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Old 05-23-2018, 08:36 PM   #1
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Zamp Solar Panels 2018 View 24D

Just thought I would post this info so others might join in or benefit in some way. Our View, as all new V/N units, came with two Zamp 100 watt panels mounted on the roof in the 3 port connector and a 30 amp PWM controller inside the rig on the panel with tank levels etc. When we first got the rig at end of Jan this year both panels were able to deliver 7-9 amps on the controller readout. As time passed I noticed on a bright sunny day the output was far too low, around 4.7 amps. Being curious I placed a great sturdy ladder next to the rig at the 3-port connector location and took my trusty DVM with me for some testing. Before deploying the meter I took the backyard mechanic approach and covered each panel completely with a black foam ensolite pad with DW reading the amp meter and indeed one panel was doing absolutely nothing. Voltage measurement indicated the good panel was 19.1VDC and the bad panel was 14.3VDC. Contacted ZAMP and the tech called me back for phone troubleshooting and we went through the same thing, same results but he did specify I use the 200VDC range of the DVM and he is correct, better result than the 20VDC range and a perfect Zamp panel could put out 22VDC. Anyway he offered to have me mail the bad unit to him and they would repair or replace it with a normal two day turnaround. I decided to take it to my service location. I have not yet crawled on the roof, getting a bit up in years for that but primarily because it is a warranty situation and the only person on that roof since I bought the rig was the installer at the dealer who put on the sat dish. I have suspicions but doesn't matter. In the interim the tech recommended leaving the bad panel unplugged to avoid dragging the good panel down. Did that.

After all that I'm looking for another panel to make three on the roof. The additional panel must be one that can be walked on. Should deliver 19-22VDC open circuit, top end better. Wattage is not the consideration but I prefer 160 or 140. The alternative is to put two more 100 watt panels up there in parallel. The 3 port connector on the roof can handle up to 420 watts according to Zamp. Two in parallel in addition to the existing two would be 400 or about 11 more amps at maximum delivery. I have not found a single 200 watt panel in the correct voltage.

I don't know if all the flexible panels cup as bad as the Zamp in the direct sun and heat of a 90*F day but the Zamp cells really cup up. The Zamp panels are really expensive as well when Amazon has many options for less than $200. Yeah, I found 100 watt panels that sound great, can be walked on etc, but carry a $1200 price tag - generator is cheaper than that!

To be clear I am not really happy if these ZAMP panels only last four months and assuming the sat dome installer did not stomp on the bad one to break it. I would expect these things to last at least 5 years.
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Old 05-23-2018, 08:48 PM   #2
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This where I got mine. I can walk on them if needed. They are a fraction of Zamp cost.
RV Solar Panel Kits For Mobile and Off Grid


They are made here in Tucson. They lay flat and self glue to the roof. I have a few pictures in my album. I think I paid $160 each for 100 Watt panels. Highly recommended.
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Old 05-23-2018, 10:19 PM   #3
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Thanks! That's a great price and the panel size is good. I will need to get the Zamp connectors and good to go.
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Old 05-24-2018, 06:56 AM   #4
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Exclamation

I'll just add that even though some panels may say "can be walked on" actually doing so will likely damage them in short order.
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Old 05-24-2018, 08:18 AM   #5
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With my membrane roof I'm planning on raised mounts as I don't want anything pulling or moving the membrane. The roof only needs to be assessed for maintenance on the AC and sat dish. So walking on is not currently a design consideration currently for me.
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Old 05-24-2018, 06:39 PM   #6
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Mike,

You need to be up there at least two times a year to check sealants etc. Not a lot but you will need to do it or have it done. Every RV we have owned has had to have some areas touched up, just how it goes even if it is stored under cover. I plan to install the panels mentioned above because they are only 21" wide vs the Zamp panels. That gives me room to walk past the A/C on each side. The bad Zamp panel replacement will be held for a backup in case the one good one I am leaving in place should fail. I really don't think the Zamp panels are going to last very long based on the cell curl in the heat. They really do cup up bad on a 90*F day which means they are flexing a LOT.


BTW, as far as walking on them, there are videos showing people dancing on some panels - yes dancing, not just walking. It all depends on how the panel is made. My guess is one step on a Zamp panel and it is gone but the cupping issue probably is the culprit. The black cells curl up really bad in the heat which means connections are being stressed.
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Old 05-24-2018, 07:56 PM   #7
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I think the Zamp panel has a 10 year warranty.
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Old 05-24-2018, 08:04 PM   #8
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“The additional panel must be one that can be walked on”

You shouldn’t walk on any solar panel...rigid or flexible. Panels run through the same controller need to be matched..not what is cheaper. Do some reading on RV solar. VERY few maintenance issues need to be addressed by walking on the roof. Most can be completed by using an extension ladder.
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Old 05-24-2018, 09:55 PM   #9
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The other issue is that a glue down panel will not dissipate heat as well as a raised panel does. We have installed a fair amount of panels for friends & family and heat really drops the production.

I am aware of sealant maintenance required on my roof but for me removing a few nuts & bolts every few years is no big deal. My coach will be kept indoors and should improve my maintenance interval on the roof.

I looked at the Zamp flexible panel for the specifications of production / heat and didn't see anything at first glance.
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Old 05-24-2018, 10:27 PM   #10
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I live in the desert south west where it is often 115 degrees. My View has had glued down flat panels for a year without a single issue. But they are not Zamp. My panels are built here in Tucson. I could walk on them but never had a need to.
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Old 05-25-2018, 08:32 AM   #11
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I've touched rigid and flexible panels at high noon. They are HOT, HOT, HOT. To say glue downs don't greatly alter the RV's indoor temperature is not correct. Flexible panels were a good idea that hasn't worked.
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Old 05-25-2018, 09:01 AM   #12
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Time to leave the past and catch up with technological improvements.
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Old 05-26-2018, 07:53 PM   #13
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OK, I'm not gonna single out a post however... I have done a ton of research. I am a retired electrical engineer. Now, several manufacturers of flexi panels show videos of folks dancing on their panels - check THAT out. Yeah, step up to the present and forget rigid panels. You can also put any manufacturers panels together into a solar solution as long as you check the voltage specifications. They do not need to be exact either, a range of 18-23VDC open is OK for my solution but I'd prefer near 20VDC open circuit. Normally rigid panels have several drawbacks which flexi panels overcome, angle of incidence being one and partial shading not impeding the output. Lots to read out there but I suggest some of you guys read as you suggested I do. Yes, indeed some panels are made to walk on, not with logging boots and some can be danced on but not with spike heels. I really was asking for good flexi recommendation and I got one. One of the really good solar installer companies advised the Global Solar is perfect in my instance and limited roof space. Now if I was still driving a DP with a lot of available square ft on the roof I might look at rigid panels but I doubt it. They are antiquated, outdated, left in the past by what the new flexi panels can deliver in my application - perhaps not yours. The research is delivering amazing flexi panels and semi-rigid panels. Can't imagine why folks still want glass panels on the RV roof. In any case the reason for the OP has been answered well and I am in contact with the RV rep at Global Solar, will have his price Tuesday. Pick up a few SAE connectors and do the deed. The only real downside to flexi panel installation is that WGO selected ZAMP. The controller is OK for PWM but the panels are just trouble and I'm really not the first to see how bad they are. It is crazy out there! One shop is charging $35 for a SAE to MC-4 connector, really! You can pick up SAE connectors all day for a few bucks, it ain't magic but there are some con artists working the solar game well.


As far as needing to be on the roof it will happen. For this install and removal of the defective Zamp panel a two section scaffold with locking wheels is perfect. I can reach most everything on the roof that way safely without taking my ancient body up there to slip and fall. If the A/C dies I will pay someone to replace it. I get my son to check the sealants, young and wiry still he is - I'm not.
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Old 05-26-2018, 09:37 PM   #14
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At first glance, the latest flexible panels at first glance look very interesting: Less wind resistance, no holes required in the roof, they follow the contour of the roof, and they can be very easy to install.


HOWEVER ... if they're "so great" ... what's going on with the short flexible panel warranties (5-10 years) versus the typical 25 year warranty of solid glass panels?


I smell a rat here.



I'd love to add some flexible solar to our rig, but I think I'll hold off until flexible panels get up there around 25 years on their warranties - then I'll trust the technology of flexible panels to have finally arrived as a true competitor to glass solar panels.


By the way, it makes perfect sense that glass panels sitting 1-2 inches up off the RV's roof surface are going to establish a heat insulating air layer between the panel and the roof so as to both keep the roof cooler and the panels cooler. Flexible solar panels cannot do this ... so the panels are going to run hotter (which is not good) and the RV's roof is going to run hotter (which is not good).
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Old 05-28-2018, 08:48 AM   #15
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Solbian has a great review of panels, rigid traditional glass and Solbian flexi. This is if I remember a 5 year review and the flexi panel was put on a surface with no airflow underneath it. The result was interesting. At the end of the study the flexi was actually increasing output, several rigid panels were decreasing but it all depends on materials used and construction. It is an evolving science and technology. Lately MIT research is providing a possible alternative to silicone layered cells, should be really interesting in solar if it pans out. I know many manufacturers are alluding to clearance sales to clear out existing stock to make way for a new series of panels (without telling anyone what the new panels will be).

Each of us must make a choice, I'm good and understand others see things differently - in other words, I don't expect anyone to agree and it is not necessary. I could just as well go out and pick up a few Renogy panels and tape the mounts on and they would be removable easily. And...they would weigh in at 25 lbs heavier.

The thing is in my case Winnebago decided to put on flexi panels by Zamp and WGO drilled holes and put screws into the roof to hold em on. So, go pick on Winnebago for making this trash and decision, not me. Write letters to Winnebago and tell them flexi panels stink and are stupid, they put em on the rig (don't need to tell me, I've had enough failures already on this rig to know it is junk). Refrigerator, converter, solar panel, drawers fell out of pantry, screws popped out of back roof trim panel on top, incorrect wiring to A/C from factory and not code, slide out retimed. Yeah, tell Winnebago they are stupid for installing flexi panels. BTW, they are installed from factory on '18.5 models of the V/N and on '19 new models.


BTW, check that warranty stuff. If installed on a RV most rigid panel mfgs do not give a 25yr warranty, fact. In fact the web site at Zamp says 5 years flexi or rigid on a RV, others also have caveats for RV install. You will get exactly 1 year mfg defects, pro-rated on power output up to 5 yr or 10 yr and based on percentage output vs when new. Yeah, they all SPOUT 25 yr warranty but I strongly suggest you guys all read the FINE print for RV installs. The 25 yr on a roof sounds good but that could be at 50-80% power output, not failure or defect - defect is normally 1 year period.
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Old 05-28-2018, 09:26 AM   #16
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X2, Phil G.
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Old 05-28-2018, 12:06 PM   #17
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I'd think that, if you have to walk on a flexible panel, covering it with firm foam would spread your weight and protect the panel from being damaged. Even better would be a piece of 1/4" or possibly even 1/8" plywood on top of the foam. I'm thinking of the 2' x 2' interlocking EVA foam mats available at Home Depot and other stores.

You could glue the plywood to each 2' x 2' mat leaving the interlocking tabs intact so they would break down for storage.
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Old 05-28-2018, 12:31 PM   #18
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I think the flexible panels are just not "there" yet, WGO was sure as heck premature jumping into the fray with the Zamp panels. It is raining for a week here but when that passes I will gladly snap some photos of the cell cupping in direct sun around noon or just after. It is amazing to say the least and these things will never pass the one year warranty defect. Given I've had one fail at 4 months of ownership I would not bet a cup of bad stale coffee on that for certain. Now, what can I do? First I will get a warranty replacement for the defective panel and ask them NOT to install it but place it carefully inside the rig for me. Then I will permanently seal those screw holes. I'm looking right now for some good rigid panels which are narrow and trying to get a match to fit the places I can install them. After more and more reading I think just sealing the holes and using the diesel generator is smarter. I did find one owner who mounted his flexi panels on the multi-walled polycarbonate sheets from HomeDepot. Good idea, keeps the weight down to still half of the rigid panel, allows for air circulation under the flexi to reduce heat gain. Also raises the price about $50 for each flexi panel and those are already over priced compared to rigid. Sigh and smurf words abound and I'm keeping the cork in the whiskey. It is not a simple solution because every ounce added to a View hits the OCCC and that's pretty spartan already which is the reason WGO put the flexi panels on in the first place. I would have demured and just used the diesel generator anyway given the option. Lots of owners buying new rigs with Zamp panels are gonna get a shock with the life expectancy. Weight of one rigid 100 watt is about 16lbs and four 100 watt flexi panels is about 18lbs. Interesting situation at best.

Thanks for the comments as always.
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Old 05-28-2018, 02:27 PM   #19
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I think solar is a great addition AFTER - not INSTEAD OF - having other great electrical energy supplying methods along in an RV that don't require the sun.

We don't have solar (yet - see way below), but can recharge our AGM RV batteries 3 ways that don't require the sun:

1. Recharge ultra-quietly by idling the main V10 gas engine for 1-2 hours, during which the cab air conditioning will also cool or heat the entire coach in any outside temperatures. This V10 consumes around 0.7 gallons of gas per hour when doing this.

2. Recharge very, very quietly (a 54 dB noise level at full power) using our tiny Honda EX650 portable gas generator that consumes around 1/2 gallon of gas every 5 hours. We can cool with fans or warm with an electric heater set to LOW while doing this in moderate outside temperatures.

3. Recharge not too noisily (because Winnebago did a good install) using our built-in ONAN gas generator that consumes around 0.4 gallons or gas per hour. Doing this we can of course use whatever coach appliances that we want and be comfortable in any outside conditions.

I might soon consider adding portable solar panels into our Itasca's off-grid electrical power mix so as to be able to chase the sun with long cables and any angles whether camped in full sun or partially shaded conditions. This addition would most likely be via flexible panels because they would be super light and compact to pack away in the rig when not in use.

We don't like "limitations" during our precious anytime, anywhere, any season, any altitude RV trips.
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Old 05-28-2018, 02:42 PM   #20
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I agree, Phil, about carrying a generator. I don’t use it much however. Portable panels require setup, moving, watching for theft and takedown. Roof mounted just work.
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