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Old 11-27-2012, 02:59 PM   #1
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Is Solar worth it?

Hi,
The restoration work on my 73 Soverign is almost complete. The Battery/inverter needs to be squared away. I was thinking about Solar since I might be boondocking but the person doing my work was not sold on the practicality of it. He seems to feel that to be useful the panels would have to be large?
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Old 11-27-2012, 03:09 PM   #2
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Newer technology is producing less costly, smaller and more efficient panels. Solar panels may not be the answer for everyone. It would depend on your electric needs, part of country you plan on spending most of your time in, etc. For many a 2000amp or so generator run an hour or less daily is all they need. No need for costly and possible complex rewiring, simply plug and play.
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Old 11-27-2012, 03:11 PM   #3
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I installed 2 panels (200 watts) with an inverter and so long as we're conservative in our energy use and there's a little sun, we can go indefinitely with two batteries. In other words, we're happy campers and think it's well worth it - but that's obviously very subjective. Increasingly, many camp sites won't allow generators to be used at all, but if you're out in the boon docks, then it doesn't matter.
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Old 11-27-2012, 03:39 PM   #4
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We don't have solar, but have friends who picked up a portable set at Costco that they love.

They plug them into their battery, set them in the sun and are good to go.

Nice little carrying case, compact and efficient. All the important things.

If you are camping any extended period without electricity, might be worth it. Depends on what you plan to do.

We can do 3-4 days, max, on a tank of water, and our batteries will last that long, so no need for the expense or carrying space of solar panels.


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Old 11-27-2012, 03:52 PM   #5
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For modest power requirements like lights, your 12v for fridge, water and furnace... it can extend your stay a lot longer... You'd have to consider your power requirements and see if it would work for you.

As far as the cost... it's getting cheaper all the time, but to me the value is in being able to stay silent and leave no footprint... for a nice 200W system could be $1000 to $1500... where a 1500W generator (a good one) could be $1000. A generator can top you up in an hour or so... and run a small A/C if needed...

To me that would be the deciding factor... if I was going to run the A/C anyway...
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Old 11-27-2012, 06:31 PM   #6
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Thanks

Thank you. As always plenty of great advice. I have to reflect on this.
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Old 11-27-2012, 06:52 PM   #7
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I considered solar very briefly when we first bought our AS, but for us, it just didn't come close to making economic sense. So I bought a Honda gennie - even that hasn't been used much, but in addition to using it with the trailer I can use it for other things as well.

It would seem to me that the biggest factor might be how much boondocking you plan to do and how long at a stretch.

You say that you "might" be boondocking - with the high cost of solar I'd be inclined to bide my time a bit and see how much boondocking I would actually do.

You might consider buying a gennie in the meanwhile. If you bought something like the Honda EU2000i, they seem to hold their value quite well - if you decided later to get a solar system, you could sell the gennie easily ..... or keep it as a backup.

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Old 11-27-2012, 06:55 PM   #8
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On our 34'er, the one electrical draw that drives me nutz is the fridge. it's .7 amps, 24 hours a day...doesn't seem like much but it's almost 10% of our battery capacity on a daily basis...

I've been using a bunch of absolute junk panels that all combined, overcome the fridge and add .5 Amps baack into the system. It sure is nice to arrive at the camper after a day of hiking to see 100% on the trimetric. Much better than 90% and I haven't even been there all day...

I just bought a DIY kit rated at 180 W and will be installing it over the winter.
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Old 11-27-2012, 06:57 PM   #9
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Have gone solar

We have recently installed 200 watts for $549.00. Granted I did the install and it was hardware costs - But we are extremely happy with the system. I would of looked at doing this years ago if the price was decent then. Ours are mounted as a permanent system as you would see in the newer units from the factory.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:53 PM   #10
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Blumob, you pose a very subjective question over which people have different (and some strong) opinions. You must consider your own power needs, your travel/camping style, your environmental inclinations. Many think that a generator is just fine. Others, like myself, would prefer not to camp near one. I do own a Yamaha 2400i, and have used it for the A/C in certain circumstances. I wouldn't use it for routine battery charging - I just don't like introducing noise pollution in the quiet natural settings that we prefer for camping. We have two 85 watt solar panels permanently installed, and a MPPT controller charging two GP24 AGM batteries that provide all of the 12v power that we need.

You have a lot of rooftop surface area on a 31' trailer. Large panels aren't necessarily the best arrangement. Smaller panels well-separated can provide a system that would be less influenced by a bit of tree shading in camp. We had a single 85 watt panel for a year, and then I added our second 85 watt panel, well-separated, for just that reason. I had started with a 25 amp controller to allow for expansion, which made adding the second panel easy. I have space for one more panel should our needs grow.
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:07 PM   #11
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I have a 55w panel on each of our trailers. It doesn't cover all of out requirements when we dry camp, so I use a Honda 2000 to make up the deficiency, and to run the coffee maker and microwave.

Since we only use one trailer at a time, the biggest benefit for us is that when the trailers are not in use, the batteries are maintained. We may leave one or the other trailer for six months or more, in the heat or cold, and the batteries are always ready. I seldom have to add water to the batteries in either trailer. At one point we left the Caravel outside in the sun with two Trojan deep cycle batteries, for 8 months and when we returned the batteries were charged and took very little water.

Never having to worry, for me, is worth a lot.
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:38 PM   #12
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We installed a 180 watt unit on top of our 3-' Classic and it has really worked nice. Keeps the batteries up and with the converter, we can run our computer and small TV. One of the best options we have installed IMHO.
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:14 PM   #13
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Camping in the desert is our favorite place,listening to a generator run spoils it.200 Watts of solar so far has worked pretty good at keeping up with our needs
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:42 PM   #14
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We wouldn't be without solar....
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:56 PM   #15
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I find the solar panels worthwhile. If for no other reason I can bring the RV back to storage lot with batteries in any state of charge. The solar system will automatically charge them. Extending or eliminating time between charges is just icing on the cake.
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Old 11-28-2012, 10:45 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Friday View Post
For modest power requirements like lights, your 12v for fridge, water and furnace... it can extend your stay a lot longer... You'd have to consider your power requirements and see if it would work for you.

As far as the cost... it's getting cheaper all the time, but to me the value is in being able to stay silent and leave no footprint... for a nice 200W system could be $1000 to $1500... where a 1500W generator (a good one) could be $1000. A generator can top you up in an hour or so... and run a small A/C if needed...

To me that would be the deciding factor... if I was going to run the A/C anyway...
Our experience leads us to the same conclusions ... generators here ...
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Old 11-29-2012, 06:53 AM   #17
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Our trailer came with a large solar system installed. We generally do not use it, but mostly because we camp with electrical hookups. On the other hand, we spent a weekend at Shenandoah National Park back in May, no hookups, and the solar performed BEAUTIFULLY! It was cool enough at night that we needed the furnace, so in the morning the batteries were fairly run down. We went on a hike, leaving the fans running (it was one of THOSE days - cold at night and fairly warm during the day) and came back to a fully charged, comfortable temperature trailer, with no effort on our part.

I brought our Honda generator that weekend but never used it. I saw plenty of other people with them running, though. (Note, we do not drink coffee.)

All of that said, what if it had been overcast that Saturday? I might have needed the generator then.
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Old 11-29-2012, 07:06 AM   #18
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My Interstate came equipped with a solar panel. I use it mainly for storing my unit. It keeps the house batteries completely topped off in between trips (literally right at 100% rated capacity on both Group 24 batteries). It's only a 50w panel, though, so I don't expect too much else from it. The charge controller in my solar panel system will only do a float charge; it won't ressurrect a depleted battery.
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Old 11-29-2012, 08:44 AM   #19
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My Interstate came equipped with a solar panel. I use it mainly for storing my unit. It keeps the house batteries completely topped off in between trips (literally right at 100% rated capacity on both Group 24 batteries). It's only a 50w panel, though, so I don't expect too much else from it. The charge controller in my solar panel system will only do a float charge; it won't ressurrect a depleted battery.

^^^^^^^^^
Our experience also, 30w works well keeping the batt's maintained, at home on the pad, no shade.(flex panels, not permanent install)

Not so much, boondocking in DEC Adirondack campgrounds.

Those who can rationalize the install love the solar option, like most things Airstream, a lot depends on how you use your trailer.

Bob
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Old 11-29-2012, 09:03 AM   #20
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and then there is the whole not burning fossil fuels and low carbon footprint thing.. Cutting down on burning coal and/or fracking might worth a dollar or two to you.
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