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Old 05-25-2014, 06:29 PM   #1
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Newbie question about solar

So here goes: I'm exposing my solar ignorance.

We are ordering solar and 2 x 6 volt batteries on our 17b in order to boon-dock, get into cheaper campsites etc. (although we've never travelled via trailer) seems like a way to extend our trips financially, get away from the bigger RV sites and just seems way cool.

Soooo... If we really get into using solar and want to also get a portable solar panel to aim more directly at the sun than where the trailer has be parked. Is it just a matter of somehow linking the portable solar panel(s) to the existing roof mounted solar panel? (kind of like linking extension cords? See I said I was a newbie).

Or do we need to ask Escape factory to do something magical to give us this add-on solar capacity? We have to sign off the build sheet by the end of May.

Thanks Larry (dreaming and planning about camping in retirement)
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Old 05-25-2014, 06:51 PM   #2
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We added ETI's solar and 2 x 6 v batteries because we wanted to camp in remote sites off the grid to our 19 build sheet and didn't want to worry about packing a separate solar panel. We included the 1,500 watt inverter. Probably the best options we included in the build sheet for us. You want to go with the LED light option as well. I would do it all over again. It also let's you use camp sites that the big rigs don't want and I find you are more likely to get a spot at busy/popular campsites.
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Old 05-25-2014, 07:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by LarryandLiz View Post
Or do we need to ask Escape factory to do something magical to give us this add-on solar capacity? We have to sign off the build sheet by the end of May.

Thanks Larry (dreaming and planning about camping in retirement)
I'm pretty much in the same boat, although I do understand solar. The purist in me says go with portable (aka suitcase solar) and aim it at the sun in a perfectly aligned fashion - which lasts maybe an hour since the sun moves. The efficiency of solar panels is constantly improving (witness Escape is now installing 160W panels vs the 95s of just a couple of years ago at no increase in price.) I spent the last couple of weeks pondering a prewire only and then installing piece parts later, but that's like waiting for the perfect computer (built my 1st in 1975.) So I say go for it. One can always replace parts later with more efficient items, but the wiring and concept will remain the same.
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Old 05-25-2014, 07:27 PM   #4
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Still interested in knowing if we can plug more panels onto the Escape in addition to the roof top solar. We think there will have room in the frontier tug for the portable solar. And yes we are getting the led lighting.

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We included the 1,500 watt inverter. Probably the best options we included in the build sheet for us.
I real curious g Harper about your inverter decision. Can I ask how u came to that decision. We've decided to do without heavy electrical drains when we are "off the grid" ie no microwave, toast and Liz won't have her hair dryer (I'm loosing my hair so it isn't an issue for me). Tammy at ETI talked about using portable small inverters for recharging things electronic ... And we will have 12 v plugs for that anyway.
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Old 05-25-2014, 07:37 PM   #5
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You will need to have ETI install another external plug that you can plug your remote panel. They can then wire that plug to your controller so that it will handle both panels. Or, you can purchase a second panel with controller and hook it up direct to your batteries on the rear bumper. With the controller reading the batteries, one or both will shut off if not needed. However ETI is now installing 160 watt solar panel at the same price for the older 95 watt. You may not need anymore than that.
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Old 05-25-2014, 07:39 PM   #6
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There have been some long threads on this forum about portable solar panels and connectivity options. Have you been able to find those? Some of those participants will likely weigh in here.
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Old 05-25-2014, 07:43 PM   #7
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Couldn't find them. I don't have much luck using the search function on this software.
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Old 05-25-2014, 07:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by LarryandLiz View Post
Still interested in knowing if we can plug more panels onto the Escape in addition to the roof top solar. We think there will have room in the frontier tug for the portable solar. And yes we are getting the led lighting.
If you plug into the wiring up top then you can add as many panels as you want as long as you don't exceed the rating of the controller which I believe the stock one that ETI installs is 30 amps. But, if you are not going for a high wattage inverter and have LED lights then I don't think you will need the extra panel(s). I have one panel on top of my 5.0 and a 300 watt pure sine inverter and never worry at all about power. We spent 3 weeks in Banff and the Kootenay's last September and October staying at Provincial and Forestry sites the whole time (no power) and never had a single issue with power.

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Old 05-25-2014, 07:47 PM   #9
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Larry & Liz, I've been reading your recent posts and you have the asking many questions of great interest to me. We just put a deposit on a 17B with a Sept completion date. So you are few steps ahead of us. I hope you will share your build sheet when it become final. Good luck with your decisions. As they say on the forum, you'll be happy with whatever you decide.

GHarper, I'm also curious about your inverter decision.

Thanks,
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Old 05-25-2014, 08:01 PM   #10
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This link looks good

Solar panel from a few months ago.

I'm wondering if I need some kind of inside the trailer controller / monitor to coordinate the roof and add on solar....

Sure Mob2014 this week will be some musing and then it is done

One thing we like about being close to ETI is they can add options like an outside hatch afterwards if we decide we need if. We just need to get the trailer back to ETI
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Old 05-25-2014, 09:02 PM   #11
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Portable Solar and Monitor Location

I much prefer the google search - box at bottom of search drop down menu item. I searched on: portable solar
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Old 05-25-2014, 09:23 PM   #12
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Larry-

I think the 160W panel that ETI provides now will be sufficient for your needs. Like you, I'm a newbie-- I picked up my Escape on April 7 and have been in it ever since. It was equipped with the 6V batteries, one 95W solar panel, LED lights, and the 1500W inverter. In late April I had a second 100W panel installed on the trailer. I've been in the trailer since April 7, and for most of this time, including the past 24 days, I've been "off the grid". Additionally, for the past three or four days I have been running a 700W microwave oven for a total of 10 minutes or less per day. During the entire time since I had the second panel installed, my battery charge has not fallen lower than 70% of capacity. Just another data point for you.

Now I'm beginning to wonder if I was the last Escape customer to get the smaller solar panel. :-(

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Old 05-25-2014, 09:32 PM   #13
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We purchased the inverter to use an electric coffee grinder, electric coffee pot and a small portable vacuum. I also want to use a higher end wireless speaker, i.e. Sonos, which runs on 120 volt.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mob2014 View Post
Larry & Liz, I've been reading your recent posts and you have the asking many questions of great interest to me. We just put a deposit on a 17B with a Sept completion date. So you are few steps ahead of us. I hope you will share your build sheet when it become final. Good luck with your decisions. As they say on the forum, you'll be happy with whatever you decide.

GHarper, I'm also curious about your inverter decision.

Thanks,
Maureen
Maureen I started a thread called "17b build sheet LarryandLiz". Any comments welcomed
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:52 PM   #15
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We purchased the inverter to use an electric coffee grinder, electric coffee pot and a small portable vacuum. I also want to use a higher end wireless speaker, i.e. Sonos, which runs on 120 volt.
That makes sense.
We have Sonos speakers throughout our home and love it.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:53 PM   #16
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I didn't opt for roof top solar or inverter. I use a cheap, portable inverter for phones and sat radio but it draws the batteries down much more than I like. Would a better quality inverter reduce the draw down?

I use a 50w solar panel wired to a controller I stashed in one of the battery boxes. It recharges my 6v batteries in a couple hours. Problem tho is using the inverter at night. Pulls the battery down to 60-70%.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:57 PM   #17
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Thanks for all the solar help, I'll be saving this thread.

It looks like Mike is doing fine with what he has. And if we want to I should be able to add something portable in the future.
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Old 05-26-2014, 07:22 AM   #18
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I didn't opt for roof top solar or inverter. I use a cheap, portable inverter for phones and sat radio but it draws the batteries down much more than I like. Would a better quality inverter reduce the draw down?

I use a 50w solar panel wired to a controller I stashed in one of the battery boxes. It recharges my 6v batteries in a couple hours. Problem tho is using the inverter at night. Pulls the battery down to 60-70%.
The only thing I could think of is the efficiency of the different quality units. A $200 300 Watt Morningstar inverter is 94% efficient. I suspect a $30 300 watt invert would be less so, but they do not provide specs on such so it's just a guess.
What's the batteries go down to overnight if you do not use the inverter?
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Old 05-26-2014, 08:57 AM   #19
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Quote:
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I didn't opt for roof top solar or inverter. I use a cheap, portable inverter for phones and sat radio but it draws the batteries down much more than I like. Would a better quality inverter reduce the draw down?

I use a 50w solar panel wired to a controller I stashed in one of the battery boxes. It recharges my 6v batteries in a couple hours. Problem tho is using the inverter at night. Pulls the battery down to 60-70%.
How are you determining the 60-70% battery status?

If the battery is under load a volt meter will not give you an accurate picture. You also need to adjust for the battery temperature. I have attached a chart I use, but not sure where I got it. (NOTE: The temperatures are the actual battery temperature.)

I had a cigarette lighter plug voltage display which was too inaccurate to be useful. If you are using this there must be NOTHING else (turned on) on that circuit.

The ETI 6V batteries are good for 232 amp-hours. If you are down to 65% that means you used 81 amp-hours (assuming you started full.) Recharging with a 50 watt panel will give you at best 4 amps so you would need 20.25 hours to put back 81 amp-hours. Either you are not getting your batteries full, or you are not discharging them as deeply as you think.
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File Type: pdf BatteryVoltage.pdf (166.6 KB, 26 views)
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Old 05-26-2014, 10:20 AM   #20
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Could be. I use a digital volt meter. It goes down to 12.5v after a typical dry camping night of an led light or two on, xm plugged into the inverter for 4 or 5 hours and leaving a phone plugged into it overnight. After a couple hours in the sun, it shows back up to 12.7 or .8. I was thinking I was back up to 100%, maybe not. Inverter was a small portable from Harbor Freight. Think I paid $20.

BTW I am now using 12v adapters. I have one of those two out of one plug in gizmos I found at a truck stop (which I heartily recommend to my camping friends). Currency draw is negligible, sometimes down to 12.6 after a night of radio and recharging. I still need the inverter for some things like the laptop but am wondering if a new one might be smart.
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