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Old 07-25-2017, 02:05 PM   #1
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Solar and Inverter questions

Just about to finalize my order on a 17' and there are a couple things that I could use some help on..

Solar- I want it, just trying to figure out the pros / cons of the factory install vs. going with portable units other than convenience. Is there any additional risk of leakage long term with the permanent system? I would be really interested in hearing why people went with the factory system of did something different and why.

Inverter - we don't use much power and I'm struggling to figure out why I would need anything other than a small portable inverter for some random small stuff to charge. Don't need a microwave, toaster, tv, etc - any other I might need it that I'm not thinking about?

Thanks all for the help!
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Old 07-25-2017, 02:13 PM   #2
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I have two 40 watt portable panels.
I wouldn't leave the campsite without putting them away or hiding them, which makes them much less efficient. It's a pain to put them away for travel ( I have to lay them on the bed, along with the camp chairs ).
I'd much rather have a 160 watt panel ( or two ) on the roof. More than enough power, secure, and I don't have to haul them around.

I have a $30 inverter from Canadian Tire that handles anything that I don't have DC chargers for. We use propane and butane for boiling water, making toast etc.
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Old 07-25-2017, 02:27 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davedru View Post
Just about to finalize my order on a 17' and there are a couple things that I could use some help on..

Solar- I want it, just trying to figure out the pros / cons of the factory install vs. going with portable units other than convenience. Is there any additional risk of leakage long term with the permanent system? I would be really interested in hearing why people went with the factory system of did something different and why.

Inverter - we don't use much power and I'm struggling to figure out why I would need anything other than a small portable inverter for some random small stuff to charge. Don't need a microwave, toaster, tv, etc - any other I might need it that I'm not thinking about?

Thanks all for the help!
I carried both with my 17B. I started with the 95 watt panel that was an option in 2011, then added a 100 watt, both on the roof. As Glenn said, having them on the roof means they are charging your batteries while you are away from the trailer, driving, etc. You don't have to take them down or store them if you are worried about leaving them out when away from the trailer.

I use more amp hours than most since I make a pot of drip coffee most mornings, sometimes a toaster or microwave, and have many rechargeable devices along with a power hungry computer, and dry camp all winter.

I found that during the low angle sun during the winter, along with the shorter days, a couple of cloudy days dropped my batteries down below 75%. I decided to add a portable 160 watt panel. Again, the total of 355 watts is probably more than you need, but the combination of rooftop & portable is nice when parked in the shade even in the summer.

As to the inverter, I added a 1000 watt inverter after the first year of using the trailer. Again, the main reason was I preferred drip coffee, although a real toaster was also a nice perk. Since I added 12V chargers for all my battery operated devices, I didn't need the large inverter for anything else, so if you are sure you don't plan on any high powered AC devices, I don't see the need.
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Old 07-25-2017, 02:30 PM   #4
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We choose to have solar installed on the roof since it will also charge while the trailer is being towed. We also opt for having an external port installed so we can plug in a portable panel when needed... In our current trailer we leave the panel out at campsite all the time....
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Old 07-25-2017, 02:38 PM   #5
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Forgot to mention, with the portable panels, you'll find yourself moving them every ten minutes to optimize the exposure to the sun. Don't know how to deal with this other than visiting a psychiatrist.
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Old 07-25-2017, 02:43 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies - super helpful!!
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Old 07-25-2017, 03:23 PM   #7
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or leave it out like this and you don't have to move it much
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Old 07-25-2017, 03:28 PM   #8
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Forgot to mention, with the portable panels, you'll find yourself moving them every ten minutes to optimize the exposure to the sun. Don't know how to deal with this other than visiting a psychiatrist.
Some folks just need to be doing something all the time. I talked to a fellow in Ontario earlier this month who had a portable solar panel outside of the trailer. He was moving it around fairly often and told me he was trying to beat his personal best time on full recovery on his battery which was something like 9:30 or 10:00 AM.
We have the ETI installled solar (160 watt) on the roof. No leaks, easy to read controller, usually fully charrged by 11:00 AM if sunny, mid afternoon if not.
We do not use an inverter. I could see the value and had them on several trucks where I used to work but the way we camp the inverter is not necessary. We rarely watch TV unless an Ohio State football game is on and they are winning. Just kidding, we love them win or lose.
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Old 07-25-2017, 03:58 PM   #9
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We have solar for the reason that others have stated, but more importantly, the trailer is always ready to go. I would always be trying to charge the battery up by connecting to the tow vehicle after a couple of days and it always sucked. It doesn't have to be ETI installed solar as long as you get around to it. Only using LED lights and the water pump I found that a 50 watt panel could keep up in the summer with a single 12volt battery. On the shoulder seasons the heater would drain down the battery and the 50 watt could not recover it for the second night. ( Does anyone know why the fan in the heater uses so much power? ) So the ETI 90 watt solar and dual 6volt batteries was an easy justification. I think that considering installation the price they have is fair. And the wattage is higher now.

I installed a small 300 watt true-sine inverter to run a small TV and an Android box that we use to watch movies if it rains or too many bugs are out. I started with a 150 watt square wave unit which worked fine until I tried to charge my electric shaver. For some reason it wouldn't charge on the square wave units.
There have been times when we wanted to run small fans or weird battery eliminator/chargers and the inverter has been nice to have. I am going to install a transfer switch so that all of the a/c sockets can be used when the inverter is on. Some laptops are 19 volts and so that is the simplest way to charge them up.
(We took the microwave out, never used it, but that socket in the cupboard is where we plug in the tv and the android box. So maybe think about where you might need an extra A/C socket instead. Or if you are really off-the-grid advanced an extra 12 V socket or two.)

I have a 100 watt panel to use as a outboard panel when we park in the shade. I've never used it. I have an idea of mounting it and the old 50 watt panel on the cap of my truck and running an umbilical cord between the truck and the trailer if the trailer is in the shade or to really help during the shoulder seasons. but I haven't done it yet. And really to just make it convenient/less set up time etc.

So, for me, ETI solar/6volt, yes, ETI inverter, no, but I need to shave with something.
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Old 07-25-2017, 04:30 PM   #10
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I installed my own solar because ETI was only installing a small 95 watt panel at the time while new wider 5.0TA's and 21's could fit the bigger 160 watt panels that were on the market.

While I'm happy with what I have it was a good deal of work. If you are not handy I'd have ETI do the install. If you do it, you can get ETI to prewire which amount to running the collector cable from near the battery/s to the roof. Not knowing anything about the subject I had the prewire done.

Some folks have had 3rd party installers do the job after purchase and are happy with the job done.

I used a portable 300 watt inverter for a couple years, recharged a few items, drill driver, vacuum, and such, also ran the TV a couple times. Just installed a 1000 watt inverter to run an electric blanket, we've become winter wimps.
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