If you haven’t heard of Offroad Living in WA, who sell the Allspark range of products, you should check them out. I’ve always wanted to test some of their gear out, and when a good mate said their panels actually put out their rated wattage, I was even more keen.
I borrowed his for a couple of weeks through the Pilbara to see how it performed, and was pleasantly surprised.
You see, I have a problem with companies that mislead their customers, and there’s a lot of solar panels and solar blankets on eBay that are grossly misrepresented, but still selling like hotcakes.
Despite this, you can purchase a panel that is correctly sized and still not get the actual rated wattage out of it. If you buy a 200W panel, shouldn’t you expect it to do 200W? If you buy a 200W panel and it maxes out at 110W, do you feel like you’ve been ripped off?
I’ve got a Rich Solar folding panel that is rated at 180W, and we never see more than about 130W in peak conditions from it.
Our 200W Kings Solar Blanket (basically the cheapest you can buy) never goes above 120W, and that’s if you can somehow manage to face it at the sun properly. Laying flat, on a 27 degree day in the Pilbara you are lucky to see anything above 95 watts out of it!
When my mate suggested his 160W All Spark panel actually does 160W, and he’s even seen higher figures I was very curious, and jumped at the opportunity to give it a test run.
Initial thoughts on the All Spark Solar Blanket
When I grabbed the blanket off my mate, I thought geez, this looks like a good bit of kit. Not only was it heavy, but its slim, and looks well constructed. My thoughts were confirmed when I finally opened it up, only to see that the panels look significantly better than our Kings unit, everything is firm and straight, it has brilliant little legs to prop the panels up, and the cabling is much chunkier than what I’ve seen elsewhere.
Please know this is not a long term review, unlike many of our other product reviews. Like our other reviews though, its our honest thoughts and we aren’t paid a cent to say anything good, bad or otherwise about it.
Setting the All Spark Solar Blanket up
To set them up, you literally undo the flap near the handle, and fold it out into 4 pieces. Find a spot that is going to get decent shade, and stand the feet up. This is a bit awkward until you get used to it, but we found folding every second leg out worked best, until it was standing and then you could do a final jiggle.
Run the cable to your DCDC, or a regulator that feeds your battery (make sure it’s a decent one) and Bobs your uncle.
Packing away is exactly the opposite, but make sure its dry, and doesn’t have any dirt or sand on it or you risk scratching the panels.
How does the actual panel size match up?
Given the fact that it does the wattage advertised, I was keen to know how the actual solar panel sizes add up. You should get roughly 160W of panel per square metre, and each panel on the All Spark 160W unit is 560x 440mm, with the actual panel a little smaller. 4 of these panels together is almost bang on 1m2, so they’re not false advertising like so many other panels do.
What voltage do they run at?
Many DCDC units will not accept solar charge from panels that are over a certain voltage, which means you need to pick and choose. The All spark unit runs at 24.64, so it should suit most DCDC and regulators on the market.
How does it actually perform?
I did a number of tests over the 3 weeks we were up north, and managed to see around 120W maximum from the panel, but this was in conjunction with a 120W roof panel on the roof (removing what it was generating) and I’m sure that it hurts the efficiency overall.
It will do 160W on its own, set up facing the sun nicely, and that’s pretty awesome.
What do they cost?
Allspark don’t actually sell these anymore; they do a 180W version (which interestingly is the same dimensions!), but they retail for $679. That’s a fair chunk of coin, but not unreasonable for how it performs. The Kings 200W Solar Blanket is $230, but we’ve never seen near 200W, and they are a lot more inferior in terms of quality.
Allspark vs Kings solar blanket
I don’t need to say much here. The Kings Solar Blanket works, but not at the wattage it should, and its also vastly inferior in quality. Mine has been relatively well cared for and has bubbling already from moisture, scratches from dust and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if it failed at any moment. It’s also bulky, and frustrating to make face the sun. I guess given the price difference I shouldn’t be so critical, but there is a huge difference between the two.
Solar Blanket Longevity
The one thing that most people miss in their reviews (especially car ones!) is anything long term. You can get the most amazing product in the world, but if it breaks after 6 months then its garbage. I have no doubt that in terms of solar blankets the All Spark ones are up there with the best, but they are still a folding solar blanket, and inherently they are no where near as reliable as a folding solar panel.
Each time you fold them they get weaker and weaker, and they will eventually stop working. If you want a Solar Blanket (and there’s some good reasons for wanting one), you have to balance the price against the quality, and that’s not always easy to do.
I can’t comment on the longevity of the All Spark Solar Blanket as I only had it for a short time (although my mate has used it casually for a few years with no issues), but would be pretty comfortable in terms of its likely longevity, and warranty or support from All Spark.
Are we going to get an All Spark solar blanket?
I thought long and hard about this, and if they were cheaper I probably would have replaced our Kings 200W blanket with one. However, we’re now 5 months into our lap of Australia, and the permanently mounted solar on our Reconn R2 is doing its job, and we’ve only used the Kings blanket a couple of times when we were forced to park in shade. For reference, here’s our Renogy solar panel review.
We have 720W of panels going onto our Reconn R2 which covers us for most situations (unless its cloudy for days on end and we are using an induction cooker).
Our 180W folding solar panel has been good, but its heavy, doesn’t fit in the Reconn storage hatch and we’ve stopped taking it (actually, I sold it before our Lap of Australia).
What do you run? Are you happy with it?