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Old 08-12-2009, 06:56 AM   #1
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Vintage Solar (1956)

I've been working on my 56 Caravanner for a couple years now and I'd say I am pretty darn close to complete. Just a bit of veneer work inside, which knowing me will be another five years to complete.

In the meantime, we have been out camping but only boondocking. For all the camping we've done, it's always in the safari field, tucked away next to the beach, or parked in the side yard of a friends cottage. Those are the places we like to go, but what I'm finding is that we run our little generator a couple hours each day to top up our batteries. This is mainly due to the compressor I used in the fridge, which is typically used in sail boats and has a very large cold plate. When there's excess power it freezes the plate solid and then trickle freezes it to extend the life of the batteries. We don't have any deep cycle batteries yet, but we can go a couple days if we're not opening and closing the fridge.

This year, we decided to install solar panels and I was inspired by a couple in the NE unit which recently fitted panels to their rig for a cross country trip(M&L). I bought the same kit, 160 watts of green power. I need to buy some bigger batteries, but that will be next year.

Here's a picture of the panels on our 56. I'm sure some will say it ruins the look, which doesn't bother me a bit.

I'd be curious to hear how experiences from other folks on their solar panels, especially how big your array is.

Doug
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Old 08-12-2009, 08:39 AM   #2
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Doug,

Welcome back to planet earth. I was wondering why we hadn't seen anything from you in the past year. I think the solar looks fine, and it's your rig, so who cares what others think!

Steve
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Old 08-12-2009, 09:05 AM   #3
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Greetings Doug,

We have been living full time in our 22' Flying Cloud for about a month and a half. We run all of our lighting, laptop computer, stereo, etc. off our solar. We have 2 100W panels and 4 AGM Batteries. Here is a link to our website and some more info on our solar.

http://www.ecodiscoverytour.com/thef...larsystem.html

We do keep our fridge on gas most of the time, they are a real power hog on 12V. What do you have your panels hooked up to at this time? You should be able to top off your your batteries with two panels?

FLYNCLD
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:22 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FLYNCLD View Post
Greetings Doug,

We have been living full time in our 22' Flying Cloud for about a month and a half. We run all of our lighting, laptop computer, stereo, etc. off our solar. We have 2 100W panels and 4 AGM Batteries. Here is a link to our website and some more info on our solar.

http://www.ecodiscoverytour.com/thef...larsystem.html

We do keep our fridge on gas most of the time, they are a real power hog on 12V. What do you have your panels hooked up to at this time? You should be able to top off your your batteries with two panels?

FLYNCLD

That's great to hear.

I've got 2 80W panels mounted up there. Got any pictures of your set-up?
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:33 AM   #5
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Good to see a post on your Caravanner again, Doug.

I can't give any experience with solar on my Caravanner, but when I leave the boat and move into the trailer eventually, the boat's solar system will follow along.

We have a similar 12 volt refer to what you did with your old Marvel box and it is the big power hog for sure. On the boat, ours has 6" of insulation all the way around, a top loading door, a cold plate, and is quite small. Still, it draws around 35 amps a day and that uses up most of the solar we get from the 210 watts of panels on the boat. The rest of the stuff is really minor: LED lights draw little, pumps draw a lot but run very little, television or stereo use is limited.

I want to keep that cool Marvel door on my fridge too, but I'm sure that I'll wind up modding in a gas powered unit behind my old door. Based on the boat experience, I don't want to try to run 12 volt refrigeration in the trailer.

Like FLYNCLD has, the extra battery capacity sure makes sense as it tends to tide you over on the days without much sun and you just don't have to draw your batteries down quite as far normally, if you got extra amps to start with.

cheers,
steve
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:35 AM   #6
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Cool site

Quote:
Originally Posted by FLYNCLD View Post
Greetings Doug,

We have been living full time in our 22' Flying Cloud for about a month and a half. We run all of our lighting, laptop computer, stereo, etc. off our solar. We have 2 100W panels and 4 AGM Batteries. Here is a link to our website and some more info on our solar.

THE FLYING CLOUD ECO-DISCOVERY TOUR*

We do keep our fridge on gas most of the time, they are a real power hog on 12V. What do you have your panels hooked up to at this time? You should be able to top off your your batteries with two panels?

FLYNCLD

I just checked out your site. That's a very cool trailer you have. I like the layout.

The side mounts are a bit taller than the ones I have and I noticed that there's an extra box to combine the wires. Was that temporary?

The fridge could be a hog, but overall it's been pretty good about keeping things cold and not killing the batteries. On my two sprial cell batteries, I can go 2 maybe 3 days without charging the batteries. All depends on how much we use. How many hours do you get out of your deep cycle batteries? Do you remove them in the winter?
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:43 AM   #7
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Nice work

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Originally Posted by pbearsailor View Post
Good to see a post on your Caravanner again, Doug.

I can't give any experience with solar on my Caravanner, but when I leave the boat and move into the trailer eventually, the boat's solar system will follow along.

We have a similar 12 volt refer to what you did with your old Marvel box and it is the big power hog for sure. On the boat, ours has 6" of insulation all the way around, a top loading door, a cold plate, and is quite small. Still, it draws around 35 amps a day and that uses up most of the solar we get from the 210 watts of panels on the boat. The rest of the stuff is really minor: LED lights draw little, pumps draw a lot but run very little, television or stereo use is limited.

I want to keep that cool Marvel door on my fridge too, but I'm sure that I'll wind up modding in a gas powered unit behind my old door. Based on the boat experience, I don't want to try to run 12 volt refrigeration in the trailer.

Like FLYNCLD has, the extra battery capacity sure makes sense as it tends to tide you over on the days without much sun and you just don't have to draw your batteries down quite as far normally, if you got extra amps to start with.

cheers,
steve

I like your framework there. That' looks like some solid tank mounts. I ended up installing an above floor set-up with a vacumm flush system.

Gas might have been better choice for the refer but like you I wanted to keep that vintage marvel look. It was just a bit easier for me to work with to be honest.

Like I said, I need to get some bigger batteries but for those days that are cloudy I've got a small generator that I can plug in and top them off. I'd like to convert the generator to propane at some point, so I don't have to haul around a separate tank of gas.

Do you have an inverter tied into your set-up?
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Old 08-12-2009, 10:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muddy_hollow View Post
Do you have an inverter tied into your set-up?
We have an 1100 watt pure sine inverter, an Exeltech I think. It's been bulletproof on the boat for around 10 years now and it'll likely move into the trailer as well. My experience with inverters says that the cheaper ones, the modified sine wave types, run most stuff ok, but quite a bit of electronic stuff like computer chargers run really hot on them. The pure sine wave inverters cost more, but everything seems to run just as good as on shorepower.

cheers,
steve
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Old 08-12-2009, 11:09 AM   #9
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Vintage Solar (1956)

It has been over six years since the solar system was installed on my '64 Overlander at the International Rally in Sioux Falls, SD. There are three panels with a total wattage of 150. The installation included a Parlax charge controller and a Trace inverter/charger. The three AGM batteries are the ones installed with the system and their performance is still within normal parameters. The coach is parked either beside my family's farm house or on a pad behind my house, and my batteries remain connected continually.

This summer, I attended a four-day dry-camp rally. Both Fantstic Vents ran continuously on high, lights were utilized for several hours each day, the television was on at least two-hours per day, and my laptop computer averaged close to four hours per day. The batteries never fell below 50% during the four days.



The two street-side panels can be seen in this photo. Due to placement of the refrigerator vent and plumbing vents, there was only enough room for one panel on the curb-side. I went with the batteries recommended by the vendor who installed my system, and one of them can be seen in the photo below:



I have been very satisfied with my system, but don't get as much use out of its capabilities as I originally expected. My intial reason for installing the system was so that I could be better prepared for the rather frequent dry-camping nights on Wagon Wheels Caravans -- just about the time I had the system installed the Wagon Wheels Caravans began utilizing campgrounds with most utilities available. With the extended battery life, it looks like the system will have nearly paid for itself in four more years.

Kevin
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Old 08-15-2009, 07:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muddy_hollow View Post
I just checked out your site. That's a very cool trailer you have. I like the layout.

The side mounts are a bit taller than the ones I have and I noticed that there's an extra box to combine the wires. Was that temporary?

The fridge could be a hog, but overall it's been pretty good about keeping things cold and not killing the batteries. On my two sprial cell batteries, I can go 2 maybe 3 days without charging the batteries. All depends on how much we use. How many hours do you get out of your deep cycle batteries? Do you remove them in the winter?
The side mounts are adjustable and allowed me to get as close to level as possible on the side of the AS. They were stock and came with the system. The box you see is the combiner box and is needed to combine the two incoming wires from the panels down to one that goes to the controller.

As for the batteries, I don't really know how many hours we get. During the day, either the solar or the tow vehicle is charging, and we have never yet run the batteries down no matter how much we use them, including the computer I am using right now.

I am a little confused when you say you can go 2-3 days...are your panels not hooked up for charging?
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Old 10-18-2009, 04:24 PM   #11
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What Batteries?

Kevin....I just got a 21 Soverign that had the same solar system you described. I think it was at the same International or one earlier where the system was installed. I need all new batteries and was going AGM of some type. What are you using....anyone else?
My big problem is that I have four panels on a 21'. No room for an AC and the original Canadian owners did not need one....I will. I have lots of things to consider but damn!....three AGM batteries for the solar and then a gen for the AC. Ouch.
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Old 10-18-2009, 05:01 PM   #12
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I installed a 55w panel on our Caravel last February to maintain the two Trojan 105s, as well as allow some TV viewing, and laptop use when dry camping. We left the Caravel parked all summer while we traveled in the Excella. Upon returning I was very anxious to see the condition of the Trojans in the Caravel. After nearly three months, sitting outside in the sun in black plastic battery boxes on the tongue, both batteries were still full of water and, as I expected, fully charged and ready to go.
The Excella also has a 55w panel installed by the PO. It has two 12v deep cycle interstate batteries and an inverter. Last Monday a storm came through and knocked out the power at 7 in the morning. We were without power for 38 hours. We spent our time in the Excella (the Caravel is parked 400 miles away, along with our Honda 2000) watching the flat screen TV (150w) for news and some favorite programs. Power came back at 9 Tuesday evening. Even with some rain coming down, the solar did some charging. The batteries never went below 12.1 volts.
I can only imagine how much the rest of you enjoy three times the solar we have. Perhaps I will get more panels this year in Quartzsite.
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Old 10-18-2009, 05:16 PM   #13
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Very interesting stuff here gentlemen, but isn't solar and Airstream a bit of an oxymoron? I'm constantly searching for shade to keep the coach cooler and in the late fall / winter / early spring keeping the use of A/C to a minimum.
We're driving / towing tin cans, with very poor insulation value yet here we are trying to do the right thing with solar.

FYI our brick and mortar home is very energy efficient. 2100 sq.ft. two story, which at an a/c temp of 77 degrees only ran $130 per month in July and August in South Carolina.

We've reduced our energy consumption by almost 40% due to energy efficient updates, compared with the prior year.
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Old 10-18-2009, 05:40 PM   #14
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We have awnings all the way around on both trailers. When extended, they see to keep the trailers much cooler inside.
As for trees, with the polished Caravel, like the Street Rod, I try to avoid trees. They not only drop stuff, the creatures that live in them also drop stuff which is not at all nice to the finish.
Trees, like snow, are very nice, waaaaaaaay over there.
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