Originally Posted by noblets
Any one have any experience with a solar generator? As I understand them, they are basically a battery with a controller.
We are looking for an alternative to a gasoline generator. We go out for a month in November, and the western US can get pretty cold at night. We froze the fresh water tank one night, and, as a result, had ETI install a heat strip on the tank and apply the extra foam insulation on the bottom.
I'd like to run the heat strip when it gets down into the teens at night, but am afraid of exhausting the two 6 volt batteries.
Night running gasoline generators are usually frowned upon. Thanks. Tom
It seems that devices sold as "solar generators" don't really generate electricity; they are basically fancy batteries that store energy produced from solar panels or other sources such as generators or shore power.
Their advantage is that they are fairly lightweight (lithium batteries) and come with cases, handles, meters and various connections. They often have more than one dedicated input port for ease of connection and often have various output connections including 12V cigar and 5V USB ports. Many include small inverters that produce 120V AC current to charge laptops and other small items.
The disadvantage of these devices is that they are very expensive. Depending on your use, you may be much better off buying additional regular lead-acid batteries (flooded, gel, AGM, or whatever you are now using in your camper).
A popular brand of these devices is Goal Zero <www.goalzero.com>. I respect them for not calling their devices "solar generators" but use the somewhat more accurate term "power station". Take a look at that web site and see what you get for your money.
The person who started this thread is looking for something to supply 12V all night long for heating and is worried about running down the trailer's battery. Well, Escape normally installs one or two batteries in their trailers that allow maybe a total of 50 - 100 amp hours to be withdrawn before they should be recharged (lead acid batteries should not be discharged below 50% state of charge). A Goal Zero Yeti 1400 that is advertised to store a comparable amount of energy costs $1,800 bucks. That's a lot of extra money for a fancy battery when probably all you need is more of the same battery you now have in your trailer.
But realize that using batteries for heating is very, very inefficient. How much current do those tank heaters draw? If they draw 20 amps at 12 V, they're only good for, at best, 2 1/2 hours before a 100 amp hour battery drops below 50%. My guess is that those 12V tank heaters are only practical when you're connected to shore power or a generator.
That's way too long an explanation but I hope others will chime in with additional thoughts.