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richard5933

Portable Solar Panel Security

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We're in the midst of putting together the first stage of our solar charging system. For this first stage, we are going with three Zamp 180-watt portable/folding panels which will be connected to a Victron 150/85 charge controller. We went with the portable for two reasons, the first being we haven't figured out the best way (actually, any attractive way) to mount things to our very curved roof, and the second (larger) reason is that the portable panels will allow us to park in the shade while our panels are in the sun. The portable panels also have a pretty steep angle when deployed which should catch more sun up here in the north lands than anything on our roof would. Hopefully this arrangement will allow us to continue dry camping without having to run the a/c, something quite doable in this part of the country through most of the summer if we don't have to park in the sun.

The use of portable panels brings the topic of this thread, how to best secure them so they don't grow feet and walk away. We won't be deploying them when we are boondocking at Wal-Mart (or other similar locations). We'll be using them when we're in more remote places like parks, campgrounds, etc.

What has been the experience of other people with things like this? Am I worried over nothing or is there a real problem with things like portable solar panels walking away?

My current plan is to drill holes through the aluminum frames of the three folding panels and use a thin stainless cable to lock them together and to something like a tree, our back wheel, or some other stationary object. I know that cables can be cut, locks can be broken, and that a determined thief can easily figure out a way to take the panels. My concern is more the "opportunity crimes" that can often be prevented by taking away the convenience of the theft.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

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Here's a photo of what the back side of the portable panels look like. My plan is the drill the hole through the doubled center frame members just below the bottom hinge so that I could thread the cable through both halves of each set.

There is a charge controller used, but it's mounted in the electrical bay and secured behind a locked door.

SOLAR-Z160b.png

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Yes Herman they do require a controller (Victron)as mentioned.

As for growing feet, I have seen many on the ground and no one around and none that have walked away in our two years camping in the desert around Quartzsite, Arizona. Common sense should prevail based upon where you are and how long you plane to be away. That said there have been thefts of generators and other stuff in the area. But if you are out and away from the majority and are alone i doubt the thieves are looking for you. They want easy targets, quick getaway spots near highways. Those areas we have been like Alamo Lake, we leave all sorts of stuff out and no one has ever bothered anything, except for Mr. Jack Burro... There is a sort of unspoken watchful community amongst campers with like interests at many of these spots. I think you have a good idea using a steel cable through the frames. It takes a lot of effort to get through that stuff and there are locks, especially the round ones that are exceptionally difficult to hack.  good luck

 

 

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I saw a roof mount set up that had curved rails side to side and the panels would travel in the center and moved either right or left when in use to the correct angle.  Be sure to use a MPPT controller, much more efficient.

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Another way to look at it, one 100 watt panel is not very tempting but 540 watts of panels sitting out there could be very attractive to someone. It’s a $100 bill or $540! Which would you pick up first?

may not be attractive but a lot safer on the roof. 

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1 hour ago, thezafts said:

may not be attractive but a lot safer on the roof. 

True, but then we'd be forced to park in the sun. If we're dry camping we hope not to have to run the a/c, but parking in the sun to power the solar panels would heat us up like an oven. Then we're running the generator to power the a/c, and then we wouldn't get any benefit from the solar panels.

Kind of a vicious cycle, which is one of the reasons we are going to make use of ground-deployed solar when possible.

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If it is hot enough to run the a/c, you are probably in the desert, very few trees there, so may have to run the gen anyway.

If you don’t need the a/c, you are probably at a high altitude where it is cooler, and you may be in the shade, so portables are better.

All depends!!!

 

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2 hours ago, thezafts said:

If it is hot enough to run the a/c, you are probably in the desert, very few trees there, so may have to run the gen anyway.

If you don’t need the a/c, you are probably at a high altitude where it is cooler, and you may be in the shade, so portables are better.

All depends!!!

 

The weather is not as simple as you describe, at least not in Wisconsin. No desert and no high altitude, but the sun can still work its magic on vehicles parked without shade.

We were camping a few weeks ago in Black River Falls with temps reaching the mid 90s. There was a nice breeze blowing. Evening temps down to the mid 60s. I could have parked in the sun or the shade. Huge difference between how the coach heats up parked in sun vs. shade. In the sun it would take hours after the temps dropped to a comfortable level for the inside of the coach to be comfortable. Parked in the shade with the windows open the inside coach temps drop as soon as the breeze blows through.

We have lots of windows on our 35-foot coach. Even in the middle of winter when temps are frigid, the inside of the coach can be in the 40s or 50s after a few hours in the sun. Greenhouse effect works really well in a vehicle with windows.

So, when possible I park in the shade. With our night time temps still comfortable for sleeping the big factor to comfort is keeping the coach from getting baked in the sun all day. With 50 feet of cable I can put the panels in the sun and the coach comfortably in the shade.

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