Newb questions on genny or solar

Discussion in 'First Time & New Camper Owners' started by Milehifireguy, Jun 3, 2015.

  1. Milehifireguy

    Milehifireguy New Member

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    Hey all! First off this is a great forum and happy I found people who love camping as much as I do. So here's the question. ... I have a 96 Coleman Cheyenne, pretty basic set up. Looking for ideas on a solar set up or smaller generator for boondocking/off grid camping. Pro and cons of both and what size set up for both would I need to run lights power the furnace blower and recharge cell phones and tablets for a 4-5 day outing? Thanks for the help!
     
  2. speckhunter80

    speckhunter80 Well-Known Member

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  3. HobieNick

    HobieNick Member

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    Either way you go, you will need to know (with numbers) your actual power needs. There are several posts on the forums about this. Figure out your daily amp hour needs and you will know what size battery and solar/generator combo you need.
     
  4. Milehifireguy

    Milehifireguy New Member

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    Thanks for the info. I will check out the links and follow up on finding out my actual power needs.
     
  5. davido

    davido Active Member

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    This will depend on your power consumption needs, the typical sunlight in your region, how much battery capacity you have, and how long you need to be off-the-grid.

    I have two group 24 batteries for a total of about 160AH capacity. Of that 160AH, it's not prudent to use more than 80AH (else the batteries take a beating). I've calculated that in mild weather where I don't use the heater much, I can go about a week with that capacity. In cooler weather, that is enough for about four days. In really cold weather, three days.

    So let's say 80AH lasts me 4 days; that's 20AH/day. If I wish to camp past four days in cool weather, I need to replace some of that power.

    I could run a generator for 2h every two days, and plug in a 20A charger. In a perfect world that would replace exactly what I'm using, but since charging isn't 100% efficient (or anywhere close to that), realistically I'd be replacing about half of what I use. But that's ok; it means that instead of four days, I could last eight. If I run the generator 2h every day, I would easily break even, and could go on indefinitely (or until fuel runs out).

    How about solar? A 100w panel getting about 5 hours of good sunlight a day will produce about 500W, or about 30A per day. Let's be conservative and say it produces 25A per day. And we'll say my charging is about 50% efficient, so I'm replacing 12.5A per day, while using 20A per day. 20-12.5= a deficit of 7.5AH per day. I could keep my batteries above 50% for about 10 days, as long as we don't have a bunch of overcast days.

    To me, solar is a better option because I really don't see myself being out for more than ten days anyway, and if I were, I could add a second panel. But solar has limitations that the generators don't have; you could get a generator (or set of generators) capable of delivering sufficient power to run an air conditioner, or a space heater. You can't run either of those off of just battery and solar. But the gens would need to run all the while those devices are running. On the other hand, generators are noisy (even the quiet ones), and will annoy you as well as your neighbors. Solar panels are silent. Generators consume gas, solar doesn't.

    So if you can deal with the limitations of solar, which include the risk of bad weather, the inability to run major appliances (air conditioning, space heaters), and the need to maintain a much more careful energy budget, they're a great alternative; quiet, clean, trouble-free.

    But if, on the other hand, you need major appliances, and quicker charge cycles, generators are the better alternative.

    I've got a generator; a small one that is really only useful for charging. I've used it a couple of times, but mostly can't be bothered with it. I do intend to add solar this year.
     
  6. unclemark

    unclemark Overland Park, KS

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  7. tcanthonyii

    tcanthonyii Member

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    Swap out to led bulbs for sure. Less heat less power. Also don't forget you can charge phone from your pickup/suv. The furnace is probably your biggest enemy. We can easily go a few days just charging phone and running lights a few hours a day with our camper and walmart deep cell. I do t have a furnace so I can't comment there.

    If you go generator look really hard at the inverter style generators. Hondas are really good and really expensive. So are yamahas. Champion makes an excellent one as well and quiet enough most neighbors would barely hear it. If all you are doing is charging. A 2k will do the trick. You will have to carry gas.

    Solar is great but what if there isn't much sun? Me personally I'd do the double 6v then get solar and generator.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  8. samh

    samh Campin'

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  9. apopkabob

    apopkabob New Member

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    2013 Rockwood 1980
    2015 Ford Explorer
     
  10. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    For the Cobalt pup, with just 2 ceiling lights (1 bulb each, LED) and the furnace, we did fine with 60 watts of solar power, using four Goal Zero Boulder 15 panels. On occasion we would use the 12v Endless Breeze fan, though usually that meant we weren't using the furnace. We have a free-standing storage battery (also from GZ) that we use for cell phones and Kindles. Since we are often in areas with little to no cell phone coverage, we set the cell phone and Kindle on airplane mode to save power.
    With the Goal Zero set-up, in many cases, the battery was topped off by noon. We have a meter that plugs into the 12v outlet to keep tabs on state of charge; I laminated the chart from here:
    http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/12volt.htm

    Last week, we had our first dry trip with our TT. We had a defective battery, but with the new one, it was clear that we had neither enough cushion in the battery nor enough solar wattage. (We may also have an issue with the solar controller, that needs to be investigated.) We have ordered a Zamp 160 watt set-up, and will likely be changing to a two 6v battery option.

    We have no desire to switch to a generator, even with one of the good ones, we don't like the noise. We also don't want to have to figure out a place to carry the generator and fuel for it. I still go solo, and my wonky back and cranky joints do not need to deal with the weight of a generator, either.
     

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