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Old 08-11-2017, 04:05 PM   #1
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160 watt solar panel enough?

We are ordering our new 21' Escape with solar and it comes with one 160 watt solar panel. Has anyone had experience with this solar setup? Has this been sufficient? They offer an additional panel to make it 320 watts total and we are considering purchasing the additional panel? Any input would be appreciated!
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:20 PM   #2
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We are ordering our new 21' Escape with solar and it comes with one 160 watt solar panel. Has anyone had experience with this solar setup? Has this been sufficient? They offer an additional panel to make it 320 watts total and we are considering purchasing the additional panel? Any input would be appreciated!
Hi: godspeed... We've had the 160 since 2014 and never felt it was less than adequate. You can't run the a/c or microwave, but along with the propane everything else works fine!!! Alf
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:33 PM   #3
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There are several variables you will have to provide to give a good answer. The first is easy: will you have dual six volt batteries? The second is a lot more complicated. Some questions you need to answer is what will be your camping style? Boondocking? For what lengths of time?

Then you need to get into usage. Will you have an inverter? Lots of other devices needing a charge?

Next, comes the time of year, shoulder season camping will require more panel. Furnace usage is probably the biggest drain on a battery during cold weather.

As you can see with just the few unknowns I have mentioned, there is not an easy answer. My suggestion would be to consider a portable panel as a future alternative, if needed. Portable can be easily added in any of a number of sizes, it can be left behind when not needed and most important, it may be located to an area of sun when in a forested area.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:44 PM   #4
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Hi Godspeed, we have a 21 with the 160 solar set up, we have dry camped for 4 days with no problems. All of the 4 days where cloudy but we also had a generator we used twice for maybe an hour, this was so we could use the microwave and toaster oven. All depends on what type of camping you want to do, we just didn't want to be tied down to sites with power.
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Old 08-11-2017, 05:49 PM   #5
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My view on solar panels is similar to space in a house. The larger you go the more your needs expand. Seriously, valid points previously made. No one can predict how another person is going to use amps.

I was one the early adopters of solar panels in the late 80's on my boat. 15 watts cost twice what a 100 watt panel does today. But it did the job. Saved running the generator when in port for a few days. But our needs were low; no microwave, toaster ovens etc.

Currently I have one 100 watt panel and two separate 12 volt batteries. We use the microwave on occasion as well as a TV, wireless network and well as recharge various USB devices. I've yet to have to resort to using Bat. #2 because #1 was too low to use. Maybe in Winter, in days of blackness and rain and using the furnace, we'd need more panels but under really poor conditions there's a limit to that also.

So, I'd say go with the one panel and if you really feel that you need more get a portable one that can be placed in an optimum location if needed.

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Old 08-11-2017, 05:52 PM   #6
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...
So, I'd say go with the one panel and if you really feel that you need more get a portable one that can be placed in an optimum location if needed.

Ron
I was just about to post exactly that.
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Old 08-11-2017, 06:14 PM   #7
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2 is good if you are thinking of spending the winter without hookups or you think you'll use a lot of power toys.

I have a portable as well as the 160w on the roof and the 2 6v batteries, I've yet to need the portable. Most places we go in the winter have electric. We live int he east, not much boondocking around.
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Old 08-11-2017, 06:14 PM   #8
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I go along with those that say "it depends". For most in season campers that occasionally dry camp it will probably be enough. Plenty of "gotchas" exist.

Doing an energy audit is a good idea. Since you don't already have the trailer, you might use this table from RV Solar Electric or similar tables to determine what you expect to use. The folks at Technomadia (they used to travel in an Oliver, now a boat) have a long discussion on making an audit.

As others have mentioned, the time of year makes a big difference. During the winter the sun is at a lower angle and lasts fewer hours. Unless your panel(s) tilt to make them perpendicular to the sun, you will produce far less amp hours than in the summer. For example, I (a heavy user of electricity) had no problem keeping up during the summer with a pair of 100 watt panels on the roof. During the winter, even in sunny Arizona, I need to add a 160 watt portable panel to produce the 30 - 40 amp hours I use per day. Again, this is more than most use - I dry camp for months at a time, and don't carry a generator, like to use an inverter to make a pot of coffee each morning as well as an electric toaster, and edit lots of images with a power hungry laptop.

Battery capacity is important. Most solar installers suggest at least 1 watt of solar for every amp hour of battery storage. For most single battery users, 80 - 100 watts of solar is enough (again for summer camping). With a pair of 6 volt batteries, 160 - 240 watts makes sense.

If you carry a generator, or sometimes check into a campground with utilities, you can always use your converter to top off the batteries. For those that dry camp for long periods & don't carry a generator, you will probably want additional solar & battery capacity.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:25 PM   #9
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I'd say go with the one panel and if you really feel that you need more get a portable one that can be placed in an optimum location if needed.
Ron
We have spent the entire summer in the ADK's since picking up our 19 and we found that a lot depends on where you are camping. The first 4 weeks went well with just the 160. We then moved into a heavier section of forest and ended up having to bring a generator up to supplement the solar. I'm starting to think about adding a portable panel and hopefully eliminate the need for the generator completely, since I'm pretty sure we could have positioned a portable panel in good positions even in the more dense locations.

Can anyone point me to a thread that describes what needs to be done as far as setting up the connection for a portable panel to plug into our existing system? I'm assuming that a solar port would need to be added to the outside of the trailer and some wiring added?
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:46 PM   #10
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We use our 160w system all winter (flat mounted) without issue. No Microwave but everything else including 160w inverter to charge electronics works fine.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:57 PM   #11
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Single 160W, dual 6V and 1500W inverter. In three years it has been no problem any time of year. We use inverter for coffee and sometimes Vitamix.Ditched the toaster after it seemed to push our past experience.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:25 PM   #12
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We have spent the entire summer in the ADK's since picking up our 19 and we found that a lot depends on where you are camping. The first 4 weeks went well with just the 160. We then moved into a heavier section of forest and ended up having to bring a generator up to supplement the solar. I'm starting to think about adding a portable panel and hopefully eliminate the need for the generator completely, since I'm pretty sure we could have positioned a portable panel in good positions even in the more dense locations.

Can anyone point me to a thread that describes what needs to be done as far as setting up the connection for a portable panel to plug into our existing system? I'm assuming that a solar port would need to be added to the outside of the trailer and some wiring added?
With the 19 and batteries on the tongue you can just simply alligator clip or wire a port to your batteries that you plug in the portable panel w/controller, when needed. Saves a lot of drilling hole and running wires. Only negative to this is it isn't tracked by the onboard controller, but a full battery at the end of the day is a full battery.
On my 19 I got rid of the MC4 connectors on the roof that broke from the wind buffeting them and wired in a port there when I redid it. I can plug a portable there which will go through the onboard controller, no holes or additional wiring.
Lastly you can drill in a port and run wiring to your controller for portable if you want to go that route. Lots of options.
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Old 08-11-2017, 10:38 PM   #13
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Is 160 watt solar panel enough?

I don't plan on being a heavy user of electricity. Just a coffee maker (500 watts), led lights, a blender for smoothies (700 watts) and TV/DVD (30 watts) for maybe an hour a day plus a computer and cell phones (2). We will run the Fridge and water heater on Propane. We will order the 2 - 6v batteries as well (I believe that it is mandatory with the solar panels.
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Old 08-11-2017, 11:59 PM   #14
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This is an embarrassing question, as I work with AC voltages every day, but how does 2 6 volt batteries beat a single 12 volt? Volts is force, amps is current. More volts generally means less amps needed.

Thanks for starting this thread Godspeed! I had the same question.
In our case, no TV, and we use a propane toaster currently (yeah it isnt good) and I drink tea instead of coffee when we are camping. Propane for fridge as well. Mostly concerned about power for lighting, and charging cell phones.
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Old 08-12-2017, 12:29 AM   #15
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The dual 6V is 233 amp hours. While ETI rates a Group 29 12v as 115 an Interstate rep told me at most it is 95. Think of the dual 6V as a larger reservoir in which to store the energy produced by the solar panel. That's why am not keen on a second panel on the roof as our batteries are usually fully charged within two hours and there's no where else to store more energy.
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:55 AM   #16
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This is an embarrassing question, as I work with AC voltages every day, but how does 2 6 volt batteries beat a single 12 volt? Volts is force, amps is current. More volts generally means less amps needed.
You are joining ing the 2 6v batteries together to make in effect a single 12v. Last I knew ETI uses Interstate batteries. You have the option for a single 12v group 24, a single group 29, or a pair of 6v.

Interstate SRM-24 (12v) = 84 amps, 46.3 lbs each
Interstate SRM-29 (12v) = 115 amps, 59 lbs each
Interstate GC2-ECL (6v) = 225 amps, 62 lbs each

You could go with 2 group 24's, they fit pretty much the same floor space as the taller 6v'ers, but you end up with 168 amps instead of the 225. A pair of SRM-29's would take up a good deal more floor space and don't fit a standard double battery box.

GC2-XHD have been replaced with GC2-ECL, the ECL's are 225 amps as opposed to 232 amps for the XHD's.
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:06 AM   #17
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We will order the 2 - 6v batteries as well (I believe that it is mandatory with the solar panels.
On the ETI website under Options it only indicates the dual 6V's are required with solar on the 21. Not sure why the model would matter. It is really about having more energy storage to complement the solar. I'm thinking this just might be an omission on the site and it is now required for all models. When getting the inverter dual 6V's are now listed as required on all models which makes perfect sense.
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:28 AM   #18
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I have the 160w panel on the roof with the 2 6v batteries and so far everything works fine. If I get a couple hours of sun each day the batteries will get fully charged. I've decided that if I need more power I will first look into getting two larger capacity 6v AGM batteries and/or a generator. It depends on how much cold weather camping I do.
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Old 08-12-2017, 03:05 AM   #19
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This is an embarrassing question, as I work with AC voltages every day, but how does 2 6 volt batteries beat a single 12 volt?.
Battery capacity (which is typically measured in "amp-hours") is basically just proportional to size and mass, so if you need a lot of capacity you get a large mass of battery. Really big batteries are hard to handle, so for most applications they are split up into boxes which one person can lift; for the standard capacity that comes with an Escape that's one box (a 12 V battery) and for the optional larger capacity that's two boxes (which could be two 6 V batteries in series, or two 12 V batteries in parallel). For comparison, golf carts typically use six or eight boxes, because they have 6 to 8 times the capacity of an Escape with the standard battery capacity.

With the battery set split up into two boxes (batteries), the easiest way for wiring and management is to combine them in series, which means two 6 V batteries... and that's the option Escape offers. Each one is the same size, capacity, and voltage as commonly used in golf carts that use 8 batteries, which is why it's called the "GC2" size.

You really could use one 12 V battery of the same total volume and mass as the pair of 6 V batteries (or pair of the standard 12 V batteries), and it would have the same electrical performance, but it would be very hard to handle for installation or removal. There are at least a couple of industry-standard sizes of 12 V battery with this capacity, including "8D". Occasionally someone uses one in an RV, but it would be rare.
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Old 08-12-2017, 07:43 AM   #20
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I have 240W on the roof, and have yet to not be fully charged by midday. Maybe once we get to fall and have colder nights where we see more furnace use it might take longer, but I am starting to wonder if I will ever need the 80W portable I have.
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