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Old 12-20-2019, 12:24 PM   #1
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New guy needs basic info on solar panel(s)

I'd written a long post with many questions previously and it was suggested to break it up into many individual posts. I'll start doing that here. I've decided to target mid-2000's era Winnebago Vectra / Itasca Horizon 40KD coach with a Cummins 400HP engine for purchase. All questions are related to that model.

I have it narrowed down to two individual units. I'll probably pull the trigger on one or the other after the holidays.






-I see some coaches with solar power units on the roof. What are they used for? Battery charging, running some electronics in the coach, etc? Are they needed and worth it? I don't want to reinvent the wheel here or be able to power Las Vegas, just do what is typically thought of as necessary. What am I looking for? Brand, size and cost?
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Old 12-20-2019, 12:38 PM   #2
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It's fairly obvious, solar panels on the roof of the RV provide charging for large house battery banks on the RV. 99% of the time these installations include inverters to turn DC current from the battery bank into 110v AC current for AC appliances: TVs, SAT receivers, Induction cook tops, Microwaves, coffee makers, hair dryers and in some rare instances Air Conditioning.

Solar panels are connected to Solar Charge Controllers that are connected directly to battery banks. The charge controller handles all battery charging from the panels - not the rest of the coach.

Inverters can and do many times include sophisticated battery chargers and these replace the need for a DC Converter/Charger that comes on most TT and Motorhomes.

Modest solar installations 300 to 600w are pretty cost effective IF you handle the purchase and install by yourself. Hiring this out to others will double the cost of the system. But panels are just a small part of the cost - you'll need panels, solar controller, inverter and increased battery capacity (plus wiring, monitoring, etc)

The is a HUGE individual subject - there are hundreds of threads, blogs, websites and YouTube videos on the subject. You can't expect to learn about this without diving into the entire subject from all of the sources mentioned above.
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Old 12-20-2019, 12:47 PM   #3
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If you are not going to boondock quite a bit solar is pretty much not needed. I boondock about 80-90% of the time. I have solar and really like it. My electric budget is only about 20-25 amp hours per day unless really cold(Roadtrek class B). If you are going to boondock quite a bit get a battery monitor and figure out an electrical budget(AH's per day) before diving in.

Some "light" reading although some info is getting a bit dated:

https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/...ging-puzzle-2/
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Old 12-20-2019, 12:59 PM   #4
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….-I see some coaches with solar power units on the roof. What are they used for? Battery charging, running some electronics in the coach, etc? Are they needed and worth it? I don't want to reinvent the wheel here or be able to power Las Vegas, just do what is typically thought of as necessary. What am I looking for? Brand, size and cost?
Read all of this and if you still have any questions someone a lot smarter than my should be able to answer them.
https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/
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Old 12-20-2019, 01:03 PM   #5
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-I see some coaches with solar power units on the roof. What are they used for? Battery charging, ....
The main purpose of solar is to tell people you have solar. Like when people tell you how much horse power they have.

My coach came with a factory installed 40 watt panel to maintain batteries when the coach is not being used.

Since I am full time that feature has only been used for 7 days.

My point is the benefit of solar depends on how you use your MH.

It is not practical to run air conditioning on batteries so you will still need a generator.

If you dry camp for more than a day you will need to run the generator to charge batteries. I run mine about an hour a day. Solar would save me about $2/day.
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Old 12-20-2019, 02:59 PM   #6
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The main purpose of solar is to tell people you have solar. Like when people tell you how much horse power they have.
That's the funniest thing I have heard today.
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Old 12-21-2019, 06:54 PM   #7
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That's the funniest thing I have heard today.
And true. Would help if we knew how you’re going to use the MH...Full Time, dry camping often then a DIY solar system might have a payback. I did a 900W solar for $1200 (includes a $500 mppt controller). We are half timers but only dry camp in the summer so my payback is probably 20+ years... the $1 savings/day in reduced generator time and a max of 60 days/summer without hookups = 20 years.

IF you are going to boondock all winter long (no need for AC/generator) you can park in the sun maximizing the solar. During the summer you are better off parking in the shade so you do not need AC which reduces value of the solar.

PS: get rid of the NorCold.
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Old 12-22-2019, 03:45 PM   #8
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I got a chuckle from followingsea first observation on solar... My thoughts on Solar, and why we have it:

- We consider our coach our emergency prep'd vehicle for the extended family. While in storage, it is always fully Fuel and Water topped off, Waste Tanks Dumped, medication for four family members, canned and dry food stock and fridge on 7/24 with some frozen items and other non perishable items, etc. (We have Earthquakes and Wild Fires and Strong Winds in Southern California. Yes, we can and probably will at times, run the generator. But it's a comfortable feeling knowing that we have a reasonable preparedness for the family. The larger battery bank and solar, give us and edge for sure (Smoke from fires, could obviously hinder the solar output - but then again, if the smoke gets that bad (And it has...) - we would relocate to a better safe position.)

-Boon Docking. We do Boon Dock, not as often as we used to, but still enjoy the quietness by the bulk of the time not needing to run the generator. Wildlife observation is enhanced via this quietness.

-In the future, when the 800AH's of Lifeline need replacing, we will shift to Lithium. At that time, one of our two AC's will be set up to run off the Inverter, and I'll size our bank accordingly. Nope, not for 7/24 usage, but enough to cool off the coach before going to bed. I have some headroom remaining on our MidNite Classic 150, and will bump up our current 1250W at the same time we switch to Lithium's.

I do agree that Solar Panels may not be needed for everyone. But they sure do provide additional opportunities of how to use a coach.

OP - Good luck on your hunt. I'd personally go for the coach that you feel best meets your needs, even if it does not have current solar... Getting a used coach is always 'fun', and condition, condition, condition is a primary part choosing an RV... It would get the nod over Solar, IMO.

Best to all,
Smitty
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Old 12-23-2019, 07:21 AM   #9
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My primary joy of having solar is the silent battery charging and not having to bring a generator or a gas can. Some of us use our trailers where the air conditioning needs are minimal and go away when the sun goes down.

Solar is much cheaper when you have the ability to install it yourself.

I have camped off grid for 90 percent of the time because we enjoy dark places without close neighbors using lights or campfires which interfere with our enjoyment of the stars.

The payback is not financial, but the silence enjoyed by my family and neighbors.
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Old 12-23-2019, 08:15 AM   #10
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Thanks Smitty. I'm learning and needed to understand the significance of solar and whether it was a necessity or not. I won't make the buy/no buy decision based on solar, but it does seem to be nice to have. It does seem to give a few more options.
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Old 12-23-2019, 10:33 AM   #11
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It seems like every topic on every forum about solar, all people will say to install as much solar as you can afford. The general rule that more agree on is that 3-600 watts you'll have all the juice you'll need. Here's some more reading on the subject. Good Luck
https://www.mobile-solarpower.com/
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Old 12-23-2019, 11:02 AM   #12
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It seems like every topic on every forum about solar, all people will say to install as much solar as you can afford. The general rule that more agree on is that 3-600 watts you'll have all the juice you'll need. Here's some more reading on the subject. Good Luck
https://www.mobile-solarpower.com/
Great info, thanks! The solar link has some very good information. I like the 400w solar with alternator charging system he describes. It looks like for less than $200 you could add two more panels and make it a 600w system. I wonder why the pure sine inverter he suggests is so cheap? In looking at the RV parts and accessories sites, they're considerably more expensive than that.


What do you guys think?
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Old 12-23-2019, 11:02 AM   #13
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RV solar is just another house battery charger.

When dry camping reduces the generator run time - with its noise and vibration.

When in storage, can provide battery maintence if no shore power is available.
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Old 12-23-2019, 11:10 AM   #14
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I bought my new to me coach with 400 watts of solar, I think?

It will charge at 19 amps when the batteries are low.

Mine is for the 6 months when I use it very little, it is wired to charge, maintain the house and chassis batteries. I do not have covered storage or power available so was a huge plus for myself.

When dry camping I use the generator for power and will run the furnace on batteries overnight.

This is what my solar is used for.

Hope this helps ,

Terry
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