A couple of months ago we installed three 200W Renogy Solar Panels on the roof of our Reconn R2 Hyper Camper. I’ve been super excited to see how they go, and whilst we only got a rough indication of their performance at home, I’ve since been able to give them a real work out off grid on the start of our lap of Australia, and so far, I’m seriously impressed.
What Renogy Solar Panels are we running?
I purchased three 200W 12V Renogy Solar panels, weighing around 12kg each. These panels are 1650mm x 670mm, and are actually smaller than the 200W Low Energy Development Panels I ran on our soft floor camper (and still have one on our Isuzu Dmax).
Renogy Solar panel price
Today, the 200W Renogy solar panels are $309 each, but if you wait for a sale you can get them for much cheaper. Our total lithium and solar upgrade was $3164 including our 2 of 170 ah Renogy lithium batteries, a solar controller and 3000W inverter. Looking back at the purchase, we paid $230 per 200W panel, for a total of $660 for 600W. Almost $1 per watt, which isn’t bad, especially when its from a big, well known company like Renogy.
What controller is looking after the panels?
I feel like we’ve got enough Renogy gear to own half of their business (but we paid for the whole lot), but have been fairly happy with it so far. The 600W of solar panels are going into a Rover 60 Renogy MPPT controller, which is charging our 340aH of Renogy Lithium Batteries.
I suspect that the controller plays a massive role in how much you get out of the solar panels, and fitting a rubbish quality solar controller would hurt your ability to get decent efficiencies. So far the Rover 60 seems pretty good, although the lithium profile settings were a bone of contention for some time, that I have since resolved.
Its also worth noting that the 120W solar panel on the roof of our camper has been disconnected, and I might do some testing plugging it in with the others, but for now just the 600W of Renogy Solar Panels are in use.
How are the caravan solar panels attached?
I’ve got a comprehensive post that covers the caravan solar panel installation, but these are held onto the roof of our camper with aluminium angle and Sikaflex, and that’s it. Yes, there’s a very comprehensive way to mount them correctly, but they are rock solid and I don’t expect to have any issues going forward.
How do they perform?
Almost every single 12V panel that I’ve messed with does not deliver its rated wattage (except for the All Spark folding panel I borrowed from a mate for some testing), and that’s pretty sketchy. If you buy a 200W solar panel, that’s what it should deliver, but most don’t seem to do this.
Even worse, if you get a solar panel off eBay (or anywhere for that matter), there’s a good chance you are getting even further ripped off, by sellers falsely advertising the wattage, based on the physical dimensions. I’ve seen 160W solar panels advertised as 300W panels, and that makes me really angry.
I digress though; the Renogy Solar Panels perform really well. They are permanently mounted, and are flat, with no ability to turn them to follow the sun. I’d expect a reduction in performance purely because of this, with both maximum instantaneous generation, and daily generation.
However, the peak generation recorded is 839 watts so far, and I’ve seen it a number of times sitting at 550 – 750W, so they clearly do what they are rated to do, despite not being in the best possible operating conditions (facing directly at the sun).
They are actually working so well that I’ve unplugged the Anderson that attaches our camper trailer to the car, so our batteries are purely being charged by solar. Even on days where its partly/mainly cloudy, we are seeing our batteries completely full by 12 – 1PM, and that’s replacing around 120 – 150aH of consumption.
The maximum amps I’ve seen going in is somewhere around 48, which is seriously impressive. When its completely overcast and raining (as in no real light getting through) we are still seeing between 50 and 120 watts going into the batteries, which is enough to run our freezer and basic supplies.
On a clear day, when the solar panels are reasonably clean (but not perfect) the panels seem to pump in between 30 and 34 amps (with the freezer on, so really 34 to 38) for the bulk of the solar day. So far, our best generation is 253aH, or around 3.46kwH, when the batteries were fairly low. I suspect it would still do more than this on a perfect day if the batteries were flatter, but they do really well.
Renogy Solar Panel review
Overall, I’m really happy with these panels. They do what they are supposed to, are compact, relatively cheap and I expect we’ll have a good run with them. I suspect Renogy is going to become far more common in Australia, as its decent gear without the brand name price tag that is selling so much other 12V gear in Australia.
I’d say they are better quality than the Low Energy Development ones because they perform better, but also because they are a smaller unit. The Low Energy Development 200W panels were 1580mm x 808mm (1.277m2), and our Renogy ones are 1650mm x 670mm (1.1m2).
Overall, I’m a happy camper and would get these again. Of course, we’ll keep you updated with how these go long term, and if we have any problems you’ll know about it.