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Old 03-24-2013, 09:32 AM   #1
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Solar for dry camping

Hi, My family primarily goes to State Parks in the summer. We have a three week stay planned this summer and I am concerned about power. I have a generator but I was thinking about using a solar panel to charge one marine battery while I used the other and rotated them. Has anyone used solar successfully? I have seen super expensive set ups, but I was looking to do it cheaper as a supplement to the generator. How big of a system would I need? Thanks
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Old 03-24-2013, 09:33 AM   #2
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Great question
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:37 AM   #3
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If I have this correct, two batteries, swapped out daily, with the other charging? How much of a charge each battery requires will depend on how much use each battery gets each day. If you are talking about typical minimal-use lighting, water pump, detectors, and NO furnace, either the Harbor Freight 45W or the Northern Tool 60W portable set-up will likely work. For heavier duty use, more lights, television, charging phones., cameras, small appliances, etc. You should probably look bigger.

Bottom line is that how much charge you need is completely dependent on how much power you use.

One SURE way to extend battery life is to replace as many incandescent bulbs as you can with LED's.

Check-out everything ELSE that I did for power modifications besides the solar panels in my post at VERY LONG - My 12V Electrical Modifications and Solar Power System Installation
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Old 03-24-2013, 12:55 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Fire Instructor View Post
If I have this correct, two batteries, swapped out daily, with the other charging? How much of a charge each battery requires will depend on how much use each battery gets each day. If you are talking about typical minimal-use lighting, water pump, detectors, and NO furnace, either the Harbor Freight 45W or the Northern Tool 60W portable set-up will likely work. For heavier duty use, more lights, television, charging phones., cameras, small appliances, etc. You should probably look bigger.

Bottom line is that how much charge you need is completely dependent on how much power you use.

One SURE way to extend battery life is to replace as many incandescent bulbs as you can with LED's.

Check-out everything ELSE that I did for power modifications besides the solar panels in my post at VERY LONG - My 12V Electrical Modifications and Solar Power System Installation
Sorry, I should have probably been more specific. Occasional furnace use, light(Led), water pump, and the detectors. We do not use the other appliances unless the generator is on. Thanks for the info.
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:12 PM   #5
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Sound like the furnace will be the big "killer".... That's really a circulator blower, rather than a "fan". It draws a lot of continuous amps. Don't forget that even on propane, your fridge needs 12v for the control circuit. Not much, but some. The real draw from the fridge comes if you turn on the humidity control strips around the door, designed to reduce condensation moisture. These are actually heating strips, maintaining a constant heat around the door seal - another energy hog!
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:16 PM   #6
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Another suggestion - Since you are going to swap-out the battery for recharging, shorten the leads between the controller and the battery connection to as SHORT as possible. On a commercially built system like those, these leads are usually woefully undersized, and every inch of extra cable, especially undersized cable, is voltage and amperage potential lost....
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:55 PM   #7
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I have a 165 watt portable solar system. Meaning I turn it towards the sun when needed and I think about it. It keeps my two house batteries up to snuff. I don't rotate the batteries. just a pain in the rump IMHO. I also have a 4000 watt Juice box that I use for the Micro, TV when the granddaughter wants to watch Dora or Scube Do or whatever 110 I need it for. In 34 years of boondocking mostly, I have never had a battery run out of power. I have had one go bad and it smoked but I replaced it. We start camping in May and finish in October. It can be cold and the furnace gets used, especially with the wee ones inside. We boondocked for 3 weeks straight last summer and no problems. By the way it did get cold enough to use the furnace last summer in the Rockies. Hope this helps you . Stay safe.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:04 PM   #8
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Sound like the furnace will be the big "killer".... That's really a circulator blower, rather than a "fan". It draws a lot of continuous amps. Don't forget that even on propane, your fridge needs 12v for the control circuit. Not much, but some. The real draw from the fridge comes if you turn on the humidity control strips around the door, designed to reduce condensation moisture. These are actually heating strips, maintaining a constant heat around the door seal - another energy hog!
It is the big draw. Unfortunately, in the Adirondacks there are nights when it gets cold. I live a couple hours North of you. I'm sure you know what I mean. Thanks for the info.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:05 PM   #9
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Another suggestion - Since you are going to swap-out the battery for recharging, shorten the leads between the controller and the battery connection to as SHORT as possible. On a commercially built system like those, these leads are usually woefully undersized, and every inch of extra cable, especially undersized cable, is voltage and amperage potential lost....
Great point thanks
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:09 PM   #10
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I have a 165 watt portable solar system. Meaning I turn it towards the sun when needed and I think about it. It keeps my two house batteries up to snuff. I don't rotate the batteries. just a pain in the rump IMHO. I also have a 4000 watt Juice box that I use for the Micro, TV when the granddaughter wants to watch Dora or Scube Do or whatever 110 I need it for. In 34 years of boondocking mostly, I have never had a battery run out of power. I have had one go bad and it smoked but I replaced it. We start camping in May and finish in October. It can be cold and the furnace gets used, especially with the wee ones inside. We boondocked for 3 weeks straight last summer and no problems. By the way it did get cold enough to use the furnace last summer in the Rockies. Hope this helps you . Stay safe.
Thanks, could you tell me more about your system? Do you have a battery tender of some kind?
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