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Old 09-11-2018, 06:58 PM   #1
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Solar Panels

I now nothing about solar panels, how ever I was at Assateague Island and several people had solar panels. How do they work and how do you hook them up? I know its consider boon docking .....no WSE hookup. Also, what can you run off them?
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Old 09-11-2018, 07:25 PM   #2
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Ok so there is alot to solar panels...
The main thing is, they hook up to a charge controller which hooks to your battery/ies. They are rated in watts. Which if you take say a phone charger and multiply your volts which is 120 by the amps that the charger uses you will get watts. Like a typical microwave is 1500 watts or 1500 watts per hour.
BUT heres the tricky thing... solar charges 12volt batteries and most of your stuff is 120 volts AC. So now you need an inverter to make 120v.
So now that you know some basics, you can do the math... you wont run an AC or microwave off small solar setup. You will want to get at least 2 deep cycle batteries so you have enough power to last awhile without sun. You will need enough solar panels to replenish the batteries as you use them.
So start calculating your needs in watts. Voltage x Amperage = wattage

I have 80Watt panel wirh one deep cycle just for backup to charge phones and use some 12v led lights.

Good luck!
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Old 09-11-2018, 08:24 PM   #3
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The expense is what has kept me from getting into solar. By the time you buy all the stuff you can be in an easy $500 and hoping you didn't get a system that doesn't do what you need. I know it doesn't sound like much to some but I guess it would depend on how much you're going to use it. I will say they are probably great to have and I look at them quite often. Just not ready to pull the trigger, yet.
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Old 09-11-2018, 09:37 PM   #4
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The easiest way (at least it was for me) to explain solar is:
- there are three main things you need
- batteries
- solar charge controller
- solar panels

You don't run anything "off the solar panels".
You run everything off the batteries.
The only job for the solar panels is to recharge the batteries.

Once you start doing the math on how much energy you use (watts), you can figure out how many batteries to buy.

Once you know how many batteries you'll be buying, you can buy enough solar panels to recharge the batteries in one day.

It's wrapping your head around the fact - you run off batteries, that was the breakthrough for me.
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Old 09-12-2018, 05:37 AM   #5
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If you never camp without elec hookups then you don't need solar panels.

If you occasionally camp without elec hookups then you can use a generator to charge the batteries and provide A/C.

If you regularly camp without elec hookups then solar and inverter replace the generator.

We have 4 6v AGM batteries, 640w of panels, MPPT controller & 2000w PSW inverter. Can run everything but aircon. Can last 4-5 days without clear skies. My install cost ~3k$CDN (~2300$US). We boondock in the SW. If a campsite costs 20$/night then it's already paid off in fees saved.
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Old 09-12-2018, 10:48 AM   #6
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As others have said, it is a complex question, and depends on your needs/wants. Guys on here like Mustang65 have full blown setups that can probably run everything in the TT for months on end. If your needs are simple, then your cost and requirements can
be low.

We camp without WSE regularly, and go several days with just a 40W solar panel and the stock deep cycle battery as long as we get sufficient sunlight. But our needs are simple and we have a light footprint.

First off, I converted all lights in the trailer to LED, cutting lighting consumption to just a few watts. With that change, we are pretty good. No 120V appliances (microwave, coffee maker, etc), but we have refrigeration (propane) lights, water (pump), hot water (propane) and ventilation (bunk fans). We don't (can't) watch TV, and use the radio sparingly; although I now mostly use an Altec Lansing Life Jacket bluetooth speaker streaming Spotify from my phone. Laptops are a bit difficult once they discharge, but we have a 12v based USB charging station in the trailer, so tablets and phones stay charged. If I really wanted to watch something I could do it on my tablet.

If do I bring my laptop I will charge it using an inverter built into my truck while we are touring around during the day. I do this less and less now that I have almost all the same content on a tablet however.

The charge controller came with my panel (<C$100 for the full kit on sale) and is mounted on the side of the battery box. I also leave the panel up on the roof of the TT in the storage lot so the battery stays topped off and ready to roll.

So it can be pretty simple and cheap. Total investment for LED bulbs and the panel was well under C$200.
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Old 09-12-2018, 11:16 AM   #7
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Solar is way simple and quiet, panel to controller to battery! In 2018 maybe been plugged in twice,mainly dry camp no ac. Batteries always charge, the larger the panel the lower the cost.We pieced the three components together save half the costs! Thanks
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Old 09-12-2018, 12:19 PM   #8
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Since you mentioned boon-docking, I guess it is safe to say you want your SOLAR for more than keeping your batteries charged, while in storage. Like most, they want the most bang for their SOLAR BUCK, QUALITY products and service. I would recommend starting out with a few SOLAR panels and a controller that will allow you to upgrade your system, by adding more SOLAR panels down the road if you decide you need more SOLAR power.

To keep your initial investment low and your ability to add to the system, take a look at the Renogy 200 watt Mono kit (see below). It comes with (2) 100 watt SOLAR panels and a 30Amp SOLAR charge controller, which will give you the opportunity of adding 1 or 2 more panels to the existing controller (400 watts max). For under $300.

Batteries, well you can add SOLAR first and keep your existing battery (if it is still good and holds a charge) until you save your $$$ to upgrade. Recommended would be a couple of 6 volt 225Ah batteries to start. There is a benefit of doing it this way, you will learn how to convert to the SOLAR RVing Lifestyle. Granted, the battery power that you have available, will be about 1/3 the power available from the (2) 6 volt batteries, but you will not kill 2 more expensive batteries, during the learning process. The transition takes a little work and coordination with everyone that is learning how to live the SOLAR RVing Lifestyle.

Good Luck, and when you have a little time, take a look at the "RVing with SOLAR" community. There is a lot of good information about SOLAR, batteries and mounting information.

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SOLAR - RENOGY 200 Watt Kit 283 dollars.jpg  
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Old 09-13-2018, 12:44 PM   #9
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300 bucks great price to get started!
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