Menu

Boondocking SunChaser 

The Fun Life

Website Translater

Free Website Translator

10211

All About Solar Part 1

Part 1

Some Considerations for Solar camping

Part 1 gives some Necessary background Part 2 goes into installing.

Solar power for RV use has a lot of interest and a lot of questions.

What you are about to read is all from Real Life experience and some flies against current beliefs!

Learning a little background will save a lot of grief later!

Everything written here comes from 16 years of full time living on boats and in RV’s, plus many years of wilderness camping and Nature Photography.

To start, there is more to solar camping than Electricity!

The purpose of the series for Solar Experimenters is to de-bunk solar myths and provide a working knowledge to use solar energy.

I know most of you want to know how to hook up and go! But it’s like when you open the computer and you just want to start using the thing, but there are some preliminaries.

I will be going from the simple to more complex and at any time if there are questions feel free to email me.

To start with batteries must be selected.

Batteries are the backbone of any solar system because no energy is produced after sunset, in fact solar does not “run” anything it provides charge for batteries..

There are generally 3 types at least for our purpose.

Least expensive are the standard Lead-Acid (FLA) Flooded type. Only use true Deep Cycle and not starting or “Marine Deep Cycle” as they will not go the distance.

Deep Cycle comes in 6 and 12 Volt. (I use two 12 Volt -145 AH). If you use the 6 volt ones they must come in pairs, and hooked up in series. (I do not recommend using less than 4 for many reasons).

AGM batteries are similar chemistry but with some restrictions, are more expensive and quite honestly I do not prefer them for RV or boat use.

Lithium batteries are “King of the Hill” with Rolls Royce prices.

Many have temperature restrictions.

(Note I can get much more technical but I don’t see the need)

The next two things will be the solar panel(s) and a controller.

There are 2 types of controllers.

PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) lest expensive and less efficient.

MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) which is much more efficient.

There are also different types of solar cell construction. However the most we will deal with are MonoCrystalline.

This should be enough background to get started.

If you’re starting continue, if you’re ready to mount on the roof, Skip!

There are 2 ways to add solar power for your rig, start small and add or all at once.

We started with a single 100 Watt panel and attached it to the Controller and  batteries with a clip (see photo)

It was portable and worked fairly well as long as there were no trees or clouds but at least it worked!

The next part, I will go into installing a permanent array.

Now it is time for a little math (sorry)!

This part can be skipped and things will work but it just might be nice to know WHY! 

A 100 Watt panel under ideal conditions will deliver only about 7 amps!

This is where things get confusing so hang on!

We use Watts because they are consistent things like Amps and Volts are dependent on each other.

Watts are simply Volts multiplied by Amps (W=V*A) but watch out its tricky when you add the inverter!

An inverter changes 12 Volts Direct Current (Battery) to 110 Volts Alternating current to run household appliances like that computer! 

But here is the problem when converting from one to the other it takes much more battery to run things.

Example a standard 60 Watt light bulb uses 0.6 Amps on 110 but run through the inverter and it jumps to 6 Amps so the battery discharges at the rate of 6 Amps an Hour. (Also not much left for Charging Battery)

This is where the term Amp Hour (AH) is used to figure the load.

So in theory my 145 AH battery will run the light bulb for about 12 hours (Using 50% again note everyone uses this value but in practice there is more available), hook up a Microwave and its minutes!

With our computers plugged in and the 100 Watt panel attached, the reality was we were only keeping up with use and little left for charging.

See you next post for our installation on the roof! [Download this document by clicking here]

Original Battery Clip

 

Closeup of Battery Compartment and Connections

Standard Lead-Acid 12 volt Deep Cycle Batteries

ready for direct connection 

Temporary wiring with Inexpensive PWM Controller

First Actual use of the 100 Watt Panel

 

Cabin Creek, WA the Best was 13.1 Volts

overnight drop to 12 Volts then 11.8 and Last 11.6.

 

Third time at Big Eddy Montana

convinced us we need more never fully charged

the two Batteries and MPPT Controller

Closeup of MPPT Controller

 

 

Part 2 Using Solar for Camping

Part 2

Using Solar for Camping

Previously I posted how we started using a single 100 Watt Panel and some background information.

Today the fun begins!

Installing a solar array on the roof of the motor home or trailer

The single most difficult part is finding a way to lead the wires from the panels on the roof to the battery box in the RV.

Oh! You lucky people that have a “Pre-wired” RV!

Each RV is different so specific instructions are impossible - check U-Tube for your model, however again for specific questions send an email and I will try to help!

The rest of us have to figure it out!

Many installers run the wires down the vent for the refrigerator and furnace and under the sub floor to the junction of the electric panel and converter.

Naturally on mine I would need to remove said frig and furnace to do so!

Someday I will, because it would be nice to be able to see the display on the controller without sticking my head into the battery box!

I ran mine down the side of the cab directly into the battery box (the wire is white and no one notices!)– it was simple and I did not need to drill a bunch of holes Up on the Roof (there was a song once!)

Because I already had the 100 Watt panel, and because I had no idea what I was doing I placed the first panel in what I thought would be a good location measured the open space and ordered the 170 Watt panel from Renogy to match the first one.

Looking back and IF I was starting over I think I would have opted for two 170 Watt Panels. So, measure the space you have first then select the panels.

To help figure the output of the array the Watts are divided by 14.2!

Why 14.2?

Because most controllers are factory set for a charge of 14.2 Volts and in fact that is about the best charge rate for standard Lead Acid Flooded and AGM batteries.

Lithium Batteries are a different story so if you are using them be sure your controller can be programmed for them!

(Remember Volts multiplied by Amps = Watts)

Mounting Solar Panels

  1. Using the “Z” brackets is about the easiest way to mount the panels, and they are quite reasonably priced.

  2. Attach the Z Brackets before going up on the roof (Hint the bolts are 10mm Metric) there are holes provided in most panels.

  3. If the roof is smooth fiberglass 3m VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape for those not wishing to drill holes. (I watched the YouTube on this stuff and it is supposed to really stick) Naturally my roof has little tinny squares molded in so the dirt will stay on the roof! Which I had to scrub off, revealing the need to renew my roof coating as well, so this is a good time to check out the condition of the roof first.

  4. Attach VHB Tape to the bottom of the Z Brackets but do not remove the protective paper until ready to place the panels permanently.

  5. Trial fit all the panels and lightly mark location. Run the connecting wiring as desired however BIG Caution make sure the connectors are outside of the Panel Frames as they will not slide out after panels are attached. (I taped my lead wires with masking tape as they can spring back under the panels!)

  6. Clean the location with some Alcohol remove the protective paper and place in the location be sure to watch the wires do not trap the connectors under the panels as De-Bonding the VHB is quite difficult!  

At this point some recommend placing one screw per bracket.

Choosing to do so requires careful drilling use a depth gauge set at ¼ inch and either ½ roofing screws or the ones included with the brackets and place a sealer/caulk around the screw do not over  tighten!

Skip below to wiring section.

Installation for textured roof

Before I coated the roof the positions of the panel mounting brackets were marked and masking tape placed over the area marked.

If you are not re-coating skip this step.

After the roof dried, the tape was removed and panels placed in position and the holes drilled for the great self tapping mounting screws.

They are designed to self drill the clearance hole, but I prefer to pre-drill the hole with a matching drill bit.

Use caution when drilling so the drill bit does not penetrate all the way through the roof and poke through the inside! (I use a depth gauge)

Whether the roof is aluminum or fiberglass caution must be used when tightening or the holes will strip.

There is no easy way to fix it if that happens, so hand-tighten only!

To make sure that my panels do not fly off, and because I have sailboat experience, I ran a bead of 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive/Caulk under the brackets before tightening the screws. (Available at Marine Supply Stores)

I would even use the screws with the tape----I’m paranoid when it comes to things I can’t see falling off!

Wiring the panels together

I used the Y connectors and # 10 Marine Pre-Tinned Hookup Wire. (Again from boating also available at a Marine Supply store)

It is a bit more expensive but super resistant to corrosion (Like that green stuff you find in old wires!)

I also use a multi-meter to test the lead wires from the panels to be sure positive is connected to positive and negative to negative for all panels.

Theoretically they are already pre match but I like to make sure~!

The type of controller used is important for the next step there are 2 types PWM and MPPT (Better).

 With a PWM all panels must be in Parallel and the same Voltage (Positive to Positive and Negative to Negative)

With a MPPT they can be in a combination of series however I prefer to keep them Parallel some claim to get slightly more charge in series but I really do not think the difference is worth the trouble. 

When hooking up to batteries make sure you follow the instructions for the controller to avoid that little blue smoke!

With mine the controller is mounted and wires run to the batteries first.

Maybe redundant but be sure positive to positive and negative to negative.

Most controllers will either recognize battery type or it needs to be programmed in BEFORE attaching wires from solar panels.

If it is a bright sunny day, cover the panels before attaching the wires to the controller as if the array is large a rather large arc and possible shock may happen.

Now sit back and watch the numbers display that nice free electric charge the batteries are receiving ---- unless something went wrong!

Again if you have questions email me I’ll be glad to help! (to download this document click here)

 

First Solar Cell and Connections During Test

Ottawa Fishing Camp Kansas

Closeup of Battery Compartment and Connections

Voltage During the Test at Ottawa Fishing Lake KS

Kool Coat Roof Coating

Prepping the Roof 

Prepping the Roof 

Dawn Finishing the Trim

Nice Reflective New Coating Ready to Mount Solar Panels (Looks Smooth but is Actually Textured)

Preparing to Add  the Two  Solar Panels

Compact Multi-meter Used to Check Polarity and Connections

Positioning Solar Panels on the Roof (I used Marine 3M 5200 Sealer Adhesive under brackets

New 100 Watt Solar Panels With Z Brackets and hookup Wire

 

After the Addition of 2 more 100 Watt Panels

 Kill-A-Watt can measure Wattage and Amperage of any appliance used

Happenings

 

 

 

Our Website

Part 3 Our Solar Experience

Part 3

Our Solar Experience

Now that you have the panels mounted and hooked up ---hopefully working, now you get to play!

We had 4 stages of solar growth and I will outline each stage and what we learned and include the cost for each. 

 

Stage 1:

We left Florida June 4, 2018 and from June to October of 2018 we had no solar cells and depended on our Generator and the motor home engine in transit

Lows in the 20’s and highs in the 80’s were encountered.

We ran the furnace on nights below 40 and used two Flooded 12 Volt Deep Cycle Batteries rated at 145 AH.

We still have the same batteries.

I get many comments (arguments) about Lithium Batteries and sadly many come from people “Who Did the Math” but not actually using them!

Categorically I wish to state that I have nothing against them except the price.

The first thing we did was to install a 750 Watt Inverter to run and recharge our computers and cell phones. (See Photo)

The Inverter was not connected to the motor home AC circuits and was mounted close to the work station and junction box.

We read the voltage directly off the display.

Also, all the interior lights had LED bulbs installed.

When the Voltage went to 11.8 we either started the generator or if we were leaving we let the engine charge the batteries.

The furnace could run all night with this setup.

Cost -- $39 for inverter (Wal-Mart) $218 for Batteries (Batteries Plus Bulbs) 12 Volt LED Replacement Bulbs $47.50 (Wal-Mart Automotive)

Total $304 (One dying “Marine Start” battery came with the motor home)

    

Stage 2

In October 2018 we received the 100 Watt Panel as a gift and while we were in Texas sent for hookup wire and made a portable setup with battery clips and an inexpensive PWM Controller.

We first used it June while camped in Ottawa Fishing Lake in Kansas.

Because this was the first use we kept track of performance and about every 2 or 3 hours I’d run out and move the panel for optimum exposure.

We ran the laptops all day and at the end of the day the maximum charge was 13.5 Volts.

We thought that was great!

Our next stop was Cabin Creek Washington.

Tall trees made for dismal performance!

Each day the overnight voltage became lower.

Running the laptops took almost everything the 100 Watt panel produced.

The third day the generator was used to bring up the charge!

Cost for this stage would have been under $200 were it not for the gift.

The price for the 100 Watt panel would have been $150 (Renogy) Inexpensive PWM Controller $18 (Closeout Sale Amazon) 50 Feet Marine Ore Tinned* wire $40 (Also Amazon) Battery Clip from Auto Zone $4.98

Total $62.98  ($212.98 if we had bought the panel)

*Marine wire stranding is unique, the strands are much finer and each individual strand is tinned. The fine stranding makes the wire very flexible, allowing it to better survive in a moving, vibrating boat, while the tinned strands provide additional corrosion protection.

 

Stage 3

Cabin Creek was convincing to make the decision to add more Wattage and made on the way to a friend’s house in Montana

The 170 and the 100 Watt panels were going on the roof because there was no room to carry both, and the portable setup could not be used in Rest Areas or Parking Lots.

"Y" Connectors, "Z" Brackets, Roof Coating, and 3M 5200 marine sealant were ordered from Amazon.

The original plan was to bring the lead wires in through the roof vent for the Refrigerator under the sub-floor and connect where we had our Inverter ---- Except it was discovered that half of the motor home would need to be dismantled!

An Alternate route was used directly down to the battery box. (See Photo)  

There were handy screws to attach the clips and the #10 Wire just fits!

However, I still consider this temporary!

By the end of the first day the voltage was 14.2.

The next day disaster struck, the voltage would hit 14.2 and then the controller would turn off!

It would not start again until the next morning and then do the same!

Tried everything to program disconnect and connect and so on and finally ordered a better MPPT Controller and took off for Finlay Flats Campground in Montana while we waited for the new controller.

Funny thing happened when we got to the campground everything started working and kept working for the next 5 Months!

(Pure *** Magic!!!)

But had to replace a leaky faucet!

The cost at this point is just over $400 less batteries for 270 Watts.

$310 for Solar Panels. (Renogy from Amazon)

About $40 for Mounting Kit and "Y" Connectors (from Amazon)

$19.95 for 3M 5200 for sealing and mounting.

Total $389.95 (I already had enough wire but bought a drill set not included)

 

Stage 4

We ran the system for the next 5 months using the original PWM Controller mostly because I was too lazy to get into the battery box and replace it.

About a month later when Dawn was checking the battery water level she noticed we did not re-attach the ground wire to the second battery!

We had been running on only 1 battery for almost 6 weeks!

This is why I do not run two - 6 Volt Golf Cart Batteries, I would have destroyed the controller - possibly the solar cells, and at best the refrigerator would have stopped working and at worse the motherboard would have died!

When we arrived in Florida after a few flat cloudy days it was decided to see how much we could add.

With a lot of work we could add a 170 and 100 Watt panel

With a little work 2 more 100 Watt Panels!

Anyone who has tried to De-Bond 3M 5200 marine sealant would realize the 70 Extra Watts is not worth it!

The MPPT controller was installed while we waited for the 2 new panels to arrive and went back to Deep Creek Campground Florida.

The difference in performance with the MPPT controller was amazing.

It would reach 14.2 faster and stay longer which helped our overnight low to stay above 12.2-12.4 depending on how much TV (video on a tablet/laptop) Dawn watches!

The 2 new panels were added the same way using 3M 5200 to seal and bond the Z brackets.

All connectors were kept accessible but the longer wires were run under the panels to prevent clutter and the possibility of wind damage.

It was late in the evening when everything was finished and turned on.

The battery voltage was at 14.2 by sunset and the next morning by 7 it was passing 12.9 to 13! (I got up at 5am!)

Now even on overcast days the system achieves float!

At this point the cost is about $620 for the 4 Solar Cells (1 – 170 and 3 – 100 again from Renogy) MPPT Controller $30 ((Half Price Clearance Sale at Amazon)

If Batteries are included $840 compared to many times that using Lithium Batteries and another $250 for AGM Batteries.

Part 4 and 5 will have a lot to do with technical issues, batteries and Charging.

There may be a surprise or 2 so in the mean time have at it.

The sun is now about to duck behind the trees and almost level with the roof yet still there is 13 Volts, the 2 added 100 Watt Panels make quite a difference.

[Download this document here

A 750 Watt Inverter Installed as a Stand Alone Unit for Computers and minor Accessories

The Inverter is not connected to house AC. To do so would require an Electrical Sub Panel.

Stage 2 100 Watt Solar at Ottawa State Fishing Lake

Stage 2 Cabin Creek Washington, Lots of Trees Shade Poor Charging

Stage 3 Solar Panels 170 and 100 Watts

Using shadow to map sun's movements at Finlay Flats, Montana. This Resulted in Naming it SunChaser

Part 4 Using Batteries

Part 4

Using Batteries

 

Originally I wrote that there is more to solar than just electricity.

There will be much more that we can learn especially because the RV and boat lifestyle is a miniature of traditional living.

Park in the sun it becomes apparent very quickly. Often times using solar cell puts the RV in a quandary. Especially if the solar panels are mounted on the roof!

Park in the shade the RV stays cool but there is little or no performance from the solar cells. When it is cool enough outside and sunny, the inside temperature is kept comfortable by open windows.

At one campsite a large 5th wheel owner ran their generator almost all day each day and then bragged about their Lithium Batteries and Solar panels.

They parked in total shade and still ran the Air Conditioner!

It all becomes a compromise; still it is worth the trouble.

One thing about boat or RV living is that one becomes very much acquainted with nature and aware of the surroundings.

Sadly at the same Campground a woman in a Class A had paid $1800 to have a system installed and nothing was working. The first time it was turned on, the converter burned out and now the only way she was able to recharge batteries was to run the generator. Because the converter was out, she had to have shore power to have house current. 

In part 1, it was stated that batteries are the backbone of any solar system.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all battery types. Learning the limitations is very important.  Batteries are tough but can be destroyed quickly by mishandling and that gets costly in many ways.

Battery selection and maintenance is another issue.

I am not going to get into discussing the various types as that seems to start arguments faster that politics. Buy what you can afford and take care of what you buy!

Our batteries cost $109 each and are true 145 AH true deep cycle 12 volt batteries.

True they are old technology but I have used them on boats and in our motor home for years.

This section is for Flooded Lead Acid batteries. (FLA)

People have told me everything from sulfating does not start above 11.4 Volts to 12.2 Volts is killing the battery! (Sulfation occurs when a lead acid battery is deprived of a full charge.)

So I went to the source and asked a Chemical Engineer from a battery company about the subject.

Here is the synopsis!

Actually it's not the voltage that matters so much, it is whether there is chemical activity occurring.

As long as charging or discharging is taking place the electrolyte will resist sulfating, that is: up to a point.

Question is, where is that point.

Importantly, in lead-acid batteries, if too low of a state of charged is reached than electro-chemical pressure is too low to prevent Sulfation.

This is where that idea of 50% comes in.

But is that really a true figure?

Not according to the engineer and if 12.4 volts is supposedly discharged, than the batteries would be considered discharged pretty much most of the time!  

Again it is chemical movement, however flooded or AGM battery ("Absorbed Glass Mat," which is a specific type of lead-acid battery) must be brought to full charge (14.2 to 14.4 Volts) to prevent damage at rest.

We have taken our voltage as low as 11.6 with no damage and so far our batteries have been in use for 20 months our boat batteries 6 years!

The key is that they started charging immediately by driving or the generator use and charging continued until full!

Also a Lead-Acid battery should be fully charged between cycles to prevent sulfating at rest.

One of the beauties of a solar charging system is simply the sun comes up every morning so the batteries stay in constant flux!

 

Lithium Batteries can tolerate a deeper discharge and do not need to be fully recharged at rest.

This is why a Lithium battery will have more usable charge. [Download this document here]

Standard Lead-Acid 12 volt Deep Cycle Batteries ready for direct connection

Temporary wireing with low-cost PWM Controller and 100 Watt Panel (Not Shown)

 Two 12 Volt Deep Cycle Batteries and MPPT Controller with Permanent  Connections

 

Closeup of MPPT Controller

Each Installation is a custom Job. The First Array 270 Watts $400

 New 100 Watt Solar Panels with "Z" Brackets and hookup Wire

After the Addition of 2 more 100 Watt Panels.

Total of 470 Watts = $650

5th Wheel Owner made a point about Lithium Batteries and over 800 Watts Solar  but Parked in Total Shade and ran Generator and air conditioner most of the day

Solar Victim Class A with over $1800 in solar gear that doesn't work

Part 5 Last of the series

Part 5

This is the last of the series.

Before anything else I wish to say that if you missed the other 4 parts or you have any specific questions, concerns , or need help send me an email or download the documents from this website.

 

Why we did what we did Section

 

The first 100 Watt panel was a gift and quite honestly was about the only size we could carry in our 23 foot motor home without mounting it somewhere.

It rode above the slide-out when driving.

Before receiving it a “Suitcase Setup” was considered. They will fold for storage and are complete with all the necessary items to hookup to the battery. We have observed a few of these in use and the owners were quite happy with them.

However, our 100 Watt and Controller was considerably less in cost. (mysteriously free)

The first panel with a long chord and battery clip from the controller had to be stored while in transit and could only be used in campgrounds. The PWM was used because it was cheap and at the time I did not know the difference, it was not a good choice. Space is limited on our roof and the 100 Watt panel suffers some shadowing from the Air Conditioner and the vent during early morning and evening when parked East West orientation.

With careful placement, 2 more panels were added.

In the beginning it may have been possible to start with two 170 Watt panels. However the current 470 Watts is more than adequate.

The inverter gets its power take off from behind the electric panel, where the large battery cables are connected to the charging and house DC connection and is used directly and not run through the house system.

There are a number of reasons for this - simplicity being foremost!

There is a master cutoff switch that disconnects everything from battery power. If the RV does not have this it is best to add one.

Everything is handy and simple, and having lived aboard a sailboat for 5 years without a Microwave, we were not wanting to run it on solar power. It is easy to get hooked and to continually add more of everything.

That is why the first installment stated that there is more than just electric generation.

We are able to survive on our 470 Watts because of choices, such as a propane dual function refrigerator, propane water heater, and stove top accessories such as percolator coffee, thermal cooker and waffle maker.  

My first sailboat had an Ice Chest, kerosene lamps, and stove with a small starting battery for the tiny 25 HP engine!

I sailed from Acapulco to Seattle in that boat!


Since this is the last part and because it has been shared in other forms and in many other groups the question section is included,

FAQ

  1. Do I do installations? ----NO!

  2. What is my benefit? –- Not Much

  3. Can I plug my shore power cord directly into an inverter? --- Simply plugging the 30amp shore power cord into the inverter output will cause several problems that could not only overload the Inverter but could destroy other components.

  4. Can multiple power sources be connected with the solar cells and controller?--- Yes the controller and the solar cells are diode protected against backflow. Ours is constantly connected when engine or generator is running.

  5. How many solar panels would it take to run the Air Conditioner? --- The cost would be about the same as 2 years worth of gas for the generator.

  6. Can the solar panels resist hail damage? –- Generally in most cases the roof will suffer damage first. Renogy states panels can withstand hail of up to 25 mm (one inch) falling at 23 meters per second (approximately 50 miles per hour).

  7. How many batteries do I need? --- Much depends on your ability to conserve and how the RV is equipped. A rule of thumb guide is TT, 5th Wheel and Class C up to 25 feet two 12 Volt Deep Cycle and Larger Class A's and 5th wheels - 4 to 6 batteries (Either 12 volt or 6 Volts in pairs)

  8. Do I need an Inverter? --- Only if you plan to use 110 Volt AC accessories such as a computer, TV, Coffee maker, etc.

  9. Anything else one can think of – send an email! [Download this document from here]

 First real use of the 100 Watt Solar Panel was in June At Ottawa Fishing Lake KS

With the PWM controller and the 100 Watt panel the working voltage never was more than 13.5 Volts.Ideal Charge Voltage is 14.2

Big Eddy Recreation Area in Montana With 100 Watt Solar Panel, The trees kept prevented full charge and sealed the decision to add another panel

 The 750 Watt Inverter installed independent of the motor home AC to run Computers and other Accessories

Compact multi-meter with Continuity Test. Handy diagnostic tool.  used this to be certain of the solar cells polarity

Positioning Solar Panels on the Roof (I used Marine 3M 5200 Sealer Adhesive under brackets)

Close-up of voltage reading with New 270 Watt Solar Array is 14.2 Volts at peak. Batteries will receive full charge

Morning sun angles and parking to avoid the Shadows still produce enough for 13.2 Volts Fort Peck, MT

Only 200 Watts more but performance is Better than Double than with 270 Watts. The MPPT Controller is up to 70 Percent More Efficient

Evening Angle at 630 PM produced very little with 270 Watt Array but with the 470 Watts and MPPT Controller 12.8 and climbing

 How we Survive on 470 Watts by Using All Stove Top  Appliances 

Breakfast Cooked with no Electric Appliances

Kill-A-Watt can measure Wattage and Amperage to determine Load and plan for usage

 Morning Coffee Stove Top Percolator

Breakfast on the Road

Sunrise over Gulfport Mississippi

Postcript Boat to RV

Boat to RV

I wish to thank all the people who participated with comments and questions for my recent solar series.

I hope that this helped many take the plunge!

I stated at the beginning that everything written comes from 16 years of full time living on boats and in RV’s, plus many years of wilderness camping and Nature Photography.

I have written that there is more to solar camping than Electricity! There is also more to using solar energy than generating electricity! Conservation is the key to keeping cost down.

The more things that demand electricity that are used the higher the cost. More Solar Panels, larger inverters, and of course more of larger batteries!

Much has been said and written about Lithium batteries; however I have not seen these in actual practice. I am not disputing the claims - I am saying because of the price my experimenting is a bit restricted.

Someone asked me why we had 4 solar panels when they had 2 and kept their batteries charged.

First off, because of the space restriction on our roof some Panels are not in the ideal position. They are positioned so that any direction we park at least 2 have a clear shot.

It also give us a little extra margin for other things under ideal conditions.

This is just one example; the starting battery had discharged from sitting and because we have our solar system produces a bit over 30 Amps, the start battery can be brought up to full charge while we are parked and still use our house batteries to run accessories.

I made a neat little bridge wire to connect across the engine solenoid to bring the charge from the house batteries.

YES! I know there is a nifty electronic device that will do the same thing for only about $50 but my 2 clips and wire cost me a buck-twenty! (See Photos)

Bottom Line using solar power is one of the greatest tools for not only RV Boondocking but for us full timers - an almost necessary tool!

(Note if you missed the 5 parts email me and I will make arrangements for you to get them)  

Jumper Wire for Battery Charging

 House Charging Relay With Jumper Wire

(The advantage is I never forget the hood stays open while its on)

Final Array 470 Watts 33 Amps at 14.2 Volts $640