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Old 08-13-2022, 02:32 PM   #1
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Question Want to Add solar

I have a Forest River Cherokee Arctic Wolf 271RK Fifth wheel trailer with a Furrion 10 CU 12 volt fridge. We like to camp off grid sometimes for 3 or 4 days. I am thinking that a 400 watt solar system would keep the fridge cold on Sunny days. I have a 2000 watt Inverter generator for cloudy or rainy days. The fridge draws 11 amps according to the specs which is 132 watts would a 400 watt array with a MPPT controller be enough. What type system do you have? I'm thinking maybe 2 ea Lifpo4 100 amp hour batteries. My trailer has the 50 watt juicer to trickle charge the Lead acid batteries. We do not dry camp that often so am trying to hold down the cost. Any suggestions would be appreciated. We do travel long distance sometimes.
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Old 08-13-2022, 02:57 PM   #2
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Hi Mel,
If it’s helps at all, you can extrapolate from my setup maybe. I have a Dometic 12v compressor fridge, a single 170ah LiFePo4, and one 110w flexible folding solar panel connected through the sidewall to a 75/15 mppt controller. We’ve been rolling with this setup for about 12,000 miles and 18 months. So, we’ve got pretty accurate observed data.

The fridge, nominally draws 50ah per day; up to 10ah more on very hot days, and up to 10ah less on cool days. When boondocking, we offload most 12vdc chores (cpap, phones, tablet) to a small powerstation. This allows us to pretty much dedicate the house batt to the fridge. With no sun and no generator, we have boondocked for 3 days. With good sun, our portable panel will produce about 25-30 amps per day, allowing us to boondock for an additional day. So, IMO, if you have a compressor fridge and want to boondock for longer than 3 days without using generator, you’ll need at least 200w of solar (400 would be better), and 200ah of LiFePo4.

We’re planning to add 360w of rooftop solar this year, which should allow us to boondock without generator, limited only by our waste tanks.
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Old 08-13-2022, 02:58 PM   #3
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The Montana has 265 watts of solar, 2000 watt inverter and 2-100 AH 12v lead acid (plan to upgrade type and AH) batteries. The motorhome has 570 watts of solar, 1200 watt inverter (plan to upgrade to 3000 watts) and 2-224 AH 12v AGM batteries.

Good plan to go with LiFePo4 batteries.

To determine how much battery capacity and watts of solar you need suggest a camping test:

Step 1: Boondock camp as you normally would and don't use your generator.
Step 2: Use your voltmeter or a battery monitor to keep track of your battery level. Then determine how much battery AH capacity you need.
Step 3: Do the math to determine how much power you typically consume in a day. Let's say after two days, your 200 amp-hour lead-acid batteries are at 50%. This means you used 100 amp-hours in two days or 50 amp-hours a day.
Step 4: Do the math as discussed in ths article: https://www.etrailer.com/faq-how-muc...-power-rv.aspx
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Old 08-13-2022, 03:18 PM   #4
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Depends. Where you camp, when you camp, fridge duty cycle, efficiency, etc. But, in round numbers, 400W of flat mounted solar without shade will generate about 800 Watthours per day on average in Utah in December. About three times that in July. Less along the California or Oregon coast. Less with morning or afternoon shade, etc.

Portable panels kept facing the sun would add 30% or more to the Watthours

The fridge has a sizeable compressor or two compressors (fridge and freezer) as it draws over twice the power my 9.1 cu ft 12V fridge does. I'd guess it runs a lower duty cycle than is typical. Typical is around 50% in a 70F ambient and near 100% in a 100F ambient. Hopefully yours is more like 30 and 60% duty cycle (percent of time compressor runs) respectively. Maybe a bit more depending on efficiency (insulation), whether it has a second compressor for the freezer, how cold you run the freezer, whether it has self-defrost, etc. Without more information, it's probably best to assume 40% and 80%.

At 80% duty cycle the fridge will require that 132 Watts for 24 x 0.8 or 19 hours. That would be 2500 Watt hours. Or 1200 Watt hours at a 40% duty cycle.

If you camp in summer, flat roof-mounted solar will produce about 2400 Watt hours in a good location and on a sunny day .. in Utah and many other places. The fridge will also run a higher duty cycle in summer.

So, without more detail on where and when camping and the fridge's efficiency and such. 400W is in the ball park. In other cases I've arrived at 400W.

In summer, you'll have enough sun to run the fridge directly from solar while also charging the battery. Assuming 14 hours without solar overnight you'll need 14 x 0.8 x 132 or about 1500 Watthours from the battery on a warm night. 200 Ah of lithium battery discharged to about 30% will give you 140 amphours or about 1800 Watthours. So the 200 Ah of battery is also in the ball park, but if my above guestimates are correct, won't leave much for other uses.

I would upsize the solar controller and arrange the panels for possible future expansion. I'd also arrange the batteries to make room for a third one in the future. Solar is addicting as is peace and quite (no generator running).
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Old 08-14-2022, 05:42 AM   #5
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the solar panels sitting flat you will only see about 60% of the total watts of the panels. I would suggest you get a Victron smart solar dc charger with Lithium battery bank, Lead Acid will not last and dont like high charge rates. I have 1920 watts on the roof and see roughtly 1200 watts going to the chargers. With Victron Mppt chargers you can over panel and not have a problem but in my opinion your better off over building the system upfront so it runs cooler and lasts longer. Dirty panels, shading from trees or cloud cover are big factors on how well it will perform. Everything in my system is victron energy and its very well built, we had a lightning strike in the back yard where its parked and it tripped the main on the camper, the breaker on the camper outlet from the house with no damage to the victron system or the camper.
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Old 08-14-2022, 11:25 AM   #6
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My Big Question now is

Should I go series or parallel on the panels. Our areas for dry camping is Utah, Arizona, and Texas. We live in Utah and go to Arizona and Texas a couple of times a year. We only dry camp for 2 or 3 days at a time. Since the Lead acid batteries are brand new I will use them until they are shot. Cost is another factor and I don't know if the wfco converter will handle Lifepo4 batteries, so that would be another expense. Most of the time we will have shore power except when traveling and the few times that we dry camp.
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Old 08-14-2022, 04:52 PM   #7
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Should I go series or parallel on the panels. Our areas for dry camping is Utah, Arizona, and Texas. We live in Utah and go to Arizona and Texas a couple of times a year. We only dry camp for 2 or 3 days at a time. Since the Lead acid batteries are brand new I will use them until they are shot. Cost is another factor and I don't know if the wfco converter will handle Lifepo4 batteries, so that would be another expense. Most of the time we will have shore power except when traveling and the few times that we dry camp.
Mel
Series versus parallel depends . I'd guess you will get something like the 200W Rich Solar panels (link below). ((don't pay any attention to the "12V" or "24V" designation .. not relevant)) In parallel their voltage is usable but a bit on the low side for good MPPT action (to eke out the most power early in the morning and later in the afternoon). In series they provide more MPPT headroom so allow a bit more power to be extracted via MPPT.

If it were me I'd go two 200W panels in series and add two more series panels in parallel with those if the itch for more solar arises down the road.

If you are sure you won't expand, a 75/30 controller (max 75 volts input, max 30 amps output) would be ideal. If a future upgrade might occur, you'll want a 75/50 or 75/60 MPPT controller. A 50 amp one would clip the output for an hour around noon on days when the solar production is high and you could use the power but would only cost a couple of percent Amphours via clipping over the summer. A 60 would work well and wouldn't be pushed as hard on those late June and July noon hours. Or you could add a second 75/30 MPPT controller later and pull new wires from the second pair of panels to that controller. A larger controller would not require more wire to the roof for the second pair of panels if you run #10 solar wire for the first pair. If you look for UV protected "solar" wire you'll find mostly #10.

Some of the latest WFCO converters have a lithium setting. The ones that don't tend to be problematic with LiFePO4. Mine would not engage the bulk stage, I think because the higher voltage of LiFePO4 batteries does not dip low enough to signal a need for the bulk stage. YMMV so you might want to see what happens with your WFCO if it does not have LiFePO4 capability. If you have a good battery monitor, you'll find out quickly whether the WFCO is doing an adequate job. It won't hurt the LiFePO4 batteries, but might not top them off ..... you'll want them at 100% going into a 2 or 3 off-grid stay in case the solar does not keep up.

https://www.amazon.com/RICH-SOLAR-Mo...7-93deae8f9840
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Old 08-14-2022, 06:05 PM   #8
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Should I go series or parallel on the panels. Our areas for dry camping is Utah, Arizona, and Texas. We live in Utah and go to Arizona and Texas a couple of times a year. We only dry camp for 2 or 3 days at a time. Since the Lead acid batteries are brand new I will use them until they are shot. Cost is another factor and I don't know if the wfco converter will handle Lifepo4 batteries, so that would be another expense. Most of the time we will have shore power except when traveling and the few times that we dry camp.
Mel
Mel , I would get a victron 75/50 solar smart charge controler . You can program it for your current lead battery and future expansion projects. I would get two 12 volt panels and put them in series OR Two 24 volt panels in parrel . Keep in mind you need 5 volts higher then the battery voltage from the panels to get the charger started and from that point it can be one volt higher then the battery once it turned on . So really 2 panels in series should have your open voltage around 34 volts from the panels to the charger. I have Newpawa panels and there are many good ones available for around $1.15 per watt. Just make sure they have internal diodes. I went with 26" wide panels so I could fit 3 wide front to back.
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Old 08-15-2022, 02:23 PM   #9
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This is what I propose for a system

Thanks everyone for the info and support. This is what I propose to do at this time.
I am thinking that since we only travel long distances a couple of times a year during the summer, and only dry camp for 2 or 3 days at a time, I feel that a 400 watt system would suffice. I can get a 400 watt system with 40 amp MPPT controller and 4 100 watt panels for $550 Includes cables. Since my batteries are new 12v deep cycle lead acid. I would keep them for the time being. I would hook the panels in series. Not sure if the WFCO Converter will support Lifepo4 batteries, but since I'll be using a MPPT controler I would let the solar top off the other 10% for the batteries if I decide to go Lifepo4 batteries. which would be another cost prohibitive expense at this time. So I think I will go with this setup for now and keep the new lead acid batteries and see how it works out.
Mel
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Old 08-16-2022, 03:17 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone for the info and support. This is what I propose to do at this time.
I am thinking that since we only travel long distances a couple of times a year during the summer, and only dry camp for 2 or 3 days at a time, I feel that a 400 watt system would suffice. I can get a 400 watt system with 40 amp MPPT controller and 4 100 watt panels for $550 Includes cables. Since my batteries are new 12v deep cycle lead acid. I would keep them for the time being. I would hook the panels in series. Not sure if the WFCO Converter will support Lifepo4 batteries, but since I'll be using a MPPT controler I would let the solar top off the other 10% for the batteries if I decide to go Lifepo4 batteries. which would be another cost prohibitive expense at this time. So I think I will go with this setup for now and keep the new lead acid batteries and see how it works out.
Mel
That sounds perfectly reasonable.
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Old 09-06-2022, 07:17 PM   #11
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solar update

Well I got the system installed last week and all is working good so far. I pulled the plug on the shore power and am running off of the solar. still using the lead acid batteries for now untill I can afford the Lifepro4's. This is what I'm doing for a test. I went with the series parallel and so far it is working fine. 37 volts and 16 amps. I pulled the plug on the shore power and will see how it holds up with the lead acid bateries and the 12 volt fridge. I loaded the fridge with Bottles of water and froze a couple of small water buckets for the freezer. Got digital thermometer freezer is 0 deg F and the fridge is 38 deg F will see how it holds up Batteries went to 12.4 volts last night almost 50 percent. Came right up this morning will see how long it will go without shore power. I open the fridge several times a day and turn on a few lights day and night to simulate dry camping. The days are hot and sunny with mostly clear skies. 100 plus deg F.
Mel
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