Solar for the Bigfoot - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-02-2019, 12:26 PM   #1
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Solar for the Bigfoot

I want to add solar power to my RV.

I will not attach permanently but deploy the panels at the site. What do I need as equipment to set up, once again not permanently but loose?
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Old 10-02-2019, 01:02 PM   #2
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If you buy an all-inclusive kit, that's all you need. A solar suitcase kit will include panels, charge controller, wires, fuses and an assortment of battery connection options.
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Old 10-02-2019, 01:43 PM   #3
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Chances are you will need a longer cord as the cords that come with suitcase solar panels tend to be short. You will also want to create a permanent connection point to the battery. It’s all been discussed in depth.
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Old 10-02-2019, 06:26 PM   #4
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Lots of options out there. Some cheaper, some lighter, some smaller, some more expensive and heavier etc. This is what I got for my Bigfoot 21RB and it works for me so far.


180 Watt ZAMP portable panel:


https://www.zampsolar.com/180watt-portable


It came with alligator clips to attach to the battery.



Shortly after I decided I wanted more places I could put the panel so I bought this extension:


https://www.zampsolar.com/15foot-por...e?rq=extension


And I wanted a slightly more permanent option so bought this port which screws onto the battery terminals. I threaded it through behind the propane tanks:


https://www.zampsolar.com/bracketed-...port?rq=bdc-f1


Again your mileage may vary widely.


Jon
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Old 10-03-2019, 04:42 AM   #5
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I purchased a 100w panel to use with my Bigfoot. It came with a charger controller. I use the panel to recharge my boats trolling motor battery as well. To that end I cut the alligator clamps off and installed the same plug as my trolling motor uses so when I am docked I can unplug the motor and plug in the panel. I then installed the same plug on the side of Bigfoot. This allows me to put the panel up on the roof or use it on the ground. I will be adding an extension cord to the set up to allow me to get further away from the trailer. We used this while on a recent 10 day trip and found it worked well on the couple days we weren't driving. Let me know if you would like to see pictures.
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Old 10-03-2019, 11:23 AM   #6
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My portable kit came from a now out of business company, but I'm sure there are identical kits out there. The cord was about 10' long, plenty long for me, and it had alligator clips but also battery attachments just like the camper connectors, round connections meant to be installed under the nut on your battery and stay there, so you can just pull out the panels at camp and plug the wire into the pigtail attached to your battery. Always worked great for me (till the wind tore it out one night...).
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Old 10-13-2019, 07:29 AM   #7
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Solar

The price of solar panels continues to fall and at the same time the options expand. We have two portable 100 Watt panels. Amazon now has them for under $100 each. When connected to a charge controller they are capable of producing about 10 amps at 13.2-14.2 volts to charge the batteries. It is best to connect fused wires to the batteries and mount the charge controller inside the camper. Run wires to a plug that can be accessed from the outside of the camper so the panel or panels can plug in. We have found that moving the panels to keep them in the sun helps a lot if you are using electricity during the day to charge phones or run laptops etc.
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Old 10-14-2019, 06:01 AM   #8
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I have a very lofty goal

My goal is to become totally solar powered when off grid. I will run everything with solar, refrigerator, computers, lighting.......everything. All cooking will be done using gas and wood fire. We are going to take it a piece at a time so I want to install high capacity components even though initially I wont need them.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:47 AM   #9
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That is a lofty goal, but doable. If you're going to run a fridge, even an efficient 12v fridge, you'll need a lot of solar and a lot of battery storage. I haven't done it so I can't say for sure, but I think you'll need a lot of panels. If you're set on going portable, that's a lot of panels to find space for and set up at camp. If it were me (and it's not), I'd put 2-300 watts on the roof, plus a 100 watt portable. This is completely off the cuff, I have no idea how much power you'll actually need.

There are really good reasons, but I'm curious what your reason is for not going with a propane fridge? It's all a matter of pros and cons and deciding what works best for you, and you may have already done that. But if you used a propane fridge, 75% of your power needs would be gone.

Charging laptops also takes quite a bit of power, and if you're thinking of doing a lot of work on a computer and keeping it charged throughout the day, that's also a lot of power. It's all doable, but the people who live in giant trailers and run high-draw appliances have very, very large, complicated, expensive solar setups. Not the kind of system you can have with just portable panels.

If you just want to do occasional playing around on the internet, and a movie now and then, and get good sun, you can get by with 100 watts of solar and a good battery. If you're looking for something more like a mobile office, you're getting into the realm of more than one battery, and double or triple the solar. And this isn't even figuring in the fridge.

All doable, but depending on what you have in mind, trying to fill those needs with portable panels will be a pain. It's really nice to have a hundred or so watts on the roof, out of the way, just doing their thing without any work on your part.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:55 AM   #10
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Unrealistic goal. Leave heat and refrigerator on propane and it becomes doable. I’ve met people running the refrigerator on solar, it required a lot. 1. Very efficient compressor based refrigerator, not the typical very inefficient RV ones. 2. Even then lots of solar panels. 3. Lots of batteries so they could store power for nights and when the sun didn’t cooperate.

Start watching you tube on people doing it.

FG RVs do not lend themselves to wood heat either, not enough room, cutting holes on the outside, etc.

Price out your dream and you might rethink it or maybe you will do it. Off grid does not mean 100% solar.
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:07 AM   #11
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Lofty Goal

Lofty to say the least....I know. The challenge is actually fun for me. I saw a video of a guy in Australia that did it and it looked doable but challenging. For clarification my fridge is dual propane/electric with automatic switch over ( I think I just bought it ) I agree for assurance the food stays cold have backup system. Don't want the chow spoiling. My goal is to be able to go off grid for as long as I want to, which is long periods of time if possible. Of course water is a challenge and we will use minimum power. We don't need lots of lights, computer use etc. Now for the computers I am purchasing a Goal Zero solar system. https://www.goalzero.com/shop/power-...power-station/ so we can be away from our home in the woods and still have power. The acid battery is my choice because I understand I can daisy chain my on board batteries with this when I want to to boost my charging capabilities. I want to keep my system as un-hardwired to the RV as I can so I can increase what I have as easily as possible and have power that can be mobile as well. I have a lot to learn but this is fun for me and I appreciate any help or advice as you can give. Thanks
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:10 AM   #12
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Thanks Bill will do. I have a lot to learn.
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:24 AM   #13
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Cool. If that's the direction you're going, you've got a bit more work cut out for you, but it sounds like that's going to be part of the fun.

The more portable, the more crap you've got to haul around. Whether inside the camper or in the tow vehicle. But sounds like you know that.

There are probably people here who can help, but with what you're looking to do, I think that doing your research, coming up with ideas, then bouncing those ideas off people will be your best bet. I don't know what I don't know, but at least on this site, I haven't seen anyone doing what you're looking to do. Most of us are incorporating this stuff into our campers as much as possible so we don't have a bunch of loose, bulky crap to haul around and set up every time we move. So you may not find anyone with advice on what to do. Just people who can help with the practicality of ideas you come up with.

As you said, water will be the most limiting factor. You'll need to camp like you're car camping, rather than using the trailer water system. If I'm living "normal life", going into an office and being around people, I can get 5 days out of my grey water tank. That's showers every other day, with just enough water to get wet, water off, soap and shampoo, just enough water to rinse off, done. Plus very little water for dishes and hand washing each day. Fresh water lasts me about two weeks, but fresh water can be refilled with portable containers. Once your waste tanks are full, they're full and you've got to break camp.

Like Bill mentioned, there are "efficient" 12v fridges out there, and as far as I'm aware, they aren't the dual power ones. Ammonia absorption style fridges (electric and propane) are not efficient or effective on 12v. You've got to get a compressor-style all-electric fridge if you want to have a functional electric fridge. There may be newer, better models out there, but the conventional wisdom is that on absorption fridges, the 12v setting is only a "band aid", meant to do a minimum amount of cooling while you're driving, but not sufficient for real, long term cooling.

All that said, a lot of information out there (or on here) is going to be more "traditional", based on...not necessarily outdated information, but information based on older technology. The info is accurate based on the type of appliances most of us are using. Since you're willing to think pretty far outside the box, there are a lot of possibilities.
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Old 10-14-2019, 11:03 AM   #14
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I appreciate all then info I can get....once again thanks.
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Old 10-14-2019, 12:07 PM   #15
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Mike, I don't know about other people's experiences but for what its worth, here is mine:

I have 2 100 Watt flexible solar panels paired with a Renogy Adventurer 30 Amp PWM charge controller and a 100 amp-hour AGM battery. I run a Dometic portable compressor fridge that draws 7.7 amps when running, and charge my tablet and phone.
When I was camping at a state park campground labor day weekend, the panels were partially shaded over 50% of their surface or more all day. To keep the battery from discharging below 50% charge at night, I had to run my car connected to the trailer for 2 hours a day in addition to whatever the panels supplied.
When I camped in South Carolina(May) and in the Catskill Mtns of NY(mid September), the panels were in full sun all day. Just to be safe, since I had AC to hook up to, I brought my AC battery charger. I never had to use it the whole time even when it was cloudy. Eventually I plan to install an efficient Marine compression fridge that will only draw 2 amps when running as well as new LED light fixtures. Based on my usage and charging I believe my solar setup would be plenty for any trip I would take. YMMV
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Old 10-14-2019, 04:50 PM   #16
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I had a 100W portable panel from Renogy.
A government employee ran it over on this last trip in Big Bend. (Yes it was on the grass clearly on "my" site)

As the government is self-insured I now have to file a tort claim. Whatever that is.
I just wanted to go camping.....
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Old 10-14-2019, 05:37 PM   #17
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Ouch...
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Old 10-15-2019, 08:23 AM   #18
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Thanks Alex

I will be testing and changing as I go to zero in on what is best for me.
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Old 10-15-2019, 08:51 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by widgetwizard View Post
I had a 100W portable panel from Renogy.
A government employee ran it over on this last trip in Big Bend. (Yes it was on the grass clearly on "my" site)

As the government is self-insured I now have to file a tort claim. Whatever that is.
I just wanted to go camping.....
I ran into that problem in NY. A roof leak destroyed a bunch of stuff in my locker. Guess what? You need permission from NY to sue NY...
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