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Old 01-31-2009, 04:19 PM   #1
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When I get my HR and I take it to Camping World for some things to be added, what about a solar panel?
How big (wattage) and exactly what does a solar panel provide? Most of them are used to keep the batteries up but what else do they do? Why would you have solar panels when you have a generator or are plugged into shore power?
Questions, questions.
Save me some money or let me know why I should install one or two or four.

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Old 02-01-2009, 01:55 AM   #2
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Chet, do you plan on doing a lot of boon docking? If not then you would not need to recharge batteries that a solar panel will do without shore power or generator running. Here is a link to more solar panel info: http://www.rvsolarelectric.com/sources.htm
Good luck and let us know what you decide.

Mike, RVIA & RVSA Certified Master RV Technician
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Old 02-01-2009, 07:20 AM   #3
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Well, I'll just tell you way I use them.

I boondock, and only boondock. Being in an RV Park is like living in an apartment to me, and I'm an wide open spaces type of guy.

I also detest fooling around with a generator even though I do carry a Honda 2000i, and use it occasionally.

Anyway, I have 800 watts of panels on the roof which can provide me with up to around 50 amps if needed. My battery bank if usually full by around 10 am provided I use 120 amp hours (or less) the night before.

I have a large HD TV, internet by satellite, Dish network VIP722 dual receiver DVR, microwave, and many smaller goodies that use electricity, all powered by the sun.

Expensive? Yes, but I'm worth it! Oh, by the way I am full time - - just follow the sun.

But if you are more of a people person than I, and like others around at all times coupled with the organized programs that a good campground provide, solar would not be needed.

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Old 02-01-2009, 10:43 AM   #4
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A single 7 to 10 watt panel "may" keep the batteries up to charge while an RV is in storage, but there isn't enough power there to recharge a discharged battery in a reasonable time. I say "may" because my OEM 7 watt panel never worked.
Hundreds of watts, depending on your budget, will as attested by many support you pretty well off the grid. But you need to add batteries for the additional capacity.
I installed a compromise, a 50 watt panel through my OEM solar panel wiring through a controller keeps my two 6v batteries charged as well as recharges in reasonable time if the batteries are not too far down. Not enough for full off the grid use, but a good supplement for short-term boondocking (along with a generator). Plus, it's what I could afford.
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Old 02-01-2009, 12:45 PM   #5
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Ed, I'd love to see some pics of your set-up, it sounds like quite some space would need to be dedicated to the panels and batteries. If you get a chance, please post a few, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like to see what 800 watts of solar on a MH looks like
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Old 02-01-2009, 01:14 PM   #6
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I have 800 watts of panels on the roof which can provide me with up to around 50 amps if needed. My battery bank if usually full by around 10 am

How much real estate do the panels cover, and how many batteries do you have?

My coach came with a 10w panel on the roof ...it will not keep my 2 chassis batteries up during storage, much less the 3 house batteries ...it is virtually useless.
Paul (KE5LXU) ...was fulltimin', now parttimin'
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:56 AM   #7
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Solar is an option that requires a lot of research before installation. First you need to figure out whether your usage of a solar installation warrants the expense. If you camp without hookups alot then the right solar system is a real plus.

If you can justify the expense then you need to figure out what your daily amp-hours of power consumption will be, how your solar system will interface with your existing 12V electrical system, then purchase the equipment that will offset your consumption. I would recommend having a RV Solar specialist install your equipment, if you are not up to DIY. Not all solar panels and charge controllers are rated the same, some are more effective than others, you get what you pay for. Use a MPPT charge controller to get the most out of your panels. Solar is expensive, but the correct installation is worth the $$ IMO.

I have a 200 Watt System, works extremely well for my use and with existing electrical configuration.

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Old 02-03-2009, 04:01 PM   #8
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Solar panels are supposed to drop 10-20% in price this year. Use a high efficency panel to conserve space. These put out around 160-170 watts per panel, and are around $700-800 each. I don't know how durable these would be on an RV though.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:55 PM   #9
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just went thru this. what I did was a little different.....I have 4 group 27 batteries and no solar,,,,I boondock a lot, so I needed more power with out running the genset....I bought 2 used 80 watt panels and have them set up on an extension cord setup ,,,wired into the controller and monitor, I can set up the panels any place I want within 3o feet of the rig, also I have an 75 amp battery charger wired into the batteries, so that when I do have to run the genset I get an extra kick of power into them.....works o k so far
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Old 02-10-2009, 03:47 AM   #10
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Just wanted to agree with Spikester on the importance of using a MPPT charge controller. When we were looking to upgrade our basic single panel setup, this was recommended by a Solar dealer at an RV show. We went with the HPP-22B by Heliotrope PV and wound up not needing a second panel.
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Old 02-10-2009, 04:44 AM   #11
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If you are handy and can install a solar system yourself, RV Solar in Scottsdale is good source for reasonably priced components. Gary at 480-443-8520 is the owner. In Nov 2007, I purchased (2) 130 watt panels, mounting brackets, Blue Sky 2512iX (MPPT) controller, and an IPN Pro Remote with shunt for less than $1600. Iím charging 15 amps in direct sun.

He does have a web site, albeit dated: RV Solar Electric

I have been using RV Solar Electric since 1995, outfitting 3 motorhomes. Gary is both friendly and knowledgeable and has been able to answer any of my questions. He also has the Water Miser battery caps.
Harry & Sheryl

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Old 02-12-2009, 07:07 AM   #12
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I would wait on that for a little longer. The price is not justifiable yet. Even if you do boondock as some members do on here, The generator built into your rig sips fuel. I also boondock occasionally and have found that what works good for me is to get up in the morning and start the generator and make coffee, shower etc. This puts the big electric draws on the Gen while it is recharging the batteries. The generators have gotten a lot quieter through the years so as not to be bothersome. And Usually boondocking is trying to be somewhere away from anyone you might bother. A little bit of thought can keep anyone from being bothered by your generator running a couple of hours in the morning. ie. wait till after 8or so before starting it and don't let it drone on all day.
And I'm a big solar hobbyist and also work on the wind turbines. I love it but the question was about money. I don't believe it's worth it to us as a consumer just yet due to us(rv owners) already having generators and the current price of fuel. Also the current generators from Honda are so quiet and affordable vs the same amount of wattage in solar panels makes it questionable to not buy one vs solar. Generators must be exercised periodically in order to be kept in good shape. So you should be running it anyway and it needs a load on it to be exercised properly. If you want more bang for the buck, look at making solar air heaters or solar water heating integrated into our RV lifestyle. It's amazing the temperatures you can get from these types of panels. Ok, I'll shut up now.
My two cents.

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Old 02-16-2009, 04:30 AM   #13
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Solar panels have some benefits but most RVers expect more than what they get with solar energy. I've had them on 3 RVs so far and like them but understand their limitations.

For details on my solar application, as well as pictures, cost recaps, and links to tech stuff check out http://www.rvcruzer.com/solar.htm.

First of all, solar panels don't "run" anything. Your batteries will do that and your inverter will "make" 120 VAC power from the batteries. If you want to run a lot of stuff for a long time, you need lots of batteries.

The solar panels are basically a battery charger. Whenever the sun is out the panels will provide a charge to the batteries, putting some of those amp-hrs back in that you have taken out at various times. You won't be putting in as much as you take out unless you are very miserly on power consumption. But, solar panels will extend the time between having to run the generator (or moving to a new site) and that may make all the difference, depending on your style of camping.

Also, while the 165 watt size range panels are popular in residential applications, they are much larger in size than the 120 watt sized panels. I've found that there is no way that the wider 165 watt panels would fit on my RV's roof due to the air conditioners, roof vents, etc.

In our case we started with two 110 watt panels and a MPPT controller. That really wasn't enough to do the job so on our second RV we added two more panels, for a total of 440 watts and that did the job with 8 batteries. We can now boondock for a couple of days before needing to recharge. On our third (and present) RV we went with four 120 watt panels, 12 batteries (Amana residential fridge), and the Outback MX60 MPPT controller. The MX60 is unique in that it allows you to connect your panels in series rather than parallel. This gives you 48 volts rather than 12. The MX60 then converts it to 12 volts to feed the batteries. The biggest benefit here is that when the sun gets low a solar panel may only put out 9 volts, which isn't enough to provide a charge to the batteries. With the MX60 and series wired panels I will still have 36 volts so I can still be producing power long after the other brands have shut down and gone to sleep for the day. It's like getting some free extra battery capacity.

Solar isn't the cheapest way to provide power but it's free once you have it. If you have enough solar power, enough batteries, and can manage your power consumption, you can basically have free power for along time. It's all going to depend on your power usage style. It's one area where you either have to dive in deep enough to sset up an adequate system or forget about it. If you build yourself a system that's too small you've just wasted your money and you'll be running your generator often enough anyway.
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Old 02-26-2009, 09:22 AM   #14
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I went AM Solar last year and the investment was worth it.
This site will answer many of your questions regarding solar, charging controllers, batteries, system sizing, maintenance, and more.

Don't cut corners with quality.

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