Solar power - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-09-2012, 06:22 AM   #1
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Question Solar power

for those of you who use solar power... can you give me a little information? Is it easy to set up and use? how often do you totally run out of power? I'm assuming you use a battery and use the solar power to charge that battery.. am I correct in thinking this? where do you or do you not mount them? is it better NOT to mount them? how big of a solar panel do you have? I'm looking at at 15 watt and a 36 watt. the 15 watt is more convenient adn the 36 is more money and weight. not sure I should bother at all. what do you all think? THANKS!
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:36 AM   #2
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You might find it useful to use the search function here, as this has been discussed extensively.

Just like a family budget, you need to know how much electric power you need to "spend" every day. Then work backward to determine a battery and panel size to fulfill that budget.

A 15 or 36 watt panel is going to be too small for most users - with panels of 50 to 100 watts more usual. The price for solar panels has dropped significantly recently and you can find good deals on eBay or at places like Solar Blvd.
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Old 05-09-2012, 08:18 AM   #3
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funny I tried to search this but didnt' find anything. thanks tom. just a curiosity.
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Old 05-09-2012, 08:44 AM   #4
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I just recently bought my 80 watt system from RV Solar Electric Store which I found using this site. If you are a complete newbie to solar as I am I would suggest calling them and just telling them what you are in need of. I did this and the guy I was on the line with went through and did all the math for me (it was a rough estimate not an exact number) of how many watts I could get by with based on the items I use in my camper. They then matched me with the correct system which included the solar panal, solar controller, mounting hardware, and wiring. I can't get into how easy or hard it was to install yet as I am doing that this coming week. Hope this helps.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:24 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avfn View Post
funny I tried to search this but didnt' find anything. thanks tom. just a curiosity.
The search function on the list is not all that great at getting you the best results. Try using Google search with Fiberglassrv.com and your key words - works for me.....

Solar is *very* easy to install. As others suggested the watts you need will vary based on users needs. Something as simple as changing your inside lights over to LED will have big impact on how much power you need. Not running your fridge on the battery but on propane instead is another basic function that will have a large impact on what size panel you need. No need to run a AC, Microwave or TV will also help to keep the size of the panel needed down. 50 watts would give you a far greater flexibility than a 15W panel - although I got by with a 15w but only needed it to support inside lights and a water pump. Many of the new 50w panels are no bigger (in some cases smaller) than the 15w panels produced just a few years ago and and the price is about the same - in many cases less.

In regards to running out of power you *never* want to run the charge of your battery below 40% As it will greatly reduce the life of your battery. There is some good info on good battery practices here
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:56 AM   #6
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I have a 50w panel hooked up to a group 29 battery and all LED lighting.
It's mounted on the roof.
The Panel and controller cost under $210.00.
Wiring and other miscellaneous parts were about $30.00.
I used heavy duty Lamp cord for wiring because it's more flexable, is flat and easier to hide.
This is the third time I've installed the exact same system.
The longest I have ever used it exclusively was a 4000 mile trip.
I never ran out of power.
My first system is on an Egg I gave my son 3 years ago. The battery is in great shape and he's never run out of power.
My first solar attempt was a portable system that required to much storage space and was a worry when I was away from the trailer.
Used it once and lost money selling it at a garage sale.
It's much easier to to mount it flat on the roof of your trailer.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:59 AM   #7
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My guess is then that we wouldn't need a big unit. Fridge and furnace are propane. We cook outside with propane too. LED lights inside, occasional downloading of photo memory cards. No toaster, microwave, coffeepot etc.

Any ideas of how big a panel we would need?
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:27 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Hazel in Sk View Post
My guess is then that we wouldn't need a big unit. Fridge and furnace are propane. We cook outside with propane too. LED lights inside, occasional downloading of photo memory cards. No toaster, microwave, coffeepot etc.

Any ideas of how big a panel we would need?
You might want to start your own thread, as it gets confusing when multiple posters are asking questions in the same thread.
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Old 05-09-2012, 12:22 PM   #9
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We are going into our second year with a 130 watt PV panel mounted on the roof and feeding 2 #27 batteries in parallel. We never disconnected the batteries over the winter, but regular checks showed that they stayed fully charged all winter. The only time we ran low on power was when we were parked in a strongly shaded stall for 6 days, but the voltage never dropped below 10.6 volts.
Usually they will drop to 11.5 or so if we are watching TV overnite, but will recover within an hour or so in the morning. The controller that cam with the panel shuts off the charge at 14.6 volts.
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:53 PM   #10
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Our panel is 42 watts charging a group 24 AGM battery. The panel connects to the battery through a controller of my own design. We run LED lights, the water pump for dishes, washing hands, ect. and a small window fan usually run all night. We can go 2-3 days without the panel. Indefinitely with. No inverter. No TV. No microwave. If you wan't those you will need a larger panel, larger battery, ect. Raz

P.s. Mine is not mounted. It sits on the bed when we are on the road.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:17 PM   #11
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It all depends on how you use electricity. We camp mostly in USFS campgrounds without hookups, spend very little time inside the Egg, do most cooking outside, enjoy most evenings by the fireside, and only need electric lights for reading inside on wet nights, getting ready for bed, and running our heater on cold mornings. Our UHaul CT13's 15W solar panel and deep cycle battery have been all we've needed in 8 years of camping coast-to-coast.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:15 PM   #12
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I think solar thinking goes along the same lines as how you view your trailer. Those that think of as another home only on wheels seem to need more and more and more power. The must haves for them are things like Microwave Ovens, A/C, Television, etc., etc. For those folks a large battery bank and lots of solar panel are needed to make them feel at home.
Then there's Jack, myself, and others that look at our trailers more as a convenient place to sleep along with cooking and eating in bad weather. Our lives are spent outside as much as possible. Rather than TV there's a walk or two around the campground. A visit a neighbor. Sometimes a fire to sit around and talk, etc., etc. For us the power needs are quite small. We do more to reduce our power needs with such things as LED lighting, no water pump, no TV, etc., etc. Therefore a smaller solar system will work just fine for us.
In my case I have a 74 amp hour battery on the trailer, and 60 amp to use with my ham radio should I throw up an antenna. My 65 Watt solar panel keep both batteries charged.
We spent almost a 100 day each of the last two winters traveling the southwest (200 days plus). No hookups for most that time, longest stay was 3 weeks in Death Valley with no hookups.
My point is look carefully at what you want to do.
If you're going RVing (staying in RV parks) you don't need solar since you're always connected to electricity.
If you're week-end camping rather than one to two weeks in one place. You might want to consider what's using power that you do without for a week-end. You still don't need solar.
If you're on the move a lot, only spending 2 to 3 days in one place, you might not need solar. (Depending on the weather, I can go from 4 days to two weeks on a single charge. The only exception was when the temperature were in single digits and the teens.)
If you're going to be in one place for more that 3 days often, then solar makes sense.
Look carefully at your need and wants before spending a lot of money you don't need to spend.
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Old 05-10-2012, 09:36 AM   #13
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Our lives are spent outside as much as possible.
I totally agree with Byron - isn't that the whole point of camping? IMHO, electronics are like leashes, tying us to the hectic world we're pretending to escape.
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Old 05-10-2012, 11:20 AM   #14
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I am 50/50 on whether or not I use a power site & spent over 80 days using the trailer last year. I also get by with a small panel. Only have LED lights, fridge running on propane, no ac only a 12v Fantastic fan - only need a bit of power to charge up phones and cameras. No elec appliances, TV or stereo usage when dry camping. Only run the furnace for a short amounts of time on a really need to bases. Have gotten by lots of times for 3 days before the battery needs a charge up. Have gotten by with only a 15 watt panel to charge it all back up for a number of years. But as indicated earlier you can purchase a lot more solar power today for the same price as what was available when I purchased my small 15 watt panel. If I was buying today for that reason alone I would go for a bit more wattage but based on my needs I really cant come up with a real good reason for needing more than 60 watts.
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