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Old 06-22-2009, 09:31 PM   #1
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Solar panel

i have a 1977 dodge coachmen 22'. going to take frig,stove and put up solor panel. try to go solor
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Old 06-24-2009, 04:03 AM   #2
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You will need to cover the entire roof in solar panels to have enough power capability to go completely solar. You will also need a good bank of batteries and be very energy conservative, especially in weather where the sun rays cannot get to the panels for a day or two. Here is some info that you will find interesting.
Sources
http://www.batteryfaq.org
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Old 06-27-2009, 06:57 AM   #3
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I have read lots of posts on the installation of solar panels and how to calculate how many panels you need based on your specific loads. And you are right, unless you are really frugal in your load assumptions, you come out needing to cover the entire roof with panels.

In reality, and I guess practicality, most set-ups have two to four panels. So for you folks that are running this number of panels what is your actual experience? Can you get enough juice from the panels in a day to put enough charge in the batteries to do what you want to do?

I know that everybody's power usage is different, and I don't expect to hear that somebody runs the AC off of solar. But is there anybody that can get by on solar only, say, at least until the tanks are full and you have to go dump?

And if you do go solar, is a lot of your personal time and energy spent on managing the system (not maintenance) or does it take care of itself as long as you are mindful of your use of power?

I guess this question is really about whether you get the bang for your buck. These systems are not inexpensive. If you go off the grid a week here and a week there does solar make enough of a difference in how long you would run a generator to make the cost of the solar system worth it? Has anybody ever figured out how many "solar days" you need to "recover" your investment?

Now, don't get me wrong, I know that a lot of the stuff we do as RV'ers has nothing to do with getting your money's worth. We want it, we "need" it, our life is just not complete unless we have it. I was just curious if anybody had ever figured solar on these terms.
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Old 06-28-2009, 03:47 AM   #4
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Solar is more popular in areas of the country that get more sunny days than those area that do not get near as many days with out clouds and rain. I know of many RVers that live off of solar and sometimes combined with wind generators. Some have even developed ways to keep the panels pointed directly at the sun across the sky which will give the highest rate of charge. There are many factors to be considered like how long you will keep you rig once you get it all set up. Have you been to this website http://www.rvsolarelectric.com/sources.htm yet. Hopefully you will get much discussion on the topic here and we can all learn something. Good questions.

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Old 06-28-2009, 09:52 AM   #5
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I run my dish network 2 tuner DVR, 26 inch HDTV, Sat internet system, 2 3 speed through the roof fans and one large window fan, lots of small electric toys, 2 computers, small Microwave, and even heat my water by solar (once a day for about an hour and a half). I also, of course, run my power tools as needed from the solar system (I tinker/build things a lot).

All that and my batteries are full before noon each day, even if light overcast. And yes, I follow the sun all year long. I do have a Honda 2000 that I carry but only use it on long rain periods (rare) and extended Microwave cooking periods (also rare).

No upkeep time except for monthly battery watering/cleaning.

Ed
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Old 06-28-2009, 04:17 PM   #6
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Ed,

Very impressive, you list has a lot of things I would have thought taboo without being hooked to shore power, i.e. microwave (even a very small one).

How many panels and how many batteries (six volt I presume) are you running?
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Old 06-28-2009, 04:58 PM   #7
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I've got 4 panels and while I don't know much about the system (it came with the RV), it works great!
On our way home from purchasing it, my daughter was running the A/C....for about 10 minutes, before I realized that we didn't have a genset running. I told her to shut it off, and everything was fine as far as voltage was concerned. I've never really sat and watched to see what it would do.

Batteries are always charged up, and away we go. I don't know if I'd be investing the kind of money needed for a proper system on a 1977 RV....the thought is nice, but that is an old rig, and the panels would be worth more than the entire coach!!

My Roof system.....four panels


The battery compartment. I want to eventually set it up with a slide, so I can access easier.


Happy Camping
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Old 06-28-2009, 11:37 PM   #8
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Ed,

Very impressive, you list has a lot of things I would have thought taboo without being hooked to shore power, i.e. microwave (even a very small one).

How many panels and how many batteries (six volt I presume) are you running?

I ran all that when I had only four six volt batts and 300 watts of solar but I had the solar rigged so I could swing them to follow the sun in it's path.

I now have 1200 watts powering 8 batts utilizing a PPT regulator at 24 volts.

I wanted the large system so I don't even have to raise them in winter, and still fully charge the batts to 14.8 volts each and every day. I'm getting older and really dont like climbing onto the roof anymore!

Ed
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:57 AM   #9
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I run my dish network 2 tuner DVR, 26 inch HDTV, Sat internet system, 2 3 speed through the roof fans and one large window fan, lots of small electric toys, 2 computers, small Microwave, and even heat my water by solar (once a day for about an hour and a half). I also, of course, run my power tools as needed from the solar system (I tinker/build things a lot).

All that and my batteries are full before noon each day, even if light overcast. And yes, I follow the sun all year long. I do have a Honda 2000 that I carry but only use it on long rain periods (rare) and extended Microwave cooking periods (also rare).

No upkeep time except for monthly battery watering/cleaning.

Ed
Ed, I have Sat. Internet, 2 computers (2-3 hrs/day), chargers for cell phone, PDAs, tooth brushes, camera batteries, and of course, lighting. With six GC batteries and a 2500 watt inverter and 300 watts of solar, Tilted, not tracking. Our batteries only get full on Sunday if there has been plenty of sun, ( No stock market, less net on weekends). We will run the genarator sometimes if we want to cook a pizza, 30 minutes at a 130AH rate (about a half day of solar for that) We have everything switched, so there are no phantom load and the inverter turns itself off when we are not using it. ( it is a 3AH load just to be on) After a few week weeks of boondocking, if the batteries are low, we may go to a hookup site and it will take 6-8 hours to fully charge the batteries.

How many AHs do did you get and use per day with you 300 watt setup?

Harold
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:44 PM   #10
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Ed, I have Sat. Internet, 2 computers (2-3 hrs/day), chargers for cell phone, PDAs, tooth brushes, camera batteries, and of course, lighting. With six GC batteries and a 2500 watt inverter and 300 watts of solar, Tilted, not tracking. Our batteries only get full on Sunday if there has been plenty of sun, ( No stock market, less net on weekends). We will run the genarator sometimes if we want to cook a pizza, 30 minutes at a 130AH rate (about a half day of solar for that) We have everything switched, so there are no phantom load and the inverter turns itself off when we are not using it. ( it is a 3AH load just to be on) After a few week weeks of boondocking, if the batteries are low, we may go to a hookup site and it will take 6-8 hours to fully charge the batteries.

How many AHs do did you get and use per day with you 300 watt setup?

Harold

It's been some time since I only had 300 Watts but it seems my instrumentation said I was down 30 to 35 amp hours in the when I got up most mornings.

It is important to FULLY charge the batteries each day. Your 300 watts are only enuf to power 4 of your batts as thats about 16 amp hour charging. A charge rate of between C10 and C20 is needed and that would be between 22 and 44 amps for you with 4 batts but 16 would do it.

For 6 batts (I'm assuming your 6 volt batts are 220 amp hour) you really need between 33 and 66 amps available.

Ed
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:06 PM   #11
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Ed and Harold,

You guys are sort of touching on the fringes of what I was asking. From your comments Ed, it would seem that there is an "active involvement" required throughout the day to keep a 300 amp system pointed at the sun in order to achieve the full charge that the batteries need. That sounds like a lot of tinkering to me, almost a slave to power management. Your change to 1200 watts of charging power seems to have 'freed' you.

Harold, you mentioned staying out on batteries for "weeks". I got the impression that you had to run the gen set every now and then because the solar panels would fall a little short each day and eventually need a boost from the generator.

But neither of you mentioned what kind of camping you are doing. Are you doing this in the Southwest without a cloud in the sky or tree in sight? Can you roam to the northern climes in summer to follow cool weather and still get enough sun to stay off the grid? If you are in a forested area and only get a 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, how severely does this affect you? Does it essentially make it impossible?

I am still trying to get at my original desire of knowing whether the significant investment of solar panels, top-notch charge controller/inverter, etc. is worth it for someone that will be in less-than-optimum places for maximum sunshine a good part of the year.
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:42 AM   #12
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Ed and Harold,

"You guys are sort of touching on the fringes of what I was asking. From your comments Ed, it would seem that there is an "active involvement" required throughout the day to keep a 300 amp system pointed at the sun in order to achieve the full charge that the batteries need. That sounds like a lot of tinkering to me, almost a slave to power management. Your change to 1200 watts of charging power seems to have 'freed' you."
NO, I LIKE to tinker. My swivel unit was on a 21 foot travel trailer that I had at the time, Before I became full time, and it took me all of about three minutes a day to shift it's position three times. The only thing I'm a slave to anymore is the bathroom
"Harold, you mentioned staying out on batteries for "weeks". I got the impression that you had to run the gen set every now and then because the solar panels would fall a little short each day and eventually need a boost from the generator.

But neither of you mentioned what kind of camping you are doing. Are you doing this in the Southwest without a cloud in the sky or tree in sight? Can you roam to the northern climes in summer to follow cool weather and still get enough sun to stay off the grid? If you are in a forested area and only get a 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, how severely does this affect you? Does it essentially make it impossible?"
I mentioned that I follow the sun full time I believe, if not, I do! I'm in the SW in winter, and in tree country in summer, somewhere at 5000 feet or higher. I'm from the Northwest. I peak my batteries each and every day even in shady aread in the national forests. I seldom need assistance from my Honda 2000ie QUIET generator.
"I am still trying to get at my original desire of knowing whether the significant investment of solar panels, top-notch charge controller/inverter, etc. is worth it for someone that will be in less-than-optimum places for maximum sunshine a good part of the year.
"
IMHO Don't do it, you don't sound ready! If you do just start small to test the waters.

My own story is I started out in 2000 in a 1975 Dodge PU with a $50.00 non-cabover camper but with 150 watts of solar with two mismatched batteries. This was an experiment to see if I would like this life style. I did and do!

That first year I went to a TT and with 300 Watts, then a MH with 600 then 800 Watts, and now a bus conversion with 1200 watts.

I mention all this only to demonstrate that from day one I was committed to solar because I knew I was committed to boondocking, and I knew it was possible because I studied up on it for six months before that first trip. Good Luck

Ed

Woops, this did not come out right! Another lesson learned - most of my reply is in the quote section. Maybe it's another senior moment!
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