Yet another/more solar question(s)

chrisarrick

Member
Oct 10, 2017
77
North Central Indiana
I'm sitting here thinking about the times I've had a spontaneous notion to pack up and camp and at times the only spots available last minute were primitive/non-electric. With a tent it didn't really matter. Now I have a camper.
What is the difference between a charge controller and a charge regulator? Do I need them both?
My demand would be small: interior lights in the evening (currently not LED but I'm changing that soon), dorm fridge (although a cooler is fine for an overnight), laptop or phone use. I don't have an AC.
Or would a fully charged (charged at home before the trip) deep cycle battery be sufficient for those things and be easier/cheaper than worrying about and maintaining a solar system?
I like the idea of having a solar system but just as a new novelty sort of thing.
Additionally, I installed an Inverter in my truck that is sufficient to run/charge small things like the pump for my air mattress when I was a peasant slept on the ground lol.
Costs take precedent over novelty, but ultimately the camper is for having fun, after all. If the kids and SO are with me there is zero chance I'd subject them to a primitive spot. That would be punishment for everyone, lol.
Thanks for any seasoned wisdom and info!
 

SteveP

Super Active Member
Platinum Supporting Member
May 21, 2015
2,428
Best to keep the battery fully charged at all times, it will last longer. Get it fully recharged as soon as you can when returning from a trip and charge again before leaving if possible. You shouldn't have to worry about it for a weekend trip as long as you don't try to run the dorm fridge.
 

davido

Super Active Member
Jul 17, 2014
1,309
I'm sitting here thinking about the times I've had a spontaneous notion to pack up and camp and at times the only spots available last minute were primitive/non-electric. With a tent it didn't really matter. Now I have a camper.
What is the difference between a charge controller and a charge regulator? Do I need them both?
My demand would be small: interior lights in the evening (currently not LED but I'm changing that soon), dorm fridge (although a cooler is fine for an overnight), laptop or phone use. I don't have an AC.
Or would a fully charged (charged at home before the trip) deep cycle battery be sufficient for those things and be easier/cheaper than worrying about and maintaining a solar system?
I like the idea of having a solar system but just as a new novelty sort of thing.
Additionally, I installed an Inverter in my truck that is sufficient to run/charge small things like the pump for my air mattress when I was a peasant slept on the ground lol.
Costs take precedent over novelty, but ultimately the camper is for having fun, after all. If the kids and SO are with me there is zero chance I'd subject them to a primitive spot. That would be punishment for everyone, lol.
Thanks for any seasoned wisdom and info!

"Minimal" does not describe the power needs you have, if you intend to run a dorm fridge and a laptop.

If your fridge consumes 150w, you'll be pulling 12-15 amps at 12V while its compressor is on. That will deplete an 85AH (Group 24) battery to 50% charge in 3-hours run-time. Of course it's not running continually, but you won't get to 24 hours, that's for sure.

If your laptop charger consumes 90w, it will be pulling 7.5 amps at 12V. That will draw your battery down to 50% in 5.5 hours.

Fortunately the laptop won't be a continuous-use thing. You may use it for an hour or two in the evening. So let's say 15A. Let's ignore the fridge. Your lights (if changed to LED) will only draw a couple of amps in the course of an evening. You didn't mention a furnace, water pump, etc., so we'll ignore them. So your energy budget is 17-20 amps per night. Without a means of recharging, you'll get to 50% battery capacity during the course of your third evening camping.

With solar, you will be wanting to replace about 20A. A 100W solar panel will get you close enough that you can extend your camping indefinitely.

As for your fridge, forget about it if you don't have Shore Power. Either switch to a propane fridge, or use a good quality cooler. It will take a lot of solar panels, and a very large bank of batteries to stay ahead of a dorm fridge's needs when off-grid.
 

McFlyfi

Super Active Member
Aug 1, 2014
803
Thousand Oaks CA
Without the fridge, you most likely could get away with a Group 24 or 27 battery for the weekend. Charge it fully when you get home.
I've never heard the term "charge regulator", so I think charge controller = charge regulator. The charge controller regulates the volts/amps into the battery.
If you want to try solar, the current Costco magazine has a Coleman 100 watt panel with either a 7 or 8.5 amp charge controller for $119.00. That's approaching a dollar a watt, so it's a good price. You'd need some cable to connect it all, I don't think there is any cabling included. I use 10g landscape wire, you can get it at Home Depot for about a dollar a foot. Connect the controller close to the battery (within a foot or two, I've velcroed controllers to the battery box), and the landscape wire from the panel to the controller. Prop it up in the sun, and charge your battery.
Is the panel any good or charge controller any good? I don't know. But if you want to get your feet wet with solar, I'd say this far outshines any system from Harbor Freight.
 

rabird

Howdy!
Mar 3, 2006
7,807
N. TX
https://www.costco.com/.product.1150689.html?QRID=DigitalLink_Magazine_Connection_201711_1150689

controller is junk! Panel looks OK

I really like the bluethooth capability of Grape solar's controller, The app is available from grape's support via email.
Monitor & program via smartphone ! The price keeps going up, $58
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Grape-S...ntroller-with-Bluetooth-GS-PWM-40BT/207100856
Monitor my garaged CC from the kitchen window!
Screenshot_20171106-121651.png
100 watt panel $99
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Grape-S...ts-and-12-Volt-Systems-GS-Star-100W/204211365
 

chrisarrick

Member
Oct 10, 2017
77
North Central Indiana
wow thanks everyone for the info and tech specifics. I think for now that my best bet for off grid is just to have a charged battery to take along with me. In those instances I'd most likely be by myself and a cooler would be just as good as a fridge.

Thanks again!
 
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Dave Brick

El Cheapo Family Camper
Nov 29, 2010
226
A quality cooler is a big help. I'm A Yeti guy, but I bought mine before all the knock-offs came out, and if I was buying now, I would definitely look at the knock offs to save money. The Yeti is outstanding though, and I am completely happy with it. Pre-cooled, it will last 5 days with 3 frozen 2-liter soda bottles (filled with water and frozen).
And that includes opening it daily. We have a propane fridge inside the PUP which helps.

We have replaced all inside and outside lights with LEDs, and use a small LED battery lantern for our "night light". 5 days easily doable with a group 24 battery. If necessary, re-charge phones in the TV. Its good for the kids to get out and learn to conserve battery time on their devices. There are also some portable power packs that can be pre-charged and used to charge phones.
 




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