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Old 05-06-2014, 10:22 PM   #1
Rivet Master
1999 28' Excella
New Orleans , Louisiana
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Solar or generator or and generator?

We are full-timers and just got a generator. I really want solar and generator as backup.

Have to say I want to do the research and hopefully get solar.

We just started boondocking with great success.

Save the solar the right move?

We are full-timers for a year..I WANT solar. He is a retired CPA and says it is not financially the right choice since we just bought a generator.

I have been finding a lot of boondocking sites and no camp fees.

Always been a green person..HELP..I want solar.

OK yes I will win this war but who is right?

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Old 05-06-2014, 10:45 PM   #2
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1975 31' Excella 500
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Benton , Arkansas
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I have no experience with solar so I can't speak to that except that a lot of people on the forum seem to really like it,,,,, seems like a good thing, but I would like to know what a good reliable and useful solar setup costs.

But to answer the part of tour question I feel qualified to answer,,, I like to have the ability to run my air conditioner when the tin can gets really hot, so I say a generator and a generator with solar would be my answer depending on how much gas I could buy for the cost of solar.

The fact that I am opinionated does not presuppose that I am wrong......

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Old 05-06-2014, 11:39 PM   #3
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Hi, I like the idea of solar panels, but the cost for the panels, the charger, the three stage converter, the expensive batteries, and so on really adds up. I bought a generator to run my air conditioner.

2005 Safari 25-B
"Le Petit Chateau Argent"
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:48 AM   #4
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Morada , California
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We're all different - there's no right or wrong, in my view, re solar vs a genny...

Of course, as mentioned by others, if you're going to run the AC while in the boonies, your only choice is a genny...This also goes for powering a microwave oven, as a solar/inventer/battery system for this purpose will be rather elaborate/costly...

We get out in the boonies a lot when using our AS...We don't have solar panels, but depend on our 2KW little red honda inverter genny for recharging the batteries and powering the microwave oven in small spurts when required...

We pamper ourselves with a Dish Sat system for our TV viewing in the evenings or for special sports stuff...we also have a DVD player and XMradio that's sometimes powered up - we can easily power all these devices with our 1200 watt inverter and our three Gp-27 deep cycle batt's (315 amp hours available when fully charged) during quiet times at night...

We fire up the quiet Honda genny EACH morning to replace the amp hour capacity used the previous day/evening - depending on the battery bank's state of charge, it can take a couple of hours...This routine EACH day is important to have the batt's FULLY charged for the next usage cycle - undercharging can quickly cause the batt's to be deeply discharged, resulting in many hours to get back to a normal fully charged state...

We have a modern 3-way converter/charger that will automatically switch to it's 'float' mode when the batteries have come up to a full charge - I have a digital voltmeter that can be monitored to show when the charging voltage goes into it's 'float' mode, around 13.5 volts...

Solar panels can be a great help to keep the batteries charged depending on your actual usage, how much direct sunlight that's available, etc... In my view, you'll still need a small, quiet genny for those times the solar can't keep up with demand if you're full timing it out in the boonies...

Happy trails...
Ray & Pat; Morada, CA
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Old 05-07-2014, 01:05 AM   #5
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Have a look at this site. It might help to answer a few of your questions

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Old 05-07-2014, 10:14 AM   #6
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Lomita , California
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have a look at AM the small 100 panels work great, a 30 amp charge controler. will go a long way to reduce hours of generator use
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Old 05-07-2014, 03:46 PM   #7
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I would also recommend a good monitor, whether you go to solar or generator as you need to know what your battery charge level really is and the idiots lights in the trailers are useless for that.
Have a look at this site as well.

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Old 05-07-2014, 05:30 PM   #8
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Who Dat......bad kat?

Everyone has an opinion, here's mine.
I live "off grid" solar powered (large array) with wind and one misconception is that solar is "green" it's not. It's fun, it's sometimes useful, expensive and somewhat less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels but it's not a green source of energy.

Wish you the best.......Go Saints!
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Old 05-07-2014, 06:06 PM   #9
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Solar is never going to make financial sense, but neither does an Airstream.

Solar is oh so nice though. So peaceful and so easy.

>>In my view, you'll still need a small, quiet genny for those times the solar can't keep up with demand if you're full timing it out in the boonies...<<

Agreed.. We found the trees for the first time in 6 months. The generator is running at the moment. Solar hates shade.
Our Adventure..
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Old 05-07-2014, 06:13 PM   #10
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Tucson , Arizona
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I don't think there's a right or wrong really depends on how and where you camp. We are lucky in that our Bambi came with factory solar, which we like very much. If you plan to dry camp a lot, it's a great way to go. We can go several days on just daily solar recharging if the days are nice and sunny and we are conservative with our usage. (By the way, you can most likely get a better/more robust after market solar system than we got from the factory.)

That said, we also have a set of Honda 2000w generators. One 2000 genny will run everything except the AC ... and when we need the AC we use both in parallel. For us this is a perfect set-up with all the options to remain off the grid as long as we like.

With this set-up because we have smallish fresh water and holding tanks, we have more issues with fresh water and tank capacities than with running out of power. With a rig you have bigger tank capacities, so you wouldn't have to worry about fresh water and tank capacities as much.
TB & Greg and Abbey Schnauzer
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:08 PM   #11
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Great suggestions..have to reread all of this a few times. Thanks for the guys rock!
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:33 PM   #12
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2008 16' International
Seattle , Washington
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go solar

Hi BadKat (great handle!),

We just sold our 25' Eddie Bauer; solar came with it. The best description of solar I've read (probably here on the forums) is that it essentially makes your batteries larger. With lots of variables: how much sun, size of panels, your electricity habits etc. Anyway we loved our solar.

We also own a generator but I don't like them (noise) and will do almost anything I can to avoid using it even thought it is a quiet one. Mostly our target use is cold weather if we can't get a hook up and are running low on power.

Taking our "new" trailer to Hood River in a couple of weeks to have Lew install an AM Solar set up. So for us it is a solar and generator for us although for most of our usage we leave the generator at home.

The last thing I'd say about solar is that the details matter and my recommendation would to be to find and use someone that is an expert. Lew in Hood River OR for example. Fun trip from LA.

Have fun! And good luck with the marriage, you must have know what you were getting into with a CPA!

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Old 05-07-2014, 11:04 PM   #13
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Metro Phoenix , Arizona
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Well, I guess opinions are indeed like bellybuttons, so I'll share mine with you as well.

A generator is a bullet-proof option, in that you can always go out and start the generator and run whatever you want. However, keep in mind that you'll be carrying around several gallons of gas, plus maybe a couple quarts of oil (I do realize that you already know this!)

The downside of a generator is that it is limited by the amount of gas you can carry for it and the amount of noise you (and your neighbors) are willing to put up with (although I do know a Honda won't put out much noise).

A properly-sized solar system will run everything you want except the microwave and the air-conditioner. There's no gas to lug around, no oil to change, no setting the generator out or worrying about it growing legs and wandering off. And no arm exercise from starting the generator.

If you decide to take a break from full-timing, the solar will keep your batteries fat and happy, even when you're gone. It all happens on auto-pilot, with no effort from you other than a smug grin once in a while.

If you check my posts, I just installed two panels on my Trade Wind myself, and I'm pretty happy with how it's working. I don't plan to carry a generator, but I'm only using it on the weekends so far.
"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?" - E.C. Bentley, Trent's Last Case
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:05 PM   #14
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Well, no expert here, but after a year full-timing and finding battery management needing a graduate level instruction set... I've gleaned a little bit. The experts here have great advice, but generally tuned particularly to their own circumstances. Vastly different perspectives. First, my circumstances: working from the road, needing reliable charging for a variety of electronics, and proximity to cellular connection. That's daily life, but about a week a month we head for national parks or places a bit off the grid where the batteries become critical. Installed solar has the drawbacks of being expensive and permantly aimed directly up (which is fine in summer). The remainder of the year, being able to match a portable solar panel ($200-250 for 100W) to the sun angle adds a great deal more efficiency to the Watts produced. Sun between 10am and 2pm is really about the only usable window much of the year and no point wasting 20-40% of the generating potential. Likewise, many park settings have more shade than sun and positioning the portable panels again add a little more flexibility. With the built-in power management included with portable solar, battery charging is also healthier with smart charging. 100W won't power a lot of extras, but to keep batteries topped off for normal lighting and trailer life, it seems just enough. Which leads to those days of overcast or hopeless shade (not otherwise a bad thing) and time to pull out the generator. Honda/Yamaha first picks are great, but as I may go a couple months between use, $900-1,000 was hard to spend. Champion has a very serviceable 2000W generator/invertor in the $500-600 range which has worked well and has comparable weight and decibel rating to the Big Two. As noted, the mix of power sources has taken a bit of trial and error and owes a huge debt to the experts here, but unique to my circumstances. Now go out and start working on that graduate level learning curve... ;]

Question: better to be a successful pessimist or a failed optimist?
Al & Robin
2018 Airstream 23FB Flying Cloud
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