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Old 08-16-2003, 06:24 PM   #1
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Solar trickle charger....

...not to be confused with "trickled-on" economics!

Anyway, the way I'm envisioning it now, my Airstream will be stored away from the house most of the time.

How to keep the battery charged up? Here's what I've done.

Seems like Volkswagen ships a lot of their new vehicles with solar panels "suction-cupped" inside the windows, to keep the batteries charged. They don't sell these over the counter, but they sell the heck out of them on eBay. I got two panels, which are shown as being 3.4 watts each, and stuck them on the inside of the front corner windows, which just happen to be facing south right now.

They are made to plug into a cigarette lighter, so I've taken a double lighter adapter cord, and made an extension so I can plug them both into the 12v outlet by the sink.

My theory is that they should get enough sun to keep the batteries charged while I'm not using the trailer.

Opinions? Better ideas?

Don
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Old 08-16-2003, 08:19 PM   #2
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Thumbs up

With no load on the batteries and a good shot of sun daily, I can't think of anything better (unless you have a power outlet handy nearby).

...and for the $$, I can't see how you could go wrong. If it didn't work (which I couldn't see how with no load) you don't have a huge investment of $$ and/or time installing one on the roof.

I say go for it. I may do the same given the cost and portability.

Eric
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Old 08-16-2003, 09:02 PM   #3
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The only issue I've run into is that the two front windows are the only ones with no screens. I'm not sure how I'm gonna put them on the screened windows....
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Old 08-17-2003, 09:56 AM   #4
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Doc

Thanks a lot! Now I went and bought a pair for my 310 mh!

Really, a good idea and will perhaps keep my drive battery up which is a motorhome problem.

Will post how it goes...lol...jem
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Old 08-17-2003, 11:41 AM   #5
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Solar charger location

The vista view and stack windows do not have screens. A small bracket would hold a small charger in place.

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Old 08-17-2003, 03:00 PM   #6
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The chargers are (very roughly) about a foot square - too big for the vista view windows, unfortunately!

I'm not sure what a stack window is, or if my Tradewind has one...
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Old 08-17-2003, 03:33 PM   #7
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Stack windows are below the opening window.

There are solar trickle chargers that are the size of a regular envelope, and are flexible, so that they can be put on a curved or straight shaped window.

They can be held in place with scotch tape and the like.

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Old 08-17-2003, 04:10 PM   #8
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I put a 5W panel on the roof of my previous SOB trailer. It is about a foot square. I brought the wire in at a vent and connected it in to the ceiling light wiring. It kept the battery up very nicely for several years. Only trouble I had was that the panel had a ridge all around. In our dusty Texas weather, dust settled on the panel and, I'm sure, reduced the output greatly. Each trip, I would get up on a ladder and wash the solar array.

I have an identical 5W panel that I bought before I bought the Airstream in the shop. The solar prewire is said to be above the bedroom ceiling light and the roof is clear in that area. One of these days, I'll install the panel.
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Old 09-14-2003, 10:21 PM   #9
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Thumbs up good results

Got my 2 solar chargers thru eBay .....the vw one mentioned and one is keeping my motor battery charged just fine facing east on my windshield.....previously it needed a weekly recharge or I Had to run a 2 amp trickle charger......highly suggest solar to keep up those pesky hard to find low grade drains and the electric step drain so prevelant on motorhomes....all for about 20 bucks....jem
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Old 09-16-2003, 09:00 PM   #10
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I've used a PulseTech Solargizer solar charger/maintainer with my 2 Delco Voyager batteries for 2 yrs. and 4 months now. It is rated at 5 watts and has done an excellent job keeping the batteries topped off. I've boondocked 3 out of 7 days each week for up to 2 months before towing the trailer back to the house 108 miles away. I never had a problem running out of juice.
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Old 09-17-2003, 08:47 AM   #11
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I checked out ebay http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...category=20794 they seem farily inexpensive. Is there a chance of over charging the battery? Most solar charging systems tend to be in the hundreds of dollars is there anything lacking? What have you learned from your purchase?
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Old 09-17-2003, 08:45 PM   #12
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The 5 watt unit I use does a good job for me but I must admit that I am a watt miser. I never have more than a couple of light units on at a time although a couple of12 volt fans run during the night when I sleep and in the afternoon when I come back to camp to take a nap before going back out hunting. I see a 5 watt panel in Northern Tool and Equipment catalog for $99.99. It has a built=in battery tester, battery condition monitor, 2 quick connects/disconnects and polarity reversal protection feature. I am assuming with these features that it also has a night blocking diode. You might want to check out the ICP 5 watt and 15 watt panels. The 15's can be piggy backed for 45 watts. They also have 50 watt, 75 watt, 100 watt, 150 watt and 225 watt panels if you are looking for something to hook up and then take down to store. Obviously a couple of 75 watt- 100 watt panels permanently mounted to your room can do wonders to keep the batteries topped off and electricity flowing, lower watt panels are available.
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Old 09-18-2003, 09:15 AM   #13
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When the time comes that we can use our trailer I want to make sure that I have enought 12v power to keep that battery up enough so that we can do a 3 or 4 day camp running on just my marine battery. Most of our lights are florescent but the furnace from what I understand can kill a battery quick. Some friends of ours lost their 12v bat in 12 hours of dry camping just from their heater. That ruined their weekend. We do not have a radio in the trailer yet but that is something to think about when it comes to power consumption. Around the house we have music on all the time or the occasional movie on the laptop.

I am under the impression that if a decent solar system in in place you can recharge your bat during the day and have plenty of juice for the upcoming winter nights. Just don't know how big of a solar system I really need or should look at.
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Old 09-18-2003, 09:23 AM   #14
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Darryl,

I had 4-55 watt panels on the roof of our 31 footer with 2 batteries and an inverter. In the midwest during the summer I always had power to spare. On a 28 footer you may not be able to acheive the numer of panels, but with one battery 2 @55 watt or even 1 @75 watts will help.

The biggest issue is the temps. As the ambient temp does down the solar system is less efficent. As long as you have sun and a decent amount of panel you should be ok. The panel like Davidz uses is ok, but if you want to run the furnace for a few days boondocking it will not work. I am looking at getting one of the small trickle chargers for my starting batt inthe MH. Just to keep it up from the parisitic draws.

I would start by looking at the available panel sizes and start measuring the roof.
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Old 09-18-2003, 11:26 AM   #15
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The only decent space available on my roof is between the kitchen vent and the living room vent and probably infront of that to the steel cap. Looks like I should get up there and run some tape out.

My trailer only has one battery and was told I should look at adding a couple 6 volt bats behind the propane tanks. We'll see once I make my solar decisions.
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Old 09-18-2003, 11:44 AM   #16
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6 volt batteries

One of the things to consider , IMHO the only thing to consider is the AMP hours that you can store. This gives you a "fulltank" to draw from. Calculate your amp hours usage per day. Calculate the AMP hours of charge based on panel specs and hours of sunlight.

Take Max storable hours, subtract usage. This gives you a total that helps to determine the size of the battery bank. You really don't want to draw the batteries down more than 50%

Then add to the discharged number the panel output and see if you can get the battery bank fully recharged.

What you will determine with this math is if this is a viable solution. Just because you have a bigger battery bank to begin with may not be good enough if you can only mount 1 panel. All you would be doing based on usage is slowing the rate of total discharge. The 6 volt batteries will give you a higher total storable AMP hours but it may not solve the problem. In many cases if you are going to go with 2 batteries it is better to use normal 12 volt ones for service ability. The 6 volt ones you will have to find a specialty battery place to replace them if you have a failure during travel and the total AMP hours will be equal.
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Old 09-19-2003, 08:12 AM   #17
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Well, the only place I can put solar panels is around the rear vent. Maybe between the Armstong A/C and the rear vent. The budget for this is small so the thought of a system that can be increased over time is an idea worth looking into. Starting with 15 watt and as necessary go to 30watt or 45watt. From what I was reading in this thread I got the impression that a 5 watt panel would be the way to start...sounds like more time and money needs to be invested.

By the way, does anyone have pics of their solar panel installs?
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Old 09-19-2003, 08:32 AM   #18
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Darryl, it sounds like your budget is about the same as mine - essentially zero!

If you want the most watts per dollar, the VW panels are the way to go. Like I said, I've got two on my TradeWind, just keeeping the battery up while it's parked.

They do a much better job when I remember to turn off the lights when I leave the trailer for a week...
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Old 09-19-2003, 11:13 AM   #19
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How are two panels wired in? Do I plug one in the bathroom and one in the living room? Just using the 12 plugs? That way they can be mounted to the glass from the inside. I admit I am not a wiring so just plugin' em in to the cigerette lighter type outlet would be the easiest. I just do not want to cause any damage to the univolt. She's old and needs to last me.
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Old 09-19-2003, 02:16 PM   #20
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Darryl,
You have to understand that I am running two 12 volt 105 amp. hr. batteries and the 5 watt unit keeps my batteries up fine. I have run my furnace set on 60 degrees and supplemented with a catalytic heater for 7 hours out of 24 for 4 days in a row with no problem. We are talking in TN. during the months of Oct. and Nov. and the batteries then had 4 days of sun to charge back up. Temperatures during the evening and early morning range from 28 to 58 or so. The Solargizer is a quality unit which includes a desulfation stage which seems to really help. They aren't cheap. If you are planning on staying in the trailer during the day, running the furnace all day/night then Brett is right about not lasting very long. When I get up on those days it is at 4 a.m. and I'm out the door by 5 a.m. headed to the woods. I turn the furnace and catalytic heater off at this time and if the sun has not warmed the unit up when I return at noon then it goes back on for an hour while I catnap. I'm back out at 2:30 p.m. and the heat is off again until 6 p.m. If you think you will be a heavy user of electricity then one or more of the larger panels is the way to go.

Consider a Trojan grp. 27 battery rated at 115 amp. hr. rather than the usual 105 rating and I would look at 2 of them if I could get them to fit your battery boxes. You did not say where the
box(s) are located or how many it would fit. The two 6 volt or four 6 volt batteries would be something but as Andy at Inland RV mentioned last year, you are probably better off with 12 volt units. A 6 volt deep cycle Trojan would also be harder to find as mentioned earlier.
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