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Old 07-31-2014, 05:41 PM   #1
rce
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30 watt solar panel or 980 watt generator

I'm trying to determine if a 30 watt solar panel with controller ...or a 980 watt gas generator would meet my minimal dry camping needs. Primarily want to be able to run the fridge for up to 5 days on propane + any other unknown battery draws.

Water heater, pump, furnace & lights not really necessary, no 120 v appliances.

Fridge is a Dometic with separate freezer. Camping in Utah late September so could be hot during day & cool at night

So I'm hoping that either the 30 watt panel could keep the 12 V battery sufficiently charged or the generator could be run say for an hour or two each day to power my stand alone battery charger/tender. Just a basic, $90 "marine" battery. Am I realistic or overly optimistic about either option?

Have searched for answers but I'm pretty unclear what to expect. Panel with controller around $100, generator around $150.
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:19 PM   #2
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When I asked a related question last year (Cheap solar worth it?) it came back that I'd need at least 80W of panels to run the fridge and the other parasitic loads if I intended to mount a flat "leave it and forget it" panel. And that was only if I did the mod covered in this thread (Battery gone in 36h, where to start?) that bypasses a rather power hungry feature built into some of the Dometic fridges.

Never did go solar, so I can't really help there, but if you are going to do that route then there's tons of information on this site about it. However, I can offer an alternative. If you're going to be in Utah, isn't it fairly windy there? If so, maybe a wind turbine could also supplement your needs.

If cost is a factor, here's a guy (Michael Davis Publishing - Mike's World.) who built his own solar panels, wind turbines and controllers for at lot less then commercial prices, if you're inclined to go that far.

On the other hand, as long as you have Gas, a generator will always be able to provide power. Can't say how many hours you'll have to run it, but you won't be subjected to nature's whims, just noise.

Either way though, best of luck with your choices. Let us know how it goes.
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:23 PM   #3
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I am in Canada but am very suprised about the solar & generator pricing. Very cheap so I question the quality. I have a Honda EU 2000 which I rarely use. Great genny. I operate a 35 ft Salem Hemisphere from a 123 watt Sharp solar panel, 20 amp controller supplying juice to 2 Interstate 6 v golf cart batteries. Fabulous results even though I still have 921 incandescent bulbs. LED's in the future. A 30 watt panel sounds small to me. I think it will just keep your battery charged when the trailer is not in use. Please note: I am not close to being an electrician.
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Old 07-31-2014, 06:34 PM   #4
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A 30 watt panel will not keep your battery or batterries charged.

If your going solar I would get at least 180 watts and two to four batteries either 6 volt in series and parallel or 12's...6's have more amp hours 440ah with four bats and 340ah for the same in 12's. 6 volts with handle multiple charging cycles better. That said I went with four 12 v batteries because my trailer was new so was the battery that came with it plus the 12v deep cycles had a two year warranty and the 6's only had a one year waranty (costco)

Generator. A new Honda 1000 watt will charge your batteries run your firige at the same time. Your frige should convert back to propane when the Gen is off.

A Honda 1000 will cost about $750 or you may find one on CL for half that. You will still need a storng battery bank or you will be running the generator all the time. You will need to run your generator for two to four hours each day to keep your bats up but depends on your usage. You should also get a proper volt meter that reads battery voltage. Not a good idea to let your batteries drop below 12.2 volts.
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:18 PM   #5
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Just looking for a simple/inexpensive way to run the fridge only or to charge the battery to run the fridge. On propane, and yes the "dehumidifier" or what ever it is will be turned off!

Don't need or want to invest a whole lot of money as dry camping not our usual style!
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Old 08-01-2014, 12:18 AM   #6
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Generator. Thirty watts of solar will get you only about 8-10 amp hours daily. Not even close to enough...and that is ONLY if the sun is shining. What do you do if it rains for 3 days?
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Old 08-01-2014, 01:12 AM   #7
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Your 30 watt solar will fail to keep your battery charged - as stated earlier it just does not create enough charge to replace the amp hours used by the fridge and any lights used. I would suggest a second battery and a small generator is your best option.


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Old 08-01-2014, 09:35 AM   #8
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Thanks all for the helpful, factual information. Glad I didn't act on impulse (and buy the solar panel) but rather posted on our always helpful forum. Disappointed but realistic. Will likely explore the small generator option. Second battery could be tricky as nowhere on or in our trailer to put it, just the box of the truck.
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Old 08-01-2014, 06:09 PM   #9
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I think your best bet is to look for a used Honda 1000 inverrter type generator on CL. I think it will be the cheapest way to go. Honda will keep your neighbors happy becuase it's quiet. If you only have room for one battery maybe you could go with a 27 group 12volt deep cycle it is only a little larger than a 24 group but carries 105 amp hours... Have you gone to LED lights yet? You can run 10 led bulbs for the cost of one incondecent bulb... You don't have to change them all out I just did about half led's...
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Old 08-01-2014, 09:16 PM   #10
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On the cheap....
Get the genny. That sounds like a good price for a genny. Is it new or used?
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