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Old 10-25-2011, 03:32 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Mojave View Post
Thanks YankeeDoodle, this has been a learn as we go experience with a ton of help from this forum. It's definitely been a HUGE step up in comfort from tent camping. We'd like to work from the RV one day if we can, so boondocking and laptopping are gonna be our main issue. Would solar allow us to use the outlets?
You'd need to add more batteries and an inverter in addition to solar panels, but with careful and enough sunlight on the panels people do that sort of thing.
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Old 10-25-2011, 03:50 PM   #22
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You'd need to add more batteries and an inverter in addition to solar panels, but with careful and enough sunlight on the panels people do that sort of thing.
Sounds like something we'll definitely be investing in one day then. Thanks!
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Old 10-25-2011, 04:08 PM   #23
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Sunlight / Solar & Generators

Virginia is a lot further south than Canada, and we get a lot more, stonger sun. I'm a fan of solar, but the tradeoff to using it is:
  1. park in direct sunlight and bake like a cookie
  2. carry ground mount panels and park them in direct sunlight & hope no one steals them
  3. pray to avoid 4 days of straight rain, and be prepared to head for full hookup territory if you get them.
I had (for sale reasonable now) a Honda 1000 generator. It is good for running an electric skillet OR a toaster OR a coffee maker OR recharging your batteries - in short any modest need for AC current while boondocking.

When the last hurricane rolled through I bought a Honda 3000 Handi, more for a second generator for the business than for the trailer, but now I'm set to go boondocking for as long as I want to, and run the heat pump or the air conditioner. The Fantastic Fans do a good job in most hot situations, but really the furnace gobbles propane and the heat pump with or without a small space heater added will keep the Airstream toasty.

Egad am I spoiled.

Paula
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Old 10-25-2011, 04:28 PM   #24
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Thanks for the info Paula. Currently we live in a rainforest but do most of our traveling in the southwest, so we were thinking solar over gennie but I have a feeling we will have to take that into serious consideration one day if we plan on doing any long term boondocking.

This brings up an excellent question though...does stronger sun charge the panels faster? There are a ton of Canadian cities that get way over 300 days of sunshine a year...but would it still do the trick in the winter?

PS. Turns out Calgary gets an average of 333 days a year of sunshine, who knew?
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Old 10-25-2011, 04:41 PM   #25
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The standard furnace in an Airstream is said to be pretty demanding of battery power (I know this only 2nd-hand through the Forums.) Also, the construction of Airstreams doesn't lend itself to genuine winter weather like you get up there in the Great White North, so heading SW for the winter is probably a good choice.

Re: "stronger sun" charging the panels faster... there are other issues at work as well. Down here we get more hours of sunshine in the winter, in addition to the sun having to burn through a bit less atmosphere because of the angle of incidence of the sun's rays. You'd definitely see less net power per panel on a clear winter day at 49 deg. N than down here at 33 deg. N. Within reason, you should be able to compensate for that with more panels, but of course there are limits to what you can install on top of the trailer.

I'd want a generator backup if I were relying on solar in a cold climate... freezing seems like it would be uncomfortable, and it wouldn't have to be a big generator like you'd need to run the AC.
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Old 10-25-2011, 05:23 PM   #26
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Mojave...Clear, sunny days will give you the best solar charging options...overcast or short hours of good sun (or parking in the shade) will diminish charging using solar panels. Another thing to remember is that you don't have a whole lot of real estate on top of your rig, so that limits the number of panels you can install there. As mentioned above, the issues with portable panels are storage and theft. Solar, by the way will not allow you to use your outlet unless you install an inverter to change 12v to 110v. Also as mentioned, using an inverter can be a big drain on your batteries. We have recently switched to an LED Television to replace the LCD that it came with...it draws less energy but still required us to use the inverter. There are 12v TVs available as well if you want to go that route, and TV is important to you. When we are dry camping we usually use the laptop to watch a movie or two along the way...if we have electricity we use the TV and DVD player.

We have a solar panel on our Bambi (factory installed)...not the best or most watts perhaps, but it does serve us well for keeping the batteries in line. I often work from the road and I spend substantial time on the laptop each day to take care of biz and stay in touch with the world. That having been said, we decided the best thing for us to do was to have both solar and generators. We have two 2000w Honda gennies that can be run in parallel to yield 4000w peak power, whcih is enough to run anything we need to run, including AC. A single 2000w will run everything but the AC including a small microwave. We take one Honda when we know we will not need AC...and both when we might need AC...so we are covered. This allows us to boon dock or dry camp to our heart's content. (Or larger issue is fresh water, which will be one of your issues as well with the size of tanks your unit has...we work around it pretty well, though.)
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Old 10-25-2011, 06:27 PM   #27
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If you want to find out about solar 1st hand, you might take a trip to Quartzsite in mid-late January. There are literally thousands of RVs mostly boondocking in the desert for extended periods each year. Every flavor of solar, wind and generators are being used. There are vendors set up at the trade shows selling everything from snake oil to solid proven equipment often at very good prices. You'll need to do your homework to steer clear of the snake oil.

There's a lot to learn about solar; there are a variety of materials and construction methods that make otherwise similar looking panels as different as apples and oranges. You'll need to know how much you realistically expect to get out of your batteries so that you can size your bank and figure out where to put them. Then you can size the solar array needed to keep them charged and obtain a proper controller for the system. As with the batteries, you'll need to figure out where to put the panels.

The complexity and cost is proportional to whether your boondocking is a week/weekend need from time to time or a full time off the grid for months at a time experience.

I agree that you will probably want a generator to supplement solar if you choose that route. I would consider a Honda or Yamaha. They are both quality machines, portable and quiet. They come in different sizes, more capacity are heavier and use more fuel per hour. The ability to pair 2 smaller ones has many advantages. More important, they are good at regulating voltage and frequency, an area where some inferior generators come up short and can damage your electronics.
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Old 10-25-2011, 09:12 PM   #28
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I'm happy to hear you can find quiet generators. That was one deterrent for us. Sometimes at campsites you hear those super loud beasts while trying to enjoy a quite morning coffee outside...not my cup of tea
I like the options I'm hearing though.
We're gonna slowly ease into full-timing a few months at a time and build up to longer durations. Right now we're managing by charging the laptop in the car while driving during the day and using it at night, but the plan is to stay in one place longer now (a nice break from our 'see it all and do it all' tenting days) so we'll be testing the waters on our next trip.

All this new info gives us stuff to ponder for when we're ready to make that decision. Thanks all!

Lisa
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Old 10-26-2011, 03:29 AM   #29
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You're getting there...it's a journey. When we first got the Bambi we were not too sure about camping without hookups. Then we connected with the great folks in the 4CUnit who do mostly dry camping rallies and they helped us ease into the whole dry camping/boon docking mode, held out hands, answered our questions, and were there for moral support and assistance and gaining confidence. Now we acutally dry camp more often than not, and have learned that the ability to create our own power when needed is a very liberating thing, opening up a lot of camping options that would otherwise not be possible.
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