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Old 03-09-2014, 05:50 PM   #1
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2004 19' Bambi
Missoula , Montana
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Need help picking solar panels

Hello all...we are the new kids on the block here in Montana. After a wonderful conversation that my husband had with another Montana AS owner, we would love to do most of our travels dry camping (or boondocking as we have now come to learn) in all the lovely, isolated places that Montana and Alberta, Canada have to offer.

We are electrical frugal after living on a sailboat for over 4 years up in remote areas of British Columbia and Alaska. That said, we would like to know what experiences AS folks have had, pro or con, with Go Power portable solar units just to keep the batteries topped off without having to use a generator. Now, we are on a budget (nearing that retirement age) but want panels that will work well, store well, won't need a lot of attention and will last long so don't want to go too cheap but definitely don't want the most expensive!

Look forward to all the advise you can give!

Jo & David
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:11 PM   #2
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We installed two AM solar 100 W panels ourselves using their kit and wiring. etc. The system works perfectly and keeps the batteries topped off very nicely. Certainly not the cheapest, but no issues is worth something, too.


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Old 03-09-2014, 09:12 PM   #3
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We dry camp most of the time. I really like using a portable solar system because I can park in the shade and keep the panels in the sun which is possible in most places unless you are primarily camping in the desert or other treeless areas.

We used a cheapo 55 w portable solar kit we got at Costco for about three years and it worked surprising well. They were amorphous panels so were heavy for the amount of output and it got tiresome dealing with the heavy weight and setting them up. I sold them on Craigslist for about half of what I paid for them, and used that money toward the purchase of a 120w Go Power kit. I love this product for the build quality if nothing else, but it does a fine job keeping the batteries topped off.

If I ever decide to install a roof mount system, I can still use this kit as a supplemental power source too. It is self contained in it's own carry case and takes about 3 minutes to set it up. It comes with a 15 foot cable to connect to your batteries, but I made a 25' extension cable so I have more flexibility for keeping them in the sun. I also purchased a 30' locking cable to help keep them from walking away.
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:45 PM   #4
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I bought 100W panels from Renogy and have been happy thus far. I haven't been camping with mine yet, but they are performing well in yard testing.

Shortly after I ordered, they posted a new bendable panel which looks interesting.
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Old 03-09-2014, 10:24 PM   #5
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I have 3 135w panels installed by AM Solar, they did a great job and the system works fantastically! 25' 2012 Eddie Bauer Edition
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:26 PM   #6
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2004 19' Bambi
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Thanks so much for all the replies! I really like the way the Go Power kit looks especially the storage ability. Since we have such a small amount of roof space and inside storage, they just seem like the best bet for us. Thanks Steve for sharing your solution of extension cable and especially the locking cable idea. We were wondering what to do with the panel when leaving to go explore and you answered the question before I even had a chance to ask! Thanks again...

Jo & David
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Old 03-11-2014, 05:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by wando1997 View Post
Thanks Steve for sharing your solution of extension cable and especially the locking cable idea. We were wondering what to do with the panel when leaving to go explore and you answered the question before I even had a chance to ask! Thanks again...

Jo & David
I use a cable with a loop at each end. You can thread one end of the cable through the other end around an immovable object. The panels have a hole in the frame that will fit a padlock nicely, so you can padlock the cable directly to the panel.

Go Power is supposed to have an extension but they didn't have them ready when I purchased my kit, so I made my own extension using a 12 gauge extension cord and some Anderson type connectors. These are the same connectors the kit uses.

Here's a pic of the kit in use!
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:13 PM   #8
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Thanks Steve! Love your AS! If you are ever up this way, we live off of a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream (look up Rock Creek, Clinton, MT) and have plenty of room for you to park your AS and go explore.

David & Jo
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:38 PM   #9
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Good day Joe & David,
I purchase the Go Power solar panel and controller with my 2011 Flying Cloud 23FB and this kit was installed by CanAm just prior to the delivery of the trailer. Fully satisfied of the product and the quality of the installation. I have one 95 watts panel. The controller software take care to maintain the health of the batteries by applying a ‘Bulk/Absortion Charge’ to the batteries each morning.
Our Xantrex 600Watt pure sine wave inverter is mostly used for the TV and WiFi active antenna and for charging the lap top computer.
In boondocking we are not a big energy consumer. Actually with this installation we never experience ‘dead battery’ situation.
Attached some information and a evaluation table that can be helpful for you in your future choice.

Michel
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Old 03-13-2014, 10:11 AM   #10
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Steve - noticed the solar lights beside the panels. Which brand are they, have you had then long and do they provide adequate lighting all night?

Jo & David
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Old 03-14-2014, 09:34 PM   #11
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When we acquired our 32-foot Excella, the PO had installed 3 75-watt panels. Over the past 2 years, we have done a fair bit of boondocking, mostly around Arizona. Our set up now consists of an additional 140-watt panel, totalling 365 watts, 4 AGM batteries (2 in the battery boxes and 2 beside them behind the gaucho) as well as a Xantrex Freedom 3000 inverter/charger. We did have to replace the original wiring from the controller to the batteries (they were originally 10AWG, now they are 6AWG), as well as a new Blue Sky 3000i controller.

While you may think that this is overkill, I require sufficient electricity to run my CPAP machine every night, or I cannot sleep. All lighting is now LED-type as well. We find that we can go for about 1 week before it is necessary to empty the waste tank. I have 2 5-gallon fresh water tanks that I fill whenever I am driving around and then I empty them into the freshwater tank.

One thing I did learn by experience is that cheap no-name solar controllers don't work. Make sure you get a really good well known brand such as the Blue Sky.
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Old 03-16-2014, 03:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wando1997 View Post
Thanks Steve! Love your AS! If you are ever up this way, we live off of a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream (look up Rock Creek, Clinton, MT) and have plenty of room for you to park your AS and go explore.
Thanks for the invite! That's very nice of you. We were just up in Hamilton, Montana a couple years ago and stayed at a friends pig farm. Trout stream sounds much better. lol!


Quote:
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Steve - noticed the solar lights beside the panels. Which brand are they, have you had then long and do they provide adequate lighting all night?
My wife buys those at Lowes or Home Depot for a couple bucks each. They are not very bright but serve well for some path lighting at camp. Not a very good pic, but this will show you how they look at night.
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Old 03-16-2014, 04:03 PM   #13
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FYI. IKEA sells a portable solar light in several colors. Round base and snake neck to the light. Long lasting light and pretty bright.
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Old 03-19-2014, 12:32 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Kyle401 View Post
I bought 100W panels from Renogy and have been happy thus far. I haven't been camping with mine yet, but they are performing well in yard testing.

Shortly after I ordered, they posted a new bendable panel which looks interesting.
I bought the Renogy mono hard panels. The bendable panels look like they'd be awesome on an Airstream, except that there's no real obvious way to leave an air space under them for cooling. Lewster has noted that leaving an inch or so of free air is pretty important for panel performance....
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