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Old 05-06-2005, 11:00 AM   #1
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Does anyone use alternative power on their 'rig' home etc? If so, what type and what have you found as the pros and cons?
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Old 05-06-2005, 11:00 AM   #2
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Does anyone use alternative power on their 'rig' home etc? If so, what type and what have you found as the pros and cons?
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Old 05-06-2005, 11:27 AM   #3
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If you mean solar power, yes we have that. If you mean something like cold fusion reactors, I don't quite have that running the way I want it yet.

Solar power is nice, but highly misunderstood. First of all, solar power really doesn't have a peak rating, it has no surge capacity. Secondly, it varies greatly with the amount of sunlight. Solar power really doesn't run anything, but it does charge your batteries (eventually).

Your batteries are the real source of power, whether it's running 12 volt systems or through an inverter to power 120 volt stuff. The secret is to not let the batteries run dead or you have no power. This is done by recharging them via shore power, generator set, vehicle alternator while driving, or solar power.

We have 440 watts of solar panels on the roof of our coach. In itself this is not enough to keep the batteries charged. However, we tend to use more power than a more power-conscious camper so this will vary as to how frugal you are with your power. Solar can increase the time between generator set charges though. If you keep moving around every day or so your vehicle's alternator should finish the job for you. If you stay in one spot for a while, you will need the genset to top off the batteries. Also, the more batteries you have, the longer you can run between charge cycles.

We've found that solar power is nice, but it's not the cure-all answer for totally free RV power. You'd really have to have a serious array of panels to put back in that much power.
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Old 05-06-2005, 01:26 PM   #4
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Cruzer,
id like to see what ya get out here where the sun is always shining (in Sunny Phoenix Arizona)
im thinking about 1-2 panels myself
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Old 05-06-2005, 03:54 PM   #5
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I have 2 120 watt solar panels and a 3600 watt LP generator. All works very well. See links in sig for more info.
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Old 05-06-2005, 06:13 PM   #6
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Wavemaker,

I went with four 110 watt Siemens panels. They ran a bit more than the Kyocera 120 watt panels but they actually put out more in low light situations than the Kyocera. Given ideal conditions I could theoretically pull 440 watts from it but that's when they are aimed flat at the sun and I'd have to be in sunny AZ, not dingy WI to get that. Even so, that peak time's only gonna be for a few hours so it will fall off after that. When I had two 110 watt panels it didn't do enough to make it worthwhile but the four panel setup does make a difference. It does let me soak up more power during the mid-day (as long as I don't camp in the woods), which does help extend the time between vehicle or genset charges. The biggest problem is that your charging window is small in comparison to your usage (discharge) window. Therefore you've got to grab as much sun and watts as you can while it's up nice and high. That seems to be the limiting factor regarding solar. I do feel thattrhe Siemens panels give me an edge. I've seen some decent readings on the charge controller in lower light conditions which have got to help bring in some extra amp-hours throughout the whole day. Fortunately, I don't camp that much around home but tend to go to the Rockies or Pacific Northwest. The Rockies are pretty bright but the PacWest area can be more overcast, depending upon where you are. Otherwise I'd ask you to send some of that AZ sun up here. With that kind of power I could probably put Tupperware on the roof and get a charge. If I camped around here and spent lots of time in our wooded campsites, I'd pass on the solar and spend more time working on my fusion generator. Now, if I could only get the flux capacitor going.
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Old 05-06-2005, 08:10 PM   #7
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......ecomomically speaking there is no way you can justify solar power yet....but if one likes to tinker.......well that is another story....geokaye
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Old 05-07-2005, 05:30 AM   #8
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content"> ......ecomomically speaking there is no way you can justify solar power yet.... </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

That statement certainly holds true if grid power is available, but when grid power is not available, solar is a very good option. One could by a small generator for much less cost than an equivilant solar electric system, but my solar panels keep my batteries charged year around while my camper is in storage. Can't do that with a generator. Given a life expectancy of longer than the life of an RV, no maintenance cost, and no fuel cost, RV solar can be fairly economical over the life of the system.

My RV solar setup cost about $2000. Over a 15 year life span, that woks out to about $11 / month or about $0.37 / day. Of course, if economy was our ultimate goal, few of us would even own an RV.
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Old 05-09-2005, 05:03 PM   #9
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I've been lurking around here waiting for someone to post about thier wind power generator.
That appears to be a good option in the West, and the output is said to be greater than solar.
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Old 05-09-2005, 08:06 PM   #10
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I run a wind turbine, and the unit does perform well enough, but far less reliably than solar.
It's difficult to get sustained winds with a mast lower than 30 ft. With the mast 50 ft or higher, then performance improves quite a lot. This small unit functions well as a trickle charger when the truck is parked. We're also in the midst of installing 640 watts of solar panels, run 880 lbs of batteries on the tow vehicle, A Morningstar Tristar charge controller, a 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter, and lots of very heavy 4/0 cable.
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Old 05-10-2005, 10:29 AM   #11
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Cruzer:

Wow you must use lots of power each day...we have 310 watts of solar and find (on a sunny day) that we are fully recharged by about 2:00 pm each day. This is with powering the normal equipment (fridge eletronics, heater, lights, water pump etc) as well as 2000 watt inverter for micro, TV, DVD, small A/C appliances, toaster, and once in a while A/C built in vacuum.

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