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Old 03-21-2009, 05:19 AM   #15
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I find the whole area of solar way too confusing. The efficiency of standard panels seems to be 12% at best. Some of the newer solar approaching 20%.
What wattage does the prewiring on AS's allow? Are those green and yellow wires all wired in and ready to go, or, is other equipment beyond the panels required?

Tom
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Old 03-21-2009, 07:09 AM   #16
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I find the whole area of solar way too confusing. The efficiency of standard panels seems to be 12% at best. Some of the newer solar approaching 20%.
What wattage does the prewiring on AS's allow? Are those green and yellow wires all wired in and ready to go, or, is other equipment beyond the panels required?

Tom
Me too!! Got 30w of flex panels 3 yrs ago. No real problems, keep them clean work well. Nice for keeping batts up between outings but not much help 'dock'n.
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Old 03-21-2009, 10:43 AM   #17
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Robert, thanks for posting the pictures. Are your flex panels hooked directly to the battery or are you running them though the pre-wire cable?
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Old 03-21-2009, 11:03 AM   #18
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What about......................

For those concerned with finding space on top of the trailer.....Mounting the solar panels on the tow vehicle?
BTW I have been hearing about a new metal roofing product for homes that has built in solar collectors. It looks like a regular metal roof.
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Old 03-21-2009, 11:24 AM   #19
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A problem with that type of panel which hasn't been mentioned is that because the amorphous silicon panels are electrically "lossy" the manufacturers generally design in extra cells to compensate for the loss. This scheme works well until you hit some Texas summer days and the panel output shoots up to over 18 volts. If you're not using a charge controller between the panels and your batteries, you can come back after a week away and find your expensive AGM batteries swollen up like portugese men-of-war on the beach and ruined, due to being over-voltaged. This can happen even with a 5 watt battery maintainer panel so always plan on using a charge controller.
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Old 03-21-2009, 03:12 PM   #20
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Crusty,

The trade off is these panels work very well in shade and sun. I live in the Pacific Northwest. We do not see the sun most of the year! Also, I have already purchased a charge controller. I would never hook up a panel direct to the batteries. Your just asking to kill them.


mandolindave - If I hook them up on the T.V. With a charge controller how do you get the juice to the trailer battery bank?

ROBERT CROSS - Nice set of 30 watt flexible panels. Where did you get them?

Again, I was hoping somebody who has mounted Uni-solar panels on their airstream a few years back could chime in with their experiences.

Thanks




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Originally Posted by Crusty View Post
A problem with that type of panel which hasn't been mentioned is that because the amorphous silicon panels are electrically "lossy" the manufacturers generally design in extra cells to compensate for the loss. This scheme works well until you hit some Texas summer days and the panel output shoots up to over 18 volts. If you're not using a charge controller between the panels and your batteries, you can come back after a week away and find your expensive AGM batteries swollen up like portugese men-of-war on the beach and ruined, due to being over-voltaged. This can happen even with a 5 watt battery maintainer panel so always plan on using a charge controller.
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Old 03-23-2009, 07:07 AM   #21
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ROBERT CROSS - Nice set of 30 watt flexible panels. Where did you get them?

Thanks[/QUOTE

They are ICP panels, got them from Northern Tool several years ago. Have there own controller. In full sun will charge 14.2v, 1.6 amps. Keeps the batts maintained, but where we camp not very efficient at the re-charge.

Plan to adapt the Maria Solution this season..stay tuned

BC
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Old 03-24-2009, 12:09 AM   #22
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Answers to some questions

We looked at flexible panels some years ago and realized we just couldn't get enough of them on the roof to help at all when boondocking. What has worked for some years now is a ~80 watt panel on the roof, and another that moves around the campsite depending on where the sun is. This allows moderate light, pump, radio and furnace use at night so long as we are moderately diligent about chasing the sun in the daytime. Flex panels would be fine in the desert, or for keeping the battery charged with no load, but we are talking a maximum of 30 watts or so in the available space, versus about 200 if I were really wacky about hanging them wherever I could find space.

There will be more radios in the new(er) Airstream moho and I am planning to get closer to wacky in that installation.

The rule of thumb about needing a charge controller seems to be that if your maximum panel output is less than 1/20 of the amp-hour rating of the battery, a controller isn't needed. So for 225 AH batteries like we have (2 T105's in series), anything up to about 10 amps is OK. I have found this to be true. The batteries will need watering, but the trailer sat in a storage lot for nearly a year and all was well.
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Old 03-24-2009, 07:14 AM   #23
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JD Flexible solar panels

Hello JD,
I first installed the flex solar panels almost 10 years ago. My first installation was 2 68 watt modules on a 1977 Airstream. I then sold the trailer to my buddy Gary. He sold the trailer to someone in Vermont about 3 years ago.
Up until that point they functioned fine.
When I first installed them I rivited a piece of aluminum threshold that I bedded into some silicone sealant at the leading edge of the module to prevent wind from up lifting it.
Along the upper edge of the module I installed a continuous caulked bead. Along the lower edge I installed a broken caulked bead, I thought that maybe it was best to allow moisture that may have come between the Airstreams aluminum skin and the module to escape.

I have since installed (about 5 years ago) a 68 watt flexible module on my 1991 34' Airstream.
In this installation I did not use any caulking at all except for the bedding of the aluminum strip on the leading edge.

Last year I did a "non-scientific" pull test and found no decrease or defect in the adhesion between the module and the Airstream skin.

I hope this info helps you in your decision.
Joe
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Old 03-24-2009, 07:23 AM   #24
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We looked at flexible panels some years ago and realized we just couldn't get enough of them on the roof to help at all when boondocking. What has worked for some years now is a ~80 watt panel on the roof, and another that moves around the campsite depending on where the sun is. This allows moderate light, pump, radio and furnace use at night so long as we are moderately diligent about chasing the sun in the daytime. Flex panels would be fine in the desert, or for keeping the battery charged with no load, but we are talking a maximum of 30 watts or so in the available space, versus about 200 if I were really wacky about hanging them wherever I could find space.

There will be more radios in the new(er) Airstream moho and I am planning to get closer to wacky in that installation.

The rule of thumb about needing a charge controller seems to be that if your maximum panel output is less than 1/20 of the amp-hour rating of the battery, a controller isn't needed. So for 225 AH batteries like we have (2 T105's in series), anything up to about 10 amps is OK. I have found this to be true. The batteries will need watering, but the trailer sat in a storage lot for nearly a year and all was well.
I would strongly recommend a good MPPT charge controller. Before leaving on a 3 1/2 month 16,000 mile trip in 2006 I watered my flooded batteries for the fist time in more than 3 years!

12 volt batteries off gas at 14.4 volts. The new solar charge controllers deliver maximum current of the solar array and up to 14.4 volts and then let the voltage float to 12.9 volts - this cycle continues until the cycles become shorter and shorter.

My experience has been about 35% more power into the batteries and much less watering required.

Joe
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Old 03-24-2009, 09:12 AM   #25
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Charge Controllers with Amorphous Silicon Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by dljosephson View Post
... The rule of thumb about needing a charge controller seems to be that if your maximum panel output is less than 1/20 of the amp-hour rating of the battery, a controller isn't needed. So for 225 AH batteries like we have (2 T105's in series), anything up to about 10 amps is OK. I have found this to be true. The batteries will need watering, but the trailer sat in a storage lot for nearly a year and all was well.
This rule of thumb is a bit misleading and it could lead you to electrically damage your batteries and possibly even create a hazardous condition. The issue with the amorphous silicon panels is that in bright sun conditions they may output up to 18V, and it is this over-voltage which may damage less resilient battery types (such as AGMs) regardless of the output power.

The over-voltage causes corrosion of the positive plates within the batteries which depletes the plate material and may even cause the growth of dendrites between the positive and negative plates (causing an internal short) as well as excessive gas production (oxygen/hydrogen) which is explosive, and it also depeletes the electrolyte (which in sealed cells cannot be replenished).

In the case of Trojan T105s, the batteries themselves are one of the most durable batteries that have ever been made (I had a pair of T105s which lasted over 10 years) and can tolerate significant electrical abuse and continue to function, but that's not the case for AGM batteries (which are a good choice inside of a trailer because they typically don't vent hydrogen or corrosive vapors into the contained environment of the trailer interior).

So, always use a charge controller with this type of panel to control the output voltage, and the MPPT type is recommended because they result in up to 20% more charge into the battery from a given panel over the standard controllers.
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Old 03-24-2009, 12:57 PM   #26
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Got solar panels?

Here is solar at work.Note evan has panels on pick-up truck and used as awnings over the windows.
Photo taken this winter in Quartzsite AZ
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Old 03-24-2009, 02:25 PM   #27
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Solar Mike

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmini View Post
Here is solar at work.Note evan has panels on pick-up truck and used as awnings over the windows.
Photo taken this winter in Quartzsite AZ
CLICK photo to make larger.
A friend of mine recently got a mobile solar panel from "Solar" Mike Gohl, a dealer near Slab City The Sun Works
The business as an A+ rating from the BBB. I don't know if Mike deals with the flexible panels. Has anyone on the forum utilized his services? Our friends is happy with his mobile solar panel.

We are seriously considering getting a portable panel to supplement our two 53 watt panels, which are mounted flat on our trailer. Our panels are sufficient for 3-4 nights of dry camping. The extra panel would come especially in handy when camping in locations with limited sun light due to weather or trees. One objective is to get the trailer self sufficient off grid for a longer than 4 nights in case of a disaster.

Larry in San Diego
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:34 PM   #28
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Seems to me that if you want to be certain of being "self sufficient off grid," then a) you need to shed electric load insofar as possible ... go with LED lighting, avoid / minimize furnace use, minimize water pumping, etc.; b) be in a sunny place so your solar panels can work; and c) carry a small generator to deal with those cloudy days when solar panels don't have enough output to keep up with usage ... this likely is not necessary if you've got enough panel output, charge controller works well, etc. and you are in e.g. desert environment where it's sunny pretty much every day. But once your electricity budget is under control, then fresh water and waste tanks will become the limiting factors.
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