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Old 04-20-2010, 12:00 PM   #1
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Yes, another Solar question...

I've been day dreaming about adding solar panels to my DP. I had (have - hybrid TT for sale if anyone is interested) a single ~15W panel for my HTT and it worked perfectly. I'd love to have the same flexibility with my Class-A DP that I did with my HTT. So I've got a few questions.

Background:
With my HTT, I had this 15W panel that I would toss on the roof or lay it out on the ground or where ever the sun was the best. It did a GREAT job of keeping my single battery topped off so I could have a worry-free night of lights, heater, water pump etc... If my battery was dead, it would charge fully in about 4-5 hours.

I'd like to have something similar on my DP. I've got a typical setup in my coach, 2 - 12V batteries for the chassis and 2 - 12V batteries for the house. I'm not really worried about charging the chassis batteries because I have a switch
that will allow me to start the coach off the house batteries. I'm not looking to charge a basement full of batteries to power an inverter or anything, I just want to keep my batteries charged so I don't need to run my generator when I'm out dry camping in "nature".

MY wife and I got REALLY good at "counting" amps in our HTT and we could stretch a dry camping trip 4-5 days without needing to plug-in and charge the batteries. Our holding tanks would fill up long before the battery would die. so we won't be using THAT much power.

So, want kind of wattage am I looking for? I'm guessing that it's not as simple as 15W/battery. I'm sure I have a lot more "stand by" drain from my DP then I did with my HTT. I've done a ton of research on products that are out there and I know where to get the stuff, I'm just not too sure on the power that I need.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Brian
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:30 PM   #2
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Well, I wish I could help, but will offer a few suggestions. 1. Quit looking at what is out there if you don't know what you need. 2. Figure out what you need, then try and find it. Sounds to me like you have the cart before the horse. I'm not trying to be smart, just have an engineering mind.

3. If you made it before with a 15 watt panel, you'll make it again provided your usage stays the same. You just need to figure out how much more you're going to use.
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:20 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by windrider View Post
Well, I wish I could help, but will offer a few suggestions. 1. Quit looking at what is out there if you don't know what you need. 2. Figure out what you need, then try and find it. Sounds to me like you have the cart before the horse. I'm not trying to be smart, just have an engineering mind.

3. If you made it before with a 15 watt panel, you'll make it again provided your usage stays the same. You just need to figure out how much more you're going to use.
yeah, I'm actually an engineer myself. I just knew that in my HTT I could literally shut everything off and draw almost no current. I'm just not sure what a typical stand-by draw is... or what may be required to remain on. If I know the rate at which I'm drawing then I can better gauge the rate at which I need to replace the power in the batteries.

Some fancy meter placement may answer these questions for me I suppose. Or I could just buy a 75 Watt system, adjust my habits and hope for the best!

Thanks,
Brian
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:42 PM   #4
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Well as we tend to be a bit power hungry and when the weather or the fishing is bad we tend to be inside and watching satellite TV so we went with a mid size system. I have two panels for a total of 260w with a Morningstar charge controller which was included with the system. The panels are mounted with racks that can be tilted if I need to. If we have good sunny days then this system can for the most part keep up with our power needs.

A few things to consider as far as I see it is this. Go larger than you think you need at this point. Your rooftop is valuable real estate for panels and a 75w panel will take up as much room as a 130W panel (give or take). It's always a bummer to decide a year down the road that you now want to have an inverter and you wished you would have put a bigger panel up there or now you need to change out for more panels, etc. etc. Run wiring sufficient to handle future needs in case you decide to upgrade to a 300w system. You don't want to have to run that wiring twice. Get a charge controller that can handle 30amps. Remember that you have to average what you can put in on sunny days vs cloudy days.

Set yourself up so that if you do decide to go with more panels or bigger output that you can do so easily and with much less expense in the long run.

Also remember that right now if you put in a solar system you can qualify for money back (up to 30%, I think) on your taxes for next year. Wished I could have done that.
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by NWJeeper View Post
Well as we tend to be a bit power hungry and when the weather or the fishing is bad we tend to be inside and watching satellite TV so we went with a mid size system. I have two panels for a total of 260w with a Morningstar charge controller which was included with the system. The panels are mounted with racks that can be tilted if I need to. If we have good sunny days then this system can for the most part keep up with our power needs.

A few things to consider as far as I see it is this. Go larger than you think you need at this point. Your rooftop is valuable real estate for panels and a 75w panel will take up as much room as a 130W panel (give or take). It's always a bummer to decide a year down the road that you now want to have an inverter and you wished you would have put a bigger panel up there or now you need to change out for more panels, etc. etc. Run wiring sufficient to handle future needs in case you decide to upgrade to a 300w system. You don't want to have to run that wiring twice. Get a charge controller that can handle 30amps. Remember that you have to average what you can put in on sunny days vs cloudy days.

Set yourself up so that if you do decide to go with more panels or bigger output that you can do so easily and with much less expense in the long run.

Also remember that right now if you put in a solar system you can qualify for money back (up to 30%, I think) on your taxes for next year. Wished I could have done that.
THANKS Mr. Jeeper! Wow 260 Watts. No one said this was going to be cheap did they? ...and you're running an inverter off that? TV's, SAT, etc...? How long will that last for you.

For the record. Where I live we have about 364 1/2 days of cloudless, blistering sunshine. Most of the places we go are similar, but you never know where we might end up... Do you have fancy batteries or just the standard?

Thanks,
Brian
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:57 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Prepilot_3ck View Post
THANKS Mr. Jeeper! Wow 260 Watts. No one said this was going to be cheap did they? ...and you're running an inverter off that? TV's, SAT, etc...? How long will that last for you.

For the record. Where I live we have about 364 1/2 days of cloudless, blistering sunshine. Most of the places we go are similar, but you never know where we might end up... Do you have fancy batteries or just the standard?

Thanks,
Brian
With our filtered and inconsistent sun up here I can usually run the TV/Sat for 3 or 4 hours out of a day and keep even using solar. Mind you it will drain down over several days and I usually end up running the generator depending on the amount of sun we get. In a perfect set up I see myself getting at least one more 130W panel to compensate for the reduced sun days we do see. However the big problem is the furnace. If temps drop below about 45 in the evenings then I end up using power much faster and we have to leave the TV turned off or run the generator more during the evenings to watch TV, charge and keep heat going just before bedtime.

I have 6 6V Trojan T-125 batteries for a total of 740 amp-hour bank. I added the Trimentric 2025RV just before our last trip so that I can keep track of exactly how much amperage is being taken from or put back into our system. I had found a web site by a guy with a 5er that runs about 500w of panels on his roof. His buddy does the same but they have each wired their systems differently (panels in series vs parallel) and they have done comparisons on which way is better. The also compared the difference between just keeping the panels flat to the roof vs. tilting them toward the sun. VERY good information and I gleaned a lot from their research. Wished I could find that again.
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:19 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by NWJeeper View Post
With our filtered and inconsistent sun up here I can usually run the TV/Sat for 3 or 4 hours out of a day and keep even using solar. Mind you it will drain down over several days and I usually end up running the generator depending on the amount of sun we get. In a perfect set up I see myself getting at least one more 130W panel to compensate for the reduced sun days we do see. However the big problem is the furnace. If temps drop below about 45 in the evenings then I end up using power much faster and we have to leave the TV turned off or run the generator more during the evenings to watch TV, charge and keep heat going just before bedtime.

I have 6 6V Trojan T-125 batteries for a total of 740 amp-hour bank. I added the Trimentric 2025RV just before our last trip so that I can keep track of exactly how much amperage is being taken from or put back into our system. I had found a web site by a guy with a 5er that runs about 500w of panels on his roof. His buddy does the same but they have each wired their systems differently (panels in series vs parallel) and they have done comparisons on which way is better. The also compared the difference between just keeping the panels flat to the roof vs. tilting them toward the sun. VERY good information and I gleaned a lot from their research. Wished I could find that again.
Nice setup. I might go in stages with this. Get (over spec'ed) panels on the roof then start screwing with them. If I wire them all into a buss bar of some sort, I should be able to reconfigure the wiring pretty easily. Heck, maybe a dip-switch kind of thing... anyway, thanks for the info. When I bought my DP the dealer put new batteries in it, so I'm not looking to replace those just yet. When they DO die however! 6V's here I come.

Thanks again,

Brian
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:15 PM   #8
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I went with the AMsolar setup on mine.

I started with a single panel last year and added another this year. I'll just keep adding a panel a year until I hit 4 which is the max my mppt controller can handle. The prices just keep on dropping. I planned the space accordingly on the roof and the combiner box under my fridge vent can handle the additions. Adding another panel is as easy as mounting it. Even 1 panel is a great battery maintainer and keeps you topped off and makes you feel a little green.
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:18 PM   #9
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I went with the AMsolar setup on mine.

I started with a single panel last year and added another this year. I'll just keep adding a panel a year until I hit 4 which is the max my mppt controller can handle. The prices just keep on dropping. I planned the space accordingly on the roof and the combiner box under my fridge vent can handle the additions. Adding another panel is as easy as mounting it. Even 1 panel is a great battery maintainer and keeps you topped off and makes you feel a little green.
Excellent way to do it Ron
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Old 04-21-2010, 09:27 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ronhanson View Post
I went with the AMsolar setup on mine.

I started with a single panel last year and added another this year. I'll just keep adding a panel a year until I hit 4 which is the max my mppt controller can handle. The prices just keep on dropping. I planned the space accordingly on the roof and the combiner box under my fridge vent can handle the additions. Adding another panel is as easy as mounting it. Even 1 panel is a great battery maintainer and keeps you topped off and makes you feel a little green.
I hear it's not easy being green... I wonder if Kermit ever considered solar panels? I think that's the route I'm going to take. Start with 1 get everything wired up and just snap on more panels as I need them. good deal!

Thanks for the confidence booster.


Brian
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