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Old 02-19-2014, 01:12 PM   #1
JimnSylvia's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Bakersfield CA
Posts: 33
What's the good of Solar?

We have a Xantrex Solar system and I don't know what the advantage of it is, or how to utilize it. Are we supposed to have a "transformer" or "converter" for it? Is it just to amp up a battery. Can I hook up lights to the said battery? How can I take advantage of this paid-for power resource and cut my electric bill? I'd like to hook up some outdoor motion sensitive lights around our site.

We are living permanently in our 5er in a permanent location but haven't had the time to really learn how it all works.

Who do you think might I call to come and tell me all about it? It didn't come with documentation.

Thanks (and by the way, it is always me, Sylvia, the wife, who asks questions here on the forum. I'm the handy-woman of the family...)!

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Old 02-19-2014, 01:57 PM   #2
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Central New York
Posts: 901
OK - I'm going to assume that if you are on a permanent site you are plugged in. Actaully not an assumption since you said you have an electric bill...

The solar panels will produce power, but you need to store and regulate it. There is a fair amount of calculating you need to do to match your battery size to your panels, to your power needs. Then there is the fact that the solar panels are producing DC current, and many of the systems in your 5er are running on AC. So, you need an inverter to change DC power to AC power. Its the opposite of your trailer's converter, which is taking the 110V AC power and converting it to DC power for your lights and other 12 volt systems.

So, if you have an inverter already, and its wired up to power your TV and other 110V items, the solar system could certainly save you some $$. What you most likely need to do is actually unplug or flip the breaker on your incoming electric (shore power) and run off the batteries, with the inverter supplying the 110V stuff and the panels charging the batteries. Then, you use the incoming electric ("shore power") like you would a generator. If you needed to run high current drawing systems like your AC (edit - used AC for 2 different meanings, air conditioner in this case), its too much for the battery system. Or if its winter tiime and cloudy, the batteries may get low. In those situations you turn on the "shore power" and the rest of the time you only run on your batteries.

Unless you have the ability and the utility allows you to do "net metering." Then your panels just offset part of your bill. Not 100% sure if/how that might work in the case of an RV. Its common in houses in states where that is allowed.

If you post some details about the specific system you have - wattage of the panels, what charge controller, what inverter - it would make it easier to give you some more specific advice.

And, if you do a google search, you can turn up some blogs and other info about people using RV's "off the grid" with solar sytems to meet most of their power needs. Here is one link that goes through some basics about solar for RV's:

Solar RV Panels – Camp Anywhere In Style - Solar RV Panels


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Old 02-19-2014, 02:43 PM   #3
Denver, CO
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 1,880
Oh boy, big question. The solar system is generally designed for off grid camping where it can extend your battery capacity and save generator time.

On a fixed powered site with 110 volt, it has limited use and the only way it can maybe help is to turn the charging system off, if you can even do that, and see what functions the batteries, solar panels and inverter can maintain. Frankly, I can't imagine it saving very much, and you would really need to know ALOT about the day to day power consumption, solar capacity, and battery status to even do that.

If you can find someone in your area with expertise, then they may be able to help with specifics, after looking at what you got.
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Old 02-19-2014, 03:22 PM   #4
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Since you're metered I'll assume you're on a seasonal site. Basically, solar's not going to do much for you there. The real benefit to solar is for dry camping, when you have no hookups.

That being said, if you're willing to make some changes to the way you do things, you can get solar to reduce your electric bill.

Power in a typical trailer works like this:

1) Power from the pole goes to the circuit breakers
2) Power gets divided to run things like fridge, TV, air conditioning and the converter.
3) The converter turns the AC power into DC power
4) This DC power is run to the batteries.
5) From the batteries, power is supplied back to the distribution panel (fuses)
6) From there, the power is divided and supplied to things that run on 12v, like lights, furnace, radio, etc..

That's it in it's simplistic form, there's many finer points that I'm sure the electricians on this board can correct me on, but this should suffice for the next part.

Solar, in general, is an alternative to step 4. It also supplies power to the batteries.

In order to reduce your electric bill, you need to make sure the amount of power you use in step 6 is less than the amount of power being supplied by the solar panels. And then (this is the part I'm not 100% sure on) the converter should automatically be used less often to recharge the batteries.

This is going to provide a minimal drop in your electric usage as your big power hogs (fridge and AC) are still being powered from the pole.

The next thing to look at is an inverter. An inverter turns DC power back into AC so you can use your batteries to power the things in step 2 (TV, fridge, etc...) This is generally not an efficient conversion and will drain your batteries faster than the solar can provide. Especially things like a fridge.

To reach the maximum amount of offset for your electric bill, you'd need to figure out how much power your solar's producing, how much your using, and what you can plug into an inverter to use up the difference. This is going to take some trial and error to determine. To start, I'd recommend leaving the fridge and air conditioning on the power from the pole (known as shore power) and try to run things like your TV, coffee maker, etc... from the inverter.
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