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Solar panel systems can wind up being incredibly expensive, especially if you’re amassing a huge array to power a full home backup battery network, but you don’t necessarily have to remortgage said home in order to enjoy some solar shenanigans.
As long as you don’t need too much output, there are plenty of awesome, highly affordable solar panel bundles with everything you need to put that sunlight to work. Among these solar starter sets, one of the most talked-about is Topsolar’s 20W Solar Panel Kit.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the only thing I love as much as free energy is a great bargain, which is why I simply couldn’t resist snatching this set up and taking it for a test run! Here’s what I found out.
In a hurry? Not a problem. Get all the key info quickly from this pros and cons list.
- Dual USB ports for charging small electronics
- Efficient monocrystalline technology
- Charge controller is built well and easy to use
- Panel is crafted well
- Nice and affordable
- Comes with everything you need to draw solar power
- Sturdy aluminum frame
- Not many pre-drilled mounting holes
- Panel is quite large for its output
- Short warranty
Topsolar Solar Panel Kit At A Glance
The Topsolar Solar Panel Kit is an affordable green energy option aimed at those who aren’t perhaps quite as solar-savvy as other green energy enthusiasts. It arrives with all you need to get started soaking up some sun immediately — no need to shop around for numerous complex products!
If you need a small power supply for, say, an automatic gate or a small lithium/SLA battery, then, theoretically, this Topsolar set should be just the ticket.
But, is it as good as it’s cracked up to be? Let’s find out!
Where Can You Purchase The Topsolar Solar Panel Kit 20W?
Shop the Topsolar Solar Panel Kit here
What’s In The Box
Seeing as this is a comprehensive solar panel kit, before we dive into the meat of this review, let’s take a quick look at what comes in the box.
- 1 x 20 W, 12 V solid solar panel - As I’m sure you’re aware, this is what soaks up the sun.
- 1 x 10 A solar charge controller - The charge controller regulates the current and voltage coming from the solar panel.
- 1 x 6.5 ft extension cable with battery clips - This cable will connect the charge controller to your battery, completing the path of the solar energy harvested by the panel.
- 1 x 6.5 ft extension cable with O-ring terminal - This is an alternative battery connection.
As per the kit description, the included solar panel is rated for 20 watts; however, this is just the theoretical output in pristine conditions.
During real-life applications, you’re likely to lose some of the rated output due to inherent flaws in the tech we use to gather solar energy.
The good news is that this panel uses monocrystalline as opposed to polycrystalline silicon, which is much more efficient, so power loss is minimized.
When I took the panel out for its inaugural sunbathing session, it was a pretty perfect day, and the panel fluctuated between 16 and 18 watts, which I feel is respectable for such a budget-friendly device.
To put that into a bit of context for you, it’ll take roughly 24 hours to charge a modest deep cycle battery, so it’s not mega fast, but as long as the sun’s out, it will get the job done.
Design And Durability
I honestly didn’t know what to expect in terms of build quality, but I was pleasantly surprised when I cracked the box open and took the panel out for an inspection. There were only a small amount of wafer imperfections, and the tempered glass coating was crystal clear.
My biggest concern was that the PWM charge controller just wasn’t going to be up to snuff, as it looked a little cheap in pictures online, but I’m happy to report that it’s actually a very well-built device.
The aluminum frame didn’t fail to impress, either. It’s lightweight but solid as they come, and I couldn’t see a lick of rust anywhere. In fact, Topsolar claims that it’s highly corrosion-resistant, which means it’s suitable for outdoor mounting, even in drizzly climates.
One area I feel could be improved is the junction box where the solar cables connect with the panel. It’s not that it’s an issue, but the wire casing of one of the cables doesn’t reach all the way to the box (at least on mine, anyway).
The secondary casing is still in place, so we’re not dealing with exposed wires here, but I feel it lacks a certain finesse.
Even expensive solar panels from industry-leading brands are sometimes wanting in the feature department, so I wasn’t expecting a ton of extras with this kit, but this is another area where Topsolar really delivers.
First of all, these panels are fully chainable, by which I mean that you can connect two or more together to increase your power yield. Having said that, if you’re keen on expanding your solar array, remember not to overload the amperage of the PWM controller.
Some other high-end features I didn’t expect were the USB outputs, two of them to be precise.
These handy little ports allow you to link your small electronics, such as smartphones, tablets, or modest portable power packs, into the PWM charge controller for some charging direct from the source.
Essentially, what this means is that you don’t absolutely need a solar battery to start using this kit. As long as you have a USB charging cable, you’re good to go.
But this isn’t the only trick the charge controller has up its sleeve. It also boasts an LCD that imparts all important information, such as load and battery status, making it really easy to use. Honestly, the interface is so clear, even solar newbies will pick it up in a flash.
While I wouldn’t say installing this solar kit was all that difficult, I can certainly see where Topsolar could make a few improvements to make it easier than it is.
First, there aren’t many pre-drilled mounting holes in the aluminum frame, meaning, aside from drilling more in yourself, which will most likely void the warranty, installation options are fairly limited.
It’s also quite large for a 20-watt panel, which can make it hard to manage early on in the fitting process. I’d recommend having a friend around to help you out if only to hold it steady while you focus on the particulars of the installation.
It’s not all bad, though; despite the size of this panel, at 4.78lbs, it’s extremely lightweight, which makes things decidedly easier. What’s more, the charge controller arrives with pre-drilled mounting holes, so no need to do it yourself, and you can use them as a guide when marking up your mounting surface for drilling/screwing.
Value For Money
Considering the monocrystalline cells, the quality of the charge controller, and the advanced features, I don’t think anyone could argue that this kit isn’t great value for money.
In terms of pure power, it’s perhaps not the most cost-effective solar solution in the world, as you can get some pretty sweet 100-watt panels for little over twice the price of this set, but bear in mind that you wouldn’t get a charge controller or extension cables.
Could you amass the things included in this set for cheaper? Yeah, probably, but that would require tons of product research and pre-existing knowledge of solar technology, so, in my humble opinion, this pre-assembled kit is well worth the money.
You get a 1-year material and workmanship warranty with this solar panel kit, which is pretty underwhelming, but this is sort of the done thing in this portion of the market.
Typically, you won’t find beefier protections until you’re ready to engage with bigger industry names and fork out considerably more money.
The Final Verdict
The Topsolar Solar Panel Kit is an awesome little set of solar essentials to get you started in the world of green energy.
For me, bundle deals usually inspire a certain amount of doubt, but I can safely say that I’m glad I ordered it, would order it again, and recommend that you give it a try too!
Ultimately, I think that Topsolar has created a fantastic little solar set here, with a price tag that appeals to those who have always wanted to get into solar energy, but never thought they would be able to afford it.
But that’s not to say the seasoned solar diehards such as myself can’t enjoy this kit, too.
Sure, the house is backed up by a pod of solar batteries connected to a roof array, the RV roof is positively glistening with panels, but there is always some small, neglected area still reliant on grid power
This kit is an effective and efficient way to patch up all those residual holes in your green energy empire, thereby trimming a few extra pennies off the energy bill and easing the burden of your energy consumption on the environment.
I give the Topsolar Solar Panel Kit 20W 4.6/5