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Old 02-10-2012, 10:00 PM   #1
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Solar Power Quest

Ok I've taken an interest in Boondocking which has lead me to an interest in Solar Power.
I'm trying to learn and I've read two books and several online articles.
Bare with me like I said I'm learning.
I'm not trying to stir up a storm here but I found this blogger very interesting.

http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/

I searched the forums and could find where this might already exist, so forgive me if this is something thats already been posted.

This guy basically claims that he can run anything from hand tools, TVs, hair dryer, even the A/C unit from a system of 345 watts of solar panels and 4 6 volt batteries.
He rants that the RV and solar companies are ripping folks off when charging them thousands of dollars for systems that don't work or don't work to their full potential.
So I thought I might see what the community has to say about his claims.
It's a long read and if you have time try it and let us know what you think.

Thanks,

Mr S
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Old 02-11-2012, 02:13 PM   #2
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Handy Bob's Solar

I'm surprised you haven't any replies so far. But it does take a long time to read Handy Bob's blog. I too am trying to learn solar; a difficult language to be sure. I spent several weeks boondocking at Quartzsite last month. As yet I do not have solar and rely on my Honda 2000i generator to keep my batteries charged, which are the original ones that came with the new AS in 2009. They are about shot from my lack of correct battery maintenance knowledge.

At Q I was camped next to a couple of very knowledgeable fulltimers who depend on solar. What they told me pretty much squares with what Bob says in his blog, including the reputation of certain Quartzsite solar dealers. Of course Q is the ultimate solar location due to the abundance and intensity of the sun. Their solar panels were on the ground and they moved them throughout the day for optimum angle to the sun. One only used his generators when he was baking bread in his convection oven (he didn't have a propane oven). And the bit about shadow on the corner of the panel is very true, as they demonstrated to me.

I also stopped at AM Solar in Springfield, Or. In spite of the fact they were closed for inventory the staff spent a good amount of time educating me. I will go back there. I live in the Seattle area and we are very sun-deprived in the winter time, but summers are nice and solar could be helpful here at the time.

Also I would like to get Lewster's opinion of Bob's blog. He seems to be the Forum's resident voice on solar items.

Don
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Old 02-11-2012, 02:44 PM   #3
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Just briefly read Bob's blog. Interesting! What I took away from what I did read is that he has been dealing with the lower end of the RV solar market where the amateurs, shysters and profiteers reside. I will be speaking specifically about AM Solar, as these are the ONLY folks that I will work with for solar equipment. Check out their web site: Welcome to AM Solar_Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987 and read thru it a bit.

You will find many interesting facts that are derived from actual use, engineering and design..........NOT MYTHOLOGY! We always specify maximum wire gauges in our installations, using up to 2AWG for larger systems. The only place 10AWG has in a solar installation is a single panel 100 watt unit or less. Anything else will show significant voltage drop.

Boost? We use Tristar controllers specially modified for specific use in Lifeline AGM battery banks (our primary recommendation for batteries) that bulk charge to the recommended voltage by Lifeline. The boost appears from higher top-end solar panel output voltages (hotter panels made to AM Solar's specifications) as an increase in the charging amperage seen at the batteries.

Has 'Bob' received bad advice in the past...YES! Is he an 'expert'? Sorry, but I don't think so. What are his electrical and/or engineering qualifications? He never states this. Greg Holder, owner of AM Solar has 25 years in the RV Solar business and runs any item he sells thru extensive real world testing before he will put anything on the market.

The only inverters we sell are made in the USA by Magnum Energy and we generally specify pure sine wave models. I might add that many large motor homes come standard with Magnum modified sine wave inverters and they have never damaged any refrigerator compressors, TVs, stereos or any other electronic components. Buy cheap (Xantrex 300 watt inverters) and what do you expect??????? Is this guy for real????? How would you feel if you had a Xantrex 3000 watt pure sine wave inverter that had a blown charging section and were told by Xantrex that they are not repairable....to the tune of $2500 for a new Magnum replacement. And this guy is carping about his $40 piece of garbage???? GET SERIOUS!!

Educate yourself as much as you can, or find someone that you trust who has the training, experience and qualifications to do the job properly using the right components.

And finally, Bob seems to have a real problem with people making a living! If I don't make a profit, I won't be in business. I don't owe Bob or any of his cronies anything .....especially advice for free!!!! He should do a bit of attitude adjustment before anything else!
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Old 02-11-2012, 04:45 PM   #4
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Thumbs up

Mr S

Pay attention to the above, you will be hard pressed to find better advice under the SUN....sorry, Lew

Bob
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Old 02-11-2012, 05:32 PM   #5
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I have 2 AM panels that Lew installed on our trailer. I installed an Iota converter that Lew ordered for us plus Lifeline AGM batteries that he also ordered. Lew's a good guy, highly overeducated (Masters in EE), and fair in his fees.

Like a bird, Lew travels between Oregon and Fla. If he's is in your neighborhood, he does good work. He gives free advice on the Forum if you want to do it yourself.

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Old 02-11-2012, 06:14 PM   #6
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Thanks, Lew. I haven't started yet, but now I feel I have a baseline to work from.
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Old 02-11-2012, 08:57 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS View Post
Mr S

Pay attention to the above, you will be hard pressed to find better advice under the SUN....sorry, Lew

Bob
Cute Bob....I like it!
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Old 02-17-2012, 11:54 PM   #8
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A lot of the boondockers I met in Quartzsite in SOB's have massive solar arrays, some of 2Kw. The have all sorts of lifts to position their solar arrays, at an amazing cost.

When I had the LY pusher, I had installed a single 123-watt solar panel and it did give me the ability to dry camp in the desert without having to run my generator. I sleep with a CPAP machine, and there was just enough power for this.

I sold the motorhome and got a 1987 32-ft Excella that was already equipped with 3 75-watt solar panels, 4 AGM batteries (which 3 months after I got it needed to be replaced - $1,200) and a 1400VA Xantrex inverter. I had no problem dry camping for 3 weeks outside Las Vegas and at Quartzsite.

Keep in mind that there is just so much real estate on the roof of an AS trailer that is available for mounting solar panels. Another, seldom mentioned, piece of gear is the 400-watt wind turbine generator. This can be set up to run off a length of tubing that fits into the flag pole holder attached to the tongue jack, and as long as there is some wind, it charges your batteries (even in the dark).

On the subject of batteries, the AS has 2 battery boxes, so to provide for more batteries they have to be inside the trailer (mine are behind the gaucho). In such a case, you cannot under any circumstances use vented wet cell batteries, as they emit hydrogen gas; you can only use AGM batteries at 3 times the cost.
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Old 02-18-2012, 12:37 AM   #9
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We have 200W of AM solar with Heliotrope controller and two Costco group 27 batteries. These work like a charm, and with our LED conversion rarely see more that 30% discharge. We can basically boondock as long as the tankage/food & beer hold out, so long as we're parked where the panels get some sunshine.

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Old 02-18-2012, 05:32 AM   #10
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I learned of Lew through this forum. After months of coaching and question answering by Lew, I eventually engaged him to install AM Solar panels, Magnum pure sine inverter, TriStar controller, Lifeline AGM batteries, low gauge wire, monitors, etc. We now have an off the grid Airstream ... just add water and we're good to go!

Lew is professional, fair, and wicked smart.

Also, Bart (above) and others have threads where they walked us through their install ... step by step with pictures. These were helpful to me in making my decision. Consider reading through those as well.
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Old 02-18-2012, 10:47 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by UAPachyderm View Post
I learned of Lew through this forum. After months of coaching and question answering by Lew, I eventually engaged him to install AM Solar panels, Magnum pure sine inverter, TriStar controller, Lifeline AGM batteries, low gauge wire, monitors, etc. We now have an off the grid Airstream ... just add water and we're good to go!

Lew is professional, fair, and wicked smart.

Also, Bart (above) and others have threads where they walked us through their install ... step by step with pictures. These were helpful to me in making my decision. Consider reading through those as well.
Well said and a fine recommendation. Not so easy to accomplish, yet key to really using one of these I've come to understand.
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Old 02-18-2012, 11:52 AM   #12
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While the rooftop real estate remains constant, the size of the panels is shrinking as efficiencies are created. We have 200 w., but if we had wanted to order newer panels, could have fit considerably more on our roof. The trade off is that access to the other stuff on the roof gets more difficult.

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Old 02-18-2012, 08:30 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by REDNAX

Well said and a fine recommendation. Not so easy to accomplish, yet key to really using one of these I've come to understand.
The stuff falls out of the sky occasionally and passes by in streams ... I just haven't figured out how to catch it yet. ;-)
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Old 02-19-2012, 10:48 AM   #14
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solar installation

barts I like what you say about solar but I can not find your thread about installation . Can you hep me? Thanks Bob
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