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Old 05-23-2023, 10:05 AM   #1
Sandals 123
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Total novice - Solar question

Hello all, first off let me state CLEARLY that I have zero knowledge or skills when it comes to electrical systems. Having that out of the way, I have a question about Solar panels to charge batteries and run basic items in the RV.

I have a 2019 29RKS and it came with the Solar connection option. I camp often on a riverbank with no power available and I need to replace my generator so I thought I might explore the idea of Solar panel (s) as well. I was just at my dealer and they said that to install a decent solar system, I would be looking at $4-5K!!!

Any (simple) replies with ideas welcome - how to best proceed?

Thanks in advance,
Alan
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Old 05-23-2023, 11:57 AM   #2
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Avoid this dealer -- he's lowballing you.
I wish I were kidding, but... I find that newbies start out with the expectation that they will get a lot more capacity from solar than they do. That's my personal experience, anyway.
The catch-22 of solar is that it works best in climates where you need the refrigeration (A/C) that it is least able to power.
I'll let somebody answer you who has solar and is happy with it.
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Old 05-23-2023, 04:30 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandals 123 View Post
Hello all, first off let me state CLEARLY that I have zero knowledge or skills when it comes to electrical systems. Having that out of the way, I have a question about Solar panels to charge batteries and run basic items in the RV.

I have a 2019 29RKS and it came with the Solar connection option. I camp often on a riverbank with no power available and I need to replace my generator so I thought I might explore the idea of Solar panel (s) as well. I was just at my dealer and they said that to install a decent solar system, I would be looking at $4-5K!!!

Any (simple) replies with ideas welcome - how to best proceed?

Thanks in advance,
Alan
If $4,000 scares you from getting your “feet wet”, then you can forget thinking about panels, wiring, lithium batteries, solar controller, inverter and an assortment of other parts to link everything. For $2,500 you could build a do it yourself system using low end lithium batteries and doing all the labor yourself. I have a 5.6KW system that cost me 2 grand 2 years ago. If the money factor is a deal breaker, consider a new generator (which you admit you need), and replace your lead acid batteries with a couple of 100 amp Chin brand batteries from Amazon ($320 each) and call it good. Others will chime in and express more ideas, but this is a decent bang for the buck. For a newbie I’m not urging you to try something more elaborate. Adding a small inverter could allow a tv to be used at night for a few hours.
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Old 05-23-2023, 05:56 PM   #4
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Lithium batteries will recharge in 1/4 the time lead acid batteries would, thus your generator won’t have to run very long to put a charge back in. Your present voltage converter will charge lithium batteries to about 90% of a full charge.
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Old 05-24-2023, 05:37 AM   #5
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My simple rule of thumb is that if you need AC then you will either need shore power or a generator. If you don't I can live on solar and a 1000-1500W inverter which will cost, as previously stated, about $2500-3000 without any labor costs/DIY.


We generally use the generator/solar when staying at Harvest Host sites. This past trip we never used the generator...although traveled with it...as the temps weren't that high.
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Old 05-24-2023, 06:07 AM   #6
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Any (simple) replies with ideas welcome - how to best proceed?Thanks in advance,Alan
A lot of unanswered questions here. You don't say what type of battery you have. You don't say how large it is. You don't say what you mean by "basic items" in the RV.

Everyone is mentioning AC. Being in British Columbia, I doubt that you need AC often (if ever). So that, to me, is a non-issue. What may be true is that a lot or most of your campsites are in wooded areas where direct sun may be hard to get. So - - - - that means a portable unit. The solar connection you mention is probably a direct connection to the battery. That would need to be confirmed. (also confirm the polarity of the wiring) If so, it is a simple plug in connection with no additional wiring. You would be able to move the kit around to keep it in direct sunlight. This kit, for less than $350 US would most likely recharge you to 100% each day:
https://www.renogy.com/200-watt-12-volt-monocrystalline-foldable-solar-suitcase/?Rng_ads=0f65f8eb00fbadd1&gad=1
(with the alligator clips you could connect directly to the battery and wouldn't even need to use the solar connector on the trailer)

If all of your "basic items" are lights, water pumps, water heater/refrigerator sparkers, etc., you wouldn't need anything else. If you want coffee makers, microwaves, electric skillets, etc., you will still need your generator - - or a darn big battery bank and inverter.

If "basic" means a television, a small power plug inverter would do the job. Most newer TV's pull less than 100 watts. Something like one of these:
https://www.amazon.com/Krieger-Inver...09ZVDXW3T?th=1
https://www.amazon.com/BESTEK-300Wat...xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

If you don't already have one, I would strongly suggest a battery monitor. They can be from about $40 US to $150 US. Depends on how fancy you want to go.

I could see you getting all set up with solar (minus moving up to lithium) for $400 US.
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Old 05-24-2023, 06:42 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandals 123 View Post
Hello all, first off let me state CLEARLY that I have zero knowledge or skills when it comes to electrical systems. Having that out of the way, I have a question about Solar panels to charge batteries and run basic items in the RV.

I have a 2019 29RKS and it came with the Solar connection option. I camp often on a riverbank with no power available and I need to replace my generator so I thought I might explore the idea of Solar panel (s) as well. I was just at my dealer and they said that to install a decent solar system, I would be looking at $4-5K!!!

Any (simple) replies with ideas welcome - how to best proceed?

Thanks in advance,
Alan
The first thing we need to know before anyone can give you even remotely accurate advice is what do you normally use power-wise when you're camping and what you would like to use. If you don't use AC and just want to keep the DC lights, furnace and stuff like that going, it's easy and cheap. The only issue would be getting the panels and such mounted and the wires run. I would suggest a good mobile rv repair guy who doesn't care about who you bought the parts from and will do the installation on an hourly charge. it's still not cheap if you can't do it yourself, but a lot cheaper than what a dealer will charge you as they mark up the parts about 500% then have their labor on top of that.

to give you an example, I installed the system on my camper that just runs 12V systems and I never run out of power when camping, unless I go over 3 days with out sun in the fall when the furnace is running. that system has changed with more battery capacity now in the form of a self built 280AH LFP battery so the no light time is extended to 10 days now.

but that system consisted of a 200 buck 325 watt 24V split cell solar panel, a renogy wanderer 40amp MPPT solar controller (on sale now from renogy for 159.00) 20 bucks in extra wiring, 20 bucks for mounts for the panel. then two GC2 6V batteries (before I changed to LiFePO4 ) so if you buy your GC2 batteries at Costco that what 180 each so that's 800 bucks in parts (including the batteries) and probably 3 maybe 4 hours for a guy to install it so I would expect 1200 bucks all in if you can't install it yourself.

if you want to run AC loads then you have the added cost of a couple more batteries , a second panel an inverter and you will have to watch how much AC you use. my 5th wheel has 480 watts of solare and 4, 6v batteries with a 2000 watt inverter and we can use a kieurg to make coffee in the morning, and after supper. limited microwave use , let the kids watch a movie every night and be ok with the furnace running also, but that about it. a panel upgrade and controler upgrade is in the works for that because its a older 12V system.

so it all depends on how you want to use it. if all you used your genny before was to recharge the batteries then the first system would work if you have some sun where you camp.
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Old 05-25-2023, 10:05 AM   #8
Sandals 123
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A bit more detail

Hello everyone, thank you for your replies, I thought I better add some context.

When we dry camp, we do not use the A/C or the microwave and for making coffee we use a french press, so no power required. Having said that, we do like to be able to run the lights and electrical outlets for phones and Ipads/Laptops.

The batteries I currently have are the small golf cart style and, I fear, that they have been drained dry so many times, I think their ability to hold a decent charge is diminished.

I do like to comment about upgrading the batteries and buying a new generator - that seems to cover off the majority of the problem I think.
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Old 05-25-2023, 12:58 PM   #9
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One thing to consider is that there are two styles of USB outlet -- auxiliaries to 120v outlets, and outlets that run directly off 12v circuits. If you need to charge phones but will be spending a lot of time without shore power, make sure you have enough of the latter. If you want to get fancy, you can tap your accessory circuit and install one in the wall [LINK], or you can just get a dongle like this one [LINK] and plug it in behind the TV.

(I don't necessarily recommend either of these brands, I just used them as examples.)

Most if not all of your lights are already 12V anyway, so no problem there.

The batteries are an entirely separate problem. If you think they're damaged or aged out, replace them regardless.
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Old 05-25-2023, 05:28 PM   #10
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I've posted more than once about our "bone simple" solar set up. This is about as inexpensive and easy as you can get.
We have a Zamp 200w portable solar kit. No mounting, drilling cutting holes, nothing. Just open the case, extend the legs. plug it into the port on the side of the trailer and start charging. The batteries are GC2 6 volt golf cart batteries. The only 110v appliance we use dry camping is the TV to watch movies at night. We bought a 750 watt inverter and mounted it on a shelf in the entertainment center near the TV and simply plug the TV into the face of the inverter. There also multiple USB ports on the inverter for charging the phones tablet and laptop. I ran #10 wiring from the inverter to the batteries through the cargo area. Holes were already there when Keystone wired the entertainment center. Whole outfit was under $500 since we found the Zamp kit used for $200. Batteries$110 each. Inverter was $35 at Walmart.
Haven't used the generator in 4 seasons now. Still carry it, but it has stayed in the truck.
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