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Old 01-10-2016, 03:57 PM   #1
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Solar - is Handy Bob right?

In advance of getting our new trailer, I've been studying up on solar. I've convinced myself that this is something that I want to do to increase the enjoyment at no hook up areas like we commonly find in National Parks. One of the resources that often comes up is Handy Bob's blog. I've read that several times.

After reading the stuff on his site, then doing some background checking, it seems like a lot of what he says checks out and is on the up-n-n-up. And I also find myself looking at people's different set ups and that also seems to corroborate his thoughts and theory.

I've seen people with 2 golf cart batteries and 200 to 300 watts of panels that keep their batteries full. Then I see other people with 2 batteries that are talking about doubling their panels to keep up a full charge. That sounds to me like their system isn't working very well, based on the reading on Bob's blog. I have also read people using a generator over solar to charge batteries. Again, seems like other underlying issues with the solar system, or under design.

I'd be curious as to what people here think of Bob's ideas and guidance? Do you believe what he suggests? Would you use his guidance to design a solar system for your rig?

In going forward, I'm trying to decide what my system will be. While I can't fully figure it out until I have a trailer in my driveway, I'm trying to determine major components.

I think I'm starting with two 6v batteries - not sure of brand/model yet, want to measure up the battery compartment first and figure out if they can go there or have to move. In the future, I may go to 4 batteries, but that would be max!

Panels, thinking between 200 and 300 watts total, probably in 2 panels parallel. This could increase to 400 to 600 in the future.

Charge controller - here's where I wonder - do I follow Bob's suggestion for the Bogart charge controller & monitor since he recommends it so highly, or go with a Morningstar Tri-star 45 PWM (which he also recommends, but is more main stream)

I'll likely start out by installing the charge controller and fuses, but use the panels as portable for the first year or two, since I don't want to poke the roof right away. Then if experiences are good, then I'd mount them on the roof, or not I'd I find or spots are frequently too shaded.

I'd appreciate your thoughts, guidance and ideas!
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Old 01-10-2016, 04:20 PM   #2
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Like any other blog, article or opinion, you need to pick out the best parts and ignore the rest. Bob has a lot of good information in his blog for opening up a readers eyes to what is involved for SOLAR RVing.

For just about everyone that has SOLAR, you will find a different opinion, and most are good. I have one 250 watt residential SOLAR panel, two Trojan T145 6 volt batteries (260Ah) and they meet our BASIC DC needs. I monitored our camping DC electrical needs for awhile prior to purchasing SOLAR. I built a system that I can add on to, should I need/want to. We can make coffee in the morning using the electric coffee pot. We can run the microwave when the sun is shining (mid day) without any problems, we watch Tv at night for at least 4 hours and when we wake up in the morning the batteries are around 12.4VDC. The SOLAR panels start charging the batteries around 9AM and the batteries are usually fully charged by 2PM on sunny days and by 4PM on cloudy days.

But... what meets our needs may not meet your needs. I would recommend a minimum of 250 watts of SOLAR to start with for either just to charge your batteries or an entry level for dry-camping, and design your system so you can add more SOLAR and batteries.

Here is a link to the "RVing with SOLAR" social group, you will find some good information there.
Just my thoughts,

Don
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Old 01-10-2016, 04:24 PM   #3
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I would trust Bob.

He will be my guide when I do my RV solar.

I don't want to make many holes in my roof either so I'll be using these peel and stick panels by Unisolar.
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Old 01-10-2016, 05:27 PM   #4
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if you are camped under full sun all day you can get by with just a panel or two . the reason I have 4 panels is we are always under a very heavy tree canopy. I never see full amperage from the panels. maybe that is why some folks systems don't seem to work so well , I know that is my case at least. I did disperse my panels from front to back of the trailer too catch what light does make it through the trees, that has helped over my previous ways of mounting the panels on the roof. don't know it this helps or not but if you camp under trees all the time it is something to think about.
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:31 AM   #5
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Bob has a lot of good information, and much of his overbuilding systems does no harm. BUT, he is an advocate of PWM systems, basically 1970's technology. Yes, it works well, but technology has moved on. A carefully designed MPPT system easily outperforms the PWM, starts charging earlier in the day, and reaches full charge much sooner. It also works very much better in cloudy conditions. But it also uses different high voltage panels, (more $ per watt).
I've spent the last 2 seasons off-grid using a 250 watt MPPT system, and two GC-2 6 volt 232 AH batteries, from May to October and never had to use my generator in that time period with the exception of running heavy power tools. I'm at 53 degrees latitude, so even in midsummer the sun never gets that high in the sky. My panel is mounted flat on the trailer roof, no tilt. This last season, I was there full time, building our new house with no problems or shortage of power from the 12 volt system.
This all being said, I have been flamed for having made these observations. (not here) Some regard Handy Bob as some sort of messiah, personally, I'd rather follow the advice of the engineers that designed the components and batteries.
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Old 01-11-2016, 08:01 AM   #6
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This is what I have, Two 125 watts panels two 6 volts batteries,
I have not had any problem with this. I do not have a inverter, So if I want to watch a movie I run a small generator. Which is very rare, I will sit outside and read a Real Book.
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Old 01-11-2016, 08:20 AM   #7
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Solar - is Handy Bob right?

If you are able to find 12v panels that make sense, the Bogart controller seems like a good option. For me, it seemed like things were moving to 24v panels with higher wattages. The price per watt is certainly less that way. And I wanted to cram as much wattage per square inch as I could since roof real estate (or storage for portables) is scarce. At that point you are forced into a MPPT controller.
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious by Nature View Post

A carefully designed MPPT system...

But it also uses different high voltage panels, (more $ per watt).

I found the opposite to be true. 100W 12 volt panels (Renogy, etc) seem to come in consistently at more than $1 per watt. The 24v panels at 235-300W were consistently less than $1 per watt.

I'm not saying that the savings is substantial, or even enough to offset the MPPT controller cost... but panel cost alone shouldn't deter you from the MPPT-based system.
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Old 01-11-2016, 01:08 PM   #9
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Well, I took what he says to heart and will see how my system turns out.
What I've bought:
Renogy 300 Watt RV Kit
Bogart Engineering SC-2030 Charge Controller
Bogart Engineering TM-2030 Monitor
Using 6AWG cable for runs and 2AWG cable for the 2 battery leads into the storage compartment.
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Old 01-11-2016, 02:19 PM   #10
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Just so I am clear - do MPPT controllers work on practically any voltage that current solar puts out?

With the "solar ready" with barely adequate wire sizes, higher voltage makes better use of the installed wire. Definitely a plus to higher volt panels and likely to be locally available too.

As to the roof - I'm not 100% against attaching panels to my roof, I'm just putting off until I know I don't have any warranty repairs that need to be done to the roof.

I appreciate the discussion and view points!
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