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Old 03-26-2016, 08:22 PM   #1
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Portable Solar

I have been reading and browsing forums to find a good solar solution for my MH / camping. I am open to reviews / suggestions and I have some questions.

Iíll start with why I want to go portable. I often camp and hunt on my land in northern Minnesota summer through October (and have camped a few times in November). I call this ďdry campingĒ, because of no hookups. Primarily the campsite is in the shade except late afternoon. In the fall we run the furnace (it gets cold up there). Also watch TV at night, but mostly are conservative with using electricity, Iíve changed bulbs to LEDs etc. The MH is a 2011 Fleetwood Southwind with 2 6volt Interstate deep cell batteries and no room for any more. We have a Magnum Inverter for the TVs and a couple of outlets. We can easily camp 2-3 days in the summer without needing to run the generator to charge. In the Fall itís much different with fewer hours of sunlight, staying in more at night and running the furnace. Iím not opposed to running the generator but donít like the noise, pollution, waste of gas, etc.

First I want to monitor my batteries. Right now the MH has a volt meter for the batteries, I know on longer trips the batteries do not get a full charge and I do not always check how low they really get.

Iím thinking of getting the Trimetric TM-2030-A battery monitor and SC2030 charge controller then two Renolgoy 100 watt portable panels. One panel might be enough in the summer, but anyone familiar with Northern Minnesota knows how low the sun is in October and we have plenty of cloudy days.

My first question is on wiring, I will want to place the panels out 20 -30 feet. Again a single 100w panel would allow a 10awg wires, but when I combine Iím thinking 8 gauge wire. But what are people doing for connections? Iíve read the MC4 connectors are not quick connects, so should would you recommend Anderson connectors? Iím confused with what connectors really come with the Renology portable panels. Iíve seen both MC4 and Anderson 50A. Either way I would want an easy connect/disconnect.

Location, location, location: I can locate the SC2030 in the electrical compartment with 12v fuses, relays, the Inverter and its close to the batteries that are under the steps. When you open the door it exposes the electrical compartment to the propane tank below. If I use a quick connect for the PV wires in there Iím a little concerned about creating sparks right next to the propane tank. The tank does not leak (at the moment) but you never know. There is not enough room the leave a coil of wire in there, so hard wiring to the controller would not work. Is this a big enough concern to move the controller?
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Old 03-26-2016, 08:59 PM   #2
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Anderson power poles are what I used on my portable panels. Two 100w panels in parallel with 10 gauge wire to the controller. A court pieces of PVC pipe make a leg to prop each at the desired angle.
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Old 03-27-2016, 05:45 AM   #3
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With long cold Minnesota nights and short days, I think you need to, somehow, add battery capacity.

200 watts for 5 or 6 hours will assist in the recharging effort but I believe your going to come up short on getting your batteries fully charged.

Installing a battery monitor will give you a clear idea of your energy usage. Once you know what you use, you can design a system and a plan that will work.

If you can't get thru a night without going below 50% battery capacity, solar will not fix that.

Check out Lithium batteries to add capacity without weight.
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Old 03-27-2016, 08:45 AM   #4
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I would invest in a 1000 watt Honda to charge the batteries. I don't think in your northern latitude that the solar will do the trick. With the Honda you could let it run into the night doing its thing with little noise and very little gas. JMO

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Old 03-27-2016, 11:34 AM   #5
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I don't think I ever get below 50% in a single day. Plus running the generator in the morning for half an hour to an hour when turning the thermostat up as well might put enough in bulk mode to make it... I don't really know what the right mix would be but surly would be better than no solar.

I'm not sure having more battery would help if I do not have enough sun to charge them back up.
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Old 03-27-2016, 12:25 PM   #6
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The Bogart 2030 will tell create a use profile and you can check the history of dept of discharge, last time the batteries have been fully charged, and equalized and more. One possible problem with the SC 2030 not being located close to the batteries is voltage loss every foot of wire used coming in and going out reduces efficiency. Using both Bogart's will be a great DC monitor/charger I might suggest Windy Nation a company out of CA. that specializes in alternative power they have great products and service. I was going to do as you and get 2 100 watt portable panels I wanted to give myself the best chance to fully recharge on short days in the fall/winter. I determined that Solar would sometime be marginal and had to be monitored to take advantage of directing their collection angle. By the time I got all of the pieces and committed to tweaking I decided to get a good/quiet inverter/generator. For ease of use and reliability I believe it is a good compromise. Honda/Yamaha are the standard and that's why they cost so much at least in my eyes. After several months of research I bought a Westinghouse Explorer WH 2000i. It's rated at 2400/2100 so it will run everything, just not all at once. It put out 52db so it is very quiet. I saw a sound test and it actually ran quieter than the honda under a load at 20ft. This gen can be linked together and will burn a tank (1 ga.) in 9 hours under 50% load. The biggest reason I bought this just introduced model was price I paid $619 w/free delivery. Now I have the piece of mind to go and do and know all I need is water and gas. I believe I will still get 1 100 watt panel So I can use the sun of course.
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Old 03-30-2016, 12:52 PM   #7
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I replaced the alligator clips with ring terminals and connect with the provided Anderson PowerPole SB50 with my 3 year old Renogy portable. You can get the suitcase without a controller now, then install a 20 or 30W solar charger in the MH and connect the panels with SB50s. MC4 connectors can always be cut off and replaced.
You can run much longer wiring from panels to charge controller than you can from controller to battery.
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Old 03-30-2016, 01:58 PM   #8
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Are you in an area with a fair amount of wind (15mph or better)day & night? If so a small 300/400 watt wind turbine might be a better option.
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Old 03-30-2016, 02:01 PM   #9
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Unless you are using a MPPT controller and running series or high voltage panels, the input to the controller will be the same as the output.

In that seneraio the controller can be anywhere along the run, even out at the panels.

If the panels generate 10 amps, a PWM controller outputs 10 amps or less.
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Old 03-30-2016, 03:28 PM   #10
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No, wind is not a good option, cannot we do not have consistent wind and would have to get above the tree canopy.

I like all the suggestions. Buying another small generator is a good option, but I really do not want another engine to do annual maintenance on. I have too many small engines all ready-- don't ask. Portable solar can be used when we travel other places as well.

Has anyone used 8/2 cord? I found this on Wire & Cable to Go - lookls like a good option for the wire from the panels to controller.

I'm also looking for better priced 50w - 12v panels, I am sure I could add hinges, make a stand and a case for a portable setup like the Renology or other kits out there. Found some Sonali Solar panels cheap on Sun the Electronics site then two days later they disappeared.
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Old 03-30-2016, 03:43 PM   #11
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Wow, 8/2 wire is real heavy stuff for 100 watts of solar.

Did you use a wire size calculator for that ?
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Old 03-30-2016, 04:18 PM   #12
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I'm planning 200w around 10amps and at least 30 feet. To avoid loss it is what I'm finding.
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Old 03-30-2016, 05:18 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by TbearKline View Post
I'm planning 200w around 10amps and at least 30 feet. To avoid loss it is what I'm finding.
I see that on the charts.

Did you look into wiring the panels in series and a 24 volt input controller ?
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Old 03-30-2016, 06:13 PM   #14
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Yes, wiring in series would allow a using a 10 ga wire, but at the expense of an MPPT controller is much more than the cost of 8/2 cable. Now, I'm not familiar with with a 30ft 8awg cord, but the specs say it is around 8 pounds, and fairly fat (.66 inches). I don't know if I'll like or hate it.
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