The Grand Solar Experiment---A+ - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-18-2018, 03:33 AM   #1
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Name: Gerry
Trailer: 1979 Boler 1300 / 1991 Casita Freedom Deluxe
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The Grand Solar Experiment---A+

I left last Tuesday on a trip into the Lakes Region area of Maine, in my 79 Boler, with the idea of just using my new Zamp, solar system as the only power. The experiment was a great success and even with the Temps getting down into the low 40's a few nights, so furnace was run all night long, and lights for reading at night and in morning, I never had to switch over to my second battery.

I use to charge batteries, through converter, at home for a day or two before leaving on a trip but even this was done through the panel. I run the fridge on propane so I did start this the night before departure to get it cold and with some frozen meats it was all good.

The trip up was a 3 hour drive, and other then a few bumps in the road that rattled the crap out of poor "Ladybug", the trip was good. Met up with my camping friend with is Casita about 3/4 the way up and he followed and said the Boler was riding nice and even over the height of land then down to Rangeley Lake State Park.

Got set up and got some good afternoon sun on panel and by the time I went in for bed I had a 13.1V read-out on the controller. With the heat on I read for about an hour and with no dimming of LED lights when the furnace came on went to sleep.

Awoke at 5AM, my regular time, and read again for an hour and when checking the read out I had 12.8V still in Battery so day 2 begins.

Turn solar panel to South to catch filtered sun through trees and with nothing being used in trailer, was gaining all day. I turned panel to full sun in the West around 3:00 in the afternoon and had 13.4V by the time sun went down...… "this is working great".


Next day, True test now was to leave panel facing just south all day and pick up mostly filtered sun though trees. This test was to simulate if we were gone off for a day and could not "baby sit" the panel to make sure it was in direct sun during the day. Again went from about 12.5 in the AM to 13.2 in the afternoon.
Another success was when in filtered sun I turned on roof vent fan to simulate if I were camping in a hot field and wanted some air to circulate, and after running for 2 hours I only lost .2V so I would have to watch that droppage if I think I would need furnace at night.

Left Campground and made my way to another and site was not as good and only had filtered sun all day, and with leaving one campground in the morning, I only had 12.5V and when getting to 2nd campsite I was invited out for a late lunch and then the rain came in the rest of the day.
I thought I may have to switch over to battery #2 as I was starting out with only 12.5V but decided to push my luck and leave it on just Battery #1.
Again a success and heat and lights worked all night.

Sun up all day and as said collected filtered sun all day and by night was back up to 13.1V.

NEVER EVER WILL NEED TO HAUL A GENERATOR AND GAS AROUND AGAIN!

Now what I use for a system:
I have a Zamp 100W - 30amp panel
bought as a kit: came with a Dual Battery Solar Controller Model #ZS-30AD
came with all wires and fuses.
I use 2 group 27 - wet batteries, given me about 230 amp hours when fully charged.
I have a battery selector switch I found a Cabela's made for a boat that has a "BAT 1" - "BAT 2" - "BOTH" - and "OFF" positions.

So nice to know I can go anywhere and be independent of shore power to recharge my batteries. Use to have to plan trips to full hook up camps every 2 days or run a generator but "no more".
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Old 06-18-2018, 03:40 AM   #2
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Good test and write up Gerry, glad it's working for you.
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Old 06-18-2018, 06:42 AM   #3
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Looking into solar myself
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Old 06-18-2018, 07:33 AM   #4
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Great report, Gerry. I am also thinking of doing something like it some day and reading a description of real life experience is valuable.
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Old 06-18-2018, 07:36 AM   #5
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Somethings not right with your reported specs. Panels usually put out around 17vDC and 100 watts is not 30 amps. Perhaps a typo? 5 or 6 amps I would believe.
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Old 06-18-2018, 07:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Steve L. View Post
Somethings not right with your reported specs. Panels usually put out around 17vDC and 100 watts is not 30 amps. Perhaps a typo? 5 or 6 amps I would believe.
The charge controller is 30A, not the panel. At 18V it has a max 5.55A output. A 30A charge controller will be able to handle another 5 of these panels if needed.

I use a 30A charge controller too, with 240W onboard and 80W portable, and my panel output is 36V with 3 sets of panels wired in parallel, and each set containing 2 panels in series.

Solar rocks! These days the only need for a genset would be for A/C if needed.
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:14 AM   #7
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I just returned from the 2018 Southern Utah Tour and can give another favorable report on solar. In Utah we had clear, sunny skies most days and the solar system kept my batteries charged for 3 weeks, even using the microwave, coffee maker, and toaster on a 1500W inverter most days.

Walt
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:24 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by WaltP View Post
I just returned from the 2018 Southern Utah Tour and can give another favorable report on solar. In Utah we had clear, sunny skies most days and the solar system kept my batteries charged for 3 weeks, even using the microwave, coffee maker, and toaster on a 1500W inverter most days.

Walt
How many watts are your solar panels and how many ah are your batteries?
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:48 AM   #9
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I have 160W roof mounted plus 100W Renogy portable and two 225 Amp hr 6volt batteries.
On full sun days and no shade, I found the roof mount was all I needed. The Renogy backup was great in places where I was in the trees.
I really prefer a system with two 12 volt batteries so I still have available power if one battery dies, and I may convert when the current batteries need replacing.

Walt
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:58 AM   #10
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2 12v batteriws

Your batteries wil be better off if the bat sw is set to both. This way will stress each battery half as much as it will stress the one battery. If batteries are used seperately they should be charged seperately otherwise one battery will discharge into the other until their votages equalize. This turns out to using the bat with the higher charge to charge the other battery until their voltages equalize, may as well go ahead and use both batteries.
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Old 06-18-2018, 12:13 PM   #11
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Gerry, nice report, & all replies. I expect many are following with interest. Good to see how much a single panel kit can accomplish. Just imagine.
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Old 06-18-2018, 06:53 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaltP View Post
I have 160W roof mounted plus 100W Renogy portable and two 225W 6volt batteries.
On full sun days and no shade, I found the roof mount was all I needed. The Renogy backup was great in places where I was in the trees.
I really prefer a system with two 12 volt batteries so I still have available power if one battery dies, and I may convert when the current batteries need replacing.

Walt
And I have Walt's old Bigfoot and have been on the road since early May.
2x group 24 12v batteries on the tongue.
One 100w Renogy portable solar panel. It kept us fully charged on the Southern Utah tour - even in the shadier places.
We are now in much hotter territory but with at least electric hookups for the A/C.

Jim
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:19 PM   #13
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Thanks Jerry and replies. Very interesting and helpful!! Happy Trails
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Old 06-19-2018, 03:14 AM   #14
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Name: Gerry
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Ron View Post
Your batteries wil be better off if the bat sw is set to both. This way will stress each battery half as much as it will stress the one battery. If batteries are used seperately they should be charged seperately otherwise one battery will discharge into the other until their votages equalize. This turns out to using the bat with the higher charge to charge the other battery until their voltages equalize, may as well go ahead and use both batteries.
I can understand the part about stress on just the one battery but this is the whole point of having a Dual Battery Controller. It charges the batteries independently.
I do not have the batteries hooked together except through the switch so no discharge of Battery #2 while using Battery #1.
If batteries where hooked together then in reality, one has just created one big battery and one could get away with just a single battery controller.
I will always have a fresh, fully charged battery to switch to if needed but as the experiment went I never had to switch over to Bat#2.
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Old 06-19-2018, 04:52 AM   #15
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Name: J Ronald
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Batteries

Lived on batteries and solar for 9 years on a boat. Spent our time with a community that lived off batteries and solar panels. I used all batteries connected together. Most others kept one starting battery separate with an echo charger or a multi bank charger. No one that I remember kept two house banks seperately. If the second battery is needed it is already connected, that's two partly discharged instead of one stressed to dead.



I do like the solar test you did and it looks like you proved you have all the needed hardware. The fact that you have twice the battery needed to support your needs is exactly where I like to be. Our Casita has very little roof space but recently I saw an example of how I can mount a 100 w on my roof so that may be in the future.
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Old 06-19-2018, 10:13 AM   #16
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I believe the stress on the battery won't be too significant unless you dip below 12V-12.1V. That's about "half full". Below that level, the battery will start to sulfate and lose capacity.

I can see that you're monitoring your batteries (and apparently enjoying it!), so I'm sure you'll catch it before it gets too low, and switch over.
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Old 06-19-2018, 06:08 PM   #17
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Ron, Switching from one battery to the other is just a matter of reaching below seat and turning the switch from the "bat 1" to "bat 2" position. It is wired in separate to the 12V. system.
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Old 06-20-2018, 09:35 AM   #18
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As long as you're knowledgeable, you find what works best for you.


I hope more people continue to experiment with solar. Especially as I'm camped in a small area with a guy who has been running his generator 24hrs/day since getting here three days ago.

It's easy in the intermountain and southwest areas to make solar work, and I try to remember that, but man...why isn't everyone using solar!?

I don't monitor my battery in detail, just the stock display panel in my camper with water and waste tank levels and battery monitor. It just gives me an idea of whether I'm in the green, orange, or red zone, so I don't have it down to a science, but I pay close attention. I've lived out of my camper 6 months a year the last two years, and am 3 months into my 3rd year now. I've plugged in less than 10 times, and only if I'm in someone's backyard or work is paying for a campground, and so "why not". I don't have huge electrical demands, but clearly I don't need anything other than solar. Fits my needs perfectly.

I have 95W of solar in a portable package. I'd really like to get roof-mounted also, but can't afford it right now. Mine just hooks directly to the battery with a quick disconnect plug. Pretty simple, pretty effective.

Luckily I don't cook with a microwave, I make coffee and tea with no-electricity methods, and it's not humid and cools off at night where I live so I don't need AC. I guess that's how I get away with not doing the calculations and getting specific. I just plug in the panel and point it towards the sun, and my battery tends to stay in the "green".
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Old 06-20-2018, 05:42 PM   #19
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Name: Gerry
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Knowledgeable Wow and to think I really was just dreaming of a full solar camper for about 4 years.
After going to the "Open Forum" night at the Spring Fling in New England Rally and talking to some hard-core Solar enthusiasts, I learned I already had all the equipment, needed and just needed to prove it to myself.
As part of the experiment, I was to just set it up facing south, not following the sun around, to simulate a day off sight-seeing and not baby-sitting the Panel Position during the day.
It all worked great.
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Old 06-20-2018, 08:05 PM   #20
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Name: amy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gerry View Post
I left last Tuesday on a trip into the Lakes Region area of Maine, in my 79 Boler, with the idea of just using my new Zamp, solar system as the only power. The experiment was a great success and even with the Temps getting down into the low 40's a few nights, so furnace was run all night long, and lights for reading at night and in morning, I never had to switch over to my second battery.

I use to charge batteries, through converter, at home for a day or two before leaving on a trip but even this was done through the panel. I run the fridge on propane so I did start this the night before departure to get it cold and with some frozen meats it was all good.

The trip up was a 3 hour drive, and other then a few bumps in the road that rattled the crap out of poor "Ladybug", the trip was good. Met up with my camping friend with is Casita about 3/4 the way up and he followed and said the Boler was riding nice and even over the height of land then down to Rangeley Lake State Park.

Got set up and got some good afternoon sun on panel and by the time I went in for bed I had a 13.1V read-out on the controller. With the heat on I read for about an hour and with no dimming of LED lights when the furnace came on went to sleep.

Awoke at 5AM, my regular time, and read again for an hour and when checking the read out I had 12.8V still in Battery so day 2 begins.

Turn solar panel to South to catch filtered sun through trees and with nothing being used in trailer, was gaining all day. I turned panel to full sun in the West around 3:00 in the afternoon and had 13.4V by the time sun went down...… "this is working great".


Next day, True test now was to leave panel facing just south all day and pick up mostly filtered sun though trees. This test was to simulate if we were gone off for a day and could not "baby sit" the panel to make sure it was in direct sun during the day. Again went from about 12.5 in the AM to 13.2 in the afternoon.
Another success was when in filtered sun I turned on roof vent fan to simulate if I were camping in a hot field and wanted some air to circulate, and after running for 2 hours I only lost .2V so I would have to watch that droppage if I think I would need furnace at night.

Left Campground and made my way to another and site was not as good and only had filtered sun all day, and with leaving one campground in the morning, I only had 12.5V and when getting to 2nd campsite I was invited out for a late lunch and then the rain came in the rest of the day.
I thought I may have to switch over to battery #2 as I was starting out with only 12.5V but decided to push my luck and leave it on just Battery #1.
Again a success and heat and lights worked all night.

Sun up all day and as said collected filtered sun all day and by night was back up to 13.1V.

NEVER EVER WILL NEED TO HAUL A GENERATOR AND GAS AROUND AGAIN!

Now what I use for a system:
I have a Zamp 100W - 30amp panel
bought as a kit: came with a Dual Battery Solar Controller Model #ZS-30AD
came with all wires and fuses.
I use 2 group 27 - wet batteries, given me about 230 amp hours when fully charged.
I have a battery selector switch I found a Cabela's made for a boat that has a "BAT 1" - "BAT 2" - "BOTH" - and "OFF" positions.

So nice to know I can go anywhere and be independent of shore power to recharge my batteries. Use to have to plan trips to full hook up camps every 2 days or run a generator but "no more".
I'm confused, you say furnace, are you running your furnace with propane? But then you say you have to watch the droppage if you're going to run the furnace? Is this an electric heater or did you replace a propane furnace to a 12v or electric furnace?

I am in the process of setting up my solar system also and want to get rid of my propane tank ASAP. Are you planning on using solar AND propane?
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