Solar recommendations? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-16-2016, 08:43 PM   #1
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Name: M
Trailer: Escape 17B, Jan. 2017
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Smile Solar recommendations?

Hi. We're getting our first trailer the end of December, a 17B Escape. We want to get a suitcase solar panel to recharge the batteries. We are having a zamp solar port installed on the trailer because that was suggested, and have been looking at Renogy and Zamp suitcase panels. We don't have any idea what brand to purchase, how much wattage we would need, or which one would be the lightest and best to use. It would be nice to hook up to the zamp port on the trailer. What do you all recommend? Is it possible to get a fairly inexpensive unit that can be wired to connect to the zamp port? Thanks for your help. We look forward to meeting some of you at different rallies.
Brian and Marilyn
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Old 11-16-2016, 09:24 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by MGreen View Post
Hi. We're getting our first trailer the end of December, a 17B Escape. We want to get a suitcase solar panel to recharge the batteries. We are having a zamp solar port installed on the trailer because that was suggested, and have been looking at Renogy and Zamp suitcase panels. We don't have any idea what brand to purchase, how much wattage we would need, or which one would be the lightest and best to use. It would be nice to hook up to the zamp port on the trailer. What do you all recommend? Is it possible to get a fairly inexpensive unit that can be wired to connect to the zamp port? Thanks for your help. We look forward to meeting some of you at different rallies.
Brian and Marilyn
Just putting in solar for sake of putting in solar might not be a good idea.
First I suggest that you look at the type of camping and length of camping trips. If you're going out a few week-ends a year solar wont help much if at all. If you're camping where there's electric hookups solar is a waste of time and money.

That said, It would be best to analyze your projected power usage if you're going to boondocking (no electric) for extended periods. Then base your needs on that projected usage.

I can tell about my system. First I'm very rarely connected to electricity while camping. My stays in one place are often 30 days or more. To accommodate that I've reduced the power usage a lot. No AC, NO water pump, etc. The only usage is a small number of LED lights and when the furnace is running the fan motor. That's it.
The LED lights about 1/2 amp max. for about 1.5 to 2 hours per day. Furnace about 1/2 hour per day except when it's really really cold then it's closer to 3 hours per day. Now the math at .5 amp for 2 hours that 1 amp hour. 3.5 amps (furnace when running) for 3 hours = 10.5 amp hours. Therefore maximum usage in really cold weather would be about 11.5 amp hours. To recharge my battery I would need to pump 11.5 amp hours back each day worst case.
I have a 65Watt panel that charges at 4.1 Amps in direct sun therefore I would need about 3 hours of direct sun to recharge for that really cold day.

Most of the time I can go for 4 to 5 days with out recharging. Therefore week-end trips don't need any recharging. The recharging all happens on the way to and from camping.
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Old 11-16-2016, 11:17 PM   #3
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Thank you for your response. We do plan to be off grid most of the time, similar to what you are doing, but would probably only be in one location for about 7 days or so, especially in Yosemite and Death Valley. How well would the batteries charge from the car's alternator when driving the car? At first, we would probably like to use enjoy everything, lights (LED), water heater and pump, heater if it's cold. I don't know the amount of electricity usage we would need and how quickly the batteries would be charged. Thanks for explaining the calculations. I assumed that a solar panel that is 100w or greater would charge the batteries faster but I don't know. If a 65w panel would charge the batteries adequately, then it is cheaper and weighs less, which I like. Do you have any recommendations on which brand solar panel would be good or wattage we should get? Thanks
Brian
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Old 11-17-2016, 02:07 AM   #4
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Thank you for your response. We do plan to be off grid most of the time, similar to what you are doing, but would probably only be in one location for about 7 days or so, especially in Yosemite and Death Valley. How well would the batteries charge from the car's alternator when driving the car? At first, we would probably like to use enjoy everything, lights (LED), water heater and pump, heater if it's cold. I don't know the amount of electricity usage we would need and how quickly the batteries would be charged. Thanks for explaining the calculations. I assumed that a solar panel that is 100w or greater would charge the batteries faster but I don't know. If a 65w panel would charge the batteries adequately, then it is cheaper and weighs less, which I like. Do you have any recommendations on which brand solar panel would be good or wattage we should get? Thanks
Brian
I simply don't recommend things like solar panels. I'll give you couple more numbers to play, my 65e has about 4.1 amp of charge current, a 100w would be somewhere close to 6 amps of charge current.

I suggest that you wait until you have used the trailer a few times before jumping into solar.

I do like the ability to chase the sun with a non-permanent mounted solar panel.

If you're headed to Death Valley look for us, we'll be at Sunset campground from a day or two before Christmas until just after Jan 1, 2017. Then we'll be back to Sunset sometime Feb, probably leaving early March.
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Old 11-17-2016, 05:04 AM   #5
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You ask HOW to charge the trailer battery from tow vehicle alt.
You want to have a Battery Isolator on older vehicles but my 2004 Chevy Trail Blazer has an extra post off the fuse panel under the hood for trailer with a 39 amp fuse.
If vehicle doesn't have one get a Battery Isolator and screw it to the fire wall of the car and wire according to direction. One wire from Alt. to Iso. and the other 2 posts go to seperate batteries.
the Isolator will assure you do not drain one battery from using the other so say if your camper battery is down the car battery will be down also.
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Old 11-17-2016, 09:28 AM   #6
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You ask HOW to charge the trailer battery from tow vehicle alt.
You want to have a Battery Isolator on older vehicles but my 2004 Chevy Trail Blazer has an extra post off the fuse panel under the hood for trailer with a 39 amp fuse.
If vehicle doesn't have one get a Battery Isolator and screw it to the fire wall of the car and wire according to direction. One wire from Alt. to Iso. and the other 2 posts go to seperate batteries.
the Isolator will assure you do not drain one battery from using the other so say if your camper battery is down the car battery will be down also.
Alternatively, you could just disconnect the trailer from the TV while camping.
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Old 11-17-2016, 10:58 AM   #7
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Byron- Waiting is probably good advice. We'll look for you at Death Valley. We prefer Texas Springs, so we'll be looking down on you- haha. Why do you like Sunset?
-Marilyn
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Old 11-17-2016, 10:59 AM   #8
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Thanks Gerry. Good to know.
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Old 11-17-2016, 06:53 PM   #9
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After being stranded, 3 years ago in the winter, for 6 hours, on a woods road in Maine I now unplug my trailer even though I now have an isolator and I also bring a battery-pack just in case.
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Old 11-19-2016, 02:25 PM   #10
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Hi, Brian and Marilyn -
Like most aspects of RVing, need for any given widget is a highly individualized proposition. Some will swear by a thing and others claim it's useless. I also have an Escape 17B and have been full timing for almost six months in it. Ours has a 100W panel on top but I also added an external port so I can plug in a 100W Renogy briefcase panel. The briefcase has two advantages: you can aim it directly at the sun, and you can put it in a sunny spot if you're parked in the shade, especially nice in the summer, when you *want* to park in the shade. The fixed panel on the roof is great as well in that it's always deployed, even while driving. Between the two panels we don't ever need to plug in. Unless we park in serious forest for a week or so. Or we need air conditioning.

Check out the Escape forum for lots of useful info on Escapes and solar.

Best regards,
Scott
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Old 11-20-2016, 12:03 AM   #11
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Thanks, Scott. We were thinking of mounting the suitcase solar on the roof of the car so it's charging while driving. Not going to get anything for a while to see how it all works. Our trailer is supposed to be done Dec. 21! It will be very strange to own something like this an not be tenting, but we can't wait.
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Old 11-20-2016, 12:20 AM   #12
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Your trailer battery should be getting charge from the alternator in your vehicle while traveling, and from roof top solar on the trailer if you have that. I don't see any advantage in mounting solar on the vehicle.

I disconnect 7-pin to the tow vehicle once I'm set up in camp, so that I can go get more beer.

I find a couple 40 watt panels sufficient most of the time, but I also have a generator that I generally leave at home.

My RAV has the tow package, which includes a heavy duty alternator. I specified #10 wiring to the trailer ( as advised by ETI ) to ensure enough power goes to the trailer battery. #12 wire is commonly used so I had to pay extra.
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Old 11-20-2016, 12:21 AM   #13
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We aren't getting the rooftop solar. I don't know how quickly the batteries charge from the alternator. We'll look into it. Thanks.
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Old 11-20-2016, 06:22 AM   #14
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Renogy has a sale going.
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Old 11-20-2016, 08:29 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by MGreen View Post
Thanks, Scott. We were thinking of mounting the suitcase solar on the roof of the car so it's charging while driving. Not going to get anything for a while to see how it all works. Our trailer is supposed to be done Dec. 21! It will be very strange to own something like this an not be tenting, but we can't wait.


It'll be a very nice Christmas present to yourselves!

I have not heard of a non-temporary method of mounting a panel to a roof, and due to the quite strong forces while traveling at highway speeds, the panels must be mounted *very* securely, so I am skeptical a briefcase setup will work while in motion.
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Old 11-28-2016, 03:38 PM   #16
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The fellow with the panel on top and the ability to add a second panel and postion it in the sun has a nice system. I have a 100 watt renogy that sits on the ground) running into a grp 27 battery, I use a schneider charge controller and also have a gizmo (victron) that tells me power in and power out (its like a gas gauge for your system). I use the water pump as needed, led lights all I want, a small 12 volt fan whenever the wife gets a hot flash and I have a CPAP that goes all night ( no heat) all in all we use about 20 -25 amps per day. Which usually get recharged during the day if there is enough sun. The panel will give you 80% of the output so at 5-6 amps out I recharge in 3-4 hrs.

I recommend getting the gizmo and if your at all handy install everything your self. Its pretty easy.
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Old 11-28-2016, 05:56 PM   #17
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I am not a solar expect although we have a 45w panel on the Campster. The draw in it is pretty minimal since there is only three lights, a fan and an accessory plug. I do plan on replacing the bulbs with LED.

When we had our Casita behind the Ridgeline, after a night of boondocking, the Casita battery would be fully charged by noon when traveling. That was with stock lights, normal use of the pump includng a shower, refer on on propane, etc.

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Old 11-28-2016, 06:09 PM   #18
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Hey Todd,

What model of Victron gauge are you using? Also where did you purchase it from. I have found a couple on Amazon but they look fairly pricey.

Thanks
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Old 11-28-2016, 06:14 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by MGreen View Post
Hi. We're getting our first trailer the end of December, a 17B Escape. We want to get a suitcase solar panel to recharge the batteries. We are having a zamp solar port installed on the trailer because that was suggested, and have been looking at Renogy and Zamp suitcase panels. We don't have any idea what brand to purchase, how much wattage we would need, or which one would be the lightest and best to use. It would be nice to hook up to the zamp port on the trailer. What do you all recommend? Is it possible to get a fairly inexpensive unit that can be wired to connect to the zamp port? Thanks for your help. We look forward to meeting some of you at different rallies.
Brian and Marilyn
Zamp and Renogy both have good products, either will work. If you get the Zamp, it'll have the correct plug on it to connect to the trailers Zamp port, unfortunately you pay for the privilege, Zamps aren't cheap.

Look at the physical sizes of the panels, folded and open, and see what you think is too big to mess with. Get the biggest that you'll be comfortable carrying and setting up.

Personally I'd get the Renogy and change the end of it's cable so it plugs into the Zamp (SAE) connector. You're going to need cabling too, got to get that folding panel in the sun.
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Old 11-29-2016, 07:39 AM   #20
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battery meter

Its been a while but I bought the victron from some place, it looks like about 130-150 price range. Because you really can not get a solid reading of battery state of charge from measuring voltage without going through a serious resting state this unit takes the guess work out of how far you drain your batteries. Of course the user has to put in the correct amp hr capacity (and actually I put in inflated numbers that the last two yrs oops) but looking back I unusually kept my battery discharge down to 75-80%

good luck with your adventures. If you would like to discuss more we should start a new thread.
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