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Old 02-23-2017, 11:10 AM   #1
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Fixed or portable solar?

I want to add a single 300 watt SolarWorld panel. 66" x 40", 40lbs. I can mount it on the RV roof in a tilt frame, or I can use it in a ground stand. Which is better?

Travel trailer with two T105's to charge. I like to boondock.
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Old 02-24-2017, 10:50 AM   #2
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From a practical stand point, I think fixed is easier. Just set it and forget it. On the other hand, portable has a lot of advantages. You can follow the sun, tilt the panel just right and you don't need to worry about where or in what direction you park the RV. It won't matter if you're rig is in the shade or at the wrong angle.

Obviously, without spending a ton on some kind of power tracking mount, you'll have to move the panel manually throughout the day but you'll make more power.

In my totally uninformed opinion, if you've got watts to spare (you have more than enough coming in to offset your daily power needs) put it on the roof. If you're on the edge of having enough watts and you need to maximize solar input, keep it portable so you can adjust it throughout the day and stay ahead of your needs. Optimally, consider getting a panel that's portable but can be mounted on the roof some day too. At some point you can get a second or a third panel up there and generate excess so you can truly set it and forget it. Or get both and cover all your bases.
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Old 02-24-2017, 10:54 AM   #3
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It is not unheard of for ground mounted solar panels to sprout legs and disappear.
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Old 02-24-2017, 11:38 AM   #4
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From a practical stand point roof mount makes sense. Once installed you can forget about it. Who wants to mess around with ground systems. As mentioned they can walk away, or even blow over in winds.
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Old 02-24-2017, 05:58 PM   #5
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Panels that large can be a pain to move around, especially if the wind comes up. I am not saying that you should not buy it, just that it is a bit bulky to move around sometimes.

Just to throw out another option, perhaps consider to mount one fixed panel on the roof facing up, and have a smaller one wired in parallel that you can point as desired. That will capture sunlight morning, noon, and late afternoon.

IMHO, the nice thing about having a panel that can be pointed is that your RV can be parked in the shade.

Nothing wrong with your panel choice, but here is a smaller model in case that is useful.

165 watt solar panel 165w off grid for battery charging
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Old 02-24-2017, 09:17 PM   #6
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I typically avoid anything that requires setup like the plague - I find the longer it takes to setup and tear down - the less often you want to move...and thats the whole point of the operation.

That said, as previously mentioned with portable ones you can park in the shade, aim the panels, etc - typically you will get better power.
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Old 02-24-2017, 09:40 PM   #7
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Nothing better than parking your rig in the sun on a hot summer day just so you can collect some amps. I personally like to park in the cool shade and set up my small 100 watt panels out in the sunlight. An extension cord makes it easy and by keeping your panels aimed at the sun they have maximum efficiency. Maybe you can get by with less watts and smaller panels if you know they will always be in the sun and at the correct angle? I have two 100 watt panels and they keep my batteries charged.
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Old 02-24-2017, 09:52 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by totaldla View Post
I want to add a single 300 watt SolarWorld panel. 66" x 40", 40lbs. I can mount it on the RV roof in a tilt frame, or I can use it in a ground stand. Which is better?

Travel trailer with two T105's to charge. I like to boondock.

There is no absolute answer to which is "better". The tiltable roof mount is easier, if you have access to easily set up the tilt hardware once you are camped. The portable unit is best if you like to park the camper in the shade. You could also go with a combined approach and have a fixed or tiltable roof mounted panel and a portable. In either case you're likely to find that the 300W module is a bit of a challenge due to it's size. Personally, I'd consider a pair of 100's or 160's as an easier to handle alternative.
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Old 02-24-2017, 10:07 PM   #9
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On my previous coach I had 600w flat mounted on the roof, plus two 100w portable that I could set out when needed. The portable panels helped especially in winter when the sun is lowest in the sky. Some effort required to set them out and put away, but usually used when in place for a week so not a big deal. On the current coach I have 1500w flat on the roof, also with ability to add in the portable setup.

If I could do only one PV panel, I would roof mount it. With a tilt mount if one is readily able to climb to the roof.
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Old 02-26-2017, 11:16 AM   #10
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After a lot of research, reading, shopping, etc., we ended up with a flexible 100w panel. Hubs is going to build a pvc stand for it so we can put it in the sun while the rig is in the shade.

We knew we were going to get a single panel to start and perhaps add more once we got the hang of it & saw our amp hours use, etc. I bought a 30a PWM controller so we could add panels, later.

We were open to traditional, portable, and less so, flexible. I almost pulled the trigger on a portable (Eco-Worthy 100w monocrystalline) kit that was very reasonably priced. Then I got to thinking about weight and lugging that thing in and out of the storage bin. I learned more about flexible panels and now that they (say they) are 25% efficient, figured we'd give one a try. 4.8 lbs for a 100w, 5.6a rated current panel, vs similar current and 26 lbs. Once we have the pvc stand, we can move it around/tilt it at will.

RE: the walking away issue, I was thinking we will either put it away if we're leaving the site or put it up on the roof (if there's sun). We were also thinking we could find a way to hang it inside the windshield, if that side is facing sun. There are many possibilities with a 4.8 lb panel!
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Old 03-01-2017, 08:47 AM   #11
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I guess I've never given flexible panels much thought because they use much more area per watt than poly/mono glass panels.

But it is true that parking in the shade is common, and a shaded panel will only output the amount of the lowest cell (not much but more than zero).

After all this discussion, fixed on the roof sounds best for now, and carry a generator for those times when I cant catch enough rays.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:21 AM   #12
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Just remember you'll need to store those panels when not in use.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:28 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by sikoriko View Post
Just remember you'll need to store those panels when not in use.
Exactly thats why I have fixed panels. Don't have to set them up or store them.
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Old 03-07-2017, 09:46 AM   #14
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I am thinking about mounting my 100W panel on the cap on my pickup truck - rather have my trailer in the shade, and can move the truck a little to follow the sun... and since it has a lower roof, if I choose to tilt the panel, could do it without a ladder. Use a cable, and keep the charge controller near the batteries. Only down side I see is that if I am out and about during the day, not going to get a charge...

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