If you go on YouTube and search for any type of physical fitness advice, you probably won’t be surprised by how easily you can find a wide range of conflicting views.  This is because the human body is extremely complicated, science on the topic is progressing slowly, genetics introduce a lot of variables, and people frequently hold onto bad ideas with religious fervor.  

It seems like something as relatively straightforward as electricity, volts, amps, watts, etc., would be a little more ironed out.  It is after all, mostly just math, and 2 + 2 = 4 no matter what you are counting.  But, you can still find a lot of well-supported, but conflicting advice.

When I see these disagreements, I can usually attribute them to at least one of these four factors:

1. It’s a very broad field.

While a pediatrician may be a medical doctor, you typically wouldn’t visit one if you were an adult with severe heartburn.  They would probably tell you to call a gastroenterologist.  “Solar Engineer” is also a very broad term.  An off-grid expert may not know very much about grid-tied systems.  A residential electrician might not know anything about RV solar, and an electrical engineer might be able to do wattage calculations, but not know anything about solar code requirements or tax rebates.  If you ask a residential solar expert about setting up your RV, they’ll probably design a very safe system for you, but it might not be the most economically efficient.  If you ask an off-grid specialist to design a grid-tied system, hopefully, they would know to point you in a better direction.  When researching what solar is best for you, make sure you get your information from an expert in your specific area of interest.  

Learn more:  Mobile Solar is Nothing like Residential Solar

2. They serve different segments of the market.

This blog article was inspired by a disagreement I had with another talented solar installer specializing in Skoolie systems.  I was saying that I don’t recommend using residential solar panels in mobile applications because the large spans of glass don’t support the fragile cells very well with road vibration. This leads to micro fractures that eventually reduce the performance of the panel.  He said that he recommended residential panels and had no problems with them.

In a sense, we are both right, here’s why:

At AM Solar, we have a market that spans North America.  We work on all types of vehicles, our work supports many employees, and we offer free lifetime support to all of our customers.  Many of our customers drive million-dollar rigs and they demand the best of the best.  

The Skoolie builder, while knowledgeable and respected in his field, focused primarily on school bus conversions and worked with a customer base that was more hands-on and more inclined to tinker. He builds custom framing designed to support these large panels on skoolies.

Sure, what I said about micro fractures is true, but is your average Skoolie owner going to care about a small reduction in performance in exchange for panels that are at about half the price?  No, residential panels might be a very reasonable choice for that market, but the average Airstream owner isn’t going to like them.

3. They aren’t up to speed with the latest technology.

Having been in the business for over two decades, we have witnessed a rapid evolution in technology.  Some dealers we worked with a decade ago prefer to use inverter and battery technology that was popular back then.  These dealers do great work.  Their systems function as advertised, but maybe they don’t have all the bells and whistles, or efficiency that some of the latest technologies offer.  If I’m not careful, and not constantly pushing limits, I’ll likely end up in the same boat.  I just hope that when I’m old and outdated, I’ll be willing to admit it and try to catch up.    

4. I call them “Pseudoengineers”

Spicy YouTube comments and Google reviews come from these experts.  If I’m in the right mood, I give a little spice back.  Fortunately, I saved this exchange before the reviewer deleted it:

1-Star Review:

“Supposedly friendly to DIY. Purchased a lithium control board after hearing how they work. Would have been perfect for my setup. They demanded immediately for me to send it back as it was an “error” for me to purchase. Their tech guy tried to BS me with reasons as to why it wasn’t a good fit when he didn’t even ask what the fit or how my setup is/was. Called them out on it before they corrected their statements as I’m an engineer as well and pointed out their bogus claims. I would have kept it but it was defective on the charge port input (outputs wouldn’t respond to input) so had no choice.

After returning they refused to send out a replacement. They also conveniently “forgot” to refund me for several weeks until I followed up.

I would still like the unit but they are extremely difficult to deal with. They provide zero support (which I needed very little of) and they don’t necessarily want your business. This review is from an actual paying customer. I was shocked as they are supposedly helpful with good reviews but my experience from the get go was pretty hostile and bad.”

Owner Response:

“I remember a day in the first grade when the teacher asked everyone in class what they wanted to be when they grew up.  I said “I want to be an engineer.”  I remember being slightly miffed when she interpreted that as me wanting to drive trains.  The point is, there are many types of engineers:  Electrical, Mechanical, and Pseudo.  The Electrical Engineers who I graduated with were a meticulous group, that would carefully read product specifications and wouldn’t try to use components specifically designed for lithium batteries with an external BMS of one brand, on lithium batteries that have an internal BMS of another brand, then simultaneously complain that it didn’t work, while asking how it was supposed to be set up.  There is a lot more I could write about this transaction, but enough time has been wasted.”

Hopefully, this article will lead to more consumer discernment.  If you are looking for solar advice, and you see that we disagree with someone and you want to know why, send us a message.  Maybe they are wrong, maybe it is a misunderstanding, or maybe we are wrong. We’ll try to get to the bottom of it.