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Old 10-10-2017, 12:26 PM   #1
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Solar charging and cooling

As I use my current trailer more, it leads to new questions on how to set up my future unit. I primarily boondock.

I have used my current unit about 4 weeks in the past 6 weeks. I currently have about 500 watts of solar, and a 450 ah wet cell battery bank.

My first week I was in a very nice, shaded spot keeping the trailer nice and cool, only needing to run the vent fan. Problem is that with all the shade, I had minimal battery charging and by day 3 I was having to run the generator every day.

Week 2 and 3 we had such a heavy smoke inversion I think the highest my panels ever made was 25 watts. Luckily the contractor providing power was nice enough to let me run a 15 amp cord to keep the batteries charged. There were a couple of nights that it would have been nice to run the AC, but I managed with just the fan.

Week 4 I was in a couple of different locations. First 3 days down by a very nice lake, but again in a shaded spot. I did not need to run the AC, but I did have to run the generator to charge the batteries. The second 3 days I was in a semi shaded spot where I only got solid sun for a few hours a day. It was not warm enough to need AC, but had to run generator to stay charged.

So looking at full timing in the future I am trying to find how to stay cool and charged at the same time.

In theory the answer is park in the shade and run the generator to use the AC. The AC will be more efficient in the shade and since you have to run the generator anyhow, that takes care of charging also.

Right now, the inverter/charger I have only puts out 20 amp along with the 10 amp charge from the generator. I am looking at a Magnum Hybrid which comes with a 125 amp charger, I am assuming that will make a big difference in charging speed.

On the future unit I am looking at a 1000 watt system with a 500-600 ah lithium battery system.

Are there other things I am missing?
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Old 10-10-2017, 04:10 PM   #2
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If you are in a dry climate there is an evaporative cooler for RVs called Turbokool. It uses very little DC power.

https://turbokool.com

I'm considering experimenting with 2 patio mister heads above my roof when we are in Quartzsite next Spring. If the water doesn’t reduce my solar charging I'm hoping that cooling the roof and increasing the humidity will help with indoor cooling. I'll have to soften the water to prevent lime scale on my knob solar panels.

Personally I wouldn’t invest in more solar and batteries if I planned to park in the shade.
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Old 10-10-2017, 06:20 PM   #3
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I would suggest to do the Lithium batteries upgrade next, then the hybrid inverter (or both at the same time). Then go for the large solar system down the road.

The lithium batteries will soak up the maximum current you can throw at them up to 100% state of charge. That would be the full 125 Amps from the Magnum. Your battery bank would recharge quickly, reducing the generator run times. The with the hybrid inverter you can run just about anything in your rig off of the batteries for the next few days. With that system you would always have the power you want and only need to run the generator for a few hours every couple of days (if you don't run the A/C). If you want the A/C, just run the generator and the hybrid inverter will allow you to run other things at the same time (microwave, coffee maker, etc.) without bogging down or overloading the generator.

Medium to big solar systems are nice, but effectively just allow you to run your generator less... depending upon shading.
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Old 10-11-2017, 02:07 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by okmunky View Post
If you are in a dry climate there is an evaporative cooler for RVs called Turbokool. It uses very little DC power.

https://turbokool.com

I'm considering experimenting with 2 patio mister heads above my roof when we are in Quartzsite next Spring. If the water doesn’t reduce my solar charging I'm hoping that cooling the roof and increasing the humidity will help with indoor cooling. I'll have to soften the water to prevent lime scale on my knob solar panels.

Personally I wouldn’t invest in more solar and batteries if I planned to park in the shade.
Interesting set up concept.

I don't necessarily plan on parking in the shade. Was just trying to learn about some of the issues and how others do it.
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Old 10-11-2017, 02:09 AM   #5
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I would suggest to do the Lithium batteries upgrade next, then the hybrid inverter (or both at the same time). Then go for the large solar system down the road.

The lithium batteries will soak up the maximum current you can throw at them up to 100% state of charge. That would be the full 125 Amps from the Magnum. Your battery bank would recharge quickly, reducing the generator run times. The with the hybrid inverter you can run just about anything in your rig off of the batteries for the next few days. With that system you would always have the power you want and only need to run the generator for a few hours every couple of days (if you don't run the A/C). If you want the A/C, just run the generator and the hybrid inverter will allow you to run other things at the same time (microwave, coffee maker, etc.) without bogging down or overloading the generator.

Medium to big solar systems are nice, but effectively just allow you to run your generator less... depending upon shading.
My post was about my current experience, with my current unit. I highly doubt I will be replacing any components in it.

I am looking at a system for my next unit, which will hopefully happen in the next 12 months.

Thank you.
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Old 10-11-2017, 03:19 AM   #6
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Might consider splitting your solar array between tilt-able roof-top panels (see AM Solar's website) and portables ... ensure your solar / battery system has a good battery monitor (actual amps used / needed for 100% charge, etc) ...
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Old 10-11-2017, 07:52 AM   #7
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Supporting air conditioning use from inverter / battery is typically not practical. Can be done if you are willing to spend big money. But not cost justified for most folks.

As for shade mitigation with PV system. If full shade not much you can do. If partial shade enlarging the system wattage and having panels in multiple parallel strings can help. Portable panels that can be set out away from shade are a help as well.

I have 1500w in three strings on the coach. Flat mounted. Plus 200w portable string that can be set out when needed.
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Old 10-11-2017, 12:05 PM   #8
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Good advice above but there's no real solution. You need sun to convert into charge and you need shade to stay cool. You can't satisfy both needs at the same time effectively. It's just a fact of life.

Portable panels will help but you have to balance them with the hassle of setting up and taking down. If you're parked for a week or more, maybe not a big issue. Then you have to worry about them getting up and walking away when you're not around.

Running AC off of batteries requires lots of batteries and lots of solar. The money to buy that would run a generator for many years. Even if you did do it, I'm not sure running AC all day, every day on batteries is really possible. That's a lot of juice and one cloudy or smokey day and you're back to running the gennie. And, you're still parked in the sun.

The best solution is avoid the heat. Head up in elevation, latitude or to the coast. If that's not possible, generator use is probably going to be necessary sometimes. There is no free lunch.
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Old 10-12-2017, 12:38 PM   #9
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For cooling, I have heard good things about homemade 12v swamp coolers. They're not the prettiest solution. They are effective and beneficial in dry areas. As far as the solar, making what you have more effective seems like the simplest solution. This site has some great info.
http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/t...ging-puzzle-2/
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Old 10-13-2017, 01:22 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Nwcid View Post
My post was about my current experience, with my current unit. I highly doubt I will be replacing any components in it.

I am looking at a system for my next unit, which will hopefully happen in the next 12 months.

Thank you.
Ah, OK. It looks like there are really two issues/questions with your current setup: (1) how best to stay cool, and (2) improving the charging of your batteries. Then there's possible suggestions/opinions for your next unit.

For staying cool in your current unit (and running the A/C) you need to run the generator whether or not you are in the shade. Parking in the shade would help out as the A/C wouldn't have to draw as much power and the generator wouldn't have to work as hard.

For staying cool in your current unit (without running the A/C) definitely park in the shade as much as you can and maybe look into other low-power cooling suggestions (like the swamp coolers). However, parking in the shade reduces (or eliminates) your ability to recharge from your solar... which brings us to the other issue: having to run your generator every day after the first few days. Since you are good to go for the first 2-3 days in the shade, but then have to run your generator each day after that, means that you are not getting much charge into your batteries when the generator is running.

Is your inverter/charger limited to 20 A output? Or is it capable of more (say 50 A), but your are only seeing 20A going into the battery? If it is capable of more, but you are not seeing it then there are a few low-cost things to try to boost the current getting into the battery.
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Old 10-13-2017, 02:28 PM   #11
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1. You can use AC with sufficient solar and battery bank. We can do such for 3.5 hours before going below 60% SOC (LFP battery bank).
2. Plan your campsite if possible to get full charge in sunlight by early afternoon and then have shade from trees/bushes in later afternoon. Can usually do this if boondocking/dispersed camping.
3. We purchased something called Aluminet which is a mesh that is 70% reflective but lets wind blow through so no heat buildup underneath. We got a 7' x 8' section to shade rear end of 5th wheel. It worked so well that we got a 7' x 12' section to shade whatever slideout is on South or West side of 5th wheel. Awning will shade right side of 5th wheel. The 7' x 12' section should shade our 19' Roadtrek quite well this winter on beach in Yucatan.
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Old 10-13-2017, 05:43 PM   #12
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1. You can use AC with sufficient solar and battery bank. We can do such for 3.5 hours before going below 60% SOC (LFP battery bank).
2. Plan your campsite if possible to get full charge in sunlight by early afternoon and then have shade from trees/bushes in later afternoon. Can usually do this if boondocking/dispersed camping.
3. We purchased something called Aluminet which is a mesh that is 70% reflective but lets wind blow through so no heat buildup underneath. We got a 7' x 8' section to shade rear end of 5th wheel. It worked so well that we got a 7' x 12' section to shade whatever slideout is on South or West side of 5th wheel. Awning will shade right side of 5th wheel. The 7' x 12' section should shade our 19' Roadtrek quite well this winter on beach in Yucatan.
Reed and Elaine
Do you have pics of that Aluminet set up? How are you securing it the RV?

Forget it. I found a pic on Google and it led me to a post of yours...

Aluminet sun shade
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Old 10-13-2017, 06:24 PM   #13
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Dan

That was just a kluge with Aluminet but it certainly cut down the temperature on the south end (rear) of the Roadtrek In Yucatan we back in so that rear end is facing south (Caribbean) so that drain outlet leftt side) is next to sewer trap, awning is on right (east) and small Aluminet is over the rear and large Aluminet is on left side. We shall see how it works.

The kluge was to take an 8' piece of PVC pipe laid behind the built in ladder at rear end and tie the Aluminet (it has grommets every 2' or so) to the PVC and then use bungie cord to tie to the rear cargo carrier. It worked much better than it looked

general plan with 19' Roadtrek is to connect to the two solar panels (315 W and 100 W - which requires two separate controllers) with bungie cords and then to stakes in the sand.

You would need something larger than 12' with a Newmar but they make them to order - or just use 3 x 12' sections.

Our best result is to go north and in higher elevations (7000'and above) in summer.

Reed and Elaine
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Old 10-13-2017, 06:27 PM   #14
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Dan

That was just a kluge with Aluminet but it certainly cut down the temperature on the south end (rear) of the Roadtrek In Yucatan we back in so that rear end is facing south (Caribbean) so that drain outlet leftt side) is next to sewer trap, awning is on right (east) and small Aluminet is over the rear and large Aluminet is on left side. We shall see how it works.

The kluge was to take an 8' piece of PVC pipe laid behind the built in ladder at rear end and tie the Aluminet (it has grommets every 2' or so) to the PVC and then use bungie cord to tie to the rear cargo carrier. It worked much better than it looked

Our best result is to go north and in higher elevations (7000'and above) in summer.

Reed and Elaine
Yeah, that's what we plan to do next summer. Rockies, here we come
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