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Old 08-29-2009, 09:25 PM   #1
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Going Solar

Okay so I've done some homework, but sometimes its like reading chinease. Anyone with knowledge or understanding would be very helpful.

I have a 2001 E350 7.3 liter diesel I currently have a single 4D house battery a single alternator. Im also running the larger of the refrigerators not sure which one off the top of my head. I have a inverter, but never use it. I think previous owner put it in to operate microwave, but I have never used it except for storage of reading material.

so here are some questions I have.

1) do I need to upgrade to 2 house batteries and wire them in series?
2)what is the min wattage that I need as far as panels go/
3)also recommended panel manufactures
4)mounting panel recommendations (I have a Thule roof rack?)
5)Blue sky or other equipment needed.

Any other thoughts ,questions, trials, tribulations or recommendations much appreciated.



Thanks,
Scott

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Old 08-30-2009, 12:58 AM   #2
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Re: Going Solar

Scott, I'm gonna let others with more knowledge of solar answer your questions about panels, mounting, etc., but I felt I had to weigh in right away with this. Upgrading to two house batteries can double your ability to run electrical stuff before the batteries need a charge. BUT - you now have one 12-volt house battery. If you buy another 12-volt house battery, you do NOT want to connect them in SERIES. That would give you 24 volts and would fry or damage anything you tried to operate. Connect the batteries in PARALLEL - plus to plus and minus to minus. The only exception is if you decide to increase capacity by getting rid of the 12-volt house battery and replacing it with TWO high-capacity, deep-cycle 6-volt batteries (e.g., golf cart batteries). Then, and only then, you'd connect the two 6-volters in series to get 12 volts. These days, with high-capacity AGM 12-volt batteries available, it's not often advantageous to use two 6-volt batteries. As to solar, think of your battery or batteries as a tank holding a supply of electricity. When you run electrical stuff, you're draining out the electricity. Eventually you'll drain it all out. Then think of your solar panel or panels as a pump that can add electricity to the tank, regardless of whether you're draining the tank at the time. So - figure out the total watts required by each thing you run off the house batteries and how long you run each of those things each day. Add all this up and you'll have an estimate of how many watt-hours you use each day. Let's say it's 150 watt-hours. If you buy one 20-watt solar panel and hook it up right, and if it really puts out 20 watts in full sun, and if you are camping where you get 10 hours of full sun each day, your "pump" will be putting 200 watt-hours of electricity back into the "tank" each day. You'll be ahead of the game and could theoretically camp for a long time without ever running the van motor. But shade, clouds, dirt or snow on the panels, etc., can significantly reduce what you're adding to the "tank" each day. Hope this helps!
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Old 08-30-2009, 07:39 AM   #3
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Re: Going Solar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Psomaki
Scott, I'm gonna let others with more knowledge of solar answer your questions about panels, mounting, etc., but I felt I had to weigh in right away with this. Upgrading to two house batteries can double your ability to run electrical stuff before the batteries need a charge. BUT - you now have one 12-volt house battery. If you buy another 12-volt house battery, you do NOT want to connect them in SERIES. That would give you 24 volts and would fry or damage anything you tried to operate. Connect the batteries in PARALLEL - plus to plus and minus to minus. The only exception is if you decide to increase capacity by getting rid of the 12-volt house battery and replacing it with TWO high-capacity, deep-cycle 6-volt batteries (e.g., golf cart batteries). Then, and only then, you'd connect the two 6-volters in series to get 12 volts. These days, with high-capacity AGM 12-volt batteries available, it's not often advantageous to use two 6-volt batteries. As to solar, think of your battery or batteries as a tank holding a supply of electricity. When you run electrical stuff, you're draining out the electricity. Eventually you'll drain it all out. Then think of your solar panel or panels as a pump that can add electricity to the tank, regardless of whether you're draining the tank at the time. So - figure out the total watts required by each thing you run off the house batteries and how long you run each of those things each day. Add all this up and you'll have an estimate of how many watt-hours you use each day. Let's say it's 150 watt-hours. If you buy one 20-watt solar panel and hook it up right, and if it really puts out 20 watts in full sun, and if you are camping where you get 10 hours of full sun each day, your "pump" will be putting 200 watt-hours of electricity back into the "tank" each day. You'll be ahead of the game and could theoretically camp for a long time without ever running the van motor. But shade, clouds, dirt or snow on the panels, etc., can significantly reduce what you're adding to the "tank" each day. Hope this helps!

Great explanation brother!

May i add:
Figure 5 hours sun max
Over estimate your daily wattage
(all appliances must have a wattage or amp hours sticker)

example:
I have
4cuft fridge
tv/dvd
laptop
cell phones (2)
sterio
lights
i estimated 1200watts/day ( probably about double of my actual use )
I have TWO 180 watt panels
they will Just about fill batteries with 1200 watts under optimum conditions
(the 180 watt panels are big, but i have a Cruiser top and custom aluminess)
I have one 4d at 210 amp hours and two group 27 at 100 each for a total of 410 amp hours
(no room under to sling another 4d, the grp 27's are under the gaucho)

over built, yes
esp since i have a 2400 watt genterator (for AC only)

i want to be able to dry camp indefinalty
water being my only limitation

I have used http://www.affordable-solar.com on two rigs now
I also spoke directly with Blue Sky to verify loads and equip specs
There is a TON of product out there but how to hook it all up
and what is needed is conflicting
(ex: three "experts" gave me three different wiring diagrams, i am using the fourth, from Blue Sky

feel free to pm me for more detail

bw
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:16 AM   #4
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Re: Going Solar

I'm going to step out on a limb with this but for those of us that are thinking "Long Term" camping out in the wilderness. Solar is great & would power up the batteries during the days but has anyone kicked around the idea of a AIR-X 400W Wind Generator? Would this option be considered overkill? You'd be able to run pretty much any thing you wanted & it would charge over night. It cuts itself out when batteries are full & I think you can bypass the controller all together...........I would think it would be more of a "Base Camp" item but its just a thought......
WOOT..........
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:34 AM   #5
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Re: Going Solar

I've considered wind as an option, the big benefit is nighttime charging, the big drawback: storage.

Check out http://thebigwind.com ... the design is a lot more compact than a propeller style. Have to admit bias here, my cousin is the VP and I don't know a lot about the product, except that my aunt and uncle have expressed interest in using one on their RV trips- the main drawback again being storage.
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:39 AM   #6
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Re: Going Solar

Quote:
Originally Posted by billwilson
I have used http://www.afordable-solar.com on two rigs now
bw
FYI for anyone following that link. There is a typo it is http://www.affordable-solar.com (one more "f")

Mark
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:43 AM   #7
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Re: Going Solar

Good catch. I edited it in the original.

Since we're trying to get back on topic here, I'm curious is there a rule about the efficency of solar power panels similar to Moore's law for computers (something like the computing power would double every 18 months) whereby one can figure out how much better the solar panels will be in the future, or are they constant, as good as they can get already, or something else?
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Old 08-30-2009, 02:11 PM   #8
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Re: Going Solar

Quote:
Originally Posted by jage
Good catch. I edited it in the original.

Since we're trying to get back on topic here, I'm curious is there a rule about the efficency of solar power panels similar to Moore's law for computers (something like the computing power would double every 18 months) whereby one can figure out how much better the solar panels will be in the future, or are they constant, as good as they can get already, or something else?
i agree, but prob a couple of years away
since these things are glass topped on a 4x4 rig
i problably gonna bust one anyway

For me, if i am camped in bfe and it is nice and quite
whatever the price, the solar is da bomb

should the panels get smaller/more effecient
i can take off the old, put in the new
shucks, i have 6 computers and monitors that are boat anchors
and they are only 3 yrs old
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Old 08-30-2009, 02:19 PM   #9
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Re: Going Solar

Thanks for all the information guys that is a great deal of help. I do have one more ? to add. Is there always a possibility of frying your batteries do to the fact that you are over charging them, or is this preventable with getting some sort of instrumentation from Blue Sky?

Also in regards to battery storage, any additional input as far as storage goes. Mine is a large 4D battery bolted to the underside as you get into the side door of the van. (is that the gaucho?) Also can I store two batteries wired in series or parallel? If not any ideas of where else I can store them.

Okay I lied one more question. Anybody know any experts in wiring this mess up or is it fairly simple, I've rewired VW's and ski boat is it much more difficult than that? Preferably in So. Cal.
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Old 08-30-2009, 08:33 PM   #10
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Re: Going Solar

FYI: New York Times 8/27/2009 "More Sun for Less: Solar Panels Drop in Price"
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/bu...t/27solar.html

Quote:
Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels...
Quote:
Many experts expect panel prices to fall further, though not by another 40 percent.
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