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Old 01-04-2016, 07:09 PM   #1
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Recommendation needed for small solar panel

I posted this on the Classic Motorhome section, and it was recommended that I post here too/instead because of all of your collective knowledge.

We have a 1978 24ft Argosy motorhome. We are in the process of changing out our Dometic RM-100 refrigerator to a Dometic RM2811. We go without plugging in to shore power for several weeks while on vacation although we are usually driving the MH every 3-5 days. We do not have battery problems with the current RM100 but expect the RM2811 to push the limit. As the RM-100 was non-electronic, there was no battery draw to keep the refrigerator going for as long as necessary. With the RM-2811, there is a 0.45 amp draw while it is operating (from the gas solenoid valve which we’re guessing to be about half the time). The simplest solution seems to be to add some small roof-mounted solar panel to off-set the draw. We are not looking for 100% of refrigerator draw but something close would be good. Something in the 10-20 watt range.

We don't use AC, have no TV or radio and the only current battery draw when parked is from lights in the evening and from the water pump. We have a good handle on our current usage based on 15 years of dry camping with our motorhome and know how long we can park without needing to recharge. We don't want to rock the boat with the added draw so would like to add something to cover it.

Any suggestions on small solar panels? There are a few places we could put small panels (say 12”x12”) either on the AC cover or where the TV antenna used to be (it’s a 1/2” pipe coupling that is now plugged). In addition to the solar panels options, are there recommendations as to where to place the panels?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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Old 01-04-2016, 08:22 PM   #2
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I'm looking to do the same stretching out of my batteries by some supplemental solar. For me I am looking at capturing more power from less sunlight (far north in MN) in the spring & fall so I will probably us a 40W panel. Plus I want the RV in the shade and the panel out in the sun, so I am looking at portable units from Zamp Solar and Go Power. These companies also make excellent units that would install on a RV roof. Make sure that your cable from the panel to the batteries is of a large enough gauge that you don't lose too much of the power in voltage loss.

Portable Archives - Zamp Solar

Products | Go Power!

The Go Power website has a pretty good tutorial that hits the highlights of the items you will have to consider in order to get it to perform as you require.
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Old 01-04-2016, 08:46 PM   #3
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Thumbs up For the KISS crowd.....

Welcome Aboard....

Heard a lot of positive stuff about ZAMP.

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Old 01-04-2016, 09:00 PM   #4
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Renogy also makes a great portable unit.


George
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:05 PM   #5
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Renogy uses better quality panels and solar charge controllers than Zamp….all at direct prices. I would suggest AM Solar but we chose not to enter the portable market for many reasons.
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:14 PM   #6
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A small 100w from A&M Solar would do it in2-3 hours with plenty of reserve for cloudy days
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:15 PM   #7
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Good job for finding it Belle!

Thought it would be better answered here!
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:43 PM   #8
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Thanks for the tip Keyair. Hopefully I get some good recommendations on the small (~40w) non-portable unit I'm looking for, and suggestions on where to install it.
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Belle View Post
Thanks for the tip Keyair. Hopefully I get some good recommendations on the small (~40w) non-portable unit I'm looking for, and suggestions on where to install it.
The problem Belle is that in the solar market you go from trickle chargers that average from 1 watt to 10 watts then you get into sizes of 20~40 and you are talking panels with charge controllers.

Have a look at this little guy here from Renology: http://www.amazon.com/Renogy-20W-Mon...=20+watt+solar

Might be up your alley.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:09 PM   #10
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Belle,
Dependent on how important this project is, you can spend from under $100 to thousands.
It sounds like you know what you want or need to keep you in the black on power, and if that's it, then a small panel will do what you need.
I am a firm believer in more is better tho...
While I am not sure about the real estate you have on your Argosy a 30w panel should fit between the vents/AC units easily.
Adding another battery or a bigger capacity will help too.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:10 PM   #11
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Thanks BoldAdventure (Mike). I see I had a typo in my reply to Keyair where I said (~40w) when I meant (~20w). What I'm after is the 10-20w range and your link is for just that. 13.5" x 24" is pushing it on the footprint, but that might just work. I'm going to search a little more on roof placement within this forum, but any suggestions on roof locations would be welcome. We were contemplating the top of the AC unit (which we don't use) but also near the back, bathroom vent which has power.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:20 PM   #12
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Not familiar with your roof layout. But the smaller the footprint of the panel, the smaller the output of power, on average (not always). Some panels are squares, most are rectangles on the average.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:23 PM   #13
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Thanks Keyair. Looks like we were replying at the same time. We added a 2nd 'house' battery years ago. I'll download the specs from BoldAdventure's link and check on placement between the AC and one of the vents. Having the extra 'juice' from the solar panel isn't a big deal, it would just be nice. So the $100 range is more what we are looking at. We always have the generator as backup, but don't run it unless we absolutely have to as one of our goals when selecting where we go/camp is noise level. We want to be where it's quiet.
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Old 01-05-2016, 01:10 PM   #14
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Solar Panel Solution

We started with a 33 watt panel, about 12"/30". Keep it on top of trailer when stored. Take it off while traveling and when camping. I move it a couple of times per day to maximize sun exposure. OK for storage and short (1-3) days boo docking. For a week-10 days, definitely not enough, even with two house batteries. Bought a 145 panel, maybe 24"/48". Keep it in the head when storing or travel. Take it out when camping and move around a couple times a day to maximize sun exposure. This really does the trick. Charge controller on a sunny day generally shows batteries as topped up by mid afternoon. Power use is for pumps, lights, device recharging, furnace. This bigger unit cost about $350 on Sportsman Guide, including a charge controller. The new unit they sell is about the same price.

With this arrangement you don't have to worry about what fixed exposure your permanently mounted panel gives you where you finally get the trailer set up. The panel weights less than 30lbs and is easy to move.


Note: we switched to all led lighting this year. This adds to the assurance that we have plenty of reserve power. With the money you save with this type of set up you can pay the registration and insurance on your trailer for a couple of years.
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