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Old 06-05-2015, 02:39 PM   #1
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Batteries, solar and dry camping!

Hello, I am looking to set up my camper for dry camping.

I have a 2003 Shamrock 21 ft hybride.

I have read so much that I have confused myself!

Initially I was looking at adding a second 12 v battery. One would be in use on the trailer while the other would be charging on a portable solar array of 100 watts (was looking at the Renogy 100 watt suitcase system). Portable so it could be move to the sunniest spot on the site. I have since learned that a 100 watt solar array may not be enough. So I kept reading....

Started looking at doing a 300 watt portable set up.

Than I changed over to two 6v Trojan batteries (the 105's) as it seemed I would get more dry time with the 6's. But how would I charge them! Don't think I want to buy 4 of those!

No really interested in the generator option as the noise frustrates the heck out of me when I am camping.

Money is a factor too, I want to keep it reasonable.

Would be running a few lights (led's), fridge on LP, water pump, water heater, and probably a radio.

How do you folks set up to stay dry!
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Old 06-05-2015, 03:09 PM   #2
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We almost exclusively dry camp in our hybrid.
I didn't want the limitations of solar (useless in forested campgrounds, can't run microwave or a/c, having to attach to roof by drilling), so we have a quiet Honda inverter generator.
We only have to run it for a couple of hours, every 3 or 4 days.
I can almost always place it where it doesn't disturb us or our neighbors.
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Old 06-05-2015, 03:50 PM   #3
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I use solar panels on the roof of my Georgetown to keep the batteries charged when we are boondocking. You are correct that 100 watts will likely not be sufficient. Solar works very well, but there are a few problems, and I don't just mean rainy days. Solar panels on an RV roof will probably be installed flat on the roof, so they are not aimed at the sun. Also, solar panel output decreases as the temperature goes up. Since most of us camp in warmer weather, the panels are at a higher temperature than the 72 degree (panel temp, not air temp) standard test condition that panels are rated at. On a hot sunny day, a 100 watt panel might only put out 75 watts, and that's assuming it's aimed properly at the sun, which ours are not. The reverse is also true for winter camping, where a 100 watt panel can put out 120 watts on a cold clear day.

To get solar on an RV to work well, you will need additional panels. The good news is that the cost of solar panels has plunged in the last few years, so this minimizes the price problem.

The remaining issues are that the panels must not be shaded even a little bit. People think that if 90% of the panel is in the sun, it's putting out 90% of its rated power. Wrong. Most solar panels are made of individual cells wired in series. If one cell on the panel is shaded, it can take out the entire panel. It's just like the old Christmas lights where if one bulb burned out, the whole string of lights didn't work. The panels must not be shaded at all by a roof vent, air conditioner, TV antenna, etc.

You also need to install the solar charge controller as close as possible (but never in the same compartment) as the batteries. The solar panels will probably use 10 gauge wire (UL 4703 photovoltaic) to connect them to a junction box on the roof. From the junction box to the charge controller you want to use 4 or 6 gauge wire to minimize voltage drop.

You are correct that there is a lot of information on the internet concerning RV solar, some good, and some not so good. The Renogy panels at amazon get good reviews and are reasonably priced. I purchased my panels from Solar Cells, Solar Panels, Renewable Energy, Wind Energy, Charge Controllers, Solar Trackers - Solarblvd If you purchase a charge controller that allows for additional amps, you can start with one or two panels and add more in the future if needed.
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Old 06-05-2015, 04:24 PM   #4
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Step one - for sure - have 2 batteries. 12 or 6 volt - pros & cons of each, but you want 2 matched, identical batteries and wire them as one bank. Connections are a little different depending on 6v or 12v.


Your solar setup can charge the batteries while you are using them. You need to estimate the amount of panels you need based on usage, sun availability, etc... And you need a charge controller. This will send the proper voltage to your batteries and prevent over-charging. A basic $30 model will do the job for a basic system.


Now, if you camp in the woods, portable is the way to go. If you camp at the beach or in the dessert, roof mounted is much more convenient.


I bought two 100W panels last year. Hard wired the controller and the inverter into the front storage compartment, and set the panels up on 30 feet of wire. Had good results keeping the batteries charged with this setup. I have been debating whether I want to roof mount one or not.


To get started, a 20 or 30 amp controller and one or two portable panels is a good start. As you test / play with it you'll get a feel for how it performs in your conditions. If its not enough, you can add a panel. If you find your roof is always located in a sunny spot, you could go roof mounted.


For less than $500, I've been pretty happy with the 200 watt system for our Roo. And I like not having a generator - but the prices keep coming down. The Champion's and some of the other mid-level brands of inverter generators are pretty reasonable if you go that route.
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Old 06-05-2015, 05:10 PM   #5
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Since I bought my A-frame for hunting purposes, the first thing I did was to upgrade my system for living off the grid. You can see the details of how I outfitted my A-Frame here:
New A-Frame owner - New to the forum

Right now, I've only got 60 watts of panels and 200 amp-hours of battery. If you followed the link, you can see that I only have one battery, but what a battery! I lucked into a great deal on what would normally be a $500 battery - I paid only $100. The battery was new, never put into service, but it had been sitting around for three years, neglected. I took it home, did a little reconditioning, and it is working great for me. Advice: Get as much battery as you can afford and fit. To make mine fit, I built a custom battery box. I stopped at only one battery because I was worried about too much tongue weight. (Yes, I bought more than one of those monster batteries!)

As for only 60 watts of solar panel, right now that suits my power consumption needs. Also, living and camping in Arizona, I can sometimes actually get more than 60 watts at peak sun, even in warm temperatures. Where you live and camp greatly affects how much "insolation" your panels will receive, and how much power your panels will push.

Your trailer is a little bigger than mine, so your power consumption requirements may be higher. But from what you mentioned wanting to run, I think that 100 watts will do you just fine. I eventually plan on permanent mounting at least one 100 watt panel on the front roof slope of my A-Frame. Since I camp in the wild, I can always pick my spot and point my front roof slope due south into the sun. But I will still keep the portable corded set because that can be moved throughout the day to keep direct sun on the panels (but only while I am in-camp, not when I'm out roaming the hills with rifle in-hand).
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Old 06-05-2015, 08:34 PM   #6
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Thank you.


How long would it take to charge one 12 v or two 6v with a 2000 watt (1600 watt nominal output) inverter generator?


what will allow me the most dry time....two 6v or two 12v batteries?


thanks again
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Old 06-05-2015, 10:13 PM   #7
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Can't answer the generator question - too many unstated variables. I thought you were trying to avoid a generator?

As to your other question, what you need to know is how many amp-hours of battery capacity you have, not how many batteries will give you the most dry camping time. Either could give you the same, depending on the battery or batteries chosen. Two 6V golf cart batteries, like the popular Trojan T105s, will give you 225 amp-hours. One battery like mine, will give you 200 to 212. Pretty close to the same.

Getting back to your charging time question, what you need to know is how many amp-hours you used since the last charge, and how much charging current your chosen method of charging (solar or generator) can put out. That wiil answer the question of how long you need to charge. That's the meaning of amp-hours. You are trying to put back the amount you have used.
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Old 06-05-2015, 10:39 PM   #8
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I can't make specific recommendations but choose your wiring and charge controller wisely and leave plenty of room for future upgrades. A 100 Watt panel would be a good starting point, it worked for us to keep the fridge running on propane and for conservative other uses.
You should also invest in 2 preferably 6 Volt GC or AGM true deep cycle batteries, this is important because every time you drain the batteries below 50% SOC that severely shortens the life of the batteries. This is the part where you have to invest your money wisely.
The batteries in an optimized setup should be fully recharged before noon.
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Old 06-05-2015, 11:03 PM   #9
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I run a portable 80watt solar with two 6vy. In the summer, while watching my power consumption, I have never run out of power. I do rotate the panel every few hours(when I can), I do have LEDs, I do keep track of family’s usage and occasionally I do turn off my fridge at night mostly for noise but also for power. I have no tv, no compute, no electric coffee pot and I don’t knowingly let my children charge D/C items though I do run the house radio often/always. The biggest issue I find that matters is, set the solar up quickly, don’t wait tell you need it; it’s hard to catch-up.
Now, in the winter while needing the heater(blower/motor) I can never keep up with solar only.
I carry a 2000wt generator but very rarely need it, 3 times in 2 years and I camp 120+++days a year(full hook-ups ?35-50days a yr) Genis are nice to have if you need them.
John
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Old 06-05-2015, 11:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YoungKopernik View Post
I run a portable 80watt solar with two 6vy. In the summer, while watching my power consumption, I have never run out of power. I do rotate the panel every few hours(when I can), I do have LEDs, I do keep track of familyís usage and occasionally I do turn off my fridge at night mostly for noise but also for power. I have no tv, no compute, no electric coffee pot and I donít knowingly let my children charge D/C items though I do run the house radio often/always. The biggest issue I find that matters is, set the solar up quickly, donít wait tell you need it; itís hard to catch-up.

Now, in the winter while needing the heater(blower/motor) I can never keep up with solar only.
I carry a 2000wt generator but very rarely need it, 3 times in 2 years and I camp 120+++days a year(full hook-ups ?35-50days a yr) Genis are nice to have if you need them.
John
John, I agree with you reg. the generator. We burned $60 worth of propane in all of 2014 incl. furnace and generator, hot water is mostly solar - we do boondock.
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