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Old 11-26-2014, 11:27 PM   #1
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Quick Fix Solar for Boondocking ?

This is likely a question for lewster or you other electrically educated types. I have available to borrow a solar panel (panels?) that is mounted in an adjustable frame and an attached "controller." The panel puts out 40+ watts and the "controller" has an on/off switch, a meter, and two leads marked POS(+) and NEG(-) under the heading BATTERY.

If I take this boondocking can I charge my batteries by hooking the POS to the 12V pin of the TT umbilical (11 o'clock pin, looking at the face) and the NEG to the ground pin (5 o'clock pin, looking at the face). Or, is this an inexpensive way to fry a perfectly good TT - or at least it's batteries?

The alternative, as you can imagine, is lugging along my Genset and gasoline - noisy, smelly and way too heavy for my back.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old 11-26-2014, 11:54 PM   #2
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A 40 watt panel will put out about 3 amps. A single group 27 battery is around 100 amp-hours. At 3 amps it would take over 30 hours of sunlight to charge. A good estimate for a fixed panel is around 4 hours of full output per day. That's a week to charge a single group 27 battery. So take your generator.
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Old 11-27-2014, 12:41 AM   #3
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That 40 watt panel should replace what you use for your water pump, and perhaps some interior lights if used very sparingly.

Best to carry your generator.

I have a 55 watt panel on each of our trailers. They keep the batteries up very well when in storage, but will not replace what we want to use when dry camping so I carry our Honda 2000. Running out of electricity in the boondocks is very inconvenient, and totally unnecessary. Besides, we like to run our espresso maker in the morning and the microwave on occasion.
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Old 11-27-2014, 02:39 AM   #4
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Pretty well said, but IMO, solar does not even to begin to supply enough power for me...and espresso maker, microwave, televisions, etc.

A generator is always required when boondocking unless one has several hundred watts of solar power, almost more than can be practically carried along.


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Old 11-27-2014, 07:56 AM   #5
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I seriously doubt that you will see even 3 amps from a 40 watt panel thru what is surely an ordinary PWM controller. For example, our 100 watt mono-crystalline panels typically show an output of around 6 amps to the controller in bright sunshine at 'solar noon', so a single 40 watt panel might show about 2.0-2.5 amps angled directly towards the sun.

Even with this small output, it will act nicely as a 'trickle' charge and will keep your battery topped off or even out any parasitic loads, it just wont have the power to actually add more charge to your battery. I would connect the cables directly to the battery terminals to avoid any excessive voltage loss.

Tommie, I have set up many Airstreams with sufficient solar wattage, batteries and inverter capacity to operate everything in the trailers, save the roof A/C, including Nespresso and Kurig machines, microwaves, hair dryers, etc. And a roof A/C can now be operated successfully with a single 2000 watt generator by using a Magnum 'hybrid' inverter that will automatically supplement low capacity 120VAC sources like a Honda 2000 or a 20 amp residential circuit (shore power) to allow larger 120VAC loads like a roof A/C to properly operate.

And for those that would like to have very large battery banks but don't want to carry the additional weight, the next generation of lithium batteries, lithium, iron, Yttrium, phosphate (LiFeYPO-4) are almost ready for prime time.

This new formulation addresses some of the previous problems with the prior generation of LiPo batteries and will be a plug and play installation, just like liquid lead acid or AGMs are presently. All of the benefits of LiPo technology like deep draw capability (80%), extremely long life (5000 charge cycles = 10-15 year battery life), and the ability to charge at below freezing temperatures.

These new beauties are being field tested now and should be available sometime in the first quarter of 2015.
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Old 11-27-2014, 08:04 AM   #6
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At some point, being close to Naples, Florida...LOL I amy have to check out a full solar installation...... but, i suspect it is the cost issue that will limit my interests. In a home setting, even with about 60% of the cost being paid by tax breaks,etc., the solar option is not very cost effective as I understand it.
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Old 11-27-2014, 08:49 AM   #7
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There is still an available 30% Federal tax credit for solar installations (RVs included) thru 2015. The cost/benefit is relative to many variables. Comprehensive solar charging/battery/inverter systems, when professionally designed and installed do not come cheaply, but are well worth the investment for those that choose to go that route.

The silent power production and almost total lack of maintenance of these systems definitely appeal to many Airstream owners.
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Old 11-27-2014, 09:57 AM   #8
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I have four 100 watt solar panels (AM Solar) attached to the roof of my trailer. Camping without hookups now in a spot with morning shade until 12:00 noon. Yesterday evening we started out at 100% charge, this morning at 67%. Two year old group 27s. Last night included about 4 hours of TV and a DVD, outside Xmas lights, as much interior as wanted, constant laptop and cell charging (teenager) and heater plus all other regular parasitic losses. Though the sun is very low on the horizon this time of year I expect the solar will return batteries to 100% by later today.

There's no way the batteries would return to 100% with just one tenth (40 watts) of capacity.
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Old 11-27-2014, 10:32 AM   #9
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Quick Fix Solar for Boondocking ?

I think for many owners, esthetics play a major factor in panel decisions. I opted to build a solar deck on the rear half of both my 34's. the panels are mounted 4" off the roof, it is not discreet by any means, it's like a bowling alley up there......
With that being said, I can run everything with the exception of the electric element of my water heater. For some reason that element kills the batteries in both units.
On the classic, I have the original Penguin AC unit which is amazingly low draw! On the other hand, the AC on my PanAm is an amp hog And kills the batteries. I'm using a Siemens inverter producing 5kw via very large battery banks. My Kyocera panels are flat mounted and pump out 1.7 kw at solar noon and will keep going almost until the street lights come on!
In my opinion through use, panels rated less than 100 watts are just battery trickle chargers, which is important but that's about it!

I think many are mid informed about solar.... They think their array will run their systems, quite to the contrary. These systems only trickle charge batteries. Additionally cables are the most important part of any system, these are cheap for what they do. I suggest you buy a roll of Belden welder wire and learn to make beautiful solder connections! Cheap!
It isn't until you are in the 1kw range that you can begin to use the energy you are harvesting to actually run heavy duty appliances through serious inverters, this is when you are truly living off grid.

My $$ investment has been really rewarding, I'm an dependent only on myself, no meet to tether to a utility!
It's fun to run my AC while driving and arrive with a cool Airstream in the summer heat!

All this comes with a big price tag; compare this expense to that of a house, it's cheap and will become free power in about a year. I have maybe $5 k in each system, that's less than a years billing from a power co, that equipment is good for about 2 decades.... That's great financial news, and a 30% check on your tax bill!
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Old 11-27-2014, 10:58 AM   #10
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Lewster, any guess on what the new battery's will cost the consumer?
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Old 11-27-2014, 12:40 PM   #11
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And these replies, my friends, are among the things i am Thankful for today. The collective knowledge of this group is awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving
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Old 11-27-2014, 12:44 PM   #12
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Lewster, any guess on what the new battery's will cost the consumer?
Michael,

Haven't got a clue, but I'm sure they will be significantly more than AGMs are now.

I'll definitely keep the Forums posted, as I have had numerous inquiries about lithiums.
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Old 11-27-2014, 12:56 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by AtomicNo13 View Post
I think for many owners, esthetics play a major factor in panel decisions. I opted to build a solar deck on the rear half of both my 34's. the panels are mounted 4" off the roof, it is not discreet by any means, it's like a bowling alley up there......
With that being said, I can run everything with the exception of the electric element of my water heater. For some reason that element kills the batteries in both units.
On the classic, I have the original Penguin AC unit which is amazingly low draw! On the other hand, the AC on my PanAm is an amp hog And kills the batteries. I'm using a Siemens inverter producing 5kw via very large battery banks. My Kyocera panels are flat mounted and pump out 1.7 kw at solar noon and will keep going almost until the street lights come on!
In my opinion through use, panels rated less than 100 watts are just battery trickle chargers, which is important but that's about it!

I think many are mid informed about solar.... They think their array will run their systems, quite to the contrary. These systems only trickle charge batteries. Additionally cables are the most important part of any system, these are cheap for what they do. I suggest you buy a roll of Belden welder wire and learn to make beautiful solder connections! Cheap!
It isn't until you are in the 1kw range that you can begin to use the energy you are harvesting to actually run heavy duty appliances through serious inverters, this is when you are truly living off grid.

My $$ investment has been really rewarding, I'm an dependent only on myself, no meet to tether to a utility!
It's fun to run my AC while driving and arrive with a cool Airstream in the summer heat!

All this comes with a big price tag; compare this expense to that of a house, it's cheap and will become free power in about a year. I have maybe $5 k in each system, that's less than a years billing from a power co, that equipment is good for about 2 decades.... That's great financial news, and a 30% check on your tax bill!
Atomic,

I don't know what type of arrangement you are using, nor the specifics of your solar charge controller of cabling, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that a solar array of 300 watts, providing 15-18 amps into an MPPT controller and 20+ amps into a battery bank is hardly what one would call a 'trickle' charge!

I have installed numerous 500-800 watt solar arrays on Airstream trailers that will provide between 25-40 charging amps (3-stage charging that is temperature compensated) to the batteries on a sunny day. The power converter that is supplied by Airstream will only give you up to 45 amps in a constant voltage charge.

With the 160-200 amp/hour battery bank that many Airstreamers use for boondocking, 50% depth of discharge can easily be replaced to the batteries every sunny day with a 300 watt solar array and compatible MPPT charge controller. Sure, these folks will not be operating inverters to power a microwave, but a Magnum 1000 watt sine wave unit will provide all of the power they need for TV, device charging and other low level 120VAC needs.

I have many installations that are using a 300 amp/hour Lifeline battery bank and 400-600 watts of solar with the larger Magnum 2000 watt inverter to power their microwave and every 120VAC outlet in the trailer.

Unless you are a very large consumer of electricity or live in mostly cloudy areas, 1 KW solar arrays are not necessary to enjoy boondocking for most folks.
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Old 11-27-2014, 02:36 PM   #14
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I guess I wasn't clear, the small under 100 watt systems are not sufficient to run much, these I feel are battery chargers only!
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