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Old 11-20-2014, 09:50 AM   #1
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Solar power in the wintertime

When I picked up my Escape 21 in April it was equipped with the 95W solar panel that Escape provided at the time, and the two 6V batteries. A few weeks afterward I had AM Solar in Springfield, Oregon add a second 100W panel and a Tri-Metric battery monitor. For the following 27 days straight in May I ran off the batteries and solar panels, with no electrical hookups. I had no problems charging the batteries to 100% every day, even when using a microwave via inverter on some days.

What a difference six months make. On a recent trip I boondocked over a weekend and noticed my batteries weren't charging fully. So when I returned home on Nov 13 I ran an experiment: I had the fridge set to 12V power while traveling as usual, so it had drawn the batteries down to below 80%. When I parked I switched the fridge back to propane and left the trailer powered up for several days, with the furnace on. The batteries never charged up over 75%, usually in the low 70s, and during this recent nationwide cold spell their charge dropped down below 60%.

Weather was very variable, with temperatures from 25 deg F to above 70F, with sunny days, overcast, and rain. My latitude is about 30.75 deg N. I think I'll stop my experiment today as I have the data I need and I don't know how the low charge will affect the batteries. And I'm burning propane for no good reason.
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Old 11-20-2014, 10:57 AM   #2
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I've noticed a huge difference between the charging capabilities of my 95 watt panel with the low angle sun during winter, particularly on cloudy days. I was in the Imperial Dam BLM long term camping area during February. No shade and daytime temperatures un the 70's or better & if I used my inverter to make a pot of coffee I often didn't get back to full batteries by the end of the day. Typical use was 25 - 30 amp hours per day, for which I have no problem making up during the summer.
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:26 AM   #3
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It should depend on the angle between the sun and the angle of the panel. Quite a difference if the panel isn't angled to the south. Here, in southern Oregon at latitude 42 deg N, the angle to tilt a panel from vertical is 72 deg in June and 24 deg in December. The energy the panel sees should depend on the sine of this angle. Thus in June it sees 95% of the radiation while only 41% in December, compared to a optimally tilted panel.

Then the panel may not be as efficient at an angle, and December is likely to have more clouds. Wow, why on earth did I get one of those panels?
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:38 AM   #4
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These three posts seem to support the idea that a portable solar panel, one that can be angled and/or rotated, is the way to go.
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:42 AM   #5
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Mike, sun angle will surely affect the output of your panels but shadowing will have a huge impact. Look to be sure you are not casting shadows from the Maxifan, AC or TV antenna on your panels. Even small shadows have a big impact. I raised my panels 3 inches for this reason and I live in southern CA.
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Old 11-20-2014, 11:44 AM   #6
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I would think that winter poses at least 2 major problems for RV solar with panels mounted flat on the roof - the angle of the panel to the sun low on the horizon and the cold's effect on batteries.
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Old 11-20-2014, 12:23 PM   #7
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Check this out.

http://greenerenergy.ca/PDFs/Tilt%20...r%20Panels.pdf

I designed/maintained telecomm sites in 5 NW states. In the beginning I tested each site for a year as some high sites create their own weather patterns. Then panel prices came down and I just oversized everything, but that would result in too much weight for you.

You have an interesting challenge ... moving panels .... moving sun ...

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Old 11-20-2014, 12:52 PM   #8
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Anybody know where a tilting, lazy susan type solar panel bracket that roof mounts, can be purchased? That would seem to be the ticket.
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Old 11-20-2014, 12:58 PM   #9
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As I was looking at solar panels this morning, this pdf http://www.solar-electric.com/lib/wi...lack-specs.pdf


Hit me. I had not noticed other panel spec sheets noting reduced effecient testing before.
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Old 11-20-2014, 01:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Mac View Post
These three posts seem to support the idea that a portable solar panel, one that can be angled and/or rotated, is the way to go.
That's why I went that route, but we are pretty small consumers of electricity when camping usually. Maybe for folks who camp a lot in the winter and need quite a bit of solar, a good method might be the top mounted panel, sized to supply enough power for summer, combined with a portable unit to take along in the winter months to compensate for low sun angle and cold temperatures.
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