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Old 01-03-2012, 01:10 AM   #1
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Solar basics

I'm looking for, at the very least, a way to keep my battery topped up when the trailer is parked. Thinking solar because there is no power anywhere nearby, but then wondering if there is a simple way to top off the battery + any (minimal) use by lighting and the water pump. Nothing else uses power- icebox, gravity propane furnace. Is there a simple way to do this without getting into more serious dough for a really well integrated system? I just bought a new axle and some other stuff so I'm not allowed to spend a lot at the moment.

Thanks
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Old 01-03-2012, 07:57 AM   #2
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From what I have heard a small solar panel can be directly hooked up to your batteries skipping the electronics needed for larger systems.
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Old 01-03-2012, 08:09 AM   #3
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Solar panel

I have installed a 68 watt solar panel on my 27' 2007 Classic. I don't need it for storage but it does help when we are boondocking. It connects directly into the 12v system behind the fridge. I used a Solarflex system because it is hail resistant and it can be walked on. It was not cheap (about $500) but I feel it was worth it. We did a lot of boondocking on a recent 4 week trip in cold weather and it helped keep our batteries topped off and I did not have to run the generator much.
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Old 01-03-2012, 09:05 AM   #4
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Harbor Freight sells a small 3 panel set with a controller and even a few lights. It goes on sale for 175.00 or less sometimes. We have a small place in Baja and use a set to keep two 6 volts charged. You would have to watch your battery water and you can disconnect a panel or two if you need to. But it is only a 45 watt setup so it's not like you have a lot of power.
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:04 AM   #5
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If you're really looking for basic battery maintenance while in storage this is cheap and sufficient.

I got a 15 watt (1 amp) panel from Northern tool. also got a 7 amp NON-MPPT controller. The panel really puts out about .9 amps max due to losses in the system. I don't believe an expensive MPPT controller is necessary with 900mA for 5 - 6 hours a day.

This setup works fine in northern latitudes during the March - October camping season. If you plan to leave the batteries in over the winter, I would bump up the panel to at least 30 watts, due to sun angle and potential snow/cloud cover in the winter. Maybe even 50 watts.
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:09 AM   #6
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I reread your post. Is this for "parked" storage or "parked" camping? If you're camping and using lighting and water pump....not TV, radio, etc AND have no boards etc on fridge, furnace etc., I would think you need at least 50 watts if you conserve on incandescent lighting. If you convert to LEDs, you may need less solar panel. I see you're in California...if it is southern CA, you probably are more efficient with direct sun load than "up here".
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Old 01-08-2012, 09:47 PM   #7
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Hi, thanks for all the great info. Dznf0g, we're in northern CA, about 125 miles north of San Francisco. My thinking was to charge up the battery to run the water pump occasionally; heat has no electrics, using an icebox, range is gas... using led solar Christmas lights for general mood lighting and will swap out the 12v incadescent lamps in the hard wired lighting for LED lamps. Thinking of charging up the battery mostly to have the use of the water pump, camping for 3 days and then long drives to charge up the battery. Ideally, I'd have solar and extra batteries to run a 12v/120 Engle fridge... but that'll have to wait for next Christmas.
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Old 01-08-2012, 09:59 PM   #8
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Well, I guess you need to do some math. Look up the power consumption for the number of bulbs and pump and all your goodies (I assume the Engle as well, unless you plan to add more panels later). Estimate the amount of "on" time of each and calculate amp hours of demand each day. Then shop panels to give you an estimate of output required each day (5 - 7 hours of good sun time) to exceed your amp hours consumed.

OK, that's pretty vague. I'll bet that some of the members who have nailed this down to a science, have a resource or chart to give you what you need, but I think that'll give you a rudimentary start.

Like I said, at this point I only use solar for battery maintenance, so my reading up has just been rather superfluous at this point. Someday, I'll build a solar system...closer to retirement.

Edit: Forum member Lewster, I think could help as well as a company called AM Solar, where it seem a lot of members get their hardware.
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Old 01-08-2012, 10:25 PM   #9
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Hi, actually, Lewster walked me through some of this. Basic math? I went to art school, but this is in terms I can understand- how the draw of each fixture adds up, and how to figure out how much is necessary to power it all.

Believe me, all the technical help is invaluable, and I appreciate it.
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Old 01-13-2012, 02:32 PM   #10
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Check out Goal Zero for smaller or portable systems ...
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Old 01-13-2012, 03:09 PM   #11
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This is what you need. Just $150 - works great!

BatteryMINDer Solar Charging System — 12 Volt, 15 Watt Panel, Model# SCC-015 | Battery Maintainers | Northern Tool + Equipment
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Old 01-13-2012, 05:49 PM   #12
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I recently bought the SolarLand 120 watt "briefcase-style" portable unit. It has a built in charge controller and you can simply connect it directly to you batteries and aim it at the sun. I chose to wire directly into my solar pre-wire behind the fridge.

It's on clearance right now for $595 before a new 130 watt setup arrives.

120 watt portable RV solar battery charger
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