in advance!
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Old 09-15-2022, 08:37 PM   #2
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See post link below from previous discussion on this topic

"Flexible Panels - GP-FLEX-200"
https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...P%2DFLEX%2D200
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Old 09-15-2022, 10:11 PM   #3
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My experience with flexible solar panels is that they do not perform as advertised. Not just in my case, but with others too. I tore mine off and threw them away, then went with conventional panels and am very happy.

If you do go with flexible, and you use VHB tape to mount them, you will likely do damage to the roof trying to remove them later. So again, rigid panels with brackets are better, even if they don't match the curve of the roof.

Mine just happen to be Newpowa, but there are other excellent brands too, like Renogy. Best not to mix brands because each will have a different Vmax, or maximum voltage. Try to match, or come close, with the Vmax on the panels you get. If you have to settle for some shading, connect the panels in parallel, but avoid shading if at all possible. Be sure to get an MPPT style controller and if there is any chance you'll add more panels later, get the larger model controller. GoPower or Victron are excellent controllers. Victron has bluetooth. If you combine it with a Victron 712 monitor, or a GoPower monitor, that reads in percentage, you'll always have a good idea of your battery's state of charge.

If you match your panels Vmax to the Vmax of a portable set, and run the wiring in parallel, you can add a plug that is wired in parallel directly to the controller and plug in the suitcase system whenever needed to supplement the roof system.

Again, allow for this when sizing the controller.
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Old 09-16-2022, 03:48 AM   #4
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I used rigid panels and have been very happy with the result. It actually lets me get a better angle for solar collection. I made a video here about mine if you are interested:
https://youtu.be/5lzwRLJOBI8
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Old 09-16-2022, 04:15 AM   #5
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I read the other day that some solar panels stop working if part of the panel has a shade cover part of the panels. So you may want to make sure you do not yours does not do this.
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Old 09-18-2022, 11:18 AM   #6
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We have a folding rigid solar panel array. We do not want it on top of our Casita. We live in the Southwest and like to park our camper in the shade. We then place the solar array in the sun and plug it into the Casita with a long cord.
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Old 09-18-2022, 11:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by DaveLevenson View Post
We have a folding rigid solar panel array. We do not want it on top of our Casita. We live in the Southwest and like to park our camper in the shade. We then place the solar array in the sun and plug it into the Casita with a long cord.
We do the samething. Works great for us.
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Old 09-18-2022, 12:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by DaveLevenson View Post
We have a folding rigid solar panel array. We do not want it on top of our Casita. We live in the Southwest and like to park our camper in the shade. We then place the solar array in the sun and plug it into the Casita with a long cord.
That's fine, and I'm glad it works for you. But that is not the whole story.

You are not always parked, and there is not always shade. With a roof system, anytime the trailer is in the sun, driving or parked, the solar is working. This gives the roof system much more opportunity to charge and it means you don't have to set up the ground system every time you need charging. The roof system is all automatic and always available, anytime the trailer is in the sun, moving or not.

That difference, for us, has meant we are completely off-grid. I never plug in at a campsite, I don't even want shore power. I don't take a generator, ever. That means there are much more places to camp. We don't have to set up a ground system if we don't want to, or if we are concerned about leaving the trailer somewhere with the ground system sitting there next to it. We almost always arrive with the batteries fully charged, even if we left the last spot partially discharged.

The seven pin charging wire can provide some charge, but not with the truck disconnected, or not with the truck shut off. And the solar puts out about twice what the truck does. And again, it does it any time the trailer is in the sun, towing or not.

The ground system can have better orientation to the sun if you move it repeatedly throughout the day, and that's fine, but the roof system will peak at about 60% of rated output and do it with zero setup, or aiming it. If you want the trailer in the shade and the solar in the sun, you'll have to park within the length of your solar cord from the sun, in a perfect spot where the trailer is in the shade and the solar is in the sun. Then, in winter, or in the colder coastal areas, often it's desirable to park in the sun.

I think the old argument that someone doesn't like roof solar because they don't want to park in the sun, really means they don't see the bigger picture. Of course, you can park in the shade even if you have solar, and it will resume charging when you resume towing. You can still supplement it with a ground system if you want. And you'll open up a lot of areas to camp where there is no plug, and those are often the best places. When you have enough solar and battery to easily meet your energy needs, your camping experience becomes easier and more fun, because you don't have to focus on managing that power and watching the batteries.
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Old 09-18-2022, 01:25 PM   #9
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We always choose a shade site and usually park in the shade for 4 or 5 days, so having a ground-mounted solar array is essential for us to enjoy our camping.

We have minimal power needs, lights, charging headlamps, charging phones and a water pump is all.
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Old 09-18-2022, 01:38 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Raspy View Post
That's fine, and I'm glad it works for you. But that is not the whole story.

You are not always parked, and there is not always shade. With a roof system, anytime the trailer is in the sun, driving or parked, the solar is working. This gives the roof system much more opportunity to charge and it means you don't have to set up the ground system every time you need charging. The roof system is all automatic and always available, anytime the trailer is in the sun, moving or not.
That's a valid point.

If you spend a lot of time camping at the beach or in the desert, portable panels really don't have any advantages.

Really, the best arrangement is roof-mounted panels, with provisions for plugging in portable panels whenever you're parked in shade.

Solar panels have gotten so much cheaper in the last few years - The additional cost of having one or two portable panels to supplement your roof-mounted system is pretty insignificant.

Over at The Casita Forums, member Bill541 did an incredible job of designing a scheme for installing 240 watts of solar on the roof of a 17' Casita - with a minimum of drilling. (You'll need to be a registered user of that forum to see the details, which include the plans in downloadable PDF format.)







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Old 09-18-2022, 04:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoelInTexas View Post
240 watts of solar on the roof of a 17' Casita - with a minimum of drilling.
I have 400w on the roof of mine and did NO drilling or holes in the roof. I also agree with whatís been said above. Itís a no worry and no hassle solution with the rooftop solar.
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Old 09-18-2022, 10:14 PM   #12
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With 170 watts on the roof half the time we had to use our 100 watt portable Renogy panel to make ends meet. Any shade on the 170 watt panel would only provide 20-30 watts between 10-2, not enough to fill our batteries.

A year ago I added 300 watts to the roof of our Escape to give us 465 watts (the 170 watt and the three 100 watt panels have a slightly different VMP). Last winter we needed the portable zero times, since the 465 watts even charge enough when under trees. The roof panels are always there and working, and even in shade we get 60-100 watts from 465 watts of panels.

You can read about our install here.

With our Victron 100/30 controller I’ve also seen 435 watts when in full sun in July, but still can harvest over 320 watts in the winter.

I find the portable a PITA to use. However, we still carry the 100 watt portable, since it fits perfectly under the top step to our bed. Some day we’ll need the portable, perhaps this next weekend at the Mississippi River Rendezvous if we're under heavy shade.

So as far as I’m concerned both are handy to have available.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 09-21-2022, 05:03 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by jgilliam1955 View Post
I read the other day that some solar panels stop working if part of the panel has a shade cover part of the panels.
It's not that they stop working, it's that the cells that have more sun and are producing more power are losing their power to the shaded cell sucking it up. The panels are only as strong as the 'weakest' cell.
Take the solar only (no battery) calculator on your desk, turn it on, cover just one of the cell segments.
As Raspy pointed out, the connection (parallel or series configuration) will need to be considered if shadows are a likelihood.

Solar panels are rated at 90 degree perpendicular angle incident of full sunlight at 1,350-ish watts per square meter. The greater the panel is angled from this oblique ideal, or the more haze / smog / overcast the sky, even if uniformly cast on the panels, the less of a percentage of maximum theoretical wattage will be produced.

The top image in post #10 shows the antenna mast shadow falling across two panels. At 240 maximum rated watts from the 8 panels shown, each panel might be capable of 30 watts under ideal conditions. I'd wager those four on the right side are making no more than 30 combined due to the antenna shadow and due to the sun angle to that side of the trailer.
The bottom image in that post, taken at a later time as evidenced by the longer shadows, shows the four panels on the other side nearly completely covered by tree shade. I wouldn't call those four more perpendicular, but they are less parallel, to the sun, and they are roughly evenly shaded so as to limit a cell or two sucking up the other cells' power. Maybe another 30 watts from that side.
Now think of the sites you'd choose to use. I'd prefer shade on the trailer when that's available. The desire for a shaded site and the detriment to the roof-top mounted panels' power output due to that preference keep me from going that route.

I'd be more inclined to get moveable, ground located panels on an umbilical so as to follow the sun.


No, That's a lie.
I'd be more inclined to do what I have chosen to do and use a suitcase generator to top off the battery every three days or so. My 650 peak, 600 sustained watt Nissan, and my 2000 peak, 1600 sustained B&S inverter, were each purchased used for less than I could buy a 240 (at best) watt panel and controller system. Also less weight than rigid panels (ground or roof), less space than ground panels, longer lasting than flexible panels.
Leave it (either one) home if off-grid for not more than 3 days at a time.
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Old 09-21-2022, 07:03 AM   #14
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Which solar panels work best in the shade?
When trees or buildings cast partial shadows on a solar panel, it causes power to drop dramatically. Some types of panels are designed to better handle this.


https://www.thesolarnerd.com/blog/wh...best-in-shade/
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Old 09-21-2022, 07:33 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by jgilliam1955 View Post
Which solar panels work best in the shade
When I was looking last year, a couple of web sites recommended to get the highest VMP for shading. We had a choice of Renogy panels with the Compact Design at 18.6 or the Eclipse at 17.7. We chose the Compact Design at 18.6 and am surprised that we can get 60-100 watts when in shade from our 465 watts on the roof.

I’ve also seen as high as 435 watts on a perfect day with perfect orientation.

Of course this recommendation is from what I “read on the internet.”

We don’t own, need, or want a generator, and have only charged our batteries with the solar since January 2021. By my choice, our WFCO is disabled, but that’s another story. The most we’ve drawn from our batteries is about 65 amps out of the 260 available, and that was a week in a very shady spot.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 09-21-2022, 11:29 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Steve.L View Post

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

I spent $1,800 on 2 top quality flexible panels (one of each; 120w & 60w) and even combined they never got anywhere close to achieving the output & efficiency of my low quality GoPower 120w suitcase monocrystalline panel (which cost ~$500.)

Even the "best" flexible panels aren't able to get more than 5%-10% efficiency.

Don't get suckered like I did!!!
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Old 09-21-2022, 12:42 PM   #17
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When designing a solar system, we are working with a limited power supply. To get the most out of a system, it is important to reduce or eliminate anything that takes away performance. The best systems are the ones that have reduced or eliminated anything that reduces performance.

When I got my X22, the solar barely worked. It was rated for 380 watts and had flexible panels glued down, but was producing far less than half of the expected approximately 60% of that rated output. Why? The dealer simply told me the "solar is not keeping up with the fridge", but never tried to figure out why. So, up on the roof I went.

Some problems were immediately evident. First, the solar wiring was run right over the top of the collectors. That is a poor installation method and shows carelessness. Next, part of one of the panels went under the AC. Bad decision number two. With limited roof space, they had picked equipment that was not really compatible and had to compete for roof area. Next, the plumbing vent was so close to one of the panels that the roof jack and its caulking was on top of the collector, shading a part of it. Again, poor installation work. Next, the collectors went partially under the roof rack and were shaded by a cross member. And finally, the two collectors were connected in series, where one feeds through the other and the voltage multiplies, but in doing this work, the installer had plugged one panel into itself, a dead short, an the other panel into the trailer wiring to the controller. Bottom line: Only one collector was actually connected to the controller and it was shaded by the AC and the roof vent. Of course the system barely worked! The trailer manufacturer and the dealer overlooked or missed these items and sent the trailer out.

I tore the collectors off the roof and threw them away. Then built a 660 watt system on top of the rack that does not get shaded. The panels are wired in parallel so they each have a connection to the solar controller and are not dependent on each other to work. This meant larger wire and a more complicated wiring plan, but it works. It also means that if I park in partial shade, the system will still produce something.

When building a system, try to position the collectors so they get the least possible shade. Try to eliminate any imperfections in the system you can find. The closer the collectors are to a normal 90 degree angle to the sun, the more they will produce. With solar, attention to detail means a lot. Compromises have to be made, especially on a small and possibly curved trailer roof. That's OK. Just don't design in problems, or install it in such a way that it can never work, or never work well.

Finally, since every system has its limits, and no system will always have enough power for everything in all weather conditions, and since the batteries must be treated well, all systems should have a good battery monitor, with shunt, that reads in percentage of charge. This makes monitoring and planning your use super easy with just a glance at the display. Mine is next to the door and I see it every time I enter or leave. With a larger system and more battery, you can begin to use more power confidently, instead of running at the absolute minimum. It means you can keep going for an extra day in bad weather, or maybe run the microwave, or an electric coffee maker, or charge a bike, or even run the AC some of the time. And with the monitor, you always know how the batteries are doing. A good working system means your whole lifestyle when camping can change by allowing you to camp anywhere, without hookups. We are now "off-grid", I don't bring a generator, and even if we camp where power is available, I don't plug in. It's quite a change from buying an "off-grid" package that would not even keep up with the fridge!
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Old 09-21-2022, 06:55 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Prop_Joe View Post
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

I spent $1,800 on 2 top quality flexible panels (one of each; 120w & 60w) and even combined they never got anywhere close to achieving the output & efficiency of my low quality GoPower 120w suitcase monocrystalline panel (which cost ~$500.)

Even the "best" flexible panels aren't able to get more than 5%-10% efficiency.

Don't get suckered like I did!!!

Well mine are working much better than what you describe..the Flexible Panels do work. They have been in use for 6 years.
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Old 09-23-2022, 06:49 AM   #19
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No drilling in roof for solar panels

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Originally Posted by Shocksll View Post
I have 400w on the roof of mine and did NO drilling or holes in the roof. I also agree with whatís been said above. Itís a no worry and no hassle solution with the rooftop solar.
Did you use 3M VHB to mount the solar panel mounts to the roof?
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Old 09-23-2022, 09:34 AM   #20
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Did you use 3M VHB to mount the solar panel mounts to the roof?
I did and i took the wires through my grey tank vent

More info in my video here: https://youtu.be/5lzwRLJOBI8
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