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Old 07-31-2014, 04:41 PM   #1
rce
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30 watt solar panel or 980 watt generator

I'm trying to determine if a 30 watt solar panel with controller ...or a 980 watt gas generator would meet my minimal dry camping needs. Primarily want to be able to run the fridge for up to 5 days on propane + any other unknown battery draws.

Water heater, pump, furnace & lights not really necessary, no 120 v appliances.

Fridge is a Dometic with separate freezer. Camping in Utah late September so could be hot during day & cool at night

So I'm hoping that either the 30 watt panel could keep the 12 V battery sufficiently charged or the generator could be run say for an hour or two each day to power my stand alone battery charger/tender. Just a basic, $90 "marine" battery. Am I realistic or overly optimistic about either option?

Have searched for answers but I'm pretty unclear what to expect. Panel with controller around $100, generator around $150.
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:19 PM   #2
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When I asked a related question last year (http://www.forestriverforums.com/for...-it-44023.html) it came back that I'd need at least 80W of panels to run the fridge and the other parasitic loads if I intended to mount a flat "leave it and forget it" panel. And that was only if I did the mod covered in this thread (http://www.forestriverforums.com/for...art-26676.html) that bypasses a rather power hungry feature built into some of the Dometic fridges.

Never did go solar, so I can't really help there, but if you are going to do that route then there's tons of information on this site about it. However, I can offer an alternative. If you're going to be in Utah, isn't it fairly windy there? If so, maybe a wind turbine could also supplement your needs.

If cost is a factor, here's a guy (Michael Davis Publishing - Mike's World.) who built his own solar panels, wind turbines and controllers for at lot less then commercial prices, if you're inclined to go that far.

On the other hand, as long as you have Gas, a generator will always be able to provide power. Can't say how many hours you'll have to run it, but you won't be subjected to nature's whims, just noise.

Either way though, best of luck with your choices. Let us know how it goes.
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:23 PM   #3
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I am in Canada but am very suprised about the solar & generator pricing. Very cheap so I question the quality. I have a Honda EU 2000 which I rarely use. Great genny. I operate a 35 ft Salem Hemisphere from a 123 watt Sharp solar panel, 20 amp controller supplying juice to 2 Interstate 6 v golf cart batteries. Fabulous results even though I still have 921 incandescent bulbs. LED's in the future. A 30 watt panel sounds small to me. I think it will just keep your battery charged when the trailer is not in use. Please note: I am not close to being an electrician.
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:34 PM   #4
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A 30 watt panel will not keep your battery or batterries charged.

If your going solar I would get at least 180 watts and two to four batteries either 6 volt in series and parallel or 12's...6's have more amp hours 440ah with four bats and 340ah for the same in 12's. 6 volts with handle multiple charging cycles better. That said I went with four 12 v batteries because my trailer was new so was the battery that came with it plus the 12v deep cycles had a two year warranty and the 6's only had a one year waranty (costco)

Generator. A new Honda 1000 watt will charge your batteries run your firige at the same time. Your frige should convert back to propane when the Gen is off.

A Honda 1000 will cost about $750 or you may find one on CL for half that. You will still need a storng battery bank or you will be running the generator all the time. You will need to run your generator for two to four hours each day to keep your bats up but depends on your usage. You should also get a proper volt meter that reads battery voltage. Not a good idea to let your batteries drop below 12.2 volts.
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Old 07-31-2014, 10:18 PM   #5
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Just looking for a simple/inexpensive way to run the fridge only or to charge the battery to run the fridge. On propane, and yes the "dehumidifier" or what ever it is will be turned off!

Don't need or want to invest a whole lot of money as dry camping not our usual style!
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:18 PM   #6
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Generator. Thirty watts of solar will get you only about 8-10 amp hours daily. Not even close to enough...and that is ONLY if the sun is shining. What do you do if it rains for 3 days?
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Old 08-01-2014, 12:12 AM   #7
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Your 30 watt solar will fail to keep your battery charged - as stated earlier it just does not create enough charge to replace the amp hours used by the fridge and any lights used. I would suggest a second battery and a small generator is your best option.


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Old 08-01-2014, 08:35 AM   #8
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Thanks all for the helpful, factual information. Glad I didn't act on impulse (and buy the solar panel) but rather posted on our always helpful forum. Disappointed but realistic. Will likely explore the small generator option. Second battery could be tricky as nowhere on or in our trailer to put it, just the box of the truck.
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Old 08-01-2014, 05:09 PM   #9
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I think your best bet is to look for a used Honda 1000 inverrter type generator on CL. I think it will be the cheapest way to go. Honda will keep your neighbors happy becuase it's quiet. If you only have room for one battery maybe you could go with a 27 group 12volt deep cycle it is only a little larger than a 24 group but carries 105 amp hours... Have you gone to LED lights yet? You can run 10 led bulbs for the cost of one incondecent bulb... You don't have to change them all out I just did about half led's...
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Old 08-01-2014, 08:16 PM   #10
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On the cheap....
Get the genny. That sounds like a good price for a genny. Is it new or used?
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Old 08-04-2014, 04:46 PM   #11
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On the cheap....
Get the genny. That sounds like a good price for a genny. Is it new or used?
New , at Amazon.ca $179, CDN so a little more than I remembered:

Power Force KCG-951G 950-watt Portable Generator
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Old 08-04-2014, 05:12 PM   #12
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That genny is 800 watts continuous. Don't expect anything other than charging the batteries. If you try to put fridge on 120vac (Auto mode) that'll take 350-500 watts of that original 800 watts. So, keep the fridge on propane. Don't even try the water heater on electric!

FYI, keep an eye on the output voltage, It may vary a bit. At least monitor it during a trial run at home.

Good Luck! Enjoy the trip.
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Old 08-04-2014, 06:16 PM   #13
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Some generators put out "dirty power" You would not want to run sensitive electronic equpment on them. Plus if you have any problems with them you just throw them away because they are not worth the labor and parts to work on them.

I think if you shop around you can get a used 1000 watt inverter type generator (honda my preferance) for $300 to $400. It would be enough to power your frige 300 to 400 watts and your converter for charging the batteries. I agree if you have a electric water heater I would keep it on propane...
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Old 08-05-2014, 09:50 AM   #14
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Some generators put out "dirty power" You would not want to run sensitive electronic equpment on them. Plus if you have any problems with them you just throw them away because they are not worth the labor and parts to work on them.

I think if you shop around you can get a used 1000 watt inverter type generator (honda my preferance) for $300 to $400. It would be enough to power your frige 300 to 400 watts and your converter for charging the batteries. I agree if you have a electric water heater I would keep it on propane...
My thoughts are I would connect my battery charger/tender to the generator once a day for an hour or two and directly charge the battery
thus not putting any trailer electronics at risk (other than the battery!) But have no idea if this would be sufficient to keep just the fridge running day by day on propane only???
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Old 08-05-2014, 10:08 AM   #15
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That should be fine. I dry camp a few times a year and can get by with the fridge and a few lights sparingly along with running the furnace off and on lightly for about three nights without taking my two group 24s below 60%. A few hours a day with a charger should work for you.
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Old 08-05-2014, 02:45 PM   #16
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My thoughts are I would connect my battery charger/tender to the generator once a day for an hour or two and directly charge the battery
thus not putting any trailer electronics at risk (other than the battery!) But have no idea if this would be sufficient to keep just the fridge running day by day on propane only???
You'll be ok. I used to run a pair of cheapo dual purpose batteries for a couple of days, being very conservative with incandescent lights and minimal heat (as in just enough to take chill out right before bed) before charging.

If you have time, you could try to eliminate any parasitic draws to maximize the battery life.
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Old 08-05-2014, 03:37 PM   #17
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It will be easy enough to find out. You don't need to spend alot of money on a Volt meter. I would use this one Volt Minder. I would try to connect direct to your batteries. Once you have a battery meter at home set your furnace to come on about 5 or 10 degrees above outside temperature. Let it run all night and check to see what your battery level is in the morning.
VoltMinder Digital Volt Meter w/ 6 Foot Cord for 12V Batteries: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

What I learned over several years of dry camping. When I had my single battery I could not even make it one night running the furnace set at 55 degrees inside at 40 degrees outside . We eventually stretched our dry camping into about 5 to 6 weeks without being plugged into shore power we had access to water and a dump station but no power. We use just a generator to charge the batteries. We beefed up our battery bank to four deep cycle batteries. I am not a power Mizer.. I watch TV with Satellite runing on inverters. I switched over half of my lighting to LED. I would run my generator (Honda 2000) about four hours a day. My battery charged would start out at about 13.2 volts and as time went on I would slowly see my battery level drop. After about two weeks...12.7...3 weeks 12.5 and by the 5th week 12.3. The story is four hours a day was just not enough time to FULLY charge the batteries. I have a 3 stage converter which charges at higher voltage at first then drops to a trickle as the batteries level starts to come up. Plust running a generator is not free. Even a small generator could drink a gallon of gas a day... A couple days not not much expense but over 30 days it could add up.

I have been researching solar. Problems with solar, COST although I have found a pretty good 300 watt panel with controler for under $700. Also I don't like parking in the SUN. I usally look for the best shady spot. Not too helpful for having solar. You could go with a portable panel but then the problems of hauling a large solar panel and theft to worry about. Eventually I probably will go with solar. As a Dry Camper it is the best option.
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Old 08-05-2014, 05:15 PM   #18
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We won't be running a furnace at all believe me. We're comfortable down to 32F (0 Celcius). Being from Canada have lots of sleeping bags good to -15 if necessary!

Also Utah in September they warn us will still be hot!

Have a Deltran Battery Tender Plus which seems to be highly rated so just need the small generator to run the Deltran (or lots of block ice).

Another crazy thought ... I have a 12 volt inverter for my truck. Could I use that plus the Deltran battery charger to charge my trailer battery using the truck battery? Or just asking for trouble? We will be driving around some to recharge the truck battery via the alternator.
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Old 08-05-2014, 05:46 PM   #19
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It would depend on where in Utah you are. Moab for example in September is warm during the day but can go below freezing at night. You have to keep the rig warm enough so pipes don't freeze..

It would depend on how many watts your inverter is and how many amps to watts your charger puts out.. All in all not very efficient...
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Old 08-05-2014, 06:34 PM   #20
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It would depend on where in Utah you are. Moab for example in September is warm during the day but can go below freezing at night. You have to keep the rig warm enough so pipes don't freeze..

It would depend on how many watts your inverter is and how many amps to watts your charger puts out.. All in all not very efficient...
Unfortunately only option will be to drain the water if it gets that cold! With the average low in Moab in September 53 F hoping that won't be an issue... Could pump some antifreeze through but then of course need battery power to run the water pump!
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