Journey with Confidence RV GPS App RV Trip Planner RV LIFE Campground Reviews RV Maintenance Take a Speed Test Free 7 Day Trial ×
 


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
 
Old 09-23-2022, 10:21 AM   #1
Rivet Master
 
2022 27' Globetrotter
DALLAS , TX
Join Date: Apr 2022
Posts: 745
How often do you use a external, portable solar panels?

Got an easy couple of questions :-)

For those of you that have an external portable solar panel (or panels), how often do you set them up and use them? Are they really worth the trouble/hassle to set them up and move them periodically to track the sun?
foobar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 10:29 AM   #2
Rivet Master
 
Lily&Me's Avatar

 
2007 Interstate
Normal , Illinois
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 17,510
Yes.

I’ve had one for three years, purchased at a fraction of the cost of adding solar panels to my roof.

It stores easily behind my drivers seat, and when I know I will be using it daily I just set it in the passenger seat in between deployments.

When I bought this, I had an extension cord attached to my coach battery to allow easy access and quick set up.

It is a small chore, hauling it in or out and moving it occasionally, but it charges my coach battery so that I can camp at little or no cost.

Maggie
__________________
🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚
Lily&Me is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 11:17 AM   #3
Rivet Master
 
Mollysdad's Avatar

 
2017 26' Flying Cloud
Tampa , Florida
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 6,945
Blog Entries: 1
Quote:
Originally Posted by foobar View Post
Got an easy couple of questions :-)

For those of you that have an external portable solar panel (or panels), how often do you set them up and use them? Are they really worth the trouble/hassle to set them up and move them periodically to track the sun?
Following.
On my short list is the Renogy 100 W panel suitcase.
Mollysdad is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 11:17 AM   #4
Site Team
 
richard5933's Avatar

 
1994 25' Excella
Waukesha , Wisconsin
Join Date: Sep 2020
Posts: 4,123
Images: 4
We have three folding 180-watt Zamp suitcase panels. We got them four years ago when we were still traveling in our vintage coach and now have them setup to use with our Airstream.

We have used them maybe a dozen times total, and only one of those was a time when roof-mounted solar was shaded out by trees and they were only option. The other times we just wanted to charge faster or capture more sun on a cloudy day.

They are better at catching the early morning sun and the late afternoon sun, and they are better at catching the lower sun in the fringes of our camping season. It does take a few minutes here and there throughout the day to keep them lined up with the sun, but it's not too bad.

With the Airstream we have 400 watts of solar on the roof, and we don't take the portable panels with us anymore as a rule. They only come if we have plans to boondock on a trip, and then we're likely to only bring one or two of them depending on the season.

Would I buy them again? Probably, but probably not the 180-watt panels. They are large, heavy, and I'm not a big fan of lugging them around. If I had smaller panels I'd be much more likely to set them up more often.

We do you have 50-ft cable to use to connect them to the trailer, and this has proven helpful the times we have used the panels. Ours is 6 gauge and set up with the panels in series. Your set up and distance will determine the wire size.
__________________
Richard
11018
1994 Excella 25 Follow the build on Gertie!
1999 Suburban LS 2500 w/7.4L V8
1974 GMC 4108a - Custom Coach Land Cruiser (Sold)
richard5933 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 11:25 AM   #5
3 Rivet Member
 
2021 27' International
Raleigh , North Carolina
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 185
I have 3 Renogy panels that we used on our old camper occasionally. I made a stand for them out of PVC pipe which was serviceable for our needs. When in the shade or in a spot where you can't spread out, you have to pay attention to how you setup. I haven't installed my Victron unit on the new AS yet so we use a generator for now. There are definitely times where I wish I could just put the panels out and recharge a bit but in the SE, we have a lot of tree cover pretty much wherever we go so it hasn't been a priority.

We go to a music festival frequently and camp in an open field. I would generally pick the area I wanted to be in advance on google maps to make sure that I could get a clear shot at the southern sky. Point the panels at about 180 on the compass and forget about it. I might mess with the panels in the morning and afternoon if we happened to be around and I was bored to angle them more towards the sun. Can't say if it made a huge difference. I have 20' of cable - I would get more than that if you can.

Also, I fitted Anderson PowerPole connectors to all wiring which made setup/takedown super easy. Highly recommended.
__________________
-Brad
2021 International 27FBT
BT2513 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 11:34 AM   #6
Rivet Master
 
Lily&Me's Avatar

 
2007 Interstate
Normal , Illinois
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 17,510
Quote:
Originally Posted by richard5933 View Post
Would I buy them again? Probably, but probably not the 180-watt panels. They are large, heavy, and I'm not a big fan of lugging them around. If I had smaller panels I'd be much more likely to set them up more often.
I bought the Renogy 100 watt panel because another user advised me it would be adequate for my needs, which it is, and also because its 35lb or so weight is very manageable for me.

Maggie
__________________
🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚
Lily&Me is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 11:39 AM   #7
2 Rivet Member
 
2022 20' Basecamp
Felton , California
Join Date: May 2021
Posts: 92
Quote:
Originally Posted by foobar View Post
Got an easy couple of questions :-)

For those of you that have an external portable solar panel (or panels), how often do you set them up and use them? Are they really worth the trouble/hassle to set them up and move them periodically to track the sun?
We use ours anytime we camp under the trees. Fifty to seventy five percent of the days we've camped. I haven't used the generator in the year we've had the suitcase.
JA15830 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 11:41 AM   #8
1 Rivet Member
 
2020 16' Caravel
Otown , North Carolina
Join Date: Nov 2019
Posts: 18
i have an older portable 100W suitcase panel that I seldom use. Through the years, I have found that most of my dry camping has been in at least semi-shade, and that I'm often out and about for much of the day, so adjusting the portable panel isn't going to happen. I get a bit of power from my 90W panel on the roof, and I have lithium batteries and an electric fridge. I am careful about power use, so running a small honda generator an hour or so per day keeps the batteries happy. I converted the generator to use propane, so it plugs into the trailer's external port. Very easy setup, and the generator doesn't take much more room than the portable panels. And no gas can!
neparker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 12:10 PM   #9
Rivet Master
 
gandttimes's Avatar
 
2014 25' FB International
2007 20' Safari SE
2005 19' Safari
Qualicum Beach , British Columbia
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,079
Quote:
Originally Posted by foobar View Post
Got an easy couple of questions :-)



For those of you that have an external portable solar panel (or panels), how often do you set them up and use them? Are they really worth the trouble/hassle to set them up and move them periodically to track the sun?
I have 3 renogy 100w panels on the cap of my truck with a 25ft umbilical attaching to a connector near my battery box which feeds my Solar controller inside the trailer.
I also carry and use often, a 100w Renogy suitcase which can be plugged in between the connectors at the trailer.
The truck is of course movable for the best sun in our shaded campsites here on the island and the 100w also on a 25 ft 6g cable gives me the flexibility to use all 400w, 300w or when away from camp,still use the 100w.
This summer I didn't need it much but at the sun angle changes I use it all the time to add to my charging.
Yes, definitely would buy the Renogy 100w again for the flexibility it gives.
gandttimes is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 12:23 PM   #10
Rivet Master
 
Silvr_Bullet's Avatar

 
2017 16' Sport
N/A , N/A
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 1,465
I lay my portable on the ground, I am happy with averaging the angle of the sun and not chasing it. Thats my compromise.
Silvr_Bullet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 12:36 PM   #11
Rivet Master
 
mikeinca's Avatar

 
2020 25' Globetrotter
Santa Rosa , California
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 1,470
I set up the 180W Zamp portable panel almost every time we camp since we are usually in a location that has as least some shade. I'm not obsessive about having it track the sun and usually adjust it just a couple of times a day. In combination with 400W of rooftop solar it keeps our 400Ah lithium battery string fully charged under almost all conditions.

It's a minor hassle to bring along but I like having the extra solar capacity just in case.
__________________
Mike

2020 25' Globetrotter Twin | 2017 F250 4x4 6.7 max tow Platinum
400Ah Battle Born lithium battery string | 580W solar (400W roof 180W portable)
mikeinca is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 02:37 PM   #12
Rivet Master
 
2007 16' International CCD
Vintage Kin Owner
Somewhere , Colorado
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 1,045
You have received a lot of good experience here, including that 200w panels are heavy and a hassle, you don’t need to be obsessive about tracking the sun, and an extension cable is very useful.

With regard to your question about how often do we use them, I think I speak for most of us when I say “as often as we feel the need”! Seriously, this is so dependent on so many variables that there is no simple or general answer, and the range is from never to every day.
field & stream is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 03:46 PM   #13
Rivet Master
 
2022 27' Globetrotter
DALLAS , TX
Join Date: Apr 2022
Posts: 745
Thanks for all of the responses.

I understand that the answer to my question was likely "it depends", lol.

But, in the off chance that the majority of folks bought a portable panel and then realized they never used it, I wanted to ask the question as I could save a modest bundle of $$ if portable panels were not that useful for most folks.

Likewise, if everyone used portable panels routinely, then these would go onto my long term wish list to purchase at some point.

So far, it seems like the needle on the gauge is leaning towards most folks making at least intermittent use if not frequent use of portable panels.

I'd like to hear from more folks if there are any more people that wouldn't mind taking a minute to respond.
foobar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 03:54 PM   #14
Rivet Master
 
2007 16' International CCD
Vintage Kin Owner
Somewhere , Colorado
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 1,045
A huge variable is how often and for how long you plan to camp unplugged. If your style is to be plugged in all or most of the time, then it will be of little to no use. If you want extended time off grid then solar (or a generator) is essential.
field & stream is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 04:09 PM   #15
2 Rivet Member
 
Malia20's Avatar
 
2017 20' Flying Cloud
Oriental , North Carolina
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 78
Portable Usage

I have 180 Watts on the roof and a 120Watt portable that feeds the MPPT controller in the Airstream. My normal power requirements are less than 20 Amp-hours per day. When dry camping I will start the day about 10 amp-hours down.
If it is sunny and I'm not in shade, the 180W on the roof is more than enough. But if I'm in the shade (often) and/or it is not bright sun, then I would add the portable. Recently in shady Shenandoah I was getting 2 to 3 time the watts from the (aimed) portable than I was getting from the roof. So if I know I will be or might be dry camping I bring the portable.

Having the portable go through the MPPT solar controller gets me about 20 to 25% more power than the controller that came with the panel.
Fred
Malia20 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 04:50 PM   #16
Rivet Master
 
Lily&Me's Avatar

 
2007 Interstate
Normal , Illinois
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 17,510
Quote:
Originally Posted by field & stream View Post
A huge variable is how often and for how long you plan to camp unplugged. If your style is to be plugged in all or most of the time, then it will be of little to no use. If you want extended time off grid then solar (or a generator) is essential.
Exactly.

If I have a water source and at least pit toilets, I can easily go 2 weeks unplugged, using the solar suitcase to keep my coach battery charged.

Maggie
__________________
🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚
Lily&Me is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 06:51 PM   #17
Rivet Master
 
2022 27' Globetrotter
DALLAS , TX
Join Date: Apr 2022
Posts: 745
To add a little more background, we will shortly have 700 watts of solar on the roof of our GT 27 FB Twin, a very large lithium bank 800+ah and a pair of mppt solar controllers. One for the roof array and one that is dedicated to any future portable panels that we might add.

We have a separate solar controller for any portable panels that we might add so that we don't have to worry about matching the voltage or current characteristics of the current panels on the roof.

The reason for this thread is that I am trying to decide on how useful/important portable panels are in terms of augmenting the array on the roof. I was hoping to leverage the experience of others before we invested in anything portable.

We plan to boondock for 1 - 2 weeks at a time. We hope to be camping somewhat frequently now that I'm retired.

I'll probably start with the array we have on the roof and see how well this works for us given that we expect our energy usage to be on the higher side (we have starlink and enjoy streaming movies, etc, etc).
foobar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 07:02 PM   #18
Rivet Master
 
mikeinca's Avatar

 
2020 25' Globetrotter
Santa Rosa , California
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 1,470
Quote:
Originally Posted by foobar View Post
To add a little more background, we will shortly have 700 watts of solar on the roof of our GT 27 FB Twin, a very large lithium bank 800+ah and a pair of mppt solar controllers. One for the roof array and one that is dedicated to any future portable panels that we might add.

We have a separate solar controller for any portable panels that we might add so that we don't have to worry about matching the voltage or current characteristics of the current panels on the roof.

The reason for this thread is that I am trying to decide on how useful/important portable panels are in terms of augmenting the array on the roof. I was hoping to leverage the experience of others before we invested in anything portable.

We plan to boondock for 1 - 2 weeks at a time. We hope to be camping somewhat frequently now that I'm retired.

I'll probably start with the array we have on the roof and see how well this works for us given that we expect our energy usage to be on the higher side (we have starlink and enjoy streaming movies, etc, etc).
With that size battery bank and solar array, you should have no problem boondocking for as long as you like, even if you were to be a bit of an energy hog.

The only issue might be, if you're parked in a shady campsite for a few days in a row. If you're in the shade, even 5000W on the roof won't do you any good. That's where a portable and an extension cable come in. There have been times where a portable has been the primary source for my batteries since some locations don't allow generators. A lot just depends on where you camp.
__________________
Mike

2020 25' Globetrotter Twin | 2017 F250 4x4 6.7 max tow Platinum
400Ah Battle Born lithium battery string | 580W solar (400W roof 180W portable)
mikeinca is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-23-2022, 08:49 PM   #19
BRS
2 Rivet Member
 
Phoenix , AZ
Join Date: Nov 2019
Posts: 21
Alesys

I have no roof panels. Just completed a 4 month trip thru the Rockies as far north as Banff. Rarely had electricity hook up. Never used my generator. 180 Zamp panel. Have two AGM batteries. Solar is the way to go
BRS is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2022, 10:39 AM   #20
3 Rivet Member
 
1978 31' Sovereign
Green Valley Lake , California
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 207
Absolutely.
I love shade. I also love power.
I have 4 Renogy 100w panels and 30 ' cabling for each pair.
Consider how much road time vs parked will help w ur decision. I'm 90% parked so the extra effort works for me.
SouthForkAS is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Best Quality Solar Panels & Solar Controllers to use | Opinions Wanted BoldAdventure Generators & Solar Power 54 03-17-2016 07:04 AM
How often do you use your shower | Poll Janet H General Repair Forum 96 02-13-2016 08:18 AM
How often do you use your genny? gowyn Generators & Solar Power 26 02-13-2008 08:25 AM
How often do small TT owners use the inside shower? Rog0525 Sinks, Showers & Toilets 32 09-23-2006 03:33 PM
How often do you use your Airstream? kamadeca On The Road... 7 03-25-2003 08:21 PM


Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Disclaimer:

This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Airstream, Inc. or any of its affiliates. Airstream is a registered trademark of Airstream Inc. All rights reserved. Airstream trademark used under license to Social Knowledge LLC.



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:50 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.