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Old 11-30-2020, 07:21 PM   #1
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Can Residential Solar Panels be used?

Can residential solar panels be used instead of the Renogy panels? I've been told that residential solar panels are less expensive at about $1 per Watt but didn't know if there is something unique about RV panels? Thanks!
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Old 11-30-2020, 07:33 PM   #2
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I think they are typically a higher voltage than you would want but I’m no solar panel expert. AM Solar is so this might help.
https://amsolar.com/diy-rv-solar-instructions/edfaq
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Old 11-30-2020, 07:59 PM   #3
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Panel voltage doesn't matter, so long as all panels are at the same voltage, and the solar controller can handle it. An MPPT could. I use two pairs of 2 panels in series, so supply voltage is 38V.
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Old 11-30-2020, 10:10 PM   #4
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Can residential solar panels be used instead of the Renogy panels? I've been told that residential solar panels are less expensive at about $1 per Watt but didn't know if there is something unique about RV panels? Thanks!
Residential panels are commonly 24 volt rated (actual voltage is higher). Original Escape provided controller might work but half the power will be lost. MPPT controllers will efficiently convert 24 volts (and up) down to battery charging voltages very nicely.
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Old 11-30-2020, 11:06 PM   #5
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the residential panels are often BIGGER per watt too.

and yeah, many residential systems run at 96V or higher DC voltages, and/or have distributed power inverters built into each block so they output 120VAC directly.
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Old 12-01-2020, 12:10 AM   #6
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FWIW ....

The Grape Solar GS-STAR-200W which are 'endorsed' by AM Solar for RV applications are heavily marketed for off-grid 'residential' and utility applications. Those are currently available as an 'expansion kit' (panel + a few cables) through Home Depot at a cost of $0.95/W (delivered price from my local store, YMMV).

As I've been researching nominal 12volt system PV panels, both rigid and flexible, that might be suitable for application on a 5.0TA I've been maintaining a spreadsheet with specs / characteristics of interest; Go Power, Renology, Lensun, Grape Solar, etc, etc; a quick scan of my $/W column shows values ranging from $0.95 to $2.35 and up, with more than a few in the $1.00-$1.15/W range.

Another FWIW, forum member jphil23462 chose the 'residential' Canadian Solar CS1H325MS panels for his 24-volt 5.0TA project (look for his 'Olive Modifications' thread).

IMO if you find a panel with the physical, electrical, and warranty characteristics that meet your goals, they're 'fair game' for consideration, just be thorough in the characteristics you consider, including how those relate to the 'companion' controller(s) under consideration and their ability to translate to useful battery charging for your system.

Methinks that when you run across a 'for RV' tagline on these things that's often just a marketing strategy, not particularly a reflection of a unique tangible characteristic. Having said that, personally I do find some comfort in specific product 'recommendations' from reputable vendors like AM Solar which target the RV market application. YMMV.

Have fun!
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Old 12-01-2020, 08:59 AM   #7
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Thank You for the information and advice! We are currently in line for a 21 NE in April 2021 so need to finalize our build soon. This information is very helpful and appreciated!
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Old 12-01-2020, 10:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanmalk View Post
Residential panels are commonly 24 volt rated (actual voltage is higher). Original Escape provided controller might work but half the power will be lost. MPPT controllers will efficiently convert 24 volts (and up) down to battery charging voltages very nicely.
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As Alan says, residential panels don't make sense if you are going to use them with the Escape provided solar controller. They require an MPPT controller to match their higher voltage to 12V batteries.
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Old 12-01-2020, 06:13 PM   #9
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I use a residential panel as a portable panel. It is correct that current residential panels start at 24 volt and do require a MPPT solar controller to handle that voltage. The other issue with such panels are they come in two sizes" big and bigger". The smaller size 65x39 is "typically" used for hone installations. The larger size is 77x39 and used in arrays of panels, usually a commercial building. The advantage with the larger size is you can use 8 panels versus 9.

They are an excellent panel in my usage. I have not tried to measure if they can be roof mounted. My guess is there is not enough space. As a portable panel they are very difficult to carry and transport. Weight is around 40 lbs with a magic number being 45 lbs. At 45 lbs OSHA regulations change and professional installers deal with more regulations to work with the panels.

They do not fit anywhere conveniently. Since I am taking a short 5 hour trip I can live with the panel bungee corded inside my 21. I takes over everything. I could carry the panel in my SUV but 3 bikes find a home in that location.

The panel is 310 watts. As a substitute I also have a suitcase panel of 120 watts that fits nicely inside the wardrobe. I do not have a rooftop panel.

These panels can be found on the cheap. I went to a local solar installation company and had a choice of a dozen different panels. All with varying degrees of minor damage.
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Old 12-02-2020, 09:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfschu View Post
Can residential solar panels be used instead of the Renogy panels? I've been told that residential solar panels are less expensive at about $1 per Watt but didn't know if there is something unique about RV panels? Thanks!
The panel voltage needs to match the voltage range supported by the charge controller. The charge controller will typically support a Vmp (maximum power voltage) which is around 1.5 times the battery voltage.

The controller will also have a maximum voltage, and just beware that cheap controllers can fry if the panels exceed the controllers max input voltage.
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