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Frequently Asked Questions
How does the solar work?
The solar cells built into the panel convert sunlight to electricity just like a solar calculator only with a lot more power. For a discussion, check out an article on "How Solar Cells Work."
Commonly known as "solar cells," these systems already power more than 1 billion handheld calculators, as well as millions of watches, portable lights and battery chargers. Larger, more complex systems provide electricity to pump water, power communications equipment, light homes and operate appliances.The heart of a PV system is a solid-state cell made of semiconductor material like that used in microelectronics. It's usually silicon, the basic ingredient in common beach sand. The cell's semiconductor "wafer" is specially treated to form a positive electric field on one side and a negative field on the other, and electrical conductors are attached to both sides. When sunlight strikes the cell, it knocks loose electrons, which are captured in the form of electric current.
How much power does the solar panel produce?
The solar panel is designed to charge a 36 or 48 volt battery system. The panel produces up to 205 watts. This watt rating is the power output under ideal testing. However, many other factors that play a role in the actual power output of the panel, which is often less than the rated output with the primary factor being the charge controller. The Helios solar roof panel uses Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) intelligent controllers which are able to vary the voltage of the panel to keep it operating closer to its rated output and to obtain 10-30% more total output.
While the instantaneous power output is measure in watts, the energy collected over time is measured in watt-hours. This time variable is where seasonal, climatic, and geographical affects come into play. In the summer, there are more hours of sunlight and the position of the sun hits the panel more directly. In the winter, there are fewer hours of sunlight, and the sun is lower in the sky and doesn't illuminate the panel as directly. In climates where the sky is very clear, less radiation is blocked and, therefore, more hits the solar panel throughout a given day. Geographically, the nearer to the equator you are located, the more sunlight you will receive in a given year. The more directly overhead the sun is located, the more favorable it is for a flat-mounted solar panel.
All of these affects are lumped into one variable for a given location, time of the year and mounting configuration. This parameter is called a sun-hour and is based on years of experimental data. The sun-hour rating for a given location and time of year gives a quick and easy method of calculating how much solar energy can be collected for a given system in one day. Merely multiply the power rating of the system (exp. 100 watts) by the sun-hours obtained from a chart, map, or computer program (exp. 5 sun-hours), and you get the total energy provided by the system (500 watt-hours or 0.5 kwh).
What is the voltage of the energy coming from the solar panel to the 36 or 48 volt battery bank?
Basically, you cannot use voltage to measure the effectiveness of the system. The charge controller is always changing the voltage value. An ampmeter would have to be used to understand properly and to measure the current of the panel system. The blinking green light on the charge controller is the best way to monitor the system.
That being said, our Helios 205 puts out approximately 24 volts which varies somewhat as the controller tracks the Maximum Power Point (MPP) voltage of the panel depending on the conditions. This voltage is then boosted by the controller to the proper battery charging voltage (36 or 48 volts) through a DC-DC converter. This voltage is difficult to measure because it is not "set" until the controller is hooked up to the battery and the system is "checked" to ensure proper voltage and connection.
Can there be a difference between the solar panel battery status gauge and the golf cart's battery gauge? Which one is the more reliable to measure battery life?
The solar battery status gauge is wired directly from the solar panel through the smart controller to the battery bank. When the LED is a constant green, the battery bank is fully charged. When the green light is blinking, it shows different levels of charge. This gauge is a reliable measure on the status of your battery bank.
Factory gauges on golf carts often work in tandem with the cart's motor controller and wall charger. Due to this, there may be a discrepancy between our solar system's power gauge and the cart's own gauge. Many carts will reset when plugged into the wall and do not take into effect the solar panel charging system. Hence, a discrepency may occurr.
What happens when it's rainy and cloudy out?
You only need daylight, not sunlight, to power your PV roof. You can still generate electricity, even on a totally overcast day. Since PV technology requires sunlight to produce electricity, the bulk of your electricity production will take place in sunny conditions. Under bright overcast days, PV systems generate about 50% to 70% of their rated output; in dark overcast, the output is proportionally diminished to perhaps only 5% to 10%.
How strong is the solar roof?
The panels are rated to withstand hurricanes and hailstorms experienced by roof mounted systems.
How easy is it to install the solar roof panel?
It is very easy to install. Two persons are need to lift the panel during the installation process. We provide easy-to-follow installation instructions.
How does the solar panel roof help keep our environment clean?
For every 1.0 kilowatts of electricity generated by solar power, nearly 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide are NOT released into the atmosphere. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Using solar power rather than fossil fuel power on the golf cart reduces the CO2 released into the air by 452 pounds per year.
How does the solar roof panel fit with former Vice President Al Gore's vision of energy revolution?
On July 17, 2008 former Vice President Al Gore called for "eliminating the need for fossil fuels in 10 years." He also called on automobile companies to make plug-in electric cars. With the solar golf cart, you are way ahead of his curve! Using the solar roof panel, you will greatly reduce or even eliminate your need for electricity to drive a golf cart.
How does solar power affect the golf cart?
It increases the range of the vehicle between charges by more than 25 %.
Another benefit is that the solar will extend the battery life by giving the batteries a continuous charge. Active charging reduces the build up of lead sulphate crystals on the lead plates in lead acid batteries, which is the number one cause of battery failure. If a normal set of batteries lasts 4-5 years, the solar roof panel should extend the golf cart's battery life an additional two years or more.
Also, the vehicle is portable solar generator. If the regular power goes out, you can install an optional 12 volt plug so you can plug 12 volt appliances into it such as a small TV, lights, radio and even a small refrigerator. (Think of the possibilities during hurricanes, winter storms, earthquakes, etc.) If you plug an inverter into the 12 volt socket, you can operate regular 110 volt appliances off of the batteries!
Finally, the Helios Solar Top has no moving parts and is designed to last 20 years, assuming it is not damaged by an accident. The Helios Solar Top will never lose its value and, when sold to a new owner, that owner will be able to take the tax credits if they are still available at that time.
How long would it take to charge a battery if it is fully drained?
It depends on the weather and level of sunshine. A really good sunny day will recharge the batteries faster than one with clouds.
How far will my solar roof golf cart go before it needs to be plugged in?
If you drive eight miles or less a day on a flat terrain and keep the car outside in summer peak sun, the batteries will be recharged by solar power and will not require to be plugged in. Or, said another way, for every three-quarters hours the golf cart solar panel roof is charged in peak sun, it will drive one mile on flat terrain.
Peak sun nationally averages 5 1/2 hours per day. In the southern US, it is 3 1/2 hours in the winter and 7 1/2 hours in the summer.
Why does the Helios charge controller make a difference?
Helios' Maximun Power Point Tracking (MPPT) is an electronic feature of the charge controller that allows a solar panel to operate continually at its maximum efficiency. It does not physically move the panels; it is an intelligent electronic system that maximizes the electrical output of the photovoltaic system by varying the panel's operating voltage. Helios' controller extracts the most power possible from the panel in nearly any condition: hot or cold temperatures, varying light levels, and partially shaded or dusty panels, and it even accounts for wiring losses. The actual power gain over a non-MPPT controller with the same panel will vary with conditions, but a 10-30% gain is typical.
How does the charge controller increase charge efficiency and prolong battery life?
Multi-stage charging allows a fuller battery charge without reducing battery life or "boiling off" electrolyte. The battery is held at a higher voltage for a period of time while it gets a full charge, and then is reduced to a lower voltage which provides a maintenance charge without overcharging the battery.
Temperature compensation avoids excessive electrolyte usage and thermal runaway at higher temperatures and helps compensate for increased internal resistance in the battery at lower temperatures. This results in longer battery life due to not overcharging at higher temperatures while still preserving full charges at low temperatures.
What maintenance is required of the Helios top?
None! There are no moving parts or fluids. Just let the sun do all the work. The 205 watt photovoltaic cell is built to last for at least 25 years.
How does the tax credit work?
As of January 1, 2006, an investment tax credit for utilizing solar went into effect. IRS form 3468 line 2b allows for a 30% tax credit for investing in solar. The solar panel (and the value of a new set of batteries if purchased for an already owned cart at the same time) is the solar system on the vehicle. (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f3468.pdf) Also some states will allow additional tax credits and sales tax exemptions such as California, Arizona, and Florida. Please check with your local state.
The Dsire database provides information for tax credits and rebates on a state by state basis:
Is a UL approval required for any or all of the solar roof kit components to qualify it for the 30% solar federal tax credit? Is there any requirement that there be an extended warranty for the solar panel itself to qualify for the tax credit?
The UL approval is not required on the product for the federal solar tax credit. Also, there is no extended warranty requirement on the solar panel in order to receive the federal solar tax credit. The following is a quote from the instructions to complete the federal tax credit form:
"Enter the basis of any property using solar energy placed in service during the tax year. There are two types of property.
1. Equipment that uses solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight.
2. Equipment that uses solar energy to:
What is my payback for investing in solar power?
The payback for investing in a golf cart solar power roof can be as little as two years.
The return on investment (ROI) for a business is 51% in the first year. For a state without state income tax, such as Florida, the business ROI is 43%. For a nonprofit organization without the Federal or state tax credits or depreciations, the ROI is 26%. For an individual without the depreciations or the "better customer relations" allowances, the ROI is 19% in the first year.
What are the practical benefits of a solar golf cart?
--Appeals to all who want to "Go Green" and protect the environment.
The top is an excellent teaching tool for children on how solar power works. We have sold the solar top to public schools, botanic gardens and zoos to be used for this purpose.How much does it cost to ship and how long will it take?
Shipping is done through an insured truck freight company as the Helios 205 is too big for UPS or FedEx. We require a nonresidential delivery address. The cost to ship the 205 watt panel is $199. The Helios 205 is available for delivery in 2 to 3 weeks.
Will the Helios 205 fit on my golf cart?
The solar roof top will fit on all of the later models of the Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha golf cats. It will also fit a Fairplay, Star, and Bad Boy Buggy. Call Customer Service if you have a questions about your golf cart make and model.
Model Helios 205
Rated Maximum Power (Pmax) 205 Watts
Current at Pmax (Imp) 7.25A
Voltage at Pmax (Vm) 25.8V**
Short-Circuit Current (Isc) 7.99A
Open Circuit Voltage (Voc) 32.7V
Nominal Operating Cell Temp -40 to 194 deg. F
Cell Technology Poly-crystalline silicone
Overall Dimensions 66" L x 46.4" W x 3" D
Weight 60 lbs
Solar Panel with Roof Frame Weight 55 lbs
Controller: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
Gauge: Integrated LED Battery "Fuel" Gauge
Hardware: Powder-coated aluminum rooftop with integrated rain gutters, stainless steel hardware and built-in grab bars/handles
**Helios' smart MRRT charge controller is able to adjust constantly the golf cart solar panel operative voltage to obtain maximum power available. It then coverts this power to the proper multi-stage charge voltage based on the state-of-charge and ambient technologies. Many systems do not have these abilities and, therefore, only a portion of the solar panel's potential is utilized and the golf cart battery life is not maximized.
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Frugal Dougal's Golf Cart Accessories is certified in the State of Florida as a Minority, Women, & Service-Disabled Veteran as a women owned company in the category of woman owned, effective September 21, 2010.