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Old 10-05-2015, 01:05 PM   #1
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Ok, let's talk "SOLAR" both portable and mounted

While we don't "Boon dock" nearly as much as when we were younger and more tolerant of what nature has to offer, we still do on a "every so often" basis. The coach is an '04 Itasca Horizon 36GD with the C-7 330HP CAT. I equipped it with (4) Costco 6V Golf Cart batteries, just over 4 years ago. I changed from the (3) Interstate 12V sort-of Deepcycle 29M models, in anticipation of the endurance that the 6V system would provide over the 12v system.

I, like many of you,, have that little worthless panel on the roof that, according to the LED on the "One Place" panel, it's charging, what I don't know but, it's charging. I say I don't know 'cause I'm not sure. On some it will charge the house batts while on others, it maintains the chassis batts.

Here's what I'm thinking, based on how I'd use solar, what I require from it and, of course cost. MY PRIMARY thought is, I just want it to replenish my (4) 6V house batteries during the day, a full day, so I can use them at night without the need for any darn generator to run and disturb not only other campers but US too!!!!!!!

At present, I'm considering both portable systems and mounted systems. In our previous coach, a '99 Fleetwood Bounder 34V with the V-10 and F-53 chassis, it had (2) Trojan T-105s for house batteries. I purchased a single, 135 watt Kyocera panel and, a Blue Sky controller for use in that coach. I put rubber feet on one side and a foldable kick-stand on the other. I had quick disconnects for the electrical. When we dry camped, which was quite often back then, I'd put that pane out and, via the use of the kick stand, aim it at the morning curve of the sun.

By noon, those (2) 6V Trojans were almost always at 13.5V. That was a great little "Portable" system. But, it went by-by with the coach.

So, I'm looking again. I've seen at Quartzsite, several vendors selling a "fold up" 200 watt system with some cheesy little controller for around $400 or so, plus or minus. Now, with my 135 Panel, the max I'd ever see on the Blue Sky controller was 9 amps. And, that had to be with it aimed at a perfect, direct at the completely un-obstructed sun. Most of the time, it averaged around 6-7 amps which, seemed to work great anyway, based on how long that panel saw direct sunlight and, the fact that I would re-aim it after noon for the evening curve of the sun.

So, I'm also considering maybe two, 100 watt panels, mounted on the roof, and running the wires down the fridge cavity. Not sure where I'd put the controller just yet.

So, who's got what, done what, purchased where, are you happy, and more? I'd appreciate your help here.

P.S. We're not planning on USING the solar to RUN anything, EVER! I just want a good, stout system to re-charge those house batteries. The more stout (more wattage which, equals more amps) the faster they're recover from the previous evenings use. And, a larger system will mean that, even in less than perfect sunlight conditions, you'll get at least a bit more benefit than a marginal system.
2004 ITASCA HORIZON 36GD, 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 4x4 Toad '08 GL 1800 Gold Wing
Retired-29.5 yrs, SDFD, Ham - KI6OND
Me, Karla and the Sophie character, (mini Schnauzer)
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:18 PM   #2
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Installed this on our 1996 Class Tioga;

Trimetric 25
Tristar 45
Powersafe V AGM batteries (little over 400amp/hrs)
2 100 watt panels mounted with Uni-strut
1000 watt inverter

Have room for more panels just don't have the need. I never use the converter. I don't use the rv enough during the winter to need the extra panels.
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:36 PM   #3
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Hi Scott,

I'm with you, solar is AWESOME and not running the genie is REALLY AWESOME!!! The good news is that you have a LOT of options. That is also the bad news!

I'd suggest you first decide if you want permanently mounted or portable. The reason being, the high voltage "residential" panels are relatively inexpensive these days (less than $1/watt) but, IMHO, they are too big and heavy to be moving around all the time (or storing in the basement). They come in a wide variety of output "sizes" all the way to around 500 watts. These panels require an MPPT charge controller which is more expensive than a "less smart" controller so that mitigates some of the cost advantage. Of course, the "12 volt style" panels are still available, they just aren't as cheap or efficient.

I always recommend an energy audit/budget so you know exactly how much power is being used and how much must be replenished but I admit, some folks just are not interested in that work. They just want to install some solar and get some benefit. It seems like there are at least two ways to approach a solar system - either with a budget (get as much as possible for X dollars) or with a goal (enough solar to provide for all my electrical needs) - I don't think either is "wrong".

My system documentation is here if interested in reading. I'm a DIY type, understand that many are not.
JD & Buddy (the ferocious feline) - Full timer out west
2005 Newmar Dutch Star 4023 | 2010 Wrangler (daJeep) | 650 Watts Solar
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Old 10-05-2015, 01:54 PM   #4
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Fire Up, I have run mounted panels for years, even when I was much younger and could mess with setting up portable stuff. If you get some sun and the batteries get filled you win that day. Some times in the heavy trees it does not matter and portable cells would not work either. For day to day living and enjoying the benefit of solar I just let my 170 watts do what they can and when they can.

Sometimes, you just have to run the generator. But I love my flat roof mounted panels. Yep, I have had tilted ones too. I would rather drink a beer and not worry about the little added extra of tilting or setting up portables.

Besides, every time I get on the roof it is a risk. Not so young and flexible anymore.
Myron & Deborah
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:16 PM   #5
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I have six 100w panels on the roof and another two 100w panels made portable (much as you described, with a kick stand made from PVC pipe and quick connects).

Details here:
Attached Files
File Type: pdf VSheetz - Solar Setup for my RV v1.1.pdf (473.7 KB, 104 views)
Vince and Susan
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:34 PM   #6
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I've no coach and no solar. But I did have some time to read all of Handybob's site, of which this is a sample:

He's got an attitude, for sure, but there's some useful stuff in there- such as his obsession with the Trimetric battery monitor. One of those might give you an idea of how your "little worthless panel" is doing. I had a Trimetric on the last coach, and found it helpful.

Anyway, "for what it's worth," amigo.

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Old 10-05-2015, 02:39 PM   #7
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I like the documentation!

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Old 10-05-2015, 05:45 PM   #8
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As was suggested above, a life style analysis is the first step. Items like 1) Do you watch the idiot box in the PM? 2) Do you have a residential refer that replaced the NotCold gas/electric thing?

On your coach I would NOT bring any cables thru the refer vent. Too far from your batteries. Depending on what configuration you finally choose, and assuming a permanent roof mount configuration, put the combiner box under a panel that would be mounted curb side at rear of the roof. Drop the cables almost straight down to the batteries. Also need to find room for the controller near there.

Our configuration does this. FWIW we have, 4-100 watt panels feeding a MPPT controller that charges both battery banks, a control panel (obviously) and a Xantrex Battery Monitor. Lifestyle is not much boondock. Our residential refer has no problem when running off the inverter.

I would suggest AM Solar in Springfield, OR. Use them for product or education or both. We have no affiliation with them except that we are a happy customer for 9.5 years.

2006 Itasca Horizon 40KD, 2004 Honda CR-V
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Old 10-05-2015, 05:51 PM   #9
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Science concentrates on baldness and ED when High powered Solar panels is what mankind needs Battery powered A/C is what the world needs . Im looking at flexible cells on Ebay No holes to drill .
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Old 10-06-2015, 08:56 AM   #10
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Fire up

On my last rig I use one 185 watt portable panel. It worked great and I never fired up the generator, even on two week boondocking trips.
I just purchased a 2015 Class A and installed two 265 panels on the roof and one 135 panel as a portable.
The roof panels go through their own MPPT controller and the portable goes through another. The reason for the two controllers was because the roof panels are a lower voltage than the portable panel. (The portable panel uses a higher voltage to avoid power loss due to a long cable run)
I just got through installing the roof system and it is working great. I have not finished the portable yet because of time constraints.
I did quite a lot of research on my system. I was impressed with a technician at Northern Arizona Wind and Solar (Dan). He helped design the system for me. What I learned from him that I found interesting was that the panels coming from the roof need a circuit breaker and the lead coming from the MPPT controller to the battery needs another breaker. The bay that I placed all of this in looks like a complicated electrical panel now, but it is properly done.
Here is a link to their diagram for a two panel system with breakers.

Total cost for my system, was about $2100 for everything.

I will post pictures once I get the portable setup competed.

2016 Itasca Sunstar LX 27n, unattractive brownish hue. 530 Watts roof mounted solar, 165 Watts portable solar, Winegard G2 Sat Antenna, Progressive Industries Surge Protector, TPMS, Sirius Satellite Radio.
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Old 10-06-2015, 11:48 PM   #11
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This is great.
I've got some really good responses here. I've got lots to think about. There is definitely lots to consider here. My old 135 watt portable panel was pretty darn simple back in its day. It sure worked good though. I sure want to thank all of you for throwing out your experience and, knowledge of these systems. As stated, I don't plan on running ANYTHING with what ever solar system I construct. I just want to re-plenish the house batteries after the previous nights use.

I'm thinking maybe two, 100-140 watt panels on the roof. Just the beginning of my thoughts here. We'll see. Thanks again for all your help and suggestions.
2004 ITASCA HORIZON 36GD, 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 4x4 Toad '08 GL 1800 Gold Wing
Retired-29.5 yrs, SDFD, Ham - KI6OND
Me, Karla and the Sophie character, (mini Schnauzer)
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Old 10-07-2015, 12:45 AM   #12
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Ours came with 4 - 100 watt panels and a "good" controller (don't remember the brand/model). Need more time with the rig to know if it's really doing much good!
2009 45' Magna 630 w/Cummins ISX 650 HP/1950 Lbs Ft
Charter Lifetime GS Member, SKP, FMCA,
RV'ing since 1957, NRA Benefactor Life, towing '14 CR-V
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Old 10-07-2015, 03:26 AM   #13
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You might take look here at some kit configurations...
I would suggest going with a few more watts... 3-400 to cover you on the overcast days ;-)

Solar Premium Kit | Off Grid Solar Panel Kits | Renogy Store
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:59 PM   #14
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We have 600W of solar on our Brave 27B and love it. Never worry about not having enough juice while boondocking. The panels we use are:

ECO-WORTHY 100W 12V Semi-Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel |Eco-worthy

We used the same panels on our previous Solera (200W system) and are very happy with them overall.

We also have a 100W portable panel that we can hook up in case we are in an area where trees block the panels (3 front and 3 rear) so that we can "harvest" more in case we need it (bad weather situations).

The roof panels feed into a Morningstar TS-MPPT-60 controller (maximum of 800W input on a 12V system). I've also swapped the charger with a Xantrex 2000W inverter/charger (PSW). I've yet to use the charger to recharge the 4 6V batteries in the RV.

The only time we really need shore power is when we need the AC. The system was not cheap but not needed the generator is priceless.....

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