Thursday, January 28, 2016

Renogy Solar Panel Review

I recently purchased a hunting cabin (lovingly called "The Shack") and currently camp there. I will someday live there and I hope to remain off-grid.  I recently obtained a Renogy Solar Panel and accessories. This is my solar panel review for dummies, by a solar power dummy.

If you are a techie, looking for in-depth technical information about these panels, you will not find it here. If you are someone interested in having some solar power, but are intimidated or if you are interested in hearing about a woman in her 50s who is bound and determined to retire in a self-sufficient cabin... you are in the right place.

Short Term Solar Needs

I currently camp at the shack on weekends or for a few days at a time.  While at some point, an electric pole was installed as was some wiring and a breaker box inside of the building, I have no utilities connected and do not plan to any time soon. However, I quickly became tired of either leaving my phone in the Jeep to charge (a bit scary when I'm up there alone at night) or having to walk back and forth to the Jeep to charge it frequently. I wanted a solar panel to charge my phone with. And wanted something that I could add on to as I began spending longer periods of time up there.

Long Term Plan

My long term plan is to place the panels outside, on some sort of adjustable frame outside with the batteries in a small cubby added on to the shack or a free-standing battery shed.  But that's long term. I have to decide what I'm doing with the shack before I decide how to house my batteries.

In the Meantime... Renogy 

Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel

When I say Solar Panel review for dummies, that's exactly what I mean.  I am just beginning to learn about watts, amps, and kilowatt hours, inverters, SINE waves, and deep cell batteries. Even though I am very early in the learning curve, I have something to say about my Renogy panels.

They are GREAT!

I received two Renogy solar panels with a solar charge controller for Christmas.  I bought myself a fairly inexpensive inverter.  I was also gifted two 12 volt batteries suitable for this project (I believe they are reclaimed electric wheel chair batteries). 

There are many reasons to love these panels but these are a few of my reasons:

  • My two panels arrived in sturdy cardboard packaging. The packaging was clearly marked with "fragile" and "caution" statements. The panels arrived undamaged.
  • Each panel arrived in it's own box. I have one panel at the shack and the other is being stored safe and sound in my apartment.
  • Each panel has a junction box and wiring - truly "plug and play"
  • Each panel has built-in diodes -- somehow the diodes keep the power from leaking back out.
  • The panels are well-made and sturdy.  
  • The Solar Charge Controller was easy to plug in -- wire included.
  • Included wires have male/female connectors. I was sure I was plugging things in correctly.

My fears  

My biggest fears regarding starting to use solar power were things such as expense, receiving damaged panels that would need to be shipped back, having to figure out how to splice the cords to attach diodes somewhere, and not being able to set it up.

Since I received the solar panels, solar charge controller, and reclaimed batteries from a friend, the expense for the set up was extremely low. But even so, I had been pricing solar panels both online and from local distributors. Renogy panels are a great value at a low price. 

The set up was too easy.  We did a dry run in the apartment. This dry run was mostly because I'm afraid of electrical work and fires. But this turned out to be a matter of plugging things in and tightening battery cables onto batteries. Because diodes are already in place, there was no need to add them to the wires as I had seen in some videos. I repeated the set up at the cabin alone.

Christmas Lights and Cell Phones

So far, I've successfully charged my cell phone and have lighting via a string of Christmas lights (augmenting the lighting from the gas lantern I use).

So far, the solar panel does a great job of collecting the light that comes through the south (south-west) facing window. I am more than happy with the results and can't wait to see what I can power once I install the panels outside.

In this photo, you can see the edge of the solar panel as it leans against the shower stall the previous owners left behind (Yes, shower stall in a dry cabin).  Even in this spot inside, collecting light through a dirty window, I am able to obtain power. 

A word of caution -- batteries can give off fumes while charging and ventilation is important.  At this point in time, the shack is very well ventilation (read - "drafty" or "downright windy"). In a different situation, I would not have the batteries indoors.

Finally, Seeing is believing

This gentleman has made a video of the unboxing of his Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel.  His opinion is similar to mine and includes comments about the warranties.  

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My blog is a mish-mash of personal things (from my dogs, to product reviews, to rambling stories).  But my homesteading-related adventures  and photographs can be found under the label: The Shack.


  1. I'm happy you found a perfect way to begin your new solar, off-grid adventure in living. I still find solar power to be magical. Harvesting sunlight means you are already farming there at your special homestead. I'd say you are off to a great start.

    1. Thank you so much. That's a great compliment from someone who truly lives (daily) off-grid. I felt that "magic" both with the solar power and with catching rainwater one night. The raindrops were like golden pennies from heaven.

  2. What a great gift for someone to give you.

    When I was trying to convice my husband to buy me a "she shed" I told him we could use solar power for me to have power in there as needed. He thinks it has to be insanely costly.

    1. A "she shed"...what a GREAT idea. If you want to run electronics like a tv or radio, you will need a more costly inverter than I have. But for a few lights and etc, no... as you can see.. not very costly at all. Besides, Happy Wife, Happy Life... what would be too costly????? haha.

  3. My son's wife has a brother who uses solar power almost exclusively on his farm in Iowa. It truly does seem magical that sunlight can provide needed power.

    1. I love that. And hope to do that also. I'm trying to educate myself about small refrigerators and such. And hope to use only solar and eventually wind to power it all. I love that your family member powers almost an entire farm. That's fantastic!

  4. I wonder if this will work installed in an old RV. To use to cook on stove instead of using propane.

    This sounds great for sheds or placing you won't be using a ton of electricity.

    1. I have read articles where people use solar panels (different sizes) for RVs. I haven't fully understood whether they are using a bank of batteries or whether they are charging the actual RV battery. But I think the answer is yes... people use solar panels to provide power when they stay in RVs.

  5. This is really awesome! Way to go Miss. Independence. You get it all figured out now so that when I move off the grid you can run right over and help me set things up. It would be way to scary to not be able to charge my cell phone.

    1. I'd LOVE to help you get set up when you move off-grid. That would be great fun.

  6. Great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information, thanks for sharing.