ConnectedWhat is the biggest problem you face when caravanning or camping? What to use as a power or energy source! Do you take more batteries, a larger generator or simply use what’s readily available ie SUN POWER or Solar Power?
Solar power is cheap and efficient and yet can provide energy almost everywhere you go. So let’s just see why you should include a couple of portable solar panels as an essential as you head off with your caravan or tent.

 What you get.jpgWell firstly, as weight is important to all campers and caravanners alike, we weighed it all in with our bathroom scales. The two solar panels with connecting wires only, weighed a total of 12kg. All control and associated wires connected to a fridge/freezer weighed an additional 1.4kg, making a total package weight of 13.4kg. So now we will put the spec’s as published:

Model:    SE55M
Max Peak Power (MPP):    55 Watts
Voltage @ MPP:    17.4 V
Current @ MPP:    3.16 A
Open Circuit Voltage:    21.8 V
Short Circuit Current:    3.48 A
Dimensions:    905 x 545 x 28mm
Weight:    5.5 kg
Warranty:    12 Year Limited

Features include:
High quality, high conversion efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells
SE solar modules incorporate high performance bypass diodes to minimise the power drop caused by shading
High transmittance, low-iron tempered glass
High performance EVA resin to prevent module delamination and ‘browning’
Weatherproof back sheet
Sandblasted electrophoresis aluminium frame
Multi-contact style output leads with waterproof connectors

Regulator/Monitor Steca Model PR1010:
Max Charge Current:    10 Amps
Max Load Current:    10 Amps
System Voltage:    12/24V
Dimensions:    187 x 96 x 44mm

Atonic Microprocessor controlled charge regulation
Pulse width modulated charging
Descriptive graphical display of system status
Multi-screen fuel gauge and numerical status indication
Automatic electronic fuse protection
Internal temperature compensation
Determination of State of Charge
Automatically detects 12 or 24 volt system
Manually controlled load switch
Low voltage load disconnect
Optimized float, boost & equalisation charging
Terminals large enough for 16-25mm2 wire
Dusk to dawn lighting control feature
Selectable charging mode for sealed or wet-cell batteries
LCD Screens Display
Battery voltage
Battery state of charge
Charging current in
Load current out
Total charge current in
Total load current out
Load switch status

We found assembly and connection of the panels to the battery and Regulator/Monitor to be quick and easy (approximately ten minutes the first time and three minutes each for the second and subsequent times). The waterproof connectors, provided as part of the package, simply connect into each other and are male and female “idiot proof” ends.
Inside patio connected.jpgOPERATION
Whilst an operator’s manual is supplied in many languages, reading of the Steca Model PR1010 is easy with all sorts of capabilities of recording current out/in capacity out/in deficiencies and surpluses in storage etc. This allows the operator to gauge whether what they have connected will eventually flatten the storage battery and when it is likely to occur. This allows the camper or caravanner to assess remedial action well before their fridge/freezer goes flat.

As you would expect, the solar panels are extremely reliant upon the sun and so huge variances were experienced in current produced. In times of heavy overcast, low readings were obtained but as soon as the sun broke through, we would record up to 7.3 amps. We liked the smiling face when charging to tell you all is okay. Whilst the instructions say that the PR1010’s accuracy is not comparable with that of a measuring device, we found it’s accuracy to be within one tenth of an amp when tested against our multi meter. The unit produced more than sufficient power to run the fridge/freezer during the day and was also able to charge the battery ready for night running, although a brightly moonlit night was found to still produce some power!
Low sunlight low readingPros

Easy to understand and hook up

Low weight if you consider the power output
Ability to have inexhaustible power source
Efficient conversion of solar or sun energy to harnessable stored power when including batteries.
Lengthy warranty of panels in particular and regulator
Especially efficient when holidaying in areas of good sunlight
Quiet and restful power
Excellent for running freezers, fridges etc
Ability to simply keep adding panels to achieve desired power demands
High quality panels and regulator
Stands can be supplied to simply attach and prop the panels to follow the sun

Such is nature; you are unable to rely completely upon the panels for power as it may be thick with cloud cover every day whilst camping which would result in less than optimum power generation.

If you have a portable Bushman fridge/freezer or some other brand, you will find that this setup is more than adequate and yet still have extra power to fill batteries etc.

We hooked two 55w in parallel to get about 6-7 amps, but you may only need one. It is simple to add more panels if required. If you are going where you expect fairly bright and sunny conditions, this complete product is indeed a must for approximately $650-700 Aud for it is light, quiet, efficient and a cheap source of energy or power.

Can guarantee it will be sunny where you are going? NO, but I think they are working on it.  Well done for a good complete package at a fair $ for $ cost.

Photo at low reading time