Bigfoot Solar - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-13-2010, 09:03 PM   #1
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After a year and a half of researching and waffling we finally had solar installed on our Bigfoot, in which we have been full-timing since July 1. We have four 80W Sharp panels, two Trojan T-145 6V golf cart batteries, and a Morningstar TS-45 charge controller with temperature sensor. A knowledgeable friend consulted with us on the design and did the install. I was the tool hander.

The panel mounting arms are longer that the panels are wide, allowing the panels to clear the air conditioner shroud when tilted. The panels will tilt to port or starboard but not fore and aft.

With our somewhat minimal lifestyle, so far the 260 amp hours storage capacity the two batteries provide has been more than enough. We have yet to drop below 80% charge, but we haven't been faced with multiple cloudy days in succession. Four batteries would have been nice for our times in the Pacific Northwest, but we cannot afford the additional tongue weight.

Most people, including our installer friend, think we are nuts to have so many panels on such a little trailer. We love having them. Even partial shading greatly reduces panel output. Without tilting or orienting to the sun properly, most of the time at least 3 of the 4 panels are in full sun during the hours of peak insolation. This allows us to orient for the view or the topography and still get fully charged batteries. At this point we couldn't be happier.

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Old 02-13-2010, 09:18 PM   #2
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Nice looking install.

I think I know where you are camped :-P

How does that tug with a 5 banger?
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Old 02-14-2010, 02:30 PM   #3
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After more than 20k miles towing the Bigfoot, no towing-related problems. The Sprinter seems to have plenty of power. The combined weight of the two units is 11,500 pounds.

Here's a look at the mounting strategy to avoid the air conditioner shroud.
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Old 02-16-2010, 07:22 PM   #4
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nice install, looks great
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Old 03-10-2010, 12:08 PM   #5
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Gee, I guess I should have organized better before I posted. Well, piecemeal is better than starving. Here's a look at the panels resting flat.
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Old 03-10-2010, 12:35 PM   #6
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Here is a neat little casita solar setup here
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Old 03-10-2010, 03:36 PM   #7
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Thanks for the link, Ken. The video shows a portable 50w panel. We considered portable panels and may get one still for those times when we camp in the trees. The one obvious drawback to the portable is security. If the owner takes a walk, the panel may also take a walk--with someone else. Another is that the system does not work when going down the road.

While I haven't done it yet, I plan to install a switch to cut off power to the trailer from the tow vehicle. Sometimes we drive out in the morning after the house batteries have been discharged to one extent or another by our after-sundown use. We know the panels alone will charge the batteries to full at some point during the day, but the instant we hook up to the tow vehicle the alternator is trying to do the job.
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Old 03-19-2010, 10:30 AM   #8
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Tim, nice looking rig and a very nice solar setup. We have a similar setup on our 21 foot Bigfoot with two 80 watt panels, two T-145 6 volt Trojan batteries and a Morning Star MPPT controller. We also have two lake kayaks we carry on our truck when we go camping.

When I rewired most of the 12 volt side of things in our trailer I installed a disconnect switch on the charging line coming from the tow vehicle. It is the worst way to try and charge a battery and doesnít come close to our solar setup with the four stage charger off of the solar panels. I put a switch in just in case I needed to make that connection, but I have never had it set to anything but off since installing it. I would disconnect the charging line, doing so may prevent an overcharge situation of the camper batteries. Protect those Trojanís Ė they are the best

We love out solar setup and have you noticed neighboring campers generators are noisier now that you have solar. :-)

Dean
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Old 03-22-2010, 08:48 AM   #9
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Dean,

Thanks for the tip. At the moment we unhook the tow vehicle electrical connection each time we stop for more that a few minutes. I've got to get that switch installed! Like you, I expect that once the switch is installed I will rarely ask the tow vehicle to provide power to the trailer.
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Old 03-22-2010, 10:24 AM   #10
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The Casita belongs to our very own Shane N. here on FGRV
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