Jump to content


Photo

How to Solar Power Your Casita


  • Please log in to reply
51 replies to this topic

#1 k4fcp

k4fcp
  • Casita Club Member
  • 60 posts
  • Local time: 12:25 AM
  • Location:Blacksburg, VA
  • Interests:I teach 6th Grade Math and Science at Blacksburg Middle School. I try to camp year-round and have solar powered my 13'. I usually try to camp where I can canoe, kayak, hike, and can usually be found operating a ham radio at my campsite.
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 April 2009 - 04:53 AM

Hi Everyone!
Sorry for the delay. I had to have some hardware removed "immediately" after a routine visit to my orthopaedic surgeon. FUN! Thanks to everyone, especially Aileen and Sandi) for their suggestions and assistance. Most of you told me that you wanted it to be simple as possible. I tried to do that and to assume that most had no idea about how to solar power your Casita. Please remember that I am not a professional writer (by any stretch), so feel free to drop me a note with any and all questions you may have. Due to my recent surgery, I've got LOTS of free time!

HAM OPERATORS! I do have a pretty slick way of adding another battery for extra reserve power. It's easy, simple, and fat free!! I'll post this in the next week or so.

Please don't forget to ask question!!!

Rich
Rich Beamish, k4fcp@arrl.net
1994 13' Casita solar-powered
2001 Nissan Frontier KC 4x4
http://richbeamish.m...bumName=album01

#2 Joe Z

Joe Z
  • Casita Club Member
  • 1,998 posts
  • Local time: 09:25 PM
  • Location:New River Arizona
  • Interests:Member Since
    Jan 21 2005
  • Gender:Couple
  • Trailer Name:AZ Snowball

Posted 10 April 2009 - 06:06 AM

Rich
Thanks for taking the time to write that up..... Although i already have Solar it sure is a great refresher course to keep current. for those that don't have solar this simple explanation is a "Must Read" This would be nice to save somewhere on the forum but i already saved it to my computer......
biggrin.gif Joe

Joe & Linda
Dodge Ram 4x4

 


#3 ArizonaEileen

ArizonaEileen
  • Rally Organizer
  • 4,074 posts
  • Local time: 08:25 PM
  • Location:Yuma AZ
  • Casita Model/Size:2013 SD 17
  • Gender:Female
  • Trailer Name:Casa De Suenos
  • Casita Club Directory #:2258

Posted 10 April 2009 - 07:10 AM

Rich --

I can see you put a lot of time into this. It's appreciated.

You'll get an 'A' from me if its understandable because I don't know squat about solar.
Looking forward to reading it.

One thing I suggest is that you put your name and maybe your email address so people know who
wrote it -- and who to email if they have questions. Besides, it's your work!

Also, I got a PM from a gentleman on the Casita Forum. He's interested in being able to download the
information too but isn't yet a posting member of this forum.

Eileen

2013 17 SD "Casa de Suenos" | 2016 Ford F150 XLT "White Night"
A-Z Casita Owners Guide / Store / Rallies: www.LoveMyCasita.com

 

 


#4 Art Davis

Art Davis
  • Casita Club Member
  • 95 posts
  • Local time: 08:25 PM

Posted 10 April 2009 - 08:06 AM

Rich,

Thanks a lot for this tutorial. It was extremely well-written, and just what I needed to get me started. Appreciate you taking the time to put it together.

You didn't mention putting a fuse in the line. Is this because one is already inside the controller?

I note that you didn't put in a link to rvsolarelectric at the end. Have you had bad experience with them? The only reason I ask is because it seems that they are referred to a lot on other forums.

Does one have to worry about any kind of interaction with the controller in the converter?

Finally, do you have any words of advice about sources for panels? I've looked at all your links and they vary significantly in prices. For instance Sun apparently has its own panels that are quite a bit cheaper than the others. Are there any pitfalls to watch out for when comparing panels?

Best,

Art

P.S. The You-Tube video on "How to Crimp" has been removed. Just thought I would mention it.

Edited by Art Davis, 10 April 2009 - 08:11 AM.


#5 CaptGeorge

CaptGeorge
  • Casita Club Member
  • 316 posts
  • Local time: 09:25 PM
  • Location:Texas Gulf Coast

Posted 10 April 2009 - 08:17 AM

Good job, Rich. Thanks.
George & Wendy
'97 17' SD "EggsCape"
'02 V8 Tundra PU

#6 k4fcp

k4fcp
  • Topic Starter
  • Casita Club Member
  • 60 posts
  • Local time: 12:25 AM
  • Location:Blacksburg, VA
  • Interests:I teach 6th Grade Math and Science at Blacksburg Middle School. I try to camp year-round and have solar powered my 13'. I usually try to camp where I can canoe, kayak, hike, and can usually be found operating a ham radio at my campsite.
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 April 2009 - 09:27 AM

[quote name='ArizonaEileen' date='Apr 10 2009, 10:10 AM' post='109058']

Thanks Eileen! I will put an email address and my name on it. I wanted to send you a copy, but I'm still learning how to navigate this forum.
Rich
k4fcp@arrl.net

Rich Beamish, k4fcp@arrl.net
1994 13' Casita solar-powered
2001 Nissan Frontier KC 4x4
http://richbeamish.m...bumName=album01

#7 k4fcp

k4fcp
  • Topic Starter
  • Casita Club Member
  • 60 posts
  • Local time: 12:25 AM
  • Location:Blacksburg, VA
  • Interests:I teach 6th Grade Math and Science at Blacksburg Middle School. I try to camp year-round and have solar powered my 13'. I usually try to camp where I can canoe, kayak, hike, and can usually be found operating a ham radio at my campsite.
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 April 2009 - 09:44 AM



QUOTE (Art Davis @ Apr 10 2009, 12:06 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rich,

Thanks a lot for this tutorial. It was extremely well-written, and just what I needed to get me started. Appreciate you taking the time to put it together.

You didn't mention putting a fuse in the line. Is this because one is already inside the controller?

I note that you didn't put in a link to rvsolarelectric at the end. Have you had bad experience with them? The only reason I ask is because it seems that they are referred to a lot on other forums.

Does one have to worry about any kind of interaction with the controller in the converter?

Finally, do you have any words of advice about sources for panels? I've looked at all your links and they vary significantly in prices. For instance Sun apparently has its own panels that are quite a bit cheaper than the others. Are there any pitfalls to watch out for when comparing panels?

Best,

Art

P.S. The You-Tube video on "How to Crimp" has been removed. Just thought I would mention it.

Hi Art,
I'm not familiar with rvsolarelectric because there are tons of panel suppliers out there. Mr. Solar is great for everything! Yes, the prices do vary somewhat; however, a Sanyo, BP, etc panel are essentially the same no matter whom you buy it from (my opinion). If I was setting up a new system, I would buy the Unisolar 64w panel at the best price I could find. This panel is absolutely my first choice for many reasons. I fuse almost everything I wire. In this case, the fuses are inside the camper to keep it out of the weather. Inline fuses are so cheap and easy, but I just forgot to mention them.
Thanks for the comments!
Rich


Rich Beamish, k4fcp@arrl.net
1994 13' Casita solar-powered
2001 Nissan Frontier KC 4x4
http://richbeamish.m...bumName=album01

#8 CoupevilleFish

CoupevilleFish
  • Casita Club Member
  • 121 posts
  • Local time: 08:25 PM
  • Location:Coupeville, WA
  • Interests:Canoe/kayaking<br />Bicycling<br />Photgraohy<br />Woodworking<br />Segway
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 April 2009 - 09:57 AM

QUOTE (ArizonaEileen @ Apr 10 2009, 08:10 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Also, I got a PM from a gentleman on the Casita Forum. He's interested in being able to download the
information too but isn't yet a posting member of this forum.

Eileen


I was able to save the file with no problems. When you open it to read, just do a SAVE AS in your browser and save it where you want. This should work for anyone, whether they are a member of the forum or not.

Rich
Thanks for the tutorial. I assume the the "battery" is the Casita battery and that we do not need to acquire a second battery. You imply otherwise early in the article but it becomes more clear during the wiring explanation.

Dave

Edited by CoupevilleFish, 10 April 2009 - 09:58 AM.


#9 k4fcp

k4fcp
  • Topic Starter
  • Casita Club Member
  • 60 posts
  • Local time: 12:25 AM
  • Location:Blacksburg, VA
  • Interests:I teach 6th Grade Math and Science at Blacksburg Middle School. I try to camp year-round and have solar powered my 13'. I usually try to camp where I can canoe, kayak, hike, and can usually be found operating a ham radio at my campsite.
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 April 2009 - 01:48 PM

QUOTE (CoupevilleFish @ Apr 10 2009, 01:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (ArizonaEileen @ Apr 10 2009, 08:10 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Also, I got a PM from a gentleman on the Casita Forum. He's interested in being able to download the
information too but isn't yet a posting member of this forum.

Eileen


I was able to save the file with no problems. When you open it to read, just do a SAVE AS in your browser and save it where you want. This should work for anyone, whether they are a member of the forum or not.

Rich
Thanks for the tutorial. I assume the the "battery" is the Casita battery and that we do not need to acquire a second battery. You imply otherwise early in the article but it becomes more clear during the wiring explanation.

Dave


Hi Dave,
Glad you were able to use the article. You're probably talking about the three things you need for solar power. I should have indicated that the battery is already in your Casita. In recent years, I've seen more than a few people who have removed the battery from their Casitas because they say they never use them. I guess it's the weight issue, but I do think it somehow affects the inverter system when you remove the battery. For example, I've measured voltage at a 12 volt outlet without the battery and it is putting out 18-21 volts! With the battery it is 14-15 volts. Maybe a call to Casita would confirm/deny the need to keep a battery in the system. I would think that you would be shortening the life of 12v items if they are getting 18-21 volts.
Thanks!
Rich

Rich Beamish, k4fcp@arrl.net
1994 13' Casita solar-powered
2001 Nissan Frontier KC 4x4
http://richbeamish.m...bumName=album01

#10 PRTexas

PRTexas
  • Casita Club Member
  • 680 posts
  • Local time: 11:25 PM
  • Location:Plano, TX

Posted 10 April 2009 - 03:50 PM

Thanks Rich, The instructions were great. The links in the document had too many choices so I figured I'd throw out a question.

Assuming we already have a good deep cycle battery, what's a good estimate of how much we can plan to spend for a basic solar system with an appropriate controller? Doesn't have to be specific but I'd appreciate some feedback on the expected range of cost.

Not planning to try to camp for weeks at a time but would like to go to some national parks and forest service campgrounds and be able to read after dark and run the fan during the day.

Reine
Paul and Reine
Plano, TX
2000 FD "new to us" in 2008
2008 Chevy Avalanche
traded the Chevy S10

#11 k4fcp

k4fcp
  • Topic Starter
  • Casita Club Member
  • 60 posts
  • Local time: 12:25 AM
  • Location:Blacksburg, VA
  • Interests:I teach 6th Grade Math and Science at Blacksburg Middle School. I try to camp year-round and have solar powered my 13'. I usually try to camp where I can canoe, kayak, hike, and can usually be found operating a ham radio at my campsite.
  • Gender:Male

Posted 10 April 2009 - 05:39 PM

QUOTE (PRTexas @ Apr 10 2009, 07:50 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks Rich, The instructions were great. The links in the document had too many choices so I figured I'd throw out a question.

Assuming we already have a good deep cycle battery, what's a good estimate of how much we can plan to spend for a basic solar system with an appropriate controller? Doesn't have to be specific but I'd appreciate some feedback on the expected range of cost.

Not planning to try to camp for weeks at a time but would like to go to some national parks and forest service campgrounds and be able to read after dark and run the fan during the day.

Reine


Hi Reine,
The Unisolar panels are $350.00 and one link lists the MPPT controller for $88. The $88 is the best price I've found on the controller. You may be able to find a panel in the $250 range. You can sometimes find real deals on 50 watt panels in the $150-200 range. Since I've had my Unisolr 64w panel for 8 years, I'm prejudice towards them. They're also unbreakable. Figure in $50 for wire and connectors and you're in the "ballpark". Keep in mind the 30% tax credit as well. Hope this helps
Rich

Rich Beamish, k4fcp@arrl.net
1994 13' Casita solar-powered
2001 Nissan Frontier KC 4x4
http://richbeamish.m...bumName=album01

#12 CHThursday

CHThursday
  • Casita Club Member
  • 371 posts
  • Local time: 11:25 PM
  • Location:San Angelo, TEXAS
  • Casita Model/Size:Spirit Deluxe / 17 ft.
  • Interests:Chuck Wagon cooking, travel, stereo photography
  • Gender:Male
  • Casita Club Directory #:1714

Posted 11 April 2009 - 06:48 AM

Rich,
Excellent piece I wish I had it when I installed my panel 4 years ago. Mr. Solar helped quite a bit, though.
Loring put together some information on the Casita Forum covering placement of the panel in relation to the sun. You might add it as an appendix to your piece. (see below). This question eventually comes up and he covers it quite well.

"Is the Solar Panel angle really critical?, Not as critical as you might think. "

Loring

Advanced Member
Group: Members
Posts: 96
Joined: 7-January 06
From: Tucson, AZ
Member No.: 2244
Trailer: Casita 17' SD
Trailer Year: 2006

I was trying to figure out the correct tilt angle for a solar panel and stumbled on a simple rule of thumb. "Angle of tilt should be your latitude plus 15 degrees in winter and minus 15 degrees in summer". Simple enough, but what if it's not the perfect angle. After some searching, I found that there is a rule called "Lambert's Cosine Law" which says that the impact of a less than optimum angle comes directly from a cosine table. (Remember your high school trig?)

Bottom line, if the angle is less than optimal by the following amounts, this is the percent of the available energy you will capture. In other words, from the table, if the panel is aimed 20 degrees too high or too low, you'll still get 94% of the theoretical output.

I'm going to quit worrying as much about tilt angle.

Number of degrees variance from perpendicular, sun vs panel

0 Degrees 100% Captured

5 Degrees 99%

10 Degrees 98%

15 Degrees 96%

20 Degrees 94%

25 Degrees 90%

30 Degrees 86%

45 Degrees 70%

60 Degrees 50%


--------------------

Loring and Susan Green
Tucson, AZ
2003 Honda Pilot
2006 17' SD
AZ Plate "TURTUL" "



Bruce
Out in West TEXAS -"200 miles from anywhere"
2004 17' SD "RoadHippo"
2004 Mitsubishi FUSO
FG639 4X4

#13 Art Davis

Art Davis
  • Casita Club Member
  • 95 posts
  • Local time: 08:25 PM

Posted 11 April 2009 - 08:36 AM

Rich,

One more question. I see from one of the links you gave that an MPPT controller is really a switching regulator and therefore has the potential of creating radio and television noise. That brings up the practical question: which one did you opt for---and do you have any rfi problems?

I see that, like most things, newer MPPT controllers incorporate microprocessors. I assume that this makes the cost pretty prohibitive. So I am guessing that the 88 dollar figure you mentioned is a non-microprocessor version. Right?

Thanks again.

Art


#14 k4fcp

k4fcp
  • Topic Starter
  • Casita Club Member
  • 60 posts
  • Local time: 12:25 AM
  • Location:Blacksburg, VA
  • Interests:I teach 6th Grade Math and Science at Blacksburg Middle School. I try to camp year-round and have solar powered my 13'. I usually try to camp where I can canoe, kayak, hike, and can usually be found operating a ham radio at my campsite.
  • Gender:Male

Posted 11 April 2009 - 09:38 AM

QUOTE (Art Davis @ Apr 11 2009, 12:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rich,

One more question. I see from one of the links you gave that an MPPT controller is really a switching regulator and therefore has the potential of creating radio and television noise. That brings up the practical question: which one did you opt for---and do you have any rfi problems?

I see that, like most things, newer MPPT controllers incorporate microprocessors. I assume that this makes the cost pretty prohibitive. So I am guessing that the 88 dollar figure you mentioned is a non-microprocessor version. Right?

Thanks again.

Art


I have both types of controllers(MPPT & PWM) the MPPT is far superior as far as power is concerned. It really does allow your panel to work at full potential. Realistically, this gives me about 30% more power. The MPPT controller for $88 works great! As you know, rfi is a big concern for me as a ham operator. I have not used my ham gear with the MPPT unit, but it doesn't interfere with any other devices on board (computer, t, etc.) The inverter on the Casita is a huge source of interference with ham radios. I disconnect the Casita from the inverter while operating radio gear. I just use an inline fuse and remove the fuse. I'll have to see if the MPPT interferes with radio gear. My personal opinion is that it won't interfere, but I always like to confirm this using real life testing. I'll let you know what my findings are. Hope this helps.
Rich

Rich Beamish, k4fcp@arrl.net
1994 13' Casita solar-powered
2001 Nissan Frontier KC 4x4
http://richbeamish.m...bumName=album01

#15 Art Davis

Art Davis
  • Casita Club Member
  • 95 posts
  • Local time: 08:25 PM

Posted 11 April 2009 - 04:09 PM

QUOTE (k4fcp @ Apr 11 2009, 09:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Art Davis @ Apr 11 2009, 12:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rich,

One more question. I see from one of the links you gave that an MPPT controller is really a switching regulator and therefore has the potential of creating radio and television noise. That brings up the practical question: which one did you opt for---and do you have any rfi problems?

I see that, like most things, newer MPPT controllers incorporate microprocessors. I assume that this makes the cost pretty prohibitive. So I am guessing that the 88 dollar figure you mentioned is a non-microprocessor version. Right?

Thanks again.

Art


I have both types of controllers(MPPT & PWM) the MPPT is far superior as far as power is concerned. It really does allow your panel to work at full potential. Realistically, this gives me about 30% more power. The MPPT controller for $88 works great! As you know, rfi is a big concern for me as a ham operator. I have not used my ham gear with the MPPT unit, but it doesn't interfere with any other devices on board (computer, t, etc.) The inverter on the Casita is a huge source of interference with ham radios. I disconnect the Casita from the inverter while operating radio gear. I just use an inline fuse and remove the fuse. I'll have to see if the MPPT interferes with radio gear. My personal opinion is that it won't interfere, but I always like to confirm this using real life testing. I'll let you know what my findings are. Hope this helps.
Rich


Thanks, Rich. Yeah, that helps a lot.

In my web peregrinations, I have noticed that the Unisolar 64 W panel seems to be somewhat hard to find. The several places I have checked seem to be out of stock. (Guess this is a good thing!?)

It's been a long time since I was active as a ham, so my concern is more with interference with my fm radio listening. I have an XM receiver and listen to it on my fm radio.

Somehow I had gotten the idea that the amorphous (thin film) solar cells were less reliable than the crystalline form, but apparently I was wrong. The several sites I have looked at seem to brag about the ruggedness of the Unisolar panel.

Art

P.S. I will be interested in what you have to say about adding the second battery. I have one, but am debating its worth relative to its weight.

Edited by Art Davis, 11 April 2009 - 04:09 PM.