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Old 02-06-2015, 12:25 PM   #1
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Name: Mark
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Why not solar power??

I plan on having or adding solar panels whenever I make my purchase. But I am wondering, why doesn't everyone have solar in their RVs? It just makes so much sense and kits can be purchased for under a $1000. I am wondering if there is something I am missing. I would thing the savings in the long run allowing someone to camp off grid and for free would pay for itself in no time. Am I wrong? Is there more to it than I am seeing? Is the installation cost a prohibitive? Glancing thru the for sale ads, I see very few RVs with solar
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Old 02-06-2015, 12:45 PM   #2
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Name: Jack L
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I added solar on my Bigfoot and love it. Cost was about $300 for materials. I doubt it would ever pay for itself but I love the fact that gives the opportunity to get away to isolated places without power and stay for days. I can boondock and keep the furnace running and the beer cold for days. The only downside is when its cloudy or the panel gets dirty. The only maintenance is cleaning dirt off the panel. If there is a morning dew or rain, when things dry out the panel get dust or dirt on it which does reduce performance.
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Old 02-06-2015, 12:46 PM   #3
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Name: Dave W
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$1000 is almost as much as I paid for some of my trailers. Actually a good system can be had for ~$400. This compares to the cost of a converter.

Solar is not without problems. What if you camp in a forest? If it is cloudy? If you want AC? ...
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Old 02-06-2015, 12:46 PM   #4
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Name: Rick
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I agree Mark solar does just seem to make sense and I can't imagine not wanting something that would allow me more flexibility.

However I think it yet again comes down to a personal choice for how you want to camp. Some folks are just more comfortable in a campground setting with hookups. Also in some parts of the country at certain times of year a lot of people would consider A/C to be a requirement. If that's the case than why spend the money on solar that you will never use?

No right or wrong answer to how someone wants to use their egg or how they want to experience camping. That's what makes the world so great.
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Old 02-06-2015, 12:59 PM   #5
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Trailer: 2009 Escape 17B
British Columbia
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In my case, I read all the posts about solar on this site and others and came to the conclusion that you needed an engineering degree to run solar. All the talk of amps and watts and shunts and volt meters, controllers, converters, inverters scared me off.

A generator I could understand.

I've since acquired two 40 watt panels and the controller that came with. I plug them in and they either add charge to the batteries, or they don't, according to conditions.
I have the generator as backup.
What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?
- Bertolt Brecht
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:01 PM   #6
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Name: Rich
Trailer: 1970 Trails West Campster and 2012 Lil Snoozy
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We have a small solar panal, 5 watt, that keeps our battery charged.
It has worked great for over 3 years and is still charging our battery.
We can run our fantastic fan and 2 lights.
Comes in handy when we park overnight somewhere without utilities.
When camper is stored the solar panal is keeping battery from losing charge.
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:46 PM   #7
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Name: Steve
Trailer: 2018, 21ft escapeó 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie
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In the past we seldom camped without hookups so solar seemed to be just an added expense and one more thing to break or maintain . Last summer we spent several long weekends at a campgrounds which does not have electrical hookups ( The whole campgrounds is off grid ,solar is their only source of power and they do not allow generators). We soon discovered that after about 3 days ,we needed to find a way to charge our battery .Solar is at the top of our list of modification to perform this summer . Too cold and too much snow right now to start . Looking at installing a 100 watt solar panel with a MPPT controller . We live in area that has fairly moderate summer temps so A/C is not a necessity 99% of the time
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Old 02-06-2015, 01:52 PM   #8
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I suspect one of the reasons more folks don't go down the solar road is as Glenn suggests some folks can make the whole idea of adding solar panels far more complicated than what it really is! ;-) Although I have been happy running my trailer on solar for a number of years a system I added myself, I am often left wondering when the topic of solar comes up what the heck half the posts are talking about with all the electric jargon & what all the different additional monitoring systems etc that some add to their systems are actually needed for! ROFL

I have been thinking of upgrading my simple small solar system of under 60w (which I paid no where near $1000 for) to a bigger panel but as I don't use an microwave or AC on my trailer I am having a hard to justifying the need to upgrade to anything bigger at this time.
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:22 PM   #9
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Name: Norm and Ginny
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Originally Posted by Missouri Mark View Post
I plan on having or adding solar panels whenever I make my purchase. But I am wondering, why doesn't everyone have solar in their RVs? It just makes so much sense and kits can be purchased for under a $1000. I am wondering if there is something I am missing. I would thing the savings in the long run allowing someone to camp off grid and for free would pay for itself in no time. Am I wrong? Is there more to it than I am seeing? Is the installation cost a prohibitive? Glancing thru the for sale ads, I see very few RVs with solar
You can park off the grid without solar for a really long time using propane. Your battery will last a long time if they're topped off and you have LEDs for lighting. LEDs make a real difference in energy consumption.

The cost of Solar panels have dropped dramatically and really there is no reason not to add them. Installation is relatively easy.

The reason you see few RVs with solar is the majority of people park for only short periods, typically a weekend, or they park in parks with electric service. They really don't need solar. If you camp only a few times a year there is little justification for solar.
Norm and Ginny

2014 Honda Odyssey
1991 Scamp 16
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:41 PM   #10
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Name: Paul
Trailer: '04 Scamp 19D, TV:Tacoma 4.0L 4door, SB
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Good idea to leave the electrical jargon behind. Mark started a good discussion. He seems to be one who is willing to spend money on the technology, up to $1000, which is a great way to support the manufacturers and marketers. Like any new technology, it starts expensive, with great potential, and if all goes well, the prices drop dramatically, and we have a long lasting benefit. Solar on an RV is a must for a few, a toy for many and of no use to most. I doubt it can ever pay for itself in terms of cents/kWh, but that is not how these things go. I am intrigued by it, but until I really need it, of feel like playing with it as a little hobby, it's out. So far plenty of electricity wherever we go. It may change too.
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:42 PM   #11
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Carol and Glenn are correct.
All remodel projects should be as easy as a solar system.
All you need is the panel a controller wire and a good battery.
I use group 27 or 29 deep cycle.

Mount the panel, hook it to the panel side of the controller and from the controller to the battery.
I use the Sun Solar Controller which is about $40.00 on eBay or Amazon.
It's small, easy to install and has a digital voltage readout.
The only headache is routing the wire so it's not visible in side.
At todays prices you should be able to do a 50 or 60w system for under $200.00.

My first 50w system was about 5 years ago on my 16' Scamp.
I gave it to my son with most of my grandkids and after 5 years the group 27 battery is still in good shape, on a sunny day, after a cold night, the battery is usually fully recharged by noon.

I've done 5 systems in the last 5 years and they are all still working well.
Panel, wire and controller! Those are the only words you need to know.
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Old 02-06-2015, 02:44 PM   #12
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I'm in the beginning stages of adding solar to our Scamp and am excited!
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Old 02-06-2015, 03:45 PM   #13
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We live and camp mostly in Texas. There are very few places in the state that allow boon docking. For 5 months of the year the temperature at 10 P.M. Is often in the mid 90's. Air conditioning is not optional, it is essential. Solar will not be in our future.
1980 Bigfoot 17' & former owner of 1973 Compact Jr
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Old 02-06-2015, 05:08 PM   #14
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Name: Charlie Y
Trailer: Escape 21 - Felicity
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Put solar on our new 21 as a "future need" should we decided to boonie much, got the big 12V battery, but no inverter. We will pack a Honda 2000 on hot weather trips just in case we may want air, but in general we stay at places with power. In my case it's more about flexibility. 21 is stored indoors, so no solar help there!

Adding a portable inverter to run a micro/coffeepot is cheap and simple, but it's also not hard to boil water on the stove and pour it over the grounds to make coffee and keep it in a thermos.
Charlie Y

Don't drill holes, try custom storage you design: https://RVWidgetWorks.com
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Old 02-06-2015, 05:17 PM   #15
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In 2004 we bought our first trailer. One of reasons was to camp in the Outer Banks of North Carolina at the NPS campgrounds for as long as we wanted. I bought a 42 watt panel, made a controller and switched to LED lights. In 2004 the LED lights were not much to write home about but they used I/10 th the power of the 921 bulbs that the trailer came with. By 2010, when we got the Trillium, the LED's had improved a lot. I still use the same solar panel.

In ten years the federal government has provided big monetary incentives to promote solar use in homes and businesses. Companies, catering to this market have convinced the average RV owner they need large panels and fancy expensive controllers, $200 battery monitors and oversized wire. If you want to power your microwave or need a new hobby maybe you do but if you want to power a few LED's, a fan, water pump, and charge your cell phone, a 50 watt panel and a 5-6 amp controller is all you need. I agree with John, no more than $200. Raz
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Old 02-06-2015, 05:30 PM   #16
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Name: Steve
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To me solar became a necessity when I added a propane furnace. Most campsites I have camped at don't have electricity so you need a charged battery. Cant run a generator all night at most campgrounds nor would I want to, so the solar supplies the watts to keep the battery charged enabling the motor on the fan for the heater to run for more than 3 days or so. I have a 60 watt solar system assembled by me from parts bought on E-Bay for about 150 dollars. I think money well spent. I think more people would add solar if the sales pitch was better balanced. What you need and what someone will sell you is consistently very far apart in both price and hardware needs. Its far easier to feed my little 13 foot Scamp than some 20 footer with all the bells and whistles. There's the whole issue about the air conditioner and if you really need it. It becomes the threshold on solar that is very hard or expensive to over come with solar and kills further sales. If I cant have my air I don't need solar I just go to campgrounds that have electricity.
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Old 02-06-2015, 05:44 PM   #17
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Name: Clayton
Trailer: 1975 Trillium
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I love solar power!!! Last summer I started with a portable 60w panel and a 7.5amp charge controller with a group 27 battery. I then added an additional 60w portable panel and a 30amp charge controller. This winter I bought a bendable 100w panel that I am going to permanently mount to the roof of my Trillium. We run our fridge, LED TV / DVD player and LED interior lights off the system. I find some of the best campsites are not full hook ups thus making the solar set up perfect.
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Old 02-06-2015, 05:57 PM   #18
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There are numerous ways to approach adding solar to our small trailers, some more costly than others. Depending on your camping lifestyle and frequency, it may or may not financially pay for itself.

That being said, I believe there is a great value being able to linger in the peace and quiet of your new favorite camp ground as long as you'd like, soaking up the beauty and feeling the relaxation settle deeper into your bones.

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Old 02-06-2015, 05:57 PM   #19
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Name: Huck
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Most fgrv's don't have a lot of roof space for mounting panels. I can only get 1 on the roof plus I have a portable one as well. Still, that's only 200 watts max.

That's enough to charge your electronics, run your lights and fan, tv for a while, etc. But it's not enough to run your refrigerator 24 hours/day or your ac. So yes, solar is good but limited on a small trailer.
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Old 02-06-2015, 06:12 PM   #20
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Me thinks that even a small microwave will pull about 600 watts or about 50 amps on the 12 VDC input side of an inverter. The Proctor-Silex coffee maker in my kitchen pulls 50% more at 900 watts. Using either one in an FGRV would require some serious hard wiring and a hefty inverter, not to mention a lot of battery reserve to spend.

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