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Old 12-31-2019, 11:37 AM   #1
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Solar vs Generator

Solar has been around for awhile now, what are the thoughts on full solar vs additional generator, vs generator alone. Thanks for the input.
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Old 12-31-2019, 11:46 AM   #2
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Solar vs Generator

I use solar every trip we donít have hookups. A 80w panel has no problem keeping the batteries charged.
I use a generator only when we need AC or to run the microwave. I can count on one hand the number of times Iíve used it over the last 5 years. And even those times it wasnít really a necessity.

I have 2x 6v batteries.
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Old 12-31-2019, 11:52 AM   #3
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Solar is great for charging your house batteries. It can make boondocking more pleasant and capable. But it's not a replacement for a generator for running AC and large loads like long microwaving sessions, etc.

Sure, with 1200w of solar, 3000w of inverter and 600aH of LiPo batteries you can do most everything without the need for a generator. But it's still more or less not for running Air Conditioning more than an hour or two here than there.

You can count on spending ~$10,000 for the above set up. OR you can buy a 3,000w Honda Generator with electric start for 1/3rd that amount and none of the limitations.

Best for Travel Trailer use is both - a decent battery bank, 300w to 500w of solar and a 2,000w inverter for cool weather that doesn't need AC - AND a portable or built in genset for warmer weather situations.
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Old 12-31-2019, 12:17 PM   #4
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If a person is not going to dry camp or doesn't pend more than a couple of nights in one location, there is really no reason to get solar except to say you have solar.

By far, my largest percentage of camping is dry dock, boondocking. I have less than $500 into what was originally 200 watts(I lost 50 watts to a broken panel) of solar with a decent temperature compensating controller, fifty feet of extension cables, el cheapo battery monitors, chain, and locks.

My needs are modest. If you want to leave an inverter fired up and/or have a residential fridge, demand goes way up. Getting a battery monitor to measure actual usage before investing in solar will make it a lot easier to figure out all of the variables. Unless it's really cold out we generally use about 20-25 AHs/day.

Using solar when dry camping for than a day or two per location is a wonderful thing.
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Old 12-31-2019, 02:06 PM   #5
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I feel solar is a great supplement to a generator, but is rarely a complete replacement, at least for anyone that is not a true minimalist. Though as mentioned above the need for solar really depends on how much off grid camping one does. I have 400 watts of solar on the roof of my 28 ft class A, therefore when dry camping under reasonably sunny conditions I will only need to start my generator when I need to run the microwave, or the air conditioner. Unfortunately, reasonably sunny conditions and cool enough weather to not need air conditioning is not as common as I might like. So the reality of the matter is that solar tends to reduce the number of hours the generator needs to run per day, and not completely eliminate it.
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Old 12-31-2019, 02:22 PM   #6
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If I don't need air conditioning, I don't need to run my generator. Everything runs off batteries which are charged by solar panels
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Old 12-31-2019, 02:45 PM   #7
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Common thread here, that's OK.

The bottom line answer depends on how and where you use your RV. If you stay mostly in full hookup sites there's very little need for solar. In you dry camp in warmer weather you likely need to run the A/C which in most cases requires the genset. There are notable exceptions. Also depends if the RV is a MH or a trailer in that MH house batteries will recharge well from the alternator while driving, not so good with trailers. So again depends on use, move frequently or stay put for longer times.

In our case we have two RVs, a 5th and a MH. We use them differently. The 5th is setup well for long extended boondock camping while the MH is used more for full hookup camping with one to three nights of Wallydocking in route somewhere. The 5th has 1050 watts of solar and 460 AHr of LA batteries. I rarely see the batteries drop below 88% (on a Trimetric 2030 monitor) and are back to 100% by 10am nearly always. I have a genset on both RVs. On the 5th the genset was used for only 20.4 hrs on a four month trip, mostly for the microwave. Neither RV has an inverter, we have no need for one. Most of the places we camp the A/C is not required, our 12v fans do almost everything we need. In reality we run the furnace far more than the A/C.

Some folks will tell you that you have to have full sun to use solar. For some installs I suspect that is true. I designed our to work with low sun angles and in shading conditions. Before someone shouts no way, please keep in mind multiple companies are marketing bifacial, or double sided solar panels, top and bottom are collectors. For sure the bottom does not get full sun.

I may add a smaller solar system on the MH just to allow greater flexibility. The total solar/battery upgrade on the 5th cost me about $2k doing the design and work myself. The solar has provided 100% of our 12v power for four years. The converters are turned off at the breakers. Got to admit that I really do not enjoy the sound or smell of a genset running. Some people don't mind or even enjoy it, that's fine for them.

I would not recommend a solar setup without first doing a careful review of your camping style and power requirements. If you just want solar for whatever reason, then go for it.
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Old 12-31-2019, 04:03 PM   #8
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Being in Oregon we have our choice of many places to camp. If it's going to be real hot we'll find a place with elec so we can run the AC. When we boondock we only have a 2000W gen so running the AC is not something we do. Mostly because I don't want to be that guy that has everyone listening to my gen running maxed out while I'm sitting inside the RV. A larger 3500+W gen should run quieter.
We have 400W of solar 4 6V GC batteries that run everything except the AC. That works for us in Oregon.
Summers rarely have extended days of 90+ degree's and nights in the mountains cool off fast enough so we just use the Maxair fans.
This is the 1st year we've had our TT with 400W of solar and never used the gen once.
Before on our 5th wheel without solar we needed to run the gen everyday for a few hours to top off the 4 6V GC batteries.
If you live where you need AC then a gen is the only way to go.
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Old 12-31-2019, 04:27 PM   #9
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The thing is not all of us live in places like Oregon, by comparison here in Louisiana it can be 90 F degrees and 90% humidity at 3 am in August.
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Old 12-31-2019, 04:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
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The thing is not all of us live in places like Oregon, by comparison here in Louisiana it can be 90 F degrees and 90% humidity at 3 am in August.
I feel for you folks there. Around here I've seen snow in the highest elevations in August. Just different kids of places. I've camped in 6" of new snow twice on July 4th.

I agree that most everyone in the southern states need A/C most of the time in the summer.
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Old 12-31-2019, 05:06 PM   #11
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Solar has been around for awhile now, what are the thoughts on full solar vs additional generator, vs generator alone. Thanks for the input.
How about neither!

It kinds of defeats the purpose of getting away from it all it your try to take it all with you.

Spent a lot simple times in 2 TT and a sailboat. Never had a generator.

After retiring set off in a new to us MH. The Onan did not work. A few months I realized that boodnocking in winter required a generator to charge batteries so I got a $88 Harbor Freight.

Five years later still full time but in a little bigger MH. Charging batteries with the Onan takes about an hour a day. The Onan will also run both air conditioners.

If I need to run the AC for very long then I am going to plug into the grid.

The best I can tell from reading these discussions is that solar is about telling people you have solar like putting HP of your engine while neglecting to mention the cost.
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Old 12-31-2019, 05:22 PM   #12
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The thing is not all of us live in places like Oregon, by comparison here in Louisiana it can be 90 F degrees and 90% humidity at 3 am in August.
Totally understand. And that was the point I was trying to make. Depending on where you live will determine what you need. In your shoes I'd 100% opt for a nice 3500+W gen with remote start.
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Old 01-01-2020, 08:40 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the feedback!
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Old 01-01-2020, 11:12 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the feedback!
We are out all year in temps from 100F to 0F

At frist we had 440 Ah of batteries and a Honda 2000 that would run for +\- 90 hours a year.

We then added an inverter, fixed & portable solar and 900Ah FLA. The system provides 80 more hours of peace and quiet evey year which for us an people we camp with is worth many times more than what the system cost.
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