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Old 03-30-2019, 09:11 PM   #1
Pa Groundhog
 
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Solar or no Solar?

I just got my 180RT. I am use to camping as a minimalist. Motorcycle towing a small camper. My plan is to boondock in the toy hauler. Is solar power worth the cost? I have two Honda 2000 generators (if AC is needed). I may run the furnace some and the lights. The camper has one battery. I know clouds and such affect solar power a lot. ***Question*** Is solar worth the cost and should I get two 100 watt panels or would one be enough? The solar connection, pre-wired to the camper, will handle 10amps. Can 20 amp controllers be set for 10 amp max?Thanks
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Old 03-31-2019, 01:10 AM   #2
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Need more information. What size capacity is your battery? How may AH do you use in a day?


I have 2 100AH Battleborn lithium batteries and 700W of solar and have never used my generator which I only bring on very long trips as a "just in case". For a week long trip, it stays at home.


With a PWM controller, each 100W panel will give you around 15AH/day assuming they are flat mounted. If you can tilt or move them around, you can get close to 20AH/day.


Each 100W panel outputs 5A peak which will happen only under ideal conditions.
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Old 03-31-2019, 07:52 AM   #3
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Since 5A is peek for a panel and my adapter is wired for 10A, it sounds like I should get two panels. I can't give you more info on use because I have not boon docked with a self contained camper before. I always used my motorcycle and towed a tent camper. I will say this. I live in the northeast so there is always a lot of shade and it is very hilly. A lot of camping is in the valleys so direct sun can be limited. For all I might be able to use solar...I am not sure if it is an option. Maybe I should try a season and see how it goes. I could chart how often and how much direct sun I get. That info would probably tell me best.
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Old 03-31-2019, 07:59 AM   #4
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I'd stay with the Gen's and that's a good idea to track what you use and how much sun you get. Why buy all that stuff if you're not sure you'll be able to use it.
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Old 03-31-2019, 08:31 AM   #5
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Solar is an interesting idea.

Good info on panels. Likely 15-20 amps per day with one panel. Shade and hills are the enemy.

Two fancy batteries and 7 solar panels cost likely north of $3,000. Plus a back up generator is sort of still necessary. Or just a generator running an hour per day.

I have a gas fridge and 460 amps of traditional batteries for $400 in my fiver. 4 six volts.

I run the generator, a Honda 2200 every day for an hour. I have a cpap machine which is a battery hog. No solar. I get nearly 50 amps per hour of charging from the Honda. As much as three solar panels on their best day. Plus running the washer/dryer for an hour. Or the convection oven. The DW likes her washer.

Solar is a fun idea. I like state park campgrounds with lots of trees.

P=IV. Wattage=Amps*Volts. Learn the math.
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Old 03-31-2019, 10:14 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaGroundhog View Post
I just got my 180RT. I am use to camping as a minimalist. Motorcycle towing a small camper. My plan is to boondock in the toy hauler. Is solar power worth the cost? I have two Honda 2000 generators (if AC is needed). I may run the furnace some and the lights. The camper has one battery. I know clouds and such affect solar power a lot. ***Question*** Is solar worth the cost and should I get two 100 watt panels or would one be enough? The solar connection, pre-wired to the camper, will handle 10amps. Can 20 amp controllers be set for 10 amp max?Thanks
If your RV qualifies as a 2nd home, then you can get a 30% solar tax credit from the IRS for 2019. That includes Solar Panels, Batteries, Invertors, Labor, etc.

Solar allows us to camp anywhere and still have power for my CPAP. Solar is worth it.

Freedom.
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Old 03-31-2019, 10:32 AM   #7
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I get nearly 50 amps per hour of charging from the Honda.
Have you actually measured this with a battery monitor? It may start at 50 if you are really discharged but because of the nature of flooded lead acid batteries, it will take you 8 hours to just get to 80% charge. You just can't force the charge in because of the battery's internal impedance. Love it when people think that because they think the converter puts out a certain amount of current that's what will actually be put into the batteries...of course unless you have lithium! Yes, ohms law!
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Old 03-31-2019, 10:36 AM   #8
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Solar works great! No gas, no exhaust, and NO noise from a generator.

Two 100w panels will be enough if you're limited to 10amps, since that's about what they will do anyway. Shade isn't a big issue if your panels can be moved into the sun.

It does depend on your needs. A/C will not work without about 7-8 batteries and maybe 5 -100w panels.
My solar system was cheaper than a generator. (2 panels) But, where I boondock...I don't need to use the A/C.
They do still gather a small charge through the clouds. I have more experimenting to do under those conditions. I have seen 1-2 amps through the clouds.

I think if one is a minimalist...Solar is the way to go. You can find panels with all the wires and controllers between $120-$180.
Solar is not expensive.
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Old 03-31-2019, 01:24 PM   #9
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The first thing I noticed after going solar is that you don't need direct sunlight to charge batteries. You need light. Direct is more efficient but you can have a lot of charging going on during daylight hours, direct or indirect.

I use 2 12-volt batteries in our TT and, so far, only one 125-watt solar panel. I will probably get a 2nd to make things charge a bit quicker, but with a 2500-watt true sine wave inverter, we wake up to brewed coffee in the morning. We can make at least 8 or ten cups (for us and company) before the inverter shows signs of being underpowered. Then it charges during the rest of the day. By afternoon, things are topped off again.

Solar may be pricey to start, but it is quiet and dependable with enough light. I also bring along a 2000-watt generator for those very cloudy days but rarely use it.

As a side note, I love the TT solar so much that I installed a 12-volt system in my house. I have inverter power for the fridge and freezer during power outages. Works flawlessly. Good batteries are expensive but they do last for years.

Good luck with yours!

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Old 03-31-2019, 02:54 PM   #10
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The easiest and cheapest way to start is to go to 2 batteries instead of 1. I prefer the GC-2s ($95 each) from Costco or Walmart as the most cost effective way to add battery capacity. But that might be more weight than you want if you are truly going to be a minimalist.

Regardless of solar capacity, you really should have 48 hours worth of battery capacity (without going below 50% SOC for lead acid) for decent battery life. If you have 48 hours worth of batteries, a generator run cut short or a rainy day doesn't destroy your batteries.

Once you have the battery capacity, then recharging them for stays more than 48 hours becomes the issue. Both generators and solar panels have their significant drawbacks - pick your poison.

We use the 2 GC-2 6V batteries (105 AH usable without going below 50%) to give us 4 day capacity with reasonable use of the heater in our A-frame. We've never stayed any one place without electric for more than 3 nights, so the batteries alone are sufficient. We do like to camp in shade, and not worry about our sun orientation. We also don't want to be man-handling a 50lb generator, and dealing with gas and refilling, etc. Solar is cheaper than a generator if cost is an issue.

But that's us.
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