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Author Topic: boondocking pnw solar considerations  (Read 2032 times)


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boondocking pnw solar considerations
« on: November 17, 2016, 07:18:54 PM »
I just purchased my Northwood Fox Creek and would like to start making plans to be boondocking capable.  I will be by myself most of the time, using basic lights, a few small fans, charging a tablet and phone, cooking with one electric appliance at a time which are yet to be determined and running heat/an electric blanket.  I was thinking of using a 480 watt solar set up (though this is an estimate, I still need to do the actual math).  What I'm wondering is since I'm primarily in the PNW where there is a lot of cloud cover in the winter should I looking at getting something bigger than that to compensate for the cloud cover to make sure I always have enough.  Or could I count on a portable setup to set up as backup on cloudy days?  Are there any manufacturers that you recommend?

Len and Jo

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Re: boondocking pnw solar considerations
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2016, 10:15:43 PM »
To be honest "basic", "small" has really no meaning.  You must know your Kwh needs per day to estimate solar needs.  Also the size of your batter bank to store the energy that supplies your backup for those days the sun is not providing any significant energy.  Then you must factor in location differences.  Spokane in the winter can easily get just 15% of the solar energy that Phoenix gets in the summer.  So panels that put out 480 watts in the summer in Phoenix will likely only put out 70 watts in the winter in Spokane. 

Goggle:  Solar Radiation Data Manual for Flat-Plate and Concentrating Collectors   Solar panel efficiency these days is about 14%.  So every Kw of solar energy reaching a panel yields about 0.14Kw of electricity (of witch lead acid batteries in turn are 90% efficient at storing.

see  http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,100419.0.html
« Last Edit: November 17, 2016, 10:46:34 PM by Len and Jo »
Len & Jo
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Lou Schneider

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Re: boondocking pnw solar considerations
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2016, 10:21:42 PM »
Here's a good starting point - a solar insolation map from NREL.  Input the month you're concerned about and the mounting position of your panel (flat or tilted) and it will tell you how much solar energy it will collect.   This is the raw solar energy, you'll have to use your panel's rated efficiency to estimate how much electricity you'll get from it.  Most polycrystalline panels are about 15% efficient, for example if your location has 2000 watt-hours (2KWh) of solar insolation per day shining on the panel you'll get about 30 watt-hours a day out of the panel.

Winter months in the Northwest look pretty bleak for solar power.   Panels will produce some power under cloudy skies, but not nearly as much as panels under a full sun.  You'll have that plus shorter days in the winter working against you.

As to how much power you'll get in your location on a particular day, all you can do is give it a try.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2016, 10:34:53 PM by Lou Schneider »


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Re: boondocking pnw solar considerations
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2016, 08:23:51 AM »
Electric blankets, heating and cooking appliances will drain your batteries fast.  If you use a modified sine wave inverter, it can fry your electric blanket. 

We have 6  batteries and 3 solar panels.  We also have a generator..  Unless the generator is running, I don't use any electrical cooking appliances, especially the microwave.  My rice cooker is an exception; it draws very few amps.

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John Hilley

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Re: boondocking pnw solar considerations
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2016, 10:17:38 PM »
I live in NE North Dakota. I have 605 watts of solar panels mounted flat. I get about 230 watts of power on a clear day at noon at this time of year. On a cloudy day about 30 watts. You could tilt and move around portable panels to gather as much solar power as possible,
2003 Winnebago Adventurer 38G
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Re: boondocking pnw solar considerations
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2016, 12:49:57 PM »
In addition to what has already been suggested, I would before buying any extra batteries and solar equipment, install a good battery monitor and use your rig, keeping an eye on how many amps you are using over the course of a day.  Then you will have a much better idea of how large a battery bank and solar power you will need.
Regards, Bruce, Lin An, Kenji & Suki
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