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Old 05-04-2021, 07:20 AM   #1
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Trying to figure out which solar panel to purchase

OK, so I am a newbie to boondocking. We recently purchased a 2021 Wildwood 24 RLXL. It has a Furrion port located on the side of the RV for a solar panel hookup. We will mostly be camping at full serviced sites but we do have a few 2 night "boondocking" excursions planned.
The RV has an electric only fridge. One 12V marine battery. So that is my main concern. We would also like to be able to charge a few devices, minimal lights etc...
What should I be looking at with regards to wattage for a solar panel? And is it as simple as plug and play? Do I need any other accessories other than the solar panel? I know that the actual Furrion receptacle is for Furrion panels but I have seen on amazon that there is an adapter that enables the use of non Furrion panels...
Any information would greatly be appreciated
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Old 05-04-2021, 01:29 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larsencj View Post
OK, so I am a newbie to boondocking. We recently purchased a 2021 Wildwood 24 RLXL. It has a Furrion port located on the side of the RV for a solar panel hookup. We will mostly be camping at full serviced sites but we do have a few 2 night "boondocking" excursions planned.
The RV has an electric only fridge. One 12V marine battery. So that is my main concern. We would also like to be able to charge a few devices, minimal lights etc...
What should I be looking at with regards to wattage for a solar panel? And is it as simple as plug and play? Do I need any other accessories other than the solar panel? I know that the actual Furrion receptacle is for Furrion panels but I have seen on amazon that there is an adapter that enables the use of non Furrion panels...
Any information would greatly be appreciated
For a couple nights or more you'll certainly need more battery storage. As far as your solar port goes, it all depends on what the conductor size is from the port to the battery and what the distance is from the port to the batteries. A lot of folks use the portable set up and plug them in to the port. I really don't know how most of the work from a success standpoint. I know with the right conductor length and the right conductor size you should be able to get a couple batteries recharged pretty easy with a portable 200w set up. If I were in your shoes I'd do this.......
1. Install 2 new 6v batteries in series
2. Run two #8 conductors, one from the positive and one from the negetive to a new location that is easy to get to....like somewhere on the tongue and fit a plug to it.
3. Get a suitable charge controller, something like a 30a MPPT
4. Make a "suitable way" to mount or hang it to the tongue and have a 2ft. output #8 set of wires that match up to the plug you installed in step 2.
5. Get or make a 200w portable solar array with about 50 feet of #12 wire that is wired into the charge controller. Wire the Solar array in series. Also have a shut of switch for the positive between the solar array and the controller.....controllers don't like being fed juice unless they're connected to a battery bank. Also you'd need to make sure all your connections at the controller and plug are insulated from each other and that nothing energized touches the frame or other grounds.

So you'd arrive at the site, pull your portable solar array out, place it in the sun, unwind the wire and the controller to the tongue of the coach, hang the controller, and plug it in and turn on the switch that separates the array from the controller.

It is a guaranteed that at least a 1/2 dozen persons responding to this post disagree with what I say to do as there are easier ways to do this, but easier seldom works best. And all this is from a "I want it portable" perspective. My set up is hard mounted to the roof and I just park, level and let it do it's thing....but I do need to search out sunny spots.
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Old 05-04-2021, 01:48 PM   #3
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Vintage has good advise. I have 2 panels hard-mounted up top, and a 3rd portable. All 3 are 100 Watts each. I did originally undersize my controller. So perhaps think ahead somewhat. The portable panel produces more juice than both the topside ones because I can chase the sun and move and tilt that panel. We tend to camp in mountainous spots with tree cover. I like Renogy products, but there are lots of components available. Good luck. Solar is very cool!
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Old 05-05-2021, 09:18 AM   #4
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I generally agree with what Vintage says. But you will need a lot of panels to keep up with your DC refrigeration loads. You will probably need 100 amp hours of charging capability each day. That will require 3-400 watts of panels.

My advice would be to take a big ice chest and not use the compressor fridge if you only occasionally dry camp for two days. The cost of installing the panels and batteries you need just isn't worth it.

David
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Old 05-05-2021, 02:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larsencj View Post
OK, so I am a newbie to boondocking. We recently purchased a 2021 Wildwood 24 RLXL. It has a Furrion port located on the side of the RV for a solar panel hookup. We will mostly be camping at full serviced sites but we do have a few 2 night "boondocking" excursions planned.
The RV has an electric only fridge. One 12V marine battery. So that is my main concern. We would also like to be able to charge a few devices, minimal lights etc...
What should I be looking at with regards to wattage for a solar panel? And is it as simple as plug and play? Do I need any other accessories other than the solar panel? I know that the actual Furrion receptacle is for Furrion panels but I have seen on amazon that there is an adapter that enables the use of non Furrion panels...
Any information would greatly be appreciated
You know, just recapping your post........and I know this goes against the trend, think about replacing the fridge with a Dometic or Norcold propane unit. For some reason many are seeing the propane fridges as dinosaurs, but in reality I'd never consider a 12v unit if a propane is available for boon docking. I can go for a full month, running the fridge and water heater off propane. That's a lot of worry free fridging..........just a thought
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Old 05-06-2021, 05:44 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Vintage465 View Post
You know, just recapping your post........and I know this goes against the trend, think about replacing the fridge with a Dometic or Norcold propane unit. For some reason many are seeing the propane fridges as dinosaurs, but in reality I'd never consider a 12v unit if a propane is available for boon docking. I can go for a full month, running the fridge and water heater off propane. That's a lot of worry free fridging..........just a thought
Yeah, it was an oversight on our part...our last trailer had a dual option fridge, electric or propane...I just assumed (first mistake) that all RV fridges were the same...like I said above the extent of our "bookdocking" will most likely be 2 nights max...we tend to hit the full hook-up campgrounds for the most part. There is a lot of conflicting information with regards to solar power...some sites say 100-200Watts is sufficient others say 300-400...plus rewiring...additional batteries...accessories...I guess I'll just have to calculate...unplug my camper and see how long the battery lasts before we head out into the "wild"...
This site is great by the way...very informative and helpful...glad I found it
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Old 05-06-2021, 07:11 AM   #7
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I have had propane fridges on the three RVs I have owned. I also have had six DC compressor fridges on cruising boats that I have owned. Boat compressor fridges are the same as RV ones.

Those compressor fridges varied from dorm sized 3 cu ft units that used 40 amp hours of DC daily to 8 cu ft stand up fridges that used double that energy. These values were averages measured over months with a shunt based battery monitor.

I have also followed reports of energy usage on RV compressor fridges and they generally match. So I am pretty confident in saying that the average RV compressor fridge of about 6 cu ft will use about 75 amp hours daily. Add to that the normal DC loads, many of which can't be turned off in a modern RV and you will use 100 amp hours daily.

Your single 12V battery is probably a 75 amp hour Group 27 or at best a 100 amp hour Group 31 battery. Try running the fridge overnight. I bet you will be down by half in 12 hours and flat dead in 24.

DC usage is the big downside of RV manufacturers installing compressor fridges today. They use a lot of power and if you want to dry camp, you need more batteries and more charging capability- solar if you camp in sunny places, and generator running if you camp in shady places.

David
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Old 05-06-2021, 07:51 AM   #8
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Make and model of the fridge would help a bunch. El cheapo fridges will usually use a lot more power than a dedicated marine 12 volt fridge.

I use two sets of portable Eco Worthy 120 watt portable panel sets(60 watts per panel) that I have reconfigured to be in series, and hook up the two sets in parallel. This gives a 2S2P setup for about 40-45 volts of input to the MPPT(Victron Smartsolar 100/30) charge controller utilizing a Victron wireless remote temperature and voltage gizmo. One set of panels is enough for us unless we run the furnace a lot. We do have a propane fridge, however. Our two group 31 batteries will generally come up to float charging in the early afternoon.

Do NOT wire panels in series if you plan on using a PWM charge controller.

To get a better idea of actual electrical usage and battery condition a shunt based battery monitor will make life and boondocking a lot easier. I would suggest adding one first thing to learn what you actually need/want for solar.

What is the make and model number of the current charge controller? What size battery? What are the wire gauges between the controller and batteries along with from the plug in to the controller? And approximate length of runs?

This all can be quite intimidating but the more info upfront the less guess work is involved, saving future frustration, work, and $$$.

With an electric fridge you likely have to do some upgrading on the factory system or run a genny quite a bit. Answers to the above questions will take some of the guess work out of all this.

Most fridges can be shut off overnight and keep their cool if you avoid opening them after shutting it down, at least in moderate temperatures.
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Old 05-06-2021, 08:12 AM   #9
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it is a 10.7 cubic foot "everchill" fridge. Electric only. I contacted Furrion and was told the max wattage that can be hooked up to the solar port is 100watts as it can only handle 10volts. The panel in pristine conditions would only be good for a light trickle charge...so...block of ice and cooler it is ...and to tell you the truth I don't even think there is an off switch for the fridge...damn
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Old 05-06-2021, 08:46 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larsencj View Post
... we do have a few 2 night "boondocking" excursions planned.
The RV has an electric only fridge. One 12V marine battery. So that is my main concern. We would also like to be able to charge a few devices, minimal lights etc...
What should I be looking at with regards to wattage for a solar panel? And is it as simple as plug and play? Do I need any other accessories other than the solar panel? I know that the actual Furrion receptacle is for Furrion panels but I have seen on amazon that there is an adapter that enables the use of non Furrion panels...
Any information would greatly be appreciated
Lots of good advice above from experienced owners! However, you are asking a technical question. There are issues you need to address that you have not mentioned.

Solar is unreliable. There are days with more or less available sun light. A solar panel only produces power for a few hours per day. On some days it produces much less, others, more. Shadows that block sun may completely block sun and therefore provide no power.

A 12 volt compressor refrigerator requires round the clock power. You must match power source to load requirements. This is usually done in the case of solar using a large battery bank. You do not have a large battery bank.

The solar panels when working at their maximum will only work for a few hours when sun is high in the sky, maybe 6 hours per day. You must charge the batteries enough during that time to get through the night and maybe a rainy day.

You must be able to provide enough battery power to support the refer for two or more days to cover when the sun is not available.

Having that much battery power available will cover your 2 day dry camping with no solar. So you need a bigger battery bank and don't need solar at all.

"do I need any other accessories other than the solar panel?"
So start by getting a big enough battery bank to run the refer for the dry camping time you need. Plan on recharging when you connect to the grid in your next camping spot or when you get home.

Add solar only if you want to continue dry camping for longer than 2 days. Other alternatives are to add a small portable generator. Use the generator to recharge batteries every two or three days.

I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead!
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Old 05-06-2021, 09:25 AM   #11
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I have a 12 volt DC powered 6 cubic foot fridge. I replaced my Norcold propane fridge. I agree that having a good battery storage system will make it easier to using your fridge when not hooked up to power from a campground. I would recommend finding the manual for the fridge and see what the projected 24 hour power draw is.

A couple of 100 amp-hour LiFePO4 batteries plus a battery monitor with a shunt would be a good start. This VE SmartShunt is an excellent way to monitor your battery state of charge and be able to determine the power load of individual devices by turn each on and off and watching the power draw change. This one costs $130.90.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...8O9VsyoFrpswt0

LiFePO4 batteries will charge quicker and more efficiently than lead-acid. Some solar would be useful to keep charging your batteries while camping or being towed down the road. Your location will affect how well solar works. I live in Reno, Nevada and have excellent solar power production. I also have 1440 watts of solar on the roof and seven 100 amp-hour LiFePO4 batteries so I can go days without sunshine. I also have 640 watts of portable panels that I can use if my trailer is parked in the shade.

Even if you decide you want a generator, LiFePO4 batteries will allow you to run your generator less because they charge more efficiently all the way to 100% state of charge. Some solar plus the generator will allow you to run you generator much less or only when you need air conditioning.
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Old 05-06-2021, 10:01 AM   #12
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Thanks so much...
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Old 05-06-2021, 10:30 AM   #13
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I don't have a compressor fridge in the RV but I've owned a number of them in the S&B house all my life. Some experience with RV evaporation fridges as well.

In all cases, they don't go from cold to ambient a few minutes after power/fuel is removed. If I lose power to the house the kitchen fridge can easily make it a day before it gets too warm inside. Likewise, in the RV I can go for hours with the fridge off with no ill effect.

So my question is, what would be the harm in shutting off the fridge at night when solar input is zero, ambient temps are relatively low, and no one will be opening the door? Seems one could run the fridge primarily during the day taking advantage of powering the fridge directly off of panels creating some thermal storage in the form of cold contents, then just letting that ride overnight minimizing the need for battery storage.

Just a thought. Back when all I had was a popup and a coleman cooler I could easily make it a three day weekend on just a couple bags of ice. For once in a while, I'd entertain just putting ice in the fridge and turning the fridge into a cooler, vs buying all sorts of solar equipment and energy storage that may not even work if it's cloudy.

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Old 05-07-2021, 05:33 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by astrocamper View Post
I have a 12 volt DC powered 6 cubic foot fridge. I replaced my Norcold propane fridge. I agree that having a good battery storage system will make it easier to using your fridge when not hooked up to power from a campground. I would recommend finding the manual for the fridge and see what the projected 24 hour power draw is.

A couple of 100 amp-hour LiFePO4 batteries plus a battery monitor with a shunt would be a good start. This VE SmartShunt is an excellent way to monitor your battery state of charge and be able to determine the power load of individual devices by turn each on and off and watching the power draw change. This one costs $130.90.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...8O9VsyoFrpswt0

LiFePO4 batteries will charge quicker and more efficiently than lead-acid. Some solar would be useful to keep charging your batteries while camping or being towed down the road. Your location will affect how well solar works. I live in Reno, Nevada and have excellent solar power production. I also have 1440 watts of solar on the roof and seven 100 amp-hour LiFePO4 batteries so I can go days without sunshine. I also have 640 watts of portable panels that I can use if my trailer is parked in the shade.

Even if you decide you want a generator, LiFePO4 batteries will allow you to run your generator less because they charge more efficiently all the way to 100% state of charge. Some solar plus the generator will allow you to run you generator much less or only when you need air conditioning.
So if I was to pick up a LifePO4 battery can I wire it to the marine battery i already have, to expand my battery bank? or do I need two of the same? I found one on amazon...https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08VD88Q9K/...jaz10cnVl&th=1
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