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#1 bama

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 03:45 PM

can any one give me a list of what i need to add solar power to my 17 casita ? I know i need a sloar panel but past that im not sure .

 Herschel , Darlene & Tinkerbell Bowers
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#2 Dutchman

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 05:27 PM

can any one give me a list of what i need to add solar power to my 17 casita ? I know i need a sloar panel but past that im not sure .



Start by reading dedicated websites, like www.rvsolarelectric.com; lots of information downloadable.

Edouard Trautwein, #1372  

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#3 JudyinWis

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Posted 07 November 2010 - 02:31 PM

Minimum considerations:

Unless your solar panel is merely a 5 watt trickle charge maintainer you definitely need a charge controller to keep the 17 volts coming off your panel from frying your battery. And i'm not sure but what a 5 watt panel could do some damage anyway once a battery is fully charged. Many people prefer the more expensive MPPT charge controllers because they convert some of the excess voltage into more amperage.

Do you want to carry your panel on the roof so that you can use it to charge the battery while moving down the highway, or do you want a panel you can carry from one spot to another to take advantage of sunlight while parked in the shade? If the latter, how far from the trailer do you want to be able to move? The longer and/or narrower the wire in your extension cord(s), the more voltage you will lose. 25 feet is not always enough, and you probably will lose too much voltage beyond 100. 50 feet is usually enough. 12g cord is also probably enough, though 10g will be better if you can find it. I have 3 25 foot 10g cords, and only rarely have wished i had more.

If you are trying to recharge your battery after a day or two of camping you will probably want a 50-80 watt panel. A single 12 volt battery will not recharge any faster with more than 120 watts. Panels hooked together will only charge in multiples of the smallest panel, so if you are planning to start small and add more panels as needed, plan to get later ones the same size as the first. Practically speaking that would mean starting with a 40-60 watt panel.

It's handy but not essential to rig up some device that allows you to stand your panel on one edge such that you can adjust it to be perpendicular to the sunlight.

If you are looking to mount your panel on the roof you'll need to ask somebody else for advice. A search for 'solar' on this and the main forum will turn up several threads with lots of useful links.

Judy

#4 WtMtJim

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Posted 08 November 2010 - 10:16 AM

I researched solar systems for my Casita for over a year and recently purchased an 80 Watt all-in-one system from CEA Solar (web rvsolarnow.com). I had thought about piecing a system together by buying various components and then putting them all together. But the system I bought from CEA Solar is a complete unit. It comes in a folding case/frame with a heavy-duty storaage bag, has two 40 Watt panels hinged together in a sturdy aluminum frame, a built-in controller,comes standard with 15 feet of cord and half a dozen various pigtails for hooking it up to most any configuration. Weight is less than 30 lbs. I probably could have saved about $100 overall by piecing it together with parts acquired from various suppliers but decided to go the complete package for several reasons. (1) I'm not real handy, especially when it comes to anything electrical (it's black magic!) (2) If I it did myself from varius supplier's parts and something didn't work, who would I turn to for support or warranty satisfaction. Everyone would just point to the other guys' parts or my amateur work and blame the next guy or me. So I bought the complete unit from Jim Mannett at CEA Solar. Now I'm really glad I did.

It has worked very well and here's the best part. I had a problem at first with the equipment. I carried on a lenglthy e-mail troubleshooting dialog with Jim mannett at CEA Solar but nothing seemed to be working. So he replaced the whole unit at no cost to me, not even shipping. Then I had a similar problem with the new unit. I, and probably Jim, was beginning to think I was doing something wrong myself (told you I wasn't handy) because Jim said he had had only one previous failure of the unit. Well, Jim got in his car, drove 400 miles round trip, performed an in-my-driveway troubleshooting routine, diagnosed a bad pigtail, replaced it, and the unit has worked flawslessly since then. No charge for any of this from Jim (I did buy him dinner, though). I doubt I could have received that level of customer service and support from anyone else, let alone from half a dozen different suppliers had I cobbled the thing togehter myself. Seems the particular pigtail culprit is a new addition to the equipment list and there may have been a faulty batch.

Jim will have a booth in the Big Tent at the January Quartzsite RV show. That's how I met him last year. Check out his all-in-one RV solar units. He has several sizes.

BTW, I have no finanacial or other interest in Jim's company or the product. I'm just a very satisfied customer.
White Mountain Jim
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#5 breckenridge

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 04:14 PM

WtMtJim

Thanks for the info.

I went to the site and as I understand it all you do is unfold the panels then connect the wires from the panel directly to the battery you want to charge--is this what you do or do you use the cigarette lighter plug.

Thanks
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#6 WtMtJim

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 08:01 PM

WtMtJim

Thanks for the info.

I went to the site and as I understand it all you do is unfold the panels then connect the wires from the panel directly to the battery you want to charge--is this what you do or do you use the cigarette lighter plug.

Thanks


That's all there is to it. Unfold & orient the panels to the sun and plug the wire from the panel to a pigtail that I leave hooked to the battery for convenience. In the field when boondocking I just open the battery access door, reach in and pull out the pigtail that is attached to the battery and plug it into the extension cord wired into the controller affixed to the back side of the panel. The unit comes with several types of connecting pigtails depending on what application you are using; for example, there is a cigarette lighter type plug if you wanted to charge a 12v device that had that kind of connection. There are two indicator lights on the controller. One glows yellow to indicate charging mode and then a green light comes on when the battery is fully charged. You can litterally take it out of the box it is delivered to you in, open it up and hook it up to your battery. All the wiring and pigtails fit inside the closed up panel frame and then it goes in a heavy duty fabric fitted carrying bag. Very neat, handy and slick. And it's finished off nicely, being "all of a piece."
White Mountain Jim
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#7 breckenridge

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 03:55 PM

WtMtJim

Thanks, I was hoping that was the answer....going to contact them Monday.
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#8 DirtDawg

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 05:38 PM

..I'm just a very satisfied customer.

Very impressive and commendable customer service to rectify your problem (and flush out apparent defects in pigtail connectors).

Is your intended use of solar to achieve a green and quiet alternative to our ubiquitous Honda EU2000i generators? Have you or will you also upgrade your Casita converter to one with smart charger technology? I'm curious how battery recharge rate with your 80W solar system compares to that of the genny's AC output.

"DirtDawg" Jeff
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#9 WtMtJim

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 07:07 PM

Jeff,
Very good questions. Ones that I have struggled with during this process. Here's my resolution. I view the generator and solar panels as complementary tools. I will continue to use the generator for such things as powering the microwave and AC when needed. I plan to use the solar panels, when boondocking, primarily as a way to recharge the battery during the day following the previous night's use of lights, fans, etc. I can't tell you the science behind how long it takes to charge a battery with the Honda 2000 gererator or the difference in time it takes using the OEM converter vs. an upgraded smart converter. I'm sure there are those here on the forum who can. I do remember reading that since the power produced by the generator must go through the on-board converter (at least the OEM one) on its way to charging the battery that it takes a long time (hours) to recharge the battery using the generator and that makes it is a very inefficient way to recharge the battery (as contrasted to using a dedicated charger that one plugs into the wall at home). I will let others speak to that. However, I do know from experience that it did take hours of running the generator the few times I've tried to recharge the battery that way. Not to mention the resulting noise,incredible inefficiency and waste of fuel and CO2&CO created. I don't see the need to "upgrade" my converter since using the solar panels to recharge the battery obviates the primarly need for upgrading to a "smart" converter (faster battery recharrge). Even with a "smart" converter you would still need to run the generator to recharge the battery (perhaps for less time), but why not eliminate that use altogether by using the sun's quiet rays as much as possible. There are multiple ways to the same end. I don't critisize those who "upgrade" to a "smart" converter and run their gen to recharge. I just chose a different route. I chose to harvest quiet, non-polluting solar energy and use it to recharge my battery in a manner that I think is more environmentally friendly and provides more peace and quiet to me and my campground neighbors. Using the 80 watt solar panels on a sunny day may take 4 to 6 hours (depending on how discharged the battery is) but even if the gen could do it in the same or even somewhat less time I still prefer the solar solution. Others may choose to use the gen. The primary advantage of solar over gen to me is not the time it takes, but the reduction of noise and pollution and the saving of a bit of fossile fuel. To each his own. However, your questions regarding the available alternatives are very valid and anyone considering gen vs solar vs using both vs never boondocking, etc. should carefully consider all the alternatives, costs/benefits, and permutations before they plunk their money down. Like most things in life, there is no one answer and usually no perfect answer.

Edited by WtMtJim, 12 November 2010 - 07:09 PM.

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#10 JudyinWis

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 05:22 AM

I haven't done any scientific data collection re: how long it takes to recharge the battery beginning at various voltage levels with my 55 watt solar panel and 10 amp MPPT charge controller vs. my generator. My impression is given a sunny day, either one will take about 4 hours if i'm starting out at about 25% discharged located above the 45th parallel. The problem comes with clouds, fog, and rain. Then i'll get what i can out of the panel readjusting its position throughout the day, and top the battery off with the generator after the sun goes down.

Judy

#11 Dutchman

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 06:06 AM

Jim - Good writing.

As an example, this summer I boondocked for two weeks at Saddlehorn campground in the Colorado National monument, followed by two weeks elsewhere in Colorado. Had my 80W solar panel out every day, attached by strong cable to the hitch. Some four weeks later the battery was still full. This agrees with, I believe, a solarelectric company's comment in Scottsdale, that a good battery and an 80W will supply enough power for unlimited boondocking, provided careful husbandry of power. I do not have a microwave, and by choice I do not have television, so that saves quite a bit right there. There are times when it is uncomfortably hot that I'd wish for a generator to run the AC, but I've found that hooking up to E/W during very hot times is far cheaper, and less polluting, than purchasing a generator. Driving from one campsite to another also helps to 'top off' the battery.

I think that those of us in the drier Western states have enough sun to be able to make good use of solar power. East of the Mississippi, with more cloudy and humid weather, that might be a different story.

Edouard Trautwein, #1372  

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Casita living - Luxury on two wheels.

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#12 WtMtJim

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 06:48 AM

I haven't done any scientific data collection re: how long it takes to recharge the battery beginning at various voltage levels with my 55 watt solar panel and 10 amp MPPT charge controller vs. my generator. My impression is given a sunny day, either one will take about 4 hours if i'm starting out at about 25% discharged located above the 45th parallel. The problem comes with clouds, fog, and rain. Then i'll get what i can out of the panel readjusting its position throughout the day, and top the battery off with the generator after the sun goes down.

Judy


I've had similar experience.
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#13 WtMtJim

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 06:56 AM

Jim - Good writing.

As an example, this summer I boondocked for two weeks at Saddlehorn campground in the Colorado National monument, followed by two weeks elsewhere in Colorado. Had my 80W solar panel out every day, attached by strong cable to the hitch. Some four weeks later the battery was still full. This agrees with, I believe, a solarelectric company's comment in Scottsdale, that a good battery and an 80W will supply enough power for unlimited boondocking, provided careful husbandry of power. I do not have a microwave, and by choice I do not have television, so that saves quite a bit right there. There are times when it is uncomfortably hot that I'd wish for a generator to run the AC, but I've found that hooking up to E/W during very hot times is far cheaper, and less polluting, than purchasing a generator. Driving from one campsite to another also helps to 'top off' the battery.

I think that those of us in the drier Western states have enough sun to be able to make good use of solar power. East of the Mississippi, with more cloudy and humid weather, that might be a different story.


"I think that those of us in the drier Western states have enough sun to be able to make good use of solar power. East of the Mississippi, with more cloudy and humid weather, that might be a different story."

Very good point and reinforces my comment that solar is not neccesarily the perfect solution for everyone. Where, when and how often you are going to use it, what sort of devices do you need to power, cost, etc all should be considered. For example, we couldn't do without AC and microwave, and we do a fair amount of boondocking, so we carry a gen as well as the solar panels. A point not often made but alluded to in your post is that if you move frequently from one dry camp to another you may not need anything other than the TV to charge the battery. But, If you are going to boondock several days or longer then you probably will need alternative ways to charge the battery such as gen or solar. A lot depends on your travel style and how much boondocking you plan to do.

Edited by WtMtJim, 13 November 2010 - 07:19 AM.

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#14 weavejd

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 06:41 PM

Well, we 'bit the bullet' and ordered the same 80w solar panel system from CEA Solar as WtMtJim. According to UPS it should be here Tuesday. We're planning a 4 day boondocking trip into the NM mountains over the Thanksgiving weekend. With nightly temps in the 20s-30s, we'll be running the furnace, so it'll be interesting to see how well the system can recharge the battery during the day.
We don't have a genny and don't want to get one since most of our camping is either boondocking in the mountains or hooked up to shore power at lower elevations (where we might need air conditioning).

Edited by weavejd, 14 November 2010 - 06:44 PM.

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#15 dab

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 09:27 PM

Well, we 'bit the bullet' and ordered the same 80w solar panel system from CEA Solar as WtMtJim. According to UPS it should be here Tuesday. We're planning a 4 day boondocking trip into the NM mountains over the Thanksgiving weekend. With nightly temps in the 20s-30s, we'll be running the furnace, so it'll be interesting to see how well the system can recharge the battery during the day.
We don't have a genny and don't want to get one since most of our camping is either boondocking in the mountains or hooked up to shore power at lower elevations (where we might need air conditioning).


Replacing the incandescent lights with LED will save a significant amount of battery, if you haven't done that already. The incandescent bulbs are 18 watts, LED's are around 3 watts. Furnace motor is around 40 watts, according to my measurements.

Dave
Boise, ID