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Old 10-12-2012, 10:29 AM   #1
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Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part time

I did a lot of searching, but didn't find what I needed. I want to bring along a small portable solar panel, that I can connect to the house battery when I am parked. From what I read, and my likely usage (charging the battery to keep the fridge going longer), I think a 75-90 watt would work.

My questions are, do I need some sort of regulator, or is there a "kit" that I can buy, that I can just attach right to the battery, and I'm done? I was thinking if there were just two small clips like jumper cables, I could just attach them to the battery when I am parked, and take them off before I leave. That would be the ideal setup. I would just prop it up against a tire or something.

Any tips would be welcomed. I'm not interested in mounting something permanently, I just don't have the need for it that much.
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Old 10-12-2012, 10:48 AM   #2
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Re: Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part

There are quite a few portable solar panels (including ones that fold in half) that have a solar controller attached to them. Having the regulator attached has positives and negatives, but overall it's the approach I'm planning on taking with my trailer.

After the power goes through the controller, there is typically a cable with clamps that then gets attached to the battery. It is also possible to have the battery connection more permanent (accessing battery terminals can be challenging depending on battery location), and then just having a connector on the end of that cable that mates to the cable coming from the solar controller.

FWIW, I'm looking at the folding 80W solar panel setup from the company below. There is a new US distributor, but he doesn't even have any in stock yet. I will warn you that this particular setup has a premium on the price compared to ones coming (directly) from China, but I like this particular solar controller (MPPT vs PWM), I like what appears to be a quality carrying bag, I like that it appears to be made to last, and I like that the solar controller is not attached directly to the back of the solar panel. That said, you could always keep the solar controller as part of your SMB, and use a panel without a controller attached to it.

http://www.roc-solidsolar.com.au/portab ... panels.php



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Old 10-12-2012, 11:22 AM   #3
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Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part time

Great info Herb, thanks for sharing. I didn't see a price but am looking at my tiny phone screen so I maybe missed it. Any idea?
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Old 10-12-2012, 11:43 AM   #4
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Re: Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part

Looking at the systems, I think that I would really prefer something smaller. Maximum trip off the grid with no driving for me would be 6-7 days. I think the battery will run the fridge for about 3 days. How much more would I really need for the remaining days? Would 30W be enough you think, if I had sun most of the day?
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Old 10-12-2012, 11:47 AM   #5
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Re: Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part

The unofficial price I was given by the US rep was $659 for the 80W system. Of course, I'd take that with a grain of salt since they're not in the US yet. The fact that the one I listed uses an MPPT controller is helping me justify the price, since I'm getting the amperage out of it equivalent to something closer to a 100W panel with a PWM controller.

[EDIT: The US rep did say they were going to sell direct, and through retailers, so that may help push the price a little lower].

Zamp Solar is another brand, and there are numerous no-name ones on eBay and various websites. It's probably not too hard to put together a similar system for far less dollars on your own, with some handles, hinges, rivets and time and effort. Unfortunately, my time always seems to be what I have the least of.


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Old 10-12-2012, 11:59 AM   #6
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Re: Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete
Looking at the systems, I think that I would really prefer something smaller. Maximum trip off the grid with no driving for me would be 6-7 days. I think the battery will run the fridge for about 3 days. How much more would I really need for the remaining days? Would 30W be enough you think, if I had sun most of the day?
First step is do calculate your usage (fridge, lights, radio, fan,...), and compare that against your battery's capacity, along with how low you are willing to take your battery. That will provide some insight into how long you can go without recharging.


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Old 10-12-2012, 12:29 PM   #7
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Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part time

Thanks Herb
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Old 10-12-2012, 02:49 PM   #8
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Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part time

I think SMB is using Zamp these days. We have an 85w unit that works well and proved Zamp's warranty. (It seemed not to be working but the problem was a loose ground wire in SMB's plugin.) Zamp checked its connections for the price of our shipment to them. When it still didn't work and we didn't know about the ground wire yet, they were ready to look at it again. This drive the fact that we were less than prompt in our use of their equipment between service calls.
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Old 10-12-2012, 03:12 PM   #9
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Re: Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete
Looking at the systems, I think that I would really prefer something smaller. Maximum trip off the grid with no driving for me would be 6-7 days. I think the battery will run the fridge for about 3 days. How much more would I really need for the remaining days? Would 30W be enough you think, if I had sun most of the day?
So much depends on a number of factors that vary hour to hour and day to day, it's hard to nail down. I was a bit disappointed with my first solar array in installed. I had 2-65w panels and a smaller 50 watt flat panel. It worked but I never got what I thought. But that was my fault. The problem was I didn't know what to expect and didn't do any research.
Just because you install a 100 watt panel doesn't mean you'll be able to maintain the 5 or so amps the panel will put out throughout the day.

The sun's intensity and angle as well as the panel(s) temperature in part regulate the output. Smog, fog and cloud cover can change things as well. An inch or two of snow on the panel(s) will almost totally kill the output. Dust and dirt doesn't help either.

Expect Power losses. You'll never get what is shown on paper so a percentage of loss has to be taken into account. The type controller, wire size, and even how far the batteries are from the panel(s) makes a difference.

Your daily usage as posted about will matter big time. The refrigerator cycles on and off depending on the ambient temperature and the insulation around it, how big it is, and even where it's located will affect daily usage. The entire load used from day to day needs to be calculated under a worst case scenario. My stereo was a huge load at first but fans, heaters, and lights pulled a little more than I expected.

The battery bank is a factor. The battery reserve also can determine how long you can boon dock. The more solar you have equals how fast the bank will recharge during the day when the sun is up but like mentioned you might not get the maximum amperage in early morning or late evening, so again a worst case scenario should be looked at. There is a point of overkill where poor sunlight vs. the total wattage needs to be factored in with respect to cost. What good is 200 watts of solar if you only get 2 amps of charge because it's always overcast? That's when a different power source comes into play.

IMO I feel that a van with a single 4-D 210Ah battery with the standard equipment that comes with most SMB's needs at least a 100 watt panel to operate efficiently in most common conditions we incounter such as a little overcast throughout the day or parked under little shade. Seems like most users with 130w panels are happy but I wouldn't go much under 80 watts. I have double the battery supply and am happy with 2-135w panels. By switching to LED lights I have wondered if I really need two 135w panels but am happy that in shade or during slightly overcast days I still get a very reasonable charge. Panels smaller than 50 watts would probably only extend the battery charge on a hot smoggy day. A 30 watt panel would be a good choice for a maintenance device while the van sits on the driveway with the fridge and any other loads turned off.
Just my opinion for what its worth.
Here is a easy site that helps with calculating load and it's also located in this sections FAQ's
http://rvsolarpanels.wordpress.com/2009 ... alculator/

Good Luck
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Old 10-12-2012, 03:33 PM   #10
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Re: Portable Solar Charging - Want Something I can use part

My solar knowledge is limited to what I have read about and what I have used on my van. I didnt really think I needed solar as I only have a fridge (ARB) a bunch of led lights. I also use my Monitor and indash dvd to watch movies some nights while camping. I do have a large inverter but hardly ever use it so before solar I could camp 2-3 nights with no problems . At any rate I got the solar bug and last year I purchased a Kryocera 135watt panel. I am using a very basic Sunforce controller with it. One thing worth noting is that they recomend it be very close (short wires) to the battery so it can sense the voltage well.

http://www.sunforceproducts.com/results.php?CAT_ID=1

It is amazing how welll it works, by mid afternoon no matter what I use it is flashing the float charge light on and off. Last year I mounted the controller but just used a connector to plug in the panel when I wanted to use it, this spring I mounted the panel to my roof so its always working to keep my batteries well charged. Personally I dont think anything less than 80 watts is worth having. I used a 15 watt panel for a while that just had a cigarette lighter plug and it didnt do a whole lot of charging. With a portable system at least you can aim it so that can help. You can buy any controller you like and have it mounted and just use a connector to plug in the panel. You could also do it the other way with having the controller unplug from the batteries.

If you are trying to save money you might try calling solar suppliers near you and ask if they have any left over panels. Sometimes these companies plan for a certain ammount of panels for a job but find when they are placing them one or two just wont fit so they become extras. Be careful of the prices as they vary quite a bit. You might try Amazon as they have lots of panels and controllers.

Good luck with your solar, let us know what you get...


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