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Old 10-05-2014, 06:26 PM   #11
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Solar versus Generators

We bought our trailer without solar panels and for the first two years we had it were happy going to sites with hookups or dry camping several days at a time using just our battery. A friend offered to sell us a small 750 watt Honda generator for times when we had no hookups. We tried it once. While the generator was relatively quiet, the sound was noticeable, and destroyed the tranquility of the place we were visiting, and it took a long time to charge the battery using a 12 volt hookup. I investigated buying (a) the Honda 1000 watt inverter generator (which has very good ratings) and (b) the 95 watt solar installation that ETI was offering. The cost would be about the same for either solution. We opted for the solar panel and had it installed in February last year. https://www.flickr.com/photos/brian_vansnell/8492394469, https://www.flickr.com/photos/brian_vansnell/9367758608

We added a 300 watt sine wave inverter and a Bogart Trimetric battery monitor. I believe it was the right solution for us:
  • We have always had enough power to run lights, fans, water pump, furnace and charging camera and computer batteries
  • We have always been able to find sites with enough sunshine during the day to charge the battery
  • It has given us flexibility to stay in campsites without hookups -- in BC few provincial campsites have hookups and sometimes serviced sites are not available at campgrounds in Washington and Oregon
  • It has not limited our ability to camp at all times of the year
  • It has added to our peace of mind while camping -- one less thing to worry about -- the solar panel does its work
I have to admit our power needs are modest. We don't have air conditioning. While we have an electrical heater, kettle, frying pan, toaster, microwave etc we don't bring them along if we think we will be dry camping. We have a small propane stove which is fine for cooking -- we cook outside so as not to smell up the trailer. The propane furnace works fine for keeping us warm. If we are expecting really cold weather we reserve a site with hookups.
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:37 PM   #12
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Brian, great write-up!
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:48 PM   #13
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I also went with the standard 95 watt fixed solar and increased capacity 12 volt battery. On the 9 week home, the longest we stayed at one campground was 4 days, but that was on Lake Mead with lots of sun in May. One of the main reasons for my going with solar is that my favorite campground close to home is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They have generator free loops and that is where we plan on staying. My problem with people using generators is that normally the generator is set up on the opposite side of the trailer from where they are sitting. That takes a large part of the incentive for them to get quietest generator possible.
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Old 10-05-2014, 06:54 PM   #14
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I attempt to point the exhaust toward empty space, preferably with a bush a few feet from the generator to muffle the noise even further. The Honda 1000 is extremely quiet for a generator, but not noise-free, especially if you are determined to be annoyed by it.
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Old 10-05-2014, 07:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
I attempt to point the exhaust toward empty space, preferably with a bush a few feet from the generator to muffle the noise even further. The Honda 1000 is extremely quiet for a generator, but not noise-free, especially if you are determined to be annoyed by it.
That just goes to prove - Escape owners are the greatest! The last time my wife and I tent camped before getting our Escape, was in the Keys. The pop up tent camper right next to us had a window air conditioner on the drivers side. They left it running all the time, including when they were gone for the day.
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Old 10-05-2014, 08:07 PM   #16
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Living in the northwest with days of no sun, and often camping at areas where generators are seen as very annoying, I came up with a different solution.

I add a second battery to the tow vehicle and power it through a relay hooked to the ignition. When camping I have a 30' extension cord (10ga) that uses the 7 pin trailer plugs.

I place a red rag on the steering wheel when I hook it up so I remember unplug before driving away.

IF you feel the batteries need a charge just idle the engine for a 5-10 minutes and fellow campers just think you are warming up the car....

I'd like to add solar on the 19' but am still try to come up with a configuration I like.

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Old 10-05-2014, 08:09 PM   #17
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We do a lot of camping in US National Parks. Most of them allow generators during specific times of the day. The few times we have needed to run our Honda 2000 generator, I couldn't even hear it running right next to our Escape over the sound of the huge loud generators in the land whale RVs running everywhere. Like Baglo, the times I have run it I have tried to carefully place it to make sure my neighbors won't be affected.

I recently bought an 80W portable solar panel that I hope will let us almost never need the Honda. But the reality is that in campgrounds that allow generators, the Hondas can rarely be heard unless you are standing right next to it as their sound is overwhelmed during generator hours.
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Old 10-05-2014, 08:25 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by thoer View Post
We do a lot of camping in US National Parks. Most of them allow generators during specific times of the day. The few times we have needed to run our Honda 2000 generator, I couldn't even hear it running right next to our Escape over the sound of the huge loud generators in the land whale RVs running everywhere. Like Baglo, the times I have run it I have tried to carefully place it to make sure my neighbors won't be affected.

I recently bought an 80W portable solar panel that I hope will let us almost never need the Honda. But the reality is that in campgrounds that allow generators, the Hondas can rarely be heard unless you are standing right next to it as their sound is overwhelmed during generator hours.
Eric, that is exactly why we have invested so heavily in solar and batteries + extras. Our idea of camping is getting away from it all, not congregating with hundreds of others camping with their generators going, TVs blasting, heavy smoke from hundreds of their campfires, etc. One of our first outings in the 19' was like that at Pismo Beach in California; 400 campers jammed in a small space for Thanksgiving. It was really bad! We made some resolutions that we've kept to this day based on that experience. One of them is, No Generators". We also do not camp like "sardines in can", in tight, lined-up spaces and opt for more space in no hookup sites for a much more enjoyable camping experience.

Steve
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Old 10-05-2014, 08:34 PM   #19
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I have the Honda 2000i, while it's quiet, it's not quiet enough for us, especially when we had the hybrid trailer. I even tried running it inside the closed truck cap, better but still not good. I have not tried it when out with the Escape.

Went with a 160w panel on the Escape, just did 5 weeks in Wy and had no need for the generator, good thing as I didn't take it along. About 3 weeks in the middle of the trip were without hookups, we did however move to other parks or campgrounds a few times.

We're pretty conservative with our electric usage, we burned 25 amps (10%) a night when it got down to the high 20's and low 30's at night with the temp set to 57, it did warm up nicely during the day.

On non furnace nights we burned about 15 amps, the Trimetric showed 94% when we left for the day.

I believe we had just one day where the batteries did not recover to 100% on the trip.

Owning the generator as well as the solar, gives one the option to go quiet for days on end using the generator if or when necessary.

A word about the advertised db levels. I've found they only pertain to when the genny is on in low idle while running in eco mode, quiet goes out the door when the load jumps up.
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Old 10-05-2014, 08:52 PM   #20
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Twelve weeks on the road without hookups this year. I have a roof mounted 95 watt panel. I put the controller inside a cabinet because I don't even need to check it. Never at a loss for power. Generators, even the quiet ones, are a nuisance to yourself and others. The fact that you need to hide it is proof of that.
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