I'm thinking of installing about 200 watts of solar on our 5er; We have a 300 AmpHour battery, so this would pretty much supply our total needs under almost all conditions. BUT: the 5er sits in the driveway unused 6 to 8 months a year. What is the effect/problem/danger of leaving the panels uncovered if there is no place to use the power??
Guys are correct in that uncovered solar panel won't hurt the battery. But there are other things to consider:
If you cover the panel, you extend its life but are left without maintenance charging or trickle charging. Battery is self-discharging with time, and you shouldn't let the charge drop below 50%. This is not a problem if your batteries are AGM, it should still have enough charge left after 8 months if ambient temps aren't too high. But a flooded type battery will self-discharge to 50% in less than 4 months. Plus, there are often parasitic loads like standby current from clock radio etc, if batteries are not completely disconnected from all the loads.
If you have 120V maintainer while in storage, you don't need to worry about self-discharge and parasitic loads.
My 415 watt solar system has been hooked up to the batteries since 1999, and to date the first set of batteries where replaced and given to a friend because they still where in great shape. THe second set is only about 6 years old now, and are working great.
The regulator stops charging when the voltage reaches the cut off point, and might start charging around 4-5 PM if required, or might stay off from noon to the next morning.
My batteries get charged to 14.5 volts everyday and that is using just the 2x80 watt panels that hang on the end of my carport, the others are under the roof and covered with a 1/4 in of dust so I don't think they would be putting out much power, been that way from day 1 and still have the same 8 batteries. Just my thoughts.