A portable solar briefcase is the perfect way to capture sunlight and turn it into off-grid electricity. My Rich Solar 200 watt review examines the portable solar briefcase. With a built-in 20A controller. I ask; Do portable solar panels have an advantage over an installed system? What is good and not so good about the solar briefcase? There is a Rich Solar 200w vs Renogy 200w section. And I check out other products in the range.
Product: Rich Solar 200 Watt Solar Panel Briefcase With 20A Solar Controller
Dimensions Folded: 36.6 x 28.5 x 2.8inch/92.96 x 72.39 x 7.11cm
Dimensions Unfolded: 55.7 x 36.6 x 1.4inch/141.48 x 92.96 x 3.56cm
Solar Panel: 5 year workmanship and materials
Solar Charge Controller: 24 Months
Rich Solar 200 Watt Review – Portable Solar Briefcase
A bit about Rich Solar
Rich Solar was established in 2005 with the products being manufactured in Zhejiang China. Their headquarters are based in Montclair California. They produce solar panels, power stations, controllers, inverters and accessories. Which are shipped all over the world.
What is the Rich Solar 200w portable solar briefcase?
The Rich Solar 200 watt portable solar briefcase is actually two 100w panels joined together. They are wired in parallel, this gives the panel its 200 watt power rating. They are held together with metal hinges and latches that fold like a past table.
The black monocrystalline solar cells are encased in a metal frame and tempered glass front. It has corner protectors and attached handle. A heavy duty metal kickstand to find the perfect angle for capturing maximum sunlight. And a 20A built in solar controller. The whole unit has an exterior protective case that makes it look like a briefcase.
|Specs||Rich Solar 200w Solar Briefcase|
|Module Type||2 X 100w|
|Solar Charge Controller||20A|
|Dimensions Folded||36.6 x 28.5 x 2.8inch/92.96 x 72.39 x 7.11cm|
|Dimensions Unfolded||55.7 x 36.6 x 1.4inch/141.48 x 92.96 x 3.56cm|
|Maximum Power Voltage||18.6V|
|Maximum Power Current||10.08A|
|Open Circuit Voltage||22.8V|
|Short Circuit Current||11.2A|
The 200w solar panel is encased in metal, with metal hinges and latches. This makes it highly durable. The portable panel can withstand most weather conditions barring hurricanes and tornadoes. The corner protectors will help with small knocks and bumps. Dropping it from height or standing and jumping on it may damage the solar cells. Damaging the solar cells will ultimately reduce its performance.
The unit and the charge controller are waterproof. And the electrical connectors to the solar controller look to be too. Remember the casing, hinges and latches are made of metal and can be prone to rust. If it isn’t in its protective case. Never leave the briefcase outside for prolonged periods of time.
Solar panels are made from Photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells react to sunlight and convert its energy into usable Direct Current (DC) electricity. The cells are encased in a metal or plastic frame to form the solar panel. There are generally three accepted types of solar panels:
Are single (mono) solar cells manufactured from the purest silicon. The solar panels are recognizable by their dark colour
Are manufactured from multiple crystalline solar cells. The solar panels are recognizable by their blue speckled colour
Made by covering a material with one or more thin layers of PV cells. The solar panels are recognizable for their extremely thin and lightweight characteristics.
The portable briefcases solar cells are monocrystalline. So its efficiency is of the highest rating. And the higher the efficiency rating the better it will convert sunlight into electricity. Currently the solar industry standard is 17% to 19%.
But as a guide most portable monocrystalline solar panels have a rating between 20% to 23%. Rich Solar has not released the 200 watt solar briefcases official efficiency rating. So erring on the side of caution I have given it a rating of 20% to 23% (approx). In line with most other portable monocrystalline solar panels. Even though the cells look to be the highest efficiency black type.
The 200 watt solar briefcase is reasonably portable and the carry handle makes it easier to move around. It is a larger portable solar panel at 36.6 x 28.5 x 2.8inch/92.96 x 72.39 x 7.11cm. Finding space for it in a smaller vehicle could prove challenging. But for larger campervans, motorhomes and trailer/caravans. You should be able to find a space for it for transportation.
When you arrive at your destination, all you have to do is point it at the sun. Pull the support legs down so the solar briefcase is standing up on an angle. And not lying flat on the ground. Hook the solar panel to your battery bank with crocodile clips. And all that free power from the sun is yours to enjoy.
Let’s be honest about it, this is not a lightweight solar briefcase. But compared to its rivals it isn’t too bad.
|Go Power 200 watt||51lbs/23Kg|
|Zamp 230 watt||47lbs/21.3Kg|
|Goal Zero Boulder 200 watt||44.45lbs/20.16Kg|
|Eco-Worthy 200 watt||41.9lbs/19Kg|
|Rich Solar 200 watt||38lbs/17.24Kg|
You can see that the Go Power is the heaviest with a full 13lbs/5,9Kg difference. Even so at 38lbs the Rich solar is still quite heavy to move around.
The 20A Solar Controller
The Rich Solar has a built in 20A solar controller. So there is no need to go out and buy a separate one. This is an important feature because if you didn’t know;
A solar controller regulates the amount of volts and current generated by the solar panel. This is important because it stops the battery from being overcharged. Overcharging a battery will reduce it’s life and can cause thermal runaway. Which in turn can cause a battery to rupture or catch fire.
They also have important other features such as when the panel is connected to your battery. And there is no sunlight e.g; when it has fallen into shade. The controller will prevent the battery charge leaking back into the solar panel.
The solar controller is a 20A PWM controller
In case you didn’t know
Pulse-width modulation (PWM), or pulse-duration modulation (PDM). Is a method of reducing the average power delivered by an electrical signal. It effectively chops it up into discrete parts. And is one of the primary methods of reducing the output of solar panels. So that it can be utilized by a battery. (Source: Wikipedia)
It has a LED screen that has indicators that show things like battery state of charge. How many amps are being pushed through to the battery. And the battery type currently being charged.
What types of batteries can be charged?
The battery type you want to charge can be selected with a button which you hold down. On the front of the controller. It is clearly marked so you shouldn’t have too many problems.
Can another 200 watt portable solar panel be added in series or parallel?
It is not possible to expand the system with more than one solar panel. This is because the 20A controller can handle a maximum of 240 watts of solar power.
In case you didn’t Know
This is calculated by multiplying the number of volts (ie a 12v leisure battery). By the number of amps (ie the solar charge controller) therefore;
12V leisure battery x 20A charge controller = 240 watt solar power
Solar power stations
It is a common misconception that you shouldn’t charge a solar power station. Using a portable solar panel that already has a built-in solar charger. This is because the power station usually already has one built-in as well. And they will interfere with each other. This is untrue, so you can confidently charge a power station. Such as the Rich Solar X500 Lithium Portable Power Station.
What’s in the Box?
Rich Solar 200w portable solar briefcase with 20A solar controller
Do portable solar panels have an advantage over panels permanently roof mounted?
I know what you are thinking. Why would I use a portable solar panel? Instead of mounting panels to my recreational vehicle, boat or outbuilding roof? The answer is free standing portables are more flexible and convenient in their use. “How so?” I hear you say;
Roof mounted solar panels can only be used to charge batteries housed in your vehicle.
Portable solar panels can be used to charge many kinds of batteries. Such as a portable power station as well as leisure and starter batteries.
If your vehicle becomes shaded you will have to move it to carry on collecting sunlight. This can be really inconvenient if you have found the perfect spot. A portable can just be picked up and moved back into the sunlight. Leaving your peace and tranquility undisturbed
Mounted panels collect the best sunlight for 4 hours per day on average. This is because the sun needs to be directly above the panels for maximum exposure. But portables can be pointed directly at the sun all day. This means your batteries will charge faster especially if they are seriously depleted.
Installed panels need constant maintenance like cleaning and wiring checks. Whereas portables need only a 6 month checkup. So much less hassle than getting up there with the sponge.
The cost of mounting panels can run into many thousands of dollars. Not to mention the time it takes to install them. Are you any good at DIY? Plus it might mean drilling holes in your very expensive vehicle. Portables are relatively inexpensive compared to an installation. Leaving your wallet heavier and a smaller hole in your bank account.
I understand if you have a very large coach a 200 watt portable solar panel probably won’t cut it. But for everybody else portables are a convenient cost effective way. To capture sunlight to generate electricity when off-grid.
What other Portable Solar Briefcases Are There In The Range?
|Specs||Rich Solar 100w Solar Briefcase|
|Module Type||2 X 50w|
|Solar Charge Controller||10A|
|Dimensions Folded||27 x 22 x 2.8inch|
|Dimensions Unfolded||43.3 x 27 x 1.4inch|
|Maximum Power Voltage||18.4V|
|Maximum Power Current||5.43A|
|Open Circuit Voltage||22.6V|
|Short Circuit Current||5.72A|
Other Rich Solar portable solar panels
There are also other portable solar panels that are not foldable. There is a 100 watt and 60 watt available in regular and black monocrystalline versions. They are fitted with a kickstand and Anderson connector. But they do not have a built-in solar controller.
What’s Good About The Rich Solar 200w Portable Portable Briefcase
Plug and Play System
The Rich Solar is very convenient in the fact that you can just set it up and it starts charging. You do not have to worry about fiddly connections. You just attach the crocodile clip extension via an MC4 connector. Clamp it onto your vehicle battery terminals and the job is done.
It’s great, it’s waterproof so it can be used for marine applications. Even better, it can be used as a temporary charging source on roof tops like sheds, garages and outbuildings. You will not have to worry if you spill liquids on it. Or if you are out and about and it starts raining. No need to rush out and bring it in.
No thinking; Where am I going to mount the controller? Or having to attach extra wiring and running it to your vehicle. Instead of just one cable directly to your vehicle battery bank. One cable makes the whole process of charging your batteries easy and convenient. And of course the controller protects your battery from overcharging.
What’s Not So Good About The Rich Solar 200w Portable Briefcase
Yes overall the 200 watt portable solar panels is a bit on the heavy side. But with the weight comes the extra wattage power. Meaning your batteries will charge quicker. But if you have a physical disability or bad back. The 200 watt might not be suitable for you. If you are on your own.
Can’t be expanded
I have included the expansion issue because some people like to expand their systems. Because they want more power and faster charging times. If you want to expand and you are good at DIY. You could always replace the controller with a larger one like a 40A MPPT.
In case, you didn’t know;
Maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Optimizes the DC match between the solar panel and the charging 12V battery. This means the MPPT keeps the power transfer between solar panel and battery, at its highest efficiency.
At $500 dollars it may seem pricey against some other makes and models. And if you are limited to a budget, it is a lot of money. But consider this. You will get your money back because you won’t be running a generator or engine. Which both need constant refueling. And some other well known makes are even more expensive.
- The Go Power 200 Watt is $945.00
- The Zamp 180 Watt is $749.99
- Goal Zero’s Boulder 200 Watt is $649.95 at the time of writing
Are these products of any better quality than the Rich Solar 200w offering?. I will leave that with you to decide
Rich Solar 200w Vs Renogy 200w
|Specs||Rich Solar 200w Briefcase||Renogy 200w Solar Suitcase|
|Specs||Rich Solar 200w Solar Briefcase||Renogy 200w Solar Suitcase|
|Module Type||2 X 100w||2 X 100w|
|Wattage||200 watt||200 watt|
|Efficiency||Highly Efficient||Highly Efficient|
|Solar Charge Controller||20A||20A|
|Dimensions Folded||36.6 x 28.5 x 2.8inch||35.6 x 25.9 x 3.1inch|
|Dimensions Unfolded||55.7 x 36.6 x 1.4inch||51.8 x 35.6 x 1.34inch|
|Maximum Power Voltage||18.6V||18.5V|
|Maximum Power Current||10.08A||10.5A|
|Open Circuit Voltage||22.8V||21.8V|
|Short Circuit Current||11.2A||11.7A|
|Protective Carry Bag||Yes||Yes|
|Warranty||Solar Panel: 5 year workmanship and materialsController: 24 month||Solar Panel: 25-year power output.5 year/95% efficiency rate.10 year/90% efficiency rate.25-year/80% efficiency rate.5-year material and workmanship.Controller: 12 month|
What are the differences between the Rich Solar and Renogy?
Not that many as far as I can see. They both have monocrystalline solar cells and 20A solar controllers. They can’t be separated with regard to workmanship and quality. The Rich Solar is slightly larger and heavier.
Renogy is offering a better warranty for the solar panel. But Rich Solar’s controller warranty is better. And they both offer free shipping within the continental USA. So it boils down to price, wouldn’t you say? Although Rich Solar do offer regular discounts.
The cost is immaterial because you will soon recoup it back in fuel savings. I can’t decide between the two. They both appear to be offering the same thing. If you can’t decide either, you can look at a full review of the Renogy here.
Shade will stop charging altogether. Keep an eye out for this now and again and move your Rich Solar 200w portable briefcase back into the sunlight if necessary. This is important if you are near an overhang or obstruction such as in and around a forest. You will need to check for shade more often.
Is The Rich Solar 200w Briefcase With Solar Controller Any Good?
In the battle between mounted and portable solar panels. When it comes to convenience and versatility I believe portables win. Ok the 200 watt with a built-in solar controller is a bit on the heavy side. So you wouldn’t want to carry it very far. And it can’t be expanded without a bit of DIY modification.
But compared to an installation the Rich Solar 200w briefcase is;
- Less expensive
- More easily maintained
- Very convenient
- Flexible in its use
- Is less hassle when it comes to shade
- And it’s maximum sun exposure is all day not just when directly overhead
So it’s a good product with many advantages and not too many downsides. The cost might be a roadblock for you. But overall it is value for money because of the fuel savings.
I hope you enjoyed this review and have found it helpful. If you have any questions about the Rich Solar 200w Briefcase With Solar Controller. Or want to leave your own personal review, please feel free to leave a comment below.