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Old 06-27-2020, 03:27 PM   #1
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Solar capability long term boon docking-no sun

Solar Capability:Wanting to know if solar panels are maxed out from factory if a family can boon dock indefinitely supplying LED lighting and fridge ONLY: with no sun and cloudy skies?

thanks in advance for feedback,
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Old 06-27-2020, 03:43 PM   #2
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Are you asking about your 2010 Escape 19? It has the 95 watt solar. What battery do you have and are you using propane for the refrigerator while boon docking?
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:08 PM   #3
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I doubt it, but what model fridge?
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:08 PM   #4
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With a single 95 watt panel, you will be pressed to keep the battery full without some sunny days when using the usual loads of lighting, refrigerator (on propane) water pump, etc. Not saying it can't be done, but you will have to sometimes limit what you do to avoid lowering the battery below 50%.
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:24 PM   #5
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No!

I am basing that answer on our long-term experience with solar on our trailer and solar on our home. Our home system on sunny days gives us about 3 times the kWh/day that it does on a heavy cloud day without any direct sunlight.
Our 150 Watt system on our Escape trailer takes care of all of our electrical needs (LED lighting, running a lap top computer, charging phones and 2-way family radios, power for the frig. control circuit, power for the furnace fan, power for the Maxxfan and kitchen hood fan), except when camping in thick forest or camping in heavy clouds/rain - i.e. no direct sun.
So, my conclusion: you need at least 300 Watts of solar for consistent no-direct-sun conditions.


Edit: FYI: we have a single 12V battery. The stock one is a Group 27; we have a larger Group 31. Edit #2: more battery Amperage capacity is also better, which is why many people use twin 6V batteries. One 12V of the same Amperage capacity as the 6V's is toooo heavy to lift.
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:34 PM   #6
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I would guess that each of the replies above assume that you have the dual six volt batteries. I would also expect that those batteries have been replaced since the trailer was built and they maybe in need of another replacement. Then what type batteries are they?

The time of year comes into play, sun angle, geographic location in the country, and the need for furnace. What about water pump usage? Will you be charging any devices? You are asking a question that has too many variables for an accurate answer. Not sure you will get a specific answer but without sun and a weak panel you will be entirely dependent on how long your batteries will stay above 50%.
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Old 06-27-2020, 07:03 PM   #7
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thanks for all the feedback.

thanks especially Don for all the specifics from experience. I should have said right up front I am looking at what can be done from a new unit-which is not to suggest I wouldn't want to do the same thing with an older unit. I don't own a unit yet-LOL. I really wanted to know what 2 panels on the roof could do powering only the LED lights and the fridge in the event of limited propane remaining in tanks under cloudy conditions. Thanks for comments regarding tree canopy *effect*. That is definitely a big consideration.

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Old 06-27-2020, 07:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeforema View Post
thanks especially Don for all the specifics from experience. I should have said right up front I am looking at what can be done from a new unit-which is not to suggest I wouldn't want to do the same thing with an older unit. I don't own a unit yet-LOL. I really wanted to know what 2 panels on the roof could do powering only the LED lights and the fridge in the event of limited propane remaining in tanks under cloudy conditions. Thanks for comments regarding tree canopy *effect*. That is definitely a big consideration.

Jeff
While a pair or the current 190 watt panels would be a big difference from the 95 watt panel supplied with the 2010 Escape 19, even the combination of the pair plus a pair of 6V batteries won't get you through a cloudy day running the refrigerator on 12V (you mentioned having limited propane).

Running just the lights & refrigerator on propane combined with the 6V battery pair would give you 3-4 cloudy days or more. On a cloudy day my pair of 160 watt panels produce between 2 & 4 amps, enough for the fridge on propane & a few LED lights.
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Old 06-27-2020, 08:01 PM   #9
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Vermyle

So you are saying with two panels you are only good for lights over 3-4 cloudy days? That doesn't sound like panels are much of an investment other than what they are typically used for these days-which is to keep the battery up? Plus your observation does seem to contradict the forum guy from Ventura county. Sounds like direct sunlight is again the key factor?
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Old 06-27-2020, 08:43 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jeforema View Post
So you are saying with two panels you are only good for lights over 3-4 cloudy days? That doesn't sound like panels are much of an investment other than what they are typically used for these days-which is to keep the battery up? Plus your observation does seem to contradict the forum guy from Ventura county. Sounds like direct sunlight is again the key factor?
If Jon Vermilye says that they are only good for 3-4 cloudy days, then go with it.

There are a number of "experts" out there that don't know squat about what they are talking about. These "experts" are more salesmen that technical experts. Jon spends half his year boondocking - you can trust what he says.
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Old 06-27-2020, 10:44 PM   #11
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I measured the output of my 150 watt panel while lying flat in January. Got a grand total of 27 watts at high noon on a sunny day. You can take it from there if you know your appliances wattage requirements. You will be lucky to get 10 watts on the same day when cloudy.
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Old 06-27-2020, 10:59 PM   #12
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Go to https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php to calculate what kind of output to expect. If you are wintering in Arizona you'll do ok but if you're in Washington you'll have issues. Put in your location, then panel size in kilowatts, then set your angle. For a flat roof mount the angle would be 0į.
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Old 06-28-2020, 12:54 AM   #13
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It's a good forum

Again, more great feedback and really helpful. Thanks for constructive feedback and link as well. Happy camping.

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Old 06-28-2020, 06:43 AM   #14
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I think you are miss reading Jon's post. I asked earlier what model fridge you have as in general they suck a ton of power, mine takes up to 14 amps (170A) an hour if you are running on DC, which is how I read your posts. I've checked my 160w panel and get a max of 7 amps from it, mid summer, in full sun, granted it's in MA. In clouds I get an amp or 2, same as broken tree cover. I get the max power for less then 7 hours, it tapers either side of that, for a total of about 50 Ah on a good day.

I would not be able to run my fridge on battery with 2 190w panels in the sun, much less when cloudy. What you can do depends on the power consumption of your fridge.
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Old 06-28-2020, 06:45 AM   #15
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You may want to correct your avatar to reflect your current trailer or the Escape you are thinking about...this would eliminate confusion with our answers.
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Old 06-28-2020, 08:33 AM   #16
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My fridge draws 14 amps on 12V power. That's enough to rapidly draw down batteries. I stopped using 12V power on the fridge, even when towing. I just use propane.

Avoid shade, and plan ahead for cloudy days in the forecast. I currently have 355 watts of rooftop solar and a 100 watt portable panel. They did me no good when parked under the trees in Redwood National Park: I ran down my 200 amp-hours of batteries in four days and had to leave.
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Old 06-28-2020, 12:11 PM   #17
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The point I was trying to make is that it is not practical to attempt to run the refrigerator on 12V if you are dry camping with solar. Even a pair of 190 watt panels on a sunny day would be hard pressed to keep up with the 15 - 30 amp continuous demand of the 12V heater element.

As to non refrigerator use, the rest of the standard trailer appliances, with the exception of the furnace, draws little enough during normal operation that a single 100 watt portable panel works for most fiberglass trailer owners. There are exceptions - I use a 1500 watt inverter often enough that I need far more to keep the batteries up. Making a pot of coffee draws around 10 amp hours, toast around 12, and the microwave draws at least two amp hours per minute of use. I also camp in the winter. While it rarely goes below freezing in Quartzsite, the overnight temperatures are often in the 30's, usually in the 40's, so even with the thermostat set at 60įF, I run the furnace most nights. During the coldest part of winter, I use it 8 - 10 amp hours of battery power for the furnace & go through a 20 pound tank of propane in 10 - 12 days.

You need to consider both the battery capacity & the ability to put back what ever you use. Increasing the battery capacity or adding solar panels both allow longer dry camping during cloudy days. While increasing battery capacity is less expensive, it is heavier, and finding a location for an additional pair of 6V batteries can be difficult. It is also possible to end up with more battery capacity than your solar panels can charge, even on a sunny day. Adding solar, particularly a portable panel has many advantages. It can be aimed at the sun, increasing output, and only dragged out when necessary.

In my case I dry camp for long stretches at Quartzsite, AZ for the winter. I have modified the rooftop 160 watt panels so they can be tilted to the proper angle for mid winter sun, making a 4 fold increase in output over the flat panels. During late December / early January, I add a portable 160 watt panel. When feeding the stock pair of 212 amp hour 6V batteries, I generally kept them above 75% except after 3-4 cloudy days in a row, using 30 - 40 amp hours per day. If I gave up on my morning coffee & toast, shut down the microwave, etc I could probably last a week or more of cloudy days, although I've never seen a week of clouds in the Arizona desert.

Last winter, for a number of reasons, I switched to lithium batteries. Two 100 amp versions provide close to the equivalent of 400 amp hours of lead acid batteries. They can be drawn down to 10% or lower, compared to the 50% level of lead acid batteries. They also have the advantage that they charge at the full output of the charging source until 98% full, compared to lead acid batteries that reduce charging current at 80% or so, so they make good use of the output of the solar controller or a generator. Lastly, they provide over 12V under heavy loads down to 20% or so, making them more practical for microwave use than lead acid batteries.

Since the change, I have been down as much as 72 amp hours after a string of cloudy days, but recovered to 100% in one sunny one.

The electrical requirements when dry camping are so varied according to the individual that attempting to tell someone what they need is impossible. I know couples that can dry camp for weeks with a single 50 watt portable panel. I also met a couple that tow a trailer behind their motorhome with 4000 watts of solar panels, another 2000 watts on the roof of the motorhome, and have 10 100 amp hour lithium batteries in the trailer. I suspect that most of us fall somewhere between the two systems.
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Old 06-28-2020, 01:07 PM   #18
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Have you considered a small portable windmill to supplement your solar ?
Two sources are better than one , plus wind power is environmentally friendly.
At one time Jacob’s Wind built them
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Old 06-28-2020, 01:12 PM   #19
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... mine takes up to 14 amps (170A) an hour...
Since "amps an hour" doesn't make sense, I assume that this was supposed to mean
"... mine takes up to 14 amps (170Ah per day)..."
The implication here would be that it only runs about 12 hours per day to stay cold.
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Old 06-28-2020, 01:33 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
Since "amps an hour" doesn't make sense, I assume that this was supposed to mean
"... mine takes up to 14 amps (170Ah per day)..."
The implication here would be that it only runs about 12 hours per day to stay cold.
Most absorption refrigerators use lower wattage elements for the 12V heaters than the element used for 120V. Because the element provides less heat, all the operation descriptions I have seen run 100% of the time at full power when on the 12V side.
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