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Old 03-03-2012, 12:04 AM   #1
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Off Grid Solar Trailer

I want to go this route and I think I could live "green" in a trailer using equipment similar to what's in this video. I would rather not deal with propane & generators. This is an example of how it can be done so I thought I'd post it here in case others are thinking the same thing & maybe knowledgeable folks can help each other. I also saw the cutest little solar movie theater. Check it out. The Sol Cinema - World's smallest solar movie theatre - Home

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Old 03-03-2012, 01:39 AM   #2
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Silverwoman, thank what ever gods there are we are off the guns and protection dog bs. My wife and I have stayed several times over the past few years in an off the grid yurt. Its pretty cool to be sitting on the deck, ice clinking in our cocktails, listening to Van Morrison while the nearest power pole is 16 miles away.

The yurt has solar electricity, propane for the fridge and instant hot water. The yurt also has a karioke system installed with the audio. Alas, no matter how many drinks my wife had I couldn't get her to sing any of her ABBA "favorites"! I was revved up to hear her sing "Dancing Queen"!!!! In the middle of nowhere, loud and off key!
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:21 AM   #3
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There are lots of threads on the topic of solar power ... a little searching will get you to them. I think most people (I'm included) find that solar will easily power an Airstream if your electric needs are modest (i.e. no electric air conditioning, coffee pot, hair dryer, etc.). For heat in colder climates, however, that propane furnace works pretty well and keeps the tanks from freezing.

The biggest issue in going totally "off grid" with a trailer (and no generator) seems to me to be water / sewer. And while you can build a septic system to deal with sewage, getting pure water implies a well, and that reuqires a pump. Depending upon the depth of your water table, you can supply a trailer via an old-fashioned hand pump ... but if you go electric, a well pump can be a BIG electric drain. But even so, it CAN be done. Takes some planning and ingenuity, but you can do it if you want.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:08 AM   #4
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I built a house on 40 acres in northern AZ. We had a huge Onan for our shop (my X was a knife & sword maker & he ground steel) generator for backup on cloudy days, solar panels, large battery bank, hauled water & used a wood burning stove for heat so I have some experience with being off grid. I had a wringer washer & propane fridge.

I was thinking a small windmill, solar, gravity feed solar water, 12 volt & propane. It could also hook up to shore power if I want to. I know batteries are heavy but I plan to keep the weight down in my interior design. A 12 volt fridge/cooler & a grill for outdoor cooking & a 50 gallon water barrel in my tow vehicle.

Any one with designs or recommendations on equipment needed for going this route would be appreciated & I'm doing off forum research - I'll share as I go along. Still looking at all the solar posts here too. There's several Youtube videos on this also.
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:12 PM   #5
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re: "thank what ever gods there are we are off the guns and protection dog bs" -- uh, ok - not so nice to see such intolerance for others interests IMHO.

The key to this issue starts with a good referent. One such is that typical household electrical energy use is about 30 kWh/day (and up). An RV seldom has room for much more than about 500 watts of solar panels so its potential comes out to about one or two kWh/day. When matched to a battery bank, which would be about a pound per watt of solar, to handle contingencies and reserves, you start to push the RV limits.

re: "solar will easily power an Airstream if your electric needs are modest" -- it appears that "modest" here is something like an order of magnitude in reduction of energy use supporting a lifestyle.

re: "The biggest issue in going totally "off grid" with a trailer (and no generator) seems to me to be water / sewer." -- water supply, especially. Environmental concerns can also be a big issue as no A/C in the desert in summer or no heat in the cold north in winter are issues many face.
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:20 PM   #6
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Wow, a very big and ambitious dream.

Good for you, and good luck!


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Old 03-03-2012, 02:51 PM   #7
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Sun

Remember when your up on the rim above Payson under the pines you dont get much sun when the panels are mounted to your trailer.It is ok in Q but under the pines I keep mine where they can be moved into the sun.
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:50 PM   #8
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I'll be moving to mild climates so I might spend the winters in AZ or southern CA and then go north - like Payson - for the summers. If needs or power usage was minimal by using 12V & LED & the battery bank was adequate & I think I could get enough solar panels on the roof, which is steel ( my Schult is all steel - just confirmed that when I picked it up today ) & had a windmill (don't know how I could transport it ) for cloudy days - determine power needs, decide on the best off grid system. Air conditioning & heat can run on solar & if I keep the interior very light weight, I can have enough batteries. It's a single axle. I know very little but have specific ideas so I have to ask other people. My son & son-in-law are very knowledgeable on everything except solar - my son understands enough to do the work. He said we could series wire 12V so I could hook up to 110 when I wanted. In the 1st few minutes of this video this guy talks about the batteries he bought. So something on a smaller scale for a trailer is doable.
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Old 03-04-2012, 11:42 AM   #9
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Everyone's got an opinion - here's mine

Silverwoman: your goal is aggressive - I like it! I have similar goals and learned a lot on my first Airstream before it bit the dust.

I think a genny is required - it's a great "backstop" when wind and sun aren't enough.

Wind - it's cheap so long as you have enough wind. I messed with putting a mast on my first AS but, once I started paying attention, there wasn't much wind in the places I was living

Solar - as long as you're okay with the aesthetics, just cover your trailer in panels and bask in (relatively) free power.

Batteries - if you want to live off solar/wind, you'll need good storage. The last video you posted involved lead-acid batteries - VERY heavy gear for a single-axle trailer. If you're willing to be a pioneer (i.e. deal with the shortcomings and challenges), you should consider a Lithium battery bank. These guys have some great info on all the pro's and con's of Lithium - Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs | Technomadia

Good luck! Don't take any crap off anyone - just go and do it! Problems will come up no matter how much you plan; just be ready to adjust and improve as things come up.
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Old 03-05-2012, 08:00 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by jeffreez View Post
Silverwoman: your goal is aggressive - I like it! I have similar goals and learned a lot on my first Airstream before it bit the dust.

I think a genny is required - it's a great "backstop" when wind and sun aren't enough.

Wind - it's cheap so long as you have enough wind. I messed with putting a mast on my first AS but, once I started paying attention, there wasn't much wind in the places I was living

Solar - as long as you're okay with the aesthetics, just cover your trailer in panels and bask in (relatively) free power.

Batteries - if you want to live off solar/wind, you'll need good storage. The last video you posted involved lead-acid batteries - VERY heavy gear for a single-axle trailer. If you're willing to be a pioneer (i.e. deal with the shortcomings and challenges), you should consider a Lithium battery bank. These guys have some great info on all the pro's and con's of Lithium - Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs | Technomadia

Good luck! Don't take any crap off anyone - just go and do it! Problems will come up no matter how much you plan; just be ready to adjust and improve as things come up.
Awesome! That's exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Thanks! Here's something I found also. The solar energy supply system was also designed as a low voltage DC system that eliminated the need for an inverter to produce conventional 220v ac. They use lithium ion batteries & 120W solar panels to run a small LED movie theater. http://www.thesolcinema.org/index.html
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Old 03-05-2012, 08:03 AM   #11
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re: "Wind - it's cheap so long as ... cover your trailer in panels and bask in (relatively) free power. ... consider a Lithium battery bank"

wealth is nice and it can buy you many things.

but to claim 'cheap' or 'free' or the wonders of options that cost an order of magnitude (or more) than the alternatives isn't in line with practical reality. Of course, that goes with the admonition "don't take crap off anyone" which is a bit of a reminder that one needs to know what "crap" is being offered.

When it comes to off grid power, terms such as cheap or free do not apply either to the initial cost nor to the ongoing lifestyle adjustments and costs.
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Old 03-05-2012, 08:29 AM   #12
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All the equipment is costly so finding deals is key. The guy in the video above got a good deal. I'm only at the education & planning stages. Trying to see what is possible. The technology advances too quickly to keep up with but I'm a science/technology geek so I spend a lot of time learning about all science & technology.

I have a 1950 all steel single axle 8x26' trailer that's gutted, ready to start from scratch with it so as long as the weight distribution is right. The simpler I make it - the more I will "rough it". I will be economically limited so will rely on pure luck when it comes to finding the deals.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:21 AM   #13
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Remember that solar storage batteries are not light, and single axle trailers were never designed to carry this kind of weight.
In the video with the 10 batteries, that is 1300# just for the batteries. This is not something you are going to rig up to be mobile.
If you own a boondock lot you can put up a shed similar to that in the video, but chances are when you are not there, all that stuff will walk away mysteriously. Copper is a easy cash source. (locally they stole, at night, the copper wire off the bottom of locomotive that is used everyday)

If you are interested in adding a lot of extras to your RV? and you are just still looking, I suggest you try to source a HD frame or chassis that has the potential to add more to it. Very few RV's are overbuilt to allow major additions, beyond the showroom bling items, that sell the unit.
Most motorhomes, weight wise, are also limited to just what the factory installed.
Put your plan on paper first, before you invest in a lot of extras that will cost you a fortune on other unrelated maintenance and upgrades.

Your single axle 26' steel trailer will never stand up to many additions other than the basic. It probably is almost maxed out gutted.
What about putting a tandem axle frame under it to start, and then you have something to build on.

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Old 03-05-2012, 10:27 AM   #14
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This article is great Jeff posted - they researched it for RV's - everything like weight is addressed including cost analysis. Anyone interested can read it. Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs | Technomadia
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:29 AM   #15
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Just some side notes:

* Windmill for cloudy days -- Many areas in Arizona and California have very little wind. If present, it is not strong or consistent enough for power generation.

* Air conditioning & heat can run on solar -- AC and radiant or resistance heaters need a lot of current, and it is unlikely that a small solar/battery system will be able to produce and/or store enough energy. One that can provide the power would be very expensive and large/heavy.

* (My son) ... said we could series wire 12V so I could hook up to 110 when I wanted." -- 110-volt appliances are AC (alternating current) devices and will not work on 110 volts DC (direct current), so wiring batteries in series to produce 110 volts (DC) will not work. For this purpose, you will need an "inverter". Working with AC voltages presents a whole new set of safety problems. Also, a small inverter will not produce enough power for a microwave, resistance heater, hair dryer, and certainly not enough for an air conditioner. And, the solar panels and batteries you have described would probably not power a larger inverter that would be needed for these appliances; at least; not for very long.

A green trailer is achievable, but I think that some Internet research and a few solar/alternate energy seminars would provide a lot of information on the technical options currently available. A lot of the things we see on TV are geared around off-grid homes, which don't have the "portability" restrictions that RVs have.

I don't mean to dampen your spirits, and wish you luck in finding a solution that will work for you...

Note: Sorry for duplicating some of the comments above. I was busy typing when the others were sent.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:58 AM   #16
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From a practical standpoint you can put perhaps a maximum of 500 watts worth of panels on your trailer as has been mentioned.
A good rule of thumb is you will use around 40 amp hours a day for lighting, TV, roof vents etc.

You can not do refrigeration, or heating without the use of propane. As an example one of the electric coolers pulls about 4 amps continuously or 96 amp hours a day.

Air conditioning is out of the question with out a generator.

I don't mean to put a damper on your plans but a 30 lb bottle of propane would run your gas fridge and do your cooking for about 3 weeks.
a 50 lb battery would run the electric cooler for 1 day with out a complete recharge.



We use 250 watts of solar and do quite well with a small tv, ham radio gear, LED lighting and satellite radio, Our consumption runs around 30 amp hours per day. We have 2 6 volt golf cart batteries and there are cloudy days when we don't get all of it back. There would be little point in adding batteries without increasing the size of the array charging them and we are about out of real estate on the 24 footers roof.

What you are trying to do might be doable in a home installation , but is not practical with in the constraints imposed by a trailer.

We have been boondocking on solar for 12 years and like it however it is necessary to understand its limitations.
From a cost standpoint it isn't cheap either. Far more costly than a generator.
On the other hand it is quiet and maintenance free, other than buying a bottle of windex every now and then.

Written from our solar powered trailer.
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Old 03-05-2012, 04:06 PM   #17
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This is a portable solar unit with batteries weighing 300 pounds you could put in the truck bed to haul - RV'ers can consider.

!
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Old 03-05-2012, 04:22 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post
Just some side notes:

* Windmill for cloudy days -- Many areas in Arizona and California have very little wind. If present, it is not strong or consistent enough for power generation.

* Air conditioning & heat can run on solar -- AC and radiant or resistance heaters need a lot of current, and it is unlikely that a small solar/battery system will be able to produce and/or store enough energy. One that can provide the power would be very expensive and large/heavy.

* (My son) ... said we could series wire 12V so I could hook up to 110 when I wanted." -- 110-volt appliances are AC (alternating current) devices and will not work on 110 volts DC (direct current), so wiring batteries in series to produce 110 volts (DC) will not work. For this purpose, you will need an "inverter". Working with AC voltages presents a whole new set of safety problems. Also, a small inverter will not produce enough power for a microwave, resistance heater, hair dryer, and certainly not enough for an air conditioner. And, the solar panels and batteries you have described would probably not power a larger inverter that would be needed for these appliances; at least; not for very long.

A green trailer is achievable, but I think that some Internet research and a few solar/alternate energy seminars would provide a lot of information on the technical options currently available. A lot of the things we see on TV are geared around off-grid homes, which don't have the "portability" restrictions that RVs have.

I don't mean to dampen your spirits, and wish you luck in finding a solution that will work for you...

Note: Sorry for duplicating some of the comments above. I was busy typing when the others were sent.
There's options & alternatives for heat & cooking. Here's one for cooking & if you eat smoothies or vegan or raw you can also have small outdoor charcoal grill ( I just bought a really cool tower charcoal grill with a bright orange enamel dome top I plan on keeping.)
1300-Watt Induction Cooktop Amazon.com: Spt 1300-Watt Induction Cooktop, Silver: Appliances
A back up is needed but deciding what that would be & it would be preferable to not have a generator or propane for me. A small wind turbine could be a green back up & if your home is portable, you can go where there's a good wind, maybe in between valleys?
I don't need an oven or microwave or hairdryer so I have to make adjustments like when I lived off grid before. Just like you do when you're RV ing.
Did you look at lithium ion batteries? They're much lighter & non toxic so they don't need to vent like the batteries RV's use.
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Old 03-19-2012, 07:35 PM   #19
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We have an older Solar Panel that works great on our 69' G.T. as long as I keep it mobile with a 25' cord to track the sun. To extend our battery life I am looking for in cabin LED bulbs that will fit the old 12.Volt fixtures. Is there such a bulb and if so where can I find them?

Thanks,

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Old 03-19-2012, 10:43 PM   #20
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We have an older Solar Panel that works great on our 69' G.T. as long as I keep it mobile with a 25' cord to track the sun. To extend our battery life I am looking for in cabin LED bulbs that will fit the old 12.Volt fixtures. Is there such a bulb and if so where can I find them?

Thanks,

gnmostream
I don't know the answer but did you try these threads?

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