Over the 2016 Christmas period I had the wonderful surprise of being contacted by the marketing team of Lensun Solar Energy, a solar panel manufacturer based in Hong Kong with distribution depots in the U.K. and the U.S.
Lensun asked if I would test their 80w semi-flexible solar panel kit and do an honest review, so I kindly obliged.
The kit arrived within 2 days of our conversation. It was well boxed, arriving packaged within 3 strong cardboard boxes so there was little risk of it being damaged in transit.
Sadly the weather wasn't the greatest, it was the beginning of the British winter and on this occasion we actually had snow so it proved a bit challenging doing a solid review of the functionality of the panel in poor lighting conditions.
However we had one day where the sky's were clear of cloud and the sun was shining. The temperature was a little over 5˚C but I managed to do a temporary rig up of the panel, connect it to my leisure battery and run a few test with the panel angled at an optimum position to the sun to get a stronger reading.
My first impressions of the panel are that it is well manufactured. I'd spent quite some time looking at all of the various options for solar panels as I was providentially just at the point of beginning to install my electrics into our T5 conversion so the request to review couldn't have come at a better time.
I had explored using a more traditional rigid solar panel but didn't like the fact that they protrude from the roof quite a bit and are also made of a glass like material.
The semi-flexible Lensun panel is made of a rubberised PTFE material (see their website for a more technical explanation) but basically this material is super-conductive and incredibly hard wearing, much more so than more traditional solar panels. In fact these panels have historically been used for marine applications where they need to be able to be trodden on as they cover areas of the boat.
There is also a PTFE coating to the metal backing of the solar panel which means the underneath surface is less likely to scratch or be abrasive to any surface it is mounted to.
I ran a few tests with my voltmeter to check the open and charging current of the panel in the winter sun and I must say I was impressed with the readings it pulled out which were in line with the manufacturers claims. I have no doubt that when I come to test the panel again in the British summer that the readings will be within the optimum range as they were considerably high considering the poor environment I was performing this initial test in.
I was slightly frustrated in that my new 110AH gel battery was fully charged so it meant the MPPT controller kept cutting the charge down from the panel to protect the battery so a further test is needed in the summer once the kit is installed just to check on the speed of charge but I was impressed with what I saw until that point.
I put the panel under flex a few times and it certainly feels strong and rugged. There are eyelet mounting points on each corner (used in marine applications) but for my campervan installation I will resort to trimming these eyelets off and using a strong sealant like Sikaflex or similar to seal the unit to the roof surface.
Overall I was impressed with the Lensun product I was supplied. The product felt strong and I'm confident it will perform well in teh British summer.
I will be performing further reviews in the summer and in the autumn of 2017 to give further feedback on how the product is performing and also how it is weathering being exposed to the UK weather.
For a more thorough and immersive review of the Lensun semi-flexible 80w solar panel please watch the review video that follows:
If you would like to explore our undertaking a similar unbiased review for your product or business please get in contact.
I'm really excited to announce that we've ordered the units for the T5 interior.
I'd spent many hours (I dread thinking how many!) exploring various options. There are loads of companies that share information via the T5 forum on Facebook and I had a good look at most of them. There were also loads of posts over recent months of people showing off their various installations from companies such as Evo Designs, Majestic Wood Design, Fat Chilli Campers and a few others.
However, the one company that struck me more than most was a new kid on the block called Northern Rose Campervan Conversions. As the name suggest these guys are based in the North of England, in Leeds.
I had seen an image of their units shared on one of the groups and was really taken by several factors.
Firstly, as the pictures demonstrate, I was struck by the quality of the design of the units. My vehicle is a LWB (the images are for a SWB). I've seen some units which reside within a fairly high price bracket but the design of the units just doesn't look like great value for money. These units look quality. They have anodised curved corners and a large tambour roller door. The units are constructed from 15mm lightweight furniture board and are grooved and lipped to fit within each other (like a jigsaw) meaning more strength and no plastic fixing blocks!
The second thing that won me over was the pricing. When I called NRCC to check on the pricing for the LWB units I was shocked to find out just how much workmanship and kit you get for your money. Most other companies charge extra for overhead units and tables, but NRCC include most items within their standard pricing.
With all of the above considered I've commissioned NRCC to create a set of LWB units for me in the same wood shown in the images below but with a black sparkle worktop and table. I'll also have a full width shelve above the worktop - I can't wait!
Leeds is a really long journey for me to make from the South East but I'm hopeful that having seen the pictures and gained confidence from our telephone conversations that the team at NRCC are going to deliver a bespoke set of units that are excellent quality at a really affordable price.
As always I will provide a road-trip video of the experience of installation day and will try to get an interview with the team there.
I'm hoping that the units will be ready for installation sometime in March 2017.
Back in June 2016 we bought ourselves a T5 panel van. I'd sourced the vehicle on eBay and when I spoke to the owner I knew it would be the one!
The previous owner basically used the vehicle as a mobile windsurfing storage unit. He had the back all ply-lined and stored his windsurfing equipment in the back on the racking that was installed in the back. The van did little more than drive from his house to the local lakes a few times a week and had the occasional trip to the coast in the summer.
I bought the van with little more than 72k miles on the clock knowing that it was the perfect base vehicle for a full-on campervan conversion.
I began very quickly getting started with stripping the vehicle out, installing windows, insulating and soundproofing it, carpeting out the back as well as loads of other cool jobs, big and small. All of these changes have been visually logged via video and can be seen via the VIDEO section of this site.
At the time I started a YouTube channel and called it VanManTheology. However the channel grew in popularity really quickly and that led me to make the recent decision to rename the page as G Dub Campers and to start this website.
Now we have over 500 subscribers and rising I have had companies both in the UK and further afield (Hong Kong!!) contact me about reviewing and trialing their products in my videos. So the aim of this site in particular is to give a landing page to showcase all of the work I'm undertaking and also provide a reference and contact point for external enquiries for both those with questions and those with products or businesses to profile and review.
Looking forward to the adventure!