Due to increasing campground fees, my wife and I are looking into doing more dry camping. We have a 30' fifth wheel that has a double batter system. We have looked at some generators but it seems most campgrounds have at least some restrictions on them so we have begun to look at inverters with solar panels to recharge the batteries. We don't need to run an AC but we would like to least run our 32" LED TV and satellite receiver, and if possible maybe a microwave and toaster, not at the same time naturally. Can anyone give us any information on what to buy and how to go about mounting the solar panels. I would like it to look clean and neat, no external wires hanging out etc. Would appreciate any comments. Thanks.
If you are planning on camping in campgrounds without hook-ups on a regular basis, I recommend getting a solar system installed. As you probably know, most campgrounds have limited hours for generators, and if you're a TV addict like we are, you'll need solar panels to produce juice most of the day when you're not allowed to run the generator. I have 3 solar panels totaling 405 watts and is more than sufficient to run a 32" TV, satellite receiver and antenna, two computers, and assorted chargers. Be sure to get an inverter large enough to handle a microwave. A 2K watt inverter should be adequate for a microwave. Plan on getting a small generator to boost your batteries when there isn't enough sun to keep your batteries topped off or if you're like us, and watch TV late into the night or until the batteries say no mas. You can have your solar panels installed professionally where none of the wiring is visible with the exception of the roof. Good luck!
I would like to take a moment and say, "thank you", for considering solar instead of taking the easy way out and just buying a generator.
For some of us, there is absolutely nothing worse than listening to a camping neighbor running a generator while watching tv in their rig - or something similar. BTW, has anyone ever seen people sitting around their campsite with a running generator right next to them? No. They set the generator on the 'other' side, and out of the way, so they don't have to hear it!!!
Given the NO Air Con needed.... Get a Honda 2000 generator (or equivalent) first since a generator will reliably provide electrical power you need when you need it should the solar system come up short on charging. If an appliance is accidentally left on and drains the batteries, it would take days for a solar setup to recharge the system. The generator will be cheap when compared to installing a quality solar system. I can't justify the expense of a good solar system at this time but I'd never be without a backup generator to supplement a solar system.
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If you're a weekend warrior like us, then 3 group 27 12V or 4 GC 6V batteries will do the trick along with a 2000W inverter. I would add a single 200W panel with the Rogue 30 amp solar controller along with that. You could probably do 3-4 days without solar but the panel will at least put back the usage from watching TV. With this setup, a generator will only be needed for A/C.
* This post was
edited 07/21/12 04:38pm by mena661 *
We do a lot of dry camping and have added 160W of portable solar with an MPPT controller to our mix. IF and that's a big IF, you know you will be camped in a area that gets decent clear skys and will be able to orient the panels, solar may get you all you want, at least for 5 days of camping or more. For us, in the PNW, first, to many cloudy or partly cloudy days even in the summer, winter is worse, second being able to orient the panels to get sunlight in a campground that often has many trees and mountain ranges. REally limits the hours of sun you can get. It definitely helps and keeps it to the point that usually we only run the generator around lunch/dinner if we can for the microwave and also a short battery charge. But w/o the generator there are days on end that solar just won't cut it. so we have both. bought the generator years ago, added solar this year.
Personally I prefer the portable panels, at least I can park the trailer in the trees if I want for shade or for the best view and orient the portable panels for most sun. Downside is you aren't charging on the road, and they are more prone to theft/damage.
and finally convert the lights you will use for more than a few minutes to LED. If you do so, a pair of golf carts can last you an easy 2-3 days or more in the summer w/o and charging. 2 days in the winter if your careful with running the furnace.
If you go with good GC batteries, you can run them down to 30% state of charge (discharged 70%) w/o worrying. You won't suffer any capacity loss , just reduced cycle life. and even with that level of disccharge Trojan's are still rated for 500+ cycles which is WAY more than most of us will ever do. I have a set going on 8 years discharged to 30% of capacity near 30 times per year then charged at 80+ amps and are still going strong.
Don't let them get below 20% SOC and DON"T let them get low on water!! those are the real killers.
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