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  1. #1
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    Default Aldi's Solar panels

    Does anyone have any experience with the 160 W solar panel from Aldi which is on sale next saturday.
    It's a folding one with monocrystalline cells - 18.5 max voltage - 8.65 max current and comes with a controller, cables, clips and supporting legs.

    I plan to attach it to a modified design of a tear drop camper I'm building.

    Any comments on this type of solar panel would be appreciated.

    Peter.

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  3. #2
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    Peter

    I can't really help with the panels other than to suggest that a regulator will be essential following my recent experience with small PV panels and a pond pump.

    I will be very interested to see your teardrop camper. I have a number of designs on CD of concepts stretching back to the thirties, but as I have recently been told I am unlikely to live to 150 years of age, I don't think I am going to have time to build one.

    Regards
    Paul
    Bushmiller;

    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

  4. #3
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    Nothing to say about the Aldi units in particular, but I could say a bit about solar panels.

    Each panel is assembled from a number of individual cells that produce low voltages at modest currents. Thus panels normally have parallel strings of cells in series. Combining cells into series strings increases the output voltage of the string, but the string can only produce the current of the weakest cell in the string. Hence if one cell in the string is shaded and produces negligible current, the rest of the cells in that string will be limited to that negligible current as well.

    When strings are placed in parallel within a panel, the panel output current becomes the sum of the output current for each string, but the panel voltage is limited to the lowest string voltage in the panel. In the case of the Aldi system you enquire about, for 18V nominal output and 4 panels, it is most likely that all 4 panels can produce about 2A under ideal solarisation and would be connected in parallel to give a combine maximum output of around 8A. However, the voltage output for the whole set is then limited to the voltage output of the lowest performing string in the whole system.

    This is common for all PV arrays with more than a single cell in them. But there are some things that are peculiar to your intended application that may create disappointment that would not be significant in a well designed fixed installation, primarily because the panels are on a small curved surface and the orientation cannot be optimised.

    If the panels are fastened to the teardrop roof, they would by nature each be pointing in a different direction, approximately tangent to the curve of the roof. At best one panel may be pointing near to the ideal angle for direct exposure, and those either side of it will be further off axis and produce less power. The forth panel in the set will be still further off axis and produce less current and voltage, which will reduce the voltage that the other panels that are better exposed can produce. Net result, you would probably be lucky to generate 60% of the power that could be generated if the panel set could be moved to optimise exposure. Hence I would suggest that you use the panel set in a portable rather than fixed to roof mode, and possibly investigate making some simple break apart stands that you can use to orient individual panels for maximum output, and rely on either charging from the car while towing or using a mains based battery charger when the camper is stored at home, or on a powered site to preserve your battery, and limit the solar to when you need to charge the battery when you are free camping.

    Also, if you are thinking along the lines of deep cycle batteries, be aware that using more than about 20% of their rated capacity (20AH out of a typical 100AH battery) each cycle reduces their lifetime significantly. These batteries, despite their name, are specified for shallow cycles when they lifetime test them, and the deeper the cycles, the shorter the lifetime, with many down to the low 100's of cycles at regular 80% depth of discharge cycles, i.e. they react very badly to being deeply discharged, but can handle it for an occasional event.
    I used to be an engineer, I'm not an engineer any more, but on the really good days I can remember when I was.

  5. #4
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    Peter, I have an older Aldi portable solar panel unit, which is only 120W, but the basics are the same. I'll add pictures later of the rear to give you an idea of how I use them and how you could use them attached to your camper. I have had ours for around three years, they are an addition to our permanent panels on our slide-on camper for when using the camper in winter time with far less solar input.

    I would suggest you look at using the panels themselves and arranging a regulator to be placed very near your battery. You may even look into detaching the inbuilt regulator and placing it as close as possible to the battery. You may have to ensure that the regulator is kept dry as I don't think it would be a waterproof one; mine isn't.

    I've suggested moving the regulator, as that is the prefferred method according to those with superior knowledge to myself. That said, before I bypassed the regulator on my own portable panels, I used the regulator attached to the back of one panel for a time. There was a difference after I used a regulator which was around 30cm from the battery, but not that much.

    That price is fairly competitive, to put it mildly.

    If you don't get the Aldi panels, then I would suggest you look at Low Energy Developments, they are in High Street Preston and have been a great source for the solar stuff I've done over the years. For one conversion I did, which was to add solar to a Mercedes Sprinter ex-rental motorhome 5 years ago. I got them to put all of the plugs onto my length specified cables, a great saver as it was done correctly with the correct tool.

    Folding Panels

    Mick.

  6. #5
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    Here you can see the rear of the panels and how I bypassed the regulator using an Anderson plug. I have a 10m lead with an Anderson plug on either end for joining up the portable panels with my camper rooftop system. With this I can change back to the original regulator in a few minutes.

    The front picture shows the size difference, which accounts for the difference of 160W of this weeks panels from Aldi and what I picked up a few years ago.

    Mick.



    solar_Rear_20181119_084819.jpg Solar_Front_20181119_084943 (002).jpg

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushmiller View Post

    I will be very interested to see your teardrop camper.
    and

    Quote Originally Posted by malb View Post
    If the panels are fastened to the teardrop roof, they would by nature each be pointing in a different direction, approximately tangent to the curve of the roof.
    The camper I'm building is a modified design based on the teardrop in regard to size etc but leaning more to the concept of the Jayco Jpods.

    It is a rectangular shape with an upright front which will have a sloping roof of approx 20 degrees for about 600 mm and then a 5 degree slope to the rear, allowing rain to drain to the front with a rear opening as the door way.

    Internal dimensions will be 2000*1400*1350 mm high with a single bed along one side and a window on each side. Walls and roof will be 9 mm thick marine ply sandwiching 15mm battens and insulation.

    Peter.

  8. #7
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    Mick,

    Glad to hear of your experience with the Aldi solar panels.

    At this stage of planning the camper will have a fridge/freezer, car stereo. a 12v TV some lights and power for charging the various electronic devices ( phones, computers etc).

    The camper will be wired for 240 volts as well as solar to allow the maximum use.

    The solar panel if fixed to the roof will only have a short cable run to the battery so that should be okay.

    Any others with solar experience are welcome to contribute.

    Peter.

  9. #8
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    I had a teardrop for years and toured all up and down the east coast in it. Elizabeth loved it I hated it. The idea has problems, like everything. If you want my opinion/experience I'll share but I am assuming you know what you are getting yourself into.
    I'm just a startled bunny in the headlights of life. L.J. Young.
    We live in a free country. We have freedom of choice. You can choose to agree with me, or you can choose to be wrong.
    Wait! No one told you your government was a sitcom?

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by damian View Post
    I am assuming you know what you are getting yourself into.
    I'm just the builder of it.

    I'm building it for my daughter who next year intends on using her long service leave to travel extensively around the country and for quick weekends away.

    I'm aware of the limitations of a standard teardrop camper, my other daughter has one, thus I'm building it wider and with more headroom and other improvements over the basic model.

    Would be happy to hear of your experience as it may help me in the building of it.


    Peter.

  11. #10
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    We would go away for weeks at a time.

    Mine had an air conditioner and double skin doors, outer solid inner screened. We could leave the solids open for ventilation from-10 to 40 outside and the cabin would stay a happy 20C because it was well insulated. Full queen bed and easy to get in and out.

    I had a dome gazebo with walls that kept most of the rain away and even offered a bit of privacy, but it took a solid 1/2 hour to put up and take down.

    Your shoes are outside exposed to water, spiders etc.

    Every time you get in you inevitably bring some dirt in on your feet and it accumulates in the bedding.

    If you use a foam matress on a solid platform it accumulates water underneath. We shoved our bags under when on the move to air it.

    There is no where to stand up. Getting changed is a challenge. Privacy is a challenge.

    I've got something similar on my ute atm, but I'm thinking of building from scratch and thinking the extra effort of building a slide on with a bed forward and a stand up room aft is really worth it. Likewise if I got another caravan it'd be a tad bigger with standing room beside the bed. A lot more comfort for a little more weight/size/effort.

    The problem with camping is anything will work when temperatures are mild and the sun is out. People don't plan for 100 kmh winds, storms, snakes and extreme temps, but we had all of that and more all too often. I watched a lot of people come to grief in the van parks around us. Teardrops are so much better than tents, and those ridiculous camper trailers, but the mini caravans I think are a much much better solution.

    2c.
    I'm just a startled bunny in the headlights of life. L.J. Young.
    We live in a free country. We have freedom of choice. You can choose to agree with me, or you can choose to be wrong.
    Wait! No one told you your government was a sitcom?

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