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Old 11-08-2015, 09:14 AM   #1
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Which solar panels for boondocking?

We've been living off the grid on solar power for over 8 years and have put together some notes about what we've learned about solar panels from the different solar power installations we've done.

There are a lot of different kinds of solar panels on the market, different ways to wire them and different sizing options. Each installation is different, so I'm hoping this info will help anyone that is trying to figure out what will work best for them.

Off Grid Solar Panels: Flexible or Rigid? 12 or 24 volt? Mono- or Polycrystalline?

I hope this is helpful!
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Old 11-08-2015, 10:10 AM   #2
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We've been living off the grid with solar for 9 years. This is some great information, and a real value to those thinking about the plunge.
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Old 11-08-2015, 10:51 AM   #3
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A very good write up. Will benefit both new and long time solar users.
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Old 11-09-2015, 07:17 AM   #4
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Thank you, Simon and John. The freedom that solar gives you is so great, but it can be intimidating to sort out what will work best. I hope this info helps and gets people inspired!!
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Old 11-09-2015, 07:23 AM   #5
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Thanks for the excellent article! I plan to install a couple hundred watts and a second battery to our small 23' TT and found your article very informative and it has several links that will be helpful. My wife and I are what you called Weekend/Vacation RV'ers, but since we are retired we take lots of them. LOL. Do you have any opinion about the Renogy 200 watt kit?
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Old 11-09-2015, 09:21 AM   #6
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Excellent article. Strongly suggest running at higher voltages. We have 1400 W of solar on 5th wheel. This is two sets of 3 x 235 W (30 V) panels in series which are then set in parallel to provide 1400 W (in high summer) at 90 V. This is only 15.5 amps which leads to lower power loss, smaller cabling, and a much smaller and less expensive MPPT controller. This is only 15.5 amps at 90 V but would be 116 amps at 12 V. Our battery suite is a nominal 48 V so amperage from MPPT is 29 amps. Our TriStar MPPT-45 handles this nicely. Solar autonomy makes for an enjoyable lifestyle. We have tied into line power one day in last two and a half years and have not had to use generator at all.
Reed and Elaine
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Old 11-09-2015, 02:07 PM   #7
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Very informative. Really like this article thank you
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Old 11-10-2015, 07:01 AM   #8
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Parkerbill - We loved our 27' travel trailer and had solar on it too. Weekend/vacation is such a fun way to go. The Renogy 200 watt kit looks to have all the pieces, including the branch connectors for a parallel installation (if this is the kit you mean). The only other piece you'll want is an inverter of some kind so you can run your small AC appliances.

Reed - What a fabulous system that can do it all. Great installation!

Thornhammer - Thanks for reading!!
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Old 11-10-2015, 07:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by parkerbill View Post
Thanks for the excellent article! I plan to install a couple hundred watts and a second battery to our small 23' TT and found your article very informative and it has several links that will be helpful. My wife and I are what you called Weekend/Vacation RV'ers, but since we are retired we take lots of them. LOL. Do you have any opinion about the Renogy 200 watt kit?
Parkerbill, there are several Renogy 200w kits. The one linked above doesn't have the z-mounts. I noticed a new kit with a "Wanderer" controller that is 4-stage and I would go for that one.
I actually pieced most of the kit together myself with Renogy panels, but wanted to be sure I got the ViewStar 30A PWM controller as it is a 4-stage. It all cost a little over $400 and is working great. I ran the cables down the gray tank vent into the basement from the roof. I have the option of adding 2 more 100w panels.
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Old 11-10-2015, 09:25 AM   #10
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Parkerbill - We loved our 27' travel trailer and had solar on it too. Weekend/vacation is such a fun way to go. The Renogy 200 watt kit looks to have all the pieces, including the branch connectors for a parallel installation (if this is the kit you mean). The only other piece you'll want is an inverter of some kind so you can run your small AC appliances.

Thank you for the reply. I've already installed an 1,100 W inverter. Again, thank you.
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Old 11-10-2015, 09:26 AM   #11
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Parkerbill, there are several Renogy 200w kits. The one linked above doesn't have the z-mounts. I noticed a new kit with a "Wanderer" controller that is 4-stage and I would go for that one.
I actually pieced most of the kit together myself with Renogy panels, but wanted to be sure I got the ViewStar 30A PWM controller as it is a 4-stage. It all cost a little over $400 and is working great. I ran the cables down the gray tank vent into the basement from the roof. I have the option of adding 2 more 100w panels.

Thank you. I agree about the kit with the better controller.
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Old 11-10-2015, 10:05 AM   #12
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Son did installation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Groovy View Post
Parkerbill - We loved our 27' travel trailer and had solar on it too. Weekend/vacation is such a fun way to go. The Renogy 200 watt kit looks to have all the pieces, including the branch connectors for a parallel installation (if this is the kit you mean). The only other piece you'll want is an inverter of some kind so you can run your small AC appliances.

Reed - What a fabulous system that can do it all. Great installation!

Thornhammer - Thanks for reading!!
Our system was not a DYI. Older son is in solar and he did design and then he and grandson did fabrication - with me getting in the way. This was done as family project and we wound up only paying for components at contractor rates.
Reed and Elaine
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Old 11-11-2015, 10:31 AM   #13
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Reed - I remember reading about your solar installation on this forum in the past and how during your Mexico travels it could power your air conditioning for about 2.5 hours. Amazing!

Parkerbill and SkiSmuggs - Kits are great for getting lots of goodies in a bundle, but not many kits include the most popular solar charge controllers from Morningstar and Outback. We've had great luck with both of those brands...
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Old 11-11-2015, 12:42 PM   #14
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Air conditioning

We have a Dometic power hog AC. We are "Goldilockers" as in "not to hot and not to cold, just right!" So we go north-south and/or up-down in elevation. Otherwise, we would dump Dometic and install/have installed a split-level air conditioner in main cabin and another in bed room. Dometic draws over 1700 W and split-levels around 400 to 700 each. This would also permit another 700 W of solar once that Donetic were removed. It would shade panels put to rear of fifth wheel. A bit of conundrum: 700 W more solar would provide almost 100% of air conditioning but current solar is sufficient for running two split-levels; ergo, shall continue with current set up.

We should be on way back to Yucatan in three weeks. Electrical power can go from 80 to 140 V so electronics can be permanently damaged at place we shall hopefully spend on beach near Tulum.

May regretfully use line power if we have overcast and hot days in Yucatan. Son installed 1500 W of battery chargers (110 AC to 48 DC). Battery charger and battery suite handle varying voltage far better than electronics. Burned out micro-waves in both Baja and Mexico through running AC directly. Write earlier posts that we have tossed 50 amp and the 30 amp cords and now just have a 15 amp extension cord to use as required
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