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Flexible solar panels


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Buying on price is, can be, false economy.

 

About 6-7 years ago me and D1 built a eco micro dwelling that is solar powered. I had a BP made panel of unknown age and I brought 2 more, which was done based on cheap, not the cheapest but they were still at the cheaper end of the spectrum. All were installed the same way and get washed every few months etc. Their life would be pampered compared to one uses on boats.

 

The BP panel still looks identical to the day we put it up and is going great guns. The other to have lots of signs they are not long for this world and their output is down a fair bit, I suspect the cells are backing up and in a variable manner i.e. some are OK and some are not.

 

Hence when I brought the panels for my boat I went top end. But then they are also very mission critical so not a situation to skimp in.

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Buying on price is, can be, false economy.

 

About 6-7 years ago me and D1 built a eco micro dwelling that is solar powered. I had a BP made panel of unknown age and I brought 2 more, which was done based on cheap, not the cheapest but they were still at the cheaper end of the spectrum. All were installed the same way and get washed every few months etc. Their life would be pampered compared to one uses on boats.

 

The BP panel still looks identical to the day we put it up and is going great guns. The other to have lots of signs they are not long for this world and their output is down a fair bit, I suspect the cells are backing up and in a variable manner i.e. some are OK and some are not.

 

Hence when I brought the panels for my boat I went top end. But then they are also very mission critical so not a situation to skimp in.

 

Did you ever use that Maxon 12v - 240v inverter with this setup?

I ended up giving them all away and never kept one for myself hence I'm interested to know if it was any good?

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Did you ever use that Maxon 12v - 240v inverter with this setup?

I ended up giving them all away and never kept one for myself hence I'm interested to know if it was any good?

Sure did and it's still going fine.

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Another thing that sets panels apart is the clear covering. Cheap panels can use a clear acrylic, the better clear glass but even though it looks clear to our eyes, apparently not so to the Light Bugs. Apparently some just bounce off instead of through. You will usually see in specs of the more expensive panels, a figure that relates to light transmission through the covering. This goes hand in hand with the fact that many of the more expensive panels also work in a wider bandwidth of light and the two extreme ends of the light they can use tend to get reflected of the cover rather than transmitted through it.

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I have been going through old threads with particular reference to Flexible Solar Panels. There is so much negativity around flexible panels and I understand that there have been some very poorly manufactured cheap panels that have justified this reaction. Clearly Solbian have been setting the standard at the premium end and unashmedley, with a price to match. I am sure there must be some other brands with good experience and a track record to challenge them, but the difficulty is how to sort out which ones. I would be interested in any feedback from those who have been running flexible solar panels for a while and what brands they have used.  Do they appear to be holding up to the UV??  Any drop off in output??  I dropped in to Enertec this week and had a look at their 3rd generation "Juice" panels which have a more UV stable outer skin, instigated from earlier iterations not going the distance. 

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I've used multiple brands. The best was uni-solar, did 10years. Unfortunately they no longer make panels small enough for a yacht.

Several Chinese panels, 1-2.5 years. I've done a few Juice panels as well, wont be doing more, failure rate too high. I have no recommendations right now, but would like to find something not cost prohibitive- like solbian.

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bought 2x Goflex from Beacon about 3yrs ago and they are dieing rapidly. Each year the performance drops off. I reckon by next year (4) they’ll be next to useless. I was told at the time that the extra price of the premium flexible brands doesn’t but you more power but more lifespan. Regardless, I’d never buy flexible again.

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I bought 8 panels from AA solar. They promised a 5% bulk discount on the whole v order but when I turned up to collect the panels they refused to give the discount on the other charge regulators and cabling, just the panels themselves.

 

They did state that these panels tended to fail and had no warranty, but they also said they were no worse than any other flexible panel.

 

I installed them glued down with Sikaflex to the coachroof and they were never bent or stepped on.

 

Within a couple of months the first panel failed - one cell got so hot that it burnt right through the top of the panel, then water got in the burnt hole and destroyed the rest of the panel.

 

Within a year about half the panels had failed in the same manner. The top surface of the panels was already getting rough and not transparent any more. The few intact panels were producing a fraction of their rated power.

 

I removed all the panels and discovered to my horror that the fibreglass below them was burnt black and the foam core had melted under the failed cells. Huge repair job and lucky the boat didn't catch fire.

 

 

I contacted AA solar and said warranty or not, these are not fit to be sold and demanded a refund under consumer guarantees act. They refused. I filed a claim in the disputes tribunal. They failed to turn up at the tribunal, made excuses, got it delayed. Second time they were a no-show again and the tribunal ordered a full refund. They took a while to pay but eventually coughed up when the court bailiff was threatened.

 

So... AA solar are a bit dodgy in my view. They knowingly sold a faulty product and although they have some warnings they also claimed their panels were no worse than others. I happen to know plenty of people whose semi flexi panels didn't burn through the deck!

 

The law says if you sell something which is not fit for purpose you must give a refund. Full stop. Warranties are supposed to be an extra, bonus protection. Saying "no warranty" doesn't excuse you from your legal responsibilities.

 

So...  I repaired the coachroof at my own cost and installed some big heavy cheap glass panels which look ugly but they still work after a year.

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When was that syohana? AA solar changed hands a while back...

 

Also, part of the issue with solar panels is heat - nowhere for it to go if fixed to a deck directly, so that could be part of any issue. Even mounted on canvas with air flow under them they still get damn hot. No excuse, just thinking out loud...

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I purchased the panels in about may 2016 and got the tribunal hearing in july 2017, got the refund a couple of months after that. The guy I dealt with at AA solar was called Pierre. Quite possible ownership could have changed.

 

Soon after losing at the tribunal they stopped selling flexi panels, having learnt that you can't just opt out of refunding for faulty goods by stating "no warranty" on the invoice!

 

Everyone who bought these dodgy panels from any NZ seller for non-commercial use was and is legally entitled to a full refund. AA tried to wriggle out of paying by saying we were a charter yacht but we had luckily already stopped commercial work and gone out of survey when the panels were fitted.

 

They are not just faulty, they are dangerous and can start fires. AA very much understated the fault, which they were fully aware of.

 

Not all flexi panels are bad but it's so hard to know what you've got that I wouldn't risk buying them again. You could pay a lot more and still get the same rubbish.

 

Lensun panels seen to have a good reputation at a reasonable price. I nearly went for those but decided not to risk it.

 

Regarding the heat, I installed them exactly as AA recommended. If they are not stuck down then they will flex and the cells will crack. Best option to dissipate heat would be too stick them to a sheet of aluminium and mount it above the deck with an air gap. If you're doing that then you might as well get an aluminium framed panel in the first place!

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