Redarc is a company that needs no introduction in Australia. Their products are well known throughout the RV and 4WD communities and have earned a reputation for quality and excellent after sales service. We’ve been using their products for some time now and have been thoroughly impressed with their performance. So when Redarc offered us the opportunity to test one of their Solar Blanket Sunpower Cells, we jumped at the chance.
Timing was perfect. We were heading away for a 6 day trip to Bemm River over the Christmas break which allowed us to test the unit under real world conditions in a situation that would be fairly typical for a panel of this capacity. The particular unit we were supplied was the SSF1115 115 watt panel.
For the test, we used our Toyota Landcruiser’s auxiliary battery running a Waeco CFX 50 fridge for a period of 6 days. The fridge was only lightly stocked but set to 3 degrees. The battery was nothing more than one of the 2 starter batteries that came standard with our particular model Landcruiser. We have isolated it from the other battery using a Redarc isolator. It is not a deep cycle battery and is only rated at 65ah, not what would be generally regarded as a good battery for this sort of load. I expected this setup to really stretch the capabilities of the battery and the solar panels ability to keep up with it.
To add to the complexity of the test, the weather conditions were less than ideal. The ambient temperatures were in the middle 30s during the day and low 20s overnight. Humidity was abnormally high for Victoria and the sky was overcast for much of the time. It was going to be an interesting test.
Before I get to the results, it is worth mentioning the very high quality of the Redarc system. The Solar Blanket was supplied with Redarc’s optional SRPA 20 amp Solar Regulator which includes all cables necessary to hook the unit up to a battery via 2 large alligator clamps. Its all very solidly constructed. The cables are massive ensuring every last volt and amp coming from the panel is channelled into the battery with maximum efficiency. I doubt you would find better quality gear from any other manufacturer.
Connecting the system up is child’s play with every connection being clearly labelled. The instructions are also very clear should you run into any difficulties.
The Solar Blanket itself unfolds into a very manageable sized panel and it can literally be placed anywhere. It should be noted that to position the panel for maximum solar radiation exposure will require placing it against a suitable solid structure. I used a step for this purpose (see pic) which helped but was not ideal. The idea is to place the panel on a surface where it is out of the way such as on the car roof or lay it on your caravan awning. With 5 meters of cable, this should be easily achieved in most circumstances.
Now to the results.
To my surprise, I was able to keep the fridge running for the full 6 days using the Solar Blanket alone with a boost from the car’s alternator on 2 short drives. Even during the 4 days between the drives, the battery’s voltage never dropped below 12.2 volts or 60% State Of Charge (SOC). Given the conditions and lack of direct sunlight, I was completely amazed at the results. The fridge was able to maintain temperature to within 2 degrees of its setting and never once cut out due to under voltage. I’ve trailed all manner of systems for keeping a fridge going in a 4wd and this is by far the best system I’ve ever come across. It is brilliant.
Now, at $1,199 RRP, this is certainly not the cheapest panel on the market. The Solar Regulator value pack costs a further $264.90. But this gear is not aimed at the buyer looking for the cheapest product on eBay. It is fairly and squarely aimed at the outback touring enthusiast who understands that, for ultimate reliability in extreme conditions, you get what you pay for. What’s more, if you’re like me and you consider the amount of money you’ve spent over the years on replacing expensive deep cycle batteries because you haven’t been able to keep the charge up to them, then the Redarc system makes a lot of sense and would be a worthwhile investment. The bonus is you’ll be supporting an Australian company who’s after sales service is second to none.
We have no hesitation in recommending the Redarc Solar Blanket system. Its very well made, performs beyond expectations and is well supported by the manufacturer.
For more information, please visit Redarc Australia