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Old 06-14-2013, 06:25 PM   #1
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portable solar panel

I gave up searching for a cheap generator so I came up with an alternative, a 100 watt solar panel. I have few high power demands so it should deal with my batteries just fine. So far Iím $740 less than a new Honda 2000 and the tests I have done so far are extremely promising. I built the frame for about $60 worth of hardware and it weighs about 2 pounds the panel is 16.5 pounds so Iím under 20#. It is about 2íX4í slightly smaller but close enough not hard to deal with. After playing with it I figuring 400 to 500 watts per day maybe be more then that because I can steer it, itís a fairly complicated equation with a lot of variables. Thatís more then I use so Iím a good bit ahead. Aiming it is a lot easier than one might think itís just a matter of making the smallest shadow I have done voltage tests and have come very close to maximum output voltage. For me here in Maine the 70* angle is about right for June and could be left at that all day but if you need the max output the angle will have to change. It will store completely flat so it will live on the bed when I travel. The system connects to my batteries with a 50 amp connector as does my ham radios etc. Usually one has a controller at the batteries because of the higher voltage fro the panel but my run is short and I had some #10 SJ wire so the loss will be all most nil so the controller is at the panel.
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File Type: jpg 70 degrees.jpg (144.5 KB, 20 views)
File Type: jpg controler.jpg (96.4 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg late morning.jpg (123.1 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg noon and storage.jpg (148.8 KB, 14 views)
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Old 06-14-2013, 06:31 PM   #2
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Cool
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Old 06-14-2013, 06:48 PM   #3
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Very nice work...

Any chance on a few closeup pix?
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Old 06-15-2013, 06:06 AM   #4
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Very nice work...

Any chance on a few closeup pix?
Sure of what?
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Old 06-15-2013, 06:34 AM   #5
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The hardware.. Wondering how you did the joints and slider bars.
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Old 06-15-2013, 10:36 AM   #6
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The first picture is of the end where it pivots I used 3/8 bolts with lock nuts so they would remain slightly tight open and closing. #2 is the top end where controller is and it shows the top mounting bracket for the support arms. #3 is it closed up it does sit slightly less than completely flat I did this because the controller is behind and the angle keeps is from hitting it. #4 is the controller so you can see how itís protected it also keeps it dry. #5 because the solar panel sits on top of the frame work bolts there is a slight gap so the washers take up the gap and the locking nuts on the bolt keeps it just tight enough. #6 is how the angles are fastened together I donít own a TIG welded and was not about to pay any one to weld it. #7 is the top end mounting for the angle braces (the whole panel is upside down). #10 shows the side brace mounted to the bottom frame. #11 is the 50 amp connection to the batteries. The entire frame is made of light aluminum I did not see a need for it to be super strong the panel is very ridged and all the frame does is hold up its 16.5 pounds. There is no real reason to ground the panel (unless of course it was on your house roof) but in my case itís all about stray RF I am a ham so without a ground to the trailer frame the solar panel might become an unwanted antenna and could possible damage the solar controller.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg p1.jpg (42.5 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg p2.jpg (41.7 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg p3.jpg (41.1 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg p4.jpg (56.2 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg p5 (1024x683).jpg (31.4 KB, 4 views)
File Type: jpg p6 (1024x683).jpg (36.2 KB, 4 views)
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Old 06-15-2013, 10:38 AM   #7
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OK here is the rest as far as drilling the holes for the support bars you are on your own as the angles are different for each latitude mine are drilled for 3 months and to drop them for late morning and noontime.
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File Type: jpg p7 (1024x683).jpg (47.6 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg p10 (1024x683).jpg (82.7 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg p11.jpg (44.0 KB, 5 views)
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Old 06-15-2013, 06:04 PM   #8
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That looks real nice and elegantly simple. I like it.
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Old 06-18-2013, 08:27 PM   #9
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Nice work, thanks for sharing.

What brand and where did the panel come from?
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Old 06-19-2013, 05:02 AM   #10
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It was from Amazon as a kit panel,charge controller and connectors. At the time it was $209.99 and may still be. The panel is a Renogy RNG-100D monocrystalline 36 cell and the controller is a no name 12volt 10 amp. My wife is an Amazon junky and we get free prime shipping so I really don't know what the shipping costs were it's only about 17# controller and all so I don't think the shipping would be too bad. I have played with charging batteries one was a pretty dead 35 amp gel cell that I thought was heading for the recycle bin but is holding a good charge now several days latter the real test will be this weekend we are doing a ham radio event in NH and I am going to be all solar running my 100 watt ham radio and all the camper stuff (lights, pump etc) it will be charging 2 80 amp deep cycles.
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Old 08-03-2013, 01:42 PM   #11
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I have solar panels on my camper but I purchased the camper with them on. What exactly can I run using these solar panels? Coffee pot? Hair dryer? Curling iron? Fan? Microwave? TV? All of the above?
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Old 08-03-2013, 02:45 PM   #12
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IWhat exactly can I run using these solar panels? Coffee pot? Hair dryer? Curling iron? Fan? Microwave? TV? All of the above?
All of the things that you've listed here run on 120V AC. They will only work when your camper is plugged into shore power. The 'fan' you mention, if it is the fan in the bathroom vent, will run on 12V DC.

As we understand it, the solar array is for charging the battery when shore power is not available, or when a generator is not available (or, if one is, and you just don't want to run it for whatever reason).

By the way, Mainah: beautiful work, and thanks for sharing the photos. If you're getting the sort of output you indicate, we're going to have to look into investing in a similar setup.
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Old 08-03-2013, 02:57 PM   #13
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Anita,

Building on what Matthew/Lisa said...

All of those things you listed, are most likely 120v AC.. The solar panels are designed to charge the 12v DC battery(ies) on your camper. To run your 12v AC items off the battery, you will need an inverter. They come in all shapes and sizes, as well as how much AC power they can safely put out.

A typical hair dryer runs at 1,500 watts AC. To be able to run that one thing, you would need a large enough inverter to power it.

There is a ton of useful information at THIS site. Here's an excerpt:

"Remember that an RV solar system is nothing more than a battery charger. So, you can run anything from your solar system that normally runs off your batteries. If you power your entire RV off your battery bank when dry camping, then using a solar panel (or a series of solar panels) can take the place of your generator for recharging your battery bank. When dry camping a device called an Inverter is needed to convert the 12v power from the batteries to 110v power for regular household appliances. And if you are always plugged in to shore power or Ďpark powerí, an RV solar system will probably not be very beneficial. Unless, of course, the park charges you extra for electricity"
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Old 08-03-2013, 04:38 PM   #14
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Thanks for the info. I can tell you this much, if it can't power my hairdryer and curling iron it's useless because I'm not going anywhere where I cannot use those two items. No day is good if it is a bad hair day. lol

I think it has an inverter because the prior owner said that he ground coffee beans with his coffee grinder and also watched tv using the panels. I wanted to tell him, "You know, the world has evolved....we don't have to grind out own coffee beans anymore. We have people for that."
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Old 08-03-2013, 05:38 PM   #15
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I wanted to tell him, "You know, the world has evolved....we don't have to grind out own coffee beans anymore. We have people for that."
Oh, Anita, you poor, poor soul, pre-ground coffee does not hold a candle to freshly ground coffee.
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Old 08-03-2013, 06:00 PM   #16
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Pretty much if your roof is covered with panels maybe 500-600 watts (a 100 watt panel is about 4'X2') that means you can charge batteries and help run an inverter but things like coffee pots and any thing else that heats uses a lot of watts. So if you need the gadgets you'll need to be plugged in. I use mine to keep the lights burning,the pump pumping doing a little ham radio stuff and a little TV news at night. I have two batteries and can pretty much supply the power for all my needs with no noise and gasoline with my 100 watt. If you are all ways plugged in the panels you have are not really helping you much they are more for people that are off grid.
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Old 08-03-2013, 06:26 PM   #17
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Mainah, Thanks! yeah, I'm thinking that we don't need them. My husband is a "green" guy and thinks they are nifty. What happens if I plug my curling iron in and it doesn't have enough power? Burn the camper down because the wires got too hot? I think I have 2 4x2 panels.

Wannabes, I have a coffee grinder for home use but isn't using pre ground-coffee what they mean by "roughing it?"
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Old 08-03-2013, 07:30 PM   #18
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Wannabes, I have a coffee grinder for home use but isn't using pre ground-coffee what they mean by "roughing it?"


It would be "roughing it" in our camper. My husband, who is the coffee expert, brings along a burr grinder - no power needed except for some arm strength - on our trips. He grinds, brews, and serves... boy, am I spoiled!

We recently got a stainless steel percolator - it makes one smooth, strong cup of Joe. We use it on the stove so that we can rely on propane - we have visions of boondocking yet this summer. That's why the interest in the whole solar panel discussion.
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:26 AM   #19
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No it won't cause you any problems but they won't do much either because your battery is being charged by your camper connection to the grid. While I was a working stiff my ideal of camping was a Master Card so I do see your point but I often end up in places that lack most forms of modern life and at that point you'll start to understand solar panels a lot better. It would be best to just leave them on the camper most likely they are pretty well attached and wired in so just think of it as a selling point when you up grade to a bigger camper with a generator big enough to run a coffee grinder and the crock pot at the same time!
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:41 AM   #20
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Portable Solar

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That link you provided for portable solar is the company I bought my units from last Winter. (my album cover "winter 12-13" shows a pix of them)
Not having the technical skills of mainah, I needed a system that was ready to plug in. As a result I paid lots more than one would for a build it yourself system but I'm well pleased. As long as there's sun we never have battery issues. Units come w/ a bombproof alum case & offer many advantages over a roof-mount system
If one's into boondocking potable solar offers many advantages over a gas generator
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