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Old 07-29-2014, 12:53 PM   #1
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Recommendations for "helper solar"

Still newbies, we are thinking about small improvements for the Mothership and we would like to get solar just to keep the house battery "topped off", or possibly to run a plug-in fridge / freezer off it as well as a plug-in swamp cooler when parked in the desert.

So we would like to keep the system small and cost effective and not go overboard.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:00 PM   #2
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

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Originally Posted by PlayOutside
Still newbies, we are thinking about small improvements for the Mothership and we would like to get solar just to keep the house battery "topped off", or possibly to run a plug-in fridge / freezer off it as well as a plug-in swamp cooler when parked in the desert.

So we would like to keep the system small and cost effective and not go overboard.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Kind of two different questions.. Keeping starting battery topped off is easy.. Running a fridge for days is a whole separate matter.. Like maybe $100 to on up near $1000.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:24 PM   #3
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

Sorry, I didn't phrase that very well - we are not worried about the starter (engine) battery, but the house battery that's in the back of the van and runs our fridge. We don't have any other systems on board like propane or water, so we don't have a need for a bigger battery system to run water heater etc.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:31 PM   #4
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

Aha. I'll wait for someone more expert to chime in, but I just added 300W of panels and a Blue Sky Sun Charger 30 for about $600 in parts.

It should be more then enough. So far, keeps the battery charged enough in partial shade and high 80s to run the fridge.
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Old 07-29-2014, 02:42 PM   #5
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

For most refrigerators that pull about +/-3 amps, a 100 watt panel will do the trick if you have daily full sun. The battery should be large enough to supply additional power if you run into fog or overcast situations but you can also run the vehicle to get a boost.

Refrigerators cycle on and off so you don't need a 220 amp hour battery but as they age and lose capacity it's better to have that extra reserve to cover nightly use.
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:03 AM   #6
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

I started a Wiki topic on solar, hopefully it will help explain some of the main questions that you have. http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/med...le=Solar_Power. There are also a lot of good FAQs at places like AM solar http://www.amsolar.com/, and Northern Arizona Wind & Sun http://www.solar-electric.com/

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Old 07-30-2014, 09:31 AM   #7
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scalf77
I started a Wiki topic on solar, hopefully it will help explain some of the main questions that you have. http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/med...le=Solar_Power. There are also a lot of good FAQs at places like AM solar http://www.amsolar.com/, and Northern Arizona Wind & Sun http://www.solar-electric.com/

-greg
Great job on that wiki article Greg.

I've had permanently mounted solar panels on my SMB, and I have a portable solar panel for my teardrop. I'm not sure which I prefer. The not-having-to-think-about-it convenience of the permanent solar panel is fantastic, and I truly think it greatly extends the life of your batteries if you park outside as your batteries are always topped-off, and based on the replacement cost of batteries, especially the house batteries, that may be the way to go.

The portable panels require finding a safe place to store during travel, and they are large, heavy, and while not fragile you need to be careful with them, but they can maximize the amount of power you can received during the day, provided of course you are willing to reposition them every couple of hours. If you camp in heavily wooded areas, a portable panel with a long cable means you should be able to place the panel in sun while the SMB is in shade. Also, since most permanent mount panels are not mounted on tilt-capable bases, camping at far northern or southern latitudes will decrease the amount of solar power seen by the panel due to the angles involved. A portable panel can be pointed orthogonally to the solar radiation.

My recommendations.
- Price is no object solution? A permanent panel and a portable panel.
- If my SMB would be parked outside? Permanent mounted panel on the roof.
- If planning for camping in far northern areas, or in heavily wooded areas? Portable solar panel.


Herb

[EDIT: FWIW, in my teardrop I have a single Group 31 AGM battery, 100 Ah. Runs my 63qt ARB fridge, some LED lights, and some chargers for phone, tablet,...). With my portable 150W solar panel, I more than make up for the Amps my devices draw. I could have probably gone with a lower output panel, but the one I went with met my requirements. My fridge does have the insulating jacket, and a portable, battery powered fridge fan to circulate the cold air.]

[EDIT #2: I also have a battery monitor which shows the state of battery charge, and the net amount of amperage (current being used - current being supplied) going into or out of the battery]
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Old 07-30-2014, 11:11 AM   #8
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

I mounted a 100W panel to the roof while my top was being done at CCV.

I bought a Renogy panel off of Amazon, found a good deal on a controller at the local RV shop, with cabling and mounts, have ~175 into my solar system.

Most mornings the batteries are showing 100% well before noon. I'm running a 12v fridge that draws a bit more and runs a bit longer too, normally have the stereo running off of the house batteries while we are at camp as well.

So far I am pleased with the system. In hindsight, I would have bought a bigger controller so I had more room for future expansion, though the 100w keeps up just fine.
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Old 07-30-2014, 04:22 PM   #9
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

Great, thanks for all your advice! I'll look into it
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Old 08-02-2014, 01:59 AM   #10
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Re: Recommendations for "helper solar"

I have a small astrovan and have a 240 watt solar panel on the roof, with the ecoworthy mppt controller I get about 12 amps of charging power when the sun is overhead. I use that to run my swamp cooler and charge my laptop etc. I also had a 12 volt edgestar fridge which ran great on my setup.
Previously I had a smaller 120 watt solar panel and it put out 6 amps, as long as the sun was out it had no problem running the fridge. But on cloudy days it wasnt charging the battery enough for night time use.

I would recommend get the largest panel you can fit on your roof. I have a 145 ah battery and its always fully charged just with the 240 watt panel I got, I never use shore or generator power . Sometimes you can get good deals on craiglist, I paid 200 for my panel. . Also worst case scenario you can charge your starting battery with the solar panel. I left my headlight on once and was able to connect the solar controller to the start battery, 3 hours later I was able to crank the engine over.
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