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Old 01-15-2012, 02:38 PM   #1
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Purpose Of Solar Panels

From what I know of solar panels, their main, if not the only, purpose is to trickle charge batteries. Is this the job of the solar panels that some people get installed in their Escapes? What sort of electronics and electrical connections are required for this installation? Are the panels used for any other purpose?

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Old 01-16-2012, 03:58 PM   #2
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

You are right in saying the panels are for charging batteries for those people who live in locations where it gets dark at night and need lights to read in bed.

I would need something to run the toaster, Television, or micro wave oven.

Here in the Yukon where it does not get dark in the camping season,
I do not need to have lights.
What we need is a small gen set for the toaster, I do not need a television.

For our purposes a single 12volt battery will carry me for a week, with the heaviest load being the roof fan.
I have found with the double insulation I do not need an air conditioner.
A solar system would be another maintenace problem about to happen.

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Old 01-16-2012, 07:37 PM   #3
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I have the 95 watt solar option provided by Escape combined with dual 6V batteries & LED lighting. It lets me dry camp for days without a generator. True, I can't run the AC or a toaster, but I do have a power hungry laptop (9 amps) a cell phone amp & router (2 amps) sometimes need the furnace, and under most sunlight conditions my batteries are back up to 100% by noon. For me it is more than a trickle charger...
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:10 AM   #4
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

The best decision we made was to get the panels. We have dry camped for two weeks, even using the shower (carry water), with the batteries remaining at 100%, thanks to the panels. And this was in thick west coast forest with only indirect sunlight. When we are spring skiing in Jasper it freezes every night, and the furnace fan turns on and off throughout the night. With our sunny Alberta skies, the panels have our twin 6 volt batteries back to 100% in no time. I've noticed many people that seem to knock the panels, and make excuses for why they are not a feasible choice. I don't get it. They are fantastic, unless of course you need AC, microwaves etc. Or you just like the sound of your generator
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Old 02-13-2012, 11:15 AM   #5
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I'm with Jon, ddevin and others about the positives of solar panels. The majority of our outings are also dry camping. With the furnace, computer, MP3 player, phone charger, etc., the solar panels do the job in maintaining and recharging our twin 6 V batteries. A great addition to our SittEscape, without question. But then, we don't have a microwave.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:01 PM   #6
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I am new to this forum, and am considering buying an escape 19 for our young family of four. The solar panel seems like a good option for us, since it apparently keeps the batteries nearly fully charged, and we plan on dry camping quite a bit. My question would be - if this is the case, couldn't we get away with a single 6V battery rather than two in series? Weight is an issues for us (towing with a 6 cyl Highlander), and so if a single battery would do it, why not?
Thanks for the advice
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:12 PM   #7
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

It requires two six volt batteries to make 12 volts. The camper operates on 12 Volts. You can have just one 12V battery. The duel six volt batteries give you more amp hours of capacity. More amp hour capacity with lead acid batteries equals more weight, because lead is a main component in the chemical process.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:19 PM   #8
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

Stevy, welcome aboard. You would love the 19.

Weight is always an issue, this is one of the reasons for going for a lightweight trailer, and the challenge then is to outfit it to keep the weight down further.

I mostly do boondocking, and have the dual 6V option. I have spent 4 nights in temps dropping down to 0°C, and the batteries held up just fine. I don't even have LED lights yet. If we were somewhat careful, and minded our energy use, I imagine we could go for a week in cooler temps, and even more in nice weather.

If you were to go solar, and could keep the battery pretty much fully charged, I would think that with using a single 12V you should be able to keep it charged up. I guess it depends on how much draw you put on the battery, and how much available sunlight you have.

What is the towing capacity of your car? Many 6 cylinder vehicles are rated for 4,500 to 5,000 lbs which should be adequate, so long as you don't add too much gear. You do have remember to take into account the weight the load in the vehicle, and if the kids are of good size, the pounds will add up fast.
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Old 04-27-2012, 10:51 PM   #9
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I've got the solar and just the single group 27 on my new 19. Towing with a ford escape so wary about weight also. Had no problem running the furnace overnight down to -3c in whistler and 100 charged by noon. Also have the led lighting. Burnt through a tank of propane in that mode in 5 nights never on shore power.
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:48 AM   #10
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

Welcome! We also have a family of 4, 5 if you count our German Shepherd! We also tow with a Highlander. With the panels, and temperatures well below 0 celcius, we could go forever! We do have twin 6 volts and LEDs. The whole idea of having a fibreglass trailer, in my mind, is going light, and with a minimalist perspective. Get the panels!
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:36 PM   #11
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts. It didn't occur to me (!) that a single 6V wouldn't cut it (i.e 6+0 does NOT equal 12!). On the other hand, if we can get away with a single 12V Battery with solar panel (instead of dual 6V batteries), it might save us 50 lbs or so. Our Highlander has a tow capacity of 5000lbs, but on the other hand its only a mid-size SUV (and on the smaller end of the mid-size range at that), and I want to be conservative when it comes to towing, especially because I am inexperienced with it.
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:10 PM   #12
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

stevy, I would think that adding the weight of the solar panel, combined with the wiring, would pretty much balance out the weight of one battery. Not sure of the weight of a battery, but it would not be 50lb.

Your Highlander will be able to handle the trailer no problem, but you are wise to be conservative as far as weights go, not just from your experience standpoint, but from an overall safety perspective. Plus, the less it weighs, the better the performance and fuel economy too.

Some time into the future I may add solar power, but I definitely plan on having it stand alone for a couple reasons. Not only will I be able to place it where it gains the most solar energy, I will be able to keep it stowed safely away, and even leave it behind on the many trips I take where it would not be needed.
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Old 04-28-2012, 02:31 PM   #13
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I have an 80 watt solar panel on the top of my trailer and dual 6 volt batteries; it's advertised as putting out 4.66 amps under ideal conditions. The maximum I get from it the way it is mounted is between 3 and 3.5 amps in good sunlight depending on the time of day. What really surprised me though was when camping under a canopy of tall fir trees I was still getting between .5 and 1.0 amps and when it was raining lightly out in the open it was still registering .5 amps so it was putting a small charge into the batteries at all times but heavy rain. We used all our lights (LED) as if we were hooked up, had showers each morning, ran the furnace and used an inverter and the battery never went below 12.4 volts (loaded) and was fully charged by noon to 1pm in the day. I think that having mounted on top is excellent choice as you never have to think about power or setting up the panels.

I was planning on buying a small panel to hook up out in the sun that would hook up to the existing panel for times we were camped in the shade but it would seem that that is not needed now. Time will tell but its always an option.

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Old 04-28-2012, 05:25 PM   #14
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

How does the output from the solar panels get to the batteries? I know they go through a charge controller. Is the output from the controller hooked directly to the batteries or does it go to the battery input connection on the converter/charger?

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Old 04-28-2012, 06:48 PM   #15
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I didn't hook mine up as I had it installed when the trailer was built. What I do know is that when the battery disconnect switch is off the controller is still powered and all the other battery powered items are dead including the CO/Propane alarm so I would gather that the panel is powered directly to the battery.

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Old 04-30-2012, 12:28 AM   #16
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

My understanding is that two 6 volts are superior to a single 12. Our Highlander tows our trailer with no problem at all. I would go with dual 6 volts, and have them mounted where you will never have to even think about them. As Barry said, even in shady conditions, the roof mounted panels keep the batteries charged.
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Old 04-30-2012, 10:34 AM   #17
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I think what stevy was getting at was that if you have solar, do you really need the storage capacity (and weight) of dual 6V, because it is supposedly kept topped up all the time. For most situations, I would think that the dual 6V are not needed if you have good solar charging. Even on an extremely cold night, using the furnace a lot, and the lights a lot, you would not run down a fully charged 12V. If you could charge it back up during the day, I don't really see a need to add the weight of dual 6V.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:33 AM   #18
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

I agree with Jim regarding the fact that the single 12 volt battery will carry you through a cold night as we were camping up at Lac La Juene in mid October in our last trailer with the temps. dropping down to minus 6 at night and made it through the night with the 12 volt battery but whether we could have done it for another night was dubious. I guess it boils down to how many nights one wants to boondock.

When I ordered the new trailer I went dual 6v for a couple of reasons. By having the extra capacity I wasn't taxing the battery as much. If you have one 12v battery with 100 amps capacity and dual 6 volt with a total of 200 amps and you use 40 amps for the day the 12v is at 60% charge whereas the 6 v is at 80% charge. The dual 6 v give you a bit more peace of mind and let you have a few rainy days with little or no solar power without having to worry about power. You can always go back to one 12v battery but it's a lot harder to retrofit for two 6v.

As for the weight issue; start weighing everything you put in the trailer and you'd be surprised how much clothes, dishes, food and all the "stuff you might need" adds up and you'll end up paring this down if you are serious about cutting down the weight! Making sure that the grey and black tanks are empty or near to it can save three or four hundred pounds.

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Old 06-10-2012, 11:50 AM   #19
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels


Are most of the solar panel users mounting their panels on the roof or do most of you have the panels mobile to follow the sun more directly?
Do those using the roof top mount ever worry about objects falling on the roof and cracking the panels?
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Old 06-10-2012, 12:21 PM   #20
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Re: Purpose Of Solar Panels

Most of the roof mounts i have seen have been flat using 3m VHB tape. I guess a hail storm could crack them. You could go the portable route, make your own ground stand to follow the sun. Only get the panel out when you needed it. Leave it home if you were going to have hookups.
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