Since we've been on the road, we've recently taken to the liking of going off the grid aka 'boondocking' in our RV. This past January, we met up with the Escapees' Xscapers for a boondocking gathering of like-minded minds and souls. If my memory serves me right, the two-week 2017 Xscapers' Convergence, there were about 65 total RV's of every shape and size from elaborate diesel pushers to one-person tent. Back then, our idea of boondocking was relying on a small portable generator to manufacture electricity. This experience pushed us to research our coach's energy management system leading us to "Solarize".
Now, before you get all excited thinking this is going to be a comprehensive step-by-step instructional guide or solar supply list your RV, this isn't it. This is our product review for the solar panels we chose to buy. Unless you know exactly what you're looking for, researching them can be dauntless so we are giving you a little help in that direction.
While we were in Elkhart, IN, this past June (2017) attending the Heartland Owners Rally and getting warranty service completed on our Heartland Landmark, Dan busied himself in between with researching solar panels and installation of our complete solar project. To be quite honest, this was an edgy time for me because, well, it was as if I was married to the Russell Crowe character in the movie "A Beautiful Mind" (humor me!).
First, Dan consulted Jack Mayer on social media. He is amazingly instrumental with his knowledge and experience, helping him with his diagrams and specifications needed for our solar project. Check out his RV Electric and Solar website guides. He couldn't have done it without Jack's expert guidance and recommendations.
Dan also networked with Professional Mobile Solar Installer Brian Boone through his Facebook Pages GOT SOLAR? SOLAR BRIAN and GOT SOLAR. Worth mentioning, Brian is also a fellow RVer, so he knows every facet of solar installation and how solar works on RVs. Brian works for hire, but Dan needed the challenge to try his own hand at installing ours (admittedly because of cost).
However, if you're not the kind to go up on the roof of your RV, climb up and down ladders, read and research until the cows come home the next morning and know a little...no, make that A LOT of math, he's your guy! Brian travels around the country for installations.
So, now that you all know where Dan got so "solar smart". When it came to finding the right product for our solar install, Brian, gave high accolades to a solar panel supply company, HIGHTEC Solar, Inc. Not only did we choose to purchase from them because a highly reputable professional solar installer recommended their products, but their solar panels are MADE IN THE USA! HIGHTEC Solar, Inc. is an American solar energy equipment supply company based in Michigan City, IN.
What we equally grateful for is there customer satisfaction guarantee.
As described on their EBAY STORE (Seller fred480v):
"100% Customer Satisfaction Guarantee:
Here at HIGHTEC SOLAR INC., we strive to serve our customers and resolve any issues. If your shopping experience with us is anything less than five stars, please contact us immediately. We appreciate the opportunity to correct any issues you have before you leave feedback. We appreciate your business and consideration.
You can reach customer support at HIGHTEC SOLAR INC. via telephone 879-5501 814-4279 & via eBay Messages
We know that you will be satisfied with your items. In the case you are not satisfied, please contact us. We will accept returns within 14 days of receiving your item.
If you feel you did not receive the item as described, we will replace your item or refund your payment after the item has been returned. We will quickly and efficiently resolve all issues.
By the way, you'll notice they have a 99.9% positive feedback rating, so that should give you an inclination of their reputation and product."
ABOUT THE SOLAR PANELS...
We purchased six HIGHTEC RCL-M-165 watt panels. In our opinion, these panels are exactly what our criteria required. Fit and finish is nothing short of spectacular. They are extremely well constructed, feature multiple pre-drilled mounting points, and came with 10 gauge MC-4 connections already installed. The panel frames are 40mm aluminum with 3.2mm tempered glass with mono crystalline cells.
To make it easier understanding, we'll quote what is noted on their EBAY STORE:
"Our 165 watt solar panels built in America by Americans on our new 12 volt panel line, they are tested full power and have full warranty. These 12 volt solar panels are ready for all of your needs. They can be used for commercial or residential settings.
They are 58.7" x 26.625" and are perfect for small spaces. They can be connected in series for 24v and 48v systems. These panels are not flimsy. They are hardy 3.2mm tempered glass fronts. The 3 buss bar mono crystalline cells make these panels perfect for low light areas. They have 40mm heavy duty frames that can be used to bolt down or clamp system. Each panel has the same diodes as all other manufacturers. Each panel has a transferable 25 year limited output warranty in which a copy will be sent in packaging. We have been in business for 10 years and are happy to bring new products to the market."
Always On Liberty's Review....
Our new solar panels arrived timely and very well packaged, demonstrating that HIGHTEC Solar truly cares about its product. The dimensions of the panels are 58.7 inches long by 26.625 inches wide. They weigh 41 pounds each. Performance specs are 18.73 volts, 8.62 amps at 165 watts. They can be wired in 12, 24 or 48 volt series.
Dan installed six of these panels and conducted a 90-day trial before writing this blog so we could be thorough and precise with our review.
Simply put, the HIGHTEC Solar Panels' performance have lived up to our expectation. They are producing power to the level of their specifications with ease. The mono crystalline cells are designed to produce maximum power even in low light conditions and they do. In other words, we produce electricity even when sitting under cloudy conditions.
They are rugged and designed to last, and the weather we incurred since installing them has proven their worthiness (i.e. hot sun, hail, torrential downpours, long lasting rain, humidity, quick temperature fluctuations, etc.). Even on overcast days, we were seeing close to peak output from HIGHTEC's solar panels.
HIGHTEC Solar Inc. offers other sized and output capacity solar panels needed for your personal install.
So now, if you see Dan up on the roof doing a happy dance, it's because he's celebrating the fact that he's beat Ben Franklin at his own game! Now we CAN take our home on wheels practically anywhere!