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Old 08-26-2015, 10:18 AM   #1
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Solar, your experience, wish you did it different?

Greetings all!

First let me say, we are not ready to go buy some solar arrays. But last night we talked about Quartzite, boondocking etc.. We are still 20 months from retirement, but thought this maybe something we want to do. It looks like many have a good time, and of course the low cost of camping is attractive on a retirement income.

Our coach has 4 house batteries. A 2,000 watt inverter, a 7,500 watt genset, RV frig, and all the usual appliances. Only thing a little unusual, it has a dishwasher.

There really isn't room for more house batteries, the battery compartment is full. Not sure that I need more, but to add more I would have to remote additional batteries somewhere else.

So my question. If we installed a solar system, with our current battery capacity, how comfy would we be boondocking? I think we would run the genset when cooking, microwave, or doing laundry etc.. In the evening we would have lights on of course, and will watch some tv. Of course showering etc,,, runs the water pump.

Can anyone share their "Lifestyle" while boondocking with a like setup?

Thanks, trying to figure out if this is for us. Here on the east coast, boondocking means Walmart, or Cabela's. I am not aware of anything like Quartzite.

L.
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Old 08-26-2015, 11:29 AM   #2
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With four "Good" batteries and the load you mentioned, you could get along fine with 600 watts of solar panels on your roof. We have 620 watts with six batteries, but are all electric. I also run a 2KW Honda generator when needed to keep the batteries up. I think your best bet would be to contact some solar companies in Quartzite with your load and intent. They are very good and could even come to your site to install them. They are much cheaper than trying to do something through an RV dealer. I bought ours through a dealer in Yuma and had my RV dealer install them before I picked up our new coach.
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Old 08-26-2015, 11:55 AM   #3
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Solar will enhance your quality of life on the road anywhere their is sun. I agree with the previous post but would add that the devil is really in the details. How much power does your equipment use and how long will you use it each night? Most people I know underestimate their usage. So, as a wag - add around 600 watts with a controller that can handle more panels/power and enjoy.


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Old 08-26-2015, 12:10 PM   #4
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It's very smart of you to me asking the questions this far out.

My suggestion is that this is the perfect time to install your meter. Install something like the Trimetric 2030 now and it will help you determine what you will need. The added benefit is that you will be able to see how your batteries are charged now. For instance; while driving you would see what your engine alternator is putting into the batteries.
The meter simply tells you what is going into or out of your batteries. Turn on a light and the meter tells you how much juice (amps) you are drawing.
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Old 08-26-2015, 12:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by okcnewbie View Post
It's very smart of you to me asking the questions this far out.

My suggestion is that this is the perfect time to install your meter. Install something like the Trimetric 2030 now and it will help you determine what you will need. The added benefit is that you will be able to see how your batteries are charged now. For instance; while driving you would see what your engine alternator is putting into the batteries.
The meter simply tells you what is going into or out of your batteries. Turn on a light and the meter tells you how much juice (amps) you are drawing.
This is excellent advise. The way you live in the coach I would say you can get by with a lot less than 600 watts of panels. Use LED lights at night and enjoy TV along with the shower, etc. 4 good 6 volt golf cart batteries and 300 to 400 plus watts of panels will be serving you well. Most important thing is to use correct equipment and properly sized wires. Be careful of those places in Quartzite, I understand they do not always do the best job if installations and equipment. Since you have time to research, here is a great place to learn about this kind of equipment. https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/
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Old 08-27-2015, 11:05 AM   #6
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The biggest problem you will have is not power be it solar or Gen, but water, either enough or dumping the waste. If you stay with the Gen, you can go with Four hours a day, a couple in the morning and a couple at night and of course doing the 120 volt stuff during this time. Solar is great for noise control, but for major uses like washer, dishwasher(which by the way may kill your water supply) you will need either the Gen or many more bigger battery storage. As far as comfort you will be fine with your rig, but you maybe running to the laundromat or like we have done for 8 years in Q and the Az seen do 8-10 days in the boondocking then a time in the RV park to dump and catchup.

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Old 08-27-2015, 11:41 AM   #7
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Lloyd.....be careful you don't spend a lot of money on a one time use camping trip. If you intend to boondock a lot or spend every year in Quartzsite for weeks at a time, that's different.

I think there is also a balance that best fits your needs between generator, solar and batteries. Keep in mind that adding batteries is cheaper than adding solar. Again, it depends on how you will camp YEAR round. We go for a week to Quartzsite every year. We stay at the NICEST RV park in Quartzsite for $26.00 a night with weekly rates that are much cheaper.

I added more batteries to my coach by going high. I moved my starting batteries high in my battery box, making space for four more coach batteries. I went from four to six with room for two more.

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Old 08-27-2015, 01:13 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone! Great info shared.

I am going to start monitoring our use. Water and electric to get a feel for the need. We are heading out in a week for a 2 week trip, first 2-3 nights we will be boondocking on the road. Of course I won't be able to measure the batteries themselves, but water should give me a feel and evening use should also provide a feel for usage.

Agreed on not spending a lot for a one time,,,, we love visiting the west, we think we would enjoy winters in Arizona versus Florida. So who knows where we will end up!

L.
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Old 08-27-2015, 05:05 PM   #9
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Talked to someone parked in Walmart .He told me by parking under the parking lot lights his panels made more electric than his light and tv used.Not sure what he had but it was on a class C.
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Old 08-27-2015, 06:25 PM   #10
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Talked to someone parked in Walmart .He told me by parking under the parking lot lights his panels made more electric than his light and tv used.Not sure what he had but it was on a class C.
Now that my hair is almost gone, this may explain why I get an energy boost spending hours under the "Bud Lite" sign at my local pub.
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Old 08-27-2015, 07:59 PM   #11
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bldrbob,,,,, so if I rigged up a street light on an extendable pole, put the solar panels on the roof,,,,, would they make enough power from the street light, to power it and charge my batteries???

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Old 08-28-2015, 12:01 AM   #12
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I have camped at NASCAR for the past two years in California. This consists of four nights of camping. I have two 6-volt Trojan batteries (T-105s) that are charged by two 160-watt solar panels (320 watts total) with a 1500 watt inverter. I like my TV, so I have a 32" LCD TV with a DirecTV receiver. Realistically, I can watch about 2-3 hours, along with the bare essentials such as an RV fridge, lights, etc, before I need to let the batteries charge. I usually run the generator for an hour or two in the morning and an hour or two before going to bed. I like my setup and would expand my battery capacity if it was possible, but it is not. I am considering adding a third 160-watt panel on the roof. Might be overkill for me because of my limited battery setup.

I don't boondock often, but like the option of the solar if needed. Plus, they keep my batteries charged when the RV is sitting and not in use.

Good luck!
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Old 08-28-2015, 04:47 AM   #13
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The only thing we use solar for is trickle charging the batteries. When boondocking we light off our genset, cook with LP gas and are good to go. Living in the NW setting up a solar array doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Our 5000KW generator serves us well and is pretty thrifty when it comes to using gasoline.
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Old 08-28-2015, 07:44 AM   #14
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bldrbob,,,,, so if I rigged up a street light on an extendable pole, put the solar panels on the roof,,,,, would they make enough power from the street light, to power it and charge my batteries???

If you use led streetlights and the new 150% efficient solar panels it may work. Doing it at noon would help too.
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