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Old 11-09-2011, 11:11 AM   #1
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Solar system questions

We are considering purchasing a 27 footer and are wondering about the need for the solar system. Years ago when we owned one there was a small panel on top which was to keep the batteries topped off while in storage. The new ones apparently don't have that. So should we order it with the solar system and inverter? Advantages? Disadvantages?

We would be travelling with generator power.

If we should order it with the systems installed, what can we expect in power usage for the trailer? We realize that it will depend on the load?

Thanks,

David
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Old 11-09-2011, 11:33 AM   #2
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David,

First, welcome to the forum. You will find all your ansers here, but probably not from me.

Anyway, you will most likely get into opinions on this one, but my thinking a solar battery charging system is most useful when camping without hookups, or "boondocking". Yes, it would maintain the batteries if you store the trailer in the sunlight without a power hookup.

However, if you do have a generator, I would think the solar system a bit redundant while camping. Others will most likely have different opinions.
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Old 11-09-2011, 12:50 PM   #3
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"need for the solar system" ??

solar systems are convenience, not need, IMHO

A typical RV solar system of 200 watts costs about as much as a 2 kw genset and might get as much energy from the sun for your batteries in a day as the genset will do in an hour or less.

Your RV batteries provide about 12 usable watt hours per pound, which is 1 to 2 kWh for the typical Airstream battery setup. This rating is at a 1 watt per pound power level. Higher power levels will reduce the available energy capacity.

Solar charge controllers are only beginning to feature modern battery maintenance techniques that inhibit sulfation and assure a top charge so solar isn't usually optimum for best battery health.

The best thing you can do for your batteries is to upgrade your converter to one that does multiple stage charging and has a proper maintenance mode. The Progressive Dynamics with Chargewizard and the Iota seem to be the popular ones right now.

An inverter is nice if you want to run 110v appliances when off grid and the genset isn't going. Many Airstreams have 400 - 600 watt inverters for the entertainment (TV) system.

The furnace in your RV uses about 100 watts running so the battery will handle it for 10 to 20 hours runtime. The TV is about the same power level. There just isn't much energy available to keep things like this going for long so you have to adjust.

The 'background' electrical power for an Airstream tends to run about 20 watts or so for the alarms and control boards and whatnot.

The "power usage to expect" is looking in the wrong direction, I think. The more productive question is about what you need to do to fit within the energy available with your RV. Solar and batteries are quite constrained as far as energy goes. Gensets can only be run occasionally. You have to adapt your lifestyle to what you have available. Some manage to get by with very little while others go to class A RV's and full hookup facilities to do what they want. Your choice.
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Old 11-09-2011, 12:52 PM   #4
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There are a few things that I closed my eye$ and held my no$e when we bought the new Airstream, awnings, ultra-leather, bedroom TV, inverter and solar. Considering that they amount to a small part of the overall cost and the luxury, comfort, and convenience they add to the trailer, it is money well spent. And the factory installations are very well done.

Don't forget the extra cost of these are negotiable just like the base price of the trailer.

doug k
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:03 PM   #5
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my solar system hasn't been the same since they busted Pluto.
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Old 11-09-2011, 05:01 PM   #6
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I think solar is needed regardless of whether you do or don't have a generator.
I like my 135 watt panel so well that most times I leave the generator home unless I know that I will need air conditioning.
The panel once installed eliminates generator noise, smell, cost, labor and the possibility of theft.
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Old 11-09-2011, 06:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo
my solar system hasn't been the same since they busted Pluto.
Yeah, Pluto really messed-up my solar system as well. A dwarf masquerading as legitimate for all those years ... who da thunk?!?!

Seriously, I highly recommend solar ... as Airstream25 says above, it's a wonderful enabler for peaceful boondocking.
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Old 11-09-2011, 06:42 PM   #8
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IMHO.....Solar is good for.

Keeping the batts charged when parked on the pad. 30w is as far as I go.

The hype don't match reality.

Bob
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Old 11-09-2011, 06:58 PM   #9
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I have an 80 watt solar system that will charge my batteries no matter the condition. Reall a great investment IMHO.

Pap
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Old 11-09-2011, 07:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS
IMHO.....Solar is good for.

Keeping the batts charged when parked on the pad. 30w is as far as I go.

The hype don't match reality.

Bob
We can agree to disagree ... IMHO, the reality exceeds the hype. 😜
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Old 11-09-2011, 07:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS
IMHO.....Solar is good for.

Keeping the batts charged when parked on the pad. 30w is as far as I go.

The hype don't match reality.

Bob
The reality of solar exceeds the "hype" in my opinion. 30w is a trickle ... step it up and come over to the "light" side Bob!
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:49 PM   #12
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Yes, lots of opinions on this topic. I had two largish panels installed on the roof of my 23' coach (they're either 135 watt or 150, can't remember), and three Lifeline 100 amp hour 12v batteries, together wth a good MPPT charge controller/monitor. After a few trial runs, I found I could run everything I NEED in my coach virtually forever, with no shore power or generator. So I just quit carrying my generator around. I manage to power everything on 12 volt: pump, furnace and stove and bathroom vent fans, lights (now all LED), stereo, computer, printer, television, Fantastic Vent and Fantastic Fan, chargers for various phones, iPad, etc. If I get several cloudy / rainy days in a row, I actually pay attention to power usage and battery state of charge, otherwise not. In typical summer sunny weather, my batteries are at 100% state of charge by 9 or 10 in the morning. I find that during spring through fall, I seldom use more than 20-35 amp hours in an evening. Use more and it will take longer to top off your battery bank every day.

BUT - the panels won't run air conditioning, electric coffee pots, hair dryers, microwave, etc. And they do poorly in any sort of shadow situation ... even the shadow of a power line or a tree limb will significantly cut their output.

So: my take is that if you're in moderate climates and can park where you get a few hours of full, direct sun (preferably in the morning with shade in the afternoon so the coach doesn't get too warm for comfort), you'll love solar. It's silent and works without conscious effort from you. If you NEED large current draw electrical appliances or air conditioning, you'll want the generator and will need to spend a lot of time as an acolyte, hauling cables, bringing it fuel, keeping rain off it, etc.

Oh, and one other thing: unless you're boondocking, if you use a gennie, you'll get a lot of hard looks from more quiet folks, even if you use a quiet one. My smallish Yamaha is real quiet, but it still annoyed some folks. And some campgrounds ban gennies some of the time or all of the time. No such worry if boondocking, but then again, I go boondocking most of the time, and I'm trying to ESCAPE from noise. YMMV.

Finally, generators are definitely a less expensive alternative, at least in terms of cash outlay. If you look at things like total carbon footprint, the debate gets more interesting and very complicated, but that's a topic for another day.
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Old 11-09-2011, 08:57 PM   #13
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Well, you guys already know what I think!

Welcome to AM Solar_Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987

Try it..........you'll LIKE it !
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by lewster View Post
Well, you guys already know what I think!

Welcome to AM Solar_Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987

Try it..........you'll LIKE it !
Not yet, Lew...I won't put it like Robert, but in shady northern climes and at the present efficiency and cost......not there yet!

For you southern and especially mountain and desert folks, it's fine. Just not up here predictably every day.
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