Oct 20, 2020 > Solar
Dollar for dollar, there is no better investment than solar
4 agree
0 disagree
Product review Renogy solar panels and controllers
REVIEWED BY Alan Jacobson
Reviewer did not receive an incentive to post this review.
27 reviews, 1 follower
Beneteau 40CC Imagine
Cruising is about living on your boat. And you can’t live without power and water. But to be truly “livable,” your boat may also need refrigeration and air conditioning – if you’re stuck in marina for days on end in 100+ temperatures. Each component of your life-support system will cost you at least $1,000, or many times more. For instance:But one aspect of this equation costs less than $1,000, is easier to install than any other component, is maintenance-free, adds no weight and requires none of your precious storage space. What is it? Solar. Of all the money I’ve spent on my boat, I get more bang for the fewest bucks from my solar panels. I have four 100W flexible solar panels attached to the top of my bimini, and two rigid 100W panels mounted on top of my davits for a total of 600W. I’m having an arch installed, so I will be able to expand the two rigid aft-mounted panels to five, for a new total of 900W. Unless you’re running a website from your boat like I am, you probably don’t need that much power, but I love the “once-and-done” nature of solar. Buy it once, install it once and it continues to produce power every day, seemingly indefinitely – just like the sun. ◉ Tap to add a comment or post a review Solar was easy to install, too. All it takes is the most basic knowledge of electricity. Each panel has a “positive” and “negative.” You can connect your panels in “parallel” or “series,” but all tests show that you get more energy on most boats – especially sailboats where the rigging casts shadows across the panels – by connecting your panels in “parallel.” That means connect all the positive leads to positive leads and all the negatives to negatives. Easy as duck soup. So, you connect all your panels to each other in parallel, then connect the positive and negative leads from your panels to the positive and negative solar panel terminals on the solar controller. Then connect the positive and negative battery terminals on your solar controller to the positive and negative terminals on one of your house batteries. It doesn’t matter which battery. That’s it. Just make sure you connect the controller to your batteries before you connect your controller to your solar panels, because the controller needs to some power to “control” the voltage coming from the batteries. I have a mix of lightweight flexible solar panels and rigid solar panels. All my panels are rated at 100W and all seem to deliver on spec. The flexible panels weigh about 2 pounds each. They don’t seem to put any strain on my bimini. The rigid panels weigh 15 pounds each. The rigid panels seem more durable, but otherwise I see no difference. I suspect that all solar panels and solar controllers are manufactured in China – like just about everything else – and are merely marketed by different companies in the West. I don’t know enough to recommend a particular manufacturer or brand, but my solar controllers and panels are sold by Renogy, and I have virtually no complaints. Everything worked right out of the boxes and has continued to work reliably and dependably for more than a year now. But I do have one complaint: the dim LED display on Renogy’s controllers. I’ve mounted my controllers in two different locations, and neither had enough light to make the displays easy to read. One of my two controllers is a 60A Renogy Rover. It retails for $322 on Amazon. For that much money, you’d think that Renogy would spring for a easier-to-read display technology – such as an LED – instead of a cheap LCD. Granted, you never really need to look at the controllers – they’re that reliable. However, if you’re an energy nerd, or merely an energy nerd wannabe – and who isn’t? – you’ll need to check the output on the controller’s display to see precisely how much energy your panels are producing. Alternatively, enjoy your time on the water and fughedaboudit. Renogy provides two options for mounting your controller: flush mount or panel mount. But c’mon. Who would cut a hole in a bulkhead just to display a solar controller? Is your solar controller something you want to show off? Would you put a battery charger or inverter front and center in your saloon? I know it’s a sad dog that can’t wag its own tail, but c’mon Renogy – your solar controller isn’t taking center stage on my boat. But what about Renogy’s difficult-to-see LCD display? There’s an app for that. For $29, you can add a Bluetooth module to any Renogy controller. With this module and Renogy’s app, you see all your data on your phone without ever looking at your controller. And by all your data, I mean more data than you can see on the controller itself, such as how much power you generated each day going back in time. So you can track your power production and compare it to the weather, your travel, etc.
With Renogy’s Bluetooth app, you can see how your solar panels are performing in real time, as well as how they performed yesterday, the day before, etc.
The Bluetooth module eliminates the need to have your controller visibly accessible. You can put your controller in some out-of-the-way spot, as long as it has adequate ventilation for cooling. With enough solar, and a large battery bank and efficient inverter, you may be able to power some 115v devices. But don’t try a hair dryer. On a boat, hair dryers are only for sanitation hose.
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