Fulltiming without Solar ? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-29-2011, 01:44 PM   #1
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Fulltiming without Solar ?

Since I have yet to start my RVing lifestyle - it is in the works though - I have been reading the forums and lots of blogs. I can't wait!!! I am so excited to start fulltiming.

Of course a lot of you have solar so you can boondock. And after the initial expense I know it will be cost effective. But what about those of us still intimidated by solar? It is something I will research, but I'm just curious as to how many of you fulltime without having advantage of solar installs. I'd love to hear from you, and what type places you like to camp at. Thanks!
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Old 11-29-2011, 02:55 PM   #2
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Since I have yet to start my RVing lifestyle - it is in the works though - I have been reading the forums and lots of blogs. I can't wait!!! I am so excited to start fulltiming.

Of course a lot of you have solar so you can boondock. And after the initial expense I know it will be cost effective. But what about those of us still intimidated by solar? It is something I will research, but I'm just curious as to how many of you fulltime without having advantage of solar installs. I'd love to hear from you, and what type places you like to camp at. Thanks!
Jool,

You can boondock without solar panels, certainly boondocking predates panels. We do have two 40 watt panels to meet our electricsl needs; as well we have installed all LED bulbs to reduce our current draw.

Before we had solar panels we carried a small 1000 watt generator ($130) that met our electrical needs. As well we have the ability to charge our battery while driving from our tow vehicles generator.

I will say Solar panels, once installed are easy to use, require little attention and work without intervention.

Given a choice between solar panels and a generator I would always take the panels.
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Old 11-29-2011, 03:08 PM   #3
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Jool,

You can boondock without solar panels, certainly boondocking predates panels. We do have two 40 watt panels to meet our electricsl needs; as well we have installed all LED bulbs to reduce our current draw.

Before we had solar panels we carried a small 1000 watt generator ($130) that met our electrical needs. As well we have the ability to charge our battery while driving from our tow vehicles generator.

I will say Solar panels, once installed are easy to use, require little attention and work without intervention.

Given a choice between solar panels and a generator I would always take the panels.
Thanks Norm and Ginny! You know, I never thought about the boondocking predating solar panels - which I should have, because my aunt and uncle used to boondock long ago before the age of solar panels on RVs. ! I never questioned how they did it! But they also were hunting guides (via horseback) in Colorado for years and they roughed it waaaaay more than I would ever do.
Well I'll have to consider the generator as a beginning! And thanks, I'm glad to hear solar panels don't necessarily require an engineering degree to maintain... they just sounded pretty complicated to me.
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Old 11-29-2011, 03:51 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jool View Post
Thanks Norm and Ginny! You know, I never thought about the boondocking predating solar panels - which I should have, because my aunt and uncle used to boondock long ago before the age of solar panels on RVs. ! I never questioned how they did it! But they also were hunting guides (via horseback) in Colorado for years and they roughed it waaaaay more than I would ever do.
Well I'll have to consider the generator as a beginning! And thanks, I'm glad to hear solar panels don't necessarily require an engineering degree to maintain... they just sounded pretty complicated to me.

One of our long time friend here full timed for about 8 years. Most of the time he moved often enough that the tow would charge the battery and he didn't have to worry about. We very rarely connect to power and don't have a generator. Prior to the solar panel we could manage about a week in mild weather and about 4 days in teens and below weather. The trick is to use less power. LED lights help. Before LED light I installed a couple CCFL lights under the kitchen cabinets. We also used LED lights that were powered by disposable batteries. Our only power draw is furnace and lights.
Since we're both ham radio operators I carry and extra battery for the radio. That batter will plug into the trailer if I need some extra power.

I recently added a solar panel that's totally portable. I use it to charge the radio battery far more than the trailer battery.

With careful use of power you can manage quite well without a noisy, stinky generator.
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Old 11-29-2011, 05:54 PM   #5
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Jool,
I can understand being intimidated if you haven't seen these systems. They are actually very simple to wire. Flexible panels like Norms make the physical mounting pretty easy too. Actually, Norm's may be blowinng off about the time he reaches Texas, so watch the roadsides.

I'm currently using a 1000W Honda generator, but I only need it if I lay over somewhere for a week with the furnace, or longer without it. I think a tank of gas is like a pint, and it runs for 8 hours. It's so quiet you can forget it's even running. The good thing(s) about a generator are power in any light, and the fact that you can use the gen for other power needs besides charging. You have instant power on demand. Cons are initial cost, storage of the gen, carrying fuel, occasional maintenance, etc. Finding a place to run the gen in bad weather can be an issue too. You shouldn't have it out in the rain, and you must make sure the exhaust is safely carried away.

Solar needs sun obviously, and the efficiency of the panel decreases as the available light decreases. You may need some help sizing it properly to account for available light and for your power consumption.

I think most would agree that the secret to winning the power race is conservation. That's why most of us have invested in LED lights and other measures to cut consumption. The first step to any choice, including batteries, is determining YOUR power needs. Unless you don't mind spending some cold, dark nights here and there, you will have to learn to monitor and manage your power system.

I've had solar before and plan to add it to my trailer when funds are available. I'm thinking (hoping) I can make the power ends meet without the gen. You have access to a ton of help here with your install. There may even be someone along your way, or near home that would help you. I would if I were closer.

David
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Old 11-29-2011, 05:55 PM   #6
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We love our solar panel system, and it's a significant investment.
Honestly, if you think you may spend a lot of time moving from spot to spot within days, and/or, spend most of your times in parks with at least electric and water, you'd have to weigh the investment.
What do I love? Solar is silent, and always with us. We do have to look for the available spot with shade on one side, sun on the other, if we plan to stay for an extended visit without hookups.
We didn't order our trailer with pv panels We're used to "tent camping" power restrictions, and added solar later to extend our staying power in areas without hookups of any kind.
Take some time, and see how you do. With a tiny, lightweight Honda 1000, you can charge your battery(ies) with minimal fossil fuel, if you watch your useage.
I'd personally try some boondocking time before I decided on the investment. Not because we don't love (and use!) ours, but because unless you've had the time to discover your own camping style, you may not know what you need and want.
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Old 11-29-2011, 06:08 PM   #7
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Thanks Byron, David, and Sherry! Of course you're right I need to first determine what my needs will be. But I'm glad to have all of this information going in, so that while I'm finding my RV 'style' I'll be able to weigh the options. I'm glad to know about the generator! That would be a good first option. I'll need to figure out what I need as far as electric usage. The main electrical thing (aside from heat/cooling) is my computer! I know, but I have to have the computer because I (hopefully) will be working while travelling. TV, not at all a necessity.
I'm also getting some good info on solar installers - from this forum, and from blogs, etc. I certainly hope to run into some of you (figuratively, not literally) on my journeys!
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Old 11-29-2011, 06:51 PM   #8
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While I don't full time I do go on 3 to 4 month trips and am planning a couple of 6 month trips.

Any way, I have both solar and a generator. I always use the solar when boondocking. Then I occasionally use the generator. I mainly have the generator for the air conditioner. I have run the generator in order to not use the trailer furnace during the day, but rather a small electric heater. I turn the generator off for night time and then use the trailer furnace. It's nice to have options.
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Old 11-29-2011, 06:53 PM   #9
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I would note that an inexpensive generator will be quite noisy. The good, quiet ones (Honda, Yamaha, etc.) tend to be a thousand bucks or more, I think. When you compare that cost to what you'd pay for a solar panel, controller, and wiring the solar system starts to look pretty good. Solar is silent, no fumes, no vibration, no flammable fuel, no need to pull a starter cord. Once it's installed, IMO solar is easier to use than a genny. If you're nervous about installation, that can be hired out to a pro.
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:02 PM   #10
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Joy, thanks, I know it would be good to have both options.

Mike, solar does start sounding better. I knew the Honda generators were less noisy, but didn't know they were so pricey. I think the key to solar would be getting a good installer who explains everything really well. And doesn't mind lots of questions.
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:26 PM   #11
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Small Generators and $ for Panels

Jool,

Our Solar Panels and solar controller cost less than $500, probably 1/2 the price of a Honda Generator. The solar panel will not let you run an air conditioner. Depending on the air conditioner, a 2000 watt generator may let you run an air conditioner.

We hardly ever run our AC hence the small generator.

I actually did not find our generator particularly noisy. It is a box 1 foot on a side and was small and light and has run well for four years. (We are no longer using it but family and friends used it during the recent weather power outages in NE.)

When camping we would rarely run the generator for more than a couple hours a day, usually at breakfast and supper.

The least expensive thing one can do is to add the ability to charge your battery from the tow vehicle, $10 tops.

The second thing you can do is replace your bulbs with LEDs. I did 8 bulbs for about $30.

Lots of alternatives. I would only consider a generator if I wanted to run an air conditioner. Other than that I'd go with panels, tow charging, possibly a second battery and LED bulbs.
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Old 11-29-2011, 08:36 PM   #12
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1000w Hondas and Yamahas run about $800. Both are extremely good machines. Very reliable. I have the Honda,and a friend has the Yamaha. I think his may be a bit quieter, but both are so quiet you really can't hear them in the trailer. They weigh about 30 pounds, so they are easy to move around. A lot of cheaper gens are noisey, so I would want to hear them run before I buy. Having a noisey generator can make you a pretty unwelcome guest.

I've used mine to run clippers for the dogs, air compressors, and other tools. They can also be used to recharge a dead truck battery if somehow your TV goes down.

Just things to think about. I don't think picking one necessarily precludes the other. More than likely I will have both.

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Old 11-29-2011, 08:43 PM   #13
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I don't full time, but do take very long trips - the last was 111 days. While it is probably difficult to call it "cost effective" I really like the advantage solar gives you in your choice of campsites / campgrounds. I don't carry a generator; when I need utilities I find a commercial or other campground with hookups, but I'm free to spend days without utilities and still have most of the comforts the trailer provides.

If you are concerned about putting a system together there are complete kits available from companies such as RV Solar or the the Go Power 95 watt system that I have on my trailer. More expensive than putting together a system yourself, but you are paying for someone else to do the engineering. With that system and a pair of 6 volt batteries I can run everything but the AC for just about as long as I want.

There are also companies that will do the entire installation - check out AM Solar in Oregon. Of course you have to take the trailer to them & it will be even more expensive than self installing a kit.

Overall there are plenty of people full timing without solar, but it gives you options they may not have, particularly with a small trailer.
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Old 11-29-2011, 09:48 PM   #14
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I am so grateful for all of this good info! I am keeping it all in a file for my future fulltiming use! I am learning so much from all of you.
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