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Old 08-20-2015, 09:32 PM   #15
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Solar Generators

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Originally Posted by cimplexsound View Post
I could not run on 650 watts. 700 watts is my minimum requirement because my microwave is 500 watts and I sometimes have a 200 watt heater running in the bathroom. It takes almost 300 watts (peak load) Everytime my furnace motor kicks on.

You are confusing inverter output with the solar panel output. What is the size of your inverter in your motorhome? If it's a small one, then replace it with a 2000 watt unit. Add an additional battery or two for more capacity. Then the solar output simply charges the batteries with sunlight.

Like JFNM said, 650 watts of solar output is a substantial amount of power,
Takes many large solar panels to output that kind of current.
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Old 08-22-2015, 09:47 PM   #16
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Solar Generators

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Originally Posted by JFNM View Post
It sounds like there is a disconnect somewhere.

650 watts is the power that the two combined panels will produce in 'full sunshine' (minus losses). This is 48 amps at charging voltage of 13.5 volts. If it is a sunny summer day and you get 8 hours of sunshine, that is one heck of a lot of electricity - 5200 watts or just over 400 amp/hours at 12.5 volts. If you are consuming that much power in a day, you are running some pretty significant loads.

I'd be curious to see a link to this 1800 watt "solar generator". If something like this, it seems wasteful to me. I have no idea why you would not use your existing equipment (battery bank and inverter) and instead double up on these things. Additionally, a kit like the one listed has only 200 watts of solar panels. You can do far better than that - both for the space/physical panel size and money.

If I am reading your response correctly, it would seem that you have a single battery - I'm guessing 80-100 amp hours - so certainly not very much capacity there to take advantage of any solar. I guess if the goal is to not modify your existing RV then maybe the solar generator is the way to go. Still makes no sense to me...

Also, why in the world are you worrying about surge protection into the inverter?? It's source of power is the battery bank.
I'm not worried about surge protection from solar panels. Obviously solar power is very clean power. But during those time when you can't use solar and you have to fire up the gas generator. Generators are notorious for surges as you well know. Yes, 48 amps of power is a lot. My RV's electrical system is a 30 amp system. So a power bank of 5200 watts would provide a couple of days of power. You had me confused for a minutes. 650 watts of power from a gas generator is very weak. I would be maxing the genny out all the time. But a solar power setup like you described. The need to fire up a gas genny would be very rare.


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Old 08-22-2015, 10:07 PM   #17
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Yes, 48 amps of power is a lot. My RV's electrical system is a 30 amp system.

Comparing apples and oranges..... 48 amps from the solar panels at 13.5 volts is very different than your RV electrical system which is 120 volts at 30 amps.


RV 's have two separate electrical systems. There is the 12 volt side, and the 120 volt side.

The batteries power lights, water pumps, fans, etc. while driving the engine alternator charges the batteries. When parked with shore power connected, the converter charges the batteries. Without shore power either a generator or solar or both charges the batteries.

The 120 volt side powers the big appliances like air conditioning, electric stoves, microwave ovens, etc.

If you get a better generator with an inverter built-in, then you don't need to worry about
surges, etc from the generator....it will produce clean pure sine wave power just like plugging into the public power grid.
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Old 08-22-2015, 10:13 PM   #18
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Here is one of the lesser expensive brands that is still a good example of what I'm talking about. The Honda EU2000i is the gold standard in this category but more expensive than the champion.

http://www.championpowerequipment.co...000w-inverter/

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Old 08-25-2015, 11:37 PM   #19
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Is use the Tripp Lite NC 1000 surge/UPS station. I did my homework on this. Unlike standard units the Tripp Lite is designed for use with generators. It works quite well. It is putting out clean power. My current generators also have a 2 year warranty and they are much quieter than the Champion 4 stroke. They also take less gas. I can go for 10 hours on 1 gallon of gas. But my problem? ?? The park rules say you can't run a generator at night. This is a BLM campground. So rules are stricly enforced. So a solar generator with a good battery bank with at least 8 hours of reserve power. (No motor) Goal Zero is to expensive and very under powered. Again gas ok during the day, but not at night.
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Old 08-26-2015, 12:01 AM   #20
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Comparing apples and oranges..... 48 amps from the solar panels at 13.5 volts is very different than your RV electrical system which is 120 volts at 30 amps.


RV 's have two separate electrical systems. There is the 12 volt side, and the 120 volt side.

The batteries power lights, water pumps, fans, etc. while driving the engine alternator charges the batteries. When parked with shore power connected, the converter charges the batteries. Without shore power either a generator or solar or both charges the batteries.

The 120 volt side powers the big appliances like air conditioning, electric stoves, microwave ovens, etc.

If you get a better generator with an inverter built-in, then you don't need to worry about
surges, etc from the generator....it will produce clean pure sine wave power just like plugging into the public power grid.
While there is a laundromat, general store, and restrooms with running showers. There is no shore power at Senators Wash. This is uniquely a dry camping community. Everyone myself included lives off the grid. Most folks here cannot live with the high prices RV parks charge. That's why people pay $180.00 bucks for the entire season during the winter. But again no generator is allowed at night and I do keep my fridge running 24/7. I keep the gas for my furnace which goes through about 5 gallons every 4 days. So if I ran the fridge on gas too, I'd never be able to stay on top of propane situation. Now that I have the power surge problems solved. I wonder if setting up my own dry camp in the desert where I can run the genny 24/7 would be a better idea. ???? It is much cheaper than solar power and it is not that loud at all. It would probably cost me $80 in gas to run the genny all winter long.
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Old 08-26-2015, 06:55 AM   #21
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Is use the Tripp Lite NC 1000 surge/UPS station. I did my homework on this. Unlike standard units the Tripp Lite is designed for use with generators. It works quite well. It is putting out clean power. My current generators also have a 2 year warranty and they are much quieter than the Champion 4 stroke. They also take less gas. I can go for 10 hours on 1 gallon of gas. But my problem? ?? The park rules say you can't run a generator at night. This is a BLM campground. So rules are stricly enforced. So a solar generator with a good battery bank with at least 8 hours of reserve power. (No motor) Goal Zero is to expensive and very under powered. Again gas ok during the day, but not at night.

I can find no information on a "NC 1000" unit by Tripp Lite.....does it have another model number it is known by?

Your issue seems clear.....you just need a bigger battery bank to draw power from longer. Most RV's have all the same type components as your Tripp Lite UPS, they are just separately wired together, and of much larger size and capacity.

Get yourself at least 4 6v deep cycle golf cart batteries. Wire them in series/parallel configuration so that you get 12 volts and 440 Ah capacity. Get a inverter/charger and hook to battery bank. Feed generator power to 120v input of inverter/charger. Wire output of inverter to your refrigerator and other loads. Now you will have a "super size" UPS surge/station you assembled yourself. Want longer runtime at night? Simply add more batteries, and then run the generator longer during the day to fully recharge them.

Remember that batteries last the longest when they are only discharged to their half way point before being recharged.....so get twice as much battery as you need.
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Old 08-26-2015, 07:33 AM   #22
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There are a couple of oddities/misunderstandings here that I may be able to help with if you're willing to think outside the box. If not, probably best to stop reading this message.

It seems that you are considering your gas generator to be the source of power for your rig. I would suggest that the battery bank should be considered your source for powering things - the electrical fuel tank. This isn't always completely true but it makes the understanding and calculations easier. A gas generator and/or solar system simply fills up (charges) this tank of stored power. All of your accessories/appliances, both AC and DC (except air conditioning), are powered by the battery bank. Therefore; your battery bank is very, very important. This fuel tank (battery bank) only requires occasional filling.

Typically, your battery bank is sized to provide the power necessary to get from one charging opportunity to the next. In the case of solar only charging, this is over night or a couple of sunless days. In the case of a generator, it is the next period of time that you may operate the generator (typically avoiding the quiet hours, at least - certainly not running overnight). The capacity of a battery bank is measured in amp/hours (not watts). The battery bank should not be drawn to below 50% to avoid damage (typical lead-acid batteries). You can run both DC and AC loads from this tank. The former is connected directly, the latter via an inverter.

If you were to do an energy audit, you would find what your typically power consumption is per day. For the sake of discussion, let's assume that it is 2000 watts per day. If unsure what an energy audit is, read this. All of this power comes from your storage tank (battery bank). This is not all at once, it is spread throughout the entire day. It does not matter whether this power is being used by a 12 volt DC device or a 120 volt AC device. 2000 watts divided by 12.5 volts (battery voltage) = 160 amp/hours per day. Therefore; if you had a battery bank that was 320 amp/hours or greater (don't draw it down below 50%), it would supply all your needs for one whole day.

The question is then, how do I refill my tank (charge the battery bank). The two options being discussed on this thread are solar and generator.

If we assume that you are in a place that receives 8 hours per day of usable sunshine, you would need 250 watts worth of solar panels to fill your tank. There are some losses to consider (and what happens on cloudy days and all that) so jumping it up a bit is a good plan. Nonetheless, over that 8 hour period, those solar panels would be providing 250 watts of power every hour and thus putting approximately 2000 watts into your storage tank (or about 150 amp/hours at 13.5 volts (charging voltage)).

A generator could also be run to fill the tank. The negatives are that it makes noise and consumes gasoline/diesel and costs about the same as the silent solar panel option (I probably don't need to mention how much I hate generators). To fill the tank completely, the generator must be ran for a pretty long period of time because of the nature of lead-acid batteries. When in bulk charge mode (up to 80% capacity), they accept a lot of power quickly. However; the last 20% takes a lot longer (many hours). I don't have numbers on this but maybe one of the experts will chime in. The result is that the generator has to run for a very long time (hours) doing very little. This can get to be expensive energy for the tank (and noisy).

A 250 watt solar panel is not very expensive. Probably less than $200. The price for a charge controller can vary wildly. For such a small output, one of the inexpensive PWM controller is probably fine, less than $100. If you went with higher voltage panels, an MPPT controller is the way to go but they are more expensive.

So, with these numbers in hand, you could likely add solar charging to your rig for around $300 plus some cable and mounting hardware - let's say $500. You would then have enough power, every day, for the next twenty years (or so, whatever the panel life is) that you would never need to run a generator again (never mind purchase it, feed it, listen to it, and fix it). Of course, this assumes you already have the necessary battery capacity. If you do not, then you would need to add it. Six volt batteries can be had for less than $150 each, four would be more than sufficient for the above numbers.

Obviously, if a person lives where the sun doesn't shine, solar is not a very good option. Might also be worth mentioning that some folks think that if there are clouds, solar panels are doing nothing. This is far from the truth. My panels put out fairly good power even on cloudy days.

Ok, getting to the "solar generator" that I previously linked to (this). For nearly $2,000, you get 200 watts of solar, some sort of charge controller (no details in ad), two 100 AH AGM batteries, and a 1400 watt (continuous) MSW inverter. I can only figure they got the "1800 watts" in the title from the inverter "Maximum Power" spec. I think the thing that really blows my mind is why this is desirable for an RV? If it were all packaged in a very compact "box", I might be able to imagine some value in it being "mobile". However; I donít see the value of that in an RV. Sure, stretching the panels out a ways might be neat sometimes but the entire thing?? Being generous, you could buy these item individually for $200, $100, $300, $150 and some cables. Once permanently mounted in/on your RV, you don't have to mess with packing them around.

Why do I keep mentioning solar? Partially because you brought it but largely because I am a huge fan! It works amazingly well and the more people that have it, the less I have to listen to my neighbors noisy gas/diesel generator!
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Old 08-26-2015, 07:48 AM   #23
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I probably should have included the need for a good battery monitor if you are going to live from your batteries. I use the Trimetric RV-2030, it is a fantastic product. Do not bother with the monitors that only read battery voltage - that does not tell the whole story.
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Old 08-26-2015, 09:21 AM   #24
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JFNM, great posts. I might add that the generator can run the AC during the day while still putting excess energy into the tank. Plus I think your estimate of getting any type of solar system for 500$ is a bit low and the installation is more work than one thinks and requires quite a bit of interweb study to find where to order all the parts from ( it seems like all the components are not in one web store) and to understand how to connect it all properly. THis was even true for me being a ME engineer who has a working knowledge of basic AC & DC electrical theory.
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Old 08-26-2015, 11:18 AM   #25
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Plus I think your estimate of getting any type of solar system for 500$ is a bit low and the installation is more work than one thinks and requires quite a bit of interweb study to find where to order all the parts from ( it seems like all the components are not in one web store) and to understand how to connect it all properly.
Thanks Randy,

I thought I mentioned the steep learning curve earlier in the thread - I completely agree - lots to learn. That's why putting oneself in a learning mindset, asking questions, and learning from the responses (not arguing with them) can be extremely helpful.

I guess I don't know how to describe the amount of work that the installation may be. For me, it was a rather fun project (both times - two RV's) and was done in my free time. The reward/value from that effort has been huge. I suppose if a person were to farm out all the labor, it might be very expensive. I have no idea about that kind of cost.

Note that the system previously "designed" in this thread was a 250 watt system - here is a link to an example of this. I would not order this kit so am using it ONLY as an example. PV panels, PWM controller, mounting brackets, and cables for $360 and free shipping if you are an Amazon Prime member.

Here is a 260 watt panel for $202.80. Note that it is a higher (than 12V) voltage panel.

Here is a 20 amp PWM charge controller for $86.00. Could not use this with the higher voltage panel listed above.

I documented the installation of my first 650 watt system here. I spent a total of ~$1,200 and that is with a good quality MPPT charge controller. I'm having a hard time remembering the exact cost of my panels (327 watt), I think I paid $500 total for two of them.

So, it would seem you were right and my rough numbers probably were a bit low. If I were to build a 250 watt system, I would use a high voltage panel and an MPPT charge controller. I would size that charge controller so I could add more panels to increase my system capacity down the road. Of course, that kind of designing requires some extra up-front costs. I have had excellent success with the Morningstar TS-MPPT-45 charge controller ($375-ish). So, I would probably spend upwards of $700-$800 but it would have quality-name brand components and a fair bit of expansion capability.
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Old 08-26-2015, 12:43 PM   #26
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I had fun installing my system too.
I was just surprised by how long it took to figure out all the small bits to order and where from. Disconnects, extension MC4 cables, fuses, custom #2 ga wires for inverter correct sized spade lugs for everything.
Took quite a bit of time and investigating to create a decent drawing of my current electrical system and figure out how to integrate the new things. I had little space to work with in my TC.. Every make and model will be different. Having an inverter already in the system would be a big time saver.
Then it required kneeling on the roof and floor, waiting for Lance to send me roof wood structure drawings, making my custom tiltable rack ( a windy nation clone), making wooden supports for my vertical mounted inverter, removing carpet step and fridge vent cover to run the PV to solar controller wires. Then it was quite a bit of cramped working under my sink area and sometimes I needed a helper to hold a nut from the other side.
I needed my chop saw for Alum angle for tilt bracket, drill motor, table saw for wood supports, volt meter, dikes, caulk gun, magnet to find screws in the carpet step to run the wires, crimper, torch for soldering lugs on wires, wrenches, screwdrivers, ratchets shop vac up on roof and inside, safety glasses around battery connections plus chop saw, hearing protection. Man it was a bunch of tools. it was overall just a bunch of work and tools required and I think it would be best for a guy or gal to understand the basics of electricity and be comfortable working around both AC and DC. Plust it meant some downtime for my rig. IF a guy has the money I can see where having a system installed would be a great way to go assuming they know what they are doing. I would expect 2-3x the parts cost for labor. Maybe this is a job opportunity.
IF a guy had a shop for an RV and space to stock many of the needed system items and wire? This job would never be boring as each system is unique.
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Old 08-26-2015, 01:17 PM   #27
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"JFNM".....Good post on explaining how it works. Your description was VERY clear and hopefully the OP can reason out what you're talking about because he was all over the place with his thoughts on how solar power works.
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Old 08-26-2015, 01:51 PM   #28
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well, I knew what the OP was talking about and I'd say he did too, and the answers are fairly easy to express in plain English, but I hesitate to interrupt the flow of discussions about angels and pinheads and similar irrelevancies.
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