Any avid traveler who enjoys spending time off the grid will want to check out our foldable solar suitcases. A portable solar suitcase can act as a great primary source of solar power or as a backup when you are on the road or water and occasionally need more juice.
Let’s discover just what a foldable solar suitcase is, how it works, the benefits it offers, and how much one costs.
What Is a Foldable Solar Suitcase?
A foldable solar suitcase is essentially what it sounds like—a foldable suitcase-looking object containing solar panels. A foldable solar suitcase provides the owner with portable power—something standard home solar panel kits don’t have. That’s why Renogy solar decided to create something that gives individuals looking to go off-grid an option for solar power without compromising on quality and durability.
Like a portable solar generator, a foldable solar suitcase can go anywhere at any time without needing to worry about additional components or setups. Renogy offers two basic types of foldable solar suitcases, a 100-watt option or a 200-watt option. The most popular and versatile version available is the Renogy 100-watt 12 volt monocrystalline foldable solar suitcase, which you can purchase with or without a solar charge controller.
The 100-watt 12-volt option has two 50-watt solar panels that fold up onto each other for easy transport. The ten-amp waterproof charge controller has an LCD digital display to give you all of the details you need when setting up and running your unit. Because the charge controller comes pre-wired to the panels, this system is as straightforward as it gets. Also included is a ten-foot cable with MC4 connectors and alligator clips to connect your monocrystalline solar panels to a 12V battery.
What Is a Foldable Solar Suitcase?
It’s easy to open and close the suitcase—all you have to do is unclip the latch mechanism and open the panels. Then, you can quickly open the aluminum arms so that you can prop up your solar panels in any direction. Plus, the arms are extendable, allowing you to gain the best angle possible with the sun.
The whole package weighs only 26.6 pounds and is 19.9 inches tall, 27.2 inches long, and 2.8 inches thick. The system can operate in temperatures as low as -40°F and as hot as +185°F. The suitcase also has its own durable, weather-resistant case to keep it safe and dry when not in use.
How Does a Foldable Solar Suitcase Work?
To use your Renogy foldable solar suitcase, all you’ll need is access to a battery to connect the alligator clips to. After opening the latch and positioning your solar panels at the ideal angle and direction toward the sun, you join the MC4-to-alligator-clip cable to the MC4 cable coming from the controller. Next, you connect your alligator clips to your 12V battery, and you’re done! It really is that user-friendly.
Once connected, you’ll see everything light up, including the charge controller. From the display panel on the charge controller, you can select your battery type and see the charging current and amp hours charged. You’ll also be able to view the controller’s charging stage, either bulk, absorption, or float:
- Bulk: initial charging with high voltage
- Absorption: maintaining steady voltage
- Float: prevents overheating once the battery is fully charged
The maximum operating current is 5.56 amps, while the maximum operating voltage is 18V. The module efficiency for our foldable solar suitcases is either 21% or 22%, depending on the model. Model efficiency refers to the amount of sunlight that your solar panels absorb, converted into usable electricity. No energy conversion will be 100%, and solar panels model efficiency is comparable to that of traditional fossil fuel generators, which have an efficiency between 25% and 28%.
The 100-watt 12V monocrystalline foldable solar suitcase with the Voyager charge controller comes with a 25-year power output warranty and a three-year material and workmanship warranty. It’s important to note if you disconnect the charge controller, it does void the warranty.
Expanding Your Foldable Solar Suitcase
If you have potential plans to expand your solar energy system or are interested in DIY solar, we recommend purchasing a foldable solar suitcase without a control charger. Any alterations you make to your solar suitcase can void the warranty, so you’d be better off looking into a portable RV kit.
The good news is you can purchase various components separately. So if you decide to buy a foldable solar suitcase without a charge controller, and then you need one later on, you have the option to buy one. You can also purchase additional components if solar expansion ends up being a viable option for you later on and still design a system without voiding your warranties.
Solar-Ready RVs and Foldable Solar Suitcases
Another aspect to keep in mind regarding a foldable solar suitcase is how it would connect to a solar-ready RV. For many travelers, adding RV solar panels or tiny home solar panels to their ride was a decision they made long ago. So what happens if you determine you need a bit more solar energy while on the road and are considering adding a foldable solar suitcase to the mix?
Renogy’s foldable kit comes with MC4 connectors, as mentioned, but most solar-ready RVs or tiny homes have proprietary ports. In other words, you cannot just take the MC4 connector and plug it into your already existing system. In this case, you’ll need to purchase an adapter (preferably from a professional installer) to connect your foldable solar suitcase to the rest of your system.
This adapter comes into play because most solar-ready RV systems are only compatible with the RV manufacturer’s solar partner, of which there are many. Because Renogy wants to be as versatile and accessible as possible, we design all of our connections to be battery-direct. We offer an SAE adapter cable for RVs that use this system. However, it’s best to first check with your RV vendor or manufacturer to know exactly which adapter you need.
What Are the Benefits of a Foldable Solar Suitcase?
A foldable solar suitcase has a lot to offer when it comes to user experience and reliability. The greatest advantage of a solar suitcase is you can position it just how you need it, something that’s not possible with fixed solar panels for a home. So even though the suitcase’s solar panels are 100 watts, you can aim them directly at the sun and at the perfect angle to charge your battery quickly and effectively.
Anyone who has traveled often enough while relying on solar energy knows that you may end up at the mercy of the weather. Multiple days in a row with no sunshine can have you limiting your energy use and worrying about if you’ll make it to the next campsite before your food spoils or cell phone dies. However, when you have a foldable solar suitcase ready and waiting, you know you can get the solar power you need as soon as the sun pops out from behind the clouds.
Also, the adjustability of the panels really comes into play if you’re traveling during winter when the sun’s angle is more restrictive. And if you notice at some point during the day your foldable panels have ended up in the shade, all you have to do is pick them up and move them to a nice sunny spot.
Besides its portability, easy setup, and potential to connect with other systems, a foldable solar suitcase from Renogy is also durable. The adjustable arms are made from aluminum, making them lightweight but still corrosion-resistant. Also, the charge controller is waterproof, so you don’t have to worry if rain clouds roll in. To combat that, you’ve got your system set up outside (although it’s still a good idea to avoid leaving everything out in the rain as water and electricity never get along).
The suitcase’s protective case and heavy-duty handle ensure everything will last as long as the solar panels can keep producing energy. Since the whole thing only weighs about 27 pounds, carrying and storing the suitcase is not much different than your standard trip to the airport.
Another great benefit of a foldable solar suitcase is its compatibility. It can be gel, sealed, lithium, or flooded as long as you connect it to a 12V battery. And with the LCD on the charge controller, it’s easy to ensure the settings are correct and reliable.
But what about safety? Can a portable solar panel system really do its job without creating a risk for those in the nearby vicinity? The simple answer is, of course!
If you purchase the model that comes with the 20A built-in, five-stage charge controller, it protects against overcharging, so you don’t have to be concerned about fire risks. The charge controller is also negatively grounded, making it compatible with RVs, tiny homes, trailers, boats, etc. Finally, because the system produces relatively low voltage, the risk of electric shock is also very minimal.
How Much Does a Foldable Solar Suitcase Cost?
Like most solar panel options, Renogy offers an array of foldable solar suitcases. The 100-watt models range in price from $219.99 to $349.99, while the 200-watt models go for anywhere from $399.99 to $599.99. We run sales regularly, and prices may vary depending on when you make your purchase.
As noted, you can buy a foldable solar suitcase with or without a charge controller. You also have the choice of our standard monocrystalline foldable suitcase or foldable eclipse suitcase. Here is the current price breakdown for our 100-watt models:
- 100-Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase w/o Controller: $219.99
- 100-Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase w/ Voyager Controller: $259.99
- 100-Watt Eclipse Solar Suitcase w/o Controller: $299.99
- 100-Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Solar Suitcase w/ Voyager: $349.99
Check back regularly for the most up-to-date prices.
Double the watts does not necessarily mean double the price tag! If you think you’ll regularly rely on your foldable solar suitcase for a wide range of energy needs, it is probably worth it to invest in one of our 200-watt models. You can choose from the following:
- 200-Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase w/ Controller: $399.99
- 200-Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Solar Suitcase w/ Controller: $599.99
- 200-Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Solar Suitcase w/o Controller: $549.99
There is also the possibility to purchase our E.FLEX 50 Portable Solar Panel that includes a smart junction box for charging smartphones, laptops, rechargeable power supplies, and more. It comes in at a very reasonable $139.99.
So whether you think you’re ready to commit to a 200-watt foldable solar suitcase or would rather start small and try our E.FLEX 50 during your next road trip, we have a portable setup that will suit your needs and your budget.
The Foldable Solar Suitcase: Second to Sun
The foldable solar suitcase is a beginner’s solar power product second to none. If you’re looking to get your toes wet in the world of solar energy, this could be a great way to start. These setups are easy to use and highly portable, making them convenient and reliable solar energy sources.
Even if you’re not a digital nomad looking to explore every corner of the country, a foldable solar suitcase could still be an option. There’s nothing that says you can’t set up a portable solar panel in your backyard to use for outdoor energy.
Perhaps you want to dabble with solar energy without making a full commitment to installing a group of panels on your roof. Or you’re curious to see how much energy from the sun you have available on your property at any given time.
Regardless of your reason, investing in a foldable solar suitcase will provide you with more opportunities than you had before. And best of all, it’s so user-friendly that you can have it up and running in minutes, all without having to have a certification in electricity or call in the professionals!