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Old 08-11-2017, 03:05 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, 03:20 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, 03:33 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, 03:44 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, 04:49 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, 04:52 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, 05:14 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, 05:14 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, 07:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
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, 07:46 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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