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Old 02-23-2016, 03:24 AM   #1
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More Solar!!!

I have the roof mounted panel installed by escape but I recently ran into a situation where I was parked under a tree. What portable solar panel can or should I get? Would it work in conjunction with the fixed panel. I know nothing about solar or electricity.

Thanks for your help!
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Old 02-23-2016, 08:41 AM   #2
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There are a number of portable solar panels available. It seems to me that the panels themselves are usually pretty good, the problem I see is the cheap controllers and even cheaper (high gauge) wire then combined with some really inexpensive alligator clips to connect to your battery. If you have the front storage box on your 19 here is the design I would implement.

A foldable solar panel (usually just two panels with a hinge) from the likes of Solar Cells, Solar Panels, Renewable Energy, Wind Energy, Charge Controllers, Solar Trackers - Solarblvd, Amazon or other vendor of your choice. It should be 100 watt or greater. You will also need a solar controller, preferably from Morningstar or Blue Sky, but there are other respectable brands. Some heavy gauge wire, 25-50 feet depending on your needs, look for 11 gauge or smaller and it can be landscape wire or speaker wire. I like a product that Amazon sells called KnuKonceptz Kord Kable 10 Gauge Copper Speaker Wire 50’. And finally you will need some connectors to plug the cable into the panel, the cable into the solar controller and finally the solar controller into the cable. We want it to be portable after all. Connectors called MC4 are the solar standard but they are not very portable, they require a special tool to separate. There is another option called Andersen Power Pole. There may be other options someone could recommend.

You will require some wiring skills, mostly making connections. Fortunately this is all outside and it will be cutting and screwing terminals, no soldering.

The design I recommend would have the solar controller stored near the battery, the usual method is no further than a meter. This is the major design flaw of the portable panels; the controller is mounted on the panel, the exact wrong end of the cable. Since this controller cannot be operated while in the battery compartment, if your batteries are unboxed in the front storage box, you must provide some provision (very short length of cable) to place the controller outside of the storage box during the charging process. Using heavy gauge wire throughout the process is essential. I have used a short length (remember the meter recommendation) of 8 gauge between the solar controller and the battery. Some of these wires can require some additional tools (hydraulic crimper) that can be eliminated by going to your local battery shop and have them make them for you.

You may want a stand for the panel, if it does not come with one. Certainly an option. The choice of the solar panel may be influenced by where you will store and travel with it. I found it hard to find a place in the 19 for storage. You can also connect the portable unit into the existing solar system; I believe this will make the installation more complicated. Others may have recommendations on this option.
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Old 02-23-2016, 10:01 AM   #3
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If you just want to add portable capacity and aren't into knowing every tidbit of info on what it's doing, the simplest method is to get a portable and just alligator clip on your battery when needed. You have the 19 so your battery is on the tongue and this is very simple and easy to do. I wired a connector onto my battery terminals and hung it right outside my batt box so it was even easier to connect the panel when needed. On portables the weight will factor in as much as the wattage for ease of lifting and storing. You can do with quite a bit less wattage panels on portables because you can aim them. The Renogy portables on Amazon are a good option to pick from.
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Old 02-23-2016, 10:13 AM   #4
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When I bought mine that place had the best price on folding portable panels, but that may not still be the case. They sell on Amazon,eBay and their own site and prices vary between all 3
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Old 02-23-2016, 10:24 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by erikcampbell View Post
I have the roof mounted panel installed by escape but I recently ran into a situation where I was parked under a tree. Would it work in conjunction with the fixed panel. I know nothing about solar or electricity.
Ouch, now may be the time to learn a little about electricity.
A new solar panel, as long as it's considered to be a '12 volt system' panel can be added to the input of the controller you already have.
As long as the positive of the new panel is connected to the same place as the positive of your existing panel, and the negative of the new panel is connected to the same place as the negative of your existing panel you are good to go.
The existing panel probably doesn't output 8 amps and a new 100 watt panel is about 5 amps, so added together, about 13 amps. Your controller in the trailer is a 30 amp model, Samlex or goPower.
Connecting the two panels with a suitable connector and then running the wires is the hard part.
I have used 'Deans' connectors for over ten years. They are from the RC car hobby and are polarized and can handle 30 Amps. The weather doesn't hurt them.
Like these...
Amazon.com: Leegoal 5 Pairs Li-po Battery Deans T-plug Connector Pack + Worldwide free shiping: Toys & Games

They are small, can fit thru a half inch hole. In my camper the wire comes out of my battery breather hose. On the trailer it currently comes out of the AC plug wire door.

Although wire thickness is a concern and I should be using 12 gauge at minimum, I am using plain old 14 gauge extension cord wire. And quite a bit of it, about 30 feet. There is only small decimal point losses in voltage, not an issue in my world.

As fudge brownie says, the charge controller on the back of the solar panel is the worst place you could possibly put it.
Maybe just buy a raw 100 watt panel from amazon/renogy
Amazon.com : Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel : Patio, Lawn & Garden

You should be able to get a RC car place to solder and heat shrink some Deans connectors to a extension cord wire for you if you buy the Deans from them it might even be free.
I would have the cable made up like an extension cord, male on one end and female on the other. Put a female end on the trailer and a male end on the solar panel. The black box on the back of the solar panel can be opened up and the wires replaced if you want.

So that just leaves the hard part of making a connection to the back of the solar controller or the wires from the existing panel.

I would help you but I'm a thousand miles away....
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Old 02-23-2016, 12:40 PM   #6
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Jim Bennett found a promising option for the connector to plug the portable panel into the trailer - see Waterproof Solar Inlet - Interest From Others. The same thread mentions some other options.
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Old 02-23-2016, 05:34 PM   #7
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If you just want to add portable capacity and aren't into knowing every tidbit of info on what it's doing, the simplest method is to get a portable and just alligator clip on your battery when needed. You have the 19 so your battery is on the tongue and this is very simple and easy to do. I wired a connector onto my battery terminals and hung it right outside my batt box so it was even easier to connect the panel when needed. On portables the weight will factor in as much as the wattage for ease of lifting and storing. You can do with quite a bit less wattage panels on portables because you can aim them. The Renogy portables on Amazon are a good option to pick from.
You sure know how to cut thru the mega-ohms! That's what I've been trying to get someone to say for 2 years! Kinda when I tried to ask what a sine wave inverter did that my Harbor Freight inverter didnt!
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Old 02-23-2016, 05:54 PM   #8
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I'm still trying to figure out how to best protect the controller for my 40 watt Coleman panels from the elements.
Battery is on the back bumper and controller is connected by alligator clips when in use. I gather I'm not to put the controller in the battery box. I got a small plastic food container for it but have to run wires in and out of it. Not sure if the controller emits heat and if that would be an issue.
Brilliant, illuminating ideas welcome.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:35 PM   #9
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Jim Bennett found a promising option for the connector to plug the portable panel into the trailer - see Waterproof Solar Inlet - Interest From Others. The same thread mentions some other options.
And on those inlets, I am waiting until after my visit with Escape next Monday before ordering. They have a few great options, and the fellow I am dealing with is very helpful.

I did buy an 80W GoPower portable panel at the RV show here. They had it and the 120W on for a great sale price, $400 and $500 (tax in). I would have got the 120W, but liked the size of the 80W, and will be getting the fixed panel too, so this will be employed for cases like the OP listed, when amongst the trees, or any other necessary use.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:43 PM   #10
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I'm still trying to figure out how to best protect the controller for my 40 watt Coleman panels from the elements.
Battery is on the back bumper and controller is connected by alligator clips when in use. I gather I'm not to put the controller in the battery box. I got a small plastic food container for it but have to run wires in and out of it. Not sure if the controller emits heat and if that would be an issue.
Brilliant, illuminating ideas welcome.
Has it ever felt warm? Hang the controller under your awning or cover it with a small umbrella.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:51 PM   #11
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Cord to battery isn't long enough. Won't even reach the ground. I'd just leave it on the top of the battery with the battery box cover over it, if that were OK.
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Old 02-23-2016, 06:52 PM   #12
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And on those inlets, I am waiting until after my visit with Escape next Monday before ordering. They have a few great options, and the fellow I am dealing with is very helpful.

I did buy an 80W GoPower portable panel at the RV show here. They had it and the 120W on for a great sale price, $400 and $500 (tax in). I would have got the 120W, but liked the size of the 80W, and will be getting the fixed panel too, so this will be employed for cases like the OP listed, when amongst the trees, or any other necessary use.
Jim,

I bought a portable 90w panel because I don't have rooftop panels. but found it inadequate to fully charge our dual 6v batteries unless it was in the sun all day. When I'm camping, I usually find something better to do than re-pointing solar panels. Fine for a single 12v battery. I just upgraded to a Zamp 170w unit. It tops off the batteries in a couple hours.

When we're talking $700 or so, I lock it up tighter than Fort Knox, so far so good.
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Old 02-23-2016, 07:08 PM   #13
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Jim,

I bought a portable 90w panel because I don't have rooftop panels. but found it inadequate to fully charge our dual 6v batteries unless it was in the sun all day. When I'm camping, I usually find something better to do than re-pointing solar panels. Fine for a single 12v battery. I just upgraded to a Zamp 170w unit. It tops off the batteries in a couple hours.

When we're talking $700 or so, I lock it up tighter than Fort Knox, so far so good.
I went with the 80W, hoping it would be enough to supplement the factory installed one. I guess time will tell. We are not at all big power consumers either. Dual 6V alone would do use a bunch of days in cold temps.
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Old 02-23-2016, 07:14 PM   #14
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I went with the 80W, hoping it would be enough to supplement the factory installed one. I guess time will tell. We are not at all big power consumers either. Dual 6V alone would do use a bunch of days in cold temps.
Mine is an 80W and while it doesn't get the dual 6v back to full charge, it does help extend our battery's charge. Like you Jim, we are pretty modest power consumers when camping and can usually go for several day without running our batteries too far down, ever without the solar. The exception is when we need to run the furnace every night - that seems to be our biggest drain.
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Old 02-23-2016, 08:11 PM   #15
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Jim,

I bought a portable 90w panel because I don't have rooftop panels. but found it inadequate to fully charge our dual 6v batteries unless it was in the sun all day. When I'm camping, I usually find something better to do than re-pointing solar panels. Fine for a single 12v battery. I just upgraded to a Zamp 170w unit. It tops off the batteries in a couple hours.

When we're talking $700 or so, I lock it up tighter than Fort Knox, so far so good.
Gregg Hi . Is your Zamp 170 a folding or ? Where did you purchase ? I need some more because I only have the 80 watt . So looking . Pat
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Old 02-23-2016, 08:26 PM   #16
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At Quartzsite I used an avg of just under 10 ah per day for the week on the first dry trip with the new ETI installed system. The roof panel had the twin 6's back to full quickly every day in pretty optimal weather conditions. Used the fan quite a bit in the day and had furnace set to 67 at night. Based on the usage I could have easily made the week and more on the twin 6v batteries alone. Nice to know the solar was there to keep the batteries topped up. on the first trip with the factory installed solar and dual 6v.
Looks like from the initial test, I'd only need to look at bringing a portable solar if I was going to exceed 8-9 days in the shade. Each trailer and system will have a different capacity, these figures are the first run on my 19 as configured.
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Old 02-23-2016, 08:50 PM   #17
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Gregg Hi . Is your Zamp 170 a folding or ? Where did you purchase ? I need some more because I only have the 80 watt . So looking . Pat
Hi Pat. Yes, its a self contained folding unit with a built in controller and fits into a heavy nylon zippered sleeve. Its about $850+ and usually back ordered. I got mine locally after a 3 month wait for $625. I think the store miscalculated but they said the price was good. Honestly, it kinda heavy and bulky. Almost too much to bring along as a backup. Take a look at their 120W system, cheaper, lighter and should be plenty adequate.

My folding 90w was heavy too for me at 28 lbs because of the aluminum case. Old cop injuries from the good old days limit what I can lift.

I'm holding out hope for lightweight flex panels. Someday...
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Old 02-23-2016, 09:30 PM   #18
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Hi Pat. Yes, its a self contained folding unit with a built in controller and fits into a heavy nylon zippered sleeve. Its about $850+ and usually back ordered. I got mine locally after a 3 month wait for $625. I think the store miscalculated but they said the price was good. Honestly, it kinda heavy and bulky. Almost too much to bring along as a backup. Take a look at their 120W system, cheaper, lighter and should be plenty adequate.

My folding 90w was heavy too for me at 28 lbs because of the aluminum case. Old cop injuries from the good old days limit what I can lift.

I'm holding out hope for lightweight flex panels. Someday...
Yep can't wait for flexible to get better too. Have 80 watt Go Power folding . Very nice panels . But not enough for the duals . Just still not comfortable putting on the roof because of ...........thought of getting another 80 watt folding ,but haven't . I kind of go by what my Aunt used to tell me " When you don't know what to do , don't do anything " . We do have a little Honda gen . Someone said someday the panels may be in our awnings . Well the clock is ticking and won't be long . Can't wait to see your new 21 ! Pat
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Old 02-24-2016, 06:22 AM   #19
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Have a folding 160 watt panel from Solar Blvd, works fine but find it too heavy and bulkie. Were I to do it over, I' d opt for the 120 set. In actual practice I have yet to need the folding panels. I average 10-15 Ahr a day, could go at least a week in the shade. I don't sit still longer then that.
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Old 02-24-2016, 07:41 AM   #20
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Bob,
Do you tow with the refer on solar and if not, why not?
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