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Open Roads Forum  >  Do It Yourself Modifications and Upgrades (DIY)

 > You installed a Solar System, How is it now?

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BBdawg

Apopka, Fl

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Posted: 02/25/12 08:09am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'm looking for Campers who have installed a Solar System on their RV's and have been using it for a while. I'd like to hear your experience so far.
Is it working out for you?
What would you do differently if you did it again?

I have 3 - 200 watt panels with all the connecting parts on my home set to a 4 bank set of batteries for emergency use. I am CONSIDERING, moving the system to my NTU TT but thought I'd see what others may have experienced before I begin.
I have read a number of installation "how to's" but I am looking for actual running experience and not theoretical operation..

jauguston

Bellingham, WA

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Posted: 02/25/12 09:01am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

There is nothing complicated about a solar system on a RV than is different than how you have it setup at home. A solar system is simply a battery charger that works when the sun shines. If you boondock where it is sunny most of the time it will reduce not eliminate the need for a generator. Some days my system will give me 41-42a for a few hours in full sun. More often when it is cloudy or rainy and we get lots of both here it will maybe give me 10a. Not a reliable source of power. Get a generator first then solar. A generator will always give you the power you want.

Jim


2005 Coachman Sportscoach Elite 402 40'
350hp Cat C-7 w/MP-8
7500w Onan quiet diesel generator
6-Kyocera 130w solar panels SB3024i MPPT controller
Pressure Pro TPMS
1987 Suzuki Samurai tintop Toad w/VW 1.6 turbo diesel power


BBdawg

Apopka, Fl

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Posted: 02/25/12 09:34am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

jauguston wrote:

There is nothing complicated about a solar system on a RV than is different than how you have it setup at home. A solar system is simply a battery charger that works when the sun shines. If you boondock where it is sunny most of the time it will reduce not eliminate the need for a generator. Some days my system will give me 41-42a for a few hours in full sun. More often when it is cloudy or rainy and we get lots of both here it will maybe give me 10a. Not a reliable source of power. Get a generator first then solar. A generator will always give you the power you want.
Jim

I do get that!
However, I am just not a fan of gas powered gen's as storing gas is such a problem on long hauls.

This where I am hoping some people with real experience will step up and describe their experience - good and bad!

If solar is not enough, I am also hoping maybe someone would mention a wind generator as a backup to solar (or vice versa). I know in New Orleans, there were a lot of dead generators due to no gas available (or affordable at the time/location). Wind gens/turbines are a common tool on the water ways..

jauguston

Bellingham, WA

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Posted: 02/25/12 09:46am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The two issues with wind generators are first the hassle of setting one up and taking it down at each stop. The second is noise. The blade noise can become a real issue if you have close neighbors. I personally would not want to camp where the wind blows hard enough to make any appreciable power.

lawdash

NY

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Posted: 02/25/12 10:01am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Depending on the part of the country you're in, it's entirely possible to rely solely on your solar setup and never have to run your generator. We have friends who got rid of their genny and I know of others who never have to run theirs.

We're fulltime boondockers in the southwest. I've only run our gen once since our solar install, and that was to run an air compressor that pulls too much juice (and that I'm going to replace). We never run our microwave or air conditioner but other than that we don't skimp on our consumption at all. We have more power than we need and that's with just two 135 watt panels and a bank of four 6v batteries.

Going solar was one of the best investments we've made in our RV, one that is going to pay for itself over and over.

BBdawg

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Posted: 02/25/12 10:06am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

jauguston wrote:

The two issues with wind generators are first the hassle of setting one up and taking it down at each stop. The second is noise. The blade noise can become a real issue if you have close neighbors. I personally would not want to camp where the wind blows hard enough to make any appreciable power.


AND, I feel exactly the same about the gas Gen's. We have had so many beautiful motor homes park next to our old pop-up and kept their gen's running all night. (Yes, we do know that we can complain in the morning but these inconsiderate folks are usually on their way before the office opens)
I did know large wind generators could be noisy but have no knowledge of the ones used on water craft..
If, they are noisy, as you mention, I would definitely find that to be inconsiderate of others as well.

I hope others will step in and help with some of this..

larrybluhm

SF Bay Area

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Posted: 02/25/12 10:24am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I went solar in '86 when I bought a new Pilgrim TC. The panel was transferred to a new Northstar in '10 with the addition of a new and better charge controller. I hook up only on rare occasion and don't carry a generator. I have all the power I need.


2011 Northstar LaredoSC, solar/'04 Dodge 2500, Cummins.


DaveG39

Goleta, CA

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Posted: 02/25/12 10:41am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

To run Air conditioners, you will need a generator. I have installed panels on two motorhomes. Straight forward but labor intensive. As far as use, one dry camp period of one week, I used generator only a couple of hours the entire week as solar kept the batteries up pretty well. I use elec coffee pot, microwave, satellite TV, radio, etc. so I am not a skimpy user.

When installing the panels I would suggest removable struts to allow tilting the panels during the winter months to get more amperage. I would also use the largest wire your controller terminals will allow. I used no. 10 from panels to controller and no. 6 from controller to batteries. I have two panels and ran separate wires from each to controller.

I used to have to keep RV plugged in at the house when not in use to prevent batteries from discharging, now they are always full.

I assume you have an inverter in the unit to provide 120v off the batteries. If not, you should install a 2,000 watt minimum inverter.


2007 TropiCal LX towing 2012 Honda
CRV, Goleta, CA


Chillyrodent

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Posted: 02/25/12 10:48am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

With 2-135W panels, we bank 85 - 95 Ah a day, and that's with sub-optimal positioning, in the winter. We worry more about being level, and let the sun take care of itself.

It depends entirely on what you plan to run, but it's hard to imagine anything you couldn't run with 600 W worth of panels. You're in Florida, so ample sunshine won't be a problem. Will you tilt, or not bother (we don't bother)?

Do you already have a sense of what you'll be running? That's the true test, and pretty easy to figure out. How much storage do you have in your batteries? How much of your house needs does the system fill now? A house has all kinds of power sucks that your TT doesn't.

Good luck!


The Good Luck Duck

2oldman

Coachella

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Posted: 02/25/12 10:49am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

lawdash wrote:

Depending on the part of the country you're in, it's entirely possible to rely solely on your solar setup and never have to run your generator....We never run our microwave or air conditioner but other than that we don't skimp on our consumption at all. We have more power than we need and that's with just two 135 watt panels and a bank of four 6v batteries.
Some folks can get away with this but not me.

I have 800+ watts of solar and still need my 2 2K Hondas. Why? Because the sun doesn't shine every day! I'm also a bigger power user than the above: MW, coffee maker, lots of TV/receiver. Oh yeah, and air too, which my 6 batteries would run, but not for long.

I've been following another forum where a gal claims her 2 panels even in shade/rain are working 'just fine' for her needs. The only thing I can say to that is, her needs must be limited to lights and water pump and not much else. I do believe there's just a tad of exaggeration there.

You also may find that solar is not actually very good for your batteries over time (well, dry camping in general isn't) because your batteries never get fully charged. Once in a while you should plug in and equalize them. I have a feeling I don't do this often enough and so my batteries are not up to full potential. (pun intended)

Yes, it's possible to dump the gen, but it depends entirely on your usage. I couldn't do it.

As for batteries (sort of an important part) I've found that hi draw appliances like coffee makers and MW's can flatten 4 quickly, and by that I mean they can't stand up to the 120+ amperage draw without sagging below 11v, which can kill your inverter. 6 batteries work much better for this.

* This post was edited 02/25/12 11:09am by 2oldman *

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