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Old 10-26-2006, 02:55 PM   #1
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Solar Panel and Inverter Issues on 19ft Bambi

So we finally have our new 19ft Bambi.

I'm kicking myself for not ordering it with a solar panel and inverter.

Don't like the idea of adding holes to a new room. Then again, where would a solar panel be mounted on a 19ft Bambi? Here is my room top.. not much room to put an decent sized panel up there... I'm worried about someone putting in some leaky holes in the room top. Should I just arrange a fold up solar array and set it up at ground level? Where does it plug in? (supposed to have solar panel prewire).



Also found out you can't use the tv without shore hookup... uugh. Thought at least a basic inverter would have been provided. Do I need to spend $$$$'s on one that switches out if shoreline is connected, otherwise does the 12V to 120V conversion to all the 120V plugs. Or if not needed much, just use a cheap $40 400W inverter to manage 120V things. For example plug the inverter into the 12V plug by the tv, and the tv into the 120V outlet on the inverter. Kind of a bummer to have all these great 120V receptacles all over the place but no power when we are at state parks with no hookups.
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Old 10-26-2006, 03:11 PM   #2
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Solar?

Oh wow Dave -- where to begin... There is a lot of info posted in the forums. Being 'green' is quite alright with me. It will remain that the available storage (batteries) running through an inverter will give you a highly limited run time for any electrical appliance like a TV. It sure gets tempting with dish internet and TV becoming so portable. TV program downloads are a new big item at iTunes and causing some people to look at TV vs. laptop when on the road. I use a small travel inverter in my tow vehicle's cigarette lighter to recharge cell phones and laptop while underway.

Extra batteries bring a large weight penalty and will lessen your ability to bring food . Available roof space is minimal. Ability to recharge with solar is quite variable depending on cloud cover & trees in a campsite. Solar is about the most expensive avenue but perhaps only slowly can recharge a bank of batteries. A generator can do the same more reliably and for only $1000. It kills lead-acid batteries to discharge below 40%. AGM batteries are better for diehard boondockers.

Let the discussion proceed while I duck.
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Old 10-26-2006, 03:34 PM   #3
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campadk,

Canoe stream has given you a great summary. I will add a bit.

Many of us have gone with inverter generators, mostly Honda and Yamaha, in the 1000 watt to 3000 watt range. Solar is best for basic battery recharge while a generator will alow use of your mains voltage for accessories, small appliances, and in some cases (with a higher wattage generator) running AC and Micros. Search the threads on generators for a bunch of input on what to get.

If all you want is to use your TV while on battery power, just use a small inverter in the 12 VDC plug next to your TV and plug the TV AC cord into the inverter. I think the Sony TV that is used most commonly on new models pulls about 95 watts, but check your TV specs to be sure you get the right size inverter.

I agree with your thought regarding holes in your roof, the fewer the better.

John
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Old 10-26-2006, 06:21 PM   #4
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I have the factory installed solar package on my Bambi. The 53 watt panel is mounted between the AC unit and the front vent. It's really only good for maintaining a charge on the batteries, and for that purpose, it does a wonderful job. If I had to install solar now, I would go with a separate higher capacity, stand-alone panel hooked up to the pre-wire ,which I believe is in the reefer compartment. It would allow you to get a higher wattage panel, and give you more flexibility for placement if you are on a partially shaded site. I'll probably add one to supplement my system in the near future.

I use a 400 watt inverter for a 15" LCD television, and have never come close to draining the batteries overnight. Even in the winter with the furnace running, it only went down to about 80% capacity. I believe the TV only draws about 70-80 watts. The cooling fan on the inverter is supposed to kick in at around 80 watts, and I don't believe it ever has. The solar panel brings it back up the next day fairly quickly. I have two AGM batteries, which helps matters. I hope this information is helpful in your decision.
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Old 10-26-2006, 09:12 PM   #5
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Power for the TV

Regarding power for the TV;
The best choice for a TV is a LCD model. They draw far less current than the old CRT models.

Some LCD TVs actually run off of 12VDC even though they come with a 110V cord and converter.
I have gone to Radio Shack to purchase a cord with a cigarette lighter socket on one end. Radio Shack has a selection of tips for the other end to fit your TV. The point is, why start with 12VDC, invert to 110AC then convert back to 12VDC. Seems like a lot of waste along the way. I now plug my LCD TV directly into the Airstream 12VDC outlets.

Check out the models available at your electronics store.

Quote:
Originally Posted by campadk
So we finally have our new 19ft Bambi.
I'm kicking myself for not ordering it with a solar panel and inverter.

Don't like the idea of adding holes to a new room. Then again, where would a solar panel be mounted on a 19ft Bambi? Here is my room top.. not much room to put an decent sized panel up there... I'm worried about someone putting in some leaky holes in the room top. Should I just arrange a fold up solar array and set it up at ground level? Where does it plug in? (supposed to have solar panel prewire).

Also found out you can't use the tv without shore hookup... uugh. Thought at least a basic inverter would have been provided. Do I need to spend $$$$'s on one that switches out if shoreline is connected, otherwise does the 12V to 120V conversion to all the 120V plugs. Or if not needed much, just use a cheap $40 400W inverter to manage 120V things. For example plug the inverter into the 12V plug by the tv, and the tv into the 120V outlet on the inverter. Kind of a bummer to have all these great 120V receptacles all over the place but no power when we are at state parks with no hookups.
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Old 10-27-2006, 06:24 PM   #6
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No easy way out

Dave, first let me applaud you on the idea of green technology. The camping pasttime is all about the natural beauty around us, and solar technology keeps those pesky hydrocarbon fumes from the campsite & atmosphere.

On the flip side, I have to aggree that the small wattage panels will not keep up with much in the way of 120V appliances. By the looks of your roof, you should be able to mount a good sized (110W-120W) panel benind the rear vent on your roof and quite possibly one in front of the AC (off to the street side a bit to clear the TV antannae). The combination of 220W-240W of total charge power (14 amps) will keep a small AC inverter happy for quite a while. Along with the larger panels you would definitely want some extra storage, which would drop the amount of stuff you could haul. I've got 4 T105's mounted under the bed of my 1 ton, which improves ride a bit and keeps the weight off the trailer.

When (if) you choose to go solar, make sure the installer uses SS hardware & aluminum bracketry to mount the photovoltaic (solar) panels to the structural ribs of the trailer. Please keep in mind that shadows falling across the panels will severly cut the amount of power they can generate. You may want one side to be adjustable so you could raise / lower their angle for optimum charge. Good luck!

Erik
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Old 10-28-2006, 07:34 AM   #7
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Congratulations Dave

Hope you will enjoy your new Airstream as much as we do ours.
Hard to tell from the picture, but it look like you should be able to mount two 85W panels.
I used "thread-serts" to mount mine.Put the mounting brackets at the ribs if at all possible.
We just returned from a 3-week boondocking trip and lived on solar for 16 days before the generator had to be hauled out.
I see that you are from Orleans as well, please contact me and I'll be glad to show you how we did ours.
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Old 10-28-2006, 08:10 AM   #8
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Sent you an email John.

16 days of power sounds great! You must be economizing. Where abouts were you? Ontario or elsewhere?
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Old 10-28-2006, 09:06 AM   #9
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We mounted a 120 watt solar panel on our 22' CCD, added a second group 24 battery, and live quite happily on solar for as long as we want. We are careful to watch our dc consumption and avoid shadows on the solar panel for a good part of the day. Actually, in the summer we can recharge our batteries easily before noon.
Our owners manual listed the location of the solar prewire, but I had trouble finding the wires. A call to Jackson Center was VERY helpful. The tech pointed me to the wires quickly. I suggest you check with them if you decide to go solar and need to locate the prewire.

Good luck!
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Old 10-28-2006, 10:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jzelle
I used "thread-serts" to mount mine.Put the mounting brackets at the ribs if at all possible.
I'd love to see any pictures of this mounting if you have them! Only days away from getting my new 20' Safari; we're definitley going to setup some sort of PV array...

Cheers,
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Old 10-28-2006, 10:59 AM   #11
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According to Winegard, the 12VDC outlets on the antenna connector plates are only rated at 8 amps. That's about how much an 80W inverter draws at rated output. For an inverter larger than that, it's best to hardwire it directly to the battery, with as short a wire run as possible. If you plug it into one of these TV outlets, fuse it at 8A.

If you want to power existing 120V trailer outlets from the inverter, you MUST use a transfer switch to switch them between shorepower and inverter power. This prevents electrocuting someone working on the power lines with your inverter. Some inverters have one built-in, but it must be rated 30A to use with your shorepower connection. If you only plug directly into the inverter, you don't need a transfer switch.

A deep-cycle battery amp-hour rating is typically established at a "20-hour rate", the current draw that would take it from 100% charged to a defined fully discharge level (10.5V) in 20 hours. For an 80 amp-hour Group 24 deep-cycle battery, that's 80/20=4 amps, the current drawn by a 40W inverter at rated output, or a 80W inverter at 50% output.

Battery amp-hour capacity goes down as current goes up. For example, the same 80AH battery, when discharged at 25A (the Reserve Capacity rate and the draw of a 250W inverter at rated output), lasts about 120 minutes from 100% charged to fully discharged, or 25A x 2 hours = 50AH.

Most recommend not discharging the battery below 50% for long life. But discharging it down to 20% and replacing it twice as often is sometimes preferable when weight and space limitations are a consideration. The bottom line is that you have, at most, 60-64AH usable AH from a 75-80AH battery at a 4A draw, and usually less if draw is much higher or you want longer life from your battery.

Because charging isn't 100% efficient, you need to put back about 10% more AH than you used. You also have to make up for battery self-discharge at as much as 7% per week, or about 5-6AH/week, for a 75-80AH flooded cell battery. AGM batteries' self-discharge is so low as to be negligble.

Battery charging isn't linear. Acceptance rate is around 25% of rated capacity at 50% charge, but goes down rapidly as charge level increases. At 80% charge it's about 10% and keeps going down from there.

A rule of thumb for RV solar panel charging is that a horizontally mounted panel, unshadowed, puts out about 1/4 of its wattage rating in amp-hours per day, near the summer solstice. A 50W panel should provide enough to make up for running an 80W inverter at rated output for one hour on each sunny day, plus a little contribution to replace self-discharge.

Except for amorphous panels, which only produce 1/2 the output for the same area but are more shade tolerant, most panels need to be mounted on 1-1/2" to 2" spacers to allow cooling air underneath or their voltage output drops significantly. About the only unshadowed place I see on that Bambi to mount one is on top of the air-conditioner shroud (with fender washers on either side). Make sure you mount the front a little lower than the back so it won't act like a wing trying to lift the shroud off the unit when going down the road.

Hope this helps,
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