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Old 01-31-2010, 04:48 AM   #15
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KC-135 Panels

Solar Mike at Slab City is selling KC-135's for $488.00 including tax, don't know what the installation charge is but he's very reasonable.

Paul - WA1IWH

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Old 02-07-2010, 01:13 PM   #16
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We just finished boondocking for the month of January at Imperial Valley north of Yuma. We have 1 210 watt PEC panel mounted on the roof of the 5er and tiltable, 2 20 watt each BP panels (loose so I can aim them at the sun during the day), a 1200 watt Coleman inverter, an MPPT controller (BZ products) and 4 MAXX (Walmart) marine batteries. We have about $2,000 invested in this system. We changed most of our lights over to LED's when we were down there. We were able to watch TV a couble hours a day and did a lot of reading. I wired the inverter so it will only supply power to the circuit that the TV is on. Biggest problem is - the batteries are the wrong kind. They are not true deep cycle. I will be replacing them with four 6v deep cycle (propably Crown 225Ah 6v - $127 each at www.windsun.com) for next year when we intend to spend two months at Imperial.

We have a 45 gal water bladder for fresh water and a 35 gal grey tank with large road wheels to haul off waste water. BLM has dump and fresh water within 1/4 mile of where we stayed. Yuma is about 15 miles south so we were not to far from the big tent flea market (where we purchased the LED's).

We had a blast boondocking and will do it as much as we can.

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Old 02-08-2010, 05:33 PM   #17
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Read & Learn it is unlikely that solar power will be cheaper than running the generator. But that is not why we installed ours. The convienence of not running a generator and annoying neighbors plus the knowledge that we will normally have enough power sans generator outweighs the initial cost.

I also recommend AmSolar in Springfield Oregon as a source. Heard him talk at a seminar and realized that he really knew his stuff. No back of the van sales here. There are many things to consider when installing a system and price is probably the least important. It would be better to get solid basics with fewer watts at first if that is what it takes. For example the four panels we have are 44 cell instead of the normal 40 and the controller is one of the best that can be had. (Fortunately Monaco had pre-wired the coach & installed the controller which is recommended by Am Solar).

A few days ago at eleven AM we had 10.5 amps from our four 100 watt panels while they were lying down. I raised two of them at approx. 45% - they were facing south - and the amps went up to 19.5. By the way standing in front of one of them (1/3 shadow) reduced the amperage to 14.5. We normally get 24.5 amps from the system out of the rated 30 amps (two up and two down) at maximum daylight. We normally only run our generator once a month just because it needs to be excercised.

We never have to worry about TV or computer usage. Usage is about six hours a day between the two. AmSolar recommends 600 watts if you are a heavy energy user.

Allowing for the fact that the coach was pre-wired and the controller installed our four hundred watt system installed by AmSolar was about $3000 two years ago. This included the special feet which will allow raising the panels and eight bars to raise all four panels.

I'd suggest that you check www.amsolar first and then perhaps ask them to send you their booklet on solar systems. 541 726-1091.

Good Luck on whatever system you choose.
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Old 04-10-2010, 07:04 PM   #18
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I ordered My two 225 watt panels, from Sun Electronics, in FL. 1334.00 including shipping.Best price I found anywhere.
Damn, I'm Good!
"I've got dozzens of friends, and the fun never ends, that is, as long as I'm buying."
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:14 AM   #19
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I had enough room on my trailer to install 8-60w panels I also bought from Sun electronics. I picked them up in Phionex AZ $470.40 @ $.98 a watt
My truck is a 08 F450 King ranch w 4:88 4x4 94 gal aux tank, Trailer Saver air hitch. 05 Holiday Rambler Next Level 38CK w480 watts of solar, wine guard 1200 dish, Moryde pin box & a lot of mods
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Old 04-13-2010, 06:48 PM   #20
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I guess I would say that justifing the install of a Solar System is "in the eye of the beholder". If you intend to do a lot of boondocking, then a solar system helps to limit generator operation. One thing we tend to forget when we talk about the cost of running our generators is including the wear & tear/maintenance costs. Solar is pretty much maintenance free, keep your panels clean, and perferably pointed at the sun. Tiltiing your panels towards the sun increases their efficiency because they get more "direct" sun, and keeps them cooler which also makes them more efficient. Another current incentive to install a solar system maybe the 30% tax credit that is available. Don't get caught up in the $$/Watt debate/comparison as it can be misleading! For instance an AM Solar 100 Watt solar panel coupled with thier MPPT controller has a higher current output to the batteries than most other 130 Watt panels with the same charge controller in the same conditions, it also has a smaller footprint on your roof. The 130 Watt panels costs more but are cheaper in the $$/Watt comparison, $$/Watts do not charge your batteries, charge controller output (current) does. If you are considering a solar installation do your homework, evaluate the installation as a system, some solar installations are subjected to the old addage of "you get what you pay for". Can I justify a pay back on the $2800 I have invested, less the tax credit, get I justify the cost associated with the motorhome its installed on, gues that is all "in the eye of the beholder".
I have a AM Solar 400Watt system installed on our motorhome with panels that can be tilted, along with 4 - 6VDC wet cell batteries which will be changed to AGM when they reach thier end of life. I too was boondocked at the Roadrunner BLM area the last couple of weeks of January. On the sunny days, with my panels tilted towards the south, my system output to the batteries was 20+ amps during the "high sun" portion of the day (~ 3 hours). Of course it was something less the rest of the time. I ran the coffee maker and toaster most mornings, ran 2 fantastic vent fans in auto set at 75 degrees, watched HD TV via the Satellite system and Home Theater System when ever I wanted, listened to music, news and weather on Home Theater when ever I chose, ran the computer along with the other common DC loads, (lights, refer, pump, etc.). I did however light off the generator if I needed to use the microwave. I usually retired for the evening around 2200 (10:00PM), my battery voltage was never below 12.1 volts, when I got up in the morning if it wasn't raining the batteries were being charged by the solar installation. A couple of days in the early evening I ran the generator to use the microwave and the state of charge in the batteries was high enough that the battery charger did not come on, even to float charge. Of course on the rainy days I did run the generator, not that we experience any of those. One thing I do though is turn off the inverter when I have no need for AC power, with my inverter on it indicates that it is using 3 - 4 amps of DC just to run the intrinsic loads (itself, clock microwave, electronics in TV, Home Theater and Satellite controller and etc.), it takes 3-4 amps of DC to make 1 amp of AC. Inverters are know to be the most efficient of devices so why waste the battery power. When boondocked in July in the North Cascades our system puts out 30+ amps to the batteries during the "high sun" part of the day (~ 6 hours), with this type of output we have gone 18 days without running the generator for the sole purpose of charging our batteries. It did again run for short periods to use the microwave or convection oven. Is my system worth it to me, yes, I know my neighbors around me when I am boondocked appreciate it also. Although the new "quiet" generators are pretty darn quiet, solar is really quiet, we get tired of listening to the drone of the generator running just to watch TV or listen to the radio when we are camped out in the "wilderness" enjoying what mother nature has to offer. If I wake at 0500 in the morning I can turn on the coffee pot without having consider "quiet hours" which is kinda nice.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything"
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Old 05-11-2010, 05:23 PM   #21
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Bill: We too spend time in the "South of Why" area. On replacing all interior lights with LED, do you change the bulbs or the whole fixture? Big job?? expense?? thanks. Alleyman: Ev H.
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Old 05-11-2010, 06:54 PM   #22
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update to my post in Feb. -- Had our Wally World batteries checked out and one of them was bad so that probably was the problem. I'm still going to purchase 4 6v golf cart type batteries. That is the type that most folks at Imperial Dam were using.

Also, I have just finished putting together a 500w wind generator (gen. is from WindyNation.com) that will supplement the solar system. We are having terrible wind storms now in Colorado but I was still able to test the entire system out on a mask that was only 5 feet high (so I could adjust things as needed and a lot of things were needing adjusting!) it generated about 5 amps at 7 mph wind. Had to take it down because we started having a lot more wind than I was comfortable with. One gust measured 103 mph! Still having trouble with a tail furling system but I'll figure it out. Wind is cheaper then solar.

Ps - Alleyman, when I installed LEDs they did not require any thing other than to push them into the existing fixtures.
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Old 09-17-2010, 08:39 PM   #23
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Before doing anything read my post "Solar That Really Works". Most solar experts either do not know what they are doing or they do not care. This includes AM Solar. If I am wrong why are there so many solarized RV's that are running their generators so much while not using A/C.
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Old 01-15-2011, 10:52 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by ralper View Post
If I am wrong why are there so many solarized RV's that are running their generators so much while not using A/C.
You hit the nail on the head. It makes me crazy that so many people still will believe the sales pitch and not my common sense story. Or the guy on here who says that we can't watch TV, when ours is sometimes on all day, after running the coffee maker & the toaster. Or the guy who claims that we all go to bed early. It just proves that most solar systems installed by "professionals" don't work, not that solar doesn't work. When you see a rig with solar panels all over the roof and a generator running on a sunny day it is because of poor installation or lack of knowledge and not the fault of the solar panels. Believing the AM Solar pitch can now get you a working system because he is doing better, but at what price? Back up and look at dollars per watt. They did sell a lot of non-working systems years ago. To the person who started this thread: You should have installed working solar first instead of buying a generator, but nobody else will tell you that. I got a very nice thank you from some folks just the other day.
It simply said "Thank you for giving us hope."
Full time boondocker, solar powered, no generator
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Old 01-15-2011, 11:03 AM   #25
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One more thing: Those Kyocera 130 watt panels typically produce 8.1 amps into the batteries when run through a Morningstar Tristar PWM non MPPT controller. The 135's do even more. I have measured this on several systems, using both a Trimetric and verifying with a clamp on. I am not making it up. I will just say that AM Solar is being a bit loose with his claims. He can claim anything he wants when nobody but me will question it. That boost does work, but it is not all that they claim it to be.
Full time boondocker, solar powered, no generator
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Old 01-15-2011, 08:35 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by HandyBob
I will just say that AM Solar is being a bit loose with his claims. He can claim anything he wants when nobody but me will question it. That boost does work, but it is not all that they claim it to be.
I can certainly believe this. We did end up getting the AM solar set-up, and we've been happy with it but we didn't go in with the blind belief that the boost would really be as large as claimed. Being of scientific mind I would love to test it out thoroughly. We've been testing voltage drops, but not clear how to accurately test amperage in/out. If we're ever close and you're interested to test we'd be very willing guineapigs. Nina
12 paws, 40 feet and the open road
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:35 AM   #27
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MPPT testing?

Originally Posted by WheelingIt View Post
If we're ever close and you're interested to test we'd be very willing guineapigs. Nina
Thank you for the offer, but it is not really possible to do a meaningful test just using the AM Solar high voltage panels. You can test the input and output using a clamp-on ammeter (I have done so), but that only gives you a momentary measurement. That is exactly what the boost claims are all about. You can take a high voltage input amps & turn it into a lower voltage output with higher amps. They do boost the amps. The problem is that they cannot turn a 100 watt panel into a 130 watt panel. I have seen over 350 watts going into the batteries from my ten year old 345 watts of panels during perfect conditions and using a PWM Tristar, but I will not make the stupid claim that my system is over 100% efficient all of the time. I can also tell you that Kyocera 130 watt panels produce 8.1 amps and that is without MPPT. When the "best" RV solar dealer claims they do that only because of the controller he installed, he is just making it up. New panels produce more amps that the label on the back shows. It is those kinds of claims that I take issue with.

The only way to do a real empirical test would be be to have two systems side by side, using equal input watts and with identical loads hooked up and then monitor over time. The loads would have to be switched out to negate any difference. It would take a lot of money and time.

The whole MPPT story is suspect because all of the claims are like this. They can claim anything they want and nobody will spend the money and time to prove anything. The magazines won't bite the hand that feeds them. One manufacturer will not challenge another because they are all making these claims and everybody is afraid of being sued. Those who know are mostly not willing to say so in public. Conversations I have had with a couple of folks who swore me to secrecy would shock you.

I believe very strongly that a good controller like a Morningstar Tristar with a self adjusting charge algorithm does a lot more in actually charging a battery better than the extra cost of MPPT gives you if you don't spend enough money to get a good one. A good PWM controller is better than a "budget" MPPT controller at charging batteries (not all PWM circuits are equal and nobody ever mentions this). It might give you less amps, but it does so for a longer time and self adjusts to what the batteries need. The biggest boost manufacturer will not set their controllers to the voltage recommended by the flooded cell battery manufacturers. When a charge controller reaches set point, it starts shutting the power off. So, a non boosting controller that is set higher will actually put more energy into the battery. Of course, you can set those controllers higher (and a couple of the dealers will), but most won't do so. Just what IS their agenda??

I have seen more realistic boost numbers on other forums, made by actual users who have done their own testing and they usually say a net increase of 10 or 15% is realistic, but this varies a lot with conditions and state of charge of the batteries. If you keep your batteries operating in the top 15% range most of the time, there is very little to gain in using MPPT. The real use of it is in large systems where it will allow you to use higher voltage from the PV array and thus smaller wires. Then you get to pay for the increased cost using wire savings and still get the boost occasionally when it is available. Still, you have to be realistic concerning what you can expect and you cannot just switch out the controller to do a comparison after the system is wired only for high voltage.

When I build my home up in Montana I intend to wire my system in such a way that I will be able to do some testing. I stumbled onto some free #6 cable that will work on a 24V non boosting system and I am saving it. I will wire my system in two arrays so that I will be able to do real testing. The problems are that this is a ways in the future and nobody is going to believe me anyway. People who have swallowed the story and spent the money have to justify their decisions (the Mercedes factor). Those that keep screaming at me that I must provide empirical testing to disprove the ridiculous boost claims won't realize that they should turn the challenge around and demand that the manufacturers provide this proof. That is how things were done back when I was designing lighting and electrical systems in commercial construction. We engineers mostly take a very cautious view of outrageous claims because we can be held accountable when the things we specify don't work as claimed.

Full time boondocker, solar powered, no generator
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