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Old 05-19-2009, 10:10 PM   #1
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Solar musing

I've gone back and read previous posts on solar and I'm still in a muddle.
I'm debating solar vs. a genset and so far I'm leaning toward a genset.

Solar requires at least an 80 watt panel and that's not exactly compact. Also needs a regulator and somebody with technical savvy to keep an eye on what's happening. Genset requires fuel and generates noise as well as electricity.

I checked them both out at a business that sells solar and gensets and mainly distributes and re-furbishes batteries. A 80 watt panel ( one that would be fixed to the roof ) costs $475 and the regulator another $150. Sales guy said that solar would take two and half weeks to generate the same power as a genset could in a few hours.

The Honda genset ( $1099? ) is light weight and relatively quiet. Solar is silent, but not exactly compact.

Reviewing our last excursion, a four-night dry camp, I don't recall worrying about running out of power. We use very few lights for a very short time. So far, we are summer campers, outside until the sun sets, or later if we sit around a fire. Lights are on briefly before hitting the sack. That leaves the heater fan to draw power overnight ( but it was faulty last time so we didn't use it ), the water pump and lights. We have no microwave or intention of getting one and no AC.

I'm used to camping in a tent trailer, with no power at all. I've got a propane lamp, butane stove and BBQ.

I'm heading out next weekend for a four-day camp and I'm going to keep a sharp eye on our power requirements.
Wondering if a 5 watt portable solar panel ( Bunton $89 ) would do anything at all, or if I have to drop a grand on a 1000 watt Honda. I think I've already decided against the 2,000 watt ( another $450 after tax ). It might keep my freezer going at home, but in the event of a power failure, I'll just move into the trailer.

What I have learned is in a power failure, you need a flash light to find a flash light.

baglo
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:04 AM   #2
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Re: Solar musing

Glenn, I am having the same debate as you.

I like the idea of solar for everything but running an A/C unit should I get one in the future for trips to the deep south. For this I would need a 2000W gen set.

I have the dual 6 volts, and am curious as to how long I can make them last. I am going to get some LED replacement bulbs for some of the lights. I already put in a couple 1W reading lights over the bed.

If I go with solar, I plan on making it portable, most likely 2 40W's that are hinged to fold together for storage. I could then locate these in a better orientation for max sunlight as opposed to roof mounting. I like to keep the trailer in the shade.
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:28 AM   #3
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Re: Solar musing

You know that I am a school teacher, and that there are some things I can't leave alone. The genset produces the same energy in a few minutes as the solar array produces in hours. Power is energy divided by time; so energy, in joules, equals watts times seconds.

I just hate camping near people with generators - even relatively quiet ones. And I think that if I were travelling to a hot place, I'd bite the bullet and camp where there are electrical hook-ups.

But that's just me.
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:48 AM   #4
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Re: Solar musing

Yup.

I'm not inclined to irritate fellow campers. When we camped last summer at a forestry site there was an RV running a gen-set for a couple hours. He was about 300 feet away and I could hear it, but it wasn't a problem, for me, at least. If he had run it all day, running his AC with the door open, I might have objected.
But, solar seems cumbersome and complicated.

I probably don't need solar or a generator any time soon, still being accustomed to a tent trailer with no power, no fridge, no heat ( other than a Coleman lantern and warm sleeping bag ). Problem is, when I first considered the Honda 1,000 watt it was $899 and now it's $1099.

Might be easier and cheaper to limit dry camping to four days and then hit a full service site to replenish the battery, refill the fridge with beer, get fresh produce and enjoy a latte on the patio.

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Old 05-20-2009, 07:32 AM   #5
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Re: Solar musing

I too would only run the gen set to top off the batteries, or run A/C only when needed. The weekend I picked up my trailer was the first time I have ever camped plugged in. Many of the campsites I have been to with a trailer, there is no option of plugging in anyway. Though there are some nice campgrounds with hookups, most of the RV parks are just not my style and the more out of the way forestry/provincial/state/national parks do not have hookups. I most definitely would seek out the better ones with hookups if I plan to ever need, and add, A/C to my trailer.

Like mentioned in the previous post, into the future I plan to do some longer trips and some include heading south, even into Mexico. Even though I bought the doubled insulation and thermal windows, I imagine it will get stifling hot without A/C, and being one who prefers cooler weather, I might melt without it.

I too do not want to be an irritant to fellow campers. I have camped around people who respectfully use small, quiet gen sets, and have not been bothered in the least by them. I have also seen people more disrespectfully use louder gen sets and at inappropriate times too (they usually get well policed by fellow campers though). I have a Yamaha 3000 that I wouldn't ever bring, it is just too big to want to use. We do used it out at our property where we have no power for running the lights and such in a cook house we have out there. If you stand in front of the cook house, with it a bit behind in an open shed, you have to strain your ears to tell it is running at all. The 1000 and 2000 are even quieter. Again, I think the main thing is to use one respectfully.

90% of all the camping I have done is sleeping in the backcountry in a tent, snow shelter, or under the stars. No phones, no electricity, no radios or anything. This is where I will continue to go to get peace and quiet. This is what I call real camping. The trailer to me is just a much more enjoyable way to trip around the country then the hassle of using a hotel.

Glenn, once you get to understand solar, it is not too difficult. If you are permanently mounting it on your trailer, you could have someone do it for you. I doubt the installation would take very long.

And no worries about the noise whenever I would run a gen set, I would have my hip hop music cranked to drown it out anyway.
Just kidding, of course.......I prefer rap
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Old 05-20-2009, 08:02 AM   #6
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Re: Solar musing

Hi: All...No matter which way you power up, each system has its limitations. The trick is to learn to work within those. Last summer at Bolerama at Emily P. Pk. there were several owners there with their solar setups. One fellow had 3- 15 Watt panels wired together and built to fold together for travel. He was powering a 17' Casita. Another camper had rigged up some discarded folding aluminium chair frames to lean his panels on for prime suncatching. I don't think anyone was using Gensets...but if they were they were quiet!!!
The bare minimum we require is a currant bush to plug into...but in desperate situations the battery will have to do!!! NO TV. : Alf
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:43 AM   #7
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Re: Solar musing

I've debated this question also. I don't care for the noise of gen sets. We like to camp in Forestry rec sites/Provincial campsites, thus no hookups. I looked into solar, & in order to get a system that does much, it's at least a $1000.00! Plus, where we camp is usually in the trees, so you lose a lot of the potential capacity to recharge your batteries. What i've done, for now is to just use a second group 27 battery (i already had it) & change out the one on the trailer when it gets low. Takes all of 3 minutes!
Last week we were camping & it was cold, there was snow on the tops of the hills above us in the morning. We had the heater on all day & turned it off once we crawled into our sleeping bags. The battery held up pretty good & i didn't have to change them until the 3rd day. I check the state of charge using a multimeter plugged into a 12V outlet that i installed. This system is the most cost effective for me. We also just watch what 12V things are on & what doesn't need to be. Plus, i like the KISS approach!

edit to add............When we go on extended holidays for 2-3 weeks, every 5th day or so we'll use a commercial RV campsite & plug in a battery charger to top up both of them. Plus get that much needed shower
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Old 05-20-2009, 04:42 PM   #8
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Re: Solar musing

Glenn,
If you are not going to be using AC, or for that matter much electricity at all, what would you need the generator for other than recharging your battery? Could you get by with an extra battery and a smaller solar charger specifically for it?

I too am trying to figure out which way to go, or which way to go first, since they both have advantages to them.

On edit: Sorry I missed where Gary just mentioned the same thing about a second battery. I'm done.
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Old 05-20-2009, 06:17 PM   #9
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Re: Solar musing

Having read through solar posts, the refrigerator draws some power, even on propane. Heater fan requires power to operate as does propane detector and water pump. And the fan is not just a luxury. Another issue is where to store extra battery. I don't want to hang another 100 lbs on the rear bumper and I gather you don't want to store it inside without venting ( maybe that's just when it is in use ).
The Costco solar offering looks interesting, but, where to store it and how to keep it from being stolen?

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Old 05-20-2009, 08:59 PM   #10
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Re: Solar musing

If going solar, I was thinking of getting 2 of THESE panels, and a good charge controller to make my portable system. The dimensions are 20.7 x 25.7 x 2.0, and would hinge then to fold together. I could either store them in the Pilot, under the bed, or in the closet. One other thought was to make a nice storage container and mount it either on the tongue or the rear bumper.
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