Solar Panel Setup - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-28-2015, 06:29 PM   #1
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Name: Handley
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Solar Panel Setup

I have LED lights in my 1983 Scamp. To keep the battery charged I bought a Coleman 18 watt solar panel kit. It comes with a charge controller.


I mounted the charge controller on a metal post screwed to the wood base that holds the battery. It is held with a zip-tie and protected from rain by a cover made from a trimmed plastic bottle. This keeps rain off but lets me see the indicator lights.


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Using inch plastic pipe, I made a frame to support the solar panel. It has a leg behind to prop it up to the proper angle. Use 1 90 degree elbow and a pair of tees. I shaved the ends of the pipes the tee turns on so it would turn easier. To improve rigidity there is a wood filler in the pipes across the tee. After it was assembled to the solar panel. I drilled a hole in the tee extending off the side of the panel. Make it as close to vertical as you can, just off the edge of the panel. Whittle out a straight stick 6 or 8 inches long to fit in that hole.


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With the stick pointing up away from the panel, the stick will throw a shadow. Adjust the panel so that the shadow falls parallel with the edge of the panel and as short as you can make it. In this position, the sun is hitting the solar panel directly at 90 degrees for maximum power output. Every hour or so, you can readjust the shadow as the sun moves.


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Old 04-29-2015, 07:08 AM   #2
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That is a neat stand. I like the stick to measure the sun angle. I prefer using things that have more than a single purpose. I grab a bag chair and use it to hold the solar panel. With the cloth arms and back rest it makes for a good holder, the angle is just about right. I do bunge it to the chair less a wind gust topple it.

How does that 18 watt panel do for recharging. Seems too small to get the battery fully recharged?
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Old 04-29-2015, 10:26 AM   #3
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This should do fine for just LED lights. Keep it simple. Does the charger really need protection from the rain? If so you might want to rethink the plastic bottle as it could make it too hot. Very clever with the stick. Raz
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:52 AM   #4
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How does that 18 watt panel do for recharging. Seems too small to get the battery fully recharged?
I used a 20 watt panel on my Scamp 16' for a number of a number of years with lots of dry camping including winter trips into Calf. and Nevada. The panel if there was sun had no problems fully recharge the battery - often by noon. I used the water pump for showers & dish washing each day, heater for warming up in mornings and before bed at night as well as occasional nights the heater was needed to run on and off during the night, 12v roof fan use on warm days and recharging phones and camera battery etc. I do have all LED lights & ran the fridge on propane. Never tried to watch TV or run a AC. Trick was to set the panel up and leave it up before you actually needed a charge up.

As I said it worked fine even when winter camping in the south and it also works fine here in Pacific North West on hot sunny days & the 12v fan was on a lot but on dark cold rainy days & lots of tree coverage for more than a day or two here in the Pacific North West it did come up short on charging power - particularly if the heater was needed to dry things out a lot during the day.
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Old 04-29-2015, 12:24 PM   #5
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Carol glad you posted that, have been looking and a 40 watt is the largest I can easily stow against a wall. We don't even have the water pump so that 40 watt should be sufficient.

I too like the stick aiming device, I would caution one to make sure stick will not cast a shadow on the PV cells as the sun moves, knocking even one or two of the small cells down to low output from a shadow can reduce output of the entire panel.
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Old 04-29-2015, 01:32 PM   #6
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Carol glad you posted that, have been looking and a 40 watt is the largest I can easily stow against a wall. We don't even have the water pump so that 40 watt should be sufficient.

I too like the stick aiming device, I would caution one to make sure stick will not cast a shadow on the PV cells as the sun moves, knocking even one or two of the small cells down to low output from a shadow can reduce output of the entire panel.
I too wanted smaller size. I thought about 50 watts, then two 25's. Ended up with two 30's. Bigger than I wanted but they were less money. You might consider hinged 20 watt panels. Raz
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Old 04-29-2015, 01:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Paul Braun View Post
That is a neat stand. I like the stick to measure the sun angle. I prefer using things that have more than a single purpose. I grab a bag chair and use it to hold the solar panel. With the cloth arms and back rest it makes for a good holder, the angle is just about right. I do bunge it to the chair less a wind gust topple it.

How does that 18 watt panel do for recharging. Seems too small to get the battery fully recharged?

The specifications for the Colman 18 Watt solar panel indicate 1.2 Amps of charging current. I keep my battery charged with a 1 amp charger when at home.
FYI... As a battery gets closer to full charge the current going into the battery decreases. Therefore a small current source will work just fine. The difference between a low charging current and a higher initial charging current is the amount of time it takes to charge the battery. There's a very logical technical reason for this, but I won't bore you with the technical discussion.
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:10 PM   #8
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Carol glad you posted that, have been looking and a 40 watt is the largest I can easily stow against a wall. We don't even have the water pump so that 40 watt should be sufficient.
40 Watts is probable enough but again as I mentioned where and how you camp will dictate the need.

You may want to look around a bit more as I know that my old 20w is actually larger than many of the new 60 to 100w ones that are now out there. Hinging a couple of smaller panels together as was suggested is also an option if you can't find something that works space wise.

When I purchased my first panel it was lets just say pricey! at least based on todays panel costs which is pretty well how/why I ended up with a small panel to start with. Today you can buy a panel with well over 100w for less than half the cost of what I originally paid for the 20w one I have.

While I don't personally based on my own camping style understand the need for 200 watts or more of solar (often wonder what the heck people are doing/using while camping to need that much power) & even if I did not plan to spend a lot of time camping in real cold weather (heavy furnace usage) and I was starting from scratch I would look for something in the 60w range as that would give a lot more freedom in regards to power draws. Even on a sunny day it would for example allow me to at least enjoy tunes from my MP3 player rather than being forced to listen to endless talk radio (only thing the radio will pick up) on my portable radio or I could leave the 12v roof fan blowing longer without worrying as much about the power draw.

But then again one can indeed get by comfortable with a 40 watt.
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Old 04-29-2015, 03:04 PM   #9
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Saw the posting on making the hinged panels. Bookmarked.
I'm looking to stow panel along outside of closet, the 40 & 30 amp ALEKO panels have a 14 inch width that will fit there. Not much difference in height at 31 or 29 inches.

The higher wattage panels tend to be square and so far have not found anyplace inside that looks like it will accommodate a 26.5 inch square panel. Probably don't need the higher output.

2 lights (on each end of upper cabinets) charging kindle, camera, tablet, phones or laptop would pretty much be it. Maybe Cheryl will want to use a blow dryer before we head for civilization. I'm still figuring but could probably do 3 days without solar and stay above 50% battery. Even if solar replaces half of usage that doubles the time on battery. I would not count on dear wife wanting to spend 6 days in the boondocks. 3 or 4 yes, 6 probably going to be pretty lonely out there by myself.

I also like the PVC stand in the OP. Does not weigh or cost much, possibly a little more bulk than some made from Aluminum but does provide a low cost and rapid implementation.
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