Topic Author's Original Post - May 2, 2013 - 05:53pm PT
I am thinking of getting some portable solar panels to power my pop-up camper and had a few questions.
The panels will not be mounted to the camper because of the hassle of wiring the pop-up portion of the camper. The new Four Wheel campers come prewired for solar but mine is too old for that. Right now I have a gasoline generator I plug into the AC inlet on the outside, a automobile battery charger I plug into to the AC outlet on the inside, and then the DC output from the battery charger goes into my camper battery.
I think all I need is a portable solar panel that has about 100w AC output and plug that into the AC inlet on the outside of the camper. It would either power AC directly or DC through the battery charger and battery.
I am planning on putting the solar panels either on the ground or propped up against the truck or a tree. How should I secure the solar panels from theft?
Any suggestions as to brand or models of solar panels? I have been reading the reviews on Supertopo but the only ones I saw were for household use or for charging small portable devices. Where should I go to see reviews of RV solar panels of about 100w? What online retailers do you reccomend?
Look at Cyclops brand,believe it or not available from wal mart.I have 3 20 watt panels with a 400 watt ac inverter,lots of power.EDIT,oh the whole system,1 deep cycle battery 1 reg battery,charge controller and linked system,runs a vw vanagon,a 400w inverter,and plenty of dc accessories
It doesn't work that way. Panels are DC. You hook it up to a charge controller/regulator that brings the voltage down to 12 VDC.
Your best bet is to get a regular panel online from some place like wholesalesolar.com (just one example). Even a big panel for a house is small and light enough that you could easily move it around. If you buy something sold by RV people it will be 2x the price, guaranteed.
I got a 130w panel for my van several years ago. The pop-top was a non-issue, and I'm familiar enough with the Four Wheel configuration to feel it probably isn't one either. I just chopped up an old extension cord and it would fold down when I closed the top. It's still in the van with the new owner and going strong for like 4 1/2 years.
Another advantage of a roof-top install is that it is bolted on and thus much harder to steal. I also put a pad lock on the angle-iron frame I built, but even without it never had a problem. I made the frame so I could tilt the panel in winter, but if this is for summer use it can be flat.
Even if you don't want to put a hole in the top, you could wire it up with an extension cord that you just plug in from the outside but leave the panel on the roof. I suspect you will hate life if you have to move the panel all the time, plus anything "portable" just gets jacked up in price for little reason.
I have 4 30w rigid Goal Zero solar panels and two of their big battery packs. If you are an employee in the govt. or outdoor retail you can get Goal Zero stuff at 50% off retail through www.promotive.com. I use my system for heating and cooling, lights, stereo, charging cameras and have used it once to recharge my truck battery when I left the headlights on all day. Some of their smaller panels I have not been too pleased with but their Boulder 30 panels that I have are great.
Batrock, thanks for that info on Goal Zero and Promotive. A couple of questions, how fragile are the Boulder 30s? How do you transport them? Do they have anywhere you can pass a cable through so you could lock them up?
I would have to find somewhere to put them in my camper or pickup truck when not in use.
They are pretty stout but the corners are hella sharp and have cut my leg on them a few times until I taped them up. There are holes that are used to connect the panels that you could pass a cable through if you needed to. For transport I stand them on their sided and wrap them in a thick towel. I'm pretty happy with them overall.
I'm a solar contractor and I just happen to own an older Four Wheel Camper rig. Adding solar wasn't that hard. You can drill through the aluminum frame behind the rear hinge and fish the wires from fridge area. It's pretty hard to protect the hole so I used boat cable which has thicker insulation although it's more expensive and a bit tougher to find. The top was easy. Drill a hole and fish the wire down the bay. I poked a small hole in the fabric at the rear and used a fish to pull the wire. It helps if you remove the vent frame. Be patient with the wire, it took me about 2 hours to get it from the top to my charge controller.
Try to buy a good quality panel. Sharp would be good but it's getting hard to find quality panels in the 100 to 130 watt range without paying through the nose. Do not buy from Costco, Lowes, RV stores, etc, etc. Be careful buying from Ebay. Lots of used, old technology panels on that site. If you're lucky you live near a lake with big houseboats. Find out who does the solar. If the're like me they will probably have good used panels for sale. Houseboat owners have more money than sense and frequently upgrade perfectly good systems when the guy on the next dock gets one better then theirs.
For this type of application I like Morningstar charge controllers. 5 year warranty, good performance, price and customer service. I've installed quite a few....
If you buy new panels don't mount them with L brackets. Some panel manufactures are refusing to warranty panels with holes drilled in the sides.
Worry about the weight. The top gets harder to open with a panel mounted on it. I'm going to add a strut lift system when I replace my current panel with a 175 watter.