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Old 01-02-2020, 02:51 PM   #15
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...

With minimum panels you need to conserve your use. It comes natural to us and we don't feel deprived by what we have to do. We've learned to live comfortably with minimal electric.
We do just fine also. It really doesn't feel like a sacrifice at all.
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Old 01-02-2020, 03:34 PM   #16
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Dear Confused!


As stated by others, the basic of boondocking with electricity is to use less than your batteries store.



There are many YouTube vids and text write-ups on the subject of batteries and solar - spend the hours to understand the subject. Will Prowse and others offer some very clear explanations of the details.



My daily computer use runs about 3 KWH, with lights, cooking and fridge eating up most of the rest, for a total of about 5 KWH daily.This requires about 500 AH of batteries to run. To feed that, I need 800 W of dollar for about 7 hours daily.


The solar and everything else except the batteries will probably last 20 years. Lead acid batteries, under heavy use, will last between 1 and 3 years and will be your biggest cost over the same 20 years. Of course, you can use a generator and pay for a lot of fuel instead of having a solar array, or even use shore power.


You just need to decide on how valuable the quiet and constant replenishment of solar is to you once you have figured the size of your battery bank.


Good luck and have fun!
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Old 01-03-2020, 07:23 PM   #17
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I was assuredly confused and didn't know where to start to find out what I did't know. I am technically inclined so ability was not the problem, facts or lack of was. So I did exactly what SteceJ suggested to you, "get a battery monitor and ascertain exactly what your needs/wants are."

I got a cheap one to start and used it to determine what I used. Once I was in a FHU site but disconnected to see what I used as it was safe in case I ran out of battery. Next I did some driveway camping, not connected, to test a few more times.

I then got a 300 watt kit, installed it and so far, even with the winter sun in TN have recharged my batteries to 100% by mid to late morning.

$20 on amazon to find out what only you can tell yourself
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:12 PM   #18
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I was assuredly confused and didn't know where to start to find out what I did't know. I am technically inclined so ability was not the problem, facts or lack of was. So I did exactly what SteceJ suggested to you, "get a battery monitor and ascertain exactly what your needs/wants are."

I got a cheap one to start and used it to determine what I used. Once I was in a FHU site but disconnected to see what I used as it was safe in case I ran out of battery. Next I did some driveway camping, not connected, to test a few more times.

I then got a 300 watt kit, installed it and so far, even with the winter sun in TN have recharged my batteries to 100% by mid to late morning.

$20 on amazon to find out what only you can tell yourself
Glad it all worked out.

It does get to be a daunting adventure trying to set up a system. Having a hard data starting point helps to clear things up a lot. BTDT.
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Old 01-03-2020, 10:45 PM   #19
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Newby question: I hope to be boondocking all the time. I've read conflicting information - does solar only top off your existing batteries or is it a primary source of power for appliances, lighting, etc.? How realistic is it to boondock only on solar?


Check out this FB group, Solar Powered RVís & Boondocking. A lot of knowledgeable folks that can help!
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Old 01-03-2020, 11:33 PM   #20
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Check out this FB group, Solar Powered RV’s & Boondocking. A lot of knowledgeable folks that can help!
Searching for that group, I get three (seemingly competing) groups. Which one do you mean?

Solar Powered RV's & Boondocking
Group ∑ 26K members

Solar Powered RV's and Boondocking
Group ∑ 1.9K members

Solar Powered RV's and Boondocking 2
Group ∑ 236 members
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Old 01-04-2020, 10:06 AM   #21
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My experience:
95 Watt panel from factory.
October in Michigan.
Full sunny days.
One half hour of TV in morning.
One half hour of propane furnace in morning.
LED lights 45 minutes/day
Propane fridge.
Able to run things for 5-6 days and then generator recharge needed.


So, 95 Watt panel seems to just keep things topped off if fully charged considering my very limited use of battery.
Have two 6 VDC AGM golf cart batteries.
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Old 01-04-2020, 10:18 AM   #22
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Battery is Primary, solar is ONLY CHARGING when the sun shines, (CHARGE more when sun bright); USE IS A BALANCING ACT
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:08 AM   #23
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What I've noticed about solar(and I'm a big fan of solar)is all "solar" is not "solar". Meaning, what one person calls solar, is a portable suitcase solar plugged into the little jack on the side of the trailer. What another calls solar is the one panel on the roof that is factory installed and may or may not keep your battery up depending on your usage or the sun being out. I was always able to keep up with little margin with a factory/dealer installed solar. I recently upgraded from #8 conductors and the controller in the overhead cabinet above the bed to #4 conductor to the same controller but mounted in the pass thru and #2 wire to the batteries. Now I charge fast and hard even with out good sun(not with rain clouds of course). All that to say, all solar systems aren't created equal. Take the time to read forums, and research what is available. I currently have 450w on the roof, #4 conductor to a 30a controller in the pass thru and #2 conductor to the four 6v-GC batteries and I can run my furnace at night(in cold weather like the 20's)along with C-paps with out issue.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:48 AM   #24
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What I've noticed about solar(and I'm a big fan of solar)is all "solar" is not "solar". Meaning, what one person calls solar, is a portable suitcase solar plugged into the little jack on the side of the trailer. What another calls solar is the one panel on the roof that is factory installed and may or may not keep your battery up depending on your usage or the sun being out. I was always able to keep up with little margin with a factory/dealer installed solar. I recently upgraded from #8 conductors and the controller in the overhead cabinet above the bed to #4 conductor to the same controller but mounted in the pass thru and #2 wire to the batteries. Now I charge fast and hard even with out good sun(not with rain clouds of course). All that to say, all solar systems aren't created equal. Take the time to read forums, and research what is available. I currently have 450w on the roof, #4 conductor to a 30a controller in the pass thru and #2 conductor to the four 6v-GC batteries and I can run my furnace at night(in cold weather like the 20's)along with C-paps with out issue.
Why would a portable not be "solar"(Or for that matter, one panel on the roof)? Portable panels are almost always more efficient, especially in the low sun time of year and at higher latitudes as the angle can be changed easily, it can be easily moved to chase the sun, and one can park under trees and place the panel in the sun. In my case, 150 watts is overkill under most circumstances for extended boondocking. My average daily usage is about 20-25 AHs solo, about 30 when with the wifey.

The down side is that yes, it's portable. It does have to be manually deployed. It takes about five minutes. A lot easier to clean, though. I really like the option of not parking in the sun and still get "solar".
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:44 AM   #25
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Solar: never done

Almost no one ever installs a system and calls it good. It's an on going project like a mod that never stops. Just saying.
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Old 01-14-2020, 11:34 AM   #26
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Why would a portable not be "solar"(Or for that matter, one panel on the roof)? Portable panels are almost always more efficient, especially in the low sun time of year and at higher latitudes as the angle can be changed easily, it can be easily moved to chase the sun, and one can park under trees and place the panel in the sun. In my case, 150 watts is overkill under most circumstances for extended boondocking. My average daily usage is about 20-25 AHs solo, about 30 when with the wifey.

The down side is that yes, it's portable. It does have to be manually deployed. It takes about five minutes. A lot easier to clean, though. I really like the option of not parking in the sun and still get "solar".
My point wasn't to say a portable isn't solar. My point is that all solar isn't equal. I've read countless posts where people say that solar won't keep up with their needs. If a newbie just reads the first post and makes up his/her mind to get a generator because "solar just won't keep up", then they're be short changed by someones short sighted-ness. And I'm not against Portables setups. I intend to get one in the 300w range to back up my current set up if I happen to plant my trailer in massive shade.

Example 1: "Solar doesn't work worth beans"....Hmm, wonder why? 100w Chinese suit case going thru 12ga wire.

Example 2: "My solar works ok but doesn't recharge fully"......Maybe it's a factory set up that is marginal, as most of them are.

Example 3: "My solar does everything I need". Probably carefully researched and installed correctly for best productivity from the harvest.
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Old 01-14-2020, 03:20 PM   #27
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Portable solar is an easy way to get started. I prefer roof top solar since I can take off all day and not worry about my portable panels being stolen.

I had a 240 watt system for 9 years that was on the roof of a 5x8 cargo trailer converted to a astronomy gear hauler and bedroom once we unpacked. We added side door and windows, roof fantastic fan, furnace, insulation and solar, inverter and pair of 2 T105 batteries. Our inverter use was only for a vacuum and a blender. Everything else including an Engel freezer was 12 volts. Our batteries were alway fully charged by mid day. We stayed out as many as 10 days off grid with no problems. Our limit was drinking water and food.

Think off batteries as a water tank. Charging (solar, generator) puts water in the tank. When the tank is full the charging current is only used to power the 12 volt load that may be running at the time. The 12 volt load slowly draws water out of the tank. When the tank is empty your power is gone until you put in more water. Solar only charges when the sun shines. Generators may not be able to run if you are restricted by quiet hours. It also doesn't run when you are out of gas. If your charger current is greater than your load, your batteries will charge until full. if your charger currently is less than your load, you batteries will discharge until empty.

Running an inverter puts a large load on your system so you need a bigger battery system and more charging capacity to bring it up to a full state of charge.

Battery technologies and the size of your battery bank affect how fast you can charge or discharge the batteries. Lead acid batteries increase resistance as the batteries get closer to fully charged so it takes longer to fully charge them. A generator can be useful to help bulk charge the batteries and solar can run for many more hours to complete the charge process.

Fully discharging your batteries can be harmful to the life of the batteries.
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Old 01-17-2020, 09:52 AM   #28
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All of the above is good. Here are my comments:
I have been using my 600w system to keep my 4 (total AH=410) batteries charged for a total of 90 off grid days over the past year. My batteries have never been below 70% and although we are power conscious (no AC without generator, short microwave usage, propane heater, all LED lights) we have wanted for nothing. This is in a 34’ 5th wheel with 4 slide outs. Yes, because I am a “checkbook electrician” installation was expensive but it has totally changed our RV experience and has been worth every penny. Now, I did spend a year researching EVERY detail (a site by ‘Handybob’ was superb) so I am sure that is part of the reason for my satisfaction level. I plan on going to southern Baja for 4 months next winter and will be off grid most of the time.
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