Renogy Off Grid Solar panels review



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Over the last year we’ve been renovating a 2007 Dodge Sprinter camper van. Now that we’ve had a chance to use it and get a feel for things, we realized we need extra power. I’m Erin for TGC.com and after doing some research and shopping around, we opted to get solar panels for the roof of the van from a company called Renogy; we installed two 100 watt 12 volt monocrystalline solar panels.
Renogy Solar coupon code = TechGadgetsCanada

So why did we choose solar?
When we built the van we debated getting solar power, and initially opted to just install a 12 volt electrical system with 100 Amp hour battery. It charges off the main van battery while we drive, and will last us between 12 and 24 hours, depending on what we’re running. Connected to the battery are a MaxxFan, TruckFridge, LED lights, a small marine water pump and USB plugs for phone charging.
We also added an AC inverter so we could use regular powered appliances and gadgets in the van. We connected an AC and USB power bar to it that we flush-mounted into the kitchen counter.

We quickly realized after a couple of road trips that the single battery wasn’t enough to give us power for a day, let alone a weekend, without needing to drive around to recharge. Knowing we’re often parked for the weekend, we decided that it was high time we investigate the power of the sun to recharge us.

We chose the standard 100W Solar Panel that Renogy carries since these are a bit shorter, perfect for fitting our footprint on the roof of the van. The panels come with a junction box and MC4 leads, for connecting to the solar controller we got.

So How does solar power work in a camper van?
To simplify: Solar power harvests the sun’s heat and light, its energy, and turns it into energy you can use.
Solar Panels in the basic sense work by converting available sunlight into usable electricity and that power is called wattage. Watts are made up of amps and volts. Different panels have different ratings for amps and volts, depending on your needs.

So how do you know how much power you need in your off grid world? We made a list of all the devices we plan on running in the van. We got the wattage information, or the amps and volts of the product, and considered the average run time per device. With that information, we consulted with Renogy’s helpful team who helped us accurately size our system so it runs effectively and efficiently.

We laid the panels out and mounted them to corrosion-resistent powerstrut metal rails, and secured the array to the roof with stainless steel fasteners.
The we ran the cable along the roof, and in through a hole in the rear of the van, connecting it to the solar charge controller.

Once everything is set up and connected, your system will start generating power as soon as the sun comes up. I could see ours working as soon as the wires connected. After our first full day of sunlight it was enough to keep the battery topped off and ready to use.

Renogy Solar panels: Key features

Some of the key features of these Renogy monocrystaline panels that drew us to them:
the panels have a multi-layered sheet laminations which is supposed to mean long life
They have Bypass diodes — those are supposed to minimize power drops caused by shade and to give you better performance in low-light or cloudy environments
they’re supposed to withstands high winds and snow loads

These Renogy panels have a Corrosion-resistant aluminum frame for extended outdoor use; meaning the panels can last for decades. I’ll report back on how well they fare in our harsh Alberta winters
Pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel allow for fast mounting and securing. There’s also pre-drilled holes for grounding

To test the solar panels out we turned the fridge on and left it on, and it stayed cold for days, getting its power just from our solar array.

We’ve only been able to use these for a bit this summer and we’re going to be taking the van out for more testing and use and hope to get an even better feel for how these panels are working. We might also be opting to add another battery so we can keep enough power on hand for cooking, refrigeration, ventilation, and even powering our mobile office with laptops, and even my YouTube TV lights.

For now we’re very happy with our decision to add solar power, and we like the Renogy panels, and the service we got.
If you want to look into getting your own solar panels, you can see what’s available on Renogy’s website and use the promo code or discount code TechGadgetsCanada a discount off your order

23 comments

  1. Hi Erin. I clicked on your Renogy link above to purchase the panel, but the discount/promo code (TechGadgetsCanada) is not working. Is there an updated code, or does the code only work in Canada? Thank you.

  2. This really demonstrates the problem with people making videos when they, admittedly, don't know anything about it and just asked the vendor questions. The entire point of having solar with a high-efficiency (MPPT) controller is that the controller monitors battery status and intelligently decides in which mode to operate. PWM is nearly as efficient when the batteries are near full charge, but MPPT is definitely the way to go for bulk charging cycles. Why would you disconnect your solar system from your batteries when you're storing? That makes zero sense and there is no one who would advise that. You either misunderstood or took it out of context because the float and equalization (if used) modes are especially designed to maintain the batteries during storage. Long or short… doesn't matter. Float voltage is just that… battery storage voltage. Renogy tends to automatically equalize every 28 days except for Li or Gel cell… which is correct. Even their PWM controllers are specified this way.
    It's patently absurd to tell people that you should disconnect your solar charger/maintainer if you're not going to be using the batteries. Hard stop.
    Also, that "power strut", as you call it, isn't corrosion resistant once you cut it and don't treat the cut end. It's also extremely heavy and it looks like you used the 12ga instead of the 14ga. Aluminum Uni-strut is readily available, much lighter, completely rust resistant and also will not cause electrolysis with the aluminum frames of the solar panels. Screwing aluminum to steel where it is exposed to the element is a no-no. If you look on the Anodic index, you will find that Al will be the sacrificial anode in the electron exchange game that is electrolysis. That's right… you just built a battery with your solar panels and the mounting and it's the solar panel that is going to lose.
    Mounting the panels as high as you did will cause nothing but unnecessary drag/lift and vibration. Unistrut comes in 1-5/8" (like you used) and also low-profile 13/16". Because you mounted your panels with inaccessible hardware you will have a dickens of a time if you ever need to replace one. Aluminum angle brackets would make everything visible for mechanical inspection and would make replacing a panel easy even if not the same dimensions.
    I think what really bothers me is the matter-of-fact way you speak as if you know anything about it because you made some calls to Renogy. Funny how in the end, the advice you shared is incorrect. Disconnect your solar for storage? Wow.
    Let's see if you keep critical posts in the comments or if you just want pats on the back. You are wanting to be correct and informative, right? Right?

  3. Hi Erin, very good video, came here from your "one year later" video, to see the install, question: why didn't you use the Renogy charge controller? and wondering about the refrig, would like more info on that, will search your site. Thanks

  4. Interesting that you didn't get a Renogy charge controller. I did, and it has given me a false history reading since day one. Renogy support had been VERY DISAPPOINTING

  5. I ordered a kit from renogy on March 11th and as of June 11th was still waiting for the panel. Their customer service has been mediocre, replying with, "it's on the way" everytime I message them.
    I finally asked when it will arrive and was told its on back order now. I told them they've wasted my time and to issue a refund or credit. They took 10 days to issue the refund and then today only issued a partial refund.
    I would not recommend renogy to anyone. Renogy is a terrible company to buy from.

  6. Hey Erin. Wow!! You are amazing and techy.. Pretty cool. I want to build an off-grid system for my homestead, but there are so many solar manufactures out there? Any recommendations based on your experience?

  7. I got three panels, victron 30 amp controller and battery monitor….. running one 12v AGM battery Will upgrade to 2…. with my old two 6V 142 AMP HR battery's I could go three days without charging….. So I agree two batteries should be enough I really want to go with one lithium to save on the weight but we live in the Northwest Territories so I don't know how well they'll handle the cold…. like you we want to extend our camping season… I installed a Chinese Diesel heater it's been great….. We're only running our lights small TV and our max Air fan… But would like to add a 12v cooler….

  8. Great Video! Thanks for all the details!!! I just uploaded a video installing 3 renogy panels on my ram promaster! Loving them so far!

  9. I am just ordering flexible panels from Renogy after spending a year on the phone getting the parts they didn't send the first time I bought their 200 watt kit they eventually came though but it was like puling teeth

  10. I would like to buy 2 Renogy solar panels and found the 160 watt panel much cheaper than the 100 watt panel. Does this mean that the quality of the panels vary?

  11. I really love renogy but the LG 400 watt solar panel is the same size as those two 100 watt panels and more efficient.

  12. I got 100 watt newpowa panels and now planning on buying 250 watt panels for an off grid cabin. I just love solar

  13. Hey Erin

    I'm a mobile barber with a bus. Can I use one of these to run my andis clippers and Tv for my bus instead of using my generator?

  14. How did it do supplying your power off the grid for a weekend? Love the review. Great job Erin!

  15. I too have installed a small Renogy system to charge my batteries on our TT about 1.5 years ago. After spending much time reading, watching installations and talking to people I decided to start with a small system that I can add on to vs an expensive large one. I'm glad I did. I was not fully aware just how inefficient solar is unless they are in direct sun and at proper angle. We tend to camp in wooded spots and moving your panels numerous times a day is an inconvenience. When camped on BLM land in the desert it works great though.

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