Solar Question

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.

blsmith25

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Posts
70
Location
Santa Clara, CA
When I got my RV, I had wanted a solar package so I could run things without plugging into power.
What I got was two expensive panels totalling 160W and all it does is charge my battery or keep it charged and a controller so they don't overcharge.
While that is nice, what I really wanted was solar POWER. That meant I want to plug an appliance into a 120V outlet and have it turn on without being plugged in.

So, did I get a bum deal or is this the typical definition of a solar package in an RV?

Are these panels useful for anything more than just charging the battery? I can do that by driving around for 1/2 hour or running the generator. Seems like the only benefit is that they can charge while I'm sitting still in direct sunlight. Seems like a very expensive battery charger to me. I have one deep cycle maintenance-free AGM auxilliary battery which it's connected to. I doubt it's connected to the vehicle battery.

Is what I want to do even feasible? Can anything be done with the system at this point? Would it be worth it? I mean, I'm glad I don't have to worry so much about the battery going dead, but I just feel that what I got was not what I wanted and what I wanted I couldn't have...

So, the people who have solar, is that all you have also is just a battery charger? Or do you have what I would call real solar power where you can run small 120V appliances in the outlets?
 

Terry A. Brewer

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2005
Posts
1,446
You need a inverter to convert your 12v batteries to AC power. The solar panels will keep the battery bank charged up to enable the inverter to supply the AC outlets.
 

Ned

Moderator Emeritus
Joined
Feb 1, 2005
Posts
25,107
Location
USA
Besides what Terry told you, 160W is not a lot of solar power.  You'll be lucky to get 10A on a good day, and perhaps 80-100AH for a whole sunny day.  That won't give you much for running any AC appliances that use any significant power, like coffee makers, toasters, etc.  It may be enough to run a few lights and give you a couple of hours of television, but even that may be too much power draw if you do that every day.  My generator and charger puts out 100AH in one hour of running.  You have to be very frugal with your power use to live completely on solar.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
73,525
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
What you got is fairly standard - solar panels don't produce anywhere near enough power to actually run much of anything - you would need a roof full of them and a blazing sunny day near the equator besides! They are used to charge batteries for free during the sunny part of the day.

And you don't have anywhere near enough battery capacity to power much of anything via inverter either. You need 2-4 12V deep cycles of a large size - at least Group 27 and 30 or 31 would be better. So if you are serious about boondocking, get more batteries and a good sized inverter - at least 2 kilowatts.  And you still will have to conserve unless you have at least 4-6 batteries.

By the way, running the generator for 30 minutes doesn't charge much of anything either. If a size 24 12V battery is down to 50% charge, it will take something like 2 hours to bring it up to 80% charge and  several more hours to get to 100%.
 

John From Detroit

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Posts
24,796
Location
Davison Michigan
Just for the "heck" of it I brewed a cup of decaf coffee in the microwave today, and pulled the 30 amp breaker that feeds the xantrex

It pulled close to 170 amps out of it's attached AGM's to brew that coffee.

(I've got to try it with the other coffee pot some day)  When I closed the breaker I forgot to turn the heater off for a few. and the combined load tripped the feed (it's only 20 amps) (The heater says 2,000 watts but I don't believe it)
 

Jim Godward

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 6, 2005
Posts
5,906
Location
Hillsboro, Oregon
We have a few friends that do a lot of Boondocking and rely on solar to charge the batteries.  They have typically 4 120 watt panels, a controller, 4 or 6  6 volt golf cart batteries and a 2000 or 2500 watt inverter for the Ac needs.  Even with all that solar, they have to occasionally run a generator to top off the batteries.

I have 2 120 watt solar panels, a charge controller and 4  6 volt golf cart batteries.  When we boondock I typically either have to run the generator about an hour in the evening or alternately about 2 hours every other day to bring the batteries above 80% before we go to bed. 

I like topping them off then so I am sure I will have enough power to keep my electric blanket going all night.  VBG

160 watt panels are marginal for our use, in fact so are 120s but I wouldn't spend more as I wanted other toys!  VBG  Still waiting for the lottery too.
 

blsmith25

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Posts
70
Location
Santa Clara, CA
Wow. Ok, so basically if I want to live off of solar, I gotta get a bigger RV.  ;D So much for that.
I can't fit anything more on the roof. I've got 2 80W panels fit in between everything else up there. That's all that will fit.

So, in the size of unit I have, it's really not feasible and it looks like I got the only type of solar package I could get.
I guess I didn't get a bum deal after all? I was concerned with that.
But anyways, I can't fit all those batteries and I'm not sure how big a 2kW inverter is, but I would imagine it's big enough so it wouldn't fit either.
Well, if it did all fit, there'd be no room left for me!  :p

Whatever I do, it's run off the battery or propane. Lights, TV, water pump, fridge, hot water, stove, furnace (although only once to try). I think that's about it.
So, needless to say the microwave/oven doesn't get used unless I happen to be plugged in somewhere which doesn't happen much.

I can post my generator questions in another topic since I have a few of those also, but not related to solar power.

Thanks.
 

Wendy

Site Team
Joined
May 14, 2005
Posts
12,535
Location
Colorado
James Godward said:
I have 2 120 watt solar panels, a charge controller and 4? 6 volt golf cart batteries.? When we boondock I typically either have to run the generator about an hour in the evening or alternately about 2 hours every other day to bring the batteries above 80% before we go to bed.?

This is the same thing we have and we don't have to run the generator. We watch 4-5 hours of TV every night (usually with DishNetwork receiver running) and have two laptops (with wireless router and internet receiver) and a couple of lights. We typically do this for a couple of days/nights and then drive an hour or two to our next stop. Of course, we don't use an electric blanket at night but rely on blankets and cuddling to stay warm. We'll put the system to the test in December when we stop in Death Valley for a couple of weeks.
 

Jim Godward

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 6, 2005
Posts
5,906
Location
Hillsboro, Oregon
Wendy,

Call me a conservative power user.  I generally like to keep the batteries pretty well up.  I may have over stated the generator use but do hit it regularly as we are very heavy power users.  I have a desktop on top of everything else too.
 

Wendy

Site Team
Joined
May 14, 2005
Posts
12,535
Location
Colorado
Jim, We're also what I consider heavy power users (too many electronic gadgets) but I hate listening to the generator run and have so far been very pleased with the solar system. Haven't yet put it to a true test (only a couple of days at a time before driving somewhere else) but next month should be a real test and I'm looking forward to it. Last year when we were in Death Valley, we had to run the generator every single day....anything less will be an improvement. Now, my parents are a whole different story....they could probably go a month on the solar system we have. They're happy with nothing but lights and a bit of juice to keep the furnace running.
 

cuts_up

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 11, 2006
Posts
549
Location
Texas
Can you call a generator "white noise"?  I doubt it, but I can sleep right through it.  And if that generator means the I can keep the inside of my rv like a meat locker in the summer, then crank that baby up!  I don't have to "camp" anymore.  Now I RV.  ;D
 

John From Detroit

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Posts
24,796
Location
Davison Michigan
No, I can not call a Generator White Noise (Wrong spectrum) but I do call it background noise, any constant noise is quickly tuned out by many brains and dissappears from the enviorment far as your notice is concerned.

So sleeping next to a running (or on top of) is no problem

Waking up.. If you do not have a proper exhaust on that thing (and this means a Gen-Turi adapter in most cases) can indeed be a problem.  if you use a generator, other than a portable at a distance from your rig, Use a Gen-Turi.
 

Jeff

Site Team
Joined
Apr 8, 2005
Posts
8,965
Location
SD/AZ
cuts_up said:
Can you call a generator "white noise"?  I doubt it, but I can sleep right through it.  And if that generator means the I can keep the inside of my rv like a meat locker in the summer, then crank that baby up!  I don't have to "camp" anymore.  Now I RV.  ;D

Cranking up works if you are out away from everyone but if there are other RVers around they will hope you'll observe "quiet hours" after 10:00PM or so.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
73,525
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
But anyways, I can't fit all those batteries and I'm not sure how big a 2kW inverter is, but I would imagine it's big enough so it wouldn't fit either.
Well, if it did all fit, there'd be no room left for me!

A 1500-2000 watt inverter is about the size of shoe box, though usually only half as high. Doesn't take much space. The batteries, though, need some room and venting.  If you can't add at least two batteries, forget the inverter for a microwave or coffee pot.  An inverter big enough for a 19-20 inch tv will fit in your palm, though, and won't tax your single battery much. 300 watts would probably do it.
 

blsmith25

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 5, 2006
Posts
70
Location
Santa Clara, CA
Yeah, ok. It's the batteries that there's just no outside place to put them in and I don't want a hole cut in the wall.
They only make one compartment for one battery and no option to add more.
I guess because the unit is so small there's not much call for more than one battery.
How did the battery get vented when they had it located under the passenger seat I wonder?
Anyways, at the moment, I think what I have is pretty good and I can live within those means.
 

Jeff

Site Team
Joined
Apr 8, 2005
Posts
8,965
Location
SD/AZ
blsmith25 said:
How did the battery get vented when they had it located under the passenger seat I wonder?

There are vented battery boxes available that allow placement of batteries in enclosed areas. The entire box is vented to the outside and a drain tube allows for boiling overflows.
 
Top Bottom