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Old 05-18-2021, 09:51 AM   #1
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400 Watt Solar Option - Worth It?

We are in the final stretch and deciding on some details. For those that have the 4 / 100 watt solar panel option with controller, etc. Are you happy with the option? I don't think it's enough to power much more than a TV, but does it put out enough amps to keep the 6-volt batteries going when using the inverter for larger draws?

Pros / cons?

Thanks.
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Old 05-18-2021, 10:15 AM   #2
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You need 1000s of watts to keep up with an inverter under load.

A TV drawing 100 watts is fine, as long as the sun is shinning, but come afternoon and evening, the panel output drops way off to 0 at sundown.
That's when battery capacity comes into play. You need enough to get all of your stuff thru the 16 hours that solar doesn't produce, and then enough solar to replace what you used and cover your daytime loads in the 6 to 8 good solar hours.

I had 700 watts of solar, 800 AH of battery, in Florida, in winter, but no shading because we were on a boat.

It was much better in the summer but we moved every few days and charged them from the alternator and solar.

My residential fridge, TV, laptop, phone charger, and coffee maker all worked but just on the borderline. My batteries rairly saw 100% charge and two cloudy days meant starting the generator for 4 hours.

You need to do an energy audit to see what your energy consumsion is and the go from there.

I have 400 watts on my RV but when I dry camp, its not for more the to nights.
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Old 05-18-2021, 03:56 PM   #3
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We have the factory 400 watts. Since we store our rig outdoors (in Southern California) it works great to keep the batteries always topped off. As far as depending on it while boondocking, definitely not. I am glad we got it as the battery life will be extended I'm sure.
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Old 05-18-2021, 04:05 PM   #4
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We have the factory 400 watts. Since we store our rig outdoors (in Southern California) it works great to keep the batteries always topped off. As far as depending on it while boondocking, definitely not. I am glad we got it as the battery life will be extended I'm sure.
Thanks! Can you confirm that the flex panels are glued down and there aren't screws/bolts going into the roof?
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Old 05-18-2021, 06:37 PM   #5
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I can comment on the flex panels: don't do it! I put two on them on and could not keep charged up. I found out that one panel did not work at all (after 6 months) and the other one produced about 30%.

I recommend that you use glass panels. They are a pain to install correctly, but will pay off.

Renology has good panels and the Newpower from Amazon are good. We put in the Newpower 200 watt panels (2 of them). We used a good quality charge controller and it's good to go. I replaced one of the flex panels with the glass panels. The other flex is producing a little, so I left it in place, hooked up.

I like the molded corner brackets that Amazon sells. Glue them down and lay the panels in the sockets with a good layer of glue in them and you are good to go.

Sorry to rain on your parade, but the flex panels are a disappointment.

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Old 05-19-2021, 01:17 PM   #6
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I personally feel that 4-100 watt solar panels is a joke. They now make much higher output ones. I recently saw ones for sale that were 360 watts per panel. Not sure if they would work.on a RV but I know the new designed ones gets a lot more wattage from the same surface area. We are looking at after market installers.
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Old 05-19-2021, 04:51 PM   #7
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We have 4 100 watt panels on our coach installed by a previous owner about 6 years ago. In general I find it enough power for casual off grid camping 3-4 day at a time, though if I were to install a system from scratch I would want more. In general our panels keep up with LED lighting, furnace / roof vent fans and provide enough power to run the electronics (charge the tablets and phones, power my notebook computer for a few hours per day, and our smart TV for streaming a couple of hours each night. Though we do tend to also run the generator when cooking most days so we have use of the convection microwave, air fryer, etc.
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Old 05-19-2021, 07:11 PM   #8
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tomato,

if you just want a battery maintainer...and do not leave things running such as a residential fridge...400w would be okay. I would still look into the type of charge controller...as to wether or not the parameters are adjustable. Over time, you may opt to change batteries and have different requirements for the charging parameters. You can always swap out the charge controller if necessary.

I don't know if you are looking into a 8- battery bank, all-electric coach, or a coach with a blend of Propane appliances... so that makes a huge difference.

I recently had my coach inside a shop for windshield replacement. I let it run completely off battery power, with the fridge running. The 24 hr rundown took 379.5 aH of battery storage. I had a router, cellular internet, fridge, security cameras running. But no use of microwave, tv's etc... So if you had to replace 379.5 aH per 24 hr period...

379.5 * 13.3 = 5,047.35 watts.

5 hrs of good sun per day... 5047.35/5= 1009.47 watts

Factor for sun angle, heat coefficient... 1009.47/.80= 1261 watts...

So, I'm thinking if you want to do something as simple as running the inverter to power the fridge...you need more than 1,261 watts of solar. 400 watts isn't really going to do much in that scenario. Again...if you park the rig...with fully charged batteries...and turn off the energy hogs...the smaller array will still be a nice battery maintainer...but not really a generator of sufficient aH of power to actually keep up with the coaches systems.

If you had the ability to run the fridge and cooktop off propane...just used outlets to basically charge phones, laptops... and a few led lights...you could go with a smaller array. Today's all-electric coaches use some juice. Plus, we all tend to be more "connected" than in years past. I know we have GPS units, iPADs, phones, laptops, routers, wireless Printer...and even an Amazon Alexa... The TV, Stereo Amplifier, Lights, Water Pumps, fans, refrigerator, power to move awnings in and out, electric dump valves... I can go on and on...and the girl just eats some aHs...

if you really want to go solar... consider getting a battery monitor system installed first. You can use it to record the aH you use in actual use...on your specific setup with your patterns of use. Then you have the knowledge to know what your needs will be and size the system accordingly.
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Old 05-19-2021, 07:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomato View Post
We are in the final stretch and deciding on some details. For those that have the 4 / 100 watt solar panel option with controller, etc. Are you happy with the option? I don't think it's enough to power much more than a TV, but does it put out enough amps to keep the 6-volt batteries going when using the inverter for larger draws?

Pros / cons?

Thanks.
Unless things have changed, you could probably buy two quality systems for the price Newmar gets for one of theirs. We passed on their solar and did our own.
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Old 05-19-2021, 11:56 PM   #10
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Wow! We only had 300w solar on our '04 Dutch Star and granted we didn't have a res. frig and we used a propane heater rather than the furnace but we boondocked on public lands 95% of the time as full-timers with no problem without running the generator if in the sun... even the convection for short periods of heating up. We even stayed in Apgar c.g. in Glacier NP during a week of rain and only ran the gennie mid-week. It's a treed c.g. but we had an opening above the panels and just the open sky kept the charge up even through the rain. We're good at conserving power. One thing on another off. We got our panels in Quartzsite, AZ. Solar is awesome!
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Old 05-20-2021, 12:32 AM   #11
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Appreciate all the input. We are coming from a Momentum with a 2K inverter, 4 12-volts and only 1 100 watt ground panel to keep them charged. We did fine running the generator only short times each day when boondocking. We used TV's and fans primarily, and my espresso maker in the mornings.

However, this will be our first residential refrigerator...Can the 4 6-volts keep these going for at least 12-15 hours without solar or the generator? I am hoping so...
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Old 05-20-2021, 01:37 AM   #12
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We installed our 880AH battery bank and 1000w solar panels in 2014 when our Nevercold died and we replaced with a basic residential fridge freezer. At the same time we got rid of the tube TV's for flat screens.

We were advised at the time, that you should have a minimum of 600ah's if you are running a Res Fridge, so we wanted a bit of wiggle room, considering we can only draw down safely around 400ah's at a time.

We are rarely ever hooked up, being off grid 99%+ and never had a problem or needing to run generator. When winterised hubby has our rig plugged in by the house.

FWIW: Right now we have removed all our batteries and waiting replacement so lasted just over six half years, but on the initial install they boiled our batteries with a wrong setting/faulty midnight controller, albeit we still managed with them as long as we did.

Now anxiously awaiting in our area reasonably priced 6V GC2 in that 220ah range each for a series/parallel reconnect ourselves.
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Old 05-20-2021, 08:49 AM   #13
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We installed our 880AH battery bank and 1000w solar panels in 2014 when our Nevercold died and we replaced with a basic residential fridge freezer. At the same time we got rid of the tube TV's for flat screens.

We were advised at the time, that you should have a minimum of 600ah's if you are running a Res Fridge, so we wanted a bit of wiggle room, considering we can only draw down safely around 400ah's at a time.

We are rarely ever hooked up, being off grid 99%+ and never had a problem or needing to run generator. When winterised hubby has our rig plugged in by the house.

FWIW: Right now we have removed all our batteries and waiting replacement so lasted just over six half years, but on the initial install they boiled our batteries with a wrong setting/faulty midnight controller, albeit we still managed with them as long as we did.

Now anxiously awaiting in our area reasonably priced 6V GC2 in that 220ah range each for a series/parallel reconnect ourselves.
Appreciate it. I realized that I will have 6 of the GC batteries. I sure hope they can run the refrigerator for at least 12-15 hours between charges.
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Old 05-20-2021, 11:46 AM   #14
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You need to compare apples to apples......"Someday" is/was discussing a 2003 Southwind gasser, with probably one TV, no inverter and propane refer. Your new coach will have more power draw, just off all the computers, relays and light switches then their entire coach did. Your inverter will draw power, just idling. So when people tell you how well something works, you need to look at what they were powering versus what you're powering.
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