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Old 10-21-2016, 08:50 PM   #1
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Question Inverter/Solar Panel problems

Bought a brand new 2017 Forest River Heritage Glen travel trailer a few months ago. It came with a WFCO 1000 watt power inverter. I got a 12 volt 18 watt solar panel to trickle charge the batteries so I can keep the 2 refrigerators (one regular size residential fridge and a residential mini fridge in the outdoor kitchen) when we dry camp. Decided to test it out yesterday before we go on our first dry camping trip next week and UH OH. The power inverter all of a sudden doesn't work!! I hooked it all up at 2pm yesterday, it was still working fine this morning at 6:30, but when I got home from work around 4, the power inverter was turned off and would not turn back on. I had to take the fuse out (which appeared fine) and put it back in and then it turned back on, however it won't actually work...it just shows "E04" reading, which means inverter failure. What happened??? Is the inverter totally shot now?? Now I'm panicking because we have a scheduled 7 day dry camping trip next week! What went wrong?? I thought this would be a no brainer on keeping the batteries charged so I could run the fridges but apparently I got something wrong.
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:25 PM   #2
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Inverters pull allot of power and a 18 watt trickle charger is not going to recharge your batteries. With what you are looking to do I would think somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 watts. someone on here will have the answer for that. Do you have a portable generator?
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:28 PM   #3
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I don't believe 18 watts will do much more than keep a battery charged when NOT running anything.

Average fridge runs about 325 watts.

Most folks who try this have 300-400 watt solar.
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:28 PM   #4
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Yes, we have a portable generator that we will use at night. But we were hoping that the solar panel would keep the batteries good to keep the fridges running all day (like 12-16 hours). Guess I under did it on the solar panel :/
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:32 PM   #5
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The service tech manager where I bought the camper said that this solar panel would be plenty to keep the batteries charged for the refrigerators. I'm so bummed.
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Old 10-21-2016, 09:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by rcrg24 View Post
The service tech manager where I bought the camper said that this solar panel would be plenty to keep the batteries charged for the refrigerators. I'm so bummed.
He was not being straight up with you! If its going to be cold where you are camping you are going to have to figure for the furnace into your electrical usage. don't change your trip just bring extra fuel for the generator and enjoy.
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Old 10-21-2016, 11:19 PM   #7
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You said you had two residential refrigerators. Your batteries will die quickly with only an 18 w solar panel. That solar panel is designed for battery maintenance with no draw on batteries. Without knowing the size of the fridges I would think a bare minimum is 200w of solar and even then you may be pushing it. I would check batteries voltage and recharge. Once you are confident batteries are at full charge then try turning on inverter
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:19 AM   #8
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So if I can figure out how many watts the 2 refrigerators use combined, then I'll need to get a solar panel that is slightly higher wattage and I should be okay?
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:30 AM   #9
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Oh no you need to determine amps. I'm assuming your inverter is big enough for the wattage. . You need to know how many amp hours your batteries have then how many amps your fridges will draw then the rate of charging from panels. . I recommend googleing rv solar power there are some articles that will go into depth and explain better than I can do here.
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:34 AM   #10
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Omg this stuff does not make sence to me. I'm gonna rip that tech a new one for telling me this would work. I know nothing about this stuff. I don't even know what amps and watts are! Lol
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:37 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by rcrg24 View Post
So if I can figure out how many watts the 2 refrigerators use combined, then I'll need to get a solar panel that is slightly higher wattage and I should be okay?
That would be a good starting point. You also will need to consider for how long you are going to have sunlight and how much power they can put back into the batteries as well as power the fridges. You may need to up the size of your battery bank as well.

I don't have residential fridges and I run a 100 watt portable solar panel setup. It is barely enough to recover what I use overnight in cold weather with the furnace fan, lights and some television. IMHO 160 watts would be the bare minimum.

One of our family members has a bus with a residential fridge and a huge 6 battery bank. He has 600 watts of solar and has no problems.

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Old 10-22-2016, 06:40 AM   #12
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Good grief. I think I got in over my head with this. I've got some figuring out to do in the next week ugh. Thank you for your help
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:41 AM   #13
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Don't worry none of us did when we started. It is actually much easier than you think. Just think amps is like your gas in the car.
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Old 10-22-2016, 09:46 AM   #14
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You need to figure watt-hours and then amp-hours. Here's some math:

Say your fridge uses 325 watts. It's going to run a certain number of hours per day, more during hot weather). Let's pick a number and say it runs 6 hrs during the day.

That's 325 watts x 6 hrs = 1950 watt-hours.

Watts = volts x amps. So watts/volts = amps.

So 1950 watt-hrs/12VDC = 162.5 amp-hours.

(This is easier if your fridge lists the amps it draws - then just multiply the amps by the number of hours you think it will run in a day.)

So if your 18 watt panels put out a full 18 amps for 9 hrs (162.5/18 = 9), you'd be OK. But you won't get that kind of amps for 9 hrs because there are losses in the wiring and charging components and the sun is only directly on the panels for a couple hours a day. You also have some other parasitic loads like CO detector, etc that are dragging you down. Then as someone pointed out, you may have to add the furnace blower if it's cool out. And your water pump if you use any water. Maybe some lights at night. And you want to run TWO fridges, so you'll need to add in the watt-hrs that the 2nd fridge uses.

A cloudy day will also rain on your parade, so to speak, so you'll need to add capacity to weather that kind of day (puns intended!). This brings up battery capacity. You're batteries will need to provide enough amp-hrs to get you through any cloudy day.

So you should be able to see that you'll need a much larger solar panel.
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Old 10-22-2016, 10:12 AM   #15
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Rockfordoo has said it correctly. .
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Old 10-22-2016, 11:11 AM   #16
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We can all talk about the math, and that helps but lets just make a rough order of magnitude estimate. If you have a residential reefer (big 22 cu.ft. one) and a second reefer, that is at least 1000 watts, when running. The nameplate number for energy star are done at 90 degrees ambient so that should help. I would make a back of the envelope calculation that you will run 25% duty factor, so you need to replace 1000*.25 or about 250 watts for 24 hours, or 6000 watt hours. I think that is a little high, but let's leave it there. You will only get 6 or 7 hours of solar so in those hours you need to make back the 6000 watt hours. This means between at least 800 watts of solar panels, which is reasonable from my personal experience. You need some flexibility since some days it rains, your panels are not perfectly oriented towards the sun and sometimes its cloudy.

Now, when you draw 1000 watts, that is 8.6 amps at 115 volts which is 86 amps at 12 volts. Not drawing down to far, this means that you would be able to run about about to and a half hours fully draining a 225 AH battery. Allowing for the 25% duty factor, this means that a single, really good deep cycle battery would last about 10 hours if you fully discharged it. That is why a good residential reefer installation has 4 good sized deep cycle batteries.

Bottom line, you need at least 2 or 3 batteries, 400 to 800 watts of solar panels and will still have to run the genny most days to make up the difference. It isn't wonderful, but it is the truth.
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Old 10-22-2016, 11:21 AM   #17
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Minimum 3 to 400 watt panels , also new controller and bigger wires , maybe 5 to $600 will do ya .
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Old 10-22-2016, 12:26 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockfordroo View Post
You need to figure watt-hours and then amp-hours. Here's some math:

Say your fridge uses 325 watts. It's going to run a certain number of hours per day, more during hot weather). Let's pick a number and say it runs 6 hrs during the day.

That's 325 watts x 6 hrs = 1950 watt-hours.

Watts = volts x amps. So watts/volts = amps.

So 1950 watt-hrs/12VDC = 162.5 amp-hours.

(This is easier if your fridge lists the amps it draws - then just multiply the amps by the number of hours you think it will run in a day.)

So if your 18 watt panels put out a full 18 amps for 9 hrs (162.5/18 = 9), you'd be OK. But you won't get that kind of amps for 9 hrs because there are losses in the wiring and charging components and the sun is only directly on the panels for a couple hours a day. You also have some other parasitic loads like CO detector, etc that are dragging you down. Then as someone pointed out, you may have to add the furnace blower if it's cool out. And your water pump if you use any water. Maybe some lights at night. And you want to run TWO fridges, so you'll need to add in the watt-hrs that the 2nd fridge uses.

A cloudy day will also rain on your parade, so to speak, so you'll need to add capacity to weather that kind of day (puns intended!). This brings up battery capacity. You're batteries will need to provide enough amp-hrs to get you through any cloudy day.

So you should be able to see that you'll need a much larger solar panel.
Got a math error there...

An 18 watt panel is only going to produce a tad over 1 amp, not accounting for line loss.

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Old 10-22-2016, 01:55 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by rockfordroo View Post
You need to figure watt-hours and then amp-hours. Here's some math:

Say your fridge uses 325 watts. It's going to run a certain number of hours per day, more during hot weather). Let's pick a number and say it runs 6 hrs during the day.

That's 325 watts x 6 hrs = 1950 watt-hours.

Watts = volts x amps. So watts/volts = amps.

So 1950 watt-hrs/12VDC = 162.5 amp-hours.

(This is easier if your fridge lists the amps it draws - then just multiply the amps by the number of hours you think it will run in a day.)

So if your 18 watt panels put out a full 18 watts for 9 hrs (162.5 watt-hrs/18 watts = 9 hrs), you'd be OK. But you won't get that kind of power for 9 hrs because there are losses in the wiring and charging components and the sun is only directly on the panels for a couple hours a day. You also have some other parasitic loads like CO detector, etc that are dragging you down. Then as someone pointed out, you may have to add the furnace blower if it's cool out. And your water pump if you use any water. Maybe some lights at night. And you want to run TWO fridges, so you'll need to add in the watt-hrs that the 2nd fridge uses.

A cloudy day will also rain on your parade, so to speak, so you'll need to add capacity to weather that kind of day (puns intended!). This brings up battery capacity. You're batteries will need to provide enough amp-hrs to get you through any cloudy day.

So you should be able to see that you'll need a much larger solar panel.
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
Got a math error there...

An 18 watt panel is only going to produce a tad over 1 amp, not accounting for line loss.

Aaron
Not a math error, but a unit error. Fixed above in red. No changes to the numbers. Thanks for catching that.
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Old 10-22-2016, 07:22 PM   #20
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An 18 watt solar panel would not even come close to replacing the AH's used by your fridge. I doubt to would even come close to covering the parasitic draw.
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