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Old 07-18-2016, 10:58 PM   #15
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Once you have more electricity available, it is likely that you will use it more. An idea that you could use to help reduce the cost of solar is to skip some of the more exotic electronics and focus on the panel investment instead.

A 36 volt 300 watt suniva panel is about $3-400. A couple of those in parallel tied to 3 x 12 volt battery pack can go a long way. Combine this with a 36 volt inverter and you can get a lot of power.

Once you are using all of that power, you can increase it with optimizers, etc.
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Old 07-18-2016, 11:13 PM   #16
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We have a 90 watt panel and 4-6 volt Trojans. It keeps up great for us. I have a stove top perk coffee pot and LED tv W/ Direct TV. We have gone a week with no geni with no trouble. I only fire it up for air, Micro or vacuum. Your useage may very
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Old 07-18-2016, 11:30 PM   #17
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I have one of those 100 watt suitcase solar units. One plus is their portable so you can but them in the sun, and move them as the angle changes. Was in Denali NP AK. The past weekend and even with limited sun, I left the campground with a nearly fully charged battery. Yes I only have one group 29 battery for our 26' tt. But with limited light use, some showers, frig (propane) I love the "noise-less" power. Puts out a max of 6 amps. Renogy $279 on Amazon.
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Old 07-20-2016, 05:48 PM   #18
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I too have a 100 W Renology suit case solar system. I also have two 12 volt batteries on my unit. I have camped 50 days so far this year and 21 of them were dry camping with the solar panel at altitude. For instance we camped in Leadville CO this past weekend for four days at 10,000 feet. It got down to 38 degrees. We ran the furnace all night and were able to recharge the battery every day. I also carry a stand alone 12 volt deep cycle that I hook a 400 watt inverter up to so I can run a TV and a DVD at night if so inclined. I then hook the solar panel up to it in the day and recharge that. One trick I have learned is that I also have six garden style solar/spot lights that I use in the rig at night to keep plenty of light, then just throw put them out in the sun the next day and am ready again for the next night and don't have to be a mizer with the 12 volt light system as much since there is plenty of light from the solar lights. The 100 watt system works great for us and is convenient and affordable.
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Old 08-14-2016, 08:17 AM   #19
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Installed 4 256W hi voltage panels FLAT on the roof. I have seen days when im getting 1k watts on solar, about 60amps on the house batteries. We even ran the crock pot for about 5 hours one day!
Panels cost me about $900 NEVER run generator BUT DW discovered convection cooking so the genset gets exercized now! LOL
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Old 08-14-2016, 08:18 AM   #20
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Installed 4 256W hi voltage panels FLAT on the roof. I have seen days when im getting 1k watts on solar, about 60amps on the house batteries. We even ran the crock pot for about 5 hours one day!
Panels cost me about $900 NEVER run generator BUT DW discovered convection cooking so the genset gets exercised now! LOL
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Old 08-14-2016, 08:32 AM   #21
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First off, we do very little dry camping now. We have spend up to 6 days on the ocean running the generator about 3 hours a day to keep batteries charged.

We have a 35' gas coach with a residential fridge. We are perfectly fine without TV if we were sitting in some beautiful location for a week or so. We have plenty of water and tank capacity to sit without hookups for a week or more. But it would be a real plus to not have to run the genset for hours each day. We have decent sized AGM batteries which are new.

I have seen solar panels which are portable fold out ones. Wondering if sufficient power could be captured by those rather than mounting large panels on the roof. Any guidance is appreciated.
The portable systems are usually 100w or so, not enough to offset much power usage. From your usage description I would suggest something around 400w, with room to expand if needed.
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Old 08-16-2016, 01:28 PM   #22
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Because I boondock infrequently doesn't mean I don't exercise the generator to keep it maintained. I would just prefer not to have to run it 3 or 4 hours a day when sitting in some remote and quiet place. Just saying....
I totally agree. But with the residential refrigerator, you're going to need a pretty good amount of solar--more than you're going to want to have portable panels for.

We dithered on solar for a while, back when it was quite expensive (2005), and finally decided that the deciding factor would be if we wanted to do it, mainly to not have to listen to the generator, and not whether it made financial sense.

We have 1,050 watts flat-mounted on the roof. If we're in the sun, we can go pretty much indefinitely without running the generator, but we have a propane refrigerator. I worked through some numbers and concluded we wouldn't be able to do that if we had a residential refrigerator.

Sure enough, there's a guy who has 1,000 watts of solar on this same type of motorhome, but he has a residential refrigerator and he reports that he runs his generator every 2-3 days, which comports with what my numbers told me.
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Old 08-17-2016, 10:40 AM   #23
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I totally agree. But with the residential refrigerator, you're going to need a pretty good amount of solar--more than you're going to want to have portable panels for.

We dithered on solar for a while, back when it was quite expensive (2005), and finally decided that the deciding factor would be if we wanted to do it, mainly to not have to listen to the generator, and not whether it made financial sense.

We have 1,050 watts flat-mounted on the roof. If we're in the sun, we can go pretty much indefinitely without running the generator, but we have a propane refrigerator. I worked through some numbers and concluded we wouldn't be able to do that if we had a residential refrigerator.

Sure enough, there's a guy who has 1,000 watts of solar on this same type of motorhome, but he has a residential refrigerator and he reports that he runs his generator every 2-3 days, which comports with what my numbers told me.
That's very good information. MY RF uses about 3000-3500W / day running off the inverter. This was during a test while at home. I still haven't been anywhere to dry camp without using the generator since I installed the ME-BMK battery monitor. How many watts can you generate with your system on a good day?
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Old 08-24-2016, 12:45 PM   #24
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That's very good information. MY RF uses about 3000-3500W / day running off the inverter. This was during a test while at home.
I assume you're talking about a residential refrigerator, and "watt-hours."

Most residential refrigerators I've seen claim to use about 1.3 kwh/day, and real-life reports are usually a little higher than that. Yours is at least double that, which strikes me as odd.

Running it on the inverter is less efficient, but it shouldn't be that much less efficient. Also, what did you use to measure the draw? My Kill-a-Watt doesn't work right on my modified sine wave inverter, so I do all my measuring when on shore power.


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How many watts can you generate with your system on a good day?
It's actually kind of hard to measure the maximum output of a relatively large solar array. To get the true maximum, you'd have to be bulk charging batteries all day on a sunny day. The problem is that the output gets reduced when the batteries go into absorb or float mode, and if you have a lot of solar, the batteries have to be quite low not to hit that threshold if it's sunny, and I try not to let them get that low.

However, my electric water heater is wired into my inverter, and once the batteries go into absorb or float mode, I can "re-direct" the excess solar to the water heater, so I can still be using as much as the panels can put out. But even then, after a couple of hours, the water heater won't need any more electricity, so it's still not necessarily using everything the panels could put out. (But frankly, if I get full batteries AND a tank of hot water, I don't care.)

Based on past numbers, I've always used 3.6 kwh/day (approximately 277 amp hours) as what I can expect on an "average" "good" day from 1,050 watts of flat-mounted panels. But I have some recent numbers from my new controller, which provides more detailed information, although I haven't been boondocking much this year.

In Kentucky and Nashville in April, and in Kansas/Colorado in May, I was getting 3.5 kwh/day (approximately 269 amp hours).

But in July/August I boondocked for a stretch in the Colorado mountains and the sunny days produced from about 4 to 5.5 kwh. That doesn't surprise me since the conditions were pretty much ideal there, and not what I would rely on for "everyday" expectations.

For the record, the controller says that the maximum output was 1,200 watts (which is higher than our 1,050 watts of panels), in the Colorado mountains. On a swing through Tennessee/Alabama/Mississippi in April, it was routinely hitting 800 to 1,000 watts.
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Old 08-25-2016, 07:50 PM   #25
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First off, we do very little dry camping now. We have spend up to 6 days on the ocean running the generator about 3 hours a day to keep batteries charged.

We have a 35' gas coach with a residential fridge. We are perfectly fine without TV if we were sitting in some beautiful location for a week or so. We have plenty of water and tank capacity to sit without hookups for a week or more. But it would be a real plus to not have to run the genset for hours each day. We have decent sized AGM batteries which are new.

I have seen solar panels which are portable fold out ones. Wondering if sufficient power could be captured by those rather than mounting large panels on the roof. Any guidance is appreciated.
the more the better as only as it fits on your roof.

a flat mounted panel could only output 50% of the specified capacity in spring and fall, maybe 60% in the summer and 35% in winter in a good day at the locations of mid latitude of us.

i have been running 1200w for 2 years. technically it suffices as i don't need to run genset in most cases but in winter it is a little shy. i have been actively looking for the same panels i am using but to no avail. my roof allows me to install up to 2400w. if i could find the panels, i would make it very close to that number. my extra wires are already buried and the second controller is in place. i just need the panels (very inexpensive if you diy).
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Old 08-26-2016, 12:10 PM   #26
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the more the better as only as it fits on your roof.

a flat mounted panel could only output 50% of the specified capacity in spring and fall, maybe 60% in the summer and 35% in winter in a good day at the locations of mid latitude of us.

i have been running 1200w for 2 years. technically it suffices as i don't need to run genset in most cases but in winter it is a little shy. i have been actively looking for the same panels i am using but to no avail. my roof allows me to install up to 2400w. if i could find the panels, i would make it very close to that number. my extra wires are already buried and the second controller is in place. i just need the panels (very inexpensive if you diy).
Just curious, but what particular panels are you looking for?
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Old 08-26-2016, 12:48 PM   #27
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Just curious, but what particular panels are you looking for?
i am using sunpower e19 panels, 240w at 42v. sunpower does not make it any more but new products like 327w or higher are too wide for my space.
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Old 08-27-2016, 02:45 PM   #28
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Upthread, I mentioned a guy with my same motorhome who has 1000 watts of solar to my 1,050 watts, but he has a residential refrigerator. I can go indefinitely on solar, while he has to run his generator every 2-3 days.

He just reported that he's planning to add another 400-600 watts of solar. That might give you an idea of the impact of a residential refrigerator on solar requirements.
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