Solar Panels for Thermo King Precedent and Carrier Vector Reefers

Posted on 09/13/2022 at 10:55 by Kelly Junge


Blog Post 126 Solar Panels for ThermoKing Precedent and Carrier Vector Reefers Title Graphic

Today’s post dives into three key benefits solar panels provide to trailer refrigeration units (often referred to as reefers).


Solar panel benefits include: 


  1. Enabling trailer telematics
  2. Improving system reliability
  3. Reducing jump-start service calls


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Enable Trailer Telematics


Telematics such as Orbcomm, Geotab, or Novacom can be a significant parasitic load on your reefer battery, especially for idle trailers that periodically sit over weekends (learn more about solar solutions for telematics). It won’t be a question of if your reefer battery will be dead; it will be a question of when. A small 24W solar panel counteracts telematics loads and keeps the reefer battery healthy.


Improve System Reliability


Would you like to increase the number of days your reefer trailers work without issues?


We have a customer who reported an increase in their mean time between failures (MTBF) of 4.32% for all failures due to the addition of our solar panel. 


Typical reefer batteries have a warranty of 18 months. Still, if you add parasitic loads and other failures of the reefer, you will end up with a shorter MTBF, costing you time and money (learn more about the benefits of solar panels on battery health and lifetime).


Man troubleshooting a transportation refrigeration unit


Depending on the age of the reefer and how well the routine maintenance is completed, a reefer MTBF could range from six to 15 months. 


A 4.32% increase in MTBF due to the addition of solar can pay for the panel over the lifetime of the reefer with reduced maintenance costs alone. 


Reduce Jump Start Service Calls


Considering that a refrigeration technician can run $90/hr or losing a load can cost thousands of dollars, an inexpensive solar panel provides outstanding ROI for your fleet.


The time and cost for a jump-start service call is too high not to have a solar panel on your reefer. 


Carrier Vector


Carrier Trailer Refrigeration Unit Solar Panel


A Carrier Trailer Refrigeration Unit (TRU)-Mount solar panel attaches directly to the reefer, avoiding creating holes or adding adhesive to a trailer. In addition, it matches the curve of the front of the reefer, eliminating any excess drag.  


The Carrier TRU-Mount solar panel charges the battery with an integrated Fixed Power Point Tracking (FPPT) charge controller. Since the charge controller is integrated, the installation time is reduced, and the FPPT operates the panel at maximum power, providing more power to your battery (see graph below).


You can purchase these panels at your local Carrier dealer.     


Thermo King Precedent


Cut Crystalline Solar Panel (300 x 218)


Thermo King has a line of reefer solar panels that feature cut crystalline wafers, which usually lead to edge defects and lower wafer efficiency (learn more about the differences between cut cells and whole cells). 


They use independent PWM charge controllers that don’t extract maximum power from the panel and require more installation time (learn more about charge controller types). 


Due to the PWM charge controller, the power delivered to your reefer battery is much lower than the published panel wattage (see graph below).

30W Thermo King vs 27W Carrier TRU-Mount vs 24W PF-TK Replacement IV Curve-1


Power Efficiency at 12V Comparison


30W Thermo King - 61%


27W Carrier TRU-Mount - 90%


24W PF-TK Replacement - 88%


The Thermo King panel lists a 30W output, but due to cut cells prone to edge defects and a lower quality charge controller, you only see 18.4W delivered to the battery (61% efficiency).


The PowerFilm panels are rated well under 30W, but at or near 90% efficiency, they provide more power to the battery than a Thermo King panel.


24W Thermo King Christensen Soltronix Solar Panel (R3-7F13-7VTK)24W Thermoking Christensen Soltronix Solar Panel Installation Graphic


PowerFilm’s 24W PF-TK Replacement TRU-mounted solar panel for Thermo King reefers includes our integrated FPPT charge controller resulting in more power to the battery, quicker installation, and more competitive direct manufacturer pricing. 

Contact us or complete the form below for a quote today.