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130 w KYOCERA Solar Panels
Below is an independant and unbiased review of a 130 w KYOCERA Solar Panels
Note: the following review relates to an installation of TWO Kyocera panels so if you are only fitting one then roughly divide the output by two.
Type: Polycrystalline Photovoltaic
Size: 130 Watts
Output: 7.39 amps
Price range: £400 – 520
Size: L = 1425; W = 652; D = 56 mm
Weight: 12.2 kg
My initial reason for wanting a solar panel (or panels) was to extend the life of our leisure batteries during periods of wild camping when EHU was not available. I had experience of solar panels many years ago during my years of sailing and was not impressed. They had only worked under ideal conditions and that rarely happened, producing only a small amount of power relative to a fairly large size, heavy panel. This new generation of solar panels was reported to be much more efficient and lighter than the previous generation and in a small way contributes towards reducing global warming. In an ideal world the panel or panels would replenish all the power we consumed during a 24 hour period and give us a form of self sufficiency. I can hear all the voices saying ‘how naive can this man be’ Well on paper is should be possible, however in reality; well read on.
Fixed or Rotating
I spent a considerable amount of time researching the issue of fixed verses raised and rotating panels. I reviewed all the posts in the forums, even starting a couple myself. I accept that for the same size panel a rotating one could produce up to 2+ times more power than a fixed panel. I used the MHF solar panel calculator to assess power output etc. and came to the conclusion that a large fixed panel would be more useful than a small rotating panel and of course, cost much less. In my particular case 2 x 130 w panels would cost significantly less than a single 75 or 100 W rotating panel and, using the MHF calculator and manufacturers fact sheets, getting (in ideal conditions) 15 amps for 5 hours a day from a fixed panel in the summer was better than 5 amps for 10 hours a day for rotating panel. Cost must come into the equation and rotating panels at £1600+ plus fitting and possibly additional accessories such as a wind vane, verses around £850 for two 130 watt panels, the Kyocera wins on economics alone. I chose the Kyocera because of a combination of price, output and size in relation to roof space availability. I also have the option of adding an additional panel if needed for an extra £400. That would give me 390 watts or, using the calculator, the potential of up to 196 amps per day in summer. I’m sure the debate will go on and on regarding this topic, however based on output and cost this was my decision.
Fitting the Kyocera was easier than I thought as I was able to bolt the 130 watt panels on to the roof bars, allowing me the option of removing them if needed to transfer onto another MH if necessary. Actually this turned out to be a smart move on my part as I changed MH’s some 10 months later and was able to swap the panels over very easily. I utilized an existing hole to route the cables and I fitted the regulator in a locker out of sight and ran the wires direct to a bus bar and to the leisure batteries. I opted at a later date, for the split charger device (£100) that directed the majority of the charge to the leisure batteries and 1.5 amps to the engine battery. The whole job was done in a day without any drilling of holes in the roof.
Throughout the summer months the Kyoceras produced on average, around 80 amps of power per day. Some days were better with over 100 amps registering on the Sterling Battery Management System, others were much worse at around 40 amps. There were one or two days of bad weather when we were down to no more than 20 amps. Bad weather would affect both rotating and fixed panels, however a fixed 130w would still work out much better than the theoretical maximum of the 75 w rotating panel. We are heavy users of mains and the leisure batteries are linked up to a 2.5 kw inverter to power a mains only freezer, electric kettle, toaster, TV and a variety of chargers for the phone and cameras.
We were fortunate to be parked next to a French Motorhome owner who had the Alden Phenix panel and we were able to compare output over a couple of days while in the Camargue. At 7pm in early September the Alden was showing 4.2 amps while our Kyocera was showing 6.2. At midday the following day the Alden was showing 4.8 amps while the Kyocera showed 12.9 amps. In reality both fixed and rotating panel types rarely operate to maximum efficiency and ideal conditions are few and far between. The Kyocera would still produce something even on grey rainy days and on good days would produce around 3 amps from early in the morning rising to almost 14 amps after 11 am through to 3 pm dropping back to 3 or less after 6pm.
The fixed panels however are pretty poor in winter months and even with 2 x 130 w panels we are getting less than 15 amps per day when the sky is cloudy and cold in northern England with the sun low in the sky – at a time when we are using more electricity during the long nights and very short days. I am not convinced that a 100w rotating panel would be that much better during winter but concede that it would be a little better at northern latitudes. One clear day in December, the regulator on the Kyocera went up to 5 amps and gave me a total of 25 amps for the day but that was exceptional and not the norm. I am not convinced that fitting another panel would improve matters a great deal. We have sufficient power in summer and another would not help much in winter. One obvious tip though - we park our MH under trees on our drive when not in use and it is surprising the effect dirt can have on solar panels and we have found that cleaning them before each trip improved performance significantly.
1. Much cheaper than rotating panels
2. Smaller footprint on roof as you don’t have to worry about rotating diameters
3. Can make you nearly self sufficient in summer, more so the further south you go.
1. Not very efficient during winter months – when you arguably need more power
2. Don’t buy solar panels if you are justifying them on break even or positive return against the cost of EHU. They are convenient but you can buy a fair few amps of electricity for the cost of solar panels
Overall I’m pleased with the Kyocera (s) and don’t regret the purchase. I know we will not get our money back for some time, if ever, but they are worth it to extend the time between getting out the generator or having to go to a site with EHU. During the summer we spent four weeks wild camping and never needed the generator once. (and in the hot weather the freezer ran 24/7 – all courtesy of our solar panels) I still deliberate on fixed verses rotating types but remain convinced that we made the right decision. As stated earlier, we are heavy users of battery power so I would expect more frugal users to make more efficient use of their power and in our particular case, if we didn’t use the freezer, then the solar panel would make us self sufficient for much longer during a year. As we are using our MH more and more I become determined to become self sufficient and who knows – one day.....
Title: 130 w KYOCERA Solar Panels
Category: Alternative Power
Reviewer: Peter Mitchell
Added: January 18th 2008
Viewed: 10875 Times
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Posted by: cliffhanger
on 2011-08-16 23:32:24
I''m interested in a solar panel and have been reading the comments. One question, does one tilt the panel or are these panels fixed horizontally on the roof? I would think this would effect the output?
Posted by: Vennwood
on 2010-10-15 10:40:43
Really sorry I didn''t see your comments earlier. Although too late now maybe others will benefit. At the time I chose Kyocera because they offered the highest percentage efficiency - 13%. I know that we are already into the next generation and manufacturers such as BP and others have exceeded this. Kyocera themselves in their KD range are up to around 17% - so the justification is getting easier.
At the time I bought my panels the MPPT regulators were out of reach in terms of price and available knowledge. Even now there are some that rubbish the claims made about MPPT controllers by the likes of Morningstar etc. And to be fair some of the claims are exaggerated. That said if I were to start again I would definitely go for MPPT and I may even switch over if the price comes down further. They are much more efficient during winter - and that is when you need power the most.
Finally after adding 2 x 87W Kyocera KD models we are now totally self sufficient and not having used EHU for 3+ years, with an average annual nights away of 140 days per year we have almost covered the cost of our original investment.
Posted by: CathalHeavey
on 2010-05-11 13:30:31
I am thinking of purchasing a Kyocera and I have roof bars. You mentioned that you mounted the solar panels on roof bars. I would be interested in knowing how you did this. Would there be an issue with vibration.
Posted by: Sportingmac
on 2010-01-25 20:10:08
Peter - did you consider fitting a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) to your solar panels? Can I also ask why you chose Kyocera panels - I believe their warranty excludes mobile use?
Good article - I have reached the same conclusion you did for similar reasons - but will look to add a MPPT controller instead. also - no moving parts to break down.
Posted by: Vennwood
on 2008-03-19 13:45:18
Update to Solar Panel Review
We have just spent 6 weeks travelling through France, Italy and back into France, starting in late Jan until early March. We decided not to take the 240 volt freezer this time and so reduced the load on our batteries/inverter. During the six weeks we didn’t need to top up using EHU once. We were using around 30 – 45 amps per day. We were blessed with glorious weather for most of the time so the panels were able to soak up the sun for pretty much all day. On most occasions the panels were able to completely re-charge the batteries, however on one or two part cloudy days in Rome it took a couple of days to recover. I’m sure that had we been in Northern France we might have needed to use a portable generator or EHU on occasion. This trip has again confirmed the viability of a good Solar panel.
Have you / previous owners had your motorhome habitation checked during the following timescales ?