Solar power. I have it on my house and it was a real eye opener seeing it out in the field on a recent fishing and camping trip.
I say an eye opener because I was not quite sure what to expect. I read the brochures, talked to the importer and thought I had a pretty good idea about what was going to occur in the field, but the reality was, the 3-panel solar array from Korr Lighting made accessing the power needs of our mobile, car-based camp simplicity in itself.
Let’s take a look at the solar array and then get down to the nitty gritty of the in-field operation of the unit.
All Korr Solar Panel Kits include a quality aluminium frame with sand legs, a 10m, 6mm lead with Anderson plugs, a cigarette lighter extension lead, an alligator clip extension and a MPPT Power Controller. This is all sotwed in a handy carry bag making for a simple and neat package to grab from storage when you’re ready to go camping.
The unit has a Pmax of 120W and is 12V rated. The operating current is 9.07 amps and this will run a camp fridge. The dimensions folded are 610mm long x 534mm wide x 105mm deep. The unit has a 20 Year Limited Warranty for output of solar panels and a 1 year warranty for electronics, frame and cables.
The first set up of the solar panels was an interesting event. Being a bloke I did not look at the instructions, but rather went by logic and everything came together easily. The basic set up will see the solar panels connected to a 120aH battery via the supplied connectors, then we connected the 80L Engel fridge/freezer and the Korr Camp Lights we had to the battery. Green charging lights flicked on and with a beautiful spring Murray Valley day the solar panels started their work.
We had three and a half days at that camp site. The temperatures were cool (about 1-2C every night), the days were pleasant and reached around 15C, meaning that the Engel was not overly taxed, however we were told to expect the battery to last for around 2 days only. When we packed up to leave, the Engel was still going strong, so we assumed the solar panels had added around a day and a half to the battery life.
The next camp site was only a short set up of two nights and one day and we popped the battery on the charger the first night, so it’s hard to say how much longer the battery would have lasted with the solar panels attached. It was interesting to note that the charger only operated for around 20 minutes before the 120aH battery was indicating a full charge again.
Our final camp was a four and a half day stay and with a full battery we planned to attach the solar panels and not charge the battery the entire stay. The battery did not run flat by the time we were ready to leave. The weather had deteriorated somewhat and the overcast days would be a good test of the battery and the solar panels’ ability to keep charge in the battery. We set the fridge temperature at around 3C and also ran the Camp Lights off the battery every night also.
I’ll admit we essentially forgot about checking the battery or fridge as every time we went to get something from the fridge it was cold or running. Even when we started to pack up the camp the Engel was still going strong on the battery.
After about 10 days in the field and on the road, the Korr Solar kit showed its worth.
A summary of the good points of this kit from my perspective include:
1. The kit is easy to set up. Even someone with limited construction ability can work it out on the fly. All the plugs are one way and cannot be mixed up and you just place the panels so they face the sun for the most power generation.
2. The panels seem to keep charge in the battery even on overcast days. On the back of the unit is a green light that tells the operator when the panels are generating power. On the overcast days we experienced, this little green light was reassuringly on, meaning the panels were generating at least some power.
3. The panels can be easily moved to catch the most direct sun exposure, maximising the amount of power they can generate. This is simply brilliant as it allows smart users to really keep power up to their batteries and powered units.
While the solar panels are fantastic and I’d recommend them highly, there were a few things we found problematic. These included:
1. The 3 panel kit is heavy and large and requires a large car and car-based camping. This is fine for most things these days, but if you are going truly bush or doing boat-based camping it might be wise to check out the 2 panel kit.
2. The locking fasteners that keep the unit held together when stored are placed in a way that when set up, some of these fasteners must rest on the ground. I can see these breaking or failing at some stage because they are exposed to dirt, mud and pressure when in use.
3. You need to carry a main battery. We took a 120aH AGM battery as a back up for an electric motor battery, but you could easily get away with a much smaller, more portable and lighter battery.
I would have no hesitation in recommending the Korr Solar Kit for campers who use their car to access the camp grounds. Over a couple of weeks the kit proved to be a very handy addition to the camping kit, keeping batteries full of life and allowing camp niceties such as the 80L Engel fridge freezer and the Korr Camp Lights to be used without worry.
The 3 panel kit retails for around $799 and the 2 panel kit for $599. They are expensive, but if you need power on demand and a degree of certainty that your fridge will continue to work and your night lights will turn on, then a solar panel kit is not such a big imposition.
Check out Korr Solar Panels and Korr Camp Lights at www.korrlighting.com.au for the latest deals and pricing on all Korr products.Reads: 5511