The first couple of 12v solar panels we purchased were from eBay, and we’ve had an OK run with them, but some time ago we found out about a company in Victoria who sell a range of panels and 12V gear at decent prices – Low Energy Developments.
Now, before you go on, please know this is not a sponsored post, and we payed full retail price for the below products and have never received a cent of benefit from these guys.
Don’t get ripped off
You see, we soon clued onto how so many people are being ripped off on eBay; sellers are falsely advertising their panel sizes, and people are getting panels that have a much smaller output than what they thought they were getting.
If you want to know more about this, check this article out – How to avoid being ripped off by eBay solar panels.
Low Energy Developments were one of the first companies that we spoke to who were well and truly aware of this saga, and pushing for eBay to do something about it. The panels you get from them are correctly labelled, every time.
All 3 of these panels came from Low Energy Developments, and all 3 work very well. The camper panels feed into a Victron 100/30 MPPT regulator (about as good as it gets) and the Dmax panel feeds into a Projecta IDC25 DCDC battery charger.
Bracing the solar panels
We braced all 3 panels, as we weren’t happy with the amount of flex that they had. Being 1580mm by 805mm, there is a lot of unsupported glass in the middle of the canopy, and when fixed and bouncing around on corrugated roads and nasty tracks, we thought they they might break.
Now, this is not unique to any manufacturer; they all come like this, and being larger it would be easy for damage to occur off road. If you used smaller panels (like two 100W) you’d probably avoid the issue as the distance between supports is hugely reduced.
Now, maybe they wouldn’t, but we didn’t want to take the chance, so we made up some aluminium angle braces with rubber in between, to stop the glass from being able to move downwards. So far, they’ve survived many thousands of kilometres of nasty tracks with no damage at all.
How do they perform?
The camper trailer tops out at about 280W. We suspect if both panels were perfectly angled at the sun you might get about 300W, but not much more. It will comfortably put in 15 – 18 amps an hour (amp hours) back into the batteries, which is a fantastic result, and more than what we need.
The 200W panel on the 4WD well and truly keeps up with our demand, and we barely ever look at it. We are super happy with the fixed setup, but if you aren’t sure, have a read of this; What’s better; fixed or portable solar panels?
It’s now Preston Off Grid
A little while ago Low Energy Developments rolled into Preston Off Grid. They’re still doing a great job, but its a name change.
Would we recommend Low Energy Developments?
Without a shadow of a doubt, these guys have great customer service, a physical store over east and great pricing. We’ve been happy each time with the experience we’ve had, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for purchasing any 12V Gear.
EDIT – we’ve had one of their panels in service for the better part of 6 years, and its still going very strong. In our experience, the Low Energy Developments (or now Preston Off Grid) solar panels are a really good option.
On that note, they sell solar panels, cables, batteries, inverters, regulators and everything you need to tie it all together. If you need anything, check them out online or give them a call.