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Old 03-29-2019, 07:55 AM   #1
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PV Panels - Grape or Zamp or ?

Curious to get thoughts and experience to help me with my panel selection. I'm working on adding solar charging to the coach and for PV panels I'm probably wanting to go with larger monocrystalline panels... I'm liking both the Zamp and Grape 170-180 watt panels, they both spec out at 9+ amps... I'm not foolish enough to think that I'm actually going to achieve their theoretical max output. They are both assembled in USA (a good thing in my book) but there is a pretty huge difference in price. The Zamp panel seems to sell in the $400 range which is my mind it pretty high premium on a per watt basis. The Grape is available on the Home Depot website for $252. Just on that fact alone I am leaning toward the Grape panels.

What say you, o' wisemen of the iRV2 community?

By the way, probably going with a Victron charge controller. Already have a Magnum MSH3012 and Lifeline GPL-4CT batt bank.
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Old 03-29-2019, 08:11 AM   #2
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In my experience Zamp is priced way over the market. There are many good options out there that will work fine. $1 - $1.25\watt is about the going rate for 12 volt panels. A little less for 24 volt residential panels.
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Old 03-29-2019, 08:56 AM   #3
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I have been running with Grape panels for years and have been happy. Good luck on your choise.
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Old 03-29-2019, 09:24 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by etreadaw View Post
I have been running with Grape panels for years and have been happy. Good luck on your choise.

I see your signature says 600 w of solar. Are you running 2 of their 300 w monocrystalline panels in parallel? Do you know what your actual power output is on average (watts / amps)?
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Old 03-29-2019, 09:57 AM   #5
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One aspect worth considering is the fit. Different manufacturers all have slightly different dimensions, so it can be worthwhile doing a test layout on paper. When I did it for mine, 100W Renogy panels allowed for the largest layout (1200W). Grape panels maxed out at 960W.
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Old 03-29-2019, 10:02 AM   #6
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One aspect worth considering is the fit. Different manufacturers all have slightly different dimensions, so it can be worthwhile doing a test layout on paper. When I did it for mine, 100W Renogy panels allowed for the largest layout (1200W). Grape panels maxed out at 960W.

Yep... already laid it out and can comfortably fit 5 of this size panel, which is as much as we'll require (900W theoretical max). We live off grid and run our entire house and workshop with a 3KW solar array so we completely comfortable living within an appropriate power budget.

The 27" x 60" panel size works well for me, least number of panels = easier install and lower cost. I'm curious to hear any thought on the panels I'm considering and any others that folks like that are high output panels.
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Old 03-29-2019, 10:51 AM   #7
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I bought Hightec bifacial 200w- 226w panels for $ 185 each with free shipping.
They have 170w, 180w, 200w, and the above. Made in USA and cells are from Solar World. I haven't installed them yet so can't comment on output.
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Old 03-29-2019, 04:21 PM   #8
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I bought Hightec bifacial 200w- 226w panels for $ 185 each with free shipping.
They have 170w, 180w, 200w, and the above. Made in USA and cells are from Solar World. I haven't installed them yet so can't comment on output.

Interesting, I hadn't heard of bifacial modules before. With the reflectivity of a white RV roof it stands to reason you would see an increase in performance. I know from experience with my home array, that a cloudy day where the light has a lot of glare will product higher output as a result of the reflectivity of the sun from many directions v/s a clear sunny day. I can't find lots of research online for the bifacial modules but there is some.

I found Hightec Solar in Michigan City, the little that I can find on this small business looks very interesting. I don't mind buying from small businesses that produce a high quality product and actually prefer it. In their case, I'm guessing their great pricing comes from the fact that the don't spend boat loads of money on supporting a large organization, marketing and multi-tiered distribution channels. I'm gonna do some more research. I did find one interesting blog post for anyone curious to learn more.

I only see that the sell through an eBay store, is this where you purchased them? I tried calling the company to learn more about them but it was after 5:00 their time. Have you spoken directly with them?
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Old 03-29-2019, 05:36 PM   #9
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I also vote for Grape over Zamp. When I was planning my set up for my RV, which came with one Grape Solar 100W panel, I found that the specs for that panel (and others on their site) were exactly the same as those offered by GoPower which was who made the wiring and PWM controller too.
Although afte reading the other posts I see that there are many more great options which I had known about before investing in the system I did, but there will always be improvement and advances.
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Old 03-29-2019, 08:17 PM   #10
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After just a little research on bifacial solar panels there are some potentially interesting elements to be considered for RV'ers. Of course a couple hour trip in cyberland is bound to be a risky venture into hype and half-truths, but the technology is not in the incubation stage. It appears the idea is at least 10 years old and is based on the idea of making the panel 2 sided and as transparent as the silicon modules will allow. The opaque white backing on one sided panels is gone and the light can shine through. This is particularly interesting on a white RV roof that is highly reflective allowing the solar radiation to bounce back to the underside of the panel to harvest additional energy. Several manufacturers claim a 25% increase in output from a bifacial panel. Claims are also made that the panels are more durable because the opaque material in a one sided panel is subject to higher degradation since it is absorbing the UV radiation.

The small domestic manufacturer noted by 10fan, Hightech Solar, is actually building their panels using SolarWorld modules so they definitely have a quality base to start from. It also appears that they are not a newcomer and have been in business for 10 years. I'm looking forward to giving them a call and investigating their product further and will report back what I find for those interested.
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Old 03-30-2019, 02:35 AM   #11
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I have called them several times and gotten the information I wanted. I did buy them thru the ebay store. I missed the sale and called them and was given the sale price. I haven't installed them yet, the frames are very strong. They look like excellent quality.
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Old 03-30-2019, 08:42 AM   #12
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MandG-fun I'm running 6 100 watt panels and have seen as high as 28 amps but normally run around 24 amps.
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Old 04-01-2019, 11:42 AM   #13
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I had one Hightech Solar panel on the Monaco I use to have. My son also installed one of the 175w like I had on his 5th wheel. I just installed two of the 200w panels on my M.S. Have seen as high as 21.4 amp. These are very well built panels. USA made so not cheap China junk.
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Old 04-01-2019, 12:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
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I had one Hightech Solar panel on the Monaco I use to have. My son also installed one of the 175w like I had on his 5th wheel. I just installed two of the 200w panels on my M.S. Have seen as high as 21.4 amp. These are very well built panels. USA made so not cheap China junk.
Thanks for your comments Mike. I haven't found a lot of info on the internet on the Hightech panels but what I have found has all been very positive. Glad to hear that you and your son have had good performance from them.
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