Going Solar - Have Questions - Page 3 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-20-2011, 07:27 PM   #29
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. The goal was to use less that 5 AH per day which the panel can easily handle. Raz
For planning purposes, this approach makes a lot of sense to me!

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Old 05-23-2011, 09:42 AM   #30
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A few thoughts to add to the discussion so far:

First, unless you're installing hundreds of watts of solar panels, you don't need a super-fancy controller. One of the basic Morningstar SunSavers will do just fine, and you can use the money you save on the controller to buy a nicer battery or larger solar panel setup that will deliver more bang-for-the-buck.

Roof-mount vs movable: It's not so much a question of which is better, but which is better for you. A roof-mount system, like ours, is difficult to steal and requires no set-up time; you just park and enjoy. Its downside is you sometimes wind up parking in a sub-optimal space that has less sun, which is why transportable systems are popular. Pick the system that matches your wants and needs.

Which brings me to solar panel size and where to buy. Big solar panel arrays look sexy, but, unless they are attached to batteries that are capable of storing their output and RVs that are likely to use that output, they're more flash than function. If you convert your trailer to LED lighting and don't use a lot of power-hungry appliances, a roof-mount system of 80-100w or portable system of 60w should more than meet your needs.

I buy my panels on eBay, looking for the best price I can get from a vendor with high sales figures and an excellent rating. High sales figures mean they make a lot of panels, so they have a lot of practice at getting all the solder connections and mounting done right.

Last thought: A system is only as good as its weakest link, so don't over-engineer one part of your system -- buying more solar panels or a super-wonderful charge controller -- then skimp on your battery, wire, and connectors. An 80-amp AGM deep-cycle battery, 12g or 14g stranded wire (marine grade wire on the outside, standard inside) with as few connections as possible, and marine-grade wire connectors are all wise investments.
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Old 05-23-2011, 11:56 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by peterh View Post
A few thoughts to add to the discussion so far:

First, unless you're installing hundreds of watts of solar panels, you don't need a super-fancy controller. One of the basic Morningstar SunSavers will do just fine, and you can use the money you save on the controller to buy a nicer battery or larger solar panel setup that will deliver more bang-for-the-buck.

Roof-mount vs movable: It's not so much a question of which is better, but which is better for you. A roof-mount system, like ours, is difficult to steal and requires no set-up time; you just park and enjoy. Its downside is you sometimes wind up parking in a sub-optimal space that has less sun, which is why transportable systems are popular. Pick the system that matches your wants and needs.

Which brings me to solar panel size and where to buy. Big solar panel arrays look sexy, but, unless they are attached to batteries that are capable of storing their output and RVs that are likely to use that output, they're more flash than function. If you convert your trailer to LED lighting and don't use a lot of power-hungry appliances, a roof-mount system of 80-100w or portable system of 60w should more than meet your needs.

I buy my panels on eBay, looking for the best price I can get from a vendor with high sales figures and an excellent rating. High sales figures mean they make a lot of panels, so they have a lot of practice at getting all the solder connections and mounting done right.

Last thought: A system is only as good as its weakest link, so don't over-engineer one part of your system -- buying more solar panels or a super-wonderful charge controller -- then skimp on your battery, wire, and connectors. An 80-amp AGM deep-cycle battery, 12g or 14g stranded wire (marine grade wire on the outside, standard inside) with as few connections as possible, and marine-grade wire connectors are all wise investments.
We will be converting our lights to LED and won't have very many appliances at all. Mainly we will be charging a computer a few times a week(when we can't make it to a coffee shop or elsewhere).

The panel is for sure going to be mounted on the roof. I am thinking 100 watts should be sufficient.

So you think an AGM deep cycle battery and a cheaper Sunsaver is the way to go? I read through Bobs Solar guide and it seemed he leaned towards a normal flooded deep cell and a bit better of a charger(at least 3 stage or 4 stage). I am probably over thinking all of this.
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Old 05-23-2011, 12:42 PM   #32
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I am probably over thinking all of this.
Josh,

Please don't stop-that's one of the best things about these forums!
The sum of everybody's "overthinking" often adds up to big pools of useful info

Francesca
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Old 05-23-2011, 09:48 PM   #33
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There's a lot of over-thinking solar install.You're not the first, nor the last.

Flooded cells have a few disadvantages that AGM batteries don't suffer from. The most obvious is AGM batteries are zero-maintainance, meaning you don't have to check and re-check the battery water levels to prevent them from damage and both permanently and temporarily loosing their ability to hold a charge, but there are other reasons, too.

For one, AGM batteries are less prone to sulfation, the formation of battery-killing lead sulphate crystals, at all points throughout their life cycle. Discharge a flooded battery below 75% and it starts to sulphate, put a flooded battery out on a hot day, and it starts to sulphate, let it sit on a shelf and it will sulphate. AGM batteries resist sulphation to 50-60% and are more tolerant of hot days and siting unused on a shelf.

AGM batteries are also more efficient, that is their design inherently allows them to accept and release their charge more efficiently than flooded cells do.

Lastly, a well-cared for AGM battery will survive mis-treatment and last longer. My Scamp's battery is an AGM, and I have abused it mightily, yet it has lasted 5 years and only now needs replacing, where few flooded cells make it to their third year, and if I hadn't had those problems in Yellowstone or had used a Morningstar controller with a battery cut-off for when the charge drops too low it'd probably still be in great working condition.

You might want read this web page about batteries to learn more about battery types.
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Old 05-24-2011, 12:49 PM   #34
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I'm going to add to the discussion about mounting solar panel(s) on the trailer or not. From observations and reading. the optimum mounted orientation is pointed south and at a 60° angle. Flat mounted on the top of a trailer it's pretty far off from the 60° angle.
You need a lot more panel for roof mount to compensate for the short comings of mounting angle.
My panel is almost square and a frame to stand at close to the 60° angle was easy to make with aluminum angle and pop rivets. I can move it around to get the best angle at the sun.
I also have another reason for the moveable stand arrangement, I carry a second battery in the truck to use with my ham radio. My arrangement has kept both batteries charged when stopped for more than 4 or 5 days. I don't need to charge the house battery when stopped for less than 4 days.
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Old 05-24-2011, 03:56 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
I'm going to add to the discussion about mounting solar panel(s) on the trailer or not. From observations and reading. the optimum mounted orientation is pointed south and at a 60° angle. Flat mounted on the top of a trailer it's pretty far off from the 60° angle.
You need a lot more panel for roof mount to compensate for the short comings of mounting angle.
My panel is almost square and a frame to stand at close to the 60° angle was easy to make with aluminum angle and pop rivets. I can move it around to get the best angle at the sun.
I also have another reason for the moveable stand arrangement, I carry a second battery in the truck to use with my ham radio. My arrangement has kept both batteries charged when stopped for more than 4 or 5 days. I don't need to charge the house battery when stopped for less than 4 days.
You bet, all of those are very good points. I thought about it for the past few months, then last weekend installed our solar system on the trailer roof. The biggest reason is convenience.

On my previous Boler, I installed the solar panel (I have two 40 watt panels but have only ever needed one) on the roof of the tow vehicle, a minivan, with the wires running through the 7 pin connector, and the charge controller installed in the battery box with the battery. This worked great, no wiring inside the trailer at all, and I could move the van around when camped to get sunshine (we had an extension cord with 7 pin connectors on it so I could separate the trailer and tow vehicle. However, even that was too much trouble for us, as we like to have no hassle at all when camping, or at least limit the hassles to food and recreational activities. With LED lights and propane appliances, the setup was more than adequate for extended camping for us.

So, on the new trailer I decided to mount the panel on the roof of the trailer, using 4 L-shaped aluminum brackets (my panel has an aluminum frame). The brackets were attached to the frame using one screw installed fairly loose, then stuck to the roof with 3M VHB tape and then a second screw put into each bracket to conform to the roof angle at that particular place. Each L bracket was about 6 inches long and about 1½ inches wide, so there was plenty of surface area for the VHB tape, and I cleaned the surfaces according to instructions. Having done a VHB tape test a couple of months ago, I am confident that it will be almost impossible to remove unless I am really trying to get it off, and not easy even then.

I agree that the angle is not optimum and we will suffer from light loss at times, however, we are willing to have that in order to get the convenience of not having to do anything at all. The wiring is permanently (I hope) installed with “No More Nails” which is a clear VHB indoor/outdoor tape, and the charge controller is again mounted in the battery box out of sight and out of the weather.

As an aside, I had to buy a large roll of the 3M VHB tape from the distributor, so I am now looking for new ways to use it. It is only rated to be good for two years if kept in relatively warm and humid conditions and in a plastic bag. When I take the tape out of its plastic wrap, I can smell the adhesive, which probably means that it loses its stick when it gets old.

Later,
Rick G
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Old 05-24-2011, 04:23 PM   #36
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................ The biggest reason is convenience.

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Ditto,
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Old 05-24-2011, 04:24 PM   #37
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Ditto,
George.

George,

What battery are you using?
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Old 05-24-2011, 09:20 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
I'm going to add to the discussion about mounting solar panel(s) on the trailer or not. From observations and reading. the optimum mounted orientation is pointed south and at a 60° angle. Flat mounted on the top of a trailer it's pretty far off from the 60° angle.

You need a lot more panel for roof mount to compensate for the short comings of mounting angle.
. . .
That would be (roughly) correct for fixed installations, but a solar panel's true optimum angle is either perpendicular to the sun or arranged or arranged so it is perpendicular to the sun's path in the sky on one plane and the sun's position in the noon sky on the other. These alignments change with the season, and you canactually find nifty calculatorsto tell you what angle to place your panel at for your lattitude and day of the month.

You're dead on about needing more panel for roof mounts, though. A 555w panel would more than meet our charging needs if we could keep it in the sun; instead I found I needed more capacity and nearly doubled to our roof-mount panels to 105w. Now we're cool. ;-)
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Old 05-25-2011, 12:15 AM   #39
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George,

What battery are you using?
My trailer came with two 27 series batteries and I added a third 27 one. I was considering 2 Trojan true deep cycle 6V batteries but without major modification (height) they would not fit in the tongue compartment. I maintain batteries as they should be maintain. My 80A Xantrex 3 stage convertor is keeping my batteries healthy for the last 3 years. New addition of solar cells will keep batteries even healthier. I installed semi-automatic water refill; it takes about 3 min. to refill 3 batteries to level.

My personal preference for RV battery is to maintain them well, use 3 or 4 stage convertor/charger, if you have room use 2 6V true deep cycle batteries. 24 or 27 series batteries are the lowest cost option.

I don’t have RV experience with AGM batteries but from my motorcycle experience I don’t like them, their motorcycle life is at best 2 years. I just replace 10 years old batteries on my Ford pickup which is rather good for ordinary lead acid batteries.
George.
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Old 05-26-2011, 12:40 PM   #40
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My two cents on panels

My SO and I are fulltiming in a Bigfoot 17. The roof has 4 80w tiltable panels. We have never regretted spending the money for the freedom 320 watts gives us. Fulltiming would get old fast were we forced to minimize electricity use much of the time. At the moment we are in the Portland OR area. Skies were cloudy/rainy yesterday and may be so for another couple of days. Two Trojan T145s were at full charge entering the cloudy period and will recover quickly when the sun shines once more. For fulltiming without minimizing I recommend as many watts as our tiny roofs and budgets will allow.
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Old 05-26-2011, 12:57 PM   #41
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My SO and I are fulltiming in a Bigfoot 17. The roof has 4 80w tiltable panels. We have never regretted spending the money for the freedom 320 watts gives us. Fulltiming would get old fast were we forced to minimize electricity use much of the time. At the moment we are in the Portland OR area. Skies were cloudy/rainy yesterday and may be so for another couple of days. Two Trojan T145s were at full charge entering the cloudy period and will recover quickly when the sun shines once more. For fulltiming without minimizing I recommend as many watts as our tiny roofs and budgets will allow.

Some people have different "can't live withouts" than others. I'm not a fulltimer, but we do spend about 4 to 5 months out each year. One of the joys of small trailer living is the simplicity. Our power requirements are quite small, no TV, no water pump, etc. Rather than trying to maximum power capabilities reduce power needs, then match power available with needs. Change lighting to things like LEDs. Look for other ways of reducing power needs. One needs to realize that our trailers, RVs, etc. are NOT 2,000ft houses connected to grid and adjust accordingly.
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:38 PM   #42
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Does anyone have a photos or drawings of a single solar panel stand they made from PVC pipe?
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