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Author Topic: Real World Results- 35' Class A -What Size Solar Set Up to Really Make a Impact  (Read 803 times)

X-Roughneck

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  • 2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
I would like to hear from some board members who have installed a solar array on a 31-35' Class A motor home.  But would welcome any RV'rs real world stories in any size application if they are willing to share.  If possible can the detail a list of real world positive results they are achieving as opposed to the standard inverter with a set of house batteries.  My questions are: Is Solar worth the upfront cost?  What size of a system did you install on your 31-35' class A?  What are the noticed expanded capabilities?  Is solar something only boondokers should really consider installing?  Did you install Lithium 100 Amp Hour 12 Volt to take the charge off the solar panels or can it be tied in to the lead house batts?  Finally am interested for your scenario did you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?

Merry Christmas Everyone.

May 2019 Bring you the best.

JD
« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 07:38:55 AM by Back2PA »
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

AStravelers

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I am not sure what your background is in RV electrical systems, batteries, charging systems, etc.  So I'll start with links to very good info about RV systems:
http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm
http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volta.htm

Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G
2009 Chevy Colorado 4X4
650 watts residential solar panels--400AH Lithium batteries

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

AStravelers

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  • Posts: 1363
  • Part time travelers, 4-8 months each year.
I would like to hear from some board members who have installed a solar array on a 31-35' Class A motor home.  But would welcome any RV'rs real world stories in any size application if they are willing to share.  If possible can the detail a list of real world positive results they are achieving as opposed to the standard inverter with a set of house batteries.  My questions are: Is Solar worth the upfront cost?  What size of a system did you install on your 31-35' class A?  What are the noticed expanded capabilities?  Is solar something only boondokers should really consider installing?  Did you install Lithium 100 Amp Hour 12 Volt to take the charge off the solar panels or can it be tied in to the lead house batts?  Finally am interested for your scenario did you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?
JD
Real world positive results----Alaska trip in 2016, 137 out of 139 days w/o electric hookups.  Only ran the generator to charge the batteries once for about 1.5 hours.  Except for the 2 days in an RV Park where we had electric hookups we dry camped or boondocked.  Average camping cost per day was about $7.50 versus $40-$50 for RV Parks.

Is Solar worth the upfront cost?---Yes, but only if you use it.  If you are w/o elect for 1-3 days and then back on electric hookups then, "No it is not cost effective". 

Lithium?---If you dry camp or boondock for many consecutive days and for a large number of days in a year (45-150 days/year) then lithium is an excellent option.

Do you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?  Yes, absolutely!  I have a pair of residential solar panels on a 30' Class A (moving to a 36' Class A).  Each panel is 325 watts for a total of 650 watts. 60 amp solar controller, 400AH (Amp Hour) of lithium, and a 2000 watt inverter/charger.

Did you install Lithium 100 Amp Hour 12 Volt to take the charge off the solar panels or can it be tied in to the lead house batts? Solar can be tied into lead acid house batteries.  It really depends on usage and how much power you use per day.   Info in the links I gave above will help you understand power usage.
Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G
2009 Chevy Colorado 4X4
650 watts residential solar panels--400AH Lithium batteries

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

Gary RV_Wizard

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ASTravelers gave about as good an answer as is possible without much more info from you.  The major factors are how much time do you camp off-grid (boondock), what is your daily power consumption (amp-hours), and how much sunlight is available where you camp. You will want enough battery capacity to store the power you need each day (plus some reserve),and enough solar panel wattage to replace what you use each day. Until you can make some credible estimates for those factors, any solar size question is shear guesswork.

Lithium vs Lead:  Lithium batteries are lighter and can be discharged more deeply without negative effects.  The deeper discharge capability means it has more usable AH than Lead, so you will need fewer total AH in your battery bank. The downside is the much greater upfront cost.
Gary
--------------
Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

X-Roughneck

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  • 2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
Thanks for the replies from all of you guys.  Our goal is to rent out the paid for house.  That cash coupled with Military Retirement we hope to stay on the road 3 years from 59-62 then either come back and fully retire or possibly stay out on the road for 6 to 12 month periods beyond that.  We want to see as much of the USA as we can and actually enjoy life and get out of the rat race.  Set up and spend a couple weeks or longer in areas.   We need to be as cash / cost effective as we can.  The BLM and Boondocking is an option we would like to experience.  We do have the option of extended stays at Military campgrounds at great prices but again there is cost.
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

X-Roughneck

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  • 2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
Astravelers answered: Do you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?  Yes, absolutely!  I have a pair of residential solar panels on a 30' Class A (moving to a 36' Class A).  Each panel is 325 watts for a total of 650 watts. 60 amp solar controller, 400AH (Amp Hour) of lithium, and a 2000 watt inverter/charger.

AStravelers, couple of quick follow on questions to your answer above.  The solar you have is in addition to the Inverter and house battery set up that probably came with the coach?  The solar is the (Second) Independent source to include collection and battery charging?

And when you boondocked and are operating off battery power only are you able to run the Air Conditioner, or is that even possible?  I am definitely not electrically minded, but I would think the battery sources are for TV, Re-fridge and normal appliances only.

I want to be on the move avoiding hot weather seasonally and don't think I would be boondocking in 100 Degree weather, but just want to ask. 
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

Isaac-1

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When it comes to sizing a solar panel setup, more is better, it also depends on where you are time of year, etc.  Having said that I feel the minimal size solar array you should consider for occasional off grid camping would be in the 300-400 watt range, with bigger being better.  Anything under 300 watts and even with active energy conservation you will still find yourself running a generator to make up for the  battery drain of basic loads (refrigerator logic board, basic LED lighting, furnace blower at night, ...)
2002 Safari Trek 2830

Alfa38User

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And NO, you cannot likely run an air conditioner using an inverter in most cases. They draw a LOT of power. You need a generator to do that.

The fridge and water heater would have to be run using the propane option. The battery required for those control boards is quite minimal. The furnace is a very high draw but the other "normal" appliances will depend on exactly which ones you mean by that.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 10:24:35 AM by Alfa38User »
Stu
Montréal, Canada 🍁
Snowbird, Naples Florida
Alfa Gold 38 (2000) 5ver (parked!)

"Of course I talk to myself, sometimes I need expert advise!!!"

garyb1st

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Real world positive results----Alaska trip in 2016, 137 out of 139 days w/o electric hookups.  Only ran the generator to charge the batteries once for about 1.5 hours.  Except for the 2 days in an RV Park where we had electric hookups we dry camped or boondocked.  Average camping cost per day was about $7.50 versus $40-$50 for RV Parks.

AStraveler, did you ever post about your Alaskan trip?  Would like to see pix and other info on where you camped.  Also your process for finding places to spend the night.  We are planning an Alaskan trip and may be gone for 4 months.  Don't have solar now but are thinking about it. 
Gary B1st

2005 Pace Arrow 35G
2016 Jeep Wrangler


Poverty exists not because we cannot feed the poor, but because we cannot satisfy the rich.

Frank B

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And NO, you cannot likely run an air conditioner using an inverter in most cases. They draw a LOT of power. You need a generator to do that.

The fridge and water heater would have to be run using the propane option. The battery required for those control boards is quite minimal. The furnace is a very high draw but the other "normal" appliances will depend on exactly which ones you mean by that.


That is beginning to change.  With an electronic soft start unit on our 1350 watt Coleman air conditioner, we can easily run our air conditioner off our 2000 watt Honda generator, or even our 2500 watt inverter. I would probably require more battery bank if I ran it for several hours at a time, however.  It all depends on how the system is designed.
Linux:  Free, open, elegant.
06 GMC 3500 Duramax crew/long pulling 2010 Arctic Fox 30U with 1700 lb Reese Titan Class 5.
1.2 kw solar

Frank B

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I would like to hear from some board members who have installed a solar array on a 31-35' Class A motor home.  But would welcome any RV'rs real world stories in any size application if they are willing to share.  If possible can the detail a list of real world positive results they are achieving as opposed to the standard inverter with a set of house batteries.  My questions are: Is Solar worth the upfront cost?  What size of a system did you install on your 31-35' class A?  What are the noticed expanded capabilities?  Is solar something only boondokers should really consider installing?  Did you install Lithium 100 Amp Hour 12 Volt to take the charge off the solar panels or can it be tied in to the lead house batts?  Finally am interested for your scenario did you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?

Merry Christmas Everyone.

May 2019 Bring you the best.

JD


Have a look at what we did.

http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,106669.0.html

I am not a technician, although I do have some background in high school Electronics back in the 60s. I did this install myself, with some help from the people here. Quite honestly, solar installations are not rocket science.

We have a 30 foot travel trailer, with standard RV appliances. We do not have a Residential Refrigerator. I do have a 1350 watt Coleman air conditioner on the roof, and with the addition of an electronic soft start controller, I am able to run that air conditioner off our Solar. I have not tried it for hours at a time, but I know at present that it does run. As you say, if you aren't camping in 100 degree weather, you won't need it anyway. We seldom use ours, as we are snowbirds.


http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php/topic,115568.msg1044798.html#msg1044798

A lot will depend on the size of your battery bank, and how much you want to spend. We have lead golf cart batteries, and I never intended to run the air conditioner off the solar. I just found out quite by accident that after installing the soft start electronic device on the air conditioner that it would run off the inverter.

On our unit, running an air conditioner during the day in the direct sunlight means that about 50% of the power will come from the batteries, and the rest will come directly from the solar array on the roof.  My array will generate somewhat in excess of 50 amps in direct sunlight, with the panels flat mounted on the roof.  If you plan on running the air conditioner into the evening, now you may end up with a problem.

As to whether we are happy with the results compared to the upfront cost, yes, I am very happy. In fact, it is doing better than I had expected. We Boondock most of the time from December through March in Arizona and Southern California. We have never run out of power, despite my efforts to use it all up. :-)

I deliberately covered as much of the roof with solar panels as I could. No one ever complains of having too much solar. Even though my system is, by conventional standards, solar heavy, I wanted it that way. We get useful charge even on cloudy or rainy days with an 'excessive' amount of solar on the roof. We also went with higher voltage residential style panels. They tend to be cheaper per watt, and are readily available.

Hopefully, solarman and Kevin Means will weigh in here shortly. Kevin has a unit much like yours, with a residential fridge. He can give you some practical input.



« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 06:34:00 PM by Frank B »
Linux:  Free, open, elegant.
06 GMC 3500 Duramax crew/long pulling 2010 Arctic Fox 30U with 1700 lb Reese Titan Class 5.
1.2 kw solar

X-Roughneck

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  • 2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
Thanks Frank.  Right now we are in the exploratory phase and getting our strategy together with help from this board prior to making our purchase.  There is a wealth of info here and we are very thankful that people are willing to share their experiences and knowledge.  We appreciate everybody's input. 

JD
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

Koodog

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  • Onto the next chapter....
I've got a portable 200 watt unit.
Very happy with it and reasonably priced.
Does what I need it to.
I figured it was a good place to start.
Having 2 different RV's I just take it with me in whatever RV I decide to use.
06 Itasca Horizon FD
Cummins 400 hp
2003 Jeep Liberty Toad
Walt & Terry Sanford

Frank B

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Thanks Frank.  Right now we are in the exploratory phase and getting our strategy together with help from this board prior to making our purchase.  There is a wealth of info here and we are very thankful that people are willing to share their experiences and knowledge.  We appreciate everybody's input. 

JD


That sounds wise to me. However, when it does come time to plunk the money on the table, do have a look at residential style high voltage panels. I think that was the best decision I made in the whole design.
Linux:  Free, open, elegant.
06 GMC 3500 Duramax crew/long pulling 2010 Arctic Fox 30U with 1700 lb Reese Titan Class 5.
1.2 kw solar

AStravelers

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  • Part time travelers, 4-8 months each year.
Astravelers answered: Do you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?  Yes, absolutely!  I have a pair of residential solar panels on a 30' Class A (moving to a 36' Class A).  Each panel is 325 watts for a total of 650 watts. 60 amp solar controller, 400AH (Amp Hour) of lithium, and a 2000 watt inverter/charger.

AStravelers, couple of quick follow on questions to your answer above.  The solar you have is in addition to the Inverter and house battery set up that probably came with the coach?  The solar is the (Second) Independent source to include collection and battery charging?

And when you boondocked and are operating off battery power only are you able to run the Air Conditioner, or is that even possible?  I am definitely not electrically minded, but I would think the battery sources are for TV, Re-fridge and normal appliances only.

I want to be on the move avoiding hot weather seasonally and don't think I would be boondocking in 100 Degree weather, but just want to ask.
I have not read all the later replies since you asked these question which may or may not have already answered the questions.  I'll go ahead and reply.

Your questions are good and pretty specific.  The questions also indicate you are pretty much starting out on this journey of living off the grid in a RV.  There are lots of trade off and variables in living w/o electric hookups.  Also lots of stuff about drinking water and your sewer system usage and disposal that come into play with boondocking. 

It is a learning project to just start RV'ing, much less starting to living off the grid (boondocking). 

Don't get me wrong.  It is great to be independent, and live off the grid in a RV.  Great freedom to go were you want, when you want.  It just takes a bit of learning and a lot of reading and learning by the hard knocks of experience.

Back to answers:
-- The solar you have is in addition to the Inverter and house battery set up that probably came with the coach?     No not in my system.  A lot depends on the inverter and batteries that were installed in RV when you bought it.  Some of this is answered (but not directly) in the links I provided earlier.  The quick answer is, you can't mix different battery sizes and types as well as age of batteries.
-- The solar is the (Second) Independent source to include collection and battery charging?  Solar is used to put power back in the batteries when the sun is shinning. Generally it is used when you don't have elect hookups.  Some systems are best used by running the generator for an hour or so in the morning to put some power (charge) back in the batteries and then let the solar finish the charging.  That is a simple answer to a somewhat complex operation. 
--  And when you boondocked and are operating off battery power only are you able to run the Air Conditioner, or is that even possible?  I am definitely not electrically minded, but I would think the battery sources are for TV, Re-fridge and normal appliances only.
  Running the A/C off of battery & solar is a limited time situation. If you have lots of solar and battery you can run the A/C for 2-4 hours, maybe more.  There are links I have to people who have run the A/C off of battery for a few hours.  It is not a practical set up for someone starting out with boondocking.  To start with there is the cost of $7,000 to $15,000 to design and install the system.  The fridge is normally operated off of propane.  However some folks do install residential fridges and then size their battery & solar systems to account for the elect fridge.  Most or perhaps many of these folks don't do extensive boondocking, i.e. continuous weeks off the grid.

We do operate our microwave, toaster, laptops, LED lights, charge my wife's handicapped scooter and power chair, operate a CPAP at night, TV and satellite TV system, the receiver is a bit of power hog.

The info in these two links may help you understand more about the systems to boondock:
http://www.rv-dreams.com/rv-electrical.html
http://www.rv-dreams.com/our-rv-electrical.html

Be sure to read, and re-read the links I gave earlier to get a feel for RV elect systems, batteries, charging & solar. 

Hope this helps.
Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G
2009 Chevy Colorado 4X4
650 watts residential solar panels--400AH Lithium batteries

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

X-Roughneck

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  • 2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J
FrankB /  AStravelers / RVWizard.  I appreciate you taking time to answer the questions you have probably answered 100x before.  I will go back and re-read everything and look at the links.  I have started a book of useful info.  I am going old school on my book, Ball Point and Paper.  We have a way to go before we set off on this adventure, but now is the time to read, ask the questions and educate myself.  I never like to jump blindly into any situation.  Preparation is key. This forum has a wealth of information and alot of people who are nice enough to share their experiences good and bad is greatly appreciated.  Someday I will pay it forward and carry on the tradition.

May 2019 Bring everyone Health and Happiness.

JD
2017 Winnebago Aspect 30J

Certified Oil Field Trash / Roughneck (5 yr)
Retired Army (20 yr)
Retired Army Civilian (10 yr)

Blues Driver

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Do you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?  Yes, absolutely!  I have a pair of residential solar panels on a 30' Class A (moving to a 36' Class A).  Each panel is 325 watts for a total of 650 watts. 60 amp solar controller, 400AH (Amp Hour) of lithium, and a 2000 watt inverter/charger.

I'm trying to size a system for a 30' class C and I'm overwhelmed with all the info out there. I have read Handy Bob, Jack Danmayer, and Marx. I'm curious about the sizing :
a, of the panels. Did you go with the 325 w for a particular reason? Lack of space, price, ?  What brand did you settle on ? Are the panels 12v?
b. the total array size of 650w. Did you calc all of your loads, monitor battery use, of just go for it.
Are you providing for any unusual needs, loads.  We have nothing unusual but of course the microwave, coffeemaker, heat loads.  I have been thinking of Grape   3 @ 180 for total of 540watts.  Not sure how I came up with that.

I'm new to this and appreciate any and all info.
Thanks, Pat


Frank B

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Bluesdriver:


You may want to start a new thread in this section. You will get a number of specific suggestions for your set up that way.


And, while it may seem confusing, creating a solar system is really not rocket science.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2018, 06:36:38 PM by Frank B »
Linux:  Free, open, elegant.
06 GMC 3500 Duramax crew/long pulling 2010 Arctic Fox 30U with 1700 lb Reese Titan Class 5.
1.2 kw solar

AStravelers

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  • Posts: 1363
  • Part time travelers, 4-8 months each year.
Do you feel the size of system installed is really providing you results you are happy with considering the out of pocket costs?  Yes, absolutely!  I have a pair of residential solar panels on a 30' Class A (moving to a 36' Class A).  Each panel is 325 watts for a total of 650 watts. 60 amp solar controller, 400AH (Amp Hour) of lithium, and a 2000 watt inverter/charger.

I'm trying to size a system for a 30' class C and I'm overwhelmed with all the info out there. I have read Handy Bob, Jack Danmayer, and Marx. I'm curious about the sizing :
a, of the panels. Did you go with the 325 w for a particular reason? Lack of space, price, ?  What brand did you settle on ? Are the panels 12v?
b. the total array size of 650w. Did you calc all of your loads, monitor battery use, of just go for it.
Are you providing for any unusual needs, loads.  We have nothing unusual but of course the microwave, coffeemaker, heat loads.  I have been thinking of Grape   3 @ 180 for total of 540watts.  Not sure how I came up with that.

I'm new to this and appreciate any and all info.
Thanks, Pat
--  I went with 325watt panels in Jan 2016 because they were the largest wattage panel at a price (about $1/watt) I could find at the time.  Brand is Kyocera .
--  About 12V panels.  12V panels max out at about 100-150 watts. Any panel 200 watts and above produce way more than the voltage a standard solar controller can handle.  Info:  https://www.solar-electric.com/learning-center/batteries-and-charging/solar-charge-controller-basics.html.  A 325 watt panel produces about 38V and needs an MPPT controller.
--  About sizing, power usage, etc, etc.  All this is based on experience.  My first solar, was in 2011 on a class C with three 100 or 120 watt panels, 2 golf cart batteries and a 1000 watt inverter.  However we have been dry camping in large RV's since 2003.  Starting off in 2003 with 33' travel trailer and 2 golf cart batteries, no generator, thinking we could charge while driving.  Doesn't work.  We were very inexperienced.  First got serious with diesel pusher in 2007.  Charging with generator.  Before 2003 we mostly dry camped, sleeping in the back of station wagon, poptop camper trailers, truck campers for 30+ years.
A big part of the decision for higher voltage/wattage panels (300+ watts is driven by Jack Mayer's website:  http://www.jackdanmayer.com/rv_electrical_and_solar.htm
Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G
2009 Chevy Colorado 4X4
650 watts residential solar panels--400AH Lithium batteries

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/

AStravelers

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  • Part time travelers, 4-8 months each year.
Bluesdriver:


You may want to start a new thread in this section. You will get a number of specific suggestions for your set up that way.


And, while it may seem confusing, creating a solar system is really not rocket science.
I second this advice. 

When wanting more detailed info to design a system opening an new topic and limit the new topic to a single question or limited subject.  Open a second topic for different subject.  That is if you want to know about batteries and charging and monitoring, then ask that type of question.  If you want to know about solar charging that separate that from the battery.  Yes both subjects are related, so it is not always easy to separate the two.  It is just someone asking 3-6 questions on different subjects in one topic or thread gets confusing in the responses.

However, Bluesdriver, you had specific questions you asked about my personal setup so that was fine by me to add on to this existing topic.
Al & Sharon
2006 Winnebago Journey 36G
2009 Chevy Colorado 4X4
650 watts residential solar panels--400AH Lithium batteries

http://downtheroadaroundthebend.blogspot.com/