RV product review
An Easy Way to Get Extra Energy for Dry Camping - with a Portable Solar Panel by Go Power
Jeff Johnston: Some people like full-hookup campgrounds and all the amenities. We, like a lot of campers, enjoy going “dry camping,” or as they say, “boondocking,” which means “no hookups.” The disadvantage there is, sooner or later, you run out of electricity. For example, if it’s cool enough that you run your furnace all night, you know, your 12-volt battery power supply can be a little bit dodgy. Fortunately, there is a simple solar solution for that.
Go Power is a company that offers a number of portable solar panel charging setups for your RV batteries. This one is a 120-watt kit. They have kits all the way up to 200 watts, and they also offer permanent setups for the top of the vehicle. Well, we’re gonna show you how this 120-watt works, set it up alongside the trailer, and show you what kind of an advantage you can have by using this type of a system. What this means is the solar panels charge your batteries all day long while you’re out gallivanting around. You come home at night back to the trailer or the RV, and you’ve got plenty of battery power for the night, and then it recharges the next day.
The Go Power panels and connecting cables come in a sturdy carrying case for safe and convenient storage in your RV. Now, you unfold the panels, and you find all the hookup hardware on the inside. The kit comes complete with a variety of ways to connect to your RV. You can plug in a set of clips, hook ’em right on the battery. There’s the, again, the universal connector, and this is the small plug like you find on the side of an awful lot of RVs that say, “Prepped for solar,” another plug, same function, just slightly different plug design. And this wire has a couple of eyelets on the end so you can connect it directly to the battery without having to use clips. So you’re pretty much set up no matter which way you wanna go. Each side of the panel has these kind of leg kits that can stick out here. So we’ll set these up approximately here, and we’ll hold the whole rig over to the side of the trailer and figure out how we’re gonna hook these to the batteries. These clip leads are kind of short to reach from the back of the panel under the tongue of the trailer into the batteries, so what we’re gonna do, the company also provides a 30-foot extension cable, which is an option, in case you also need to move the panels someplace out into the sun. We’ll probably be using this.
Turns out that our trailer was equipped with the solar charge port, and one of the adapters in the kit just happens to fit, so we plug it in, and that’s set. The nice thing is, because this is portable, you put it in the sun wherever you happen to need it at the moment. This fits just fine. Brought out the cord that we’ve already plugged into the coach. Plug it in back, and we are set to go. Now, there’s a simple setup procedure for the charge controller that will go through here. The charge controller can be set up for sealed batteries, AGM or “absorbed glass mat,” or flooded. These are conventional flooded batteries, so we have set it up for flooded, and it’s now showing that we have 4.8 amps of current flowing into the batteries– No, 5 amps now. Get my shade off the surface here. So we’re gonna set up– or we’re gonna connect our voltmeter to the batteries, and we’ll show you what happens when we plug this in. Approximately 12.65. Okay, go ahead and plug it in, Pam. All right, and once the voltage regulator gets kicked in– and we got 12.71, -2. We show 12.72 volts. It bumped up a little bit, 12.73. Yeah, 12.73 volts is what we’re showin’ now. Go ahead and unplug it, am. Now that it’s unplugged, we’re back down to 12.67. So you got a little somethin’ coming in.
As the day wears on, you can re-aim the panels to maintain the optimum charging angle with the sun. So we’ve got power comin’ into our batteries, courtesy of the sun.
The Go Power solar kits like this are available in a variety of sizes. They’ve all got the built-in power voltage regulator, so it’s as easy as it can be. In fact, with all the plugs and connectors, this is almost a foolproof operation. If you like going dry camping and you’re tired of runnin’ out of power, a 12-volt electricity when you need it most, check into this kind of a portable solar system. It may be the solution that lets you enjoy your time out in the campsite, a little more relaxed, a little more fun.