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Old 08-19-2015, 09:50 PM   #1
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Solar Generators

So I just bought my new storm cat gas generator and it runs so well I 'll probably buy a second one as a backup before the year is through. But I am just curious how many people here use solar generators??? I know many of the new motorhome have solar panels on the roof. I would like a good solar generator you can daisy chain with an external gas generator, so I use solar power during the day and fire the generator up at night. Does anyone here have experience with solar generators??? If so what is a good unit that won't cost a six figure price??? I am looking at about 1800 watts of power. The generator is not as powerful because I don't need as much power at night. Any feedback here would be most appreciated.
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Old 08-19-2015, 10:12 PM   #2
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The on board batteries provide the power. Solar recharges the batteries. Solar DOES NOT power any loads directly.

To figure how much solar you need, figure up how many Ah (amp hours) of power you will use from the batteries, and then size the solar to provide 120% of that figure in an 8 hour sunlight day.

Generator or shore power will always be needed for high amp draw appliances like air conditioners. (Sizing battery bank and solar would not be cost effective in this case)


Example: you find that your power needs are light, and you get by with using
60 Ah from your batteries. Get a solar panel and charge controller capable of sending
10 amps of charge current to the batteries. In 7 hours (roughly speaking) your batteries should be charged if the sunlight was strong and constant. If your power draw from the batteries is only during the time the solar is making power, it's possible the batteries
would not be discharged much at all, if the draw is less than what the charge controller
Is supplying.
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Old 08-19-2015, 10:23 PM   #3
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The "storm cat" generator has very unsophisticated voltage and frequency regulation. You should not use it to power ANY electronic items, as they will most likely be damaged. It is meant to power incandescent light bulbs, and motor driven devices, etc..... Things which are tolerant of swings in voltage and frequency.

"Inverter" type generators, such as the Honda EU 2000i, produce power as clean as the electric utility grid, and is safe to power computers, microwave ovens, etc. the Honda is also quiet at 59 Db at full load, while the storm cat is rated at an ear shattering 91 Db !


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Old 08-20-2015, 08:50 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cimplexsound View Post
But I am just curious how many people here use solar generators???
Repeating what pasdad1 has said, solar (photovoltaic panels and a charge controller) produce power that is used to charge a battery bank. All electrical loads are powered from the battery bank.

I use solar power almost exclusively (full timer). As noted, it is not reasonable to power air conditioning this way so in the rare cases that I need some cooling, the generator gets fired up (twice this summer, so far).

Everyone has their own opinion on generators, mine is that they are loud and annoying (even the ones that claim to be quiet (which are few)) - not just to me but also to nearby campers. In the interest of being a good neighbor and allowing everyone to enjoy the outdoors, I absolutely HATE running mine. Of course, my view of 'being quiet' includes all noise makers (carbon based and mechanical).

Solar is no longer expensive - especially if you are a DIY'er. I spent $1,200 on my 650 watt system. The learning curve is a little steep to start but there are many knowledgeable folks/websites out there willing to help.

You'll need to calculate your amp/hours of use per day to calculate the size of solar system. I have this page (Energy Audit) which attempts to describe this process.
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Old 08-20-2015, 09:44 AM   #5
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A "solar generator" is simply the combination of a solar panel and a battery. Portable ones are packaged in a box; larger ones are multiple pieces, i.e. the solar panel(s) and battery(s), wired together. Most portable units are small, a few hundred watts and suitable for charging cell phones or maybe a laptop.
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Old 08-20-2015, 09:53 AM   #6
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A "solar generator" is simply the combination of a solar panel and a battery.
I'm afraid I have to disagree. The charge controller is critically important in a system of sufficient capacity to charge the typical RV battery bank. Both in terms of performance and also 'properly' charging the storage bank.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:53 AM   #7
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This "solar generator" term really bugged me so I did some research and think I now understand what is being referenced.

If my understanding is correct, the "solar generator" marketing term refers to a complete electrical system that is charged by "solar". This includes battery(s), charge controller, inverter, and photovoltaic panels.

Cimplexsound; without knowing what kind of equipment you have in your MH, I'd suggest that a "solar generator" is not the best use of your money. You probably already have a battery bank and inverter. To charge your existing battery bank from the sun, you need some photovoltaic panels and a charge controller. If done as a DIY project, these items will be less expensive than the "solar generators" that I saw listed online. You need to do an energy audit to know what your electrical "needs" are. Depending on the results, I'd suggest looking at the higher voltage residential panels (most bang for the buck) and an MPPT charge controller. The more expensive MPPT is necessary with these higher voltage panels and that is a negative but what you get is worth the money (IMO).
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:56 AM   #8
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I'm afraid I have to disagree. The charge controller is critically important in a system of sufficient capacity to charge the typical RV battery bank. Both in terms of performance and also 'properly' charging the storage bank.
Please disregard my comment Gary. I thought you were saying something else. I now understand that you were just describing the "box" that is marketed as a "solar generator".
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Old 08-20-2015, 06:57 PM   #9
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Solar Generators

Quote:
Originally Posted by pasdad1 View Post
The "storm cat" generator has very unsophisticated voltage and frequency regulation. You should not use it to power ANY electronic items, as they will most likely be damaged. It is meant to power incandescent light bulbs, and motor driven devices, etc..... Things which are tolerant of swings in voltage and frequency.

"Inverter" type generators, such as the Honda EU 2000i, produce power as clean as the electric utility grid, and is safe to power computers, microwave ovens, etc. the Honda is also quiet at 59 Db at full load, while the storm cat is rated at an ear shattering 91 Db !


Attachment 103924
That is why I use a line conditioner/surge protector. It is like a ups for an RV. It has full surge protection, power management and it's own 12 volts battery. Yes I own the storm cat has frequent changes in voltage levels. That where the line condition keeps the power at a study. During the night when it is quiet hours, the battery in the line conditioner takes over when AC power is no longer detected from the generator. Then during the day the line conditioner automatically switches back to generator power with the added benefit of surge protection. I have many years of experience with this, so I would never plug my RV directly into the generator. That would be like taking a match to a gas can!!!😱 Nope you always need surge protection between the generator and your RV. And as I recall the manual that came with the generator strongly recommends the use os a line conditioner.


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Old 08-20-2015, 07:02 PM   #10
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That is why I use a line conditioner/surge protector. It is like a ups for an RV. It has full surge protection, power management and it's own 12 volts battery. Yes I own the storm cat has frequent changes in voltage levels. That where the line condition keeps the power at a study. During the night when it is quiet hours, the battery in the line conditioner takes over when AC power is no longer detected from the generator. Then during the day the line conditioner automatically switches back to generator power with the added benefit of surge protection. I have many years of experience with this, so I would never plug my RV directly into the generator. That would be like taking a match to a gas can!!!😱 Nope you always need surge protection between the generator and your RV. And as I recall the manual that came with the generator strongly recommends the use os a line conditioner. I also recall that my generator is very quiet. It is about 49db at the loudest. I was pleasant suprised and pleased. This seems to be one of the good ones.


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Old 08-20-2015, 07:15 PM   #11
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Solar Generators

Quote:
Originally Posted by JFNM View Post
This "solar generator" term really bugged me so I did some research and think I now understand what is being referenced.

If my understanding is correct, the "solar generator" marketing term refers to a complete electrical system that is charged by "solar". This includes battery(s), charge controller, inverter, and photovoltaic panels.

Cimplexsound; without knowing what kind of equipment you have in your MH, I'd suggest that a "solar generator" is not the best use of your money. You probably already have a battery bank and inverter. To charge your existing battery bank from the sun, you need some photovoltaic panels and a charge controller. If done as a DIY project, these items will be less expensive than the "solar generators" that I saw listed online. You need to do an energy audit to know what your electrical "needs" are. Depending on the results, I'd suggest looking at the higher voltage residential panels (most bang for the buck) and an MPPT charge controller. The more expensive MPPT is necessary with these higher voltage panels and that is a negative but what you get is worth the money (IMO).
I am very familiar with the layout of my Motorhome. An 1800 watt solar generator would be plenty of power. Given that all of my interior lighting is LED. Yes I do have a battery bank. the motorhome also has a fairly modern power inverter. I use a group 24 type battery. The battery box is actually hidden in the entryway stairs that make up the main rear entrance. I like using an external source of power because I'm not sure the the RV's inverter has surge protection built in. This way I can surge protect the entire rig. At night it's just the lights, the 12volt motor that runs my propane furnace, and my Dometic refrigerator that runs 290 watts 2.4 AMPS on the AC side. I keep my fridge on AC because the 30,000 btu furnace really slurps up the propane.


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Old 08-20-2015, 07:31 PM   #12
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A "solar generator" is simply the combination of a solar panel and a battery. Portable ones are packaged in a box; larger ones are multiple pieces, i.e. the solar panel(s) and battery(s), wired together. Most portable units are small, a few hundred watts and suitable for charging cell phones or maybe a laptop.
This is correct. They have kits available that are rated at 1800 watts. They also have charge controllers that can be daisy chained with your gas generator. These usually have a much more complex level of surge protection. Many of the kits are very pricy and you can spend in the thousands for them. But if you are a bargain shopper, some actually come along at a really great deal once in a while.


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Old 08-20-2015, 07:36 PM   #13
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Repeating what pasdad1 has said, solar (photovoltaic panels and a charge controller) produce power that is used to charge a battery bank. All electrical loads are powered from the battery bank.

I use solar power almost exclusively (full timer). As noted, it is not reasonable to power air conditioning this way so in the rare cases that I need some cooling, the generator gets fired up (twice this summer, so far).

Everyone has their own opinion on generators, mine is that they are loud and annoying (even the ones that claim to be quiet (which are few)) - not just to me but also to nearby campers. In the interest of being a good neighbor and allowing everyone to enjoy the outdoors, I absolutely HATE running mine. Of course, my view of 'being quiet' includes all noise makers (carbon based and mechanical).

Solar is no longer expensive - especially if you are a DIY'er. I spent $1,200 on my 650 watt system. The learning curve is a little steep to start but there are many knowledgeable folks/websites out there willing to help.

You'll need to calculate your amp/hours of use per day to calculate the size of solar system. I have this page (Energy Audit) which attempts to describe this process.
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.


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Old 08-20-2015, 08:29 PM   #14
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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.
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.
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