Ames, Iowa-based PowerFilm Inc’s pioneering thin film solar technology provides a number of eco-friendly solar options for your RV, electric cart, and TOAD vehicle. PowerFilm – founded in 1988 by Dr. Frank Jeffrey and Dr. Derrick Grimmer – manufactures a wide range of permanent and portable thin film, amorphous silicon, flexible solar modules which are distributed in a number of markets, including; camping and RVing, golfing, marine, military and law enforcement. PowerFilm – who recently attended the annual Winnebago-Itasca Travelers (WIT) Club Grand National Rally in Forest City, Iowa – is committed to raising their product profile in the recreational vehicle market.
The PowerFilm RV Kit:
The PowerFilm Solar self-install RV Kit – 42W (MSRP $698 but available for as little as $500) or 60W (MSRP $978 but available for as little as $700)– like any solar system helps offset the power draw of items such as smoke detectors, propane detectors, clocks, refrigerator panels, and a range of other items that drain your battery when you’re not hooked up to shore power or running a generator. Not only will a solar system help maintain your battery – and eliminate the requirement to keep the RV plugged in when not in use – but it will also extend battery life by reducing the depth of battery discharge. In addition, a solar system can deliver a more comfortable dry camping experience by allowing you to lower jacks, extend slides, and run RV amenities like fans, TV’s, and lights without shore/generator power. If you don’t have a generator, or prefer not to use one, a good solar system can considerably enhance your dry camping capability.
The thin film technology employed by PowerFilm results in a lightweight, low profile, waterproof solar mat that can be installed in just a few minutes. Like other thin film products, the key to this solar technology is not its efficiency versus Crystalline but rather its exceptional low light capability. This means that the mat – unlike its crystalline equivalents – can generate in cloudy conditions or in shade thus providing RVers with a much more versatile product.
The product – RV15-2700 – 42 Watt – 26.14” x 60.81” or RV15-3900 – 60 Watt – 26.14” x 86.05” – comes with a peel and stick adhesive backer, Charge controller, 15′ of wire with connectors, 3′ “Pigtail” wire with connectors, and a Wire Placement Kit (8 cable tie mounting bases and zip ties).
An alternative to the PowerFilm kit is the 68 watt Energy del Sol PVL Power Mat. Based on Uni-Solar’s PVL technology, the Energy del Sol solar RV kit can be found on the internet for as little as $600. This product – installed on my own RV – was reviewed in an earlier article.
TOAD Vehicle E&P and Foldable Solar Mats:
Although intended for use on an emergency vehicle, the 30 watt 44.8″ x 26.3″ (15.4v) magnetic E&P solar mat (circa $600) could easily be modified for use on a TOAD (dinghy) vehicle. This is certainly attractive for those situations where you would rather avoid disconnecting the battery of the Toad vehicle whilst towing. Alternatively you could opt for the 5W (MSRP $89.99) or 10W (MSRP $232.99) foldable solar mats that you can plug in to the lighter/auxiliary power socket.
PowerDrive Kit for Electric Carts:
For those RVers who use an electric cart, you should certainly consider the PowerFilm PowerDrive panels which are available in three Sizes and voltages (including 36v and 48v). According to PowerFilm, a golf cart battery is typically discharged to twenty percent of capacity (80% discharge). In this usage, batteries will need replacement after 520 charge cycles or 1 3/8 years. Installing a PowerFilm solar panel reduces depth of discharge to no lower than 65%. This extends battery lifetime to 730 charge cycles, a gain of almost 69%. In most cases, through typical cart use, the battery discharge will be in the 30-50%, equalling a gain of more than double in battery life. The product MSRP is set at $1,037 but you can find it for around $995.
Camping & Hiking Products:
PowerFilm provides a variety of lightweight and portable foldable solar chargers – similar to the GoalZero portable product line – which range from 5-60 watts and can be used to power laptops, cell phones, and GPS units. In addition, they provide a portable, easy to use solar power, lighting, and climate kit for use when “plugging” in just isn’t an option. The PowerPack +Plus has an MSRP of $399 but retails for approximately $350. The pack includes:
- 15.4V, 14 watt, 23” x 14.5”PowerFilm Rollable Solar Panel
- 8lb 7 Ah 12V DC Battery Pack – 8-hour recharge and 3-month power storage without charging
- 12V 160 Lumen LED Rechargeable Lantern – runtime 10 hrs (low setting) 5 hrs (high)
- 12V Combination Fan/ LED Light – runtime 18.5 hrs on 7 Ah rechargeable battery pack
- 15′ Extension Cord
Additional Information: PowerFilm, Inc., 2337 230th Street, Ames, IA 50014 Tel: 1-888-354-7773
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