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Old 06-25-2006, 04:04 PM   #1
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1975 25' Tradewind
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Solar Install on 1975 Land Yacht

Here are some photos from my Solar Panel install I did today on a 1975 25' Land Yacht.

I used a Morningstar Pro-30 Controller and a 55W Siemens Panel. I didn't attach the panel to the roof and instead use a length of wire so I can put the solar panel out in the sun but keep the trailer parked in the shade (sometimes I camp in arid areas so this is a good thing). I ran the plug for the panel out the back bumper where the AC power line comes in. This way I can keep all the electrical plugs in one place. The way I got the wire out was to push some of the AC plug back in from the outside and then went inside to pull the slack in. After a couple iterations I got about 12 inches or so back up through the floor board. I then taped the panel connection wire tightly to the AC wire and pulled it back through the hole and grommet from the outside. When it emerged from the back of the trailer I simply cut the tape and fastened a heavy duty cigarette plug to the end.

My jumper from the solar panel to the trailer is simply a heavy 12 gauge wire used for wiring low-voltage lawn lamps. Use a heavy gauge wire because voltage drop is a big issue on 12V systems.

After I got the wire inside I wired it up to the mounted solar charge controller and then hooked it up to the battery. I plugged in everything and away she goes. I then placed a 400W 12V inverter on the charge controller as a way to get AC power when I'm boondocking to recharge a laptop or other small AC loads.

I don't normally stay in campgrounds and use Solar so I'm not worried about theft (I don't recommend you leave solar panels loose like this in a public campground). Also the panel I have is small enough that when I'm done I can simply bring it inside and stow it in the rear electrical closet in the bathroom. The biggest advantage of having the panel detached is avoiding having to mess with the roof and being able to put the panel in the sun when your trailer is in the shade. Hope you find this information useful.
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Old 06-25-2006, 04:54 PM   #2
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Solar panel install

Thanks for sharing your comments & pictures.

A couple of years ago, I was considering a solar install. I used a larger panel that was awkward to handle & store so I did bolt it to the roof. Even though I attempt to park in the shade, I still get sun for some portion of the day.

Regarding laptop useage;
Since my laptop runs off of DC, I purchased an Auto/Plane charger adapter. Seems like this should be more efficient than going from DC to AC and back to DC.
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Old 06-25-2006, 05:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstream25
Thanks for sharing your comments & pictures.

A couple of years ago, I was considering a solar install. I used a larger panel that was awkward to handle & store so I did bolt it to the roof. Even though I attempt to park in the shade, I still get sun for some portion of the day.
I do have two larger panels that may go on the roof eventually. It is certainly nicer to have 150W of panels versus the small 55W right now. Ideally I think my next task is to install two beefy AGM batteries in the rig so I have plenty of power and charge it with the roof mounted 150W panels. I'm going to see how this 55W panel works out for now. My old RV had a DC refrigerator which sucked down a huge amount of power and the 55W panel could only keep up with a lot of sun and judicious power conservation (along with packing the fridge with ice). Since my new trailer has the Propane fridge that frees up a huge power load for me. I may find that I have so much power that doing much more is unnecessary. I do plan on installing a DVD/LCD movie player and perhaps a ham radio so we'll see what the power requirements are on those.

Quote:
Regarding laptop useage;
Since my laptop runs off of DC, I purchased an Auto/Plane charger adapter. Seems like this should be more efficient than going from DC to AC and back to DC.
I agree. I have a DC to DC converter but unfortunately it has proven unreliable for my laptop (blown two of them already so I'm not sure where the problem is). I don't use the AC converter too much, but sometimes there are some loads where it is handy. I can't complain, I bought that inverter used at a yardsale for something like $20. It's come in handy for quick charges. But you're right, going DC to DC is always more efficient whereever possible.
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Old 06-25-2006, 07:22 PM   #4
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Interesting project, thanks for sharing. We always park in a shaded or deeply wooded area and never thought solar would be practical but your method may make me look at it again.
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Old 06-26-2006, 01:25 AM   #5
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It'd be the time you were having a run of good luck and really enjoying the day when you noticed it missing... Having a solar panel not bolted down is like leaving your bicycle leaning against a grade-school fence or having a nice swimming pool and no fence: "An attractive nuisance" that in some parts of the country would mean getting no-low effort in retrieving it and little punishment to the "borrowers" if they were found...

Would sincerely hope you put a tamper circut on the PV panel, a screeching battery alarm pack on the panel itself would be worth doing at the prices PV arrays command these days..
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:15 AM   #6
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If you install a ham radio...

Quote:
Originally Posted by craigr
I do plan on installing a DVD/LCD movie player and perhaps a ham radio so we'll see what the power requirements are on those.
If you install a ham radio, where would you put the antenna?
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wabbiteer
It'd be the time you were having a run of good luck and really enjoying the day when you noticed it missing... Having a solar panel not bolted down is like leaving your bicycle leaning against a grade-school fence or having a nice swimming pool and no fence: "An attractive nuisance" that in some parts of the country would mean getting no-low effort in retrieving it and little punishment to the "borrowers" if they were found...

Would sincerely hope you put a tamper circut on the PV panel, a screeching battery alarm pack on the panel itself would be worth doing at the prices PV arrays command these days..
-
These are good points and ones I've considered. The only time I've used the solar is when I am at Amateur Astronomer Star Parties which are normally up in the arid high mountains around here, or otherwise away from all sources of lights in remote areas. The fields are normally strewn with telescope equipment worth thousands of dollars each and are always left unattended during the day. I just am not worried about it getting stolen. But bolting it down may be an option in the future. I just didn't want to mess with the roof right now.
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Old 06-26-2006, 11:52 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Airstream25
If you install a ham radio, where would you put the antenna?
The PO had run some coax through the bottom of the trailer for a roof antenna (CB) and has a stub out of the wall. So I'm going to remove this stub and replace it with a new piece of coax. I was going to mount a hamstick to the roof perhaps, but decided to just use a buddipole (http://www.buddipole.com) antenna instead and keep it on the ground away from the operating station. I own one and they are incredibly compact and easy to setup in multiple configurations.
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Old 06-28-2006, 09:56 AM   #9
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Craigr: I notice you didn't hook up to the load leads on the ProStar. Why not? I just put a solar system on my 16' CCD last week using a 32W Uni-Solar flexible panel. Juiced the battery up to 13V from 11.5V in about 2 hours. I wanted to hook up to the load but was unsure where to grab the load from the trailer. Anyone know? Jamie
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Old 06-28-2006, 11:24 AM   #10
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I like the idea of a portable solar panel. Could you attach something to the panel that would allow you to lock/chain it to a tree or picnic table?

I always lock my Honda EU2000 generator to the trailer bumper to keep it from walking away.
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Old 06-28-2006, 11:35 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Turtle
Craigr: I notice you didn't hook up to the load leads on the ProStar. Why not? I just put a solar system on my 16' CCD last week using a 32W Uni-Solar flexible panel. Juiced the battery up to 13V from 11.5V in about 2 hours. I wanted to hook up to the load but was unsure where to grab the load from the trailer. Anyone know? Jamie
The load is hooked up. You just can't see it from the picture angle. I only have the little 400W inverter on it right now (and that's probably all I'll have on it).

I don't recommend running the trailer load through this size of a charge controller because it would likely exceed the amp rating. Also don't think you want to run the trailer off the load leads anyway. You'd have to basically basically bypass the AC power converter and put the charge controller in series with battery to deliver power to the trailer main 12V circuit which is probably not what you want.

With the charge controller keeping the battery topped off and the battery delivering power through the normal 12V circuits I suspect you won't have any problems. You'll also have the AC converter to charge the battery when you're on shore power and solar isn't running. The only thing the load leads give you on the charge controller is the ability to disable the load with the on-board button. If you need to do that with the trailer it's best to just pull the main 12V fuse. Basically, I'd just use the charge controller to do solar charging only and really not worry about the load terminals at all for supplying the rest of the trailer.
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Old 06-28-2006, 11:37 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dmac
I like the idea of a portable solar panel. Could you attach something to the panel that would allow you to lock/chain it to a tree or picnic table?

I always lock my Honda EU2000 generator to the trailer bumper to keep it from walking away.
I suppose it's possible. You could drill a hole in the frame and put a cable through it so it can be secured to something.
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Old 06-28-2006, 02:51 PM   #13
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craigr: Good answer. The purpose of my solar panel is as a battery charger anyway. Just wondering if the solar panel output could be used for powering anything on the trailer other than charging the battery. So I'll just be happy with it as a battery charger and will enjoy it. Thanks for adding to my knowledge of the system. Jamie
(Overcast and 62 degrees today. Typical summer day in Arcata)
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