Recommendation on this solar kit

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Willowflowage

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Jan 22, 2018
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Ladysmith Wis
Looking to try solar without spending a ton. Would this be a good test unit anyone? To put a few amps in and keep 2 6v
Batteries topped off. Low power user for now and have a 3400w gen.
WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit with LCD PWM Charge Controller + Solar Cable + MC4 Connectors + Mounting Brackets https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JML23X0/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_QqrMCb8SEJFY8
 

Isaac-1

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In my personal opinion the smallest solar install a person should consider given todays market is in the 200-300 watt range, if you are expecting it to significantly support camping operation, a single 100 watt panel works great for maintaining batteries in storage, as well as providing power to cover the smaller parasitic loads (LPG and CO sensors, etc.)  what it likely will not cover is active camping.  Take for example a typical modern RV absorption refrigerator, a typical full size Norcold or Dometic refrigerator DC control system will draw between 6-12 watts continuously during operation (most recent Dometic units have a 5 watt defrost heater that runs continuously that can't be turned off).  This adds up to about 288 watt hours per day just to run the DC controls while running the refrigerator on propane, you can expect about the equivalent of 5 peak output hours per day on a flat mounted solar panel in the common summer camping season (maybe 6-7 in very sunny parts of the country), so assume about 500 watts per day on sunny days from a 100 watt panel, sunny days are a lot less common than most people think even in relatively sunny parts of the country, so having said that, you would be lucky if the 100 watt panel makes up for the drain caused by your DC control circuits alone.    So sure it is better than nothing, and will slow the rate of discharge, don't expect it to make up for any use losses.

p.s. one place these smaller 100-200 watt solar installs do help is when using them to top off the batteries after running the generator in the morning hours.  Lead acid batteries charge fairly quickly up to the 80% capacity point, then slower and slower as they approach 100% full, using a generator for the bulk charging then solar to top them off the last 20% makes a degree of sense.
 

Willowflowage

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Ladysmith Wis
Actually the generator will be my go to recharge to the 80%
And would like to use solar to top off maybe the rest. 
Wondering about the item I mention if anyone has used them and do I need to spend a lot more than this for my small power use.
 

Isaac-1

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I have done a handful of small 50-150 watt remote solar installation (wifi repeaters, remote security cameras, etc.) over the last few years using various brands of import panels, though I have not used Windy Nation (I have considered them).  In my limited experience you get what you pay for, New Powa seems to be one of the better ones, in terms of construction and stiffness of the panel frame, Renogy seems a step down, and Grape (I think they are no longer in business) seems to be similar to Renogy (maybe identical).  By this I mean New Powa seems to use wider U channel all the way around on their 100-130 watt panels, vs Renogy uses smaller U channel on 2 sides, and L channel on 2 sides.  Though when compared to older quality panels, they all seem to be built much more flimsy, think comparing a 1950's car to a 1990's import when comparing major brand name panels to these lower end import panels, one is big clunky and very heavy, the other may be better engineered though with possibly more marginal materials.
 

Willowflowage

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Jan 22, 2018
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Ladysmith Wis
I very much appreciate your info. It's maddening to try to sort through this mix of panels,controllers, brackets ect.
Also to trust reviews now days is another relentless pursuit in believability.
    Trying to get an easy start that probably will lead to bigger
Systems someday. For now a 100-200w should suit my small needs. Just a nightmare of info to process with not a lot of turnkey kits seemingly trustable.
  Buy a kit? Piece it out? On the ground? On the roof? Build a rack? Suitcase? Mono? Poly? MPPT? 150 bucks? 350? It's about enough to dig my tent back out!
    I'm wanting this sun thing to be easy, portable, strong and reasonable. Not the very best but something that can last if I take it off the bed and set it outside when I arrive. The roof means less flexibility. The suitcase things are $$$. I can stick it a frame I would think and prop it up where the sun shines. Probably with extra heavier wires. Some kind of controller to do it's job for my size panel(s). I suppose add a fuse or two.
    Or not. Sun in Wisconsin ain't great and lots of trees. Might be better off with a couple more batteries which is why I started this solar quest because the word is you need a smaller top off charge for the final 20%.
    I certainly agree with the build of today's products being so shabby as to be considered disposable. It is so hard to tell what is quality and what is garbage online. Not a lot of campers where I go have solar but a lot are interested and confused.
 

Isaac-1

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Don't over think it, in general these assembled kits like in your link are ok, they generally have fair quality hardware, if not great.  My biggest concern is overall frame strength if installed on the roof of an RV that may go down the road at 70mph (wind pressure). 

Take a look at this New Powa 100 watt kit for about $10 more than the windy nation kit you linked to, see how much heftier the mounting brackets are, ... https://www.amazon.com/Newpowa-100W-Start-Solar-Charger/dp/B07JK4NY2Q/  You also get larger 10 gauge cable instead of 12 gauge, though you get less of it, etc. (lower number is thicker on gauge, so 10 GA is thicker than 12 GA)
 

Willowflowage

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Jan 22, 2018
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Ladysmith Wis
Thanks,
      This might be the ticket. For starters it's just going to be sitting out by the battery box on the tongue. From there I'll see. It looks like I can add more later for another boost. Price seems good enough to give me an introduction without breaking the bank.
 

ClassyC

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Feb 24, 2019
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63
Location
Western NY
The nice thing about piecing it out is you get to choose your components  - size and manufacturer.  If you are thinking about adding later, you can size everything beyond the panel bigger now rather than re-buying bigger later.  I?m planning to install that stuff and try a couple ground panels first.  With a small panel setup, tilting (and MPPT) gives quite a bit of improvement.  From my research, panels are a smal fraction of the total investment to get a good solar setup.  There are a number of videos on building your own suitcase setup on the cheap.  Plus you can park in the shade and set panels out in the sun.  If you want to remount those panels on the roof later you just need brackets.
 

Kevin Means

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Lakeside, California
RV solar is not inherently complex, nor necessarily expensive - depending on what it is you're trying to accomplish. From what I can tell in your first post, all you want to do is keep two six volt batteries topped off. The question I have is, topped off in storage, or topped off daily while camping?

If all you want to do is keep your batteries topped off while your RV is in storage, a single 100 watt solar panel routed through an inexpensive PWM controller and connected to the battery bank through a fuse  should be adequate, as long as the solar panel is exposed to the sun.

If your goal is to keep your batteries topped off while camping, you'll first need to know how much power you typically consume, in a 24 hour period. There are a few ways to do that, but measuring your actual consumption with a battery moniter is the most accurate method.

When you know your average consumption and your battery bank's AH capacity, you'll know how many amps your solar panels will have to generate to fully recharge your batteries. Keep in mind that solar panels will generate significantly less power in Wisconsin than, say, in Arizona - especially in the winter months, so to fully recharge your batteries in Wisconsin you'll need a bigger array than someone in Arizona with the identical consumption.

Regarding components... Mono and Poly panels are very similar in output, but mono panels are physically a bit smaller. Mono panels also perform a little better in shaded/cloudy conditions, but not a lot better, and they're a little more expensive. Stick with any name-brand (Zamp, Renogy, Grape etc.) and you'll get a descent product. Their performance and warranties are similar.

An inexpensive PWM controller is all you'd really need for a 100-200 watt array, but if you're considering a larger array (300 watts or more) I'd recommend buying an MPPT controller that can convert excess voltage to amps. PWM controllers can't do that.

"Suitcase" systems are popular, and you can easily keep them pointed toward the sun (If you're there to do it.) Solar panels generate a lot more power when they're pointed toward the sun. Of course, you also have to have a place to store suitcase systems, and you have to watch them so they don't grow legs and walk away.

Kev
 

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