There’s no doubt sustainable energy is here to stay, and solar is leading the way at the moment.
The benefits are well known – solar is clean energy, it depends on the sun and not a sometimes questionable energy supplier, and over the long term it usually ends up paying the user if they get their setup right.
However, being that solar is still a relatively new market in the world – there are definitely some traps and points to be aware of – especially with the newer areas of solar technology.
Below, we’ve listed some of those points for portable solar systems and kits.
In the future, we intend to bring out a similar guide for home & grid based solar systems.
NOTE: we intend to keep adding to this guide – so feel free to bookmark it, or share with friends to reference in the future.
Let’s get into it…
The Guide That Could Save You Losing $1000’s On Your Portable Solar System
Before we get into the list, what are we talking about when we say portable solar system?
- Small 50 and 100 watt rigid/solid crystalline solar panels
- Flexible, Semi-Flexible and Bendable Solar Panels
- Folding Solar Panels
- Portable Grid Tie Systems
Compared to the traditional glass crystalline solar that are mounted on a house roof – the portable type solar systems above are newer to the market.
Let’s look at some of the thing to look out for with these systems and panels:
1) Quality Of Brand/Company Who Makes The Panel, and Other Solar Accessories
This is a big one. Especially with flexible solar panels and portable grid tie systems, there are companies popping up frequently who might be cheap to buy from, only to go off the radar, or go out of business shortly after.
Some of these companies may even be third party sellers or own exclusive rights to sell the product – which can blur the line with what they can offer, and what happens if there is issues with the product or warranties.
Check the track record of the company that manufacturers the panel (how long they’ve been around), ask questions to the seller, in addition to confirming the following:
> What is the length of warranty?
> Are there separate warranties for any components of say the panel, and the controller if it comes with one?
> Get a written guarantee from the seller what happens with the warranty/s if you need to use it
- Level and Quality Customer and Tech Support
> Ask questions of the seller before you purchase – what instructions come with the panel for set up, ask them technical questions about the product..see the quality of the responses, and how long it takes for them to get back to you
- Google the seller
> Do they have a website?
> How long have they been in business?
> What information does the seller offer for selling terms and conditions?
2) Compatibility Of Accessories, Extras and Solar Devices
Let’s say you have the following components in your portable solar setup:
- Solar Panel, solar controller, LCD display to monitor battery and panel health and performance, 12 volt battery – you might also have an inverter to turn DC power into AC power for household items
You might have a different brand that makes each one of those products.
Yes, most products are made to function with most other products, but there can be certain solar panel brands that won’t work with one type of inverter or regenerator for example.
3) Availability Of Tax Rebate
Look at whether the system comes with an available tax rebate in your area if you’re using it on your home.
Call your council, energy supplier and check with your government to confirm rebates on the product beforehand.
4) Look At What Is Actually Included In Your Purchase, & What Extras May Be Required
In a typical portable solar purchase, you get a panel with MC3 or MC4 cables running from the solar panel junction box.
A standard solar panel starters kit might include the panel, connectors, a charge controller, tray cables and brackets.
Typical items that are rarely included in a solar panel kit are LCD displays for battery and panel health, regenerator batteries to store solar energy, inverters (although grid tie inverters usually come with an inverter lead), angled mounting racks, and any type of non standard attachment or connection.
You may need to buy additional panels or accessories to complete your system setup.
Also, check whether the system can be set up by you, or whether you need to get a professional/qualified person in to install and provide extra items – this can potentially be expensive.
5) Check The Solar Panels And Accessories You Buy Are Rated For Your Battery System And Each Other
With portable solar panel setups, the panels and components of the setup have to be rated to work with each other.
Can you imagine buying a $1000 portable solar panel kit, and the designed voltage doesn’t match your batteries? You’d be pretty annoyed right?
Important things to check are:
- Do you have enough watts in the solar panels for the A/h of the battery/s you are trying to trickle charge? Read this guide for more information on how you might calculate, or find this out.
- Are the solar panels designed for the voltage of the battery/s? i.e. do you have a singular 12v battery, or a bank of 2 or 3 batteries – giving you a 24 or 36 volt system? You will need to have a solar panel setup that matches your batteries, or use controllers or voltage inverters to match voltages.
- Is the solar controller rated for the watts coming from the panels, and for the batteries they are outputting to?
6) Consider what you are installing the solar panel on, and how the installation impacts that object/surface
Are you installing on a house roof, and Rv roof, a boat deck, a van/car roof, a cabin roof?
Especially when using permanent fixings, check whether you are creating any waterproofing issues that need sealing on surfaces, or whether you might be voiding existing warranties.
For example, if installing on an Rv roof – check Rv manufacturer warranties and roof loading instructions.