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Old 10-31-2014, 09:20 AM   #1
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Newbie Solar vs Generator Question

Good morning everybody,

About to head out on our maiden voyage this weekend in our 2015 Roo 21ss Hybrid and super excited! We are testing the waters to prep us for full-timing it starting Jan 2nd (let the countdown begin!!!). We want to boondock as much as we can get away with while still being connected to our clients through the internet and phone and I can't seem to get an unbiased opinion from any sales reps (shocker right?). So, I'd love opinions from any of you who can help a girl our.

We are considering making a purchase towards either a solar kit or generator to start out with just so we can keep our laptops and phones charged and basic electrical needs met (we don't need AC yet, microwave or even TV for now). It says that it is solar ready, but I can't seem to find any info on it regarding specs or anything. I heard from one of the RV guys who did the walk-through with us that it requires a Zamp system, but I think he was mainly trying to sell us his products.

I am looking at either a yamaha 2000 generator or the Zamp 150w RV kit. Any thoughts, opinions, experience? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 10-31-2014, 09:59 AM   #2
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About 90% of our camping is spent without hookups. We go up to 10 days at a time and have not had any power issues as long as we are energy conscious. Of course, you cant run the microwave or A/C without a generator, but if not needed, then I would go with the solar. I would recommend 2 6 volt golf cart batteries (T-105's are the most popular) and a 100 to 150W solar kit. If you can find a solar kit cheaper than the Zamp, I would just go with the cheaper kit and wire directly to the battery. I just upgraded to a Renology controller and am happy with it so far.

Wow-- just checked the Zamp pricing--- that is crazy expensive. You can almost get a generator for that price (2000W vs 150W). I would go with a different solar kit for sure.

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Old 10-31-2014, 12:00 PM   #3
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The new solar prep on the Roo is designed specifically for the Zamp systems. The prep doesn't include a charge controller. Unlike ordinary panels, the Zamp has a built in controller. It is on the pricey side, but easy to use.

You may find you want to do both. For basic charging and powering the laptop and phones, solar is a good option. If you want to run a hair dryer, coffee pot, or toaster you are probably better off with a generator. Those high draw appliances would require a lot of solar power and a lot of battery capacity.

Check out some of the blogs by other full timers. Most of them use solar, but depending on the time of year and your location, you may need a generator at times.

Google RV solar and several blogs will come up, and also check out this blog:

The 12volt Side of Life Part 2

If you are relying on this for work and use it daily, it will be worth the time to research all the components of the electrical system and create a setup that fits your needs and your RV. Prices keep coming down, but its still pretty much a world where everybody has to design / install their own custom setup.

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Old 10-31-2014, 01:07 PM   #4
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First, there are two different definitions:
1. Dry camping- camping in a developed campground that has no hookups of any kind.
2. Boondocking- camping in undeveloped areas, like National Forests or the desert, where there are no amenities of any kind or numbered campsites.

We almost always dry camp. We prefer our Honda 2000, to solar, for a number of reasons.
You should go to a 2 battery setup and and an inverter. You use the inverter to recharge your devices or run the tv or dvd, off the batteries. Then you run the generator for a couple of hours every few days, to recharge the batteries.
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Old 10-31-2014, 01:16 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input! We'll keep those thoughts in mind as we keep shopping. The first few times will be in parks with full-hookups. So we aren't in a rush. I don't want to spend $1000 on a system that would've been fine on a different setup for 1/2 the cost (for now anyway). Anybody know about getting a tax credit for installing solar on an RV when it's your primary residence? All of the info I keep coming across is outdated.
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Old 10-31-2014, 01:25 PM   #6
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1) If you don't have a battery bank with 200+ amp hour capacity, create one. Two Trojan T-105 batteries are ideal for this.

2) If you don't have a converter/charger that will reliably maintain your battery bank, remove your old one and replace it. My 2015 Rockwood came with a WFCO that would not reliably switch to bulk mode charging when the batteries obviously needed it. I replaced it with a Progressive Dynamics unit/charge wizard.

Go do that. I'll wait here......

OK. Now you are ready to talk generator vs solar. Based on your needs listed in the OP, I recommend both. Since you don't need air conditioning, a small generator (1000 watt or so) can be used for the bulk stage of your charging. After that you can use a modest sized (100 watts + or -) solar system to finish the absorption stage charge. Because you have both generator and solar, neither one needs to be that big. Perform your generator charging in the morning hours and your absorption charging thereafter.

On edit: If the need for enough juice to run an AC unit is an eventuality, buy an adequate generator with enough margin to reliable run your AC. You can't go wrong with either Yamaha or Honda. I would still consider getting a small solar system (portable or otherwise).
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Old 10-31-2014, 01:58 PM   #7
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I bought a 200 watt kit from Solarblvd for $370 (free shipping). True, I had to add hinges so the two panels would fold together, a handle, and a brace/support bar to make them stand up. But hey, for under $400 I'm good to go. Also went with two 6 volt batteries. Works great.
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Old 10-31-2014, 02:17 PM   #8
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"We want to boondock as much as we can get away with while still being connected to our clients through the internet and phone"

We got our A-Frame a year ago and have done about 90 night mostly dry camping. We have been surprize at how offent we can not get Cell. So you may want to ask about what other have found, we do not need it so have not looked at work arounds.

If I was working and I am not. I would go with the generator. I would alway have power when I need it.

I have solar 64 Watts and a 2000 Honda Generator. I have not used the Generetor camping.

If I was to do solar I would use the following parts, the cell could be bigger but with only 2 battery would not add much. I would also mount it to the roof so it was alway running.

Blue Sky Solar Boost SB2000E - 25 Amp 12 Volt MPPT Charge Controller $230.00

Kyocera KD140SX-UFBS - 140 Watt 17 Volt Solar Panel $ 275.00

I had the control on a boat and liked it. I had 250 Watts of cells.

What every you do, do not down size the 2000 watt gerneteor to a 1000. The 1000 is just not big enought in my thinking. Also I started with the 1000 on the boat and upgraded to the 2000.

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Old 10-31-2014, 08:05 PM   #9
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We have two 6 volt batteries, two 150 watt solar panels mounted on the roof, a 650 watt pure sine inverter and a Honda 2000 watt generator. We are a family of 2 to 4, depending who comes and charge a couple of laptops (to do some work while on the road), iPhones and iPads. If the trailer is in direct sun, the panels will fully charge the batteries pretty quickly. If it's cloudy, raining, I'll plug the trailer to the generator in the afternoon for a couple of hours.

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Old 11-04-2014, 11:40 AM   #10
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Thanks everybody! We just got back from our first trip in our Roo and couldn't be happier. We are so excited to expand our options for where we can go when we finish hooking up our cell and wifi boosters, as well as get our solar/generator system all figured out. All of your suggestions will come in handy when we talk to the sales reps this next week. Thanks again!

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generator, newbie, solar

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