2017 RV-Dreams Fall Educational Rally - September 25 - October 1, 2017 in Sevierville, Tennessee.
SOLD OUT!! Click Here For Details & Waiting List Registration

2018 RV-Dreams Spring Educational Rally - April 23 -29, 2018 in Pahrump, Nevada
Registration Is Now Open!! Click Here To Get More Information & To Register

Members Login
Username 
 
Password 
    Remember Me  
Post Info TOPIC: Beginner Solar Power Questions (for full-time boondocking)


RV-Dreams Community Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 1
Date:
Beginner Solar Power Questions (for full-time boondocking)


Hello lovely people! 

I am new to RV life in general and am planning to jump right into boondocking. confuse I've been doing a lot of research online, and I've learned enough to understand that I have barely learned anything at all. disbelief There's a lot of technical knowledge needed to undertake figuring out my Solar Power needs; therefore, I come throwing myself at the feet of you way-more-knowledgeable RVers in hopes of figuring at least some of this out.  Even having one of my questions answered with a firm assurance would be an immense help. 

 So here's the rundown! 

Spoiler

Inside the spoiler, I've put a bunch of information about my 1999 Fleetwood Southwind Storm RV that I felt was even remotely relevant to the installation of a Solar Power system. Hopefully it'll serve as a good reference in answering my questions. I also included a link to the owner's manual for the RV in case anyone wanted to read it for whatever reason. yawn

Planned Usage

I plan to be living in this RV with two other people working on our computer software business. As such, ideally, we will want to be relying mostly on Solar Power for our electronics which includes:

  • Laptop (Power Brick Info: AC Input: 100-240V ~ 2.25A 50-60Hz DC Output: 19V --- 9.5A)
  • Desktop Computer (Power Brick Info: AC Input: 100-240V~, 2A 50-60Hz DC Output: 19V --- 7.1A)
  • Desktop Computer (Power Supply Unit Info: 900W Continuous Power, 12V AC Input: 100-240V ±10% 47-63Hz More Info I Cannot Decipher: +3.3V@25A, +5V@25A, +12V1@40A, +12V2@40A, +12V3@40A, +12V4@40A, -12V@0.5A, +5VSB@3.0A Link to PSU Product: HCG-900)
  • 2x LED Monitors
  • 3x Smartphone Charging
  • 2x Kindle Fire Charging
  • Potential Additions:
    • Another LED Monitor
    • Raspberry Pi Model B+ which uses a microUSB Cable: Minimum of 2A (10W)
    • A wireless router for local area network usage

Ideally, we would still be able to use our computers for a few hours (at least) after the sun goes down. Other appliances, such as air conditioning or the microwave, we're fine using the generator for.

Here is what I think I learned during my research:
(Please please please feel free to correct any mistakes! I am the opposite of an expert on this. )

  • The Solar Panel that already comes with the RV is only for trickle charging and is basically useless
  • The coach battery does not want to be drained below 50% of its charge
  • We probably want to replace the coach battery with a new one not from 1999, and it should be AGM
  • The Solar Panel kit I was looking at is the Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit w/ 40A MPPT Charge Controller
    • I'm actually not sure about the 40A MPPT as some notes in the owner's manual leads me to believe that I want a 30A Charge Controller instead, but I don't know. I do know that from researching, I would want MPPT over PWM for efficiency's sake.
    • If I do need a 30A Charge Controller, I'm not sure of which one to get
    • I also don't know if 400W is enough
    • I am also fairly certain everybody has been saying that Monocrystalline is better than Polycrystalline
    • On Renogy's website, I can get a MT-5 Tracer Meter, which is good, maybe? Any tool that can give us additional information about our setup to allow better self-maintenance is absolutely ideal.
    • Another thing that is good to have (?) in the Solar Panels are bypass diodes (particularly living in the Pacific Northwest, there is a lot of shade everywhere)
  • We might need an inverter to go along with the Solar Panel kit, and if we do, we want a 2000W or 3000W true sine wave inverter
    • There is some hesitation here as some notes in the owner's manual leads me to believe there is already an inverter that is installed and being used by the RV.
    • I'm not sure if I need to match the Solar Panel Kit's ideal Wh per day with the W of the inverter.
    • I'm also actually not sure at all what W we need on our inverter, should we need one.
  • We will want an Adjustable Solar Panel Mount Mounting Rack Bracket to install the Solar Panels to the roof; so we can better target the sunlight
    • I actually am not sure that it will fit on the curved roof of the RV, in which case, I'm not sure what adjustable solar panel mount to get so that we can target the sunlight better.

Here is what I am currently aware of that I need to know:
(Feel free to bring up anything that I should be aware of or should know that I'm totally blanking on)

  • What kind of Solar Panels should I get?
  • How many Watts do I need from the Solar Panels?
  • What amperage do I need from the Charge Controller? PWM or MPPT?
  • Do I need an inverter?
    • I realize this one is probably only answerable by me digging into the electrical system to see if there is already an inverter, and if there is already an inverter, checking to see if it's suitable for our needs or not.
  • If I need an inverter, what kind of inverter do I need?
  • What kind of (AGM?) battery do I need?
  • How many batteries do I need to support our electronics for at least a few hours after the sun has gone down?
  • Should there be any kind of fuse or breaker installed in-between the battery, solar panels, charge controller, and/or inverter? (Don't know what I'm talking about here. I remember reading other people discussing this or something similar, but I can't find the webpage anymore. Just want to make sure I'm covering my safety bases here.)
  • What kind of wiring do I need?
  • Is it possible to utilize the current RV's Solar Panel installation to add additional Solar Panels to? (In effect, bypassing the need to drill new tunnels through the RV's roof)
  • I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but by now it's way past my bedtime  

Hey, if you've read this far, thanks!  If you can't answer all the questions, but are willing to chime in for specific questions, please do! Any knowledge I can take away from this is a net positive for me! And don't worry, I won't hold you responsible for any issues caused by any of your recommendations. I will be researching again, but with clearer direction, after receiving any help from you all!

Thank you for your time and patience! This has been an exhausting research experience thus far , but I'm enjoying every minute of it! 

Sincerely,
Jonathan C

 



__________________


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 59
Date:

Very in depth and good questions. I'm sure many will contribute but if I may suggest, contacting AM Solar may be a good starting point to get the bulk of your questions answered. Also they have a very informative website that may answer a lot of your questions. Good luck.

__________________


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 1837
Date:

Recommend getting your favorite beverage and start digesting these:

This older write-up from Howard has a bit more a story to it and provides some overview:

http://www.rv-dreams.com/our-rv-electrical.html

This one gets into the meat of it:

http://www.jackdanmayer.com/rv_electrical_and_solar.htm

What you need is totally based on how much your going to boondock and how much power you will use. Both write-ups assume one will use / need 120 volts which means an inverter.

 



__________________

Bill & Linda
2014 New Horizons Majestic F37RLTSS 96

2016 RAM 5500HD \ 4-Wheel Drive \ Link Air Ride
Classy Chassis RV Hauler Bed Conversion \ Aux Fuel Tank 



RV-Dreams Community Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 2
Date:

Hi Jonathan,
I would recommend you to call or email to elitesynergysolutions.com . This company are good involved in this field and know the stuff perfectly. You can ask them any questions related to solar panels. They can also recommend you to buy or to choose the right for your RV.
Good luck

__________________
Amily


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 43
Date:

IMHO you need a Honda 2000 and forget the solar stuff. you will save lots of money this way

__________________

2005 Cedar Creek 30RLBS/RV Flex Armour Roof / MORryde Independent Suspension/ Disc Brakes

2015 RAM 3500 DRW Cummins 3.42/Garmin RV760

 



RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 655
Date:

The other responses are great…but there are a couple of other things you need to figure out before you even start to consider solar. 

1. What is the amp hour capacity, type, and age of the existing house batteries…these are the ones that power things in the house as opposed to the starting battery that cranks the starter on the engine.

2. Do you already have a generator?

3. What's your budget for doing solar.

Bottom line…solar is a lifestyle choice. Even if you boondock 6 months out of every year it will be a long time before you break even on the cost of installation of solar, a bigger AGM battery if necessary, inverter, and all the labor to install it. If you're planning on being in RV parks mostly and just occasional boondocking…the suggested Honda 2K generator is a much more economical option. Given you've purchased a 1999 model RV…I'm suspecting budget is a concern and solar might not be within it.

The suggestion of elitesynergysolutions.com I wonder about…a quick look at their site and it looks like they're mostly doing residential or fixed building installations rather than RV. There are a bunch of good RV solar installers depending on where you are in the country.

You need to first learn a bunch more about what you already have…what your energy requirements are…and what you need to provide them. An energy audit on the coach is another thing needing doing that helps answer the second of these questions. With knowing what you really have already and how much power draw you need available…then you can take a look at the budget and go from there.

Solar ain't cheap…we already had the big AGM battery bank, solar pre-wiring to the roof, the big inverter, and the appropriate monitoring instrumentation in our New Horizons from the factory and it was still several thousand bucks for the 8 panels we bought, solar controller, and labor to put them all in. As I said…it's a lifestyle and budgetary choice…lots of folks think they'll get into solar and never have to pay for parking again…while that may be at least possible if you're out west there's still the problem of fresh water and dumping black/gray tanks that isn't easy if you're out in the middle of BLM land in the prairie. Best to figure out what you have and need and compare that to your budget. Not trying to talk you out of it…but as a new RVer you need to figure out a whole bunch of stuff before you throw money at solar which might not help solve your needs.

I would start with the links Bill recommended…and get a whole bunch smarter about both RV electrical systems, solar, and what you have already before doing anything else. There's lots of expertise here on the forum once you've done some of the basic educational reading to help you figure out what you need to meet your requirements.



__________________


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 209
Date:

"IMHO you need a Honda 2000 and forget the solar stuff. you will save lots of money this way"

Danny, saving money isn't why I have solar. It's a lifestyle, it's easier than hauling out the generator, checking the fuel and oil, running it for an hour+, letting it cool, and putting it away,....AND it lets you enjoy a quiet afternoon parked next to me.

__________________

2015 Winnebago Minnie TT 2101DS & Chevy Tahoe LTZ, 300 watts of WindyNation solar - parallel w/MPPT, 2 Trojan T-125s. TALL pole for USC & historical flags. 14 year Army vet. Prefer USFS, COE, BLM, USF&WS, NPS, TVA, state, county campgrounds



RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 655
Date:

Larry…definitely true. Solar is a lifestyle but you pay for it and my impression from the OP was that budget was a serious consideration. Given that the recommendation for the Honda isn't really out of order. Given the OP's newness to both RVing and the forum as based on this being his first post and the post's content…I personally don't think he really knows enough yet to determine whether solar is appropriate for the situation or affordable.

Nothing wrong with being new…we were there 5 years back…and he's trying to learn before doing anything…all admirable. But…and it's a big but…as I said budget appears to be a serious consideration and I personally would likely not recommend solar until he (a) knows more and (b) has figured out that RVing is gonna work for him…no sense spending a bunch of money now to find out the lifestyle doesn't fit in a year.

The post subject…beginner and full-time boondocking…tells me that he doesn't know what he's getting into yet, that budget is definitely an issue, and probably has no idea how hard full-time boondocking is. I'm not knocking either of beginner or full-time boondocking…just trying to help the new guy like folks here and elsewhere helped us in the past 5 years. Heck, I'm still asking people things…looked for some info on Antelope Canyon just the other day…no use reinventing the wheel.



-- Edited by Neil and Connie on Monday 6th of February 2017 08:46:52 AM



-- Edited by Neil and Connie on Monday 6th of February 2017 08:50:31 AM

__________________


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 1502
Date:

We are still a couple of years away from our FT start and by no means are we solar experts though we have solar under active investigation.  I agree with all of Neil & Connie's points and potentially the idea of a modest generator (the Honda 2000) as well.

IMHO, solar is not a lifestyle choice, however boondocking (or otherwise being off the grid) is. Solar is just a means to an end. Budget constraints vs other power creation options is what will drive decision making. Solar will cost a lot upfront, but will save later... to a point. Sooner or later you'll need new batteries (not cheap). Gennies can be expensive upfront also, or not, depending on what you buy, but now you have to pay the going rate for fuel, currently it is relatively affordable... but who's to say what it will cost next month or next year. A genny will need periodic maintenance. In the long run they will both end up costing roughly the same (which is to say a lot) so it boils down to your comfort zone when it comes to certain intangibles, like peace and quiet, flexibility to meet your power consumption needs, how environmentally minded you are, how mechanically inclined you are, etc. 

For us we have money in our budget to do a fairly large solar install, just in case we decide we'll want or need that much. Our priorities may change and we could go a different way but we have the benefit of time on our side at this point. YMMV, as they say. 

FWIW, Brian



__________________

Brian, Cindi & Josie (our fur baby)



RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 1837
Date:

Neil and Connie wrote:

Solar is a lifestyle but you pay for it and my impression from the OP was that budget was a serious consideration. 

-- Edited by Neil and Connie on Monday 6th of February 2017 08:46:52 AM

-- Edited by Neil and Connie on Monday 6th of February 2017 08:50:31 AM


 This is a slightly older thread but since its been revived with a few newer posts a comment from my perspective. Unless one is going off-grid as a specific, personal life style, do not think of solar as a way to save money. One will be very disappointed.  Indeed, with enough solar one can live off-grid.  But the second I hear "budget" and "solar" in the same sentence I know this is going to be difficult.  

For most, not all, solar is just to supplement power needs for a few days along with a generator.  Even with a small generator it can be difficult for "most" to break even on power costs.  Naturally if one doesn't use hardly ANY 120 volt equipment it can be done.  But that will get "old" pretty fast, IMO.

Again, if boondocking is for "fun" that's one thing.  Just want to make sure anyone reading the thread understands solar; how little power one can actually produce in a day with the typical RV installation due to space limitations. And the expensive batteries (number) required especially with a residential refrigerator.  The OP, I believe, is being realistic in what he wants to power.  Great, realistic questions

We have solar, a generator and enjoy boondocking very much - as long as the weather doesn't require much air-conditioning although our generator can run both AC units.  But that gets expensive real fast on a per hour basis.

Just some perspective comments for those reading along.  Indeed, do your homework.

Bill

 



__________________

Bill & Linda
2014 New Horizons Majestic F37RLTSS 96

2016 RAM 5500HD \ 4-Wheel Drive \ Link Air Ride
Classy Chassis RV Hauler Bed Conversion \ Aux Fuel Tank 



RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 101
Date:

The 2000 Honda's want run long on a tank of fuel. Solar gives us a freedom like no other. Generators are a pain unless they are on board types and have a fun tank or run on propane. Just my opinion.

__________________

Rush and Lola Songer

2015 F-350 DRW (Alias Fat Baby)

2017 Vanleigh Vilano 325 RL  (Alias Sunshine)

Solar Equipped 

Full Timers July 2016 



RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 655
Date:

carolinakids wrote:

The 2000 Honda's want run long on a tank of fuel. Solar gives us a freedom like no other. Generators are a pain unless they are on board types and have a fun tank or run on propane. Just my opinion.


Mine runs about 6-8 hours on a tank…and it never runs more than a couple of hours per day to get the bulk charging done then switch over to solar for the float portion…unless there's no sun. A 5 gallon of fuel lasts 10 days at least for us…and one can always fill it while you're out at the local bar having a brewski.

If we didn't have the residential fridge then we could easily make it with no generator usage…but I like the extra space since it allows us to keep lots of infrequently used ingredients in there…an RV fridge just wouldn't have the space we need.

 



__________________


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 1837
Date:

Neil and Connie wrote:
carolinakids wrote:

The 2000 Honda's want run long on a tank of fuel. Solar gives us a freedom like no other. Generators are a pain unless they are on board types and have a fun tank or run on propane. Just my opinion.


Mine runs about 6-8 hours on a tank…and it never runs more than a couple of hours per day to get the bulk charging done then switch over to solar for the float portion…unless there's no sun. A 5 gallon of fuel lasts 10 days at least for us…and one can always fill it while you're out at the local bar having a brewski.

If we didn't have the residential fridge then we could easily make it with no generator usage…but I like the extra space since it allows us to keep lots of infrequently used ingredients in there…an RV fridge just wouldn't have the space we need.

 


 Listen up!  This is a very big deal as Neil is a great cook! Almost as good as Linda.  "Ask me how I know this." :)



__________________

Bill & Linda
2014 New Horizons Majestic F37RLTSS 96

2016 RAM 5500HD \ 4-Wheel Drive \ Link Air Ride
Classy Chassis RV Hauler Bed Conversion \ Aux Fuel Tank 



RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 655
Date:

Bill and Linda wrote:
Listen up!  This is a very big deal as Neil is a great cook! Almost as good as Linda.  "Ask me how I know this." :)

 Trust me…I'm better you're just biased.



__________________


RV-Dreams Family Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 101
Date:

We really like the Honda's for needed power but, its a pain in the rear (to me) dealing with them after having solar installed. For one thing our Honda's were powering a 30 ft. f/w with one a/c and if we fired up the microwave they tripped out. Next, the Honda's only runs 1 hr under load so every hour on the hour we had to refill until we bought an extra gas canister. Now I have another piece to store somewhere and it has to go outside account of the fumes. With the solar we pull up to a spot, break out the smart phone find the path of the sun and try to turn RV (sunshine) that directions. If theres no sunshine then the Honda's go into service. But as soon as sun comes out off they go. We love the solar. My solar installer is from Wyoming in the summer and Arizona area in the winter. If you want to talk to him look up   https://wyominggypsysmobilehomesteading.wordpress.com/ and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcwsCAkv49OJcxW66c1iBng/featured



-- Edited by carolinakids on Friday 17th of February 2017 06:11:08 AM

__________________

Rush and Lola Songer

2015 F-350 DRW (Alias Fat Baby)

2017 Vanleigh Vilano 325 RL  (Alias Sunshine)

Solar Equipped 

Full Timers July 2016 



RV-Dreams Community Member

Status: Offline
Posts: 5
Date:

If you need more solar power tools and equipment I recommend visiting agreenorigin.com for you to browse more information about how to set up solar power equipment and batteries.

__________________

I help save the mother earth from global warming by using Natural Energy

Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.

Tweet this page Post to Digg Post to Del.icio.us