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Old 02-16-2019, 10:30 AM   #1
DT6
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Solar Panel Upgrade

Hi,
We have a 2018 Escape 19 with one factory installed 170W solar panel, 1500W inverter and the two 6V 225Ah batteries. We have not taken delivery yet (probably in May when we can get up to BC).

We ordered this not knowing much about living off the grid with solar/battery power. Since then, we have done the math on our likely power draw and there will be times where we approach 50-percent on the batteries. I also do ameatuer astronomy and need to charge a separate 60-Ah AGM battery (getting out to dark skies was one of the reasons for getting the trailer in the first place) that I need to be able to move around depending on where my scope is setup. I'm skeptical that the one solar panel can keep up over multiple days with the factory batteries, and I'm also pretty sure there is not enough margin with he one panel to charge a separate 60Ah AGM.

Given the above, do any of you have experience and/or a recommendation if we should go ahead with an additional 170W panel installation at the factory, or would you recommend another after-market installer, or other solution?

Thanks!
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Old 02-16-2019, 10:48 AM   #2
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I usually average 40 amp hours per day, going as high as 50 on a string of cloudy days. I have 2 160 watt panels (the additional panel in place of the TV antenna, which I don't need). Even with both, during the short, low angle days of December & January, I dig out a portable 160 watt panel to keep up.

I have modified the mounts for the roof top panels so I can tilt them to get an advantage during the low sun months, however it is only worth doing if I'm in one location for more than a couple of days.
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Old 02-16-2019, 10:55 AM   #3
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Am remembering from experience that overthinking the build sheet can be a potential problem. We camp off grid most of the time and did make the mistake of ordering a single Group 29 12V battery. That didn't work out even though we camp with lots of sunshine- and was recommended as a being viable by one of the techno members here. What I found was you need to store the energy somewhere- it is not just a matter of having a large amount of collection capacity. Since replacing the 12V with dual 6V three years ago we're in great shape.

One change we did recently- for no other reason except accidentally finding a better cup of coffee- we ditched the Cuisinart 4 cup electric for a SS Bialetti 6 cup espresso maker. That way we can use it on our induction cooktop at home too.

Suggest you try the single panel first, get a zamp port installed for a portable if needed and go from there. That way there will be four less holes in your roof as well.
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Old 02-16-2019, 12:35 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by DT6 View Post
We have done the math on our likely power draw and there will be times where we approach 50-percent on the batteries.
Do you mean 50% of the batteries per day (more than 110 amp-hours)? That's a lot!

A 170 watt panel translates to about 14 amps, but that's only in ideal solar conditions, with the solar panels perpendicular to the sun, using an impossibly efficient solar charger and ideal batteries with no internal losses. Real life ideal conditions are going to be a lot less. I can't remember my top amperage last summer, but I do remember a lot of the time I was in shade and getting about 1 amp.

I think solar is great for running LED lights, the fan, the fridge on propane, the furnace, and charging phones/tablets. If you get extra for extravagances then great, but it'll be hit or miss unless you are somewhere with consistent sun. For high draws like this you might be better served with a generator. Certainly a second solar panel and/or portable would minimize the times on the generator.
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Old 02-16-2019, 02:32 PM   #5
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If you want to spend a bit of money, you could swap out the lead batteries with lithium. Battle Born Batteries has 100A batteries, and when they say 100A they mean useable amps. Put two of those in and you have 200A of usable power, virtually doubling your present Amp power. They also don't suffer if you only partially charge the batteries.
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Old 02-16-2019, 03:34 PM   #6
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A good chuck of my calculation is for two CPAP machines and I was being conservative at 30 to 35 Amps per night (each), so that takes maybe 70Ah of the 110Ah total. That number is based on some postings of others who use their CPAPs off the battery, but I still need to do an actual measurement of mine.
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Old 02-16-2019, 05:27 PM   #7
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If your main usage is the CPAP machines then I would not rely on just solar and would take someones suggestion about a generator. You can get generators that run on both propane and regular gas, I would suggest you look into one of those. Also if you go this route do your research on best models for noise.
The lithium batteries are another option as well but they require the sun they just hold more power, they can be pretty pricey as well.

Enjoy the journey.

Steve
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Old 02-16-2019, 05:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DT6 View Post
A good chuck of my calculation is for two CPAP machines and I was being conservative at 30 to 35 Amps per night (each), so that takes maybe 70Ah of the 110Ah total. That number is based on some postings of others who use their CPAPs off the battery, but I still need to do an actual measurement of mine.


Another way to maximize your battery with a CPAP is to get a 12V adapter for your machine vs running it off 120V AC and the inverter, which is inherently less efficient and will use more juice.
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Old 02-16-2019, 09:39 PM   #9
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You could consider a small portable panel to charge the portable battery for your scope. You'll find running your trailer on solar power to be an educational experience, as I did.
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Old 02-19-2019, 12:01 AM   #10
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I'm pretty ignorant about electrical stuff so I shouldn't even try to offer any advice but I too am on a CPAP. I have been told that the ResMed brand is very popular so perhaps this information from ResMed will help.

https://www.resmed.com/us/dam/docume...de_glo_eng.pdf

https://www.resmed.com/us/en/consume...equipment.html
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