Solar design and installation

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

SiSi

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Posts
22
I?m currently in a situation where I will have to move into an RV trailer semi-permanently. I don?t want to plug into my parents house (raising their PG&E bill higher than it already is, plus I don?t think there is anywhere on the property to plug in too) and I fon?t want to be running a generator non-stop. Right now the trailer does have at least one battery, but I have no idea what state it is in since it is my cousin?s trailer.

I ultimately want to either convert a bus or have a tiny house built that runs off solar, but those days aren?t now.

How do I design a solar system that fits my needs? (My fiance and I are gone most of the day so the only thing running non-stop would be the rv fridge). If I have no experience in electrical (but have done a bit of research on the subject) should I even attempt this on my own or take the trailer somewhere to have it installed?

Ideally I would not mount these to the roof, but rather prop them on the ground or I can make a stand for the panels. When I move out of the trailer, I would take them with me to use (hopefully) on my bus or tiny home. Any input or helpful links (for info or supplies) greatly appreciated!
 

Rene T

Site Team
Joined
May 20, 2011
Posts
17,299
Location
Farmington NH
What are the winters like where you are? Cold or warm? What state are you in?
This makes all the difference in the world because if the furnace needs to run all day because it's cold, it will draw from the battery constantly and you'll need a big enough solar system to keep the battery up to snuff.
 

SiSi

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Posts
22
I will be starionary about 30 mins south of San Jose in California. No snow, lowest can get to low 30s. We won?t be home the entire day, and we are home my fiance will probably be totally fine with minimum heat while I be bundled in the corner freezing lol (if it came down to convserving energy).

Same goes with summers. Whille it would be nice to run the AC unit, it is unnecessary as when we get home we can open windows and run a fan or 2 for a bit to circulate out hot air. The trailer will also be located under a shade structure in the middle of an open expanse, but I want my solar units movable so I?d have them out from underneath on the side that gets sun all day.
 

Rene T

Site Team
Joined
May 20, 2011
Posts
17,299
Location
Farmington NH
Why not just compare what your parents paid in the last couple of years for any given month, then you just pay the increase.
 

SiSi

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Posts
22
The situation we?re in doesn?t really lend us to be able to do that. I am also not sure that there?s a power source for us to run to the rv.

Another thing that I should have asked in the orignial post is that can I tap into the rv?s original electrical system? As in where the rv?s battery is now and how it?s hooked up, can I use those lines to hook up to the batteries I would buy? If I could do that, would the outlets in the rv still be usable or do I need to put an inverter somewhere in the mix?
 

Gizmo

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Posts
1,638
Location
Wherever we park it
I agree with Rene T in trying determine how much electrical consumption your parents typically use then paying the difference, or in some way compensate your parents for energy usage.  You mentioned the uncertainty of a suitable electrical connection so I would suggest looking into having a qualified electrician wire a connection to near where the RV will be parked, typically within 25-30'.  It is not a big job and should not be too costly.  Installing a good solar set-up is costly and likely to be far more costly than have an electrician wire a connection and then throwing some money your parents way to cover energy usage, which sounds like in your case is likely to be very little.  If solar still becomes your goal, these two sources are  well worth your time to read, as they will answer any questions on solar you may have and get you pointed in the right direction.

https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/

http://www.jackdanmayer.com/rv_electrical_and_solar.htm

 

SiSi

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Posts
22
I will look into that, but the chances I can do that are unlikely.

What about an ?electric? generator charged by solar? Do those exist? A generator would be a lot easier to hook up to the trailer, and wouldn?t the generator already have the necessary battery components?
 

solarman

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 8, 2018
Posts
415
Location
Texas
SiSi said:
I’m currently in a situation where I will have to move into an RV trailer semi-permanently. I don’t want to plug into my parents house (raising their PG&E bill higher than it already is, plus I don’t think there is anywhere on the property to plug in too) and I fon’t want to be running a generator non-stop. Right now the trailer does have at least one battery, but I have no idea what state it is in since it is my cousin’s trailer.

I ultimately want to either convert a bus or have a tiny house built that runs off solar, but those days aren’t now.

How do I design a solar system that fits my needs? (My fiance and I are gone most of the day so the only thing running non-stop would be the rv fridge). If I have no experience in electrical (but have done a bit of research on the subject) should I even attempt this on my own or take the trailer somewhere to have it installed?

Ideally I would not mount these to the roof, but rather prop them on the ground or I can make a stand for the panels. When I move out of the trailer, I would take them with me to use (hopefully) on my bus or tiny home. Any input or helpful links (for info or supplies) greatly appreciated!

Solar will cost 5 to 10 times what the POCO can supply plus batteries, it will be considerably more convenient for you to hook up to
shore power.

here are several options.

1. Have an electrician run a 30 Amp outlet near you
2. Have the POCO install a pole and meter close to your RV, then pay your own bills.
3. If your power consumption is really low, run a 10 AWG extension from their garage or nearest outlet.

 

AStravelers

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 14, 2016
Posts
1,591
Location
San Antonio, TX
SiSi,

You might want to start with reading these following links about RV electrical, batteries and solar.

The first two links cover the basics, but don't provide a lot about designing a system to operate off of solar.  The third & fourth provide some very detailed info.

http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm
http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volta.htm

http://www.jackdanmayer.com/rv_electrical_and_solar.htm
http://www.jackdanmayer.com/Batteries_and_charging.html

Another couple of websites with a great deal of info:
http://www.rv-dreams.com/rv-electrical.html
http://www.rv-dreams.com/our-rv-electrical.html

 

Frank B

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 23, 2005
Posts
1,411
Location
Calgary, Alberta
SiSi said:
I will look into that, but the chances I can do that are unlikely.

What about an ?electric? generator charged by solar? Do those exist? A generator would be a lot easier to hook up to the trailer, and wouldn?t the generator already have the necessary battery components?


Yeah, there just isn't as much power in sunlight as one might think, and costs are way higher than you think. Batteries are physically big, costly, and have to be replaced every so often. Solar makes sense only when you have no local power to plug into (off grid), and you therefore have no alternative.


Solarman has the solution for you.
 

Patnsuzanne

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 2, 2016
Posts
290
Location
North central Florida
A couple of other things to consider.  How do you intend to provide your water, and dispose of your waste water?  You mentioned that you weren?t sure if there was even a source of electricity at your proposed site. Is there a well?  And if so, does it have an electric pump?  If there is a pump, there will be a power source and it would surely be cheaper to have an electrician wire you in a 30 amp rv circuit than it would be to build even a basic solar system. And a basic system would require the addition of an inverter to provide you with 110 volts to run a computer, coffee maker, etc. Without it, all you?ll have is 12 volt.
That brings us back to the issue of waste water. How did you intend to dump your holding tanks?  Just something to think about that you never see mentioned on the ?Tiny House? or RV shows.  Good luck with your endeavor!  Hope you get something worked out.
 

Rob&Deryl

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 27, 2017
Posts
1,143
Location
Eastern Massachusetts
You mention running the RV fridge during the day. The fridge uses propane which you must buy. POCO power is much less expensive than propane.
A solar system (solar generator) is panels plus inverter (for daytime) and batteries to inverter at night or during cloudy weather. A system of a size to run a small house (RV) can cost from $5000 on up. Don?t be fooled by the adds you see in tool catalogs pushing solar for a few hundred bucks. They won?t provide enough power.

The solar companies say the payback on a solar system (not a battery one) is about 7 years. Best case.
For $5000 you can buy a lot of electric from the power company.

Put in the outlet and plug in.
 

UTTransplant

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 20, 2014
Posts
2,644
Location
Cedar Falls, IA
The 300 watt solar system we had on our travel trailer cost about $1000 all total. Panels, wiring, controller, battery monitor all cost money. Now prices have come down some, but we are spending >$2000 for 900 watts of solar on the current motorhome. You don?t do it to save money but to have power without a generator. I can?t imagine it wouldn?t be cheaper to just buy your electricity, especially if you will only be doing it 2-3 years.
 

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Threads
118,459
Posts
1,187,108
Members
123,019
Latest member
linker33
Top Bottom