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Old 08-11-2019, 07:10 PM   #1
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Micro Minnie Solar

There is lots of info about solar panels for Micros..and the 2106ds we have is "prewired for Zamp Solar" (I think the 140watt model is suggested).
However, for boondocking, has anyone had real-life experiences with Zamp or other Solar panels for these or similar units? I know that these panels can get pricey, especially if your boondocking is not frequent. Alternate solars are available through Costco (100watt capacity) at substantial savings. So, any words of wisdom gained from experience out there?
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:14 PM   #2
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I have the Samlex MSK90 portable solar charger for my Winnebago 1706FB which has two 6 volt batteries. I haven't Boondocked but we get non-powered campsites at most campgrounds as the powered sites are very often full. We've never drained our batteries so for us this is definitely large enough. It folds up like a briefcase and comes with a high quality case. It plugs directly into the two prong solar ready connection on the side of the trailer so set up is easy. There are a couple of legs so that it is sitting at about a 45 angle to capture the sun but that is adjustable. I have a cable and generally lock it to the trailer frame or some other fixed place to discourage theft. The back of the charger has various lights to indicate charge status. The biggest question is likely whether to get something built into the roof or a portable charger like mine. There is no right answer to that question but here are some things that influenced me. Portable chargers are yours so if you sell your trailer you can keep the charger (this wasn't a major consideration). You can point it to the sun and even move it during the day to get the most benefit out of the sun. It's easy to set up and plug in, so no tools are required. One of the main factors that influenced me was that there was no need to drill additional holes in the roof as that is where leaks begin. On the other hand, a built in unit requires no set-up at the campsite. Built in units are less likely to be stolen (even a strong cable can be cut). With roof mounted solar you can go much higher in capacity than with portable depending on how much free space you have up there and how much you are willing to pay for the extra panels. I don't know if roof mounted solar panels tend to deteriorate over time with constant exposure to light even when you're driving or when your trailer is in storage. In my experience most photo sensitive devices do deteriorate with constant light exposure but I really don't know if that applies to solar chargers or not. Really I think the biggest deciding factor is whether you are comfortable with drilling all the holes in your roof. If yes, you might like roof mounted solar. If no, go with portable.
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Old 08-16-2019, 11:08 PM   #3
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I'm amazed that nobody else has commented on this thread.
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:27 AM   #4
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I have only camped 3 times but never "boondocked". I guess my only reservation is that the whole point of a camper for me is the Air Conditioning. Living in Indiana at least, the temperatures at night during prime camping season is unbearably hot and humid. The idea of boondocking with just solar power is then rendered useless unless I am mistaken. <-- could very well be.

I would need a small and quiet generator that would work on both gas and propane in addition to the solar panels (or in a pinch just the generator would work) to be effective. So, sorry for not providing any additional information on the matter, just my opinion!
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:57 PM   #5
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Here is a link to my 2106DS solar install. Our 2016 2106DS did not come with a solar port so I installed a Furrion port, I think they look better and do the same thing as the Zamp ports.

Honestly, in Pennsylvania where we camp, solar doesn't do us much good. We mostly camp in partially wooded non-electric sites. I usually run my 2200 generator a couple hours in the afternoon using a 45 AH lithium charger to charge my battery. As for air conditioning, I installed a Micro-Air EasyStart so I can run off my generator if needed. I also installed a 1000W PSW inverter and a WFCO T-30 automatic transfer switch to have 120V to run the refrigerator when traveling and making coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the morning without needing to run the generator.
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Old 08-20-2019, 10:48 AM   #6
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Home Depot is also a good source for panels and solar kits.
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Old 08-21-2019, 08:01 PM   #7
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First and foremost, my recollection is that Zamp panels, etc, are way overpriced. I believe they simply reversed the polarity of the SAE connector to ensure the uninformed use only their overpriced gear. I cut the wires on the back side of the factory installed "Wired for Solar" port and just double and triple checked the polarity when I had all our parts in hand.

We prefer boondocking in our 2250DS and I've been very pleased with the performance of our solar system...but it takes a little bit of effort to get the most out of it.

To the point, we use a Renogy 100 watt Solar Suitcase and a Victron Energy MPPT 75/15 charge controller. We've used this system to good effect in Kentucky, New Mexico, California, and Wyoming.

The way we use the system also involves our Honda eu2200i generator. We're typically down between 30 and 45 amp hours at the start of each day. The lower figure is without running the furnace and the higher number with the furnace running a bit. If it's rainy or we just want to relax, we might also watch a movie using the inverter to power the TV. We always use our inverter to brew a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and sometimes run the toaster once or twice. We usually wake around 6:00 am and I will not run the generator at that time of day but I also want the convenience of just pushing a button to make that first pot. (I use the stove and an AeroPress after I wake up a bit.)

Once it's not rude (or breaking campground rules) to run the generator, I fire up the Honda for about an hour feeding a Samlex 30 amp charger. That puts back the bulk of the amp hours used. This is where our solar setup really works well -- over the course of a day with at least some sunshine, the solar suitcase not only puts back the remaining amp hours, it sometimes, but not always, keeps up with our load throughout the day.

The effort comes from getting the solar suitcase out of our pass thru, connecting the wire I store inside it, and using a light steel cable to lock it to the trailer frame. Then in the normal course of moving about through the day, I occasionally reposition the panel to maximize the sunlight.

We've done several three-day stays this way and stayed four (or five?) days totally disconnected from shore power and according to our battery monitor, we were fully charged at some point each day. With this setup and 2-1/2 gallons of gas for the Honda, electricity is definitely not the limiting factor for how long we can happily boon dock.

YMMV

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Old 08-21-2019, 08:47 PM   #8
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I went with Renogy Eclipse panels (four 100 watt) and their Adventurer power controller charging a 300 ah lithium battery array (three 100 ah high output Relion batteries) for my class C Itasca Spirit 27QP. I chose the high output as the generator draws almost 300 amps during starting and wanted to have sufficient current to start it or the Ford V10 if necessary.

Why Eclipse? They're more expensive... and for good reason. I only need daylight to get 2 amps from my panels. They work well on cloud covered days and in the partially shaded campsites. Full peak sun supplies 22.8 amps. So with 240 ah of useable power, my 12 VDC refrigerator has been running on solar and alternator power for several months now. My freshwater tank is the limiting factor for boondocking now and we are good for about 10 days, refill, and add another 6 or 7 days.

Next stage I plan to add a 2000 watt Aimes inverter for the microwave, induction plate, Instant Pot, blender, laptop and other small AC devices. Since they run very infrequently or draw little power, I don't see an issue with battery depletion. So when you or your installer design the system, be sure to include ALL power factors and requirements in the design and don't expect to be able to run the air conditioner on it. If you need air conditioning, just run the generator and leave out the middle-man, the battery.
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Old 09-10-2019, 06:16 PM   #9
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Solar for Micro-Minnies [2106ds]

Hello folks, Received the Coleman PV today [100watt, Costco special..$125 with controller]. Unpacked, checked and began the assy and checkout of the system.
However, in my earlier experiment using a small 10watt PV panel kinda intrigued me.....when i plugged it in straight, with no controller,....in bright sunlight...it did not change the battery voltage at all [?]
So, before connecting up the new 100watt PV....i double checked....the port on the left side of the trailer, prewired for Zamp solar is indeed reversed, contrary to what Zamp says online, it is the typical SAE two pin connector but the connector on the trailer is indeed reversed!!! On SAE cables the positive connector is the male connector which is opposite to the Zamp. [I wish I had the foresight to do the simple idea of simply reversing the cables inside the trailer].
So, before i did connect the 100watt PV to the trailer, I made a reverse cable adapter...[this, so that extension cables can be added if the PV needed to be moved aways off].
So...i am happy to report that when this was all completed....i hooked all up, put the PV in the sun and the controller shows "charging" and the house voltage is now at 13.1vdc!!!!
And climbing.
So...after hooking everything up to the controller and the PV....looks like it is working. More tests tomorrow.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:53 PM   #10
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Reverse polarity

So now I need to ask the question, how do you tell if it is reversed polarity when you can't see where the other end is going? I can tell which is positive and negative on my panels but how do I determine if it's different on the trailer?
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:07 AM   #11
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Solar connector polarity

...a DC voltmeter is required. If you connect the meter probes to the two pins and the meter shows +volts [or for most voltmeters... example 12.5volts] your red probe is on the positive terminal. If the meter shows negative ...then the red probe is on the negative terminal and the polarity is reversed.
In defense of Zamp [whom I hope I did not denigrate too much], I found two versions of the SAE pigtails online. Here are two photos about SAE connectors and the apparent polarity. The "standard" SAE quick release in the left picture is indeed what will plug into the Zamp connector on the trailer correctly.....the right photo is of other SAE connectors....which is opposite to that standard one. So, perhaps these SAE pigtails come both ways and a person needs to be aware of the polarity [noone says anything about this discrepancy however, except for the Zamp statement]. And maybe Zamp IS correct by saying their connector is not reversed....who knows!!!

At any rate...i found the correct pigtail/extensions that will not require any mods to the trailer wiring, only attention to the solar wiring so that the positive lead does connect to the Zamp [+] pin on the trailer.
Hope this helps.
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Old 09-11-2019, 04:22 PM   #12
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It’s well known that Zamp wires their SAE connectors opposite of standard. You say their website denies this?

Also your first example image shows the way Zamp wires their cables and the bottom image shows the standard wiring scheme - the “male” connector is usually positive and the ”female” is usually negative. Zamp says they reverse this so that the positive voltage is not exposed to accidental grounding.
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Old 09-11-2019, 04:45 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creativepart View Post
It’s well known that Zamp wires their SAE connectors opposite of standard. You say their website denies this?

Also your first example image shows the way Zamp wires their cables and the bottom image shows the standard wiring scheme - the “male” connector is usually positive and the ”female” is usually negative. Zamp says they reverse this so that the positive voltage is not exposed to accidental grounding.
I did backtrack my earlier assertions and realized my error. However, the Zamp quote is indeed misleading.
Bottom line is that one must check before connecting any electronics for polarity.
Having done that, I must say that the Costco Coleman 100watt PV and controller are apparently working well with the single Interstate house battery system. More tests to follow.
Thanks
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Old 09-11-2019, 05:05 PM   #14
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Zamp likes to assert that their way is the correct way. In my experience, they have a hard time admitting that the “standard” way is opposite of their method.
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Old 09-11-2019, 05:31 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creativepart View Post
Zamp likes to assert that their way is the correct way. In my experience, they have a hard time admitting that the “standard” way is opposite of their method.
In the end, one way or other, when dealing with solar panels and batteries, the use of SAE connectors and pigtails has on one hand, positive conductors exposed which can lead to shorts or sparks, the other end of course, protected as in the Zamp bulkhead fitting.....hence the rubber caps on each SAE plug which indeed are a safety item and a smart idea.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:49 AM   #16
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They make a short reversing cable and for what reason??? I have one but not used.
I bought Renogy roof panels for a Zamp prewired class C and had to replace all the plugs to fit the combiner. Zamp panels seem very over priced but I guess they must come with SAE auto connectors. Not sure how to weather proof them.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:24 AM   #17
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The obvious: exclusivity and propriety....similar to Coleman gas stoves etc. only THEIR stuff will couple with and fit easily into their prewired systems. Indeed, the roof-mount systems and ports may be a challenge to weatherproof. The 2106ds port has a rubber cap...and of course, portability. The main issue there is transporting the panel without damage.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:24 PM   #18
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I just checked my Samlex portable solar charger and I confirmed that positive is to positive when I plug it into the trailer. If the "Solar Ready" connection on the trailer has reversed polarity then Samlex must be the same.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:49 PM   #19
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And I would assume that there are many more solar mfgr. that have the same setup on their products. The Coleman panel, being made in Canada [not China]....perhaps a different story.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:23 PM   #20
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A Coleman solar panel is made in Canada? Impossible. I'm from Canada and I can tell you that nothing is made here anymore.
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