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Old 06-12-2012, 04:32 PM   #1
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Question Solar Panel for Aframe

Anyone have any advice about purchasing a solar panel to use with my Flagstaff T12RB Aframe? My main concern is running the lights and possibly the fan. Don’t want to over do it but what’s that saying better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Not sure what the cost will be guess I’ll have to determine my budget as I receive more information.
This is my first year with the Aframe learning as I go along so please keep this strictly Solar Panels for Dummies. Appreciate the help.
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Old 06-12-2012, 05:10 PM   #2
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There are a number of members of this particular forum that run solar in their Aframes, Hamguy, me and i think, Daveinpickerton.
I think one of the big things for me, was to turf the single RV style battery and install two 12v. group 29/31 batts to help us create a buffer for days that we would not capture enough sun, and continue to use all our 12 volt appliances seemelessly, like they were hooked up to 120.
Adding up all the draws, I felt that an 80 watt panel was enought for us to run the lights, water pump, fantastic fan, another fantastic fan, called Endless Breeze and all the perhipherals, and i was correct. During a 5 hour stint, our batts are recharged on a daily basis. We camp alot in Ontario Provincial Parks, and as you know, most of the nicer sites near water or tucked out of the way ,,.. have no hydro.
I add to this a smaller 30 watt panel, which i think is a sunforce, by name that powers a inverter/battery pack for a medical divice that i require when i sleep.
I purchased my panel from "solar power canada" on Fleebay .. A dude who runs his business out of Montreal Que, and who has very competative pricing, plus, offers kits including charge controllers wiring and all that stuff. The charge controller is excellent and provides a new style of techology,by pulsing bursts of charges to your battery, instead of just controlling the charge.

hope this helps .. d-mo ..
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Old 06-13-2012, 12:49 PM   #3
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I was quick to see the wisdom of D-mo's dual battery/solar panel idea so I copied it. There's an old saying, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I now have a matched pair of Group 31 deep cycle combo batteries, with about 240 AH capacity. I made a mounting frame for them, again based on D-mo's design, and attached it on the tongue just slightly further aft of the factory-made one, which I don't use now. That allowed me to move the gas cylinder mount about 2" rearward to give me more cranking clearance with the tongue jack. I don't hit my knuckles on the tank cover now.

Where my setup differs from D-mo's is in the panels. He has some 80 watts worth, I have 60 watts. I didn't pay as much for mine, as there's a Harbor Freight store not far from me that has sales on their panel kits several times a year. Northern Tools also has a more expensive 60 watt set that looks just like the Harbor Freight kit. The downsides of solar charging are a) nothing draws clouds like solar panels. I set mine out and the day goes cloudy right away. Your luck may be better, but if you need 5 to 6 hours of sunlight a day to keep your battery topped off, clouds are your enemies; b) keeping the panels out of the shade and facing the sun means moving them at least hourly. They're not a set-and-forget deal; c) They're not light, nor are they small. You're going to have to schlep them around and they'll take a lot of room wherever you carry them. Maybe you could transport them on the rear bed. Daveinpickerington just recently posted a video showing his 60-watt solar array that folds up, so that's a handy solution to the size problem, but the trade-off is price. I have about $250 in my setup, including the charge controller you have to have. I think Dave said his array was about $800 and I don't know if the charge controller was included.

Once the $$ is spent and the transport and usage problems are worked out, solar power can help keep your footprint greener, though.
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:24 PM   #4
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My 120 Watt setup for $320

I would like to share my pv solar setup that I recently purchased from sunpowerlink

The Owner Jim Yu was very knowledgable and was able to answer all my questions. He was available on his cell phone which was nice!! I purchased a 120 watt setup that consists of 2 60 watt panels that are hinged and fold. I appreciate the fact that 120 watts may be a bit overkill for my power needs, but it is nice since the panels are able to charge the battery quickly in less then ideal conditions. He also sold me a charge controller and all of the required cables for a total of $320. I used the system on our last 6 day trip in colorado without any problems. I was able to keep my stock group 24 battery topped off on a daily basis. It was simple to install. I Installed the charge controller in the mechanical compartment and ran 18 gauge wire from the battery to the charge controller. From the controller I ran the lines to the panel out of the 30amp hookup port. All in all I didn't have to drill any new holes in the rig. I will attach pictures of the setup. Jim also included some mounting brackets that I could use to mount the panels to the roof. After much thought I have decided to use the panels as a freestanding unit. It is really nice to be able to move the panels throughout the day to keep them at an optimum angle to the sun. If you decide to order from Jim let him know that you were referred by Josh in Colorado. He quoted me a package cost of $320 The kit includes:
120W folding mono crystal solar panel
1 parallel adaptor
15 feet PV cable
charge controller
4 clamps (I tested 4 clamps is very stable, good enough)
total $320 shipping is about $28
It looks like he has raised his prices on the website, but he said he would be willing to give us aframers a deal if we generate some business for him. I found him on ebay so you might want to look at his products there as well. So far I have limited experience with the product, but seems to work as advertised. I have confirmed the panel outputs with a multimeter and they seem to be working to spec.
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Old 06-15-2012, 05:27 PM   #5
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That sounds like a great deal, makes me wish I'd not already bought my setup. Thanks for sharing the information and the sources. Thumbs up! BTW, I don't think 120 watts is overkill. Per his specs on the website you linked us to, under ideal conditions the system supplies just under 7 amps to the charge controller. Given cloudy days and not wanting to leave your pv system out when you're not there, you won't always have full days to charge up, so the higher output is a good thing. Plus, if you occasionally use an inverter to supply 120v AC to something (something small--margarita blender?) you'll appreciate the system's ability to recharge fairly quickly. Inverters can be thirsty battery vampires.
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Old 06-16-2012, 11:42 PM   #6
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Great info shared by all! Josh, what would you think your solar system weighs?
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Old 06-17-2012, 04:27 PM   #7
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26.5lbs all the specs are on the website. The panels are manageable while traveling. They fold flat and I keep them stored in the back of my SUV. I am sure they could be stored on the bed or under the dinette. I would love to see what other members of the community devise. The one main advantage of mounting the panels to the roof would be not having to worry about storing them.
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Old 06-17-2012, 05:08 PM   #8
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That's a lot lighter than my four 15-watt panels, not to mention the support frame they sit in. Altogether my setup probably weighs in at around 50 pounds.
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:42 AM   #9
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120 watts is a reasonably good sized system. Replace incandescent globes with LED globes. Don't use an inverter for A/Conditioner. That will chew up too much power. Solar with regulator along with a 100 to 120 Amp hour deep cycle battery is good. A second 100 to 120 Amp hour battery wired in parallel even better. This set up can have you boondocking for extended periods. Especially if you add a tow vehicles second (dual) deep cycle battery in the mix, that is another 100 to 120 Amp hours provided it is isolated from your start battery. You want to be able to start your vehicle when you want to drive. The dual battery can get charged up when and if you go for drives without your van attached. Your tow vehicle would need to be connected to van battery via heavy cable (min 16mm2 conductor) and 50 amp Anderson plug mounted on rear of tow vehicle and running straight to your van's battery set to have all 3 batteries work in together This connection also provided 12 V DC alternator charging to your caravan batteries as you drive. Way better than a hot wire via trailer/tow vehicle plug. The same setup connection with a second cable run to your three way fridge 12V power supply will ensure your 3 way fridge can operate sufficiently as you drive rather than the practice of using propane to power fridge when driving. (That is another story covered in other threads). Lots of ideas to consider.
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Old 08-08-2013, 11:47 PM   #10
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Solar power

Hi Folks,

As we are looking to enhance our A122’s power system for off-the-grid camping, we’d like to tag a few questions on to this informative thread. Currently, we are carrying an extra Group 27 deep-cycle battery to complement our stock/on-board (and probably-depleted-due-to-initial-overuse) Group 24 model. When needed, I pull the 27 off the truck and connect it via a Blue Sea battery switch and extra cables. The setup works fine. Recently, we camped in The Sierras using only battery power for a week and had enough juice for the basics. However, we would love to make full use of our shower, heater, etc. and not be overly-concerned about coming up short on power. A few questions for the mod and electric gurus …
- Has anyone gone the same solar route as route as BoulderCamper above? The noted company’s product (sunpowerlink) seems like a splendid deal in terms of quality, power and value - an impressive system for keeping the batteries all charged up.
- For wiring the onboard charge controller, which trailer openings make sense for running connections? I’m not sure how BoulderCamper ran cable through the 30A port, but it would be cool to know. May be easier to mount on the tongue somehow.
- When eventually replacing my original Group 24, mounting the 27 battery on the trailer, I would prefer not drill any holes in the frame, if do-able. Have a few ideas (i.e, installing a simple platform into the frame rails) but was wondering how others have done it. Master modders D-Mo and HamGuy did a splendid job with the dual battery thing.

Hope everyone’s reveling in a wonderful camping season, like our family. We’ve owned our A122 for about a year and are enjoying it immensely!

Thanks, everyone, for the terrific forum!
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