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chief916

Solar panels and charger

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Had this posted on the travel trailer page but no one cared to offer any insight so I'll post it here.

Can anybody out there tell me about buying solar panels for my trailer please???  I have not a clue on anything dealing with this subject.  What's a good product and what's not so good.  Portable or fixed.  Amperage and what's.  Battery types etc.

thank you

Ben

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What is your intended use? Major boondocking? Just to keep the battery charged in storage? Residential or propane refrigerator? Number of electronic devices? Are you going to install it yourself or have someone install the system? We need information.

You need to get yourself educated a bit.

I personally like:

http://www.rvsolarelectric.com

https://amsolar.com/

 

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Sorry I missed your post in the Travel Trailer section. Their are relatively few travel trailer owners so that forum doesn't get as much use as some of the others. I agree with what SWarton asked. In the other post you asked:

Quote

...Any recommendations as to what would be a good choice of portable solar panels?...The new TT will be wired for solar...

You will need to check the capability of the trailers prewire. Mine has a Furrion outlet and wiring rated at 10 Amps. In theory, 10 Amps at 12 Volts would be 120 Watts. In actual practice, I have never seen my 160 Watt suitcase panels put out more than 10 Amps. Typical in full sun is 7-8 Amps. 

Another issue may be how many batteries you can carry, Many travel trailers only have room on the A-frame for two. I have seen a second rack welded to stack two more above the factory installed rack. Depending on the front cap of the trailer, location of the propane cylinders and tongue jack; there may or may not be enough room to do this. Also realize that additional batteries will likely add almost all of their weight to the tongue weight. 

Edited by trailertraveler

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Some must reads in my opinion are Handybob.com. And Jack Mayer articles.  These are a few lots of info out there. 

I agree with last post. Lot of variables to consider.

jim

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This is not a simple topic. Asking broad general questions will likely not elicit the help you need. Look for some background educational material. My website has some - but then goes into more complex nuances of solar and electrical. I'd recommend skipping that part.  But the basics are there and it "should" help you to know what to look for. It is a START....not the end of education. The alternative to doing it yourself is to take it to someone...but it is best if you understand the basics....because there are not many good installers out there. More than in the past, but it is still not a "commodity" that "anyone" can handle well. Look in my signature line for the link to our personal website.

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Seen your thread in the TT section Ben, but it regarded portable solar panels so I passed it by, I have enough to deploy at camp :) Adding to the above, and personalizing it, I began with a battery monitor to show my power usage. After that install, every light went on separately then together, as well as the other items that would draw from the batteries to determine the energy use. Later discovered that my typical energy use off grid brought the battery down to 65% state of charge after 5 days, and that the factory system took too long to recharge so I put in a 50A smart charger fed off a new breaker  (9 hour charge time cut to 2). On solar, I'll aim for a 3:1 ratio, panel watts to battery ah, to allow for variables. Locate cable and wire size calculators and put together a parts list based on the previous posts. Determine the space available for rooftop solar, take measurements, locate a route for the wire feed, and a location as close to the battery bank as possible for the solar charger. I suppose the first step is to know how much power you need and use, and then build accordingly. You have heard "you can never have too much truck" and some apply the same view towards solar, limited only by space and funds. Off grid, you draw off the battery and the solar replenishes it, so you can see how the ratio of one to the other can affect your lifestyle. 

edit: among the sources I've used is genuinedealz.com and inverterservicecenter.com 

Edited by rm.w/aview

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Solar is a lot like RV's in that one size doesn't fit all.  An inexpensive small system to maintain a battery is one end while covering the roof with panels and numerous batteries to provide for everything and maybe even run the AC some is the other end.  Cost and weight is also a consideration. A system to keep our batteries from going completely dead while running a few lights in a long weekend fishing trip was our first solar maybe 30 years ago.  We loved it but it was expensive then.  Today solar has come down in price a lot but the batteries and inverter if needed all add up.  We have what we think is a middle of the road system that uses 6 6volt batteries and 1060 watts of solar.  Some have bigger and some have smaller systems.  By being kind of frugal we purchased the panels and controller for about $800.  I already had the wire and material to build the mounts so this $800 would not apply for most.  The material could easily be twice that plus labor.  Batteries and an inverter if needed adds significantly to that.  The bigger systems and lithium batteries can add up quickly.  Even then few have enough solar to run the AC.  There are a lot of smart people here that can help you figure what you might need if you can provide what you would like to power with solar and learning the basics as has been suggested is needed before you jump in.

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13 hours ago, Randyretired said:

Solar is a lot like RV's in that one size doesn't fit all.  An inexpensive small system to maintain a battery is one end while covering the roof with panels and numerous batteries to provide for everything and maybe even run the AC some is the other end.  Cost and weight is also a consideration. A system to keep our batteries from going completely dead while running a few lights in a long weekend fishing trip was our first solar maybe 30 years ago.  We loved it but it was expensive then.  Today solar has come down in price a lot but the batteries and inverter if needed all add up.  We have what we think is a middle of the road system that uses 6 6volt batteries and 1060 watts of solar.  Some have bigger and some have smaller systems.  By being kind of frugal we purchased the panels and controller for about $800.  I already had the wire and material to build the mounts so this $800 would not apply for most.  The material could easily be twice that plus labor.  Batteries and an inverter if needed adds significantly to that.  The bigger systems and lithium batteries can add up quickly.  Even then few have enough solar to run the AC.  There are a lot of smart people here that can help you figure what you might need if you can provide what you would like to power with solar and learning the basics as has been suggested is needed before you jump in.

Wowzer....I had no idea of what this would entail.  But I do know that I got my work cut out for educating myself.  Thank you to all of you for sharing your views and your advice.  Looks like I've got a lot of reading to do here but you guys are pointing me in the right direction.  Thank you for the links provided.   I will check back in here when I've got more knowledge and info.

v/r

Ben.... chief 916

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I have 4 x 100W renogy panels, 45 amp PWM charge controller. 760 amp hour  Golf cart battery bank. 2000W sine wave inverter. 1000W microwave, Mr Coffee, and toaster. A 12 volt fridge  and water pumps. All properly wired with marine grade cables, sized for the lowest voltage drop. I have done well on week long trips. 

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You need to make 2 decisions:

Why do you want solar?

Are you going to install it yourself?

These 2 decisions will determine the education level needed(more is better).

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4 hours ago, chief916 said:

 I will check back in here when I've got more knowledge and info.

Here is something simple yet helpful

Solar set ups can be very simple or very complex, depending on end user and their needs/desires, but you'll find that it's not a complicated matter once the appropriately sized components are purchased.

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On 6/11/2019 at 6:20 AM, chief916 said:

Had this posted on the travel trailer page but no one cared to offer any insight so I'll post it here.

Can anybody out there tell me about buying solar panels for my trailer please???  I have not a clue on anything dealing with this subject.  What's a good product and what's not so good.  Portable or fixed.  Amperage and what's.  Battery types etc.

thank you

Ben

Simple.  They make X amount of power for Y amount of surface area combined with Z amount of sun exposure.  From there it's just simple math to understand what they can do for you.  Everyone camps differently, everyone has different power needs.  If you first figure out how much power you're taking out of your batteries in a normal day, then you can figure out how much solar you need to replace it.  This is all just math just like filling and emptying a gas tank.  If you use a gallon in a day, you need something that puts a gallon a day back into it.

If a panel is specified as watts, you can convert it to amps and amp-hours by dividing by 12.  If you find that you need to put 50 amps back into your batteries every day, then you need about a ten amp panel assuming an "average" full operation time of five hours.  You'll get more from it in the Southern latitudes of course.

 

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There is another thing that is often overlooked by first time solar users.  Conservation.   Things like turning the coffee pot off after the coffee is made or upgrading to LED lighting.  Turn off the electric hot water or wire the inverter around some of these items.  Electric heat or AC can run batteries down quickly.  Additionally the battery bank needs to be properly sized and charging inefficiency for lead acid batteries should be considered.  System management to keep the batteries as efficient as possible and replacing batteries as needed.  The use of a generator to assist the solar is also an option.  Solar is great for off grid camping but it isn't for everyone.

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20 hours ago, rm.w/aview said:

Here is something simple yet helpful

Solar set ups can be very simple or very complex, depending on end user and their needs/desires, but you'll find that it's not a complicated matter once the appropriately sized components are purchased.

This is pretty straight forward stuff.... more confident feeling now.  I got an idea how I may want to do this.... start small and work up to what I need 

Thank you, good video.

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18 hours ago, Carlos said:

Simple.  They make X amount of power for Y amount of surface area combined with Z amount of sun exposure.  From there it's just simple math to understand what they can do for you.  Everyone camps differently, everyone has different power needs.  If you first figure out how much power you're taking out of your batteries in a normal day, then you can figure out how much solar you need to replace it.  This is all just math just like filling and emptying a gas tank.  If you use a gallon in a day, you need something that puts a gallon a day back into it.

If a panel is specified as watts, you can convert it to amps and amp-hours by dividing by 12.  If you find that you need to put 50 amps back into your batteries every day, then you need about a ten amp panel assuming an "average" full operation time of five hours.  You'll get more from it in the Southern latitudes of course.

 

Thanks for your inputs sir.  Now that I have conversion data this should be fun.

Thank you

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14 hours ago, Randyretired said:

There is another thing that is often overlooked by first time solar users.  Conservation.   Things like turning the coffee pot off after the coffee is made or upgrading to LED lighting.  Turn off the electric hot water or wire the inverter around some of these items.  Electric heat or AC can run batteries down quickly.  Additionally the battery bank needs to be properly sized and charging inefficiency for lead acid batteries should be considered.  System management to keep the batteries as efficient as possible and replacing batteries as needed.  The use of a generator to assist the solar is also an option.  Solar is great for off grid camping but it isn't for everyone.

Thank you Randy....good info on conservation.  I am gonna have to figure out where to stow more batteries.  It's a small TT Grand Design Imagine.  So limited on where to put or start the setup.

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3 hours ago, chief916 said:

I am gonna have to figure out where to stow more batteries. 

An expensive, but possibly worthwhile thing to look at is Lithium-ion batteries like the LION.  You will pay about $800 for a single 100aH battery, but that's the equivalent of two standard deep cycle 100aH batteries because you can use 100% of the power.  With regular lead-acid, you need to limit your usage to 50% or they will die quickly.  They also have a much longer total life expectancy.  They can be put inside the living space in any orientation, and weigh nothing compared to lead-acid.

 

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You can only use 50% of their capacity (they are still lead-acid), and they don't seem to be safe to put indoors though I'm not sure about that.  Some show a warning not to.  Some also need to be mounted vertically like a flooded battery.

 

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AGM cannot be mounted upside down, that is the only restriction. Many vehicles are coming with them now. The no maintenance feature is wonderful.

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I'm familiar with AGM and have one in my Jeep because off-roading kills flooded batteries.  But it says to use only in a well ventilated area and only right side up.  I don't know why.  I've also used them, and Optima spiral AGMs, in various boats and RVs.  They are nothing like Li-Ion.

 

Edited by Carlos

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On 6/13/2019 at 12:45 PM, Carlos said:

An expensive, but possibly worthwhile thing to look at is Lithium-ion batteries like the LION.  You will pay about $800 for a single 100aH battery, but that's the equivalent of two standard deep cycle 100aH batteries because you can use 100% of the power.  With regular lead-acid, you need to limit your usage to 50% or they will die quickly.  They also have a much longer total life expectancy.  They can be put inside the living space in any orientation, and weigh nothing compared to lead-acid.

 

Carlos where would I start to look to acquire such a battery?  That's a lot of money and do they sometime go on sale?

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On 6/11/2019 at 11:44 AM, rm.w/aview said:

Seen your thread in the TT section Ben, but it regarded portable solar panels so I passed it by, I have enough to deploy at camp :) Adding to the above, and personalizing it, I began with a battery monitor to show my power usage. After that install, every light went on separately then together, as well as the other items that would draw from the batteries to determine the energy use. Later discovered that my typical energy use off grid brought the battery down to 65% state of charge after 5 days, and that the factory system took too long to recharge so I put in a 50A smart charger fed off a new breaker  (9 hour charge time cut to 2). On solar, I'll aim for a 3:1 ratio, panel watts to battery ah, to allow for variables. Locate cable and wire size calculators and put together a parts list based on the previous posts. Determine the space available for rooftop solar, take measurements, locate a route for the wire feed, and a location as close to the battery bank as possible for the solar charger. I suppose the first step is to know how much power you need and use, and then build accordingly. You have heard "you can never have too much truck" and some apply the same view towards solar, limited only by space and funds. Off grid, you draw off the battery and the solar replenishes it, so you can see how the ratio of one to the other can affect your lifestyle. 

edit: among the sources I've used is genuinedealz.com and inverterservicecenter.com 

Rm.w... I guess the best way to start this off is I guess to just jump right in.  As you all can see I've received a lot of really excellent information from everyone on this thread and a recurring theme that I'm getting to first ask myself why do I want solar?  I just purchased a new TT which has a solar port to charge the battery.  That's what the fellow who did my PDI said.  So I asked the parts department about a portable solar panel and I think he quoted me a price of something like $3 or $400 bucks.  Not knowing if that's a good price.  He also said that the Chinese make excellent panels.  So to get me started with solar what does everyone recommend I purchase to at least get the one little 12v battery charged up?   Secondly how many watts or amps will I need to do what I want to do?  I have no idea.  The solar port on the TT says 10 amps soooo I guess I need 10 amps right?  Or maybe not.  Anyway....if I can get some product info on what's needed and if of good quality I would greatly appreciate it.  Carlos had mentioned a Li-ion battery which I like the fact that you can really discharge down and charge back up.  For now the 12v battery gonna have to do.  

Ben

 

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3 hours ago, chief916 said:

So to get me started with solar what does everyone recommend I purchase to at least get the one little 12v battery charged up?  The solar port on the TT says 10 amps. Anyway....if I can get some product info on what's needed and if of good quality I would greatly appreciate it. 

I know people that are very, very happy with eco-worthy and Renogy suitcase solar kits. Every thing you need in one folding package, and with today's technology you couldn't go wrong as far as quality. The kit contains the solar charger mated to the panel and is readable when the kit is deployed. Using the port that your trailer has it is simply plug and play. Amazon has sales periodically even though the current prices are not bad, always good to know you got a deal though. Though much information has been shared, seems we took a roundabout way to answer your initial question both here and in the travel trailer section :D sorry

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