Are solar panels and/or generators worth the expense

Question:

- Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – … or perhaps I just got tired of waiting for it to download after about 5 minutes…. Solar and Wind for remote power since 1979 http://www.windsun.com Check out the RV-TEC FAQ on my web page. It has a very comprehensive tutorial on Solar stuff. http://www.mv.com/users/tetrault Mark

It is a large FAQ, and you will end up at the beginning instead of where you wanted to go if you don’t wait until it finishes to load fully. On the other hand, are you sure there isn’t a problem with either your system, modem, or ISP? I regularly check my site, with my browsers’ cache empty, and it takes only a few seconds to load. With all the hits I have had to the FAQ, and the private e-mail about the same, not one has mentioned a download, or screen refresh time problem. Mark

Response:

… or perhaps I just got tired of waiting for it to download after about 5 minutes….

2cd addendum. I just logged on and checked the loading time. From the time I hit the link to the FAQ, till the time Netscape reported it 100% loaded took 23 seconds. The batteries and solar link worked fine. What can I say? Mark

Response:

What type of line/modem do you use? It took over 5 minutes to load here – I’m using Win ’98 and IE 4.02, country phone lines limit me to about 26,400 BPS… Nice page tho… Gary – KJ6Q – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – … or perhaps I just got tired of waiting for it to download after about 5 minutes…. 2cd addendum. I just logged on and checked the loading time. From the time I hit the link to the FAQ, till the time Netscape reported it 100% loaded took 23 seconds. The batteries and solar link worked fine. What can I say? Mark

Response:

Mark, are you loading from memory? That could account for the short download time, you could be downloading from your hard drive. Hugh – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – … or perhaps I just got tired of waiting for it to download after about 5 minutes…. 2cd addendum. I just logged on and checked the loading time. From the time I hit the link to the FAQ, till the time Netscape reported it 100% loaded took 23 seconds. The batteries and solar link worked fine. What can I say? Mark

Response:

 … or perhaps I just got tired of waiting for it to download after about 5 minutes…. Solar and Wind for remote power since 1979 http://www.windsun.com – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – I, too, am interested in getting solar panels to maintain the charge of my batteries but am not sure how many panels and what output I will need.  Most of this electrical stuff is Greek to me so I am looking for a good supplier/dealer to do the installation for me.  Did you also use a charge controller to ensure that batteries were not over charged? How many batteries did you have in your trailer?. Any assistance is much appreciated. Check out the RV-TEC FAQ on my web page. It has a very comprehensive tutorial on Solar stuff. http://www.mv.com/users/tetrault Mark

Response:

  I’ve given this a lot of thought and perhaps my conclusions will help get you started.  This is primarily to suit my RV but I’d recommend it for similar setups/situations.  For a two battery system whether  6v or 12v in parallel, rated about 220 amp hours total, a one panel system makes the most sense.  I recommend the 36 cell panels due to their higher voltage (21v, open circuit).  The panels start at about 65 watts and go up to about 130w. Obviously, the higher wattages will be somewhat larger than the lower ratings, but the size varies by manufacturer.  Most are close to 2ft. x 4ft. Most of the US (48 states) will give you an average equivalent to between 4 and 5 hours of full output daily.  I figure about 20 amp hours for the 65w panel, and double that for the big ones.  You will need to keep your usage below that figure (20AH-40AH) if you want ot avoid using generator or vehicle recharging.  Estimate your daily usage and pick a panel wattage that exceeds your requirements. Pick a charge controller with an amperage rating greater than the maximum for your panel.  My example:  Two 220AH 6v golf cart batteries in series, a 65w panel mounted on a portable stand so I can move it into a sunny location.  Charge controller is homemade, rated 5amps continous, 7amp for short periods, 12amp momentary surge.  It uses a National Semiconductor IC, an LM338 with a few resistors to set the output voltage.   Russ – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – I, too, am interested in getting solar panels to maintain the charge of my batteries but am not sure how many panels and what output I will need.  Most of this electrical stuff is Greek to me so I am looking for a good supplier/dealer to do the installation for me.  Did you also use a charge controller to ensure that batteries were not over charged? How many batteries did you have in your trailer?. Any assistance is much appreciated. — Ralph H. Maynard  a.k.a.  Jiggs … now retired and enjoying every day of the other half of my life… … remember that when the chips are down… the buffalo is empty… I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.  Are they worth the expense?  I plan to do some boondocking, but most of our time will probably be spent in national forest and national park campgrounds. Most of these will probably not have hook-ups.  Are the (2) 12V batteries enough to provide limited useage of lights for a week or so without needing charged?  I look forward to your comments. I recently spent three weeks at a Provincial campground with no electrical hoop up.  I did, however,  have a solar panel working full time during daylight hours.  I used only fluorescent lights, used my ceiling fan a few times, used the fan in the hood over the stove a few times, and of course the water pump got lots of use. I never ran out of battery juice. The solar panel is about 12" x 18"  and I paid $180 for it about 5 years ago. Hope this is useful information.

Response:

  That website seems to have all it’s links messed up. Every time I click on one of the battery or other links, it just takes me back to the first page. Solar and Wind for remote power since 1979 http://www.windsun.com – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – I, too, am interested in getting solar panels to maintain the charge of my batteries but am not sure how many panels and what output I will need.  Most of this electrical stuff is Greek to me so I am looking for a good supplier/dealer to do the installation for me.  Did you also use a charge controller to ensure that batteries were not over charged? How many batteries did you have in your trailer?. Any assistance is much appreciated. Check out the RV-TEC FAQ on my web page. It has a very comprehensive tutorial on Solar stuff. http://www.mv.com/users/tetrault Mark

Response:

I, too, am interested in getting solar panels to maintain the charge of my batteries but am not sure how many panels and what output I will need.  Most of this electrical stuff is Greek to me so I am looking for a good supplier/dealer to do the installation for me.  Did you also use a charge controller to ensure that batteries were not over charged? How many batteries did you have in your trailer?. Any assistance is much appreciated.

Check out the RV-TEC FAQ on my web page. It has a very comprehensive tutorial on Solar stuff. http://www.mv.com/users/tetrault Mark

Response:

We live in Alaska and our home is a cabin in the woods which is three miles from the commerical power line. We have our own electric system which we installed ourselves. It consist of a Honda 2500 watt generator, Trace 1500 watt inverter, four BP 75 solar panels mounted on a swivel sattelite dish mount, four 6 volt L 16 batteries, Amp  and Volt meters and a 30Amp solar charge controller. In the summer we can get by with just the panels. If the weather is overcast we can get a good charge after a two hour run on the Honda.  Get very little charge from the sun from mid October to mid Febuary.  Have to run Honda 3-4 hours each day. Changed all our light bulbs to Flour. They use a half to one third the juice of Incad. This system gives us all the lights we need, runs our TV satellite, Web TV. CD/Tape player, Vac. cleaner 800 watt Mcro Wave, Sewing machine etc. Experiemce biggest draw down when we have lots of company or Grand Chrilden come for overnight visit. Have about $4300.00 into the system including generator. We plan to put a similar system into our Holiday Rambler 5th Whl this winter when we get to California. Glad to answer any questions you might have . John McDonald, Trapper Creek, Alaska Dead Dog

Response:

I, too, am interested in getting solar panels to maintain the charge of my batteries but am not sure how many panels and what output I will need.  Most of this electrical stuff is Greek to me so I am looking for a good supplier/dealer to do the installation for me.  Did you also use a charge controller to ensure that batteries were not over charged? How many batteries did you have in your trailer?. Any assistance is much appreciated. — Ralph H. Maynard  a.k.a.  Jiggs … now retired and enjoying every day of the other half of my life… … remember that when the chips are down… the buffalo is empty… – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.  Are they worth the expense?  I plan to do some boondocking, but most of our time will probably be spent in national forest and national park campgrounds. Most of these will probably not have hook-ups.  Are the (2) 12V batteries enough to provide limited useage of lights for a week or so without needing charged?  I look forward to your comments. I recently spent three weeks at a Provincial campground with no electrical hoop up.  I did, however,  have a solar panel working full time during daylight hours.  I used only fluorescent lights, used my ceiling fan a few times, used the fan in the hood over the stove a few times, and of course the water pump got lots of use. I never ran out of battery juice. The solar panel is about 12" x 18"  and I paid $180 for it about 5 years ago. Hope this is useful information.

Response:

  For several reasons, we do NOT recommend the so-called self-regulating panels.  In cold weather they can put out much more than the battery should have, and in very hot weather (desert in summer), they can drop below what the battery needs to charge up.  The "self regulating" panels are in fact not regulated at all – they are just low voltage panels. — Solar and Wind for remote power since 1979 http://www.windsun.com – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – Hunter We have found that for most people 1 45 watt panel will keep up with typical daily usage — seems to work best when hooked to 2 deep cycle batteries. Siemans (Spelling may not be correct) has a panel that we recomend, it is self regulating, doesn’t require a charge control panel, and is a very simple 2 wire hook-up.  Our price is $495 including typical installation. (I’m not trying to sell you one, just provided pricing for your info.)

Response:

Say what you like, all I know is after ten + years of experience with this panel (previously sold by ARCO) is that they work well for our customers.  The side benefit rarely mentioned is that battery life seems also to be extended. Most of our customers see about 3 years of useful life on deep cycle batteries, but 4 or 5 years with solar panels. – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text –   For several reasons, we do NOT recommend the so-called self-regulating panels.  In cold weather they can put out much more than the battery should have, and in very hot weather (desert in summer), they can drop below what the battery needs to charge up.  The "self regulating" panels are in fact not regulated at all – they are just low voltage panels. — Solar and Wind for remote power since 1979 http://www.windsun.com Hunter We have found that for most people 1 45 watt panel will keep up with typical daily usage — seems to work best when hooked to 2 deep cycle batteries. Siemans (Spelling may not be correct) has a panel that we recomend, it is self regulating, doesn’t require a charge control panel, and is a very simple 2 wire hook-up.  Our price is $495 including typical installation. (I’m not trying to sell you one, just provided pricing for your info

Response:

  I know which panel you are talking about, it’s the Siemens SM46. Unlike most panels, it has 30 series cells instead of the usual 36. This means that instead of the 17 volts or so peak that most panels put out, it is only putting out 14.6 volts.   And that 14.6 volts is at a CELL temperature (not air temp) of 25 degrees C (77 F).  The temperature coefficient of the panel is a negative .0775 volts per degrees C. That means the voltage drops .0775 volts for every degree C above a cell temperature of 25 C.  On a warm day (90 F), the cell temperatures can easily reach 50 degrees C – an increase of 25 C over the rated temperature.  So, 25 x .0775 = 1.94 volt drop.  Subtract the 1.94 volts from the rated voltage (14.6 V), and you end up with 12.66 volts – barely enough to even float charge a battery, much less charge it.   On the other hand, at low temperatures (such as at your friendly ski spot), cell temperatures can drop to Zero C (32 F). At that temperature, the voltage rises by the same amount – so 14.6 + 1.94 volts = 16.54 volts.  Since these are sold as "self regulating’, there is no regulator in the circuit, and you are feeding that 16.5 volts directly into your battery. Most batteries are not happy with being charged at 10% over-voltage.   And, to make matters worse, if you DO put a regulator on the panel, then you drop about .8 volts across the regulator – losing even more at the higher temperatures.   And if you are selling them for $495, you are paying far too much. — Solar and Wind for remote power since 1979 http://www.windsun.com – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text -Say what you like, all I know is after ten + years of experience with this panel (previously sold by ARCO) is that they work well for our customers.  The side benefit rarely mentioned is that battery life seems also to be extended. Most of our customers see about 3 years of useful life on deep cycle batteries, but 4 or 5 years with solar panels.   For several reasons, we do NOT recommend the so-called self-regulating panels.  In cold weather they can put out much more than the battery should have, and in very hot weather (desert in summer), they can drop below what the battery needs to charge up. The "self regulating" panels are in fact not regulated at all – they are just low voltage panels.

– Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – Hunter We have found that for most people 1 45 watt panel will keep up with typical daily usage — seems to work best when hooked to 2 deep cycle batteries. Siemans (Spelling may not be correct) has a panel that we recomend, it is self regulating, doesn’t require a charge control panel, and is a very simple 2 wire hook-up.  Our price is $495 including typical installation. (I’m not trying to sell you one, just provided pricing for your info

Response:

We have 4 75 watt panels to feed 6 golf cart batteries (equivalent to 3 12 VDC in parallel).  Works very well.  In general, I’d recommend one 75 watt panel for each 12 volt battery.  As well, get the type that require a charge controller.  That way you get better control over what is going on with your batteries. Chuck

Chuck…….not to be arrogant…….where did you get your have another high quality vendor to look at in addition to RVSOLAR…….sure would be interested?????? Plan on doing a bunch more homework before next solar Fred in AZ

Response:

Chuck…….not to be arrogant…….where did you get your have another high quality vendor to look at in addition to RVSOLAR…….sure would be interested?????? Plan on doing a bunch more homework before next solar Fred in AZ

Since you are in AZ, Fred, you are in the right area.  Consider there is a  place in Scottsdale (check the FMCA mag for name and address) and don’t ignore the possibilities in Quartzsite.  Q has the best prices we’ve ever seen (about half what we paid in southern CA, C’est la vie) The panels were about 400 each for 75 watts, the golf cart batts were around 60 each.  The controller was about 150 and the readout in the coach was around 100.  All plus necessary wiring (don’t skimp on that) and labor. Chuck

Response:

I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.

How big is your TV? A 13" set can use 6-7 amps, a VCR adds another 1 or 2; ditto for a satellite receiver. It’s easy to burn up 30 amp-hours (AH) in a night, watching TV. Will you be running a coffee pot, toaster, microwave off an inverter? A pot of coffee takes us about 10 AH, ditto for some toast, or 6 minutes of microwave use. Just the refrigerator, propane and CO detectors take .6 amps from our battery, which is 14 AH a day. Add these up, and see how quickly you’ll exceed half the capacity (maximum recommended draw-down of a deep cycle battery) your battery. As you can see, the basic .6 amp draw will use up 100 AH in only a week, which is all you should be taking out of two golf cart batteries for maximum life. I suggest the generator and an inverter with a built-in three phase battery charger if you will want to run the AC without being plugged in; just the solar panels otherwise (much cheaper over the long run and quieter). —

Eric Greenwell

Response:

<<IMHO……Solar was one of the better expenditures of $$$ that we have made in regards to this expensive "hobby" What size solar panel do you recommend for my trailer?  21 foot Airstream…2 batteries… color tv/vcr, laptop.   One person.  Microwave. Hunter

We have 4 75 watt panels to feed 6 golf cart batteries (equivalent to 3 12 VDC in parallel).  Works very well.  In general, I’d recommend one 75 watt panel for each 12 volt battery.  As well, get the type that require a charge controller.  That way you get better control over what is going on with your batteries. Chuck

Response:

<<IMHO……Solar was one of the better expenditures of $$$ that we have made in regards to this expensive "hobby" What size solar panel do you recommend for my trailer?  21 foot Airstream…2 batteries… color tv/vcr, laptop.   One person.  Microwave. Hunter

We have found that for most people 1 45 watt panel will keep up with typical daily usage — seems to work best when hooked to 2 deep cycle batteries. Siemans (Spelling may not be correct) has a panel that we recomend, it is self regulating, doesn’t require a charge control panel, and is a very simple 2 wire hook-up.  Our price is $495 including typical installation. (I’m not trying to sell you one, just provided pricing for your info.)

Response:

I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.  Are they worth the expense?  I plan to do some boondocking, but most of our time will probably be spent in national forest and national park campgrounds. Most of these will probably not have hook-ups.  Are the (2) 12V batteries enough to provide limited useage of lights for a week or so without needing charged?  I look forward to your comments.

I recently spent three weeks at a Provincial campground with no electrical hoop up.  I did, however,  have a solar panel working full time during daylight hours.  I used only fluorescent lights, used my ceiling fan a few times, used the fan in the hood over the stove a few times, and of course the water pump got lots of use. I never ran out of battery juice. The solar panel is about 12" x 18"  and I paid $180 for it about 5 years ago. Hope this is useful information.

Response:

I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.  Are they worth the expense?  I plan to do some boondocking, but most of our time will probably be spent in national forest and national park campgrounds. Most of these will probably not have hook-ups.  Are the (2) 12V batteries enough to provide limited useage of lights for a week or so without needing charged?  I look forward to your comments. Thanks; Dennis

Response:

I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.  Are they worth the expense?  I plan to do some boondocking, but most of our time will probably be spent in national forest and national park campgrounds. Most of these will probably not have hook-ups.  Are the (2) 12V batteries enough to provide limited useage of lights for a week or so without needing charged?  I look forward to your comments. Thanks; Dennis

Here are my $.02 worth. Two batteries will allow you the use of lights and water pump for 2 weeks with no problems. If you plan to use a forced air furnace, you will get about 3 nights before you are out of juice. If you want/need to run an airconditioner without hookups, you will need a generator. 4kw should do for one unit. I have a slide in camper with 1 Group 27 battery. I can get two nights of furnace or over a week of just lights without recharging. Erich

Response:

Dennis

Might want to look a a WEBsite such as : www.rvsolar.com or run a search engine. We installed solar a couple of years ago…….MH w/2x group 27 batteries…….system consists of panels, cable and the time……Saw in Camping World awhile back essentially the same system for about $200……prices are coming down. IMHO……Solar was one of the better expenditures of $$$ that we have made in regards to this expensive "hobby" Fred in AZ

Response:

<<IMHO……Solar was one of the better expenditures of $$$ that we have made in regards to this expensive "hobby" What size solar panel do you recommend for my trailer?  21 foot Airstream…2 batteries… color tv/vcr, laptop.   One person.  Microwave. Hunter

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the converter wihich is located beneath the vendor in Quartzite in January of 95…….works great……at least the current system and buy top of the line stuff from RVSOLAR or equivalent that would be better engineered and get an inverter to run read through their info…….it’s a quick and painless way to get a Fred in AZ

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You will find that with a new fifth wheel, you will have a large power drain on the batteries before you ever turn on a light bulb.  The water heater needs power to start, the refrigerator, even if operating on gas, needs power to turn on and off.  The control panel will be drawing power for all the gauges, etc.  the water pump will be a draw. the exhaust fans will be a draw. The biggest drain of all will occur as you set up as you arrive at the campsite.  That happens when you extend the slide outs.  If I were starting new, I would go with a couple of solar panels and at least 4 good deep cycle batteries.  We have camped as much as 5 months with no hookups, no solar panels, and no generator, but we have #2 wire from our alternator to our batteries, so we could charge them from the tow vehicle. — Tom     (Link below is the Georgia Avion Travelcade Club) http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Gorge/8588/avion.html – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – I plan to begin fulltiming the first of the year and I am getting ready to purchase a new 5th wheel trailer.  I am trying to decide if I want to get the solar panels and/or generator.  I would like to hear from those of you who use these items to get your inputs.  Are they worth the expense?  I plan to do some boondocking, but most of our time will probably be spent in national forest and national park campgrounds. Most of these will probably not have hook-ups.  Are the (2) 12V batteries enough to provide limited useage of lights for a week or so without needing charged?  I look forward to your comments. Thanks; Dennis

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