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Old 03-27-2024, 06:39 PM   #1
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Solar Question

To all:
We are going on a trip this Sept. Several of the campgrounds we will visit will require us to use solar. I have an SAE "solar on the side" connection. I will be using the 12 volt refrigerator all the time, LED lights in the evening and furnace on occasion. I have two house batteries, Diehards Model 24 DC-1. Does anyone have any experience or input on the watt output of solar panels I should get for this trip. I have looked on the internet without much success. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Grease
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Old 03-27-2024, 07:41 PM   #2
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Roughly speaking, two group 24 will have a combined watt hour capacity of ~1000wH; 80aH x 12.7v=1016wH. Given your location you would get (at best) ~4 hours of "sun hours" (assuming perfect conditions), so 1000wh / 4 sun hours = 250w. A theoretical minimum of 250w of solar panels would replenish what was removed from the battery bank. This is about as close of a guess that can be made based on what you've stated as well as my experience when I used lead acid batteries. I'd go with 300w if you want to install solar, it might be easier to use a generator.
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Old 03-27-2024, 08:43 PM   #3
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Does your "Solar on the Side" go to a Solar Controller? or does it just connect to the batteries? If it connects to the batteries, then you will need a controller.
We sometimes go to areas that do not allow a generator. We have a 150W solar panel on the roof with a Go Power 10A PWM controller, and we have 180W of panels, we set on the ground with a 20A Renogy controller. That gives us 330W total solar input. We have a 12V fridge and I have measured our usage to be an average of 80Ah/day. Higher if we use a small inverter for the TV and a box fan. For batteries we have 2 100Ah LiFePO4 batteries. On a sunny day we are back to full batteries by noon. Worst case scenario, we can manage 2.5 days with out any type of charging.
You should figure out what your daily usage will be, and ideally have enough battery capacity for 2 to 3 days. Then you can figure how much solar power you need to recharge your batteries.
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Old 03-27-2024, 08:51 PM   #4
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measure the roof and plan where you can put panels
then work out what charge controllers and how many strings of panels

example:
I got room for 2 x 370w panels on the rear section of roof = 1 controller 50amps @12v

I can put another 600-800w or smaller 200w panels tetris style in the front section = a second controller @ 50 or 60 amps


try not to mix panels of different sizes into the same string... makes it harder.
then install in stages... do one stage first then add the second IF / WHEN you need it.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I just bought home MY stage one panels today
Brand new 2 x 370w
(9 bus bars all nice and black and shiny)
bought them from Facebook Marketplace $175 each

THese two panels will be more than enough panels for my 2 x 100ah Lifepo4 batteries
running fridge and lights etc for extended boondocking

When I get an INVERTER........... will decide if I need stage 2

breaking down the system into a PLAN and stages also means you won't install panels haphazardly .... and have to re-do panels and fill holes
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Old 03-27-2024, 09:18 PM   #5
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IP Camper and Ballistic: Thanks so much for the information. It was helpful. My "solar on the side" connection goes directly to the battery, so I have to get a controller as well. I was looking at some suitcase portables from Renogy, but and struggling on a 200 or 400W solar panel.

Thanks again. Much appreciated.

Grease.
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Old 03-27-2024, 09:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grease View Post
To all:
We are going on a trip this Sept. Several of the campgrounds we will visit will require us to use solar. I have an SAE "solar on the side" connection. I will be using the 12 volt refrigerator all the time, LED lights in the evening and furnace on occasion. I have two house batteries, Diehards Model 24 DC-1. Does anyone have any experience or input on the watt output of solar panels I should get for this trip. I have looked on the internet without much success. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Grease
I have to know what campgrounds "require" you to only be on solar. In my 30+ years of camping, I have never heard of such a requirement.
There are some no hookups campgrounds that prohibit generators.
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Old 03-27-2024, 09:56 PM   #7
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Bikendan: Poor choice of words on my part. No "requirement" just no hookups and no generator allowed.


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Old 03-28-2024, 02:51 AM   #8
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The answer to your question lies somewhere between this:

And this:

Think of your battery as a fresh water tank. You have things that put water in (converter/charger via shore power or genset), solar and the tow vehicle connection. You have loads that take water out. The size of the tank is your battery capacity.
You can easily double the size of your tank by just adding another battery to the one you have. Adding a 200W solar suitcase helps fill it up every day.
Or you can go nuts and add 1200W of panels to your roof and 400Ah of LiFePO4 batteries with a 30A DC to DC charger from the tow vehicle.
I'd start with a second battery of the same type you already have and a 200W solar suitcase with controller. Chances are that'll do ya.
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Old 03-28-2024, 09:21 AM   #9
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I strongly recommend picking up a couple 100AH LiFePO4 batteries for your camping. You can run these down to 0% with no damage, giving you four times your current power reserve. There are several on Amazon for about $200 each.
You can use standard rigid solar panels, adding tilt legs, ground based. You’ll need a controller. It’s not a simple buy this and use it. Panels work electrically like batteries, voltages add up in series, amperage adds up in parallel. Solar controllers are rated in both voltage and amp capacity.
One or two high power panels would work for you or 4 100watt panels. Many use a combination of series and parallel to meet the limits of their controller. In parallel the panels operate somewhat independently as far as shading, in series one shaded panel acts as a blocker to power flow and limits overall output of multiple panels.
Solar power requires some knowledge to optimize your system. One way to gain that knowledge is to compliment other camper’s Solar power systems and get them to explain what they have and why they chose it. They get to show off and you get free knowledge.
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Old 03-28-2024, 11:08 AM   #10
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Corn18 and Boomerweps:
Thank you both for the information. Corn18’s diagram is why I never want to be a bomb disposal specialist. Boomerweps, will those batteries you mentioned require any rewiring? I currently have 2 Diehard led-acid batteries.

Thanks again for being so willing to help me problem solve.

Regards,

Grease
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Old 03-28-2024, 12:10 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Grease View Post
IP Camper and Ballistic: Thanks so much for the information. It was helpful. My "solar on the side" connection goes directly to the battery, so I have to get a controller as well. I was looking at some suitcase portables from Renogy, but and struggling on a 200 or 400W solar panel.

Thanks again. Much appreciated.

Grease.
Seeing as you have a 12v fridge go with the 400 watt panel.
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Old 03-28-2024, 12:23 PM   #12
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Those 12 volt refrigerators are a killer power wise. You can expect to burn up between 45-80 amp hours of power depending on certain variables. Other electrical usage for 24 hours would probably fall around 30-70 amp hours depending of the type of camping you do.

I would also invest in a generator. If you get a few cloudy days or if You get placed at a camp site that isn't solar friendly, solar isn't going to do you any good.
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Old 03-28-2024, 12:36 PM   #13
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Boondocking and PhilFromMaine:

Thank you both for taking the time to reply and help me out.

I do have a built-in generator , but some of the campsites at which we will stay have no hookups and prohibit generator use.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the house batteries only have 58 amp hours each. I am searching for two 12volt 100 amp hour batteries to replace what I currently have in the rv.

The 400W solar panel makes sense.

Thanks again for your time and advice.

Regards,

Grease
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Old 03-28-2024, 01:41 PM   #14
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You're welcome!
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Old 03-28-2024, 05:45 PM   #15
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LIFePO4 batteries, with a lithium compatible charging converter, can be charged at a much faster rate at higher voltages. A standard charger for lead acid batteries does not reach those voltages because it would boil out the electrolyte and damage the battery. Therefore, a standard charger will only recharge a LiFePO4 battery initially to 85-90% but over a longer period will charge it fully. With a solar controller charger & panels, the solar will put out the higher voltage needed no problem (assuming sufficient sunlight).
Are they a drop in replacement? No and yes. No, because they won’t be used to their maximum potential. Yes, because they will function as a higher amp hour capacity battery.
Bonus. They weigh half as much (or less) than a lead acid. My 100AH LiFEPO4 (each) weigh 21#. A 100AH rated flooded lead acid battery averages 65# (that can only be used to 50%). Also, no liquids or out gassing, so they can be mounted anywhere in any orientation, inside or outside, only limited by the wiring used.
Before installing solar on my TT, I used a stand-alone charger to make sure my batteries reached 100% AND reached equalization voltage (14.6vdc IIRC).
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Old 03-28-2024, 11:35 PM   #16
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I have never seen a CG with no hookups that did not allow a generator. I have seen some that limited the hours you could use one. We stayed in one that quiet time was dusk till 10 am. DR
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Old 03-29-2024, 01:16 AM   #17
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I have never seen a CG with no hookups that did not allow a generator. I have seen some that limited the hours you could use one. We stayed in one that quiet time was dusk till 10 am. DR
We've been to a number of no generator campgrounds. They are all out West. Some large campgrounds have no generator loops, along with generator allowed loops, like Colter Bay.
Also many Harvest Host locations don't allow generators and they have no hookups.
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Old 03-29-2024, 06:34 AM   #18
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I have never seen a CG with no hookups that did not allow a generator. I have seen some that limited the hours you could use one. We stayed in one that quiet time was dusk till 10 am. DR

Assateague National Seashore has a area of the campground that prohibits generators. This area is often the last area to fill up on reservations.
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Old 03-29-2024, 08:15 AM   #19
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have+ you got solar prep on the roof... ?

if so I would do the roof first
no setup at camp and will charge as you drive

don't be worried about drilling holes in the roof..
it's only scary for the first few times you drill.
Use plenty of dicor sealant.

some people use double sided tape as well
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Old 03-29-2024, 09:10 AM   #20
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Not using the heater I would guess your rv would use near 100 ah per day.

With a 58 ah available battery (50% rule) set, the math does not work well. It would take 400 watts of solar to power your rv for a day. However, a 400 watt solar panel only provides 100 ah of power on its best days(reported from folks here on roof mounted panels).

You need rv batteries. 300 ah. Plus some solar. SOK 280 ah for $1000. Plus a charger. $150. And solar.

On a towable, the TV will not charge much while driving. My voltage at the rv is not much over 13 volts. Technically, doodly squat.

Watts=amps*12.5volts or amps=Watts/12.5 volts.
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