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Old 09-05-2017, 09:56 PM   #1
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Roof mount or portable solar

Rethinking the roof mount solar panels. We currently have portable panels with our tent trailer. I can camp under the trees and set my panels out in the sun in the am. Would like to hear the pros and cons of the roof mount versus the portable option. Looking at ordering a 19
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:00 PM   #2
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An anchored down solar panel is harder to steal. A portable panel can sit in the sun while your trailer is in the shade but you need a place to stow it. The anchored down panel is already stowed.
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:07 PM   #3
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we have a portable panel with our old trailer and in the new 19 we opt to have a roof installed panel plus a port to plug in our portable panel when we need to.. but we haven't figure out where to store the portable panel yet... also we haven't run into the situation when roof top solar isn't enough yet.. (we dont use a lot of power)
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:08 PM   #4
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I love the convenience of having roof mounted solar. I also carry a portable that I have not had to use yet this year, but nice to have should I need it. I am not worried at all about deploying the portable, on previous trailers this was all I had.
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:10 PM   #5
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.. but we haven't figure out where to store the portable panel yet...
In our 19 I put it in the back of the wardrobe standing up. Plenty of room there. I made a catch to hold it in place, but a bungee would work too.
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:19 PM   #6
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We had portable with the 17B and now rooftop with the 21 and I love the ease and convenience of having them up there all the time without extra setup to do when we get somewhere. With the portables I found myself constantly moving them to the best sun angle whenever we are around. The rooftops are less efficient due to not being at optimum angles and directions, but they sure are easy.
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:36 PM   #7
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We have both. 160 watts on the roof and a 100 watt portable. On bright sunny days in summer the roof mounted one will do the job but a little cloudiness or haze or low sun angle makes the portable a valuable addition. I store it in the back of the pickup.
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:54 PM   #8
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I have rooftop panels and have been in situations where they have been nearly useless due to a forest canopy overhead. But there was usually a spot of sun available to park a portable panel, if I had only had one.

So my suggestion is to have rooftop panels installed, with wiring included for a portable panel as well. You'll find that the portable panel aimed at the sun will be more useful in some situations, especially from October - March. I intend to buy one to complement my fixed panels.
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:07 PM   #9
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For my 17' , I had 2, 55W panels that folded together (ie portable) and placed on the bed when towing. I never had an issue with someone messing with them in the 6 years that I used them. For my new trailer, I opted for 200W on the roof and 100W portable. My reasoning:
1. On a few trips (rainy Washington and another rainy Yellowstone), I was running low on power after 4-5 days even if I tried to optimize panel placement. There's no way the roof panels would have provided enough power due to the bad weather AND shaded location.
2. I no longer need to keep the trailer plugged into the house with the roof panels. Plus the solar controller is better than the one in the trailer and periodically provides an equalizing charge to the battery. I believe my batteries will will be better care for by the solar charger that with the trailer one.

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Old 09-05-2017, 11:33 PM   #10
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I have both fixed and portable. Normally the roof panel is enough, but there are occasions when the portable is needed to supplement the roof panel. (Forest canopy, early spring or late fall camping, cloudy, rainy days, etc.) Since you already have the portable, get the fixed and add a port to plug in your portable to the system.
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Old 09-06-2017, 12:15 AM   #11
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We have a 100 watt renogy portable panel and it's great. I had planed on having AM Solar install two 160 tilting panels, but I may just mount two 160s on my truck canopy. If you need solar you are off grid and if you park in the sun you need AC (at least us Alaskans do). I like parking in the shade. That being said, I think getting solar on the roof and a portable panel would work best for most people. I recommend having your charge controller mounted as close to the batteries as possible, and get heavy gauge wire for your portable panel. I use silicone duplex wire (like jumper cables) 6 gauge wire. I can put the panel out 40 feet with minimal voltage drop.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:09 AM   #12
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Roof mount gets my vote, while I have both I have never really needed the portables. Thought I would in the winter in AZ but haven't as yet. The portables are a bit of a hassle to setup and store, roof mounts are carefree.
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Old 09-06-2017, 02:38 PM   #13
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I had both on my 17 (a 100 watt & 95 watt panel on the roof & a portable 160 watt panel carried in the RAV4 or truck. I needed all three for winter camping at Quartzsite, AZ.

While I'm still carrying the portable, I hope the 2 160 watt panels on my 21 will do the trick. At Quartzsite, it isn't a shade problem; it is the low angle winter sun.
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Old 09-06-2017, 03:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vermilye View Post
I had both on my 17 (a 100 watt & 95 watt panel on the roof & a portable 160 watt panel carried in the RAV4 or truck. I needed all three for winter camping at Quartzsite, AZ.

While I'm still carrying the portable, I hope the 2 160 watt panels on my 21 will do the trick. At Quartzsite, it isn't a shade problem; it is the low angle winter sun.
I'm glad to hear that someone else isn't getting the hoped-for results. I usually camp in the shoulder and winter seasons in the PNW but struggle with the "old" 95-watt panel on the roof and a portable 100-watt panel. I've pretty much given up during the winter season (low sun angle plus clouds) and camp at powered sites late November through February.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:34 PM   #15
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I was really surprised to discover how much difference the change of seasons made on output from my rooftop solar panels. To me that's one more reason to supplement a rooftop system with a portable panel. In the winter you could aim the portable panel directly at the sun and get a lot more output than from a similarly-sized rooftop panel.

Also, the rooftop panels are not entirely maintenance-free: you need to clean them. I increased the output from my panels by a third after a recent cleaning. And cleaning the panels involves getting on a ladder, which becomes increasingly risky for those of us who are not spring chickens.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:41 PM   #16
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Anybody have any thoughts to mounting two solar panels to the canopy of a truck? You could tilt one towards the sun if you could place you truck in the east / west orientation. they would be easier to clean. Just not as user friendly as on the roof.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:55 PM   #17
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When you leave for the day to tour the sites, you will not be charging your battery, unless you bring it with you.
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Old 09-06-2017, 07:59 PM   #18
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When you leave for the day to tour the sites, you will not be charging your battery, unless you bring it with you.
True, I guess you could plug in your 100 watt panel then. No, I realize it would have it's limitations.
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Old 09-06-2017, 08:14 PM   #19
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When you leave for the day to tour the sites, you will not be charging your battery, unless you bring it with you.
I guess a person could bring the battery and the portable panel in the truck for the day and then relay the charged battery to the trailer when back at the camp site... couldn't you?
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Old 09-06-2017, 09:18 PM   #20
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I guess a person could bring the battery and the portable panel in the truck for the day and then relay the charged battery to the trailer when back at the camp site... couldn't you?
A younger person with a strong back might be able. If I had a 3/4 ton truck instead of a Tacoma that would be a great idea. You could use the truck alternator to charge the battery as well and just leave the battery(s) in the truck. The fact of the matter is that we use so little power that our portable 100 watt panel is good enough for us. My wife and I just use a few lights and listen to the radio. The fridge on propane and the water pump don't use too much. As long as the sun shines, we're good.
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