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Old 04-01-2015, 03:38 PM   #1
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Interesting 400W Costco Solar Package

I got this today via email and thought it looked interesting for boat use. The 4 panels (approx 40" x 27") might fit well as a FB or cockpit cover.

http://www.costco.com/.product.10011...0_April-Mailer

I question the efficiency of the charge controller as I've heard Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) is the way to go and this one is Pulse Width Modulated (PWM). Does it matter? This setup even comes with a 2000W pure sine wave inverter, albeit a Xantrex model. The charge controller is also a Xantrex product. The Grape Solar site claims 17.4% efficiency on each 100W PV panel. How does that compare to other widely used marine panels?

Here's the spec sheet.

At $1100, this looked like a fairly capable package, but would love to hear from others with solar experience.
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Old 04-01-2015, 04:39 PM   #2
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Xantrex - barf. Out of warranty? Kiss my a$$.

If Xantrex is still a Canadian company, I apologize on behalf of all Canadians.


Last summer when I was looking, panels from a place on Vancouver Island were a dollar per watt. Controller extra. No idea now that the dollar has tanked.
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Old 04-01-2015, 04:58 PM   #3
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Schneider Electric press releases

Scheider Electric, a French company, now owns Xantrex.

I had a warranty issue with a small 1000W Xantrex inverter in January 2015, month 23 of the 2 year warranty period. They honored it without a question and sent me the new inverter without me having to send them the bad one. I found that to be very good service, albeit the product quality is substandard.
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Old 04-01-2015, 05:33 PM   #4
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Just came across djmarchand's tutorial on controllers. That helps explain the difference in function and cost. Sounds like MPPT is a no brainer.

Trawler Forum - View Single Post - Solar panel recomendations
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Old 04-01-2015, 05:37 PM   #5
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It is a pretty good deal. Here are individual similar component values from Amazon:

4 Renogy 100 watt panels $600
30A Renogy PWM controller $175
2000 watt Xantrex Inverter $365

Total $995

I think that the Chinese make as good a solar panel as anyone. But I don't trust their electronics. I would stick to a brand name even if made in China, such as the Morningstar for $165. If you want a MPPT controller which will provide 15-20% more amperage to your batteries then use a Blue Sky unit for $282.

Also a Xantrex inverter/charger isn't that much more- about $400 for a 1,800 watt MSW unit and can be hard wired with a transfer switch. But it is Xantrex and almost certainly Chinese made. There are US made inverter/chargers for about double.

So I don't like packages. Individual components are just as cheap and you can pick what you really need.

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Old 04-01-2015, 05:50 PM   #6
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Thanks, David! That was exactly what I was wondering.

Is 17% PV efficiency a typical value? I have nothing to reference that to.

Great job on the MPPT tutorial linked above. That's great info that's easy to understand.
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Old 04-01-2015, 05:51 PM   #7
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Packages like that, especially when sold through Costco or some other big retailer, is typically an exercise in dumping excess inventory.

As for Xantrex, they were bought by Schneider 7 years ago. Leading up to that, Xantrex had been on a multi-year buying binge snatching up pretty much every inverter company out there. Some were good, and some were junk. I suspect what we have been experiencing over the past years is Schneider/Xantrex shedding themselves of the junk, and unfortunately a lot of customers at the same time.

I do think they have one good product line and Schneider continues to push it - namely the XW Inverter/Chargers, solar chargers, and various accessories. All network together via a CANBUS and work very well in concert with each other. I've got such a system powering my house and it has worked great for the past 7-8 years. But other than the XW line, I wouldn't buy anything from them.
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Old 04-01-2015, 07:02 PM   #8
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Good to know, TT. Since I have the Xantrex 1000 that has died a couple of times and it's a unit they have discontinued, I decided to buy a new spare on Amazon for about $100 to store onboard 'just in case'. It's been sealed in a Foodsaver vacuum sealed bag and stored in a dry compartment for the inevitable future failure.

In fact, Peter, it was paid for with the leftover funds from our Kahlenberg transaction!!
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Old 04-01-2015, 07:46 PM   #9
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Good to know, TT. Since I have the Xantrex 1000 that has died a couple of times and it's a unit they have discontinued, I decided to buy a new spare on Amazon for about $100 to store onboard 'just in case'. It's been sealed in a Foodsaver vacuum sealed bag and stored in a dry compartment for the inevitable future failure.

In fact, Peter, it was paid for with the leftover funds from our Kahlenberg transaction!!

Excellent. Honk twice when the Xantrex fails!
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Old 04-01-2015, 07:48 PM   #10
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Is 17% PV efficiency a typical value? I have nothing to reference that to.
17% is pretty typical. From Wikipedia: "Solar cell energy conversion efficiencies for commercially available multicrystalline Si solar cells are around 14-19%"

So unless you are trying to pack the last watt into a limited area, it really is irrelevant. And the dimensional shape of the panel is probably more important in doing that.

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Old 04-02-2015, 12:44 AM   #11
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17% is pretty typical. From Wikipedia: "Solar cell energy conversion efficiencies for commercially available multicrystalline Si solar cells are around 14-19%"

I agree. People commonly talk about how solar panels have become so much more efficient over the past years. They really haven't changed much at all other than become bigger and much, much cheaper.
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Old 04-02-2015, 10:39 AM   #12
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Solar panel failure

Has anybody experienced solar panel failure. one of my friends has had all of her solar panels replaced twice on her home array. I believe she said they were made by BP.
I'm just getting interested myself and have zero experience with panels. My electrical needs are huge on my all electric boat, but it would be nice to maintain my batteries and offset my house hold refrigerator 11 amps 12v on the inverter. How much real estate would I have to sacrifice to provide 11 amps 12v with the refer cycling every hour or so?
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Old 04-02-2015, 10:59 AM   #13
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Well the more useful parameter is how much time does your fridge run in 24 hours. So lets assume 12 hours of actual running time which is typical. So you consume 11*12= 132 amp hours. Round it up to 150 for efficient lights and laptop and cell charging.

To produce 150 amp hours is going to take 500 watts of panels on a sunny day. But depending on where you are that could on be 50-67% of the time. Lets assume 67% so your wattage needs to be 500/.67= 750 watts.

You will probably use 24V panels which will be cheaper for that much wattage. Renogy 250 watt panels are 65" x 39". You will need three of them.

They cost $350 each delivered free on Amazon Prime. Delivery is often a big expense with these panels. You will also need a 75 amp MPPT controller. These are at least $500.

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Old 04-02-2015, 02:47 PM   #14
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David, said it best.

This package is too expensive and you end upi with stuff you may not need.

I got 30 amp Renogy controllers for $40 each. i have and use two.3
Each panel is 110 watt and is MONOcrystlline. Each panel was $110.

You can pay more for all the name brands you want. If it's made in China, it simply doesnt matter the name on it.

having said that, the prices I paid were so good, I did not worry about it. But had I paid double, there is no guarantee that the product is actually any different.

the Economist has written extensively about the Chinese Business model and how it differs from from the American one (and Euro for that matter).

The simple fact is that one does not read more about it, because once out sourced to China, the foreign company is then stuck between a rock and a hard place. Publicity at that point, only makes their situation worse.
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Old 04-02-2015, 06:44 PM   #15
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David, what are your thoughts on batteries. wet or agm ....Brands? 6v or 12v...i would like to come up with 300-400ah
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Old 04-02-2015, 10:08 PM   #16
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David, what are your thoughts on batteries. wet or agm ....Brands? 6v or 12v...i would like to come up with 300-400ah
I am a firm believer in golf cart batteries. There is no question that a GC battery is deep cycle unlike some so called dual purpose batteries. If a battery doesn't have an amp hour rating marked on it, then it is not a deep cycle IMO. I have seen so called deep cycle Group 27 12V batteries fail in 3 months. They were not deep cycle.

GC batteries have more headroom over the plates for electrolyte and they have cell caps for checking specific gravity with a hydrometer. Check them every couple of months at first to develop a pattern, but you will probably find that you only have to add water every 6 months. No big deal.

Also they are the biggest bang for the buck. Two GC batteries from Sams Club cost about $100 each and you get 220 AH from them.

Trojan is the gold standard of GC batteries but they cost 25% more. Sams GC batteries are pretty good though. And there are no bad GC batteries. Anyone who made a bad GC battery would quickly be run out of business.

AGMs are ok for those that simply have to have them or they are installed in a location where checking and adding water is almost impossible. I haven't seen such a place on a boat though. Their one big advantage is that they can be charged at a higher rate than a flooded cell but I wouldn't push it beyond 33% of the AH rating.

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Old 04-03-2015, 12:31 AM   #17
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AGMs are ok for those that simply have to have them or they are installed in a location where checking and adding water is almost impossible. I haven't seen such a place on a boat though.

David
You haven't seen my boat. My engine start battery is so difficult to get to I simply would use it until it died. It requires the complete removal of 4 other batteries to check the water level. It's why I have AGM's
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Old 04-03-2015, 01:04 AM   #18
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You haven't seen my boat. My engine start battery is so difficult to get to I simply would use it until it died. It requires the complete removal of 4 other batteries to check the water level. It's why I have AGM's



I'd use golf cart LA batteries in a heartbeat if I had the space to check the water but contorting into the space with a flashlight and mirror ain't gonna happen for my tired back. AGM solves this albeit at a premium price for my upcoming replacement project.
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Old 04-03-2015, 07:00 AM   #19
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Solar Array Advice

I have had a great experience with these folks Simpleray

3 245 watt panels, controller and all for a good price. A mastervolt 3000 inverter. Using 8 Duracell agm group 31s from Sam's club we have been anchored up to 2 weeks with out any problems. Run frig, freezer, usual stuff. Not the AC but anchored we don't need much AC. HTH
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Old 04-03-2015, 07:32 AM   #20
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"GC batteries have more headroom over the plates for electrolyte and they have cell caps for checking specific gravity with a hydrometer."

Deep cycle batts will also have more space at the bottom of the plates (than starts) so stuff that falls of after repeated charging will not short out the batt.
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