We receive many phone calls from consumers wanting to buy our premium solar panels after being disappointed with buying solar panels elsewhere.
They realise too late that it is worth spending that little more to obtain a quality product in the first instance. When things go wrong, they end up spending a great deal more by having to replace their original purchase.
Don't believe everything you read and make sure you are confident that the business you choose will supply a quality product, will provide an appropriate warranty and knowledgeable advice and support.
With solar becoming more popular there are many online sellers adding solar products to their shopping cart. If you are not exactly sure what product is best for you then make sure you deal with an organisation that actually has the qualifications and experience to understand the specific requirements for caravan and RVs and sells the latest technology, quality products.
Will they fulfil their warranty promises? We receive many calls from people who have not received the assistance they need after purchase!
Even though a product may sound impressive and is priced cheaply it may not be the best value for money. For example an MPPT solar charge controller has maximum power point tracking whereas a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) solar charge controller does not. This may mean you would need to increase your solar panel size by up to a third to get the same amount of power. You won't be saving money if you buy a product that won't last or the performance does not meet your needs.
Feel comfortable that all your questions have been answered and that you are getting value for money.
We are happy for you to email or phone us (see the Contact Us page). We guarantee that there will be NO gimmicks, false claims or pressure to buy.
Our reputation depends on it.
A quality solar panel with well-matched cells and no micro-cracks or other damage
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A camper trailer manufacturer had a limited amount of space on the roof to install solar panels. We were able to design a configuration that utilised the full space available using customised sizes of flexible panels made to order.
Using lightweight flexible panels rather than rigid panels meant the camper trailer would reduce it's weight.
The easy installation method of using adhesive sealant instead of brackets also saved considerable time and therefore cost during production.
Being able to use custom sized flexible solar panels meant the manufacturer was able to offer more solar power to their customers with a neat appearance.
A boat owner contacted us because one of his flexible panels had water-log damage in the junction box (the panel was not sold by Solar 4 RVs).
We supplied SPV1001 cool by-pass diodes on a circuit card designed by Solar 4 RVs to replace the damaged electronics in the junction box.
A clean up by his marine electrician and the installation of this by-pass diode card quickly got the panel back into operation. Silicone potting was used to protect against any future seawater ingress.
The majority of flexible solar panels are made in China even if the seller doesn't declare this and refers to 'cells' as being made in the US.
This report refers to flexbile solar panels made in China. It does not refer to the Solbian brand of SolbianFlex solar panels which are made in Italy and is the trusted brand of yacht racers. We are the authorised importer of Solbian panels in Australian/NZ and distribute to the public and businesses that sell Solbian flexible panels. Our own brand of RADpower flexible solar panels are made in China.
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How does Solar 4 RVs ensure customers receive the best quality flexible solar panels?
We supply the public, government departments and hundreds of businesses so it is imperative that we sell the best quality products available to maintain our reputation.
Are you really getting SunPower cells in your flexible solar panel?
In the past, Sunpower sold their cells to an unlimited number of manufacturers who used them to make flexible solar panels. To ensure the cells are used in quality products this has now ceased and only a very limited number of manufacturers in China have access to Sunpower cells. Our flexible and portable solar panels contain genuine A Grade Sunpower cells. Our manufacturer has certification SunPower that confirms they obtain geniune Sunpower cells.
At around 22% SunPower cells have one of the highest efficiency of any available cell on the market. A solar panel assembled from these cells has an overall efficiency around the 20%, with the loss from 22% being attributable to the inter-connections and the slight opacity of the top layers. We have seen some web-sites claim efficiencies of 22% for a panel, but this is an exaggeration.
They are the same PV cells that are used in some of the framed, glass topped panels used on building roofs, however, the frameless, glassless panels are ideal for RVs. For example, a 135W panel is approximately 1.45 metres by 0.54 metres, is 3mm thin and weighs 2 kg. The combination of flexibility, thinness, and lightweight makes them ideal for glueing directly onto the roof of a caravan or RV.
3. Quality Accreditation
Our panel manufacture has an accredited ISO9001 quality management system.
According to the ISO, “This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. These principles are explained in more detail in the pdf Quality Management Principles. Using ISO 9001:2015 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.” (http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_9000)
Our panels carry the CE Mark which is a mandatory mark for certain product groups, including solar panels and electronic products, in order for them to be sold in the European market. The requirements are set out in European Directives (similar to Australia’s Regulations and Acts) that cover health, safety and environmental protection legislation.
The use of the CE mark, indicates self-certification by the manufacturer that the device meets the minimum European Union requirements for Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) compliance. The CE mark has nothing to do with the quality, performance and longevity of the panel. CE is the abbreviation for the French phrase "Conformité Européene", i.e. in English European Conformity.
Australian and International Standards
The international standard for performance testing of crystalline (both mono and poly crystalline) PV panels is IEC-61215. Certification to IEC-61215 is a pre-requisite for PV panels to be used in residential applications in Australia, but is not for PV panels on other structures such as caravans and boats. In fact Solar 4 RVs has been unable to find any manufacturers globally that have flexible PV panels that have been certified to the standard.
The primary standard covering solar panels in Australia is AUS/NZ 5033 Installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) arrays which references several international standards covering testing and certification of solar panels. Subject to the specifics in the standards, panels that are installed onto buildings and ground installations must be certified to the standards, and in addition, for the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) the panels must also be listed into the Clean Energy Council (CEC) register of certified panels. Generally, for panels installed into mobile situations the panels do not need the certifications as mentioned in AUS/NZ 5033, however all products must still conform to all the overarching standards that apply in order for a product to be sold in Australia. These are similar to the requirements for CE marking in Europe.
4. Solar Panel Testing during production
During production all our panels are subjected to testing:
Electrical testing, i.e. voltage and current ; plus
Electroluminescence (EL) testing.
The electrical test confirms the current and voltage are within production limits while the EL test confirms that the cells are free of defects and are well matched. If present these result in a lower panel output and possibly a shortened lifespan.
For the EL test a current is passed through the panel which turns part of the current into short-wave infra-red (SWIR) light at a wavelength of around 1150nm, i.e. the panel will “glow” with invisible infra-red light. A photo of the “glowing” panel taken by a special camera will show up micro-cracks or other defects in the cells and any significant mismatch between cells.
These issues are only visible with this EL test. The first of the following three images show a very poor quality panel with many defective cells. The second image shows up significant mismatches between cells, i.e. the intensity of the glow is related to the efficiency with which the cell will convert sunlight into electricity. The third image shows a panel free of cell defects and with only small variations in cell efficiency.
There are many manufacturers of flexible solar panels in China. They produce many grades of solar panels and then on-sell them through pro-active marketing campaigns and email cold-calling.
We constantly receive many ‘proposals’ from manufacturers that offer ‘cheap’ panels. This can be very tempting for sellers of solar panels as it means they can achieve a better profit margin. However, you get what you pay for so you need to balance the risk against the purchase price.
Possible issues that could be encountered:
A solar panel with micro-cracks and defects in the solar cells
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|Questions to ask||Solar 4 RVs answer|
Do their flexible panels contain genuine Sunpower cells?
Solar 4 RVs flexible solar panels contain geniune A grade Sunpower cells with certificate of origin.
Who has the technical competence to test and research products to ensure they are good quality?
Solar 4 RVs is a family business. The Owner/Director has an honours degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering. This is supported by consultations with son Chris who is a qualified electrician. The team is also supported by a 12V specialist with over 25 years experience and extensive knowledge of installing solar on caravans.
Will they provide personalised assistance after purchase?
Solar 4 RVs ensures someone with competence is reachable via a landline, mobile phone or 1300 number so you can obtain technical support before, during and after installation.
Can they substantiate the claims on their website.
Anyone can set-up a website and claim they are experts or leaders in the field even if they are unqualified and selling a few panels out of the garage with a mobile phone.
Solar 4 RVs is an award-winning company that is publicly acknowledged as being ethical, professional and knowledgeable.
How much stock do they have and how much variety of sizes and brands do they have?
Solar 4 RVs stocks the largest range of flexible panels in Australia including our own premium brand with ETFE surface and we are the Australia New Zealand importer of Solblian brand, Solbianflex. We supply to well over 150 businesses including government departments.
Do they order specific manufacturing runs or do they buy off the shelf from Chinese manufacturers? Is there accreditation?
We stipulate our quality requirements through detailed specifications with the manufacturer for each of our production runs. We stipulate the quality control requirements to ensure consistency with every order.
How much stock does the supplier have? Small quantities of stock are uniikely to have been manufactured in separate production run to specific requirements.
We stock the largest range of flexible solar panels in Australia. The panels have the CE mark and our manufacturer has ISO 9001 quality management system accreditation.
Do they have a showroom and warehouse and research and testing facility?
Solar 4 RVs operates nationally out of their warehouse, showroom and offices in Victoria. We have a sizeable workshop with testing equipment to conduct research and development and have designed new products such as a solar panel combiner circuit card that provides low loss blocking diodes and fuse protection when connecting three or more panels in parallel.
What is their warranty period, how do they assess claims and under what circumstances do they replace panels and who will pay freight for re-delivery?.
The warranty on our panels is either 1 year, 2 years for ETFE panels or 5 years for SolbianFlex panels. We stand by our products and will pay delivery costs if you need replacement panels. Because we do significant testing we will probably pay for the old panels to be returned to us as well so we can investigate the issue and build up our knowledge database to assist our research and development program.
How do they transport the panels to you?
|We have thick cardboard boxes made up specifically to transport our various sizes of flexible panels. Foam and bubble wrap is also used to ensure the panels fit snug inside the boxes and are well protected if they should be dropped (particularly on the corners). We use transport companies that use trucks rather than couriers that have ute trays where the boxes are held on with strapping that can damage the boxes in transit. We select the best delivery option available for an order depending on the customers location in Australia as prices vary greatly.|
Yachts can have continual moving shade from sails, and booms and other equipment. We supplied a unique solar panel combiner circuit card with blocking diodes. Designed and assembled in our workshop it prevents shaded panels sinking current from other panels. Blocking diodes prevent backflow of current; something by-pass diodes in panels do not do (flexible solar panels have bi-pass diodes but not blocking diodes). The Combiner also makes diagnostics easier as the output of each single panel can be checked.
Obviously it is in our best interest that both the public and businesses have a positive experience with flexible solar panels, and that will only happen if customers are happy with their purchase.
Therefore, we want to assist customers to ask the right questions so their purchase meets their expectations.
Just because a website claims they have the 'best' solar panels does not mean you will get quality products and accurate information.
Some suppliers do not even know the difference between blocking diodes and by-pass diodes!
Significant efficiency mismatches between solar cells
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