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Old 03-10-2010, 10:33 AM   #1
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mythplaced's Avatar
Alpine Owners Club
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Does Solar make sense?

I am contemplating the purchase of a solar system for "The Cabin", and would like to get some feedback form those of you knowledgeable guru's here.

I am thinking
  • 3-230 Watt panels (690W total)(Canadian Solar) mounted Flat, cuz I'm too lazy to tilt them.
  • Outback FM 60 Controller

I currently have 830 Ah of battery storage...7.5KGenerator, 2KInverter/charger AGS, ect..Biggest power hogs are the residential refrigerator, and the Furnace blower

Does this set-up make sense for the typical 5-7 day boondock trip or would I be better off just investing in more battery power and using the genny to charge?

Thanks in advance

Michael (Home base Northern CO)
USED TO HAVE; 03 Alpine 40MDTS Now RVless
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Old 03-10-2010, 12:43 PM   #2
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That depends. I've had solar on all three of my RVs. As to being cost effective - not hardly. You pay a lot for the few amp-hrs you get.

Yet, I still have them.

480 watts with the OUtback controller, flat mounted. I don't know if tyher will be physicall room to locate the larger 165 and up panmels on an RV. 125 watts is usually all that can physically fit given the junk that's on the rooftops.

Running them in series, rather than parallel is great. I t keepsd the wire gauge down. You do need the Outback controller though because it can take a 60 volt array and output it as 12 volts to the batteries. It's the best charge controller out there- bar none.

Remember, solar panels don't "run" anything. All they do is try to oput some amp-hrs back into your batteries. You will need a large battery bank to make effective use of a solar array. Eventually you are going to have to run the generator anyway but solar can extend the time between recharge cycles so that it's more convenient for you.

As to cost effective - hardly. It take a decent sized system in order to get any real benefit and they aren't cheap. But, for the right person with the right circumstances, they can be a nice improvement and will make for smoother sailing as far as power management is concerned.

If money is tight I'd recommend ugrading to more battery capacity and go with AGM batteries. AGM batteries have less internal resistance, no water to ever check or add, no outgassing of hydrogen, and have a flatter voltage drop overtime curve that will give you about 30% more runtime from an equally rated flooded battery.

Mark & Leann Quasius
2016 Cornerstone 45A
2007 Allegro Bus 42QRP (Sold)
2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited - Rubicon
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Old 03-10-2010, 02:46 PM   #3
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I agree with Cruzer - cost effective it ain't!

The value of solar depends on how much you value quiet re-charging. If you aren't adverse to runing the genset 2-3 hours/day to recharge, then there is little point at all to solar. I have a single 100w panel, but we don't boondock as much as you do. When we do, we "pay the price" and run the generator a bit. I did, however, make a home made genturi pipe to take the exhaust above the roof line. We don't mind the noise much, but the fumes were sometimes obnoxious if the wind was wrong or non-existent.
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Old 03-10-2010, 03:28 PM   #4
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Its all in the eye of the beholder. I have 4 - 100watt panels because I hate to run the Gen, and hate to bother the ones "camped" around me when it runs, to brew a cup of coffee, or run the toaster at 0700, or run the stero all day long, or to watch a movie or TV until 2300 at night. With solar you can run ceiling fans, lights, pumps, electronics and etc without drawing much, if any, from your batteries. With 400 watts my charging output is around 19 to 22 Amps depending on the time of year, this means I can run 19+ Amps of DC loads without discharging my batteries. Thats pretty substantial and makes it worth the installation cost for me.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything"
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Old 03-13-2010, 06:44 AM   #5
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I agree with Spikester, I have 320-Watts of solar panels and 450-Amp Hrs of battery capacity and wouldn't trade it for anything. The Inverter is a Xantrex 3000 watt with 150 amp DC battery charger.

I can run everything in the motorhome except the roof Air Conditioners. While traveling I run the refrigerator on AC which means I don't need to utilize propane while traveling.

I'm considering replacing the modified sine wave inverter to a pure sine wave and increasing my capacities so I don't need to use electricity at all. I own a lot on the gulf coast of Texas where we winter. I have commercial electricity but it's really pricey. The account is setup so if I don't use any electricity I don't get charged any minimums. I'd love to just run off the inverter w/solar. Some cloudy days would mean I'd need to use it, but it would be negligible.
Bob 2006 Monaco Camelot 40PDQ
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