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Old 07-16-2015, 02:25 PM   #1
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questions on installing solar

I have a 2004 Travel Supreme 40 foot diesel that we recently purchased. We will be using it mainly at the sand dunes with our kids and grandkids and will be dry camping. Our trips last from 4-6 days at a time.

I am considering installing a 4 panel system to meet our power needs with the generator as the only way to charge my 4 house batteries. As far as power consumption goes, we will have the usual lights, TV, and phones charging through the day.

Using the microwave and Air conditioners will of course need the generator for power. Below are a couple of questions but I'm sure I will have more.

1. I have been told that by switching to Trojan batteries, I might be able to have enough power to make it through the day if I don't get too crazy with power consumption.

2. When the batteries get low, how long does it take to get them to fully charge them from the generator.

3.What about running the furnace at night and how much battery drain does it have on the batteries, keeping in mind that we will not set the temperature to high being in the desert.

4. What about the fact that during the day, we will have to be running the generator for the air conditioner, thus charging the batteries. Is it possible that this would be enough to keep our batteries charged and make it through the night?

5. I have heard about some coaches having an automatic feature where the generator flips on to charge the batteries when they get too low. Is this true and do a lot of coaches have this feature?

6. What about the extended time that my motorhome sits in a storage facility without being plugged into power to trickle the house batteries. how long can it sit without the batteries getting too low.

I am interested in your thoughts regarding solar, the good bad and the ugly. Do you think solar, at least a small system, would justify the cost in my situation?
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:44 PM   #2
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1) Depends on how many batteries and what you run at night and day. Trojans are not miracle batteries but they are good.

2) It can take hours and even then the generator will never completely charge the batteries to capacity.

3) The blower in the furnace uses power which is why we never run it at night, just put some blankets on if it gets that cold.

4) Yes, this will put a charge into the batteries and see the above answers that relate to this question.

5) Yes some coaches have this feature and I do not know about yours but it should say in a manual somewhere if you have that.

6) You should always switch all batteries off when in storage. I have never let mine sit for more than a week or two since they start to lose volts steadily from the beginning. If you can't put a charge on them perhaps remove them and take them home if it will be that long of a time.

Also, you most likely do not need a 4 panel solar system to keep your batteries charged properly. What you need is at least one good 160 watt panel, a good battery monitor and a good solar charger that you can program to properly charge the batteries that you have and the proper gauge wires to connect it all.
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Old 07-16-2015, 05:16 PM   #3
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530ktm has answered your questions, i just want to throw in a few things from my experience:

1) 4 panels - if you are buying 250w panels, 4 of them will give you 1000w power. with a 60a mppt controller, it will give you plenty of juice to charge up your batteries for daily use.
2) batteries - if you have the space, 6 x 6v battery would give you 675ah capacity, which is ideal, though 4 is ok.
3) microwave - with above setup, you can use microwave for a few to 10s minutes at a time from batteries. i have used it for some time, no need to start up genset.
4) genset - genset is not designed to charge batteries primarily; it's for 120v applications (mainly for ac). my powertech only outputs 6a dc while providing 120vac. using genset as a primary source for your batteries is probably going a wrong direction. solar is the right one.
5) alternator - in a desperate situation needing charging, start engine. my alternator puts out 160a at 14.2v. it would charge up much quicker than using genset.

two cents
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Old 07-18-2015, 01:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by docsholiday View Post
I have a 2004 Travel Supreme 40 foot diesel that we recently purchased. We will be using it mainly at the sand dunes with our kids and grandkids and will be dry camping. Our trips last from 4-6 days at a time.

I am considering installing a 4 panel system to meet our power needs with the generator as the only way to charge my 4 house batteries. As far as power consumption goes, we will have the usual lights, TV, and phones charging through the day.

Using the microwave and Air conditioners will of course need the generator for power. Below are a couple of questions but I'm sure I will have more.

1. I have been told that by switching to Trojan batteries, I might be able to have enough power to make it through the day if I don't get too crazy with power consumption.

🎓Trojan batteries have a proven track record if charged properly, I love my 4 T-105 6V. Crown, Rolls Surette, Concord lifeline are all great batteries. Stay away from interstate.

But how many batteries do you have now?


2. When the batteries get low, how long does it take to get them to fully charge them from the generator.

🎓That depends on how many amp hours you take out. But you will get a much better charge via a good solar system.

3.What about running the furnace at night and how much battery drain does it have on the batteries, keeping in mind that we will not set the temperature to high being in the desert.


🎓I have two furnaces in a 37' pusher, one draws 3.5amps and the other bedroom furnace draws an amp less so that's not a big draw provided your batteries get a proper full charge.

Again how many batteries you have will help get a better answer.

4. What about the fact that during the day, we will have to be running the generator for the air conditioner, thus charging the batteries. Is it possible that this would be enough to keep our batteries charged and make it through the night?

🎓If you're running the gen all day for the A/C then yes you should have no problem making it through the night provided you don't have a residential fridge on two batteries.

5. I have heard about some coaches having an automatic feature where the generator flips on to charge the batteries when they get too low. Is this true and do a lot of coaches have this feature?

🎓Yes it is true, yes lots of coaches have them and its an optional add on with some inverters.

Do you know which inverter you have?

6. What about the extended time that my motorhome sits in a storage facility without being plugged into power to trickle the house batteries. how long can it sit without the batteries getting too low.

🎓Do you store it indoors or outdoors? If outdoors your solar system will take care of that.

I am interested in your thoughts regarding solar, the good bad and the ugly. Do you think solar, at least a small system, would justify the cost in my situation?
There is no bad in my opinion when it comes to solar its all good. Four panels will probably be a little overkill for occasional dune trips. Depending on what size panels you're referring to.

I full time on 2-130watt panels with 4 6V Trojans, that allows me to run the 19" TV with satellite, the household vacuum cleaner, the microwave just to heat stuff up (5min or so) My Bose surround sound/dvd, lap top etc.

Not all at one of course, but getting those batteries fully charged once every 5 days is key. A good battery monitor along with your solar system is a great tool as well, it will tell you exactly how much power you're using or consuming 24\7 and much more.

Are you going to install the solar yourself?

Look up Trimetric 2030 for more info on the battery monitor. If you put this in prior to the solar, it will tell you exactly how many amp hours you're using overnight, then you can design your solar system accordingly.

There's my opinion🚃
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Old 07-18-2015, 02:20 PM   #5
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I am interested in your thoughts regarding solar, the good bad and the ugly. Do you think solar, at least a small system, would justify the cost in my situation?
Check out Jack Mayer's web site. Then go over to the Escapees web site and ask him directly.
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Old 07-19-2015, 07:11 AM   #6
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If you are going to be running the geni during the day anyhow, I don't see the advantage of using solar. The batteries will be charged with the geni.
I don't know exactly how cold it gets there nor how warm you want it inside. But when we go to the track for a day, the coach is still warm when we go to bed. It cools off slowly. By maybe 1:00 am it is ready for the furnace to run, which it does, and shuts off when satisfied. This is a gas furnace, so all that is using power is the blower. If you use electric, you won't get the same results. This is also in the midwest in the fall. Maybe upper 30's at night.
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Old 07-20-2015, 09:47 AM   #7
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I have heard a lot of good things about AM Solar and have been talking to them for a complete system. I found a good installer that can install the system and was recommended by AM Solar. As mentioned, I also do believe a good battery monitor will be necessary so you can monitor the state of your batteries at all times.

yes, we will be using the generator for the air conditioner and I know it will help charge the batteries but thanks for the info on the generator not doing a full charge.

With my wife not going out on rides and being in the coach with the grand kids a lot of the day, then needing battery power to get through the evening watching movies, using lights and so on, I think 4 panels might be just about right. Maybe overkill but my wife isn't very conscientious about power consumption when we are out at the desert.
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Old 07-20-2015, 10:07 AM   #8
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my points,

A large solar system is a waste if you only dry camp where you will run the genny all day for AC use.
Solar is great if you will dry camp in other areas for extended durations where you have no need to run the genny all day for AC.

Trojan is a great brand, but the type, size & qty of batteries is more important than the brand.

Whether your genny and your builtin converter/charger will get your batts up to max charge in a couple hours is debatable. But there should be no debate that after running your genny all day, those Batts will be plenty charged to get you through a night of TV, movies, lights & misc electr use. DO NOT run the furnace all night, there are much better & efficient heat sources if needed.


Its not clear what benefit you think you're getting from solar, based on your premise that most of your dry camping will be where you run the genny most of the day for air conditioner needs. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of solar. But what you're paying those big bucks for, is to allow you to boondock and not run the genny. Your application seems to negate that primary benefit.
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Old 07-20-2015, 10:09 AM   #9
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Yes AM solar has a great reputation, and you can never have too much power so good call on the 4 panels.
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Old 07-20-2015, 12:06 PM   #10
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So during the day when the geni is running: Are you going to use the solar INSTEAD of the converter? I'm not sure where the "more power" is coming from. At night, the geni will not be running, AND there will be no solar power being created. What am I missing here? Why would adding solar be ANY kind of advantage in this situation?
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Old 07-20-2015, 12:28 PM   #11
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So during the day when the geni is running: Are you going to use the solar INSTEAD of the converter? I'm not sure where the "more power" is coming from. At night, the geni will not be running, AND there will be no solar power being created. What am I missing here? Why would adding solar be ANY kind of advantage in this situation?
He's from southern cal, he also stated he would be using it mainly at the dunes. Being he is from Temecula he's probably going to Glamis sand dunes, which dune season is OCT-Feb. Having spent several years playing in the sand there myself, he probably won't be needing the generator for the A/C as much as the heater that time of year.
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Old 07-20-2015, 12:57 PM   #12
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4) genset - genset is not designed to charge batteries primarily; it's for 120v applications (mainly for ac). my powertech only outputs 6a dc while providing 120vac. using genset as a primary source for your batteries is probably going a wrong direction. solar is the right one.
in this case the OP is talking about a high end motorhome that comes with a builtin 50 amp generator, already coupled to a builtin converter & 3 stage smart charger. that setup is going to charge his batts just as good and just as fast or faster than solar; especially since he says he'll need to run the genny for air conditioning anyhow.
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Old 07-20-2015, 08:28 PM   #13
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I'm by no means an expert, but here's my experience. I got stuck in a dry camp site for 4 days over New Years in Death Valley this year. The campground had a no gen policy from 7 pm to 7 am. My coach has 3-12v deep cycle batteries in it. I would fire the generator up at about 5:00 pm and run it until 6:59:30. We could watch TV on the satellite for a couple hours, leave the furnace thermostat at 65* with nighttime temps dipping to the low to mid 30s, and run a CPAP all night without issues. Don't get me wrong, by the time 7:00 AM came around, the battery level indicator was well into the red and the voltage had dropped to about 11.5 volts. The inverter had no problems dealing with it, however. My coach only has the tiny 10a panel that came with it, which is basically a trickle charger for storage.
Actually, I'd like to upgrade the panels, too. Hmmm.
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Old 07-21-2015, 09:42 AM   #14
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For 7 years we have dry camped in the winter in Calli and Az. deserts for 10 days at a time. 4 T105's and the usual TV, micro, furnace, computers, cells, what ever needed. 100 watt solar and ran the Gen 4 hours on average a day. Two hours in the morning and two in the evening and never ran out of power even running inverter during the day for heating soup TV. We very seldom ran the furnace at night, just a good comforter. We also used electric heaters while running Gen when heat was needed.

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