Sunday, February 16, 2020

Solar panels, modified; repurposed for trailer camping

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My 3-year experiment with having a solar-powered ham shack has ended - I removed the two 100-watt panels from the roof last week.

Being close to the chimney, they had a bit of soot on them which I cleaned off as best I could. What remains is stained but is only on the back side of the panels, won't rub off and doesn't affect performance.

They are now assembled together in a more portable configuration for travel and to allow charging of the RV's battery when camping away from the grid. I did that by adding two hinges, two latches, tilting legs (to adjust panel's angle to face the sun) and a handle.

I also had to buy a different solar controller - the one I'd been using was too tall (3.25 inches) to allow the panels to close. The new one has a height of only 2 inches and the panels can close with no obstruction.

Here is a list of parts used:

I attached all the hardware with rivets rather than bolts since the aluminum frames of the panels have very little clearance in allowing a wrench to get to the underside. Rivets only require access to the top, making their use in this application easy and quick.

One of the two hinges, Renogy Wanderer controller

If you've ever considered using solar power, I highly recommend the Renogys.

After three Texas summers (which last 8 or 9 months), they still perform as new, producing 40 volts at 5 amps. The sunlight they've been exposed to is brutal by most people's standards, yet the panels could pass for "New" (as long as the soot-stained underside isn't judged!).

No delamination and no warping at all.

When folding up for carrying, the package is 45x20x3 inches (114x50x8 cm) and weighs 30 pounds (14 kg).


  1. Job well done John. I hope they will serve you well on your travels. 73, Bas

    1. It's been a fun experiment. For the first time in 3 years I now have to remember to turn on the power supply before trying to turn on the radio!
      73 - John