Solar (and other) energy fair, Wisconsin). - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-10-2019, 04:51 PM   #1
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Solar (and other) energy fair, Wisconsin).

June 26-28, 2020
I have attended the Midwest renewable Energy Fair in central Wisconsin on and off for several years. Last year was my first time using the Back 40 campground. (I think it was $25/night boondocking and NO DUMPING)
This event is a great place to learn about solar from both venders and the workshops held throughout the weekend. There is much more there than just energy education, but that and the boondocking is what I go for. I was disappointed in the number of other camping units that were using solar. https://www.theenergyfair.org/campin.../#back-40-camp
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Old 12-10-2019, 09:11 PM   #2
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Name: K C
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I wonder if you would also be dissapointed by the number of the participants in this forum who are using solar power?

It was always part of my renovation plans from the start. But there are challenges to permanetly installing panels on the fiberglass RVs. I have to put in cross bars that go out to the edges of my roof to get enough structural stiffness to support a 160 watt poly panel.

While the cost has come down considerably since 10 years ago it is still an investment of time and equipment. Plus not everyone has the skills needed for the wiring and for supporting permanently attached panels.

So sometimes in campgrounds where there are hookup the folks who have portable panels might not have them sitting outside when you happen to walk by. Most especially if they are elsewhere such as attending an event nearby so that they can't keep a direct eye on them to prevent theft. Perhaps there were more campers that you think that are using solar.
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Old 12-10-2019, 09:27 PM   #3
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using solar power?

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Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
I wonder if you would also be dissapointed by the number of the participants in this forum who are using solar power?
While the cost has come down considerably since 10 years ago it is still an investment of time and equipment. Plus not everyone has the skills needed for the wiring and for supporting permanently attached panels.
Perhaps there were more campers that you think that are using solar.
There may not be a lot of actual users of solar here but there is a lot of interest. Yes the price has come down, my RV panel was under $1/watt, 20 years ago I paid well over $3/watt for my house panels and that was an energy fair special.
The fair is a venue of like minded ďsolar typeĒ people and there were only a few units using it. Maybe they just did not need to charge yet and the panels were still in storage.
Conservation was my first step, and with a good battery upgrade and a portable 100 watt panel I do well. Itís not for everyone but I like it, and I do carry a small Honda genset as a backup.
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Old 12-11-2019, 11:16 AM   #4
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Originally, I did not want solar on my Oliver. It had a lot of battery power, I did not want to always park in the sun, and the collector array doesn't fit the curved beauty of the fiberglass design.

But having a total loss system while off grid was inconvenient. A generator is not a good answer in so many situations. I charged from the ruck with jumper cables too, but was told at North Rim that that was not allowed! Huh? I had a suitcase system with me, but the whole campground was shaded.

Now, with a flat roof, and solar as standard equipment on the HQ19, I love it. Changed my mind after looking at the other alternatives.

It seems the best way to get started is with a suitcase system. No mounting hassles on the curved roof. Easy to clean the panels. Can be oriented directly toward the sun for excellent performance. Wiring can be much simpler. The trailer can still be parked in the shade, while the collectors are in the sun. And the performance of a simple 100 watt system is impressive. It extends the available stay to as long as you want, from having to go once the batteries are discharged, or having to run the truck or generator to keep up.

There may be some intimidation because of the wiring, or other issues, but the suitcase is extremely simple to use and only requires the simplest connections to the battery. This can be done with a modified extension cord and a couple of alligator clips, if needed.
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Old 12-11-2019, 02:46 PM   #5
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We primarily boondock with our trailer. I am dabbling with a solar power system on my 16 ft Casita which I resurrected from the dead two years ago. I decided to forgo the permanently mounted panels on the trailer. I instead mounted two 100w ridged panels on a cut down section of an old aluminum extension ladder. This can be carried on the roof rack of my Jeep Cherokee TV for travel. The panels are plugged into the trailer mounted charge controller by two mc4 connectors at the trailer tongue. The solar panel set up can be easily lifted from my roof rack and placed anywhere I can find sunlight around the campsite. I have 30ft. of 10ga. mc4 extension cable to work with. Right now, I have the panels ganged up in parallel. I may change that to a series connection @ 24v if I find the need to extend the panels further away. My Epevers mppt charge controller allows for 12 or 24v systems.


Edit; corrected a typo that described my Jeep Cherokee as an RV rather than a TV
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Old 12-11-2019, 03:02 PM   #6
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People's experiences may differ depending on where they live or where they camp, but my experience is that it's getting less and less common not to see panels on people's roofs. It's pretty silly that more companies don't install them as part of a basic package on their rvs, but there are definitely a lot of people out there with the desire and money either install panels themselves or pay someone to do it.
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Old 12-11-2019, 07:07 PM   #7
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Here in New England a lot of people still don't think it can be done but if your frugal with your power use it can be done.
In my Casita 16 footer, I use a portable, 100 W panel, and have been camping in April and September for extended times up to 2 weeks without any other power other then the one 12volt wet cell battery and the 100W panel.
Running heat all night and just some LED lights for night time reading or playing a came of cribbage at night was no problem.
It was always my intent since I started, first with my Boler, then with the Casita, 20 odd years ago, to be free from the cord, so to speak.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:06 PM   #8
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It was always my intent since I started, first with my Boler, then with the Casita, 20 odd years ago, to be free from the cord, so to speak.
Here in Northern California, in the fall months of the year, a new phenomena of public safety power outages are the new normal. These outages are to prevent the electric utility caused wildfires that we have been experiencing for the last three years. We had a five day outage here in October. People are looking at alternatives. The solar power system in my Casita is my fallback.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:18 PM   #9
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Here in New England a lot of people still don't think it can be done but if your frugal with your power use it can be done.
In my Casita 16 footer, I use a portable, 100 W panel, and have been camping in April and September for extended times up to 2 weeks without any other power other then the one 12volt wet cell battery and the 100W panel.
Running heat all night and just some LED lights for night time reading or playing a came of cribbage at night was no problem.
It was always my intent since I started, first with my Boler, then with the Casita, 20 odd years ago, to be free from the cord, so to speak.
We camped with our 17ft Casita for over 6 years .utilizing one 12V deep cycle battery and one 100 watt Renogy portable solar panel
With conservative / frugal use of electricity we had no problems keeping our battery above 50%
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Nor Cal Mike View Post
Here in Northern California, in the fall months of the year, a new phenomena of public safety power outages are the new normal. These outages are to prevent the electric utility caused wildfires that we have been experiencing for the last three years. We had a five day outage here in October. People are looking at alternatives. The solar power system in my Casita is my fallback.
This is another excellent reason to have a trailer. These "power outages" are a nightmare. Businesses shut down, food spoiled at thousands of homes, emergency generators, by the thousands, running day after day, and on and on. There has to be a better way.

And as I understand it, the rooftop solar systems cannot produce unless they have a reference frequency from the power grid. The ones that can have batteries and inverters, but not many do.
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Old 12-11-2019, 09:28 PM   #11
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We camped with our 17ft Casita for over 6 years .utilizing one 12V deep cycle battery and one 100 watt Renogy portable solar panel
With conservative / frugal use of electricity we had no problems keeping our battery above 50%
Steve,

You make a very good point, and I bet you have some of the best memories of your life from those trips. I'm guilty of wanting more toys along and of wanting more power for stuff. But I don't think i'm really having more fun overall, just more comfort.

When I got my first solar panel I could not believe the power I had! Seeing the battery actually gaining during the day was wonderful! And then I began to use more. And on and on.
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Old 12-11-2019, 10:48 PM   #12
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Steve,

You make a very good point, and I bet you have some of the best memories of your life from those trips. I'm guilty of wanting more toys along and of wanting more power for stuff. But I don't think i'm really having more fun overall, just more comfort.

When I got my first solar panel I could not believe the power I had! Seeing the battery actually gaining during the day was wonderful! And then I began to use more. And on and on.
We figured we had two choices when camping without hookups . Solar + conservation or a generator . We thought about it for about 30 seconds and decided solar was the way to go . We have been successful to this point and do not regret our decision .
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Old 12-12-2019, 07:45 AM   #13
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Originally, I did not want solar on my Oliver. It had a lot of battery power, I did not want to always park in the sun, and the collector array doesn't fit the curved beauty of the fiberglass design.

But having a total loss system while off grid was inconvenient. A generator is not a good answer in so many situations. I charged from the ruck with jumper cables too, but was told at North Rim that that was not allowed! Huh? I had a suitcase system with me, but the whole campground was shaded.

<snip>

It seems the best way to get started is with a suitcase system. No mounting hassles on the curved roof. Easy to clean the panels. Can be oriented directly toward the sun for excellent performance. Wiring can be much simpler. The trailer can still be parked in the shade, while the collectors are in the sun. And the performance of a simple 100 watt system is impressive. It extends the available stay to as long as you want, from having to go once the batteries are discharged, or having to run the truck or generator to keep up.

There may be some intimidation because of the wiring, or other issues, but the suitcase is extremely simple to use and only requires the simplest connections to the battery. This can be done with a modified extension cord and a couple of alligator clips, if needed.

This is EXACTLY what I did. After camping in Utah at a wonderful site with no hookups, the need for some power source became apparent. Lots of rules and limitations on generators, so solar can serve you well.

One advantage to suitcase solar is the same panel can be used for multiple campers (I have two). I find the 100watt portable is more than adequate to keep up as long as I am using propane for the refrigerator. On both of my trailers, the battery is on the tongue, so hooking up the solar suitcase is easy/peasy! +10 Modified heavy duty extension cord for the WIN. I had a 100 footer bought at a garage sale (missing one end). It donated 35 feet to my solar extension.


The ONLY thing I found that was tricky was crimping the plug ends (MC4s). It was just a matter of getting the RIGHT tool, then that was easy too. Its a Dupont style crimper, they come in sizes so be sure to get the right size (I now have two due to a mistake on the first tool).

Some of the best camping out there has no hookups.
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Old 12-12-2019, 10:35 AM   #14
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I like the idea of charging the battery while traveling and of being able to move the panel into the sun when camping. For that reason I'm considering mounting the panel on the roof of the TV, a Subaru Forester in our case, and being able to remove it for better directional placement when camped.
Anyone have suggestions/experience with this?
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Old 12-12-2019, 11:57 AM   #15
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I like the idea of charging the battery while traveling and of being able to move the panel into the sun when camping. For that reason I'm considering mounting the panel on the roof of the TV, a Subaru Forester in our case, and being able to remove it for better directional placement when camped.
Anyone have suggestions/experience with this?
This is how we use my panel set up. Just slip the aluminum ladder mounted panels up on the roof rack of the Jeep, secure it down, plug in the MC4 connectors to the trailer and you are on your way. It charges while driving down the road independent of the TV's electrical system. We took it out on our first 3 day adventure just before Thanksgiving and it worked flawlessly.



The panels are light enough that they are easy to handle by myself when the panels are laid down flat. Since this picture was taken, I added some small 6' diameter plastic wheels from an old lawn mower to one end so that it will roll when on the ground.


The panels can be raised on the frame, either for or aft on the frame (dependent on which way the TV is parked) or rotate about 80 degrees on the frame.
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Old 12-13-2019, 06:04 AM   #16
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Looks like a very practical setup, well done !
How much does the whole rig weigh ?
I have a 190 W panel on the roof of my Escape 17B, so far that's been enough. I thought if I needed more I'd add a panel to the roof racks of my TV similar to your setup.
Thanks for posting the pictures.
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Old 12-13-2019, 08:35 AM   #17
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I installed 300 watts on "flat" on the top of my Scamp using the newly installed awing case for the outer attach point and making aluminum brackets for the inner. It doesn't look too bad, but may affect the aerodynamics a little.
We also have camped and found that even with the compressor refrigerator it keep everything charged except when we parked among the big redwoods at Big Sur.
We also use the Scamp for temporary or emergency purposes like a bug out box for hurricane season, various field day ham radio activities and just a moving motel room on occasion.
I did eventually work my way up to an MPPT controller and a second 104 AH battery.
I found that the best change I made was the MPPT controller as the flat mount panels hardly ever see a full sun situation and every bit of efficiency is appreciated.
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Old 12-13-2019, 10:25 AM   #18
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Looks like a very practical setup, well done !
How much does the whole rig weigh ?
I have a 190 W panel on the roof of my Escape 17B, so far that's been enough. I thought if I needed more I'd add a panel to the roof racks of my TV similar to your setup.
Thanks for posting the pictures.
Bob
Bob, I haven't put it on a scale so can't say how much it weighs. Most important to me is that I can easily press one end of it up to the edge of my roof rack and then go around to the other end and push it up as well. Except for the yellow colored cross beam across the base, it is pretty much all aluminum. The yellow beam is a 10ga. steel channel made from a pair of old fold up saw horses and the two pieces of 1" PVC pipe paralleling the yellow channel held in place by 5/16" all thread stock. The hinge points are connected by 1/4" X 3" locking pins and 3/16" X 2" locking pins to hold the top of prop rods which are hardware store shelving tracks.

The whole tilting menagerie is probably unnecessary whenever the ladder is offloaded at camp since the whole frame could be propped up at an angle against a tree or a rock. But if it stays loaded on the roof rack of the Jeep it is nice because it doesn't matter which direction the jeep is parked. I can still point it directly at the sun while parked. Of course it lays flat while travelling.
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