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Old 02-15-2020, 12:51 PM   #1
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Is solar worth it?

We are considering getting solar for our TT as we will definitely be doing some camping without hookups. Currently we only have a single battery set up and thinking of upgrading to dual batteries or solar but not sure how much dry camping you need to do to justify solar?
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Old 02-15-2020, 02:02 PM   #2
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First off your batteries are the key to boondocking. Itís not a matter of either batteries or solar. Itís a matter of solar or generator. Get as much amp hours in your battery bank as possible. Get AGMís or Lithium if you can afford them. Realize that the AGMís you can only discharge to 50%, lithium down to about 20%. Your running your trailer off of the batteries. The solar just recharges them. You will also need an inverter to run any AC appliances you want like a coffee maker. You will never be able to run your Air Cond. with out being plugged in or on a generator, same with microwave. So that might help with your decision.

We love our solar, but we never boondock if we know we are going to need air conditioning. Otherwise itís great, itís quiet, no need to haul a generator or gas. I have 4 6V batteries, 455w of solar panels and a 1800w inverter and have yet to buy a generator.
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Old 02-15-2020, 06:32 PM   #3
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As noted above, solar is a great alternative way to charge your batteries up. Charges while you rig is being stored, while you are traveling and while you are Boondocking. It really helps prevent damage to your batteries from discharging below 50% which will most likely permanently damage them. They wonít help you if the panels get covered in snow or if you store under cover.

I have 300 watts solar on the roof that charge four 6volt batteries.

Solar is the absolute best modification I have made to my RV.

How many panels or batteries you need is based on how many amps of power you use during the day and especially at night. Your propane heat fan is probably your biggest draw on 12 volt power. A fridge powered by an inverter is another big draw. There are lots of good calculators on the internet that will help determine how many or how big your battery bank you need. Once that is determined you can calculate how much solar you need to recharge those batteries.
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Old 02-15-2020, 06:45 PM   #4
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Where I camp there are no hookups. I have 400 watts of solar panels and its great that they keep my 6 volt batteries charged. I'm glad I don't have to use a generator to recharge the batteries anymore.
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Old 02-15-2020, 08:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
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upgrading to dual batteries or solar

That should be an "AND".


We've got a single group 27 in this thing and I've added a single 100 watt panel on top.


It's a great way to start small and decide if you want to learn about solar.


We're happy with it, so this summer will be another Group 27 or maybe two more. And one more 100 watt panel up top.


We don't do a lot of boondocking.


But as others have said, having those expensive batteries start charged is important too.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:24 AM   #6
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How do you keep those solar panels up on the roof, clean? Do you have to go up top regularly to clean them? How do you protect them from falling debris?

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Where I camp there are no hookups. I have 400 watts of solar panels and its great that they keep my 6 volt batteries charged. I'm glad I don't have to use a generator to recharge the batteries anymore.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:50 AM   #7
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How do you keep those solar panels up on the roof, clean? Do you have to go up top regularly to clean them? How do you protect them from falling debris?
I blow them off every so often with my cordless leaf blower. While up there I hit the entire roof. They are less likely to be damaged from falling debris up there then me packing and unpacking a portable setup.
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:01 AM   #8
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What about stuff that gets on the panels themselves? Stuff that needs something like a window cleaner type of stuff to clean them off. Or what about tree sap, should you happen to park near a tree?

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I blow them off every so often with my cordless leaf blower. While up there I hit the entire roof. They are less likely to be damaged from falling debris up there then me packing and unpacking a portable setup.
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:21 AM   #9
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I use a 7.5 watt solar charger to keep my 8 year old Excide battery charged during the summer at my storage facility. It works great and that's about the extent of my solar.
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:26 AM   #10
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Mother Nature takes care of them most of the time. But you do have to get up there and clean the bird poop off once in awhile if you havenít had any rain, or if you get something like tree sap on them. I just clean mine with water or if Iím using dawn on the roof to clean it, the panels get the same. I just squeegee them to prevent water spots. Dirt and spots on them just make them less efficient and extend your charge time.
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Old 02-16-2020, 11:55 AM   #11
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What about stuff that gets on the panels themselves? Stuff that needs something like a window cleaner type of stuff to clean them off. Or what about tree sap, should you happen to park near a tree?
The recommended way of cleaning them is with a wet towel or glass cleaner. As far as tree sap Iím not sure, but Iíve recently sent an email to my panel manufacturer asking them the same thing. I hope to hear back from them soon. I just installed the panelís late summer of 2019.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:42 PM   #12
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You should be on the roof every couple of months to seal up cracks in the caulking up there, clean them during those inspections and repair processes.

If your not up there regularly, you should be.....
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:11 PM   #13
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I boondock most of the time. I have 800 watts of panels on the roof, and a 220 watt folding panel for when I am parked in shade, it has a 80' cable so I can move it as needed. 400AH of Lithium batteries and a 2500 watt PSW inverter allows me to use the coffee pot, microwave, computer, DW's blow dryer, and so on. With the installed soft start kit I can even run the A/C, not that I do as it would drain the batteries in 30-45 minutes. The point is to size your battery bank and inverter for your expected needs then install the needed panels to get then recharged by early afternoon on a sunny day. Most people buy the panels 1st when they should be the last. We have boondocked for weeks and never started the genset, which is 4 years old and has only 30 hours on it from when we got caught in a Feb heat wave in Yuma. It all depends on how much you drycamp as to how much solar and battery reserve you need, one reason why I would not have a residential fridge, needs about 50-75AH a night, so your 130AH/50%=65AH battery will be dead in the morning.
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Old 02-22-2020, 02:17 PM   #14
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I have 200 watts currently with another panel waiting to be installed. I boondock the majority of the time and the solar helps but 200 watts does not keep up if I run the Direct TV stuff all day. Hoping the 3rd panel adds enough to satisfy the TV.

Due to disability I cannot get up on the roof to clean the panels. I bought an extension for my pressure washer and now I can spray my panels while standing on the ground. It works but you need to hang on to the pole when you pull the trigger. It can take off like a rocket if pointed in the wrong direction.
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Old 02-22-2020, 02:45 PM   #15
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Quote:
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First off your batteries are the key to boondocking. Itís not a matter of either batteries or solar. Itís a matter of solar or generator. Get as much amp hours in your battery bank as possible. Get AGMís or Lithium if you can afford them. Realize that the AGMís you can only discharge to 50%, lithium down to about 20%. Your running your trailer off of the batteries. The solar just recharges them. You will also need an inverter to run any AC appliances you want like a coffee maker. You will never be able to run your Air Cond. with out being plugged in or on a generator, same with microwave. So that might help with your decision.

We love our solar, but we never boondock if we know we are going to need air conditioning. Otherwise itís great, itís quiet, no need to haul a generator or gas. I have 4 6V batteries, 455w of solar panels and a 1800w inverter and have yet to buy a generator.
There are currently whole house systems out there but they are pricey. I am having a system put in currently. 570w system, 3 panels, 3000w pure sine (make sure you go with pure sine) with 50 amp transfer switch and remote and 4 gel 100 amp each gel batteries $6545. We do a lot of boondocking so itís worth it. Would have cost the same to put generator in. Yes we run 1 air unit for short times ( about 2 hrs), microwaves and cappuccino machine. Not all at the same time. Coffee maker actually use more power than microwave. So it can be done. As quoted post states batteries are a big issue and do a lot of research. For instance some solars requires specific lithium type batteries and lithium is no good in non heated environments. They do not do well in cold but if you are not doing cold weather will do extremely well due to draw down thresholds and quick recharge. I went gel batteries due to a lot of cold weather boondocking. I hope this isnít information overload and helps.
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Old 02-22-2020, 05:46 PM   #16
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My LiFePo4 Lithium batteries will charge between 32ļ-115ļ, and will supply power between -4ļ - +140ļ. I do NOT boondock, or camp in sub zero weather. Have been below freezing a few times but the batteries automatically start charging when the temp gets above 32ļ and have yet to have a problem. But if you camp in sub zero weather a lot then mount the batteries in an enclosed compartment (perfectly safe) and/or provide a warming blanket.
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Old 02-22-2020, 07:51 PM   #17
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Solar Worth It?

Depends...There is a ton of good info in the previous posts. From my perspective you really need to ask yourself what you want out of the system. I have a 21' Jayco and installed a 200 watt system with the sole purpose to keep my 2 6 volt batteries charged. Iam not running an inverter ie. providing 110 volts to the trailer. If I need the microwave or other items requiring 110 volts I will run my generator or do without. My particular system works great and has no problem keeping up with the 12 volt loads from the refrigerator, lights, Heater fan etc....It looks like you are in LA, I am in Temecula and if you want to see how I configured and installed my system let me know.
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Old 02-22-2020, 08:27 PM   #18
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We've never regretted installing the 600 watts of solar we have on the roof or our Eagle!

Off-grid (or "boondocking") is by far our favorite kind of camping. The very best out of the way places, best views, where you aren't tripping over the next camper over always seem to have no hook-ups...but we don't care.

We run two 6 volt Trojan T105 batteries in series. They've held up very well, for several years now. They are charged by a 40 amp MPPT charge controller.

We are usually fully recharged by 10am on sunny days, and by noon or so even on cloudy days. We carry a 2kw inverter generator, but have never needed to use it.

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Old 02-23-2020, 11:59 AM   #19
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We boondock 80 percent of the time 3 to 6 days a month toy hauler has 5500 gen but also bring honda 2k gen. Trailer has 2 6 volt batt. I have a suit case 100 watt portable solar to keep batteries maintained while out playing also have a 1k watt inverter. The pure sine inverter was not expensive i put it in my self but the generator is our go to for power and charging. Solar suit case and inverter 225.00 already had generators. Works great for us however our friends spent 3k on solar but still use the generator a lot because of trees and clouds they dont get much solar I believe they have 3 large panels and inverter. For us hard to beat a nice quite honda generator no sun needed. The inverter will run the tv for late night use with no generator. So my opinion is a portable solar unit to maintain batteries above 60 percent is good and doesnt break the bank
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:44 PM   #20
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Solar is worth it.
My setup is not like some I read about here.
It's a 90-watt Zamp portable unit. It comes in a sturdy, zipped back. The unit folds like your wallet. It takes about 2 minutes to attach to the coach battery. I aim it at the sun in the morning and reposition it as the sun crosses the sky.
The goal of the solar panel is to use the generator less -- which we do -- to maintain the coach battery.
My wife says it was a $500 waste. She would just run the generator, which burns propane, makes noise, and is an internal combustion engine.
To me, solar is cool.....
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