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Old 01-04-2016, 02:53 PM   #1
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Solar Power set up

Happy New Year everyone. I went camping at Asateaugue Island near Ocean City, MD this past weekend. I have done this a few times this past year and really enjoy it.

My question pertains to solar power. I just replaced all of my house batteries and added 200 watts of solar to the roof. This coach mentions in the manual multiple times that the inverter, 2800 watts maxum, is not designed for long term use, but I have a residential fridge. The fridge is a power hog. I can only use the inverter for a couple of hours before the generator wants to do an auto start to replenish the batteries. Besides the generator wanting to start, I believe Itasca has an issue with the auto start. It only tries a couple of cranks and cuts out. I am contacting them for help with that issue.

Would it be worth it to separate the fridge from the main inverter in order to make a better solution for power? It was chilly at night and between the aqua hot system, refrigerator, and the kids watching TV I had to run the generator almost all of the time. Its a 2012 with 1800 hours on the gen.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I really want to do more boon docking. I fear that without a better solution for power I will be running the generator all the time. With a wife and 3 kids we are a power-hungry family, but I have plenty of roof space.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Jeremy
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Old 01-04-2016, 04:04 PM   #2
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You need to do an energy audit to see what you need to get thru the night and then build a battery bank to handle it.

You say new batteries, how many and what kind ?

Do you have an ice maker that is running all night. You could save some power turning that off.

Is your inverter also a charger. Does it have a pass thru.

If not is your converter big enough to cover the load and charge your batteries while running the generator ?

More info will help us help you.
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Old 01-04-2016, 04:12 PM   #3
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How many and what size batteries do you have. If you don't have a large enough battery bank it won't take long to draw them down to trigger an auto start on the generator.

200 watt of solar power isn't that much, barely more that what you probably have in parasitic draw.

To improve your ability to boon dock you may have to upgrade both.

As to the refrigerator, it probably doesn't use as much power as some of the other toys but the inverter has to be on all the time for it to operate. If you think you could shut the primary inverter off most of the time it might pay for you to get a smaller inverter just for the refrigerator. It will still use the same amount of power but it might be more efficient to run a small inverter versus the larger one all the time.
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:21 PM   #4
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I am new to the solar "thing" too, but have learned the following 3 weeks into my trek south from Washington State. I have 200 watts of solar and a DEDICATED psw inverter. It easily handles my refrigerator during the day and for at least one night without the generator. I have 4 6-year old 6 Volt batteries. It is interesting that it even generates sufficient power on a cloudy day to keep things going.
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:35 PM   #5
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We don't have a residential refrigerator and when boon docking we run it on gas.

We use the inverter sparingly as it does use energy when turned on. We have 335 watt of solar panels mounted on the roof which does a good job of charging and maintaining the system during the day.

If we want to watch TV we have a small inverter that we can plug into a 12 volt power source, the LED TV uses very little power doing it this way.

I'll run the generator at night long enough to top of the batteries and depending on charge level will run again in the AM.

I did convert most of my fluorescent light so LED, had a big impact on power consumption and they are actually brighter. I put 3 strips of LED in each light fixture and added a 2nd switch so I can have 1, 2, or all 3 strips on.
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Old 01-04-2016, 08:22 PM   #6
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Solar Power set up

The larger the inverter usually the less efficient. Multiple smaller point of use inverters can be a good way to go. Lights consume a lot of power - minimize use and convert must often used to LED. If using furnace the fan in it is a big power consumer. Keep the thermostat low - down comforters on the bed are great. Use a kill-a-watt meter to see what the refrigerator really consumes over time. Disable the ice maker and some folks turn RR off when going to bed and back on when waking - without the door(s) opening it will stay cold for the few hours. More solar watts - 200 is not much. Likely more batteries - four or six 6 volt minimum.

Need to do energy audit to determine real usage and needs.
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Old 01-05-2016, 07:42 AM   #7
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As mentioned, 200 watts isn't much and will not be enough to keep the battery bank charged. I just replaced my six wet cell house batteries with six 300 amp Lifelines for a total of 900 amps. I have 620 watts of solar on the roof. I also have a 2 KW Honda generator that feeds a 45 amp smart charger to keep the batteries charged. The Honda will run for ten hours on a gallon of gas and we can barely hear it running. The solar is good for the daytime, and the Honda runs for six hours in the evening. The batteries are always charged. FWIW, the electronics in your coach probably draw more power than the refrigerator, even when they are turned off. Turning off the breaker for the electronics when not in use will help too.
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Old 01-05-2016, 06:20 PM   #8
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Thanks

Thank you everyone for the input. I am going to use my meter to take some readings and reply back.
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Old 01-05-2016, 08:09 PM   #9
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Take a look at this website, it has some very good information on solar installations from start to finish.

RV Electrical

In particular look at the presentation from the HDT Rally 2009

I was lucky, my coach already had the 335 watt solar installed with the solar controller. When I first bought the rig and started learning more about the systems I questioned whether the solar was working correctly so I call Heliotrope, the controller manufacturer, they confirmed I was not getting the charge I should be. They asked what panels I had and what they put out. I had 2 Kyocera panels that weren't working correctly and they told me that I might get them replace since they had a recall on some panels. Sure enough, contacted Kyocera and they said they would replace. The sent me 2 new panels with prepaid return freight for the bad ones, NO cost to me. I now get ~16 amps of solar charge on sunny days.

Good luck on you efforts.
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:08 PM   #10
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The furnace blower itself is not a big consumer of electrical power. It's just a small DC motor. I often run both furnaces all night in 30-degree weather with the thermostats set on 72 degrees. In the morning I find the batteries at 12.2 to 12.3 volts, which is only 30% to 40% down from fully charged.


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Old 01-07-2016, 03:27 PM   #11
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Dedicating a new inverter for the refrigerator is just redundant. Upgrade the panels and your battery storage capacity. I have a portable solar panel that keeps my batteries charged during the day and enough capacity to make it thru the night. I know it costs more, but if you are going to boon-dock a lot, it's well worth it vice burning fuel... My .02
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Old 02-05-2016, 05:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by NMRVer View Post
Dedicating a new inverter for the refrigerator is just redundant. Upgrade the panels and your battery storage capacity. I have a portable solar panel that keeps my batteries charged during the day and enough capacity to make it thru the night. I know it costs more, but if you are going to boon-dock a lot, it's well worth it vice burning fuel... My .02
I'm thinking about solar and doing my research. My first step will be a trimetric battery monitor and two more batteries to what Thor installed. Would you mind sharing what batteries you installed and if you did anything to the converter/charger/inverter setup that was original? Lots of conflicting advice online about how best to re-charge the bank and I'm trying to sort it out.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-05-2016, 06:43 PM   #13
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Solar systems are a positive for those that boon docking!

As far as batteries? Not up on what Thor provides OEM? But I will give you the recommendation to not mix old and new batteries. If under 6 months old, and matching the existing batteries, maybe OK.

If over 6 months, and not abused - then look at selling on Craigslist's and then buy a new expanded bank at the same time.

Wet, AGM? I'm a fan of AGM's for many reasons, specifically Lifeline's, as they recharge faster, and can handle a bit lower the normal AGM's SOC discharge. (Though I do not recommend going below 50%. And do recommend sizing your battery bank to try and stay at about 70-80% SOC after a typical overnight discharge. This provides both reserve capacity if ever needed. And battery life is all about Life Cycles. The simple math is that the lower the discharge, the less overall Life Cycles when getting back to 100%).

Suggest taking the time to do a full assessment of your needs. Then build from the battery bank size and type first, then onto if you need a different inverter/charger system or not. The Bogart monitor is well respected. But if part of your analysis you decide you want to change out your inverter/charger too, then maybe a total package of Magnum, with BMK Meter, maybe another option. Or others, if you decide to go with Solar Panel, MidNite has controllers that include Metering too...

Easy to spend lots of money, and then a few months, years later realize their were other options that may have better suited your needs.

How do I know? My wine fund has been depleted too often to talk about, on many fronts, from these 'Oh my gosh, why did I do...'!

Best of luck to you,
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Old 02-05-2016, 08:09 PM   #14
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Mixed comments regarding mixing batteries and the answer is "it depends"...

For a 12 volt system each "set" of "jars" are considered a "string".

Jar is one of many industry names for each servicable package or battery.

2 six volt jars in series to make 12 volts can be considered one string while a single 12 volt battery also called a string.

So...

In a multiple string dc plant all jars in each string should be exact same part number and close in age or tested with specific equipment to get a matching set as being in series the string is only as good as the weakest one.

When multiple strings are in parallel the battery TYPE need to be the same meaning all AGM or all FLOODED as each require different charging parameters.

This all assumes all jars ate good or above 80% service capacity.

Replacing in sets is recommended by string if one does not have the ability to confirm condition of other batteries in same string.

In parallel strings where single batteries are used and one goes bad it can be replaced as a single unit and the rest will be fine and not harm the new one at all if they are good.

If one is needing to add a battery plant to support a new system then consider a seperate system if not compatible with existing.

When space is limited AGM telecom batteries are the optimum option as they are long and narrow and can be placed in any position and many have a built in vent port to allow a hose to be routed outside.

This allows them to be placed behind short drawers or under the bed or any other spot.

Solar charge controllers can keep them charged and proper inverter selection for the fridge would allow for an independent system with low maintenance and good performance.

You have started by asking questions so continue to do so as you design your system.
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