Solar charger questions - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-15-2005, 10:13 AM   #1
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I have a Scamp 16SD and I do allot of camping in unimproved campgrounds or no campgrounds. I do run my onboard heater in the Spring and Fall when fishing. If I buy a 5 watt solar charger will that extend my battery life enough to make it worthwhile?

Thanks;
Steve
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Old 11-15-2005, 10:13 AM   #2
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Try 50 watts or more...
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Old 11-15-2005, 10:31 AM   #3
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I run on 15 watts, but am very concervative when I do. I have no extra ammenities going, such as air conditioning, microwave, stereo etc.

I ran for a week strictly off the solar with flourescant lights, the heater at nite (But not ALL nite) and one movie a nite, running the tv on 12v and the dvd off an invertor.

When running strictly on a solar charge, I use the hand pump for the sink and all non electric back up items.

The conditions varied from full sun to overcast, and it was only me and two dogs. They don't care much if the lights are on or what video I am watching.
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Old 11-15-2005, 10:52 AM   #4
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Same answer as over on the other forum. A half an hour on low will burn up something like 250 watts-hours. (A half hour on high is probably 750 watt hours.) Divide the spent watt hours by the size of the solar panel in watts. That'll give you an idea of how many hours of full sunshine you'd need to make up the spent watts.

A 50 watt panel could restore 250 watts in 5 hours if you had clear sunshine, you rotated it face perpendicular to the sun every couple hours and IF the charge controller ran the peak voltage during the whole time.

If you decide you don't have to make it all up in one day and you're willing to let the charge taper down over a period of time, Gina's experience shows that you can go about a week.

I'm thinking a catalytic heater of some sort, run only while you're awake and with the windows open the recommended amount and thick wooly socks is best while boondocking.
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Old 11-15-2005, 02:59 PM   #5
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I actually had plenty of juice left when I pulled out. The meter said 12v when I hitched up to go. It never ran down below that, tho I started at 13.5. Mostly, it hovered at 12.8 to 13 through the trip by the time it got dark.

I pulled out in the morning, so that day it did not come back up.

I DO want bigger panels tho. 75w. I looked last week and may have a line on one custom cut for my roof from a spouse of a co-worker that works at a solar place. We'll see what the quote is.

I am assuming you are speaking of your propane heater with a fan? No way would solar run a cube heater for very long.

Yes, you can get cat heaters without fans, try Camping World and search for Wave heaters.
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Old 11-15-2005, 04:34 PM   #6
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Site for info.
http://froogle.google.com/froogle?hl=en&ln...,RNWE:en&tab=ff
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Old 11-15-2005, 06:14 PM   #7
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I have only one solar panel, and I have not made effective use of it yet because it took a while (a long while) to find an affordable (=cheap) small charge controller to use with it.

In my brief shopping for this panel, I noticed two things about the readily available small panels:
  • The cost per watt of output (the fair way to compare different sizes of panels) gets lower as the panel gets larger, up to about 15 watts, then after that is levels out: 30 watts is just twice the price of 15 watts. In other terms, each watt costs $10 (Canadian, retail) in the larger sizes, but the little 5W things are much more than $50.
  • two panels of virtually the same physical size had different types of construction, and thus one put out twice the power of the other; it is important to consider both the power output for cost and capability assessment, and the physical size for transport and mounting concerns.
So, the 5 watt panel might be of some use, but is a poor deal compared to a larger one (first point above). I bought a 30 watt panel, because I thought if I was going to carry and mount the 15 watt panel, I might as well get 30 watts for the same weight and bulk (second point).

For those who care, the difference between the two types of construction which I found was that the high-performance 30 W panel was built of cells which were each a wafer sawn from a single-crystal silicon block (like the one shown in the FiberglassRV Solar page ), while the low-performance panel was one large sheet of black amorphous silicon. The wafers are much more efficient, so about the same area can produce twice as much power.

Products:
15 W panel: Canadian Tire 11-1582-2
30 W panel: Canadian Tire 11-1585-6
cheap charge controller: Canadian Tire 11-1890-8
The RV places only had larger systems available.
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Old 11-15-2005, 06:15 PM   #8
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So, the question is, What kind of camping and needs do you have?

You can get a 75 watt solar panel for $508.00, or you can get a 2000 watt quiet generator that runs day or night for about $500.

What are the trade offs?

Noise vs quiet. (this is important)
Power 24/7 vs sunny day time power
smelly exhaust vs outdoor fresh air

Do you need air conditioning?
Do you want a microwave?
Do you have other needs ie forced air heater?

Just trying to get it all out there.

By the way, I love Solar. It just doesn’t fit my medical & other needs for camping year round.

I hope this helps.
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Old 11-15-2005, 07:48 PM   #9
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Good list, Mike. One more tradeoff:
sustainable versus fuel-limited

For the really long-term camper, the solar panel will produce power indefinitely, as long as the sun shines, but the gasoline for the generator runs out. Of course, the propane runs out too, so in practical terms it may not matter.

Another alternative for extending battery use is simply to add battery. Doubling the battery capacity will more than double the energy available (since the larger battery set will work more efficiently), and adding enough battery to make it through the trip may be cheaper and more predictable than getting the same duration by making up for some energy use with a small solar panel. It all depends on just how long one needs. The battery solution has a significant weight implication, of course.

For now, I just have one little Group 24 deep-cycle battery, and I think that a couple evenings of use is discharging it too far down for good battery life - I'll see next year if the new solar setup extends that enough.
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Old 11-15-2005, 09:44 PM   #10
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Steve,
The small (5 to 15watt) solar panels are really only good for maintaining a battery while in storage - I would recommend at least a 75 watt panel if you have significant power demands. You could add additional panels later if you find this amount of solar marginal. A charge controller will be necessary with solar panels larger than 15 watts, and heavy gauge wiring (minimum 10 gauge) should be used to avoid wasting power due to voltage drop.
If your power demands are very low - a few lights and have no parasitic loads from propane detectors or microprocessor boards in the newer appliances, you could use a small 15 watt panel to prolong the battery charge. This was adequate for me when I owned a Trillium Jubillee with very limited power use - no electric water pump and just a few lights. It had a group 27 deep cycle battery which would maintain a decent level of charge for a weeks worth of camping in the open sun. Very frugal use of the furnace would begin to deplete the battery in about 2 days.
My current trailer has a propane detector , a electronic board in the refrigerator, and a radio/CD player which draw a total of about 400 milliamps all the time. I have to replace at least 9 to 10 amp hours of charge daily just to maintain the battery. I use a group 31/130 amp hour battery which if discharged to 50% would only last about 7 days just keeping these parasitic loads supplied, and only a few days with careful power use.
This was not acceptable to me, so I added a 75 watt panel and controller . This proved marginal under non ideal weather conditions and site locations so I added another 55 watt panel. This now works very well in sunny locations with peak charge rates of up to 8 amps with 1 - 2 amps under overcast skies. I monitor power usage with a Xantrex Link 10 and usually see the battery recharged to full capacity by early afternoon when the sun shines. Cloudy skies and shady campsites are another matter, with careful power use I can usually go 5 days to a week before the battery drops to 50% or 65 AH used. A few more batteries would help, but are heavy and would take up too much precious space in my Bigfoot.

I still plan on purchasing a small generator in the future to eliminate any lack of power for more extended stays in situations where the solar will not keep up. Furnace use in poor weather would be likely one of these.

Steve.
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Old 11-18-2005, 09:07 AM   #11
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UHaul routinely installed 15W solar panels on their eggs. Main purpose was to maintain the batteries while the eggs were sitting in the dealers' lots. HOWEVER - with normal use of interior lights and electronic start for the propane heater, we have ALWAYS had ample juice over 20,000 miles of camping in two years, much of it boondocking. So I suspect the 15W panel is doing more than saving the battery.

If you're running an A/C, fridge, TV, PC, DVD, CDC, etc., you'll doubtless need more juice. But managing a large solar display (and re-aiming it through the day) is more nuisance than I'd care to have, and running a generator in what is supposed to be a quiet, natural camp setting (especially at night) is an imposition on others that I'm not willing to make.

For most of my life, I've been a backpacker and wilderness trekker, and camping has meant experiencing a natural world and a simpler existence, without all the gadgetry of modern living. Watching the evolution of the term "camping" to include +40 foot rigs with room-size slideouts and satellite dishes dragging all the "comforts" of suburbia into the woods saddens me.

One of the beauties of our FGRVs is their simplicity. We can still get away from consumer clutter and electronic gadgetry, if we try.
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Old 11-18-2005, 09:18 AM   #12
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I think the need (or want) for the ability to power more stuff is a "different strokes, for diffent folks" kind of thing...and for members who have medical needs it may be a necessity.

I'm an early to bed, early to rise camper. I love seeing the sun come up in the morning (with a large, hot cup of coffee in my hand) and climb into the sheets when there is no more sun left in the sky. After years of backpacking, I've found I can get buy with minimal electricity and still have a fabulous time. When I camp by myself, the quiet, peace and solitude is wonderful. However, when I take my 13 y/o along, we take a TV, VCR and things that require lots of power! Under those conditions, I make certain we're in a campground with full hookups
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Old 11-18-2005, 09:55 AM   #13
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Chiming in again here, now that I have back up I also do not understand where folks are basing the 15w only good for topping off thing.

My experience and Jacks proves otherwise, tho admittedly it is bare bones.

I also remember a thread here where a woman took her panel off her UHaul because she thought it was only a 5 watter and folks told her it was useless. Whoever that was, if she still has it, I am more than happy to take it off her hands. It will install nicely on my Burro. Ready made. It and my other panel should get a run and I will see if "More Power" after that is needed.
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Old 11-18-2005, 02:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Gina D.@Nov 18 2005, 08:55 AM
...I also remember a thread here where a woman took her panel off her UHaul because she thought it was only a 5 watter and folks told her it was useless...
I believe that this was a mid-September 2005 thread called "Uhaul Roof (fiberglass?) Repair " based on the experiences of Pam Garlow. That panel was reported to put out 3 amps maximum, which suggests an even larger than 15 W rating.
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