1st time for Soar Panels- HELP! - Fiberglass RV
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Old 02-16-2019, 05:52 PM   #1
Junior Member
Name: Roger
Trailer: HiPoint Toy Hauler
Posts: 18
Question 1st time for Soar Panels- HELP!

Hi folks, This may sound strange but I have never had the solar conversation before. However, it is time I did.
I am considering installing solar on my 14ft Toy Hauler that I am converting into a boondocker.
I know there is wealth of knowledge in here and I hope you'll share it with me.
Please give me you best suggestions on size, make,models, "COSTS" etc.
How many panels do I need? How many Batteries, sizes, liquid,jell etc.
I don't know squat so any and all input will be deeply appreciated!

Thanks from the git-go! Roger

Equipment I will be using:

12 24"LCD TV
Tablet computer
Led interior and exterior lighting
water pump
instant hot water heater
5 cu.ft refer
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Old 02-16-2019, 06:40 PM   #2
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Jon Vermilye's Avatar
Name: Jon
Trailer: 2017 Escape 21
Oswego, NY
Posts: 2,129
If the instant water heater is electric, you can pretty much rule out solar. Otherwise, assuming that the refrigerator & water heater runs on propane and the rest is used in moderation, 100 - 200 watts of solar and at least 100 amp hours of battery (a pair of 6V golf cart 220 amp hour batteries would be better, at least for extended stays) should do the trick.
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Old 02-16-2019, 07:59 PM   #3
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Steve L.'s Avatar
Name: Steve
Trailer: 2003 Casita 16' SD
Posts: 1,899
I suggest you start by searching for solar vendors on the web. Many will have support documents to help you get started. Do a little research.
Without adult supervision...
Quando omni flunkus, moritati.
I'm a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.
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Old 02-17-2019, 07:02 AM   #4
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Name: Huck
Trailer: ParkLiner
Posts: 764
If you don't already understand electricity, there are 3 terms you need to understand - volts, amps, and watts.

Solar panels are usually 12 volts, especially for a small system like you need. 12 volts will run things like water pump, led lighting, recharge your phone and computer, etc.

Your house uses 110 volt, so things like microwaves, refrigerators, hot water heaters, etc are usually 110 volts.

What all these devices have in common is their power consumption is measured in watts. So the amount of power a led light bulb or a microwave uses is expressed in watts. That's the key in sizing your system - how many watts do you need to support. Usually you can find this information on each device you want to plug in.

And you need to understand electrical current, which is measured in amps. This is how much electricity is flowing through the wire.

Once you understand current (amps), volts (voltage), and power (watts), it is fairly easy to determine your solar and battery requirements.

To determine the amount of amps you require (current), you simply divide the watts the device uses by voltage (either 12 volt or 110 volt).

The basic formula is P (watts) = current (amps) x voltage (volts). if you know any 2, you can calculate the other.

If you are starting from scratch, get this far and the rest becomes easy to understand.
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Old 02-17-2019, 03:13 PM   #5
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Name: Ed
Trailer: Casita 17 ft SD
Posts: 138
Solar panels

Good advice here so fair.

You have to first determine how you are going to use the appliances and lights in the trailer while boondocking. How many watts? Then size your solar system to match.

I my case, when we are boondocking, we put the frig and the water heater on gas. The only electric power we use is the furnace fan, the vent fan, and the lights. After a cold night when the furnace has run and we read books until 10 P.M. it takes the 80 watt solar panel from four hours on bright sun light too eight hours on a cloudy day to recharge the battery. If you want to run the microwave and a TV then your power requirements are much higher.

I purchased a complete solar kit for my trailer from RV Solar in Tucson AZ.
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Old 02-17-2019, 11:10 PM   #6
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Name: Richard
Trailer: Scamp 13
Posts: 21
My DIY skills, including solar, are similar to how a fish walks...not so good. However,
I found the following book very helpful in letting me understand the basics of solar.


"Mobile Solar Power Made Easy!: Mobile 12 volt off grid solar system design and installation. RV's, Vans, Cars and boats! Do-it-yourself step by step"

"Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes." Andy Rooney
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:30 AM   #7
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Name: Z
Trailer: Sasquatch
Posts: 2,550
Here's an online calculator. It's nice because you can play around with things. Notice the difference between incandescent bulbs and LED bulbs. Notice how gigantic the draw is on most AC appliances, even coffee makers. Without a generator or a serious solar set up, you won't be running these kinds of things when boondocking.

Only a propane or one of the newer type 12V fridges will work with battery and solar, and even then it's going to require a lot of solar and a lot of battery maintenance. People do it, no problem, but it sounds like you're just looking to dip your toes into solar.

One way is to do what's already been suggested by Jon. 100W panel and a good deep cycle battery will be adequate if you get a lot of good sun. But the laptop is a big draw. I've gotten by on 95W or solar for years, but I'm starting to research upgrading just because I want to be able to keep a laptop going for a work day. But for reference my 95W runs a furnace fan, LED lights, water pump, occasionally a 12V fan, and cell phone charging, with laptop charging only when I've got really good sun. Nothing else.

I've gotten by with charging the laptop at a library, office, laundromat, and just using it a couple hours a day. But if you really want to use a computer for a few hours a day and don't go into town, you'll probably need 200W of panels, or a much larger battery bank.

I'd suggest using that online calculator to get a ballpark estimate. You'll see that if you want to run AC appliances, you'll need a large, probably 1000W inverter, and they aren't efficient, so you lose a lot of battery to run that stuff.

Minus the water heater and fridge (if it isn't propane), you can definitely "get away" with a 100W panel and 100-200 amp hours of battery bank. But definitely play around with the online calculator to get an idea of the type of draw different appliances have, and what's reasonable in terms of solar charging and battery bank in relation to those draws.

There are people who full time and they run coffee makers, TVs and all sorts of stuff, but they've got systems with at least 500W of solar, huge inverters and battery banks and need to closely monitor their battery. That's great but doesn't sound like what you're after.
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Old 02-23-2019, 12:02 PM   #8
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Name: Phil
Trailer: 2004 Bigfoot 25 ft (25B25RQ)
Posts: 21
Here is another good resource: https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-tips/how...need-on-my-rv/
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Old 02-23-2019, 09:44 PM   #9
Posts: 44
I am in the process of adding solar too to my 16' Casita as I restore it. One thing that I found is there are many battery types to choose from: Lead-Acid wet cells, Gel Cells, AGM, and Lithium Ion to name a few. All have somewhat different characteristics and peculiarities, which I will not go into here, but there is much information on-line. Of course, you want a deep-cycle battery not one used for starting an automobile. The deep cycle batteries (sometimes called marine batteries) are made differently and have a lot more lead in them and cost more too (of course!). I chose a 105 Amp-hour AGM battery with 2, 100 watt solar panels. The AGM's require a 3-step charger for maximum battery life (not the discharge time, but time to battery replacement), which required me to change the electric panel/controller in the 1998 camper. While you can just replace the "controller" (which includes the charger) it was cheaper to replace the whole panel. I then purchased a separate controller (which has a 4-step charger) for charging the battery from the solar panels. Costco was having a sale on Coleman 100 watt solar panels back around Christmas, so I purchased 2 from them. So far I have connected everything to see that it works, but haven't used it in the field yet as I have much more work to do before the camper is road worthy. If anyone is interested, I could post a schematic of my system.

If you are using a laptop computer or a pad, charging from solar panels shouldn't be too much of an issue as they are made to run on batteries and can even be set up to reduce the display brightness and hard disk operation to maximize battery life. A fridge would be a problem as they can draw 5 - 8 amps. As the fridge in my camper was replaced with a 120vac only dorm refrigerator/freezer, I will remove it and replace it with a good well insulated ice chest.
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Old 02-24-2019, 01:42 AM   #10
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Name: Kelly
Trailer: Trails West
Posts: 2,968
Originally Posted by Roger M. Sonora View Post
Hi folks, This may sound strange but I have never had the solar conversation before. However, it is time I did.
I am considering installing solar on my 14ft Toy Hauler that I am converting into a boondocker.
I know there is wealth of knowledge in here and I hope you'll share it with me.
Please give me you best suggestions on size, make,models, "COSTS" etc.
How many panels do I need? How many Batteries, sizes, liquid,jell etc.
I don't know squat so any and all input will be deeply appreciated!

Thanks from the git-go! Roger

Equipment I will be using:

12 24"LCD TV
Tablet computer
Led interior and exterior lighting
water pump
instant hot water heater
5 cu.ft refer

Arizona Wind and Sun gets a lot of great reviews for their prices, the quality of components and for the quality of their installation work. They are not so far away that you could not use a bit of vacation time to go over there for the install. But you can also buy a full set of components from them. Their sales reps will put the whole list together for you based on things like your needs and the size of your trailer. It is a whole lot easier to do it that way than trying to get a degree in Solar systems. Not that learning new things is a bad thing. It just depends on your patience and willingness to stuff it all into your noggin.
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Old 02-24-2019, 03:00 AM   #11
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Name: John
Trailer: Escape 21, behind an '02 F250 7.3 diesel tug
Mid Left Coast
Posts: 2,246
IS that 'instant hot water' heater electric, or propane?

ditto that fridge, and if its electric, is it a compressor fridge or an ammonia cycle 'absorption' fridge?

You *might* get by with solar electric for a small compressor fridge, but no way an electric water heater will work on batteries for very long.

my trailer has a pair of 6V GC-2 golf cart batteries in series for 220AH of 12VDC, and 160W solar on the roof. The solar would work a LOT better if you could tilt and rotate it to face the sun, but it still works well enough. I use mine to charge various DC things, LED lighting, water pump, the fan in the propane furnace, and I run out of water and sewer capacity before I run out of electricity.

my previous trailer had a group 27 marine/rv battery, and I have an external 100W solar 'suitcase'... when I went to bed at night, I'd point it towards the morning sunrise, then mid day aim it south, and late afternoon to the west, and I probably get just as much power overall...

note that with lead acid batteries, you should really try to never use more than 50% of their rated capacity, or you risk damaging them and shortening their life.
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