Review: REDARC 115W SunPower® Cell Solar Blanket
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Are solar blankets really a practical and convenient option? Let’s find out. We test the 115W version from REDARC Electronics, with some surprising results.
What Exactly Is This Solar Blanket?
Our solar blanket is a monocrystalline design. This is the standard run of the mill design… most solar panels are monocrystalline. On the other hand, amorphous cells are at the top of the solar tree. They perform better than monocrystalline cells in low light conditions.
However, the REDARC SunPower® Cell solar blankets utilise a different construction method, compared to “standard” monocrystalline cells. Without boring you with technical details, a copper backing and a high quality manufacturing process mean the SunPower® cells can be smaller for a given output.
For more details, check out these articles on the REDARC website.
How Does It Perform?
We’d had our REDARC solar blanket for a little while now. Being on the road full time means we need reliable power. Having used the blanket regularly, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at its high output for such a small blanket.
We’ve found that most of the time, the blanket will happily pump out power lying flat on the ground. Keep in mind it’s summer at present, so the sun is high in the sky.
However, this blanket works efficiently even when the sun is at a large angle… say early morning or late afternoon. With a rated maximum of 5.8A and 19.8 volts (5.8 x 19.8 = 115W), this solar blanket will still happily produce over 70W late into the afternoon.
The Thong Configuration
As I said earlier, most of the time we lay the REDARC solar blanket flat on the ground. However, we’ve hung it from the bullbar to catch late afternoon sun and propped up one edge to catch morning sun.
By propping an edge, you effectively face ⅓ of the blanket directly at the sun. And the most effective way to do this is with a thong (the ones you wear on your feet!). On edge, a thong sits neatly under the blanket and is infinitely adjustable for angle. Who’d have thought!
Another Technical Test
So how does the REDARC solar blanket perform when partially covered?
By using a towel and partially covering different parts of the blanket, we found a few interesting results. The photos below tell the story.
So what does this tell us? The solar blanket will tolerate some coverage and still produce (reduced) power.
Then we tried it under full and partial shade. Bear in mind, all of these “tests” were conducted in the afternoon, with the sun at more than a 30 degree angle to the blanket. Again, the photos below tell the story.
Again, the solar blanket still produces some power in part shade.
A Neat Package
The REDARC solar blanket has two other important features.
The first is REDARC’s use of standard 50A grey Anderson plugs. This makes connecting to existing systems simple and convenient.
The second is how easy the solar blanket is to pack away, especially when compared to a similar capacity solar panel. As you can see below, it folds into a neat package, with the electrical cabling protected by the wrap-around material.
The REDARC 115W SunPower® Cell Solar Blanket is a powerful package. It punches well above its weight and performs well in less than ideal conditions.
So is a solar blanket really a practical and convenient option for travellers? The answer is an unqualified “yes”. With such consistent and reliable output bundled into such a small package, the REDARC solar blanket is an excellent addition to your setup.
How long will it last? Who knows. But given its solid construction, we have no reason to doubt it will withstand the test of time. And REDARC’s generous warranty conditions are certainly re-assuring.
After 12 months, it’s still going strong. Read our 12 month review of this solar blanket here.
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NOTE: The REDARC solar blanket was supplied to us free, in return for a review. (That said, our reviews are always honest and authentic – we tell it how it is).