I recently received a 200 watt Renogy solar kit for the fifth wheel as a Christmas gift. As I usually do for our RV upgrades I wrote up a blog post and made a video detailing the install and my impressions of the product. Well, I guess the folks at Renogy took note.
They contacted me and invited my wife Anne and me down to their office in Chino, CA for a visit. We had a nice visit with the friendly staff. It was cool to see all the solar gear and gadgets they had on hand and hear their plans future products.
They told us they really loved our blogs, photos, videos, etc. and thought our full time RV lifestyle was pretty cool. They are very excited about a new solar product just released to market called the Renogy Firefly and offered to let us borrow one for a few months to see how we like it.
It’s basically a small portable power pack which can be recharged by two built-in solar panels. As we learned about all its features we instantly thought of some interesting uses for it. I’ve decided to break up my review into a few posts starting with the unboxing and my initial impression.
Unboxing the Renogy Firefly
The Firefly comes packed in a decent cardboard box with a nice plastic handle on top. Inside I found the Firefly wrapped in plastic and secured between a couple styrofoam holders. Also included besides the suitcase shaped Firefly is a full complement of hookup cables and the owner’s manual.
I was disappointed in the manual as I usually am these days. The writing was so small these older eyes could barely read it even with my glasses. I was glad to find it online – http://renogy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Renogy-Firefly.pdf
My very first impression of the product is very good. I like the quality feel of the heavy plastic case and handle and surprised at how light weight it is at around 10 lbs. considering the amount of stuff inside. I hit the power switch and was greeted with an easy to read backlit blue LCD screen letting me know the percentage of charge left in the batteries.
The case is designed with rubberized corner pieces that make it sit quite stable whatever way you set it down. It’s also pretty compact with dimensions of 15.75 x 12.20 x 4.13 inches.
Opening the front latches reveals a pair of solidly flush mounted 10-watt solar panels for a total of 20 watts of onboard solar power. The manual states up to another 50 watts can be hooked up to the Firefly with an external panel.
On one side is a flap that opens up to expose all the input and output power connectors. They are nicely labeled in clear printing on the flap. That’s much nicer than some electronics where you need a flashlight and magnifying glass just to see the hookups. I’m not a big fan of the flap opening mechanism though. They use a pair of turn knobs that are hard to grab onto and must be turned individually. The flap just feels to me a little flimsy and easy to break off if not careful.
I noticed inside the control area is a rubber O-ring which will help prevent dust and moisture from getting inside and fouling the power connections. This likely explains the turn knob flap closing design. As the knob turns the door gets tighter against the rubber seal.
It states on the box that the Renogy Firefly is “rain-proof” but funny enough the owner’s manual states in Don’ts: “Leave the unit outside when raining.” So I guess it can handle a little bit of wetness but by no means is the unit waterproof. Still it’s pretty nice that they have included the O-rings and attempted to make it very weather resistant. This will be nice for those using the unit in the desert where dust is a big problem.
I also noticed that the main power switch is enclosed in a rubber membrane. It’s good size switch with a quantity feel. I wonder about its placement though. Seems to me it may be easily damaged while carrying the unit like a suitcase. The switch sits in a place where it could be crunched if banged into a table or something. Ideally it should be recessed a bit or moved to a better position.
The other two switches on the Renogy Firefly are located inside the power input/output area behind the flap. They are used to turn on and off the AC and DC power output. Both are small push button micro switches with a very positive feel to them.
I’m really impressed with the power cables included. They have provided a nice little multi-cable to hook up various Apple products, a cable for a regular household style light bulb, and a cable to add an extra solar panel. As far as output jacks there is 2 – 5 volt DC USB jacks, 12 volt DC cigarette type power socket, several 12-volt mini jacks, and a regular household AC socket.
Renogy Firefly Spec Sheet
First Impressions of the Firefly Power System Video
There are a few little design issues, but overall I’m very impressed so far with this little solar power box as far as overall construction quality goes and look forward to testing things out. Stay tuned as I put it through its paces and report back in future posts detailing what it can do. Cheers Ray
*Update* – new posts added to the review
See Part 2 – What’s Inside the Firefly?
See Part 3 – Real World Tests!