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Old 10-30-2008, 09:08 PM   #1
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Basic Electrical Solar Panel Questions

My first post; excuse the near-complete ignorance. I have been lurking for about a month, reading many, many threads. Very interesting. Now, I have some VERY basic questions as I try to educate myself BEFORE taking the plunge.

1. I see mention of using an inverter to power certain [?] appliances. Is there a separate DC circuit in teh trailer? Are some plugs AC and others DC? How are the interior lights powered? More importantly, how is the TV powered? Which leads to my next question . . .

2. TV is important to me. Yes, yes, great outdoors and everything . . .but, at the end of the day, its nice to come back and watch some TV. AS seems to provide an outlet for the TV, is this AC only? That is, you only use this plug when hooked up to campground power? Do you have to hook the TV up into a different plug when on batteries? which brings me to the second mos timportant aspect of my "camping" experience. . . .

3. A/C while camping; I guess the only way to accomplish this is with a generator? What type of draw [amps?] does the A/C draw? Is a 3,000 amp generator enough? Does this provide enough juice for "startup" of the A/C?

Now for a solar panel quesiton
1. I saw in another thread that the self-installer ran his wire from the panel, inside,through the refrigerator vent. Is this a typical way? In a "typical" installation, how is the wire brought inside? Holes trhough the skin? Brought in through an existing hole?

2. Many of the discussions seem to speak of teh wire going to an inverter first. Is this correct? In other words, once the panels come into thte space, where does the wire go? How does it get connected to the A/S power system. Nothing too technical just yet; just trying to understand the basic wiring.

Generator question.
1. From what I understand, the generator is connected tot he trailer via a 30amp wire. Is this connected to the shore power connection? which leads back to my first question . . .
2. Hooked up to the generator, are all outlets functional and available for use, subject to generator limits?
3. On batteries, what is available for plug in?

Thank you.
I have learned so much, even in the last two weeks.
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:18 PM   #2
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Bill,

Sometimes the learning curve appears to be a cliff.

-t
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:25 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forums

#1 The inverter takes ac power and converts it to dc power for your lights

#2 the tv only works on AC when you a plug to shore power...

#3 you need a min. of 2500 watt gen to run most A/C units.

Gen question... No plugs work on dc... except the cigarette looking ones for dc things...sorry... yes you plug your 30 amp plug into the generator to get power to your plugs. For tv etc...

Honda and Yamaha seem to be the quietest gens... not too much noise...

Glad to have you with us...
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:26 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forums
Ask lots of questions and you will get many ...
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:33 PM   #5
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Go here: The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1) for answers to most of your questions ... see, also, Part 2.

For your tv (not TV i.e. tow vehicle) question, there is one remaining issue; in general, most tv sets work on 120vac. So, yes, you need shore power, whether supplied by a campground outlet, a generator, or an inverter. BUT there are a few 12vdc televisions out there (Google'll help you here) ... I just haven't found a good one yet. Then again, I haven't tried hard, because I don't watch tv. But there are those in my family who do ... so I'm sorta' dragging my feet, looking for a small 12vdc unit (17" ?) from a manufacturer you've heard of, that is LCD, that draws not much juice, that has a built-in DVD player, that can be bolted to the wall or a wall bracket, that costs nearly nothing, and that has a long warranty available in case vibration kills it. If you find one, let me know, and I guess I'll have to break down and buy it!
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:47 PM   #6
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Bill, I'll add to the Solar answer. The solar panel is actually wired to a device called a charge controller. The charge controller is then wired to the batteries. This keeps the solar panel from overcharging the battery. It will charge, then maintain the correct voltage for the battery. The inverter is then wired to the batteries. It changes the 13.5 volts at the battery to 115 volts to be used by appliances including TV.

As with anything else there are many different brands and levels of sophistication regarding solar equipment. The charge controller is sized by how much power your panels produce. The inverter is sized by how much of that power you intend to use, usually figured in watts.

Hope that helps some, Rick
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Old 10-30-2008, 10:21 PM   #7
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Welcome to the forums BillWill...the learning curve is high but as you learn more it will diminish...we've all had to go through it at some level or another, depending on previous RVing experience.

Quest #1: The interior lights are 12v and run through the batteries...when you are on shore power, the converter takes the 120v AC and converts it to 12v DC and keeps the batteries charged...and your interior 12v stuff running. Shore power also makes your AC oulets (regular electrical outlets) live and you plug into them just like you do in your house. An inverter, on the other hand, changes 12c DV current from the batteries to AC current up to the limits of the inverter (there are different sizes/outputs). The inverter built into our 19' Bambi has a 600w limit for applicances that it will run...this is plenty for small appliances that require less than 600w (including televisions) but is not enough for applicances with high resistance like toasters, hair driers, ....anything that gets hot, etc. Our inverter can be turned off and on as we need it...like when we are boondocking and want to watch TV...there is a separate outlet for inverter current in our Bambi.

Quest #2: The television runs on shore power DC or inverted AC to DC (which is a different plug)... There are some TVs that run on 12V DC as mentioned above. Another alternative to regular TV is computer softwares that allows you to pull in TV stations over the itnernet to your computer...which might very well be the wave of the future where we are all headed in due time.

Quest #3: You need a generater of at least 2500 watts (3000 better, or even better two 2000s linked) to run an AC unit. This will also run anything else you want to run like microwaves, etc., but youi might want to not run everything at once!

I'll leave the solar questions to someone else...our solar was factory-installed, so I am not sure where the wiring goes or how it is sonnected. I sjust know it works! Others here will know, though...

See you down the road!
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Old 10-31-2008, 10:43 AM   #8
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Welcome to the Forum;
Depending upon the year of your trailer/MOHO the solar systems are pre wired. When a solar system is installed (after market) the installer will run new wire installing a higher gauge. The units that are pre wired will have the wire running down behind the refrigerator. I believe my owners manual says they are yellow and green. The cost for a solar system will run right in the neighborhood of $4,500 depending upon how many panels you get and how much extra work the installer has to do. My 98 unit is already pre wired but when we get the solar system installed we will have new wire run. The extra batteries are usually put under the front couch so there may need to be some modifications to the storage under the couch if your unit will have one. Ours has a drawer and we will have to remove the drawer so the extra batteries can be placed there and then we can put storage drawers under the couch also.
Wish you luck.
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Old 10-31-2008, 06:47 PM   #9
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Thank you.
So, if I may summarize . . . .

It seems that everything hard-wired into the trailer is DC. This includes lights, fantastic fans, furnace fans, and other miscelleaneous monitors, etc.

Refrigerator runs on AC or Propane. While driving down the road, does the refrigerator run? On propane?

Everything that needs to be plugged-in is plugged into one of th outlets in the trailer.
Televisions, microwaves, and other appliances must be plugged in to the trailers plugs, whic are AC. These must be powered either by shore powr or generator, unless an inverter is installed. Presumably, a permanently installed inverter may be used to draw power from batteries to the plugs? Is this feasiable? An inverter that draws from teh batteries and supplies all [?] of the trailer's plugs? Some sort of switching system that switches between battery and 30amp power?

Is it critical to add batteries when considering solar. In other words, if the trailer has two marine batteries installed, does the addition of solar power require an additonal two batteris to prvoide additional storage capacity?

Thank you.
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Old 10-31-2008, 07:15 PM   #10
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BillWill... re the inverter...the inverter takes DC battery power, converts it to AC and supplies the "inverter plugs"...We have 2 inverter plugs in our unit...they are marked for that purpose and only work if the inverter is turned on. The regular shore powered AC plugs are different plugs (thought they look the same)... The more I talk about it the more confusing it seems to get...I hope this helps...
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Old 10-31-2008, 09:22 PM   #11
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More Batteries?

Adding solar or more anything else likely will be aided by more batteries - IF you've got enough juice to charge them and IF you've got space to place the batteries. More battery storage gives you more power whether drawing 12vdc or 120vac through an inverter. So: more furnace blower motor run time overnights, more inverter-powered tv, more lights able to run more hours, etc. Only issue is that you've then gotta' charge them back up either with seither hore power or a generator running through the trailer's converter, or via solar panels and a charge controller, etc. Also, and slightly differently, more batteries also means you can withdraw from your batteries, more amp-hours before reaching that magic 50% or so of discharge below which the batteries start to suffer more significant wear.

Once I rented a 76 foot houseboat, and it had a MASSIVE battery bank. I can't remember any more how large, but perhaps ten or twelve of the big semi-sized 12v monsters. It also had a big Onan generator to charge 'em up and a regular house-sized television, standard house-sized refrigerator/freezer, etc. and some other applicances that ran off the huge inverter hooked to that battery bank.

Most of us can't haul around a ton or more of batteries in our trailers / tow vehicles just so we can keep the lights on as long as we want, but generally speaking, more is better.
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Old 12-16-2008, 08:10 AM   #12
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Hello Bill,
Welcome...you will find this to be a great place to help you with all your questions. I am also new to the RV world and had many questions...although I have spent years tent camping, an RV brings so many new aspects to the game.
So, here is my input for what its worth.
I am currently looking into solar. My A.S. has a solar hook-up somewhere near the AC roof unit and I had a friend give me a 24" x 24" solar pannel. I hoping to make a stand that i can set up and plug in when dry camping to help keep the 12v system charged will away from the camp...such as while i am hunting, trout fishing etc. mainly to keep the furnace running on those cold days...as the furnace uses alot of juice.
I carry a 6000w generator with me will dry camping...yes its a little over kill and heavy but I can run all and any systems while camping any time of year...i.e. AC, heat, microwave TV....
We recently just spent 3 days in the moutains in freezing temps and all we used was my friends 2000w Honda generator for 2 campers. He plugged into the genorator and I pluged into his 120v outside outlet and it kept both units charged and the furnace and 12v systems running just fine...I also used my radio and tv at night time and it did fine.*note* we did keep the genorator running for 3 days stait, more or less, but its very quite. used about 5 gollons of gas to do this.
Shore power is always a nice thing but not all camp grounds offer it...depending on the time of year will depend on the size of genorator
minimum of 2000 for winter and min of 3000/3500 for summer if using AC
I am finding that with the help of people on this Forum and common sense and most of all the experiance of using your RV...get out there and us it, dont be scared... you will figure out all the best ways for YOU to enjoy your RV the way that suits your needs.
Hope this is helpfull
Head,n Out
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