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Old 07-31-2003, 12:02 AM   #1
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1962 19' Globetrotter
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Help please with opinions, ideas

Howdy folks...needing some advice. After owning 3 Airstreams it looks like I might be buying my first Avion. Praying that all goes well this time. It's a late 50's T-20. What I'd like to know is this. The frig and hwh are 110v. I'd like to make the trailer as self contained as possible... would like to use solar panels to power the electric part of the unit. Do any of you have any experience with this? There is no bathroom (yeah!) tired of the floor problems caused by bathrooms.

There will be very little electrical usage on the trailer but when there is any it sure would be nice to go solar. I'm also hoping to do a small rainwater catchment system. Sort of making this a 'rolling eco demo' trailer while doing the "Myrtles' Garden" project: "". Then there just has to be a groovin' neon sign somewhere. I have some good resources for the rainwater thingy, but using solar on a trailer is a different bird for me. Any and all ideas, suggestions, whatever are greatly appreciated. If you have any photos PLEASE post them. That helps tremendously. God Bless to all and hope you are having a great week! Roze
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Old 07-31-2003, 06:06 AM   #2
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I have 2 panels on my motorhome and consider them a supplement. A good inverter is 90% efficient. If there is a 12 volt version of a light, fan, etc. that should be used over the 120 volt version, you are saving at least 10% just by making that choice.
The refrigerator and hot water heater are enough to kill the idea of solar for me. Gas is the only way to go for them. It would probably take more panels than you have roof space to mount them to run these, and a big battery bank.

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Old 07-31-2003, 07:05 AM   #3
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Help please with opinion, ideas

Greetings Roze!

I agree with John in regard to your hope to operate a 110 AC refrigerator and water heater on a solar system. You would likely end up overloading your coach with the battery bank that would be required to supply the necessary energy for those two appliances, and I don't know where you would find the room for the necessary solar panels on the roof of a 20 foot trailer. The alternative that I pursued with my '64 Overlander was:

1.) AJ Solar installed three solar panels (two 50 Watt and one 75 Watt) along with a Trace Inverter and control system.

2.) Ace Fogdall RV installed a new Dometic 3-way RV Refrigerator, and new Atwood LP water heater.

I dislike propane appliances, and have only operated the refrigerator on propane for a grand total of 3 hours in three years. It has been operated nearly exclusively on 12-volt with initial cool down being on 115-volt AC. I find the refrigerator to be entirely satsifactory on 12-volt (once initial cool-down has been taken care of).

The solar system has been quite satisfactory on my coach, but my goal was less ambitious than yours. My intent was to have the coach such that I could live comfortably without utility connections for at most four days - - and in most cases no more than three days. My electric use includes a 13" 12-volt color television/VCR, satellite receiver (115-volt AC), Dometic 3-way Refrigerator (12-volt), water pump, two Fantastic Vent fans (12-volt), two Endless Breeze Fans (12-volt), original incandescent lighting (12-volt), and ocassional use of Suburban Furnace (12-volt for fan and circuit board). I have yet to completely deplete the available energy in the bank of three gel cell batteries even though I do not pay particular attention to the power that I use when camped without utility connections.

Good luck with your decision!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC #7864
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
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Old 07-31-2003, 12:58 PM   #4
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You know, I have a dual battery setup and I have been out boondocking for over 6 days. Now I did not use a TV, but I had the stereo on, lights, pump, very much.

Throughout the trip, the batt indicator was 100%. At the end of the vacation, before we went home, it was still at 100%. Of course while towing the car's alternator charged it up. I regularly check and maintain the battery water levels and charges. They are new and I'd expect them to drop off a bit as they age, but I gotta say that if I needed more, I might pass on going solar and getting a very small Honda generator. I actually saw one in action and they are very, very quite and very small. The 1000 seems like the one I'm leaning toward if I do actually do something.

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Old 07-31-2003, 02:07 PM   #5
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Honda 1000 ...

is a fine little generator. I carry mine under the rolling bed cover of my pickup and run it right there. Very quiet and relaiable.
John W. Irwin
2018 Interstate GT, "Sabre-Dog V"
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Old 08-01-2003, 05:32 PM   #6
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WOW thanks for the great advice folks. Seems like 12V is the way to go. One good option is doing a solar water heating panel on the roof that would send heated stuff to a storage tank. Maybe something collapsable that could be used on sight at it's full size ...any ideas?

Hey on the solar systems y'all are recommending... can you give a spec sheet or descriptive layout here of exactly what parts, what order and how they are hooked up? Any photos. I read a lot about solar for homes but again for a trailer this will be new. I pretty much follow what you are talking about but maybe a little schematic drawing if you could doodle up one would help? Only if you have time though. This is not a rush job. I don't even have the trailer just yet.

I am posting a "what it looks like now" shot of the rear interior view and a much barrowed imagery rendition with a LOT of tweeking in Photoshop on my part to give some idea of what the interior might look like. Take a peek and let me know what you think. The URL is: the bottom 3 links will be the Photoshop rendition of 'before' 'during' and 'after' or 'hopefully after' shots. FYI this is NOT what the trailer looks like inside right now. Just some ideas. Thanks a million. I should have those photos up in about 30 minutes if the storm doesn't knock out our power. Peace!!!
God Bless! Roze
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Old 08-01-2003, 08:56 PM   #7
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Solar for trailers is just a smaller sized home solar system. Solar cells, controller, batteries and an inverter. If you have studied home systems you have a trailer system down.

One consideration of the hot water system will be a circulating pump. It is going to draw a lot of power for the benefit you will get. Really the best way to go is a propane water heater. Batteries don't really store a lot of power and anything you can do to transfer power usage to another power source will extend battery life.

Same for the refrigerator, go propane.

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