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Bluetti AC200P Review: The Best Solar Generator For RV. Solar 110v outlet

Bluetti AC200P Review: The Best Solar Generator For RV. Solar 110v outlet

    Bluetti AC200P Review: The Best Solar Generator For RV?

    The Bluetti AC200P is one of the most wanted portable solar generators today. Let’s see if it’s worth your hard-earned cash in this Bluetti AC200P review.

    What is the Bluetti AC200P and Who is it for?

    The Bluetti AC200P is a portable solar power station with a range of features that promise to beat the competition into dirt.

    This 2000-watt solar generator is a well-rounded powerbox with many strengths and few weaknesses:

    It gives you five modes of charging, a total of 17 output ports and an excellent touchscreen with plenty of options to set and choose from.

    The latest-generation, high-capacity lithium iron phosphate battery promises around 3500 charge cycles, and it is much more safe to the environment than standard lithium-polymer and lithium-ion batteries.

    It is an ideal choice for RVers and campers, as well as people vacationing off the grid who don’t like the idea of a gas generator polluting their surroundings.

    What Can be Improved?

    The Best Bluetti AC200P Deals

    As someone who deeply cares about our planet and is addicted to the big outdoors, I vowed never to use a fuel generator again.

    As energy use is concerned, my camping trips and RV vacations are near-to-zero emissions.

    As of this year, my go-to solar kit is the Bluetti AC200P coupled with three 200W portable solar panels.

    Is it the best one around? It probably is.

    Is it perfect? No, it still has room for improvement but it definitely sets a standard that is hard to beat.

    So why is everybody in the off-grid community raving about the AC200P?

    BLUETTI AC200P Review: Dissecting the Key Features

    Built to Last and Look Good

    When the UPS guy unloads the package to your curbside, taking the whole box inside might call for some proper deadlifting.

    The first thing that came to my mind was, “Is this their idea of portable?”

    There’s no lying about it. This solar power station is not on the light side. It’s the size of a pet carrier or cabin luggage. Still, I’m afraid no airline will let you get aboard with this one.

    With a bit over 60 lbs, you’ll wish you ordered the trolley (sold separately) if you need to move it around a lot.

    But when you start unboxing it, it all starts making sense. The Bluetti AC200P is made of tough flame-retardant ABS plastic and aluminum that looks like it can take some beating.

    The diagonal pinstripes on the front show that Mr. Bluetti means business, and the two handles molded in the frame promise a secure grip.

    Kudos for design and durability!!

    5 Ways of Charging

    On the left side of the power station, there is an AC and DC input port that let you charge the AC200P in five different ways:

    The AC port allows maximum charging power of 500W which means it takes about 4 hours to fully charge the AC200P.

    The 12-30V DC port is also the one you’ll use to hook the station to solar panels.

    Now, this is where things get interesting — with a maximum solar charging load of 700W, you can fully charge this power station in less than three hours.

    That’s one hour faster than if you use the AC grid voltage. A clear win for clean energy.

    But you’re missing out on the best part!

    There’s an adaptor that lets you use the DC/solar port for AC charging. So you effectively have two 400W brick adapters working at the same time.

    This way your Bluetti AC200P can go from 0-100 in less than 3 hours.

    I also charged the Bluetti solar generator from a 24V lead-acid car battery once. It’s definitely the slowest mode, as it took the whole 9 hours.

    17 Outlets to Choose From

    Yes, you heard it right, the Bluetti AC200P offers a total of 17 output ports of both AC and DC variety:

    Number of Ports

    AC 110V Three-Prong Outlets

    60W USB-C Port (A wink to MacBook owners)

    15W Wireless Charging Pads

    OK, here’s a shout-out to other manufacturers:

    Ladies and gentlemen, the Bluetti AC200P has rubber dust flaps on EACH of its output ports. Please include these on ALL your portable solar generators. Thank you.

    Sure, this power station is not being deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but just think about an average day on the beach. No one likes sand in their output ports, believe me.

    bluetti, ac200p, review, best, solar

    The six AC power outlets are rated at 110V but, you can easily change this to 120V and choose the frequency between 50-60Hz.

    Together, they share 2000 watts of pure sine-wave AC power.

    The DC 12/25A aviation-style outlet is another feature I like. Even if all 6 AC outlets are busy, I can plug a serious DC appliance like a fridge.

    You can argue if the wireless charging pads are the selling point for the AC200P, but let’s be honest, not many portable solar generators come with these.

    Just keep in mind that these are single-coil wireless docks, so finding the right spot with your device can be tricky.

    Also, those 15W are shared between the pads — if you charge two phones at once, that wattage is split between them.

    What can Bluetti AC200P Power?

    This portable solar generator offers 2000 watts of continuous power. This means you can, for example, plug in a 100-watt computer, a 1200-watt fridge, and a 700-watt air fryer.

    Its surge wattage is also formidable — up to 4800 watts for start up.

    Surge wattage is important because appliances with electric motors and power tools draw a lot of power at startup. You won’t have any trouble with the AC200P. If it can run it, it can start it.

    If I was renovating a home, I would use this power station as an auxiliary power source, if the original wiring has been ripped out.

    Here are a few more ideas of what you can power with the Bluetti AC200P:

    Appliance Type

    Duration (Approx.)

    Who would’ve thought hairdryers could be such power hogs, eh?

    The 12V/10A cigarette lighter port lets you charge all sorts of car-friendly gadgets like GPS and cameras.

    And yet, when all your “high-power” ports are occupied you still have seven low-voltage DC outlets to charge your electronics, plus the two wireless phone charging pads.

    Honestly, I can’t think of a real-life situation where you run out of outlets with the Bluetti AC200P.

    The Heart of Lithium and Iron

    This power station wouldn’t be what it is without the innovative battery technology that gives it an edge over the competition.

    The heart of the Bluetti AC200P is the latest technology lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4) battery.

    At about 3500 charge cycles, this is a massive leap from the 500 cycles that regular lithium-polymer batteries provide. It doesn’t surprise that many top electric vehicle brands, including Tesla, are shifting to lithium iron phosphate technology.

    On the downside, LiFePo4 batteries have worse energy density than lithium polymer, which means they will always be heavier than lithium-polymer units with similar battery capacity.

    As a standard piece of technology for modern power stations, the AC200P comes with an MPPT solar charge controller.

    Using complex algorithms, this unit maximizes charging efficiency via solar panels, be it flexible or the regular portable ones.

    An interesting feat I noticed about solar charging: Even if the power station is turned off, it automatically comes to life when solar panels engage.

    This is really handy when you want to start charging the battery with the first rays of the sun. You literally don’t have to do anything.

    This Can’t be Cheap, Right?

    Actually, the Bluetti AC200P costs less than competitive products, price-per-watt. Right now, the MSRP is 1,699. But you can always find good deals.

    You should understand the price may change based on the sales decision of the manufacturer and the retailers.

    Its main competitors, the EcoFlow Delta 1300 and Jackery Explorer 1000 are cheaper but also pack less output power. Not to mention Bluetti’s superb lithium-iron battery.

    Also, the manufacturer’s recommended price is not set in stone. If you’re interested in buying an AC200P, keep your eyes peeled for sales and discount codes.

    To conclude, if you want the most bang for the buck, this is it.

    The Best Bluetti AC200P Deals

    What I REALLY LOVED about BLUETTI AC200P

    When talking about a product with so many great features, it’s easy to become biased. Still, what matters to me needn’t matter to someone else.

    So here’s why I recommend buying this solar power generator:

    Plenty of Power

    The Bluetti AC200P is among the most powerful portable power stations. It easily takes care of all my needs when RVing or camping. Clearly, a winner for the best solar generator for RV category.

    I can do a lot of microwaving with this — almost two full hours. That’s a lot of prepared meals.

    It can power several kitchen appliances without breaking a sweat. I don’t even want to count all the gadgets I can charge at the same time.

    The 500W air conditioner in my RV gets about 4 hours of battery time. If I charge with the maximum 700W of solar panels, I can run the air conditioner the whole day, as long as I have the sun.

    Well, if you need more power, you can also check its big brother — Bluetti EP500.

    Next-Gen Battery

    The LiFePo4 battery is probably the biggest selling point for this power station. With a capacity of over 166,000mAh, it’s enough to recharge a modern phablet more than 40 times. In off-grid use, it can easily run a few small appliances overnight.

    When hooked on solar panels, it gives me an effectively unlimited supply of electricity, of course, unless I plug in a serious power hog.

    But the best is yet to come:

    This battery has around 3500 recharge cycles until its capacity drops to 80%. This means it’ll last for almost 10 years, even with hard EVERYDAY USE.

    Excellent LCD Touchscreen

    All modern solar power generators have an LCD display of some sort, but the Bluetti AC200P goes one step ahead in this category, too.

    The tech specs list this display as resistive, but it’s definitely the smoothest resistive touchscreen I’ve seen so far — on par with capacitive screens used for smartphones.

    It not only displays the charging and power in use, and the remaining charge, but lets you access the settings through an easy-to-use menu.

    You can change the station’s settings and enable or disable various features.

    Wireless Charging Pads

    I’m just going to say this:

    After a whole day spent in the open, the last thing I want to do is look for my phone’s charging cable. I just drop the phone on one of these charging pads and hit the shower.

    The Not-So-Good Things about BLUETTI AC200P!

    Heavy!

    At 60 lbs, this power station is definitely not the most portable out there. I have no problems moving it from place to place, but it might be a problem with someone with a bad back.

    However, when talking about camping and RVing gear, I like to make a difference between good weight and bad weight.

    A good weight is the one that gives you something in return. The Bluetti AC200P is definitely good weight — plenty of power plus the cutting edge battery. Not to mention all the things you can charge.

    If mobility is important for you, this might not be the best option. Yet, as the lithium-iron battery technology advances, let’s hope Bluetti offers a new model which will be more portable.

    The Not So Bright Display

    Hey, but you’ve just raved about how great the display is.

    Yes, the display offers a great user experience, but it needs improvement. It works really smoothly but it’s a pain to read in bright daylight.

    I wish Bluetti upgraded the next version with a brightness sensor or at least offers several brightness settings. Also, if the display dies, you’re done. You’ll pretty much have to send it back to the manufacturer to have it taken care of.

    All the switches and controls apart from the main On/Off button can be accessed only through the display.

    I’d definitely want to see hardware switches, at least for the 6 AC 110V outlets.

    Pros and Cons of BLUETTI AC200P

    Comparing BLUETTI AC200P with Other Popular Solar Generators

    BLUETTI AC200P

    Point zero energy titan

    Jackery Explorer 1000

    EcoFlow Delta 1300

    Battery Capacity

    Battery Cell Type

    Life Cycles

    3500 Cycles to 80% Capacity

    2000 Cycles to 80% Capacity

    500 Cycles to 80% Capacity

    800 Cycles to 80% Capacity

    Rated Power (PSW Inverter)

    Surge Power

    Charging Time

    Car Charging Availability

    Solar Input

    Weight (Approx.)

    FAQ

    Is Bluetti a Good Brand?

    Yes, Bluetti is a good brand. Their solar generators, portable solar panels, and power banks are very popular, although it’s a relatively new company.

    How Many Amp Hours is Bluetti AC200P?

    The Bluetti AC200P is over 166,000mAh.

    How Long Does It Take to Charge Bluetti AC200P?

    It takes around 4 hours to charge the Bluetti from the AC outlet and less than 3 hours if you use the maximum solar panel capacity of 700W.

    How Do You Convert Watt-Hours to Amp Hours?

    You convert watt-hours to Amp-hours by dividing them with the battery voltage.

    How Many Charging Methods Are There for Bluetti AC200P?

    There are 5 charging methods for the Bluetti AC200P

    What is BLUETTI ECO Mode?

    The Bluetti ECO mode is a feature of their solar generators which can prevent up to 50% of electricity loss. It automatically powers down the unit when the plugged load is lower than 50W for 4 hours.

    Conclusion

    Thanks to the serious power output, excellent battery autonomy, and a variety of outlets, the Bluetti AC200P is great for RV use and camping.

    However, it loses points of portability as it’s twice as heavy as some of its competitors.

    It’s hard to say if it’s a good or bad purchase, because you may want to use it in different scenarios than I do.

    RV users might appreciate its power and battery life, while for those who like to travel light, the weight will be a dealbreaker.

    Who knows, maybe you decide you like one of its competitors better!

    The Best Bluetti AC200P Deals

    Nikola Gemeš

    Nikola uses his background in electrical engineering to break down complex sustainability topics for GreenCitizen’s readers. He is a firm believer in environmental conservation, which he practices daily through recycling and home-grown food. He enjoys hiking, engaging in white-water sports, and collecting knives.

    5 Комментарии и мнения владельцев on “ Bluetti AC200P Review: The Best Solar Generator For RV? ”

    Bluetti makes good products, but customer service is horrible. They have a Better Business Bureau rating of “F”, which doesn’t scream, “reputable”. Good luck if you actually need service.

    How do you charge it with lead battery

    Great overview. Yes, excellent portable power station. I bought one recently, and it works quite well. I am happy and enjoy it.

    I’m happy with my AC200p using it in my camper van, but wish they would publish more technical specs. Their technical support via email is also lacking in technical details.

    For example, the manual says the power station has a Depth of Discharge (DOD) setting of 90%, which means that only 90% of the battery capacity can be discharged. But the previous paragraphs says that if the battery capacity is less than 5%, charge ASAP. When I asked if the unit would shutdown at 10% on the display, or if 0% on the display would leave 10% per the DOD settings, their written response was “It will shut off when it’s under ECO mode and out of battery. If you drain it to this low battery, it will hurt the battery’s lifespan. The LCD will show you the battery data. Usable power doesn’t include DOD. And you can use power until 0% but please try not to do that.”

    So my assumption is there is no DOD shutdown protection to prevent damaging the batteries by running my fridge on DC. ECO is for AC only. Leaving the AC output on without a load will use significant battery power overnight (when there’s no solar charging). The ECO will turn off after 4 hours of no-load or light-load, such as using a laptop charging. So it is not “plug it in and forget”, but constantly checking the charge to make sure it doesn’t drop below 10%.

    For the solar charging, they advertise 700W, but the maximum input per the manual is 12 amps. So that would be 60v @ 12 amps to achieve 700W. I figured this out when I found that three 12v (18.6v @ 5.9 amps optimum) 100W solar panels charge at near 300W, and adding a 4th 100W panel does not increase the charging at all. The 200P accepts 35v-150v input for solar, but I guess 60v is the “sweet spot”.

    I’m near Seattle, clouds and camping under trees, so with the 4 panels in series will give over 15v with just a bit of light and usually maintains the fridge use with no problem. But if I had studied the specs beforehand, I probably could get by with just 2 solar panels. The 200P doesn’t list all the specs in one spot; they are scattered through the manual.

    Why you should never invest in “plug-in” solar panels

    There’s a lot of pride when it comes to choosing to go solar. You’re making an investment in a cleaner energy future, becoming more self reliant, and when you pair those panels together with a home battery storage solution, you can still generate electricity even if the power goes out.

    Though, this home solar investment is not cheap. Professional solar power system installations typically cost about 3,000 per kilowatt. Most average-sized solar PV systems are 6 kilowatts, meaning you’re looking at a price tag nearing 20,000.

    So, of course there are some solar kit companies out there who are looking to sell you an easy way to go solar, without an installer. “Just plug in the panels into a regular electrical outlet, and boom! You’ve gone solar.” If that sounds too good to be true, it is.

    In this article, we explain why you should never invest in “plug-in” solar panels. We’ll describe how they work, discuss the companies who offer them, reveal why they aren’t worth it, and provide you with some alternatives to consider.

    How plug-in solar panels work

    The main draws to plug-in solar panels are that they are simple to understand, and they’re cheap.

    Plug-in solar panels (also called “plug and play solar panels”) are typically offered in pairs and can be wired together into arrays that range from those two base panels (about 640 watts) all the way up to as many sets as you want.

    Since about 2012, companies like PluggedSolar and SunPlug have been offering these inexpensive plug-in solar panel kits as a way to lure budget-minded do-it-yourself homeowners into the world of solar energy. Similar kits can also be found on Amazon at a price range of 500-1200.

    Affixed to the back of each solar panel in a plug-in solar array, is a microinverter. Inverters are responsible for converting the DC electricity which the panels generate into AC electricity which your home appliances use.

    Microinverters comply with auto-safety shutoff standards, so if they detect a power drop from the grid or your home, they will not allow electricity to flow back into your home circuits or back to the grid.

    This is to ensure line-workers who may be troubleshooting problems don’t get zapped while they’re fixing things back up. They also help protect kids who may be messing with the cord end if the panels aren’t attached to the wall.

    Coming out of the solar array is a plug, just like the kind coming out of your vacuum cleaner. Plug-in solar kits also come with ground mounts for the panels to sit on an angle to face the sun. Plop the array in the sun, plug it in to your wall outlet, and you’ve now gone solar. Easy peasy, right? Nope.

    bluetti, ac200p, review, best, solar

    Why plug-in solar panels aren’t worth it

    The marketing materials for plug-in solar panels are chock-full of easy-to-understand language that sounds like, “Hey, these are revolutionary! Instead of something consuming energy when you plug this gizmo into your wall outlet, it generates electricity for you to use in your house! Act now, we’ll throw in a second solar panel for half the price!”

    For the most part, the statement is true. If you plug in an array of solar panels into your wall outlet, the electricity the panels generate will definitely flow into your home. However, there are big risks in doing this.

    For one, you are supposed to use a dedicated circuit for the plug-in solar array. That’s because if there’s too much energy flowing into and out of any one circuit, you can be asking for a fire. By dedicating only a single circuit to have your solar energy feed into your electrical panel with, you’re reducing your risk.

    Safety concerns

    Considering how these panels are marketed, it’s basically like giving a 16-year old keys to a sports car. there’s bound to be mishaps.

    How many people are going to get jazzed up when their plug-in solar panels arrive, set them up on the back patio and plop them into the same outlet and circuit which powers their hot tub? Probably a non-insignificant amount. You’re asking for trouble. Not only that, but the cord which connects the panels to your wall may also be a trip hazard.

    Costs

    Plug-in solar panels are significantly less expensive than professionally-completed installations, especially upfront. You can have about 600 watts of plugged-in solar for about 1,000. That equates to about 1.67 per watt. Professional installations range from 2.50 to 3.00 per watt in the United States.

    Think carefully about what you’re paying for, though. With plugged-in DIY solar panels, yes you could easily take your sets of panels with you if you decide to move, but… they look clunky, take up space in your lawn or patio, you can bump into them, they need a dedicated circuit, and you or your guests can trip over the cord.

    Since plug-in solar panels are not installed by a licensed electrician or signed off on by your utility company, they may actually be illegal in some areas. Plug-in solar panels violate many local utility codes because they feed electricity into a home circuit without dedicated shutoff and safety features.

    In other areas, you will not be able to reap the benefits of hefty solar power incentives like state renewable energy certificates (SRECs) or local rebates. While they may qualify for the federal 30% investment tax credit, you’ll probably be better off applying that credit to a larger, professionally-installed solar installation.

    over, a couple of plug-in solar panels aren’t really going to save you a significant amount of money on your electricity bills. To make a big difference on your electric bill, you’ll usually need at least a 5 kilowatt system, or about 15-16 panels.

    Professional roof mount installs also look better, they are safer, and can be an integral part of a whole home energy management system.

    Alternatives to plug-in solar systems

    So, you might be wondering, if plug-in solar panels aren’t the way to go, what should I do instead? You can explore getting a professional solar installation, or ask yourself carefully why you want to be getting solar panels in the first place.

    Perhaps you just want a little peace of mind knowing you are doing a little bit to generate your own electricity, or maybe you want source of energy for when the grid is down or to run some equipment in the backyard.

    If that’s the case, there are portable solar generators which fit the bill much better than plug-in solar panels.

    Professional solar installation

    Though the lower cost of plug-in solar panels may seem enticing at first, your best bet is to go with a professionally-installed solar panel system. Image source: Interplay Learning

    Professional solar installations are visually appealing, increase the value of your home, can provide resilience when the grid is down, last over 25 years, and help you save a lot of money on your power bills.

    For all these reasons, we recommend you get quotes from qualified solar installers. You can use our calculator to see what specific rebates and incentives you can qualify for, in addition to the federal tax credit of 30%.

    Solar generators

    A portable solar generator uses solar panels to capture the sun’s energy, and then stores that energy in a battery to be used later. Image source: Greener Choices

    Over the last couple of years, portable solar generators have started to gain a lot of popularity. In a tidy package, you can generate, store, and use electricity.

    Simply hook up portable solar panels to them to charge them up through the day, and you can use them in the evening through early morning for whatever you need, off grid. Some models like the Solar Power Cube pictured above have the panels integrated into their design on wheels.

    Solar generators have a wide range of capacities, from their ability to power entire home circuits when the grid is down, to smaller applications, like providing camp lights and laptop power overnight.

    Check out our recent coverage on how they work and our recommendations on the best solar generator models for your needs.

    Find out how much solar panels will cost for your specific home

    Key takeaways

    • Plug-in solar panels feature a microinverter affixed to their back and a cord to plug into an exterior wall.
    • Even though they cost less than a professional solar panel installation, plug-in solar panels are not worth the expense.
    • Plug-in solar panels do not qualify for solar incentives like SRECs or local rebates.
    • The safety risks and potential utility code violations for plug-in solar panels outweigh any financial benefits (which are minimal).
    • For small-scale energy generation, storage, and usage, consider purchasing a solar generator instead.

    Dan Hahn

    Solar Journalist

    Dan is a solar journalist and content advisor with SolarReviews. He also works with solar installers and solar nonprofits to develop and execute strategic plans.

    Make a Portable Solar Powered Outlet That Can Go Anywhere

    Megan Treacy is a freelance writer from Austin, TX. A former editor at EcoGeek, she worked as a technology columnist for Treehugger from 2012 to 2018.

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    This neat project for a portable solar powered outlet was originally created by Instructables user JasonE for his wife to take to a girls’ camp, but it ended up being a winner in the site’s Green Tech Contest this summer, proving people found it useful for lots of applications.

    From camping trips to powering a drill while making things outside, this outlet can help you make and play with the power of the sun.

    JasonE says, I’ve been able to continuously power an 80 watt device for approximately three hours without interruption and it could have gone much longer, as well as run an electric drill under load with no hesitation or slowing. This is one powerful machine!

    Remember as you construct your device that Volts x Amps = Watts.

    • Battery (I used a 12V 26AH battery that I ordered off the internet for about 65)
    • Inverter (I used a 410 continuous watt inverter that I bought at Wal-Mart for about 35)
    • Charge Controller (I bought one off the internet for about 18)
    • Solar Panels (I used the garden lights that I bought from Wal-Mart for 0.97 each)
    • Electrical wire
    • Soldering Iron and solder
    • Wire strippers
    • Something to bracket everything down
    • Normal tools (needlenosed pliers, screwdrivers, stapler, drill, etc.)
    • Dremel tool or sandpaper
    • Multimeter

    Prep the panels

    This step is pretty easy but tedious. Remove the top of the garden lights and expose the screws. Unscrew the lid and set aside (don’t throw it away). You should see some hardware (battery connectors, wires, LED, battery). Remove all the unneeded hardware. this would the battery, the wires for the battery (make sure you don’t pull out the panel wiring), battery connector and LED.

    Solder the wires and test

    Now that you have the panels cleaned out, it’s time to solder. Add a length of wire to each of the wires coming from the panel. This will make connecting them later on very easy. After you solder the wires, feed them through the hole in the cap and screw it down. Test out your panels using a multimeter. In full sun I was getting about 2.5 volts per panel unit.

    Construct the box and drill the lid

    Time to make your box. My box was 12 high, 12 wide and 18 long. I used 35 panels and each was approximately 1.75 in diameter. If your panels are the same size this is probably the smallest you can go and leave space between each panel. You’ll need to figure out what size you want your box to be and it’s going to be based on how much room your panels will take up. Time to make the lid. I used one of the panels as a guide to draw the circles to be drilled out. I used a 1 3/4 boring drill (I think that’s what they’re called) and it ended up being slightly too small so I Dremeled out the holes to make them a little bigger. I suggest starting the drilling process on the middle of the lid so you aren’t pressing down on the middle when there is very little material left on the outsides of the lid. you may break your lid if you try that.

    Install panels

    After drilling/painting/finishing the lid, put the solar panels into the holes you’ve drilled. Because I got a little happy with the Dremel and made some holes a little too big I used a little gorilla glue to help hold the panels in. (After using this in the sun, the glue got soft and I had some panels fall through when I was driving up a very bumpy road.- I would recommend using copious amounts of glue or finding some other way of ensuring they stay in. I’m still working on repairing mine, any suggestions for an adhesive that won’t go soft in the sun would be appreciated).

    Wire in series, then wire the series in parallel

    Lay out a towel or something soft and turn your lid over so the panels are down and the wiring is up. I had my panels in five rows of seven and that’s how I wired them. I had five series of seven (resulting in between 16-18 volts per series) which I then wired in parallel. (I wired red to black, red to black, red to black all the way down. Then I connected the ends (one end was my red end and one was my black end) together and ran them out to the charge controller.) I used electrical tape to cover the solder points but heat shrink would have been nicer, I just didn’t want to buy anything else for this project, so tape was it.

    Add outlet boxes to the box

    Back to the box. I cut out a hole and put an outlet box in the hole and wired the outlet (with some help from the electrical guys at Home Depot and my father-in-law) with the cut end from an extension cord. The male end of the extension cord was going to be plugged into the inverter. On the opposite wall I cut a hole for a light switch to be able to turn the inverter on/off without opening the box.

    Mount the inverter, charge controller and battery

    Put the inverter into the box and bracket it down. The brackets I used were originally intended for plumbing but were pliable and could be cut with kitchen scissors to the appropriate length. I really screwed the thing down as I don’t want it to move. It’s pretty solid in there. I left the switch that is physically on the inverter in the on position so the light switch could do turn it on/off. I put the charge controller on the side of the box as the bottom would fill up pretty good when I put the battery in there. Again, I used the plumbing bracketing and really screwed it down. Now that the charge controller, inverter and panels are all installed and ready to go, it’s time to put the battery in. I bracketed it down as well so it couldn’t move. Please note. I did not connect anything to the battery yet until everything else was ready to go so I didn’t have powered wires as I was trying to hook things up. I’ll explain (and show) the connections in the next step.

    Hook it all up

    Time to hook everything together. This is the order in which I did everything: 1) Panels connected to charge controller. 2) Outlet connected to inverter. 3) Inverter wired to a light switch I installed so I didn’t have to open the box to turn it on. 4) Charge controller wired to battery. 5) Battery wired to lightswitch/inverter. 6) You’re done!

    Finishing touches

    Now that everything is wired you’re basically done. I put hinges on the lid so it would hinge up and I also put an adjustable support so the lid could be opened at various angles for more direct sun exposure. I also drilled two small holes in each side to run some rope through for handles. Enjoy!

    #Vanlife: Can you charge an electric vehicle with rooftop solar panels?

    You’re not alone in eyeballing that new Ford F150 Lightning or Rivian R1T as a potential overland truck. Or the Ford Transit Electric as a custom camper van. How nice would it be to ditch the constraints of gasoline, not to mention the pollution and expense, and just escape off grid?

    The trick, of course, is battery life. So, we wondered, is it possible to charge an electric vehicle off of solar panels?

    The simple answer is, yes, you could charge an EV from onboard solar panels.

    The real answer is, no, it’s not practical yet, because math. It would simply take too long to charge up your camper van or overland truck to the point where it could drive any useful distance. But why? What would it take? And how far off are we? Let’s find out…

    Disclaimer: I am an amateur mathematician and electrician at best, but I had smarter people fact check this story, and for all practical purposes, it accurately explains the concept.

    Can solar panels charge an electric vehicle?

    Let’s use the new F150 Lightning with the extended range battery as an example, and see what it takes to charge it up. This model includes Ford’s 80-amp charging station that gets hardwired into your home’s power grid and delivers 19.2kW to the vehicle’s onboard dual charging system. It will charge the vehicle 85% (from 15% to 100%) in 8 hours. One hour of charging would give you about 30 miles of additional range.

    Here, we need a few numbers to put everything else into perspective. Ford doesn’t disclose the size of their extended range battery pack, but our back of the napkin math suggests about 180kWh. That’s almost 100kWh more than the extended pack for the Mach-E, which isn’t designed to carry large payloads.

    Problem #1 – Basic chargers are slow.

    Ford’s EVs all come with a standard 32-amp Mobile Charger that plugs into any 120V or 240V outlet, so you could charge it up at your friend’s house. Buuuut, on an upgraded 220-240V home outlet, that Mobile Charger is only putting out 7.68kW, and Ford estimates it would take 19 hours to go from 15% charge to 100% charge. One hour of charging at this level would net you about 13 miles of range.

    Problem #2 – They’re even slower off standard outlets.

    If your friend doesn’t have a 240V outlet, or you haven’t installed one at your home, that charger is pulling from a standard U.S. 110-120V outlet, kW output drops to 3.84, but charge times will likely more than double. Those 19 hours become about 40 hours or more.

    Probably a lot more, because Ford says its Mobile Charger will add about 20 miles per hour of charge to the smaller, lighter, and more aerodynamic Mach-E on a 240V outlet, but only about 3 miles of range per hour on a 110V outlet. So, optimistically, let’s say the Lightning would get 2 miles per hour of charge on a standard home outlet.

    bluetti, ac200p, review, best, solar

    Problem #3 – Solar would be way, way slower.

    This is where it gets complicated. Even with the lowly 120V output, the Mobile Charger wants to pump out 3.84kW. You’ll see why this is a problem in a second.

    Best case scenario is we have a quad-cab truck with topper and four 100W Renogy solar panels on board. They’re putting out 400W, running through a power control box to charge your accessory 12V battery bank. This is the typical setup for overland vehicles, RVs and camper vans with solar, so let’s use that for this example.

    Those auxiliary batteries are standard 12V DC deep cycle batteries, though…not your EV’s main batteries. So to get their power to your EV’s Mobile Charger and then to your EV’s batteries, you need an inverter to convert to 110V DC in order to plug your charger in and then plug your vehicle in.

    Remember, Ford’s Mobile Charger on a 120V outlet wants to output 3.84kW. That’s 3,840 watts! Most inverters are rated to 1,000 to 3,000 watts. So right off the bat, you may not even be able to get the equipment to make this work.

    But let’s say you can, it still wouldn’t matter.

    Our example solar is only generating 400W of DC power. Assuming it only loses 20% being converted to AC as it goes through the inverter that the Mobile Charger is plugged into, that’s 320W, or less than 10% of what the Mobile Charger wants.

    Assuming it even works at that minimal output, your 40 hours of charge time just went to 400 hours. Your extra 2 miles of range per charge-hour dropped to 0.2 miles.

    Considering it would take those same 400W solar panels about 2-4 hours of decent sun to fully charge one 200Ah 12V auxiliary battery, and that any attempt to charge your EV off that battery would suck it dry so fast as to be pointless, I won’t even do the math to sort that scenario out. But I used Renogy’s Solar Sizing Calculator to see what they’d recommend for a system:

    So, just to power Ford’s Mobile Charger at the minimum level under ideal conditions, you’d want around 24,000W of solar panels and about 125 deep cycle 12V batteries.

    Couldn’t I just hardwire the solar panels into my EV’s battery bank?

    Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe someday, but for now we don’t know of any EV brand that makes an adapter to go from solar directly into the car’s onboard charging system. That said, we hope someone’s working on a solution. Even so, as the math above shows, the gains from even a 1000W solar system would be trivial.

    What about using a generator?

    Bringing along a small generator would certainly charge your auxiliary batteries faster, and if it had a built-in inverter that you could plug your EV’s mobile charger into, then you’d gain some efficiencies. But, even assuming the generator pumps out reliable 110V power, you’re still looking at only gaining about 5 miles of range for every hour of charging.

    And from an overall efficiency standard, that translates to probably about 5-10 miles per gallon of gas used by your generator…which is, honestly, on par with what many RVs and non-diesel camper vans get in the wild. Except that your vehicle is probably emitting far fewer pollutants than a generator. And less noise. And then you don’t have to bring a generator.

    Bottom line

    Yeah, it’s probably not going to work. Yet.

    OK, but can I at least charge my e-bike with solar power?

    Sure, but you’re still going to have to plug the e-bike’s charger into something, which means an inverter in your van or truck. And that inverter will be pulling from the battery bank that’s charged by your solar panels.

    So, let’s use Bosch’s 4A standard charger as an example. Most camper vans and overland vehicles use 12V deep cycle AGM batteries, which typically have 100Ah capacity. That means you could get about 25 hours of charging (enough for about five full charges of Bosch’s Powertube 500 battery) from a single AGM battery…in a perfect world.

    The problem is the inverter is inefficient, so you won’t get that many charges. And to charge a single AGM 100Ah battery, you’d need a decent amount of solar, and most vehicle’s roof top solar arrays aren’t going to keep up with that draw. So, you’re literally draining your battery bank faster than it can recharge.

    So, yes, you can charge your bikes off your camper van’s auxiliary battery, but it’s going to dramatically cut down on what else you can do with that power.

    Stay tuned…

    So, while you can’t recharge your electric vehicle from roof top solar panels, we’d still definitely recommend adding solar to your camper van or truck, for reasons we’ll cover in future articles. In the meantime, listen to our deep dive into solar, batteries, and power systems for adventure vehicles in this podcast interview with VanDOit!

    What Does Having RV Solar Panels Really Do?

    With so much talk these days about solar power for your RV, it’s important to know what having RV solar panels really does and more important – what it doesn’t! To help explain what solar does, let’s first clear the air on what it doesn’t do.

    Solar Does Not:

    • Directly provide electricity to run your 120V appliances such as Air Conditioning, Microwave, electrical outlets, etc

    Solar Does:

    • Solar panels do one thing – they charge your RV’s batteries. That’s it. Simple and fairly efficient in good direct sunlight. The more panels the faster your batteries charge back up.

    So why is having solar panels good if you can’t run electrical appliances in your RV? The solar panels add an additional and very important method to charge your batteries and they can charge your batteries anytime/anywhere there is sun. So simply put, they are ideal and a must for quiet dry camping in non-established campsites (boondocking) or established campsites with no power hookup and where running your generator is frowned upon except at certain hours.

    Most state and national parks have very limited hours to run your generator. Keeping your batteries charged up is vital to keep everything working that relies on battery power – lighting, power for RV heater, the power to run the refrigerator (even if on propane, the frig still needs battery power), water pump, tank monitor panels, and more! If you are boondocking, we recommend running the generator for an hour or so in the late afternoon to give the batteries a good charge before going to bed.

    Do you need an inverter and what is that?

    If you want your RV’s batteries to provide 120v electricity (think electrical power in your home), then yes, your RV needs to have an inverter to use battery power and invert it to 120v AC power. By switching the inverter on, you should then have power to one or more electrical outlets and you should be able to run smaller appliances such as a small coffee maker, TV, or computer.

    The wattage size of the inverter will dictate how many or how big of a device you can power. Having a larger inverter means more electricity, but it also means draining batteries faster. A larger inverter should be accompanied by larger solar panels on the RV and more batteries, as well.

    Technology is changing rapidly and within the next few years, you will see more solar, larger battery arrays and inverters that will even run the Air Conditioning without the need to plug the RV in or run the stinky, noisy generator!

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