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 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.
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.