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Old 08-11-2013, 07:14 PM   #1
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Solar - Roof Mounted or Portable

Our 2010 Escape 19 was BS, which is before solar. Roof mounted solar after the fact did not seem like a viable alternative so we resorted to a portable 75 watt unit. I am going to try to compare the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Please add your opinion.

Roof Mounted

Pros:
Painless, there is nothing to do except check the battery level.
Cons:
You can only check the battery level. There is no control to direct the unit toward the sun.
Cost of, I guess, around $800.

Portable

Pros:
Low cost, I spent $150 US and it plugs into the trailer side Bargman plug.
In dark or shaded areas you have a chance of placing the unit in the sun
Changes in technology are easier to implement.
You put it in use only when you need it, if you have shore power or plenty of battery storage it is not put in service.
Cons:
Portable means you need to have a place to store the unit.
Inconvenience of a five minute set up and take down.
Moving the unit means greater chance of damage.
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Old 08-11-2013, 07:26 PM   #2
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As the famous pitchman says with the built in you "set and forget about it", all automatic and By 10 am I'm full so you do not need to have it hanging around and moving and possible theft.
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:08 AM   #3
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With the GoPower solar controller that Escape uses you can monitor:
The % of battery charge.
The battery voltage.
The amperage charging rate.

Minimum 10 guage wiring for less resistance between the panels and battery.
95 watts per panel
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:42 AM   #4
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I can see the advantages of portable, but for me, its not worth the savings$$$.
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:07 AM   #5
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Roof mounted solar

Like fudge_brownie our 2010 Escape did not come with solar, but we opted to have Escape install a GoPower unit on the roof.

Ladybug goes solar! | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Things I've noticed:
  • a roof mounted panel can charge the battery while driving
  • you do need to give attention to finding a site with some sun
  • the unit has no trouble keeping up with our needs for power
  • going solar opens up lots of new options for camping
  • going solar gives a new sense of freedom
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:02 AM   #6
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I have the factory-standard solar on my 19. I find that even in full sun, the meter says the panel is providing about 4.5A. That's only about 55W, out of a 95W-rated panel. So while I wouldn't choose to fuss with moveable/removeable panels, understand that less-than-optimal panel placement (i.e. a horizontal panel does not face directly into the sun) does have an impact.
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:19 AM   #7
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Would something like this improve the performance?
VoltagePro.com. Tilt Mount Kit for Go Power! 50, 80, 95, and 110 watt solar panels ARM-UNI
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:28 AM   #8
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That would help, but can still only provide truly optimal position if you're willing to constantly adjust the angle and rotate your trailer around the campsite.
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:30 AM   #9
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I also have the factory standard, roof top solar, and do like it a lot. I waffled about buying it, since on my previous trailer (a pop-up) I had portable units, which I also liked for the ability to direct towards the sun. There have been times when, as Doug notes, the horizontal panel is less than optimal. I've been toying with the idea of wiring in the portable panels, and having the best of both worlds.
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Old 08-12-2013, 11:07 AM   #10
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I wonder about the wisdom of trying to extract the maximum power from a solar panel
  • we have found that we have enough power for our needs with a horizontal panel
  • even with a tilting panel you will still need to orient the trailer the right way
  • shading from trees or other parts of the trailer will still impact solar output
How much is enough?
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Old 08-12-2013, 11:09 AM   #11
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The solar controller regulates the amperage output dependent on the battery charge. As the battery approaches full charge the voltage will read higher (over 13V and the amperage will be lower).
We used a 170W crock pot or 6.5 hours on the high setting with a 1000W inverter. The amperage output was 12.1. The battery dropped to 12.3V and showed a 75% charge. There was only one hour of direct sunlight and the rest of the time was cloudy and rain.
We have two 95W panels and two 6V batteries. There is more resistance in the wiring then I would prefer as Escape used aluminum wiring (41% less electron flow than copper) and undersized the terminal connectors at the batteries. I have replaced the terminals and increased the wire guage between the batteries.
How much is enough?
Depends on your intended use. More is better if you are using an inverter. You can only put two panels on top of an Escape 19.
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Old 08-12-2013, 06:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jubal View Post
The solar controller regulates the amperage output dependent on the battery charge. As the battery approaches full charge the voltage will read higher (over 13V and the amperage will be lower).
We used a 170W crock pot or 6.5 hours on the high setting with a 1000W inverter. The amperage output was 12.1. The battery dropped to 12.3V and showed a 75% charge. There was only one hour of direct sunlight and the rest of the time was cloudy and rain.
We have two 95W panels and two 6V batteries. There is more resistance in the wiring then I would prefer as Escape used aluminum wiring (41% less electron flow than copper) and undersized the terminal connectors at the batteries. I have replaced the terminals and increased the wire guage between the batteries.
How much is enough?
Depends on your intended use. More is better if you are using an inverter. You can only put two panels on top of an Escape 19.
Why not a third on front of the MaxiFan? There is plenty of room.......and you can get a lot more charging out of the two existing panels by upgrading the Solar Controller to take the charging voltage up to 14.8volts where it should be if you have a pair of 6 volt batteries. Worked for me!
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:19 PM   #13
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Hotfishtacos
Thanks for the information. I have been following you earlier posts. The trailer is new and I am still learning. More improvements will follow as rescources become avaliable.
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:28 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jubal View Post
Hotfishtacos
Thanks for the information. I have been following you earlier posts. The trailer is new and I am still learning. More improvements will follow as rescources become avaliable.
Jubal, you have a great trailer that will serve you for many years. Just enjoy it to the fullest! I can't get mine out often enough. We've been out about 8 times this year and have 5 more trips planned or booked during the rest of the year....and I work full time. Loving it!
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:30 AM   #15
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Since I started this discussion I have read The RV Battery Charging Puzzle, a blog type website that comes from an experienced and knowledgeable RV camper that full times with solar. Bob certainly does not lack opinions, he is a bit over the top and the website is very lengthy but there are several points he made that struck me.

Before you do anything, purchase a monitoring system for your current power use. Bob likes Tri-metric 2020 and 2025 meters (bogartengineering.com). To him the key readout is the percentage of charge.

Most battery manufacturers recommend charging at a rate of 14.8 volts. Unfortunately most converters peak put at 14.2-14.4

Note: The WFCO WF-8955PEC, which came with my Escape, has a charging rate of 13.6 with a boost rate “bulk charge” of 14.4 Vdc. There are many complaints about this charger never getting into the third stage or bulk charge. The issue with this is you might be unplugging from shore power with a battery that is not fully charged. Some claim a full charge should be 12.6 volts as measured an hour after charging has finished. Bob claims that with the proper charging rate a 12.8 will be possible, most generally it is accepted that 12.7 volts as a full charge. I have found with 24 hours of charging I can get 12.68 volts, beware that this is 24 hours; this is a slow charger so give your unit a long time on shore power before heading out to run on batteries. It is so important to get your batteries full because a 95% charged battery has 10% less usable power in it than a 100% charged one, since you are trying to keep it in the top 50% of its operating range. I do not think the built in charger from Escape gives you a fully charged battery.

“You also need to watch out for those who brag about being charged up by 10:00 or 11:00 AM. They either have more panels than needed or their systems are shutting off early because they are set up wrong.”

As Jubal has pointed out, and Bob would agree, the choice of wire, lengths of run and methods of connecting can have significant influence on speed and quality of solar.

Bob also talks about batteries, inverters, monitors and much more. If you want a strong opinion that appears to be unbiased (from a sales perspective) this could help maximize your solar experience.
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:47 AM   #16
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Wow
Alot of good information. I am going to have to wait for another CD to mature.
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:52 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post

“You also need to watch out for those who brag about being charged up by 10:00 or 11:00 AM. They either have more panels than needed or their systems are shutting off early because they are set up wrong.”
As I have pointed out before, the state of charge shown by the GoPower solar charge controller is based on voltage not the amp-hours of remaining capacity in the battery or batteries. A more realistic estimate of state of charge can be obtained by
(1) reading the charge controller's indication just before sunrise or a few hours after sunset assuming there is no charging or discharging of the battery at that time OR
(2) installing a battery monitor such as the Trimetric which estimates state of charge based on net amp-hours from the battery since last full charge

Here is a link to the blog referred to:
https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/...ging-puzzle-2/
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Old 08-15-2013, 02:16 PM   #18
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I guess I try to not over think this type of stuff. We have a 80Watt panel, 30 amp charge controller and dual six volt batteries. After 4 days of dry camping the batteries are at 100 % fairly early in the day and although being conservative with use are doing everything that we want to .
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