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Old 08-13-2019, 07:37 AM   #1
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Single box solar solution?

I was looking around on YouTube videos and on Amazon for a simple to buy, use and hook up solar charging solution for a pull behind AZDEL travel trailer.

I'm intimidated with the thought to roof mount and find a way to get into the AZDEL/aluminum frame structure to run wires from roof to charge control and batteries. So finding a portable system that could be packed into the "basement" in the front compartment and deployed when wanted seems to be a clean way to deal with getting back power to extend the 12V supply. I just have the dealer supplied dual purpose Interstate battery for now, but I may later upgrade to a pair of Costco 6V batteries.

So I came across this $285 ACOPOWER 100W Mono Portable Foldable 2Pcs 50W Solar Panel Suitcase, Waterproof 20A 12V/24V LCD Charge Controller for Both 12V Battery and Generator, and I think that it may be a good beginners all-in-one package that will allow me to easily deploy and properly charge (at least provide an augmented amount of charge) should we try to boondocking thing.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SKGJ5LJ...v_ov_lig_dp_it

Renogy has a similarly outfitted kit for $244, Renogy 100 Watt Eclipse Monocrystalline Charge 20A Voyager Waterproof Controller, 100W-Waterproof, Solar Suitcase
https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-RNG-KI...PNXZFKGM19922C

With a single smaller Interstate battery, I would guess that a 100W system should be adequate?

Can you think of a reason that one of these kits that breaks down to store easily would not be a good idea for a starter system? I could also attach it for winter storage season and leave the battery in the frame mounted box and not need to remove the battery and bring it into the garage with a tender. This feels to me like a pretty good way to go.

I did already order and get this $9.99 battery meter "XCSOURCE Waterproof 12/24/36/48V LCD Lead-acid Battery and Lithium Battery Capacity Tester Voltage Meter Monitor Green Backlight for Vehicle Battery BI727". My plan is to install it into the side of the battery box being that it is waterproof. I plan to silicone the rear printed board since it is open, I figure that the rear being inside the battery box and covered with RTV silicone, it should survive well enough.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

What say you more solar experienced folks?
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:41 AM   #2
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:25 AM   #3
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I always recommend before spending any money on solar that you do an actual real condition field trial and and determine your realistic power needs. You can easily do this at a campground with power. Simply use your RV as you expect to only do not connect to the power pedestal. Measure that amount of power consumed over a typical 24hr period. (Note you can not do this simply with a battery voltage monitor. ). Then charge via the campground pedestal. After a few days you should have a good idea of your power requirements. Once you have this you can then make an educated decision on what size system you need. I also always recommend getting a charge controller that is about 25% higher capacity than you think you need. That way you can add panels without buying another controller. Although not simple turnkey, purchasing pieces is usually less expensive than a turnkey system. If you need a low cost way to measure current demands you can use one of these. https://www.amazon.com/MICTUNING-6-5...%2C177&sr=8-10
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:34 AM   #4
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I have used the Renogy portable system for several years with decent results. I like the fact it is portable, it can be set up in the sun while the RV is in the shade and you can move it to track the sun. Only downsides are if you hit a couple of rainy days and the potential for theft because it is portable.

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Old 08-13-2019, 10:35 AM   #5
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I bought the Renogy 100 watt solar suitcase last year to use while I'm boondocking. Good quality and customer service, easy to use out of the box. But up here in upstate NY near the Canadian border the best I did was about 35 amp hours a day on really bright sunny days. A lot of days I only got 10. So it reduced my generator run time, but not significantly.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:07 PM   #6
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Renogy is reputable. I use their panels. As FlyBob said, determine your realistic power needs. I would recommend getting twice the panel wattage that you think you need. There will be many days that are overcast or you are in a site that has very little if any direct sun. You will need that extra solar capacity to recharge your battery(ies).
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:29 PM   #7
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it's really a simpler alternative, and probably a better overall outcome, to simply double your battery bank, immediately giving you twice the 'time' off-grid that you already have, without any concern of the weather or 'whether' the sun comes out, or 'where' you are parked(in the shade!)...

batteries are easy to find, inexpensive for what they do, and perform very well for the 'camping' times that we want them to..

you could simply add another same/similar 12v battery, found at most any hardware/auto parts store, or you could replace the single 12v battery you have with more 'off-grid' capable golf cart deep-discharge type 6v batteries(2), wired in 'series'(negative to positive) for 12volts... which may give a much longer 'time' for your off-grid 12 volt usage.

Solar is fine, and many of us have it to 'augment' our battery charging during the daylight hours, but it's relatively expensive for what it 'does'... and if you don't have the battery 'storage'(i.e. number of batteries, or amp hours), you are not going to have too much 'place' for the solar power to 'park', until it's needed, especially during the late evening, overnight, and early morning 'wakeup' hours, which is why most 'off-grid' camping requires a generator, anyway.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:31 PM   #8
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I watched a guy make a 200w suitcase from 2 100w panels and that is what I am doing right now.
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:39 PM   #9
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Unfortunately a 100 watt panel on its best day supplies 25 amps of recharging. That is only 312.5 watts. The microwave needs 1300 per hour.

Solar works best out west. The sun shines a lot every day. Not many trees.

California yes, Michigan not likely.

For $250 you can buy two Costco six volt batteries. And a voltmeter. I like the BM2 on Amazon for less than $40.

To accomplish much you need lots of panels, fancy batteries and a device to manage the solar.

Still will not run ac long.
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:11 PM   #10
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Honestly, I wasn't looking for AC power. The Jensen stereo all day and all evening playing outside, LED ceiling lights as required, refrigerator on propane 24/7, heat if needed. Maybe the outdoor LED lights and the as needed water pump.

The microwave and TV aren't needed. I don't own a small generator, I have an 8750 watt whole house generator but nothing portable. And honestly it's not in the financial cards at this time, maybe next year I'll go get the Predator 3500 watt invertor generator that is raved about.

I do plan for next year to swap out the supplied single Interstate dual purpose battery for a pair of Costco 6 Volt batteries.
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Old 08-15-2019, 02:38 PM   #11
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If you install solar, consider this. A solar panel requires periodic cleaning for maximum output. Translate "periodic" to "every use." So, if you like crawling up on the roof every time you go out, install your panels on the roof.

This past week, I was at 9,000 feet, camping in Colorado. Overnight we had a little rain that left dust spots on my two suitcase solar panels. I knew there would be improvement in performance if I cleaned them, so I did, without crawling onto the roof of my rig.

Output (amperage) increased 4x. on both panels. One is a Zamp while the other is Dokio (different technologies).

Later in the day, both panels were in the shade. I moved both panels into the sun, without moving my rig.
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Old 08-15-2019, 02:47 PM   #12
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Ditto fly bob.

Most folks need to explore their usage with a good voltmeter and go from there.

I have the BM2 from Amazon and 4 Costco six volt batteries. We can go without power about as long as the black tank. Plug in most of the time. AC is a must.

Solar does not work for us.
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Old 08-15-2019, 05:00 PM   #13
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I unplugged from my house power at 4 pm today. Refrigerator is on, radio playing outdoor speakers and 2 Fan-Tastic fans running on level 2 of 3. So it's 6pm now and showing 12.5V and 79%.

I'm on my house water, do not using the pump as my wife is cleaning and messing around.

But 22% in 2 hours means that I'll be under 50% in 5 hours. Not even close to getting a weekend out of it without adding solar.Click image for larger version

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Old 08-15-2019, 05:30 PM   #14
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You likely have a single group 24 battery from the dealer. A group 31 has a lot more amperage and is a pretty simple swap. Group 31 box on Amazon and a deep cycle battery.
We go 3-4 days of lights, radio, water pump and propane refer without doing below 12v or 50%. Typical trip for us between moves to someplace with power available. E don't run fans except when coming inside.
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:10 PM   #15
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Yes, it's a group 24 Interstate.

4 hours of radio outside, refrigerator on LP, 2 LED lights and at 55% and 12.1V. Hot water has been totally off.

So 4 hours with what I can see as low/normal useClick image for larger version

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Old 08-15-2019, 08:30 PM   #16
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One of the big phantom draws is the door heaters in your refrigerator, if you have a Dometic refrigerator. Yup a heater in your refrigerator. Supposed to reduce condensation on the door seals. Draws .25 amp hours 24/7. In older model Dometic refrigerators you could turn it off, but Dometic removed the switch a few years ago to same a few cents per unit because "no one used it."
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:48 PM   #17
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And make sure the boost button for TV is off, not only is there a light on that switch Plate there is a little red light that's on the external antenna
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Old 08-16-2019, 08:23 AM   #18
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Batteries do not hold a lot of juice. Bigger is better.

It also depends on a lot. Charging a battery to 100% takes a while. Our voltmeter also records the voltage so we can see if we have a full charge. Plus alarms.

You have to monitor this a while.

Batteries are the weakest link. You need to measure the battery area and put in the biggest you can! We have enough for 4 or 5 days. 460 amps as I remember. You are likely 80 amps. That is what the dealer would have installed in our fifth wheel. I paid an extra $350.

Keep learning.
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Old 08-16-2019, 12:36 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry0071 View Post
Yes, it's a group 24 Interstate.

4 hours of radio outside, refrigerator on LP, 2 LED lights and at 55% and 12.1V. Hot water has been totally off.

So 4 hours with what I can see as low/normal useAttachment 212487Attachment 212488
Is the 12.1v reading with everything shut off, or things still running?
I would think you should get a bit more time even with a group 24. Was it fully charged and how old is the battery?
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Old 08-16-2019, 01:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MtBiker View Post
Is the 12.1v reading with everything shut off, or things still running?

I would think you should get a bit more time even with a group 24. Was it fully charged and how old is the battery?
Battery and trailer are 3 weeks old. It was fully charged and plugged into my house and at 4pm I unplugged it.

All readings were taken with 2 Fantastic fans on medium, 2 LED ceiling lights on, refrigerator on propane, and radio on with the 2 outside speakers playing prime country.
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