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Old 09-08-2016, 07:00 PM   #1
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Samlex Portable Solar Charging Kit

I thought I'd start a new thread with earlier-promised pictures of my portable solar unit. This is a Samlex 90-watt suitcase unit that weighs almost 22 pounds--manageable for a panty-waist like me. Cost: $470USD plus $48USD labor at my local RV shop.

Although I haven't put it to use yet, I am hoping that the 90-watt addition to my fixed solar panel (also 90 watts) will enable me to get through the winter months in the dreary PNW without having to hook up at powered campsites. At the rate I camp in the winter, this should pay for itself in way less than two seasons.

Two things I liked almost immediately are the sturdy carrying case provided and the handles on both the carrying case and the panels.

Two things I disliked almost immediately are the knurled nuts to tighten the supporting legs on the panel, which are hard for my fingers to maneuver, and the status lights on the back of the panel, which in daylight are extremely hard to see if they are on and/or flashing--even the technician was having a very tough time.

The first four pics are self-explanatory; the last four are in the next posting.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit.jpg (360.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-001.jpg (281.6 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-002.jpg (403.5 KB, 36 views)
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-003.jpg (290.2 KB, 34 views)
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Old 09-08-2016, 07:09 PM   #2
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The last four pictures. I wanted a really easy "plug and play," or in this case "plug and charge," unit and this surely is it. Note the last picture of the snap-together connectors...couldn't be easier.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-004.jpg (372.9 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-009.jpg (249.1 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-006.jpg (189.8 KB, 34 views)
File Type: jpg Samlex Solar Unit-007.jpg (155.4 KB, 34 views)
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Old 09-08-2016, 07:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarenH View Post
I thought I'd start a new thread with earlier-promised pictures of my portable solar unit. This is a Samlex 90-watt suitcase unit that weighs almost 22 pounds--manageable for a panty-waist like me. Cost: $470USD plus $48USD labor at my local RV shop.

Although I haven't put it to use yet, I am hoping that the 90-watt addition to my fixed solar panel (also 90 watts) will enable me to get through the winter months in the dreary PNW without having to hook up at powered campsites. At the rate I camp in the winter, this should pay for itself in way less than two seasons.

Two things I liked almost immediately are the sturdy carrying case provided and the handles on both the carrying case and the panels.

Two things I disliked almost immediately are the knurled nuts to tighten the supporting legs on the panel, which are hard for my fingers to maneuver, and the status lights on the back of the panel, which in daylight are extremely hard to see if they are on and/or flashing--even the technician was having a very tough time.

The first four pics are self-explanatory; the last four are in the next posting.
That looks good and will supplement your existing panel quite well, especially being able to aim it. Not sure how much cable you have, but an extra length might be handy.

I plan to do something similar to you. Firstly mount solar on the roof (not sure if I will do the Escape mount or one of my own), and supplement it with an 80W portable Go Power unit I picked up at an RV show for only $400 CAD. It too has a great rigid carrying case to it. I do plan to get an extension cable as I am often short of the good sun. It does not have an easy to use or read charge controller either, but I plan to use the one on the trailer.
Portable Solar Kits (80 or 120 watts) | Go Power!
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Old 09-08-2016, 07:17 PM   #4
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Not sure how much cable you have, but an extra length might be handy.
It came with a 14-foot cable (or 16-foot cable depending on the brochure) but in heavily forested sites, that probably wouldn't cut it.

It also came with a two-pin bullet adapter for use with (some) pre-wired RVs.
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Old 09-22-2016, 02:17 AM   #5
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What do you find is using the most power while you are off the grid? Do you have dual 6v ? Do you have led lights? Is it the running of the furnace?


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Old 09-22-2016, 02:22 AM   #6
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Furnace fan chews through the battery, but I'm not going to turn it off. The sun will rise tomorrow and I've got two 40 watt solar panels.
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Old 09-22-2016, 08:57 AM   #7
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The major drawback to the Samlex suitcase solar kit is the location of the solar controller. This is common to most portable units and was also the case on the SolarBLVD portable unit I purchased.

The issue is wire loss. The standard for solar installs is to place the controller within 1 meter of the batteries. Not only a close placement but even with a short distance it is recommended to use the largest gauge wire (smaller number) as possible. My controller would only accept 8 gauge. The pictured unit has placed the controller conveniently on the back of the panel, but on the wrong end for a proper install.

With a panel that small, yes 90 watt is small, it may be difficult to obtain a full charge. Especially on low light days, the shoulder seasons of full sun or during times of heavy daily usage.

There are two solutions: The first is to use an expensive heavy gauge wire from the controller to the battery. This is not the best solution. I would recommend a 10 gauge wire sometimes sold as irrigation wire or I purchased this from Amazon for $48 KnuKonceptz Kord Kable 10 Gauge Copper Speaker Wire 50'. The better solution would be to move the attached solar controller from the panel to your battery. This reduces some of the portability but using quick connections would allow the panel to battery wire and controller be moved and stored separately.

Finally, I would look carefully at the gauge of wire that was included with the kit. I have seen some kits containing 16 gauge wire, something totally inadequate. The most economical might be to connect in a 50' 12 gauge extension cord. Or, use the 10 gauge wire recommended above.
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Old 09-22-2016, 09:40 AM   #8
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The better solution would be to move the attached solar controller from the panel to your battery. This reduces some of the portability but using quick connections would allow the panel to battery wire and controller be moved and stored separately.
This makes good sense, as the higher voltage from the panel would have less loss. As the Go Power 80W portable I have uses the Anderson style connectors to connect the cables as it is, so would be easy to add to either side of the controller. All cabling is #10. The panel comes with a 15' lead, and I have another 30' extension for when I need it.

Another though is to use the connectors to bypass the supplied and mounted controller, and to just pick up another 10A controller. I would imagine once I get my 5.0, which I will put mounted solar on, that when supplementing with the portable, that I would want to bypass the portable's controller, and tie directly into the one the mounted system uses, correct?
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Old 09-22-2016, 10:29 AM   #9
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Karen's panels looks like it has a quality controller.

I have a nice quality portable 80W panel but it came with a cheap controller that I removed. I replaced it with a Morning Star mounted in a dry box (below) that I place right on top of the battery box when I setup. I use a 12 gauge extension cord cable from the panel to the controller with connectors on both ends so the panel, cable and dry box can all stored individually.

I've measure voltage loss from the panel to the controller and it is negligible.

Thanks to Paul for both suggesting moving controller location and sending me his spare dry box!
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Old 09-22-2016, 10:45 AM   #10
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I like the dry box! I am attaching the Morningstar SunSaver controller with two wingnuts to the side of the battery box. I'm using a 10 gauge wire with Anderson Powerpole connectors between the battery and controller. And 12 gauge Renogy cables with MC4 connectors between the controller and a 100W Renogy solar kit (bought without the controller so I could do this the "right" way).

This is the only photo I have so far. Everything is unplugged for visibility. MC4 connectors are in lower left corner. Anderson has a dust cover for Powerpole connectors, to avoid dust and rain. Haven't used it a lot yet, but it's easy to set up and take down.
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