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Old 10-07-2014, 09:12 AM   #1
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Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

I'm looking at this kit for my SMB:

http://www.costco.com/Grape-Solar-400-W ... 49288.html

This kit appears to have everything (except batteries) needed to install a solar system.

I'm wondering in any of the members here with vast knowledge and great experience in solar installs (and there are several ) can weigh in on this package?

How is Grape Solar's track record?
I realize they're Polycrystalline panel, and not Monocrystalline - Big difference?
Any comments on any of the other components in the kit?

Thanks in advance!

Phil
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Old 10-07-2014, 09:32 AM   #2
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Phil: Just a thought. The physical dimensions of these panels are approx 40" x 26"

I have been meaning to post a picture of my four 47" wide panels mounted on the Thule tracks so that people can comment and make suggestions about my mounting methods. But I have a Voyager fiberglass top. Which is probably the next best thing to the Cruiser top for the mounting of solar panels.

So my question to you is what type of top do you have on your van? Depending on your top, the 40"x26" IMO could leave alot of roof unused and could be hard to mount if you have a Fantastic roof vent anywhere in the roof.

Physical first, then electrical.
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Old 10-07-2014, 10:45 AM   #3
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Thanks E350 -

I have a motorized penthouse top, no vents and am planning on a roof rack in the not-too-distant future (hopefully Aluminess, if I can scrounge up the $$) for the solar panels and spare tire.

Thanks

Phil
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ScanGauge installation
Agile RIP package with Fox Shox, front & rear
SMB West motorized penthouse
Underfloor Aluminum storage box from northleftcoast
Aluminess Bumper-Mount Spare Tire Rack

Passenger & Driver swivel seat bases
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:01 AM   #4
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

The info sheet says each panel is 26" wide and 40" long. If you position them long ways across the top, it would take at least 104" of your roof. If you get an aluminess rack to mount these, the panels will take up quite a bit of space on the rack.

Just curious, what are you running in your van that would make a 400w solar system necessary?
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:21 AM   #5
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Hey mikracer-
I'm not running much yet, but plans include a Fridge, microwave, hot plate and other ancillary items.

I would probably mount them in a 2x2 configuration towards the front of the van, leaving the rear third or so empty.

You're right in that 400 watts is overkill, probably by a factor of 2. I was even pondering mounting only 2 of the panels, leaving the other 2 for an application in my cabin. I like this kit because it's all-inclusive. I haven't yet tried to price out individual components, and this jumped out of a recent Costco flyer and email (you know how that goes!)

Phil
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:32 AM   #6
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Costco flyers are hard resist! If you mount them side by side, it might hang over the side of the penthouse top just a tiny bit. If you end up mounting all 4 on your van, I would consider mounting some thule or yakima tracks and crossbars for the panels and getting a mega warrior or MOAB cargo rack for the rear. You would save quite a bit of money and you would have the same usable cargo space.
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Old 10-07-2014, 11:39 AM   #7
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Phil: Just some thoughts from one small peanut in the gallery:

1. Go monocrystalline. I think I like the Grape's from my research so far.

2. Buy two panels to start, but make sure that you buy the correct physical size so that you can add more panels later because apparently the most you can expect to get is 75% of your combined panel specified wattage. Obviously (now! for me!) wire them in parallel.

3. Buy your solar charge controller. If you plan to ever use 4 panels, you must go 30amp (20amp will not be enough). (I am planning on comparing MPPT and PWM 30amp controllers from Midnite Solar, Blue Sky, Morningstar and Outback.)

4. Don't buy an inverter just yet. Or buy a cheap 750watt Harbor Freight inverter for $47 minus 20% with a coupon. This one powers my microwave just fine:

http://www.harborfreight.com/750-watt-c ... 69660.html

In fact, don't plan to invert if you can avoid it. Go 12v dc wherever possible. Microwaves seem to all be 120v ac, however.

BTW, I previously spent $2,200 for my 2500 watt Xantrex ProSine inverter/charger which failed outside of warranty at about 4 years... And oh yeah, my $500 Xantrex XW MPPT 60 solar charge controller failed (thank God) just inside of the 5 year warranty. So, I sold the new one I received as a free replacement. And now am moving on looking at other solar charge controllers, per above.

I don't have anything good to say about Xantrex/Schneider. So I won't. Maybe others have had better luck than me.

5. You didn't mention what batteries. But as you know, neither the Costco kit nor any of the foregoing will work without a dedicated house battery(-ies) with sufficient amp hour (Ah) capacity to power your loads for the duration you want to power them. I will let others talk about batteries. And I will read with interest... I would like to see the specs on daveb's batteries and I would also like to see how the golf cart batteries setups compare.
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Old 10-08-2014, 11:09 AM   #8
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Thanks for the info and opinions, mikracer and E350.

I'm tempted with the Costco kit since it's a nice all-in-one solution. Haven't done any real hard calcs on my electrical needs yet.

I like the idea of the Thule racks in lieu of the Aluminess roof rack - money saver for certain. I'll look into that more.

I'm also considering a GoalZero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator. They're local to me (Salt Lake City). This would allow me some flexibility for in-home use with power outages (We get several each year where I live, and I just haven't bucked up yet for an automatic, propane-powered setup...). This is more $$, as I'd still need to purchase panels. I prefer to have permanently mounted solar panels on the SMB, rather than mess with the portable panels they offer.

Doing more mental masturbating than anything at this point...

I'll watch for your progress on this forum, E350 - looking forward to it.

Thanks again and feel free to chime in anytime...

Phil
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2008 Quigley modified Ford E350 Superduty 6.0l
ScanGauge installation
Agile RIP package with Fox Shox, front & rear
SMB West motorized penthouse
Underfloor Aluminum storage box from northleftcoast
Aluminess Bumper-Mount Spare Tire Rack

Passenger & Driver swivel seat bases
Kenwood DNX572BH Navigation/DVD/CD Receiver
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Old 10-08-2014, 11:24 AM   #9
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

Phil: mikracer said Thule "Tracks" exact same product as Yakima tracks. (Not "racks.")



http://www.amazon.com/Thule-Track-Mo...s=thule+tracks

Edit: For my installation, see:

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=14746

If you call design work "mental masturbating" then I would hate to hear what you would call Leonardo Da Vinci! Design, drink (vary between coffee and beer), look at your van roof, look at the inside ceiling of your van roof, drink more, re-design, buy parts (save receipts), do mock up, then drink more, then measure, make pencil lines (there is something about a sharp pointed #2 pencil), check your lines, get out your drill, then check your lines one more time and drill.
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Old 10-08-2014, 12:36 PM   #10
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Re: Grape Solar 400W Kit ?

^^Interesting, looking forward to pics! I got two sets of Yakima tracks this summer to install on my PH, ultimately to mount solar panels. REI seems to have 20% off sales on both Thule and Yakima a few times a year, so they weren't too expensive.

I've been looking at the Renogy 200w kits that are on Ebay for around $320 or so. Seem to get pretty good reviews on the web and on this forum. They come with mounting brackets, too.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/281061525755
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