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Old 11-25-2005, 08:42 PM   #1
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Solar Panel

I have a 2005 25' Safari Airstream Trailer and need advise on what solar panel I should buy. We plan to go on a number of Rally's like the the Hobbo Rally's in Blythe, CA with minimum electric available. We also stay at State Camp Grounds that have no hook up. Thank you

Gil Morris
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Old 11-25-2005, 08:52 PM   #2
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There was a great article about solar panels in the latest Airstream Life
Magazine. Pickup a copy it has lots of good ideas on what to do with solar
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Old 11-25-2005, 09:14 PM   #3
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Thank you
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Old 11-25-2005, 11:08 PM   #4
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I have a 50 watt plug and play that I bought at Camping World for my 19' Bambi. Keeps the battery charged up really well when it is parked. It gives me a day or two when dry camping if I am conservative with my power output. If I had the room up top I would have gone with the 100 watt. Like having it a lot.
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Old 11-26-2005, 12:10 AM   #5
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this issue isn't what brand but how many

hi gil
welcome to the forums.

there are googles of info here on solar issues. "roadkingmoe" has some of the clearest most factual posts on this issue. simply search his name and solar. there are several days reading here on every issue related to solar power. generators, gas vs propane, and even a page or two on wind power....

my take on the issue.

wanna go solar?

get out your wallet.

you'll likely need 3-4 panels that can be positioned for best performance, new gel/mat batteries that can withstand deeper discharges, an inverter or 2 for any ac applications (tv, computer, coffee pot) and a good metering device to measure usage...

it's a tedious exercise but one can calculate in milliamps what each of your systems uses and multiply by the number of hours usage for a daily need or load. then the solar system can be sized to replenish your needs. moe explains this info in detail with examples.

do you like to park in the shade?
where it's cool and perfect for the trailer? forget that with solar.

any chance you want to microwave or run the ac....forget those also.

hair dryer, toothbrush, electric razor, coffee pot, toaster....i mean you'll need a lot of inverters just to suck the batteries dry in an hour.

for many folks 'solar' is some pieinthesky holistic natual doitall invisible clean pure perfect solution......these folks usually resist doing the math for fear of falling back to earth....

i do have the factory solar setup on my 05 classic and it's nice enough...but still doesn't fill the need for plug-in-free camping.

there are a couple of really helpful solar vendors online/in arizona and they can fix you up a great system......just get out the wallet my friend.

or do what many of us have done and buy a honda 2000 generator which will let you use all of the plug in gadgets (except ac) and fully charge your current batteries in about 4 hours.....all for under 900$. these are low noise, low emision marvels that will fill the electrical needs for 3-4 days on 1 gallon of unleaded. a 2.5 gallon can gets me a full week of daily charges and i can vacumn, charge small batteries for tools, run the microwave/convection oven, make coffee, watch a hour or two of tv (news/weather) and so on....i'm also covered if the t.v. needs a charge or a power outage happens, or it's cloudy or shady and so on.

so while i like knowing the solar can top things off, i really rely on the honda for electricity while boondockin'.....it's the least expensive, most electrons for the effort solution.......to solar powered camping....

i'm not trying to steer you away from solar....i really like the notion of it....
just do the math, figure your solar needs, spend 4-5k$ for a system.....and buy a honda to do the real work.

cheers and pass the suncreen
2air'
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Old 11-26-2005, 02:56 AM   #6
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hmmm...... solar can be a great way to go, especially if your energy needs are low. I installed a 120 watt Kyocera solar panel on my 22' CCD and we love it. Sure, it produces less on cloudy days or in the shade, but with careful use of our batteries it is sufficient for unlimited boondocking in the summer and 3-4 days in the winter. We have a catalytic heater for cool nights, so we don't have to run the furnace, which is a big drain on batteries (energy hungry fan).
The Honda generators are a great product... they just fill a different need. If you like to run lots of lights, a microwave, tv, etc., then you will probably need to supplement solar with a generator. But if, like us, you can boondock without all the accessories, then solar can fill the need.
By the way, the folks at rvsolarelectric.com are great, and can answer most of your questions. Their prices and service are tops.
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Old 11-26-2005, 05:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbrownrr
I installed a 120 watt Kyocera solar panel on my 22' CCD
Hi Wayne,

Compared to a Honda EU-2000 ($879 @ Mayberry's), how much did your solar unit cost installed? If you don't mind me asking. Who was you vendor?
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Old 11-26-2005, 07:10 AM   #8
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A local solar vendor told me last week, that they are 5 YEARS behind on ordered solar panels. Yikes, that stuff is expensive. I can buy a lot of gas for what one of those panels cost. Solar energy is far, far from "free".

Just for kicks, we designed a solar system for my current house. One that would run EVERYTHING, including well pump and air conditioner/heat pump. The cost? $329,000!!!! ROI? Only 104 years!
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Old 11-26-2005, 11:13 AM   #9
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As I recall, our system cost about $650 for the 120 watt panel and digital charge controller. The vendor was rvsolarelectric.com. Check them out... they're great people.
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Old 11-26-2005, 11:30 AM   #10
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Solar v. Generator

Running a generator when camping is necessary sometimes I agree but that depends on the type of camping. But as was stated before - with careful usage in the trailer and perhaps some modifications to lighting loads for example one can vastly extend the life of batteries. Compact florescent lighting or just fluorescent can improve usage over incandescent lighting. LED lighting is up and coming. Very low power draw to lumen output.

Pick, I was shocked to read what you would expect to pay for a solar system. $329,000 - WOW. Then I read what you would be powering - air conditioner/heat pump. That alone would be the limiting factor for you because that is a huge draw. Your solar needs are really not typical at all. In fact most people are able to go completely off grid for a fraction of the amount you would need. Homepower magazine depicts excellent examples every issue of people who have gone off grid for much less.

In our case, living in Northern Nevada, we can get away with a smaller system because we would not have to run such a large continuous load as air conditioning. If we need cooling, we can run an evaporative cooler. This despite the fact we don't get as much sunlight as you. One gentleman in Shasta built a 7000 sq. ft home and put in $45,000 of solar/batteries for his whole house - including cooling.

As an example, we will be building a house on some property in a remote area of Nevada and we will be living off grid. Our system will cost about $40,000 to meet our needs - and we have needs! Contrast that with $350,000 to string power to our house. That is quite different than an Airstream I know but I point it out because solar can be very successfully used in place of a generator depending on the needs.

Finally, we have camped many times with people who run a generator to pump up batteries after an evening of TV watching or for running AC and I have to say that the last thing I want to listen to all day is the constant hum of an engine. Perhaps some don't mind that but we prefer the quiet. It is for that reason we try to camp in generator free locations.

In the end it is a matter of what you want to achieve and what your loads are. Boondocking long term can easily be done with solar. And I encourage anyone interested in solar not to be afraid of using it in place of a generator - no matter how quiet the generator is.
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Old 11-30-2005, 03:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardenrj
I have a 50 watt plug and play that I bought at Camping World for my 19' Bambi. Keeps the battery charged up really well when it is parked. It gives me a day or two when dry camping if I am conservative with my power output. If I had the room up top I would have gone with the 100 watt. Like having it a lot.
what is a plug and play?
is that solar?
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Old 11-30-2005, 03:30 PM   #12
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Buttercup, yes, the heat pump is the clincher, at 30 amps continuous draw and a whopping 175 amps of starting current. I cannot imagine living down here in Florida without A/C though. I know they did it, way back when, before 1960. But then, Florida was not known as a place you would want to live in all year round!!
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Old 11-30-2005, 03:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maya
what is a plug and play?
is that solar?
Maya,

Today's Airstreams are coming pre-wired from the factory for solar. Camping World and others sell solar panels with a plug-in jack that allows for quick connection once the panel is installed on the roof. The wiring for the controller is usually tucked away behind a cabinet bulkhead. Once a hole is cut in the bulkhead, the controller can be screwed on and the wires connected from the solar panel and to the battery. I do think that an in-line fuse has to be added on the line between the controller and the battery. Anyway, it makes for a quicker install, especially if you do it yourself.
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Old 12-02-2005, 08:56 AM   #14
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Many people invest in solar without having a clue how much electricity they use, thus how much solar production they need. Before you decide on solar, or how much solar, I'd recommend installing an amp-hour meter, such as the Xantrex Link 10. It will let you determine how many amp-hours per 24 hour period you use, as well as help you manage your power if you do go solar.

Solar panels mounted horizontally on an RV roof typically produce 1/4 of their wattage rating in amp-hours per day around the summer solstice, and about 1/6th around the spring and fall equinoxes... on clear days. You actually need more solar production than your average daily use to make up on clear days, your loss on cloudy days. And you also need MUCH more than your daily usage in battery capacity to tide you over on those cloudy days.

Some people want to get by on solar so badly, they'll install an unvented combustion heater, that in my opinion, competes with humans for oxygen in a small environment. If you go that route, NEVER use them on cool nights when you're sleeping, even if you do open a vent and window to keep a cold draft feeding oxygen to the heater and occupants.
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