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Old 08-26-2008, 10:20 AM   #1
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Solar Panel Questions

We just got back from our first 2 week vacation with our 1984, 25' Sovereign. And except for a problem with our fridge, (it did get repaired) everything went fairly smooth. An issue we ran into was, in British Columbia Provincial Parks there are no power sites. We did our best to conserve power but one problem we ran into was we couldn't use our toaster unless we used the outlets in the washroom. What a PITA that was. My wife and I talked about trying to use solar panels to keep things charged up for future trips so we don't have to rely on campgrounds with power. My problem is, is that I don't know where to start as far as research goes. There are some good looking deals going on right now around home with companies trying to clear out solar panels. Canadian Tire, Costco, etc but I don't want to go out and buy something and find out that I've made a bad purchase. Eventually we would like to add a pair of fantastic fans to the mix but other than that everything in the trailer is stock. I'm hoping someone can point me the right direction. Thanks for reading and thanks to all in advance.

Tim
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:50 AM   #2
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I've Been thinking about it for a while too.. There are plenty of thread on here is you search... I like the idea of a portable moveable solar unit... you will need a minim of a 30 watt system to recharge your batteries in a day... Anything less is a trickle charge and will not recharge the system.. 60 + watts and you can run stuff of it.... But I don't want to put in on the roof as i like camping in the woods sometimes... I have seen a suitcase style that was 30 watts on ebay, but I don't know about it so i didn't get it...

Still looking too...
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Old 08-26-2008, 11:08 AM   #3
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Solar panel

I hear what you say about liking to camp in the woods, however even if you park right next to a single tree, you should have sun on our Airstream about half of the day.

I like the convenience of bolting the panel to the roof. There is absolutely no ongoing set up and take down. The risk of theft is also greatly reduced.
I like a big panel because it will restore the batteries faster. This is important if your campsite gets sun only part of the day.

The picture is of a 120 watt rated panel but don't expect to get that unless you are camping on the equator.

There are many threads to search on Airforums about where to buy, how to install, etc.
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:06 PM   #4
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Check out Welcome to AM Solar - Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987 as well as search for AM Solar SunRunner 100/H22B Install in this thread: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...all-32749.html.

I took a few pictures of the two 100 watt panels I installed as well as the wire run from the panels to the combiner box and then down the refrigerator vent. Pictures then show the cable run through a cabinet, under a shelf and then underneath and behind the couch where I mounted the H22B boost controller. Cable then ran to the battery box. I later added an additional AM Solar 65 watt panel (no longer available) and have had the system for 15 months with not a single problem. Their system is easy to install and top notch.
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:24 PM   #5
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Solar panels are great...we have a factory installed one...though we haven't relied much on it, we plan to do more with it...once we hone ou r dry camping skills. There is an art to living off solar...largely having to do with power conservatin and controlling how much you draw on your batteries so that they can recharge adequately to keep you going.

One thing you should realize is that you will need a good inverter to power up appliances from your batteries that require a lot of wattage to work (toasters, hair driers, etc...anything that heats or isbased on electrical resistnace). Our inverter (also factory) will convert 12v from the batteries to 110v for appliances requiring up to 600 watts. If you want/need to run a microwave or AC, you will need either shore power or a 3000w generator (or two 2000s). Poke around in the subforums hdealig with solar and such...there's a lot of great information there...
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Old 08-26-2008, 11:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by purman View Post
I've Been thinking about it for a while too.. There are plenty of thread on here is you search... I like the idea of a portable moveable solar unit... you will need a minim of a 30 watt system to recharge your batteries in a day... Anything less is a trickle charge and will not recharge the system.. 60 + watts and you can run stuff of it.... But I don't want to put in on the roof as i like camping in the woods sometimes... I have seen a suitcase style that was 30 watts on ebay, but I don't know about it so i didn't get it...

Still looking too...
Jason,

A 30 watt panel, assuming 100% output (which won't happen unless you have the sun directly overhead all day) will give you a huge 2.5 amps of charge to your batteries. This is a trickle charge. 60 watts will yield a maximum 5.0 amps but in reality, will be more like 3 amps......still a trickle charge.

Assuming you have a 100 amp hour battery (typical group 24 size) and that it is an AGM (for charge efficiency purposes)....and that you draw down said battery to 12.2 volts (50%)...then you have to have 20 hours of direct sunlight to re-charge your battery at the 2.5 amp charging rate.

Math: Ohm's law....P(watts) = I(voltage) X E(amps)
amp/hours = E(amps) X T(time in hours)

We at AM Solar recommend at least a 100 watt panel for every 100 amp/hours of battery capacity and also recommend one of our MPPT (multi-point power tracking) charge controllers, which will almost double the available amps for charging.

Also, be careful of what inverter you pick, as many have a significant draw on the batteries with NO LOAD on them. Also, there is a lot of crap currently on the solar market, as every shyster sees green (read $$$$$$) in the solar business now. Cheapo will not last, nor will it give you the results that you seek!!!!

I am using a 4 panel, 400 watt AM Solar array thru the HPV30-DR controller charging a pair of Lifeline Super golf cart GPL-6CT 300 amp/hour batteries. These power a Magnum 2000 watt sine wave inverter, which has virtually no draw when no AC load is present.

On a bright sunny day (here in northern OR), I have been getting a max. of 23.8 volts from the array, which translates into 18.9 charging amps. So far....so good. It will be interesting to see how the charge rates change when I get back to south FL and the higher sun angle. I will be adding another pair of 300 amp/hour Lifelines in the Fall.

Another benefit of the AM Solar mounting brackets is that they allow you to tilt the panels so they are at a higher angle to the sun as it's azimuth changes with the seasons.

Let me know if you have any other solar questions.
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Old 08-27-2008, 12:18 AM   #7
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Lew...you da sola' man!
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:54 AM   #8
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Hello, I have gone as long as 5 1/2 months without hooking up to electric. We disconnected our converter long ago. Running our vacuum, microwave, wifes hair blower, computer, sat. dish, 2 lcd tv dvd vhs and more.

There are basically 2 types of solar modules amorphus and silica crystal.

2 very different characteristics - crystal are in a glazed frame, twice the efficiency of amorphus. Thats the good news. The bad news is that should you shade as little as 10% of a module you reduce output by about a whopping 95%. So if you camp in the woods, you won't be happy with thier performance. They lose output if as they heatup over 70 f.
Amorphous modules are more durable and not as effected by heat and are flexible.
Check out gosolar.com for more information.
Go solar for sure, no gas, no funnel, no noise, less weight, superior charging characteristics. And Much More.
Good luck
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Old 08-27-2008, 11:02 AM   #9
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Correction!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lewster View Post
Jason,



Math: Ohm's law....P(watts) = I(voltage) X E(amps)
amp/hours = E(amps) X T(time in hours)


Let me know if you have any other solar questions.
In a mildly dyslexic moment (or short term memory failure) the above equation should read: P(watts) = I (amps) X E (volts)

amp/hours = I (amps) X T(time in hours)

Sorry for the confusion!!!!!!!!!!!!

Luckily, it didn't make a difference in the calculations.....
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Old 08-27-2008, 11:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joecolao View Post
Hello, I have gone as long as 5 1/2 months without hooking up to electric. We disconnected our converter long ago. Running our vacuum, microwave, wifes hair blower, computer, sat. dish, 2 lcd tv dvd vhs and more.

There are basically 2 types of solar modules amorphus and silica crystal.

2 very different characteristics - crystal are in a glazed frame, twice the efficiency of amorphus. Thats the good news. The bad news is that should you shade as little as 10% of a module you reduce output by about a whopping 95%. So if you camp in the woods, you won't be happy with thier performance. They lose output if as they heatup over 70 f.
Amorphous modules are more durable and not as effected by heat and are flexible.
Check out gosolar.com for more information.
Go solar for sure, no gas, no funnel, no noise, less weight, superior charging characteristics. And Much More.
Good luck
Joe,

Thanks for pointing out the difference, but the new poly-crystalline cells that we use at AM Solar are not affected by the heat like the older panels were. They also respond better in the shade without such a high drop-out of voltage...................YMMV
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:03 PM   #11
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Joe,

Thanks for pointing out the difference, but the new poly-crystalline cells that we use at AM Solar are not affected by the heat like the older panels were. They also respond better in the shade without such a high drop-out of voltage...................YMMV
Lew,
I've seen the statement about the drastic effect shade has on panels but have been surprised that this has not been the case with my AM Solar system. Now I know why.
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Old 08-28-2008, 08:59 AM   #12
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Btw............

.............just in case you're wondering

The panels that we use at AM Solar are custom manufactured to our specs by BP Solar (as in British Petroleum)....one of the biggest players in the game.

All of the electronics like the charge controllers are made by Heliotrope, Inc, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of AM Solar with manufacturing facilities in Springfield and Eugene, OR...............NOT CHINA!!!!!!!!!
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Old 09-19-2008, 09:01 AM   #13
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I myself start to look at solar. I am interested in flexible solar panels if they are any good.

Any thought on that?
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Old 09-19-2008, 10:26 AM   #14
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I myself start to look at solar. I am interested in flexible solar panels if they are any good.

Any thought on that?
They will work....but have very low output and efficiency.
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