It’s been over two years since I last reviewed a portable folding solar panel for the campervan and things have certainly changed. The last portable panel I reviewed weighed in at 20kg, the one I’m looking at today weighs in at 3.7kg! The Lensun ETFE 100watt 12volt Foldable Solar Panel comes well packed and protected in retail packaging and after removing the layers of bubble wrap you’re presented with a nice looking lightweight 580x440mm self contained bag.
The panels are held together by yellow webbing and black slide release buckles, this makes it very sturdy when carrying. A 12 volt 10A PWM (pulse width modulation) solar controller and the cables are neatly hidden behind a zipped panel. Once unfolded the kit includes three solar panel sections creating a combined rated power output of 100W and measures around 1320x580mm in total. The surface of the panels have a robust ETFE lamination – which apparently helps to absorb more light.
Connecting the folding solar panel to a 12 volt battery
The folding solar panel comes complete with crocodile (a.k.a alligator) clips and extension cable to connect directly to a 12 volt battery which makes it simple and ready to go. However, I already have a SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) connector fitted to my campervan leisure battery which includes an extra 15 amp inline fuse and ring terminals (see picture below) so the supplied crocodile clips are not required. Please note that SAE connections can easily be connected the wrong way with positive and negative reversed due the the universal nature of the SAE. Please see my note at the bottom of this post about reverse polarity.
The portable solar panel has quite a nice folding leg system. Three legs are held to the case with velcro webbing and once extended will provide the optimum angle for the panels exposure to the sun – known to be much more efficient than lying flat.
The solar controller provided includes two USB ports, so once it is hooked up to a 12v battery it is ready to power USB 5v devices. However, In my situation the folding panel is used to boost the leisure battery which powers all the devices inside the campervan so I don’t think I would use these in the wild – but they’re a nice touch. The display clearly shows the voltage the sun is generating and with a press of a button you can see the charge condition of the battery. As with most of these types of controllers they have output terminals for other 12v equipment (usually lighting) and the controller has all the standard functions of ‘dusk till dawn’, timers, battery protection and battery conditioning. Personally for me the beauty of this controller is just ‘plug and play’ and let the sun do it’s thing.
As with any portable panel, theft is always going to be a concern. I don’t think anyone would ever leave one of these untended in a remote location (unless it’s very remote!) and it would most likely only be out during the day when spending time at basecamp.
As a bonus, the folding solar panel is small and light enough to sit on the dashboard of the campervan (VW T5 Transporter). With a little bit of ingenuity I think I could turn it into a charging sun shield.
I’ll certainly be taking this with us on our travels, it packs away very nicely and is light enough to keep in the campervan all the time. I’ll update this post with any updates but it seems to be charging very nicely – it obviously helps that the UK is currently going through a heat wave!
This folding solar panel can be purchased directly from the Lensun website for £235 at the time of writing this review.
A Polarity Issue (important)
The only ‘negative’ I have so far with this product is the way the Lensun SAE connector is wired. In the UK it’s fairly standard to have the SAE connection to the battery with the positive shielded from accidentally touching the earthed bodywork of the vehicle. As you can see below, the crocodile (alligator) clips that come supplied with the Lensun Solar Panel have the positive bare. The separately purchased SAE connector with ring terminals and a 15 amp inline fuse is wired correctly as seen with the voltmeter below. If you connect the Lensun to this SAE it will reverse the polarity back to the solar controller and it simply won’t turn on. It’s a very easy fix to switch the terminals at the controller end with a small flat screwdriver and then swap the colour coding on the supplied crocodile clips (if you plan to use the crocodile clips for your battery connection).
Here’s a quick summary video of the Lensun ETFE 100watt 12volt Foldable Solar Panel.
Disclaimer: I have been sent this portable folding solar panel free of charge in return for an unbiased review. I’ll also update this post if the panel fails to perform.