Solar controller?? Good enough for a start or don't bother - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-23-2017, 01:49 AM   #1
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Name: Mark
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Solar controller?? Good enough for a start or don't bother

Hey All

My Bigfoot foot is out getting reno'd and since it's going to be mostly torn apart I decided I'm going to install a solar panel.

I grabbed a 100watt. panel that I'm going to hook to a couple 6 volt batteries

I bought this controller https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Is this good enough for a start?? or should I get a better controller?
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Old 03-23-2017, 06:07 AM   #2
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Don't know. I picked up a 100 watt panel before our 5 week winter travels. I wanted an inexpensive controller and chose the WindyNation P20L because it had good reviews. We used it 17 days in a row for boondocking and it worked fine as expected. Topped off the battery every day. Hopefully others can provide feedback on the controller you bought.
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Old 03-23-2017, 06:40 AM   #3
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No reviews but it says it has adjustable charging parameters. Might as well give it a try.
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:09 AM   #4
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My solar solution went like this. We have a Trillium 4500 we've been using and a Boler 1700 (still under renovation). Needs:

- Relatively low power needs, few accessories (I estimated the amp hour draws and tabulated in a spreadsheet)
- Keep it as simple as possible
- Ability to move the panel and controller back and forth between the two campers
- Ability to move the panel out of shade, move it around while collecting solar energy

So I picked up a Renogy 100 watt panel (cheap), cheap controller, and connectors. Cut up an old extension cord for wiring. Built an aluminum stand for the panel. And it works great.

Notice the emphasis on cheap. I still have 2 kids in college.

The geek in me wants to buy a device to monitor amp hours in and amp hours out. Might do that.
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:29 AM   #5
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Solar is as complicated or uncomplicated as people wish to make it. My only goal with solar is to charge my one 27F trailer battery. My 100 watt portable solar panel with a inexpensive PWM controller does the job for me . When camping , I get up , have my coffee , plug in my solar , aim the panel at the rising morning sun, and then finish my coffee . Usually by noon, my battery is up to 100% charge so I eat lunch.
If the battery is not charged to where I desire by noon , then I turn the panel toward the afternoon sun and wait . At the end of the day , when the sun starts going down , I quit solar charging for the day.
Is this the best method for using solar , probably not !
Could I spend hours and hours calculating every parameter of a solar system for my trailer to get it 100% perfect ?
Could I spend 1000's of dollars in search of the perfect solar system ?
Yes , but it ain't going to happen !
My solar system was designed using the educated guess method and so far so good.
I can find much better things to do while camping , like playing with my grandkids then constantly aiming my solar or doing voltage drop calculations.
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:11 AM   #6
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I 2nd what Steve Dunham said. The simpler the better. What's great about solar charging is that it just works. Don't have to feed it gasoline, change spark plugs, etc. Its dead quiet. Wipe off the solar panel once in a while and that's all.
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:13 AM   #7
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Just about any controller is "good enough" as long as it's big enough for your panel/s output, which the one you bought is. Seeing as how you already have it, give it a shot.

Can't tell much about it from the write up, or lack there of.

Personally I would look for an affordable 3 or 4 stage PWM, which this may or may not be.
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markjeff View Post
Hey All

My Bigfoot foot is out getting reno'd and since it's going to be mostly torn apart I decided I'm going to install a solar panel.

I grabbed a 100watt. panel that I'm going to hook to a couple 6 volt batteries

I bought this controller https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Is this good enough for a start?? or should I get a better controller?

A battery charge controller has one primary purpose. That is to keep the battery from being over charged thus boiling it dry. Anything beyond that is just "bells and whistles" and probably not worth the extra cost.
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:56 AM   #9
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Mark,
I think that's good enough for a start. A 20Amp rating is adequate for 2 100w panels. Note that the load out cannot be more than 20 amps when wired to the controller. Direct from the battery can be more, with proper fuses.
In the future, you may want to spend a little more for a 30Amp controller with more display options that can tell you what your applications (lights, furnace blower, etc.) are drawing, as well as amps in and amps out over time, and incoming panel amps as they happen. I'm happy with this one:
https://www.amazon.com/Regulator-Con...rge+controller
But there are quite a few out there in the same category.
I think it's interesting and valuable to monitor what's going on with your solar setup.

Good luck,
Gordon
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Old 03-23-2017, 10:37 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Gordon in Idaho View Post
Mark,
I think that's good enough for a start. A 20Amp rating is adequate for 2 100w panels. Note that the load out cannot be more than 20 amps when wired to the controller. Direct from the battery can be more, with proper fuses.
In the future, you may want to spend a little more for a 30Amp controller with more display options that can tell you what your applications (lights, furnace blower, etc.) are drawing, as well as amps in and amps out over time, and incoming panel amps as they happen. I'm happy with this one:
https://www.amazon.com/Regulator-Con...rge+controller
But there are quite a few out there in the same category.
I think it's interesting and valuable to monitor what's going on with your solar setup.

Good luck,
Gordon
This is NOT a criticism of your post.

Solar is subject to the same laws of diminishing return as every thing else . Increasing the size of your solar panels and controller is only of value if you have a use for the power or a way to store the excess. I could increase the solar capabilities of our trailer but that would require me to add more battery capacity . Then since I have more battery capacity , I now need more solar etc etc. This is the dog chasing his tale theory. At what point is it no longer a solar problem but a usage problem . I suppose one could build a big enough solar array to run the A/C but why.
At some point the cost , inconvenience and uncertainty of solar eclipses the cost , convenience and certainty of camping with utilities or buying a generator.

I am not against solar but only that the bigger is better philosophy
so prevalent in the US is slowly digging its' way into solar.
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Old 03-23-2017, 11:13 AM   #11
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Good Enough?

Hi MarkJeff,

The controller you chose should be OK. I have two friends
living full time in their rigs who each use a 100W panel and
a simple PWM controller. The setup seems to meet their
needs as long as there is enough sun. They both built
aluminum stands for their panel and move them a couple
of time a day to follow the sun.

Here is an interesting discussion of solar controllers:

https://www.solar-electric.com/solar...r-basics.html/

With your setup you would be wise to not mount the panel
on your trailer. Better to put it on a stand that you can move
to gather maximum solar energy.

Larry H

p.s.: Here is a photo of a little 10W panel and portable
mount I made out of junked RV awning parts. I use the
panel connected to the on board controller to maintain
the trailer battery when trailer is stored.
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Old 03-23-2017, 01:36 PM   #12
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Name: Chris
Trailer: Trillium
British Columbia
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Mark..

Also being from BC and liking to support local companies such as Carmanah and their Go Power products I am attaching a link to their site that details what they have to offer..

Portable Solar Kits & Accessories | Go Power!

Myself, well actually my Cabinette, always has on board, the Go Power 80watt portable panel, in it's soft shelled carrying case and their 7-pin connector to connect the panel to the Cabinette.. Simple, effective and practical sized, I could not be happier.. $$ well invested ;-)

ps.. Yup, I replaced the 4 pin connection on the Cabinette with a 7 pin for ease of connection with the Truck which came with with a 7 pin. (Truck had stock 7 pin and I found it easier to to make this switch rather than having to remember where I left the little 7-4 pin adapter)
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Old 03-23-2017, 02:33 PM   #13
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Name: J Ronald
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Lived on a boat 9 yrs. Used solar and the controller you have is very satisfactory. Expensive controllers don't pay back any time soon. I used controllers in the $15 to $20 range and was happy with tnem.
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Old 04-13-2017, 08:17 PM   #14
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Name: t
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John in Michigan View Post
.....

The geek in me wants to buy a device to monitor amp hours in and amp hours out. Might do that.
https://www.amazon.ca/RGBZONE-Analyz...attery+monitor

I disagree with the idea that you don't need a lot of solar panel size. I think that it is not practically possible to have too much. Why is because as the angle of the panel to the sun changes from "Normal" (i.e. 90) the power produced will drop off rather dramatically. Additionally, the further away form the Equator and towards the poles you get, the less power you'll get. Having excess panel output just allows you to pay less attention to the whole thing and go about why you're really out there.
So while I'm sure there are guys with a Brazillion watts worth of solar panels who align re-them to the sun on the 1/4 hour that's not reasonable or practical. Going a bit big on the panel builds in Factor of Safety. Meaning the system is less sensitive to alignment or latitude and needs less baby-sitting.
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