Customer Review

523 of 526 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good panel with one problem (4th Update), October 27, 2008
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This review is from: Brunton Solaris Foldable Solar Power Array (Sports)
I like this panel, I like it a lot. Right now I use it to charge a all of my electronics. It folds up nicely, and doesn't weigh much. I agree with the other posters on the positive things about these panels.

These panels as individuals (not linked) are serving me and my teams very well in Iraq. We use them to power everything from MP3 Players and cell phones to advanced GPS tracking systems.

There's only one problem I have, and that is linking more than two panels together. The instructions and box say it can be done, and the box says it includes a linking cable, but there is nothing that says how. You are supposedly able to link up to three panels together, but I am unable to accomplish this no matter how I configure the cables. I've written directly to Brunton's service department for guidance, but after a month I've only gotten the read receipts from them. No answer so far. No one on any blog or forum can tell me how this is done. They are expensive, so finding someone that has bought more than one is rare.

All three panels came with the exact same cables, so I don't think I'm missing anything. There are two connection ports on each panel (it will charge two small items at the same time). As far as cables go you get one with clamps (like the kind that connects to a car battery), one female car cigarette lighter-style outlet, and another cable that has four adapters on one end and a single adapter (for plugging into the panel) on the other.

You have to use the four-ended cable to link panels. The problem is that when you plug the end with four ends into a panel there is no more room to plug in another cable. The two prongs sticking out of the sides prevent this.

Anyone with one panel could see what I mean. Try plugging both ends of your linking cable into your one panel, as would be the case on the middle panel in a series of three. Then consider how you would link three of them together.

I would love to hear from anyone that has accomplished linking more than two of these together.

Linking them together would allow us to power (real time) our field laptops and mini-satellites, we could even recharge our military satcom radio batteries. Unfortunately this isn't the case yet.

The panel is excellent and I like it a lot. I gave it a three star rating because it claims to be able to do something that it cannot (link three panels). The instructions are also lacking in this area. Brunton's customer service also leaves something to be desired, which should be your only negative consideration if you're buying only one.

Update:

I finally got a reply from Brunton concerning linking the panels. Here it is:

"To your question... The four-pronged linking cable can make the
connection between panels a bit tight. Admittedly, the design isn't the
best, but I've got three of our 26s here, hooked them up, and read
increased amperage. On the panels where you're forced to use both the
single and multi-tipped wire, I've found it's best to turn the four-tip
plug perpendicular to the flat ground, making it easier to fit the
single wire. I'll be the first to say it isn't pretty. It creates a
slight fold in the panel, and doesn't allow it to sit completely flat,
but it does make the connection, and since there's no solar receiver
over the output, it doesn't affect the efficiency.

As I said, the multi-prong cord isn't the best design. It's something
I'm trying to get them to change in the development department. Keep in
mind that hooking multiple panels together doesn't increase the total
voltage coming out of your last panel, but rather simply increases the
amperage. "

Update * Click on "See customer Image" underneath the main product pic to see what this looks like *

So I broke out my panels and gave it a try. Yes, by bending the panel you can make the two fit. This causes me some real problems. My initial intent was to take some cord and tie the panels down (using the nicely grommeted holes in each corner). I can't do this because the corner that's bent can't be tied down tightly. When I pull on the corner that's bent down (see pic), you can hear the plastic under strain. The four prong outlet tries to straighten out with no where to go, when you do this. I wouldn't want to tie the panel down tightly for fear of breaking something.

The answer to this of course is to make your own single male-male cable. In the rest of the email the service rep offered to send me some cables and cords that I could splice together.

One other thing I noticed is that the female cigarette outlet is completely smooth on the inside, there are no ridges or insets. Any male connector you insert into it will not "lock" into place. There is some resistance that will keep it from just falling out, but it doesn't take much to come loose. I don't think this would be a problem if the panel were laying flat. I imagine that if it were hung up the weight of some cables could cause it to come out. I've had no problems at all with powering any device using this outlet.

Update: * Added another image showing the hook up to an EEE ASUS*

I also own an Asus Eee PC 900 16G. One of the prongs on the four ended cable will fit directly into the laptop. It being such a small laptop the panel WILL run it real time while charging the battery (just like it was plugged into the wall).

According to Brunton the panel kicks out 26 Watts, and says it's at 12 Volts. This means that

12 Volts X 2.2 Amps = 26 Watts

(i'm rounding slightly up on the Amps)

The EEE ASUS Power pack says it has an output of :

12 Volts X 3 Amps = 36Watts

There's obviously a little play in here, but the Brunton panel is using the same Volts at less amps, so it's safe to plug it into your EEE PC. In testing this personally it did in fact run the laptop real time and charge the battery at the same time.

I would raise my review to four stars (I can't modify it), because the panel does do what it says it will do, but it has a design flaw that makes it hard to deal with.

4th Update:

For some reason all the pictures I uploaded months ago are now gone. I don't know if that's an Amazon thing, or what. I'll try to replace them.

Might as well say something about the panel....

It's been over a year and a half and it's still holding up, no problems with wear and tear. I'm very pleased.
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 3, 2008 10:45:11 AM PST
"could swear I read somewhere that linking multiple panels together would increase the wattage, apparently not. Keep in mind that you will only get an increase in amps if you combine multiple panels. Apparently multi-linking the panels with the cables causes them to be wired in a parallel connection which only increases amps."

Hi...It's been a while since I've been in the Electronics biz, but the doubling of amperage at the same voltage (parallel connection) will double the wattage. Wattage= voltage X amperage

Thanks for the review, keep us updated! Rich

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 9:11:54 PM PST
play hard says:
Thanks for the review. I have nothing to add, but stay safe over there!!! And thank you.

Posted on Mar 15, 2009 10:24:40 AM PDT
Hero Artagon says:
Awesome review!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! man I never thought of getting one of em when I was over there! Course I didnt need one since I had nothing TO charge. Errrrr. meh

also verry cool to add the bit about the netbook since I had just ordered one!!!

Posted on Apr 28, 2009 8:27:39 AM PDT
Good review.

Posted on May 8, 2009 10:27:16 AM PDT
I have 1 of these panels that I have been tinkering with. I am going to link them to the charge controller via anderson powerpole connectors. You should be able to have 3 panels feed directly into the charge controller for 26w x 3a (x3panels) for 78w of power. I am going to run it to a battery and then connect it to a laptop and an HF radio. I will let everyone knows how it goes.

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 10:02:20 AM PDT
J. Fletcher says:
Great review and thanks for the dedication to updating it as time goes by. I actually used your review of the design flaw with connecting multiple panels together to make my decision to go with a similar panel from another manufacturer, the Sunling 25W from Global Solar http://www.globalsolar.com/products/flex-25watt.php. The cable design for connecting multiple panels works well. Thanks.

Posted on Apr 21, 2010 11:37:17 PM PDT
DWD says:
Just wanted to say thanks for the review. Very helpful.

Posted on May 23, 2010 3:54:52 AM PDT
Eva says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jun 2, 2010 4:22:46 PM PDT
Damn. Fine. Job.

Posted on Jul 14, 2010 12:11:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 14, 2010 12:26:47 PM PDT
Stuart CODY says:
Good to read your comments. Good concept, this panel--but too pricey I think.
I also have the Asus 900, several of them. The actual current drawn by a laptop, or netbook is not fixed. It has little to do with the rating on the Power Supply itself. The computer will try to draw what it needs, no more. Since I have two of these netbooks, I made a "wye-cord" (splitter) with 2 power (concentric) plugs for charging my two netbooks at once. This works OK. Now I did this so I could leave the 2nd power supply at the country house, for weekend use.

On the solar panel question, we apply intuition and realize that for solar panels, AREA determines power from the sun. Direct sunlight produces power, shade: forget it. Each cell will produce only about 1/2 volt---so you need many cells for charging 12volt batteries. That said, a solar panel is a CURRENT SOURCE--the current output is the product. Without drawing any current the voltage will be all over the place, from near zero to about 22 volts. When you want more power, you put the panels in PARALLEL--the + to the + , and the (-) to the (-). Ensure that each panel has a BLOCKING DIODE--this will prevent a panel from drawing current in a situation of getting partially shadowed. Cut the wiring to put panels in parallel, cut as far from the panel as you can (for positioning convenience) Make sure you can identify polarity (+ & -), and splice like wires together (red to red, lack to black) Bring in the end going to your load for the same output you had before. Now you have + & + & + all together in PARALLEL.
See website automatedmedia.com for my contact info.

I might add (seeing the above posts): PLEASE USE CAUTION in raising the power without regulation of voltage. Running 3 panels directly into a 12volt load will probably produce voltages TOO HIGH for safe operation. The less current you draw, the higher the voltage output.
The cure for this is connecting a 12 volt rechargeable battery---a "gel cell", or SLA (sealed lead-acid) of at least 7 or 12 Ampere hours will limit the voltage to a safe (14.3 max) value. Another CAUTION!! Eventually this 12 V battery will become overcharged and get real hot, swell up and die. The cure for that is a CHARGE CONTROLLER. Can be got on line for 15 $US and up to $150. With 3 panels you would never need more than a 6 Amp rated unit. Seller fatfatsea on eBay for $20 will get you a 10Amp unit that is OK.

Having lots of surface area is no good unless you have a way of absorbing the resulting power. No current flow means no power gathered. The battery will accumulate power for use later, or at larger flows of current for short periods (quick-charging of camera batteries, for example) Comments invited!!
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