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Old 09-28-2013, 07:11 PM   #1
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Out with the Honda, in with the solar

Just got back from two months of banging around the northwest US and Canada.. Prior to going out I had two 150 watt solar panels installed. Last year on our two month trip we used the generator every morning and evening of the days that we dry camped--about half of the time. This time we never got the generator out once.

While researching solar I came across a thread here where the virtues of solar vs generators were discussed. One guy pointed out that a Honda 2000i including gas and maintenance costs a lot less than solar. Another pointed out that if the main thing on an Airstreamer's mind is cost, they wouldn't have gotten an Airstream. Despite the fact that I obtained and had my solar system installed in the most expensive way possible (because I wanted performance but have no installation skills), I think it was a great investment. Super convenient--we came back to full batteries after every day of fishing and then used lights and power to our heart's content at night. And we never had an incensed Canadian come over to scold us for going 5 minutes beyond "generator time" (lots of Provincial parks have this).

If you're thinking about it, go for it. Forget the cost benefit analysis and go with the convenience utility analysis.

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Old 09-28-2013, 07:17 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by brad1 View Post
Another pointed out that if the main thing on an Airstreamer's mind is cost, they wouldn't have gotten an Airstream.
That made me laugh out loud.

We've got 100W on the roof, which I'll increase to 300 next year. Even with our measly small panel we notice the charge every day when dry-camping.

Unless it is hot enough for AC to be a necessity for a comfortable night's sleep, we don't need more power than the batteries can provide.

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Old 09-28-2013, 09:07 PM   #3
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Us too. We got a single 150 watt panel installed before we took delivery and the only thing I'd change is to add another and take it To 300 watts. I've used the generator once since we moved the trailer up to our property, and that was after an afternoon of my daughter watching tv and us doing the same well into the night. I love being off the grid as well as the generator.
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Old 09-28-2013, 09:31 PM   #4
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I have a small (estimated 80 watts) solar system on my Argosy, and very rarely used my Honda 1000 watt generator to charge my batteries, but almost always carried it with me.

I installed a 200 watt system on my new FC 20' and it works very well. The tow vehicle charge line also works better due to the front battery placement on the FC. The batteries remain at 70% charge and above about 90% of the time now. This is all monitored with a Tri Metric charge meter system.

The result, like brad1 found, is that I no longer need to cary the generator at all. I only had used it to charge the batteries. It was not large enough to run the A/C in any event, and I very rarely find a need for A/C. Those of you in hot climates have a much larger need for A/C than us in cooler areas.

BTW, the 100 watt Grape Solar panels I got from for $160 delivered to my home, have now been reduced to $140. With the Blue Sky MPPT charge controller, and some odds and ends, a self installed solar system like mine can be put in for <$700. Of course a professional instal will cost more, as it should, but the point is solar system costs are decreasing.
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Old 09-29-2013, 05:36 AM   #5
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I have only used generators while camping twice - both while camping without hookups in hot/humid weather to run the AC a few hours. If solar could run the AC, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat. I've also taken the generators (2 Hondas in parallel) to the storage yard to charge the batteries between weeks when I intentionally left the fridge running. Solar panels would have been great for that!
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Old 09-29-2013, 05:51 AM   #6
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That, for me, is one of the biggest benefits of having solar. We frequently keep the fridge running when we know we'll be going out again the following weekend. I wish we had the space to store the trailer at home, but for now that's just not an option.

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