Folding Portable Solar Panel
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A couple of people have asked for a review of the folding solar panels I purchased from Solar Blvd, so rather that sending it individuals, I added a page here at LakeshoreImages with the review.

I purchased the largest folding panel they sell - a 160 watt version, for $235.00 + 8% California sales tax since I picked them up at their store. A couple points about why I selected this particular panel - I use quite a number of amp hours. I like to brew a pot of drip coffee each morning, my laptop draws around 9 amps at 12V when using the high power video card (which is in use most of the time since I usually process photographs, and, while I have LED lighting, I also have far too many electrical gadgets that either need recharging or run on 12V. While I average about 25 amp hours per day, it is not unusual for me to go as high as 50 amp hours if I know I'm going to have good sun.

While the roof mounted optional 95 watt Go Power solar panel does a pretty good job of keeping up with my average usage during the summer, the low angle sun in winter limits the output. There are also times I can't park the trailer with the back pointing South. For those reasons I looked into portable panels. While there are better packages, I went for low cost.

As to the package, you get a cardboard box, a padded carrying case, a 16' detachable #12 power cable with two adapters (a set of alligator clips & a cigarette lighter plug), and, of course, the panels. No instructions or manual, although I don't really see the need for either.

As to construction, this is where I suspect you would do better going to a more expensive system. Quite heavy, (28 lbs) with aluminum framing on the panels and steel on the folding legs. The legs are not adjustable, although you can open them part way. Fully opened, they place the panels at a 32° angle. The controller has a panel input, a battery output & a load output. While there are LEDs that indicate charging, they don't really tell you anything. The clamps that hold the panels together when stored are very flimsy - I'll probably replace them when I get home.

As to actual use, I am temporarily connecting the panels to the trailer using the trailer's 7 pin connector. I added 15' of landscaper's #10 wire between the trailer connector & the panel's wiring. That makes a very long run between the batteries & the panel since the Escape's batteries are on the back bumper. My guess is the run is close to 50', all except the panel supplied wire#10. While I could have made the run shorter by wiring the trailer connector directly to the panel power cord, I preferred to keep it stock.

Since the batteries were already close to full, my test for the system was to make a pot of coffee. It normally draws around 55 amps while brewing, putting a good load on the system. The test was done at noon on a clear sky with both the trailer & portable panels facing south. My TM2025 battery monitor showed a negative 45 amps, the Go Power controller (for the built in 95 watt panel) showed 5.2 amps, and my clamp on amp meter showed the folding panels putting out 8.5 amps, bringing the total to 13.7 amps going into the system. Added to the 45 amp draw, the total was 58.7, which is what I expected. After shutting off the coffee pot, the system quickly recovered to full in less than 2 hours, with both panels tapering to a couple of amps.

As Received
The Soft Case
The Back of the Panels
Panel Data
The Controller
The Panels Opened
From the Side
8.5 Amps Out of the Panels

Overall, I'm pleased with the purchase, at least for the price. I know there are panels available that include a hard case, adjustable legs, and controllers that provide current & voltage information, however most of the ones I've seen are lower output (although smaller & lighter), and sell for as much as $200.00 more.


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Last Update: April 16, 2014