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Old 02-03-2016, 04:45 AM   #1
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How to best heat your class A coach with solar

I just purchased a Fleetwood Bounder with the purpose of adding a 960 watt solar collection system for boondocking in the western US. In the short time I have it nighttime temps have dropped to high 30s but rises to the 60s by late morning. I have a zone 1 system with floor vents running on propane and a zone 2 system with ceiling vents running on electric.

Propane is most effective at quickly raising the temperature but,since it is expensive I try to minimize using propane to heat. Space heaters seem to be power hogs. The coach's zone 2 electric heater seems the most power efficient.

When boondocking on solar, what is the most cost efficient means to heat the coach over the course of the day? I am looking for methods, strategies, and equipment that might use a combination of propane and electricity.
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Old 02-03-2016, 05:30 AM   #2
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960 watts works out to 8 amps at 120 volts AC. That's not a lot of energy for electric heat in any form.

You should be able to find the watts needed to run your intended heat source and go from there.

Unless you have diesel, I think propane is going to be your best source.

I found an increadabley low energy use, fan forced diesel heater that I installed in my boat. Wallas makes it.
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Old 02-03-2016, 05:42 AM   #3
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Howdy and welcome rguild!

If your zone 2 system is a heat pump(s), they will only be effective down to about 40 degrees (maybe a bit less). It is a different matter if they include a "heat strip" (that's what I've heard it called). In either case, they are electric hogs that a reasonably sized RV battery bank cannot realistically support.

Without getting too crazy, the best approach I have found is using the furnace (zone 1) turned down to about 40 degrees, a couple of thick down comforters on the bed, and one of the small propane radiant heaters (like a Mr Buddy) in the bedroom (with the door closed but with some ventilation (see all the normal warnings)). This worked pretty well for me in my old Pace Arrow.

My current coach is pretty well insulated and I have not bothered with the small propane heater. I just turn the furnace temp down (45 or so) and use the comforters. I've gotten a bit lazy, I think. I have not found the propane cost to be too significant (for me) and the solar system replaces the power consumed by the furnace blower.

There are probably some pretty interesting possibilities with solar water heating and whatever else but, in my opinion, the cost/complexity/maintenance of them is not worth it compared to the cost of propane. I'll be watching to see if someone has tried a more creative approach.
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Old 02-03-2016, 05:48 AM   #4
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I forgot about those twinboat, good idea. From what I recall, they are slightly larger that a loaf of bread. Might be an excellent possibility. Would be interesting to see a propane vs. diesel comparison (heat per dollar or something like that).
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Old 02-03-2016, 06:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rguild View Post
I just purchased a Fleetwood Bounder with the purpose of adding a 960 watt solar collection system for boondocking in the western US. In the short time I have it nighttime temps have dropped to high 30s but rises to the 60s by late morning. I have a zone 1 system with floor vents running on propane and a zone 2 system with ceiling vents running on electric.

Propane is most effective at quickly raising the temperature but,since it is expensive I try to minimize using propane to heat. Space heaters seem to be power hogs. The coach's zone 2 electric heater seems the most power efficient.
When boondocking on solar, what is the most cost efficient means to heat the coach over the course of the day? I am looking for methods, strategies, and equipment that might use a combination of propane and electricity.
rguild
Very few RV, (if any), RV solar collection systems will provide enough power to run electric heat of any kind for very long without killing the batteries.

When boondocking on solar, (with no shore or generator 120VAC power), I suggest you only use the coaches propane or diesel fueled heating system or a propane fueled Buddy Heater heater to heat the coach.

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Old 02-03-2016, 06:15 AM   #6
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I installed it in 2010 after hitting 34 degree temps in Daytona FL in 09.

I did all of the research while recovering from double knee replacement. Although not cheap it worked out as the best choice for fuel and battery usage.

They make wall mount diesel units without a fan but I needed to heat 3 areas.

The wall mounted units can run off a portable tank so it could still be a possibility on a gas MH.
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Old 02-03-2016, 06:51 AM   #7
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IMHO- large capacity RV solar systems are installed for silence and convenience, etc. Probably rarely installed because it's cost effective. The most cost effective way to heat/cool an RV seems to be to follow the sun so to speak.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:51 AM   #8
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when off grid, and need a quick temp lift, i normally start genny and turn on a space heater ($40 at costco). the genny consumes about 1/2 gal an hour (per some reports). at today's fuel prices, it's about $1 for every hour. i consider it's efficient.

the second choice is hurricane furnace (aqua-hot). it's slow to warm up initially but it does send out a lot of heat once it's up running. if you are in freezing temp, you will need it. the down side is - it uses battery to run the fans pushing heat out, if you leave it on over night, your battery might get very low.

though i have a big battery pack (700ah li with 1200w solar) i don't use it for direct heating.
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Old 02-03-2016, 10:21 AM   #9
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Your 960 watts of solar is nothing more than a battery charger. It is not practical to try and run anything directly off the solar panels. The key to a good solar system is the battery bank. To maximize your 960 watts of solar, you would need around 800 amp hours of battery capacity, which would give you about 400 amp hours usable. The drawback to this sized system is it would be pretty pricey. A better solution from my perspective is to have a smaller solar system, but use propane with a Buddy Heater, or similar propane heater to heat your RV.
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Old 02-03-2016, 10:48 AM   #10
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Look at this link

http://www.irv2.com/forums/f84/suppl...at-103110.html

It talks about building solar collectors for heat....not electricity
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Old 02-03-2016, 04:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
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I just purchased a Fleetwood Bounder with the purpose of adding a 960 watt solar collection system for boondocking in the western US. In the short time I have it nighttime temps have dropped to high 30s but rises to the 60s by late morning. I have a zone 1 system with floor vents running on propane and a zone 2 system with ceiling vents running on electric.

Propane is most effective at quickly raising the temperature but,since it is expensive I try to minimize using propane to heat. Space heaters seem to be power hogs. The coach's zone 2 electric heater seems the most power efficient.

When boondocking on solar, what is the most cost efficient means to heat the coach over the course of the day? I am looking for methods, strategies, and equipment that might use a combination of propane and electricity.
We camp in those kinds of temperatures quite often and I find the best way to heat it up in the morning is to start the generator and take the nip out of the air with the furnace and sometimes I even fire up my Mr Buddy at the same time. After a few minutes I shut everything down and keep the Buddy heater on low if needed but usually shut all heat sources off and enjoy the weather. On low heat the Buddy heater will run around 6 hours and that can last me a couple of days easily. That is economical in my estimation. Not sure why you need 960 watts of panels up there unless like others have stated you have a huge bank of batteries.
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Old 02-03-2016, 05:28 PM   #12
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A heater pulling power from a battery will deplete a bank very quickly. Plus you'll need a very large invertor to power anything that will give meaningful heat. Probably you most energy efficient way to add heat might be to run the generator which isn't always a desirable option.

For now use the propane until you can install something better as suggested but drop the temp down as low as you dare, but not off, and use an electric blanket running off a small invertor. Very effective heat at night and the queen size blanket I have is rated at 135 watts each side and that's if I'm running it on MAX. Dial it down and the energy demand will naturally drop.

Additionally cover the coach windows and ceiling vents with reflective insulation and bring the slides in. Windows are a big heat lose source and the reflective insulation will make a big difference. Closing the slides will help with a small air volume to heat and will give a better seal.
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Old 02-04-2016, 07:11 AM   #13
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...I find the best way to heat it up in the morning is to start the generator and take the nip out of the air with the furnace..
Why do you start the generator to run the furnace?
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Old 02-04-2016, 08:35 AM   #14
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If you want to camp in sub-freezing weather, the main consideration will become keeping under-floor water lines and valves from freezing.
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