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Old 01-12-2016, 08:52 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Saskatoon Sask Canada
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Size your solar system for the real world

This is "stolen" from
RVing Tip of the Day
Size your solar system for the real world

by Greg Illes

So you've decided to "go solar." Congratulations! No doubt you've read a lot about panel types and inverter technologies, and maybe gotten a few quotes. You have probably become familiar with the basic arithmetic of energy management by now, too.

The advice you'll typically see is to size your panels according to how much power you use each day and, of course, this makes eminent sense. If you're using 40 amp-hours a day, then you need panel output adequate to recharge those forty amp-hours. If you figure five hours of good sunshine in the middle of the day, then your panels will have to produce eight amps, or about 100 watts.

8 amps x 5 hrs = 40 amp-hours

So that's it, right? A 100W panel and you're good to go? Not really.

There are several reasons why the calculation, while entirely valid, is not so simple. Let's review:

Sunshine Availability If you're in the shade or it's overcast, you'll get less output from your panels. Even my shade-tolerant amorphous panels drop by 50 percent or more with heavy shade.

Panel Angle All panels have their power ratings at 90 degrees to the sun. This is never achieved in real practice, even with panels that can be tilted. Even if you get them aimed perfectly at 10 a.m., the sun keeps moving. At a 45-degree angle, you'll get about 30 percent less power output.

Charge Acceptance Batteries will not necessarily accept all the available power. As they become more fully charged, acceptance declines. So not all the panels' power will be absorbed. This physical limitation can only be compensated by more aggressive charging (more power) when the batteries are in a discharged state.

The bottom line is that a typical solar application might need two or three times as much power rating (and sunshine) as is actually used by the rig. This is because all the inefficiencies add up to only getting 1/2 or 1/3 of the rated panel power actually into the batteries.

To be safe, be conservative. Figure an efficiency factor of no more than 50 percent for how much panel power you'll need. If you're still uncertain, make sure your system is designed for expansion so that you can add a panel or two if needed. The photo shows my motorhome, using flex panels of 68W each. After going through the learning curve, I ended up going from two, to four, to eventually the six panels shown.

Don't despair: Despite the uncertainties, you'll love your solar system and won't ever want to be without one again.
2004 Chev Silverado Duramax optioned past the max. 2009 Jayco Eagle 308 RLS 900watts of solar, Lithium batteries (400amp hour), 2000 watt (4000 surge) whole house inverter.
91 days boondockinig in 2022/151 2021
93/2020,157/2019219/2018 206/2017,215/2016, 211/2015, 196/14, 247/13, 193/12

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Old 01-12-2016, 09:28 AM   #2
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Location: Clearwater, FL area
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Good reading!

Add to that the diminishing returns in the Fall, Winter and Spring. In some locations there is only about 3 -4 hours of good productive sunshine each day, plus a lot more cloudy days. In those seasons with our 250 watt panel, we have just enough power to fully charge the batteries, but we tend to watch our usage more than in the summer. I have been putting off purchasing the second 260 watt panel for awhile, I guess I had better order one before we head out for the summer.

2013 Jayco Eagle 284BHS
2012 Ford F150XLT, EcoBoost w/3.73,Max Tow Pkg.
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