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Camp trailer Solar panels


Kind of a big deal
May 19, 2020
Member Number
Hermiston, Oregon
I have a 2018 Cougar 36' bumper pull trailer with 2 deep cycle batteries on the tongue. It is factory pre-wired for a solar setup. I have never used or even been around solar so I have no idea where to start or what is worth it.

I have a family of 4, I do have a couple of quiet suitcase generators for extended camping but would like something to supplement them with. I was also thinking about installing a 2000 Watt power invertor to run the TV/DVD player at night while everyone is in bed and not have to have the generators running outside.

What is the bare minimum I should be looking at wattage wise? I do not mind the suitcase style that I can setup when parked and remove when we leave, Not sure I want to mess around with mounting them on the roof.
So, there’s no great answers on this stuff. As always, the internet is full of “spend lots of money!” advice. You can get a smart shunt for $30 or so that measures how much juice you have pulled out of your house batteries. That’s really the way to size solar, I think—monitor your usage, figure out how much you can replace with solar, and it effectively tells you how long you have between starting up the generator. I just recently bought a 300watt portable solar setup from amazon. The brand is Dokio, and it’s cool as hell because it is semi-flexible panels sewed into fabric. So it folds up to 1” thick instead of 5 inches or whatever for a rigid panel suitcase setup. I wired it in with 50’ of 10-gauge wire, so I can park in the shade and spool the panel out into the sun somewhere.

This is all new to me, but for me and my wife, our electrical consumption in cool weather is the heater fan, the 12v piece of the propane fridge, some lights, an exhaust fan, and maybe a movie before bed on the tv. That came out to ~60 amp-hours. My replacement rate with the solar appears to max out around 10-12 amps, so 5 hours at that rate would recharge the batteries.

my biggest electrical surprises have been at the overall low consumption we have, and the terrible factory charger/converter in the rv. If I ran the generator, the 4kw onboard genset would only charge the house batteries at ~300 watts. So it still took a long time to charge up batteries.

Oh, and trying to figure out how much power you used or how charged up you are is difficult with a multimeter, and impossible with the little rv panel. After running the genset for just a bit, the rv panel would show the batteries are full. They’re not. Hence the power-measuring shunt that works much better.
\nAiLi Voltmeter Ammeter Voltage Current Meter Voltmeter Ammeter 100V 350A Caravan RV Motorhome 999 AH https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FGFFHC6...91812054244-20

That’s the shunt. I got fancy and bought the high-dollar version of this, but this is supposed to work. It gets wired in between the negative of your battery and the rv ground. You make sure ALL your loads are grounded on the non-battery side of this, and it measures the current leaving the battery. It sums up that current over time, and now you have your energy consumed. Start charging with the solar, and it sees the power go back into the battery, and there you go—it works as a fairly accurate battery gauge. \n\nDOKIO 200W Foldable Solar Panel Kit Lightweight(9lb,28x20 inch) Monocrystalline(HIGH Efficiency) with Controller USB Output to Charge 12V Batteries (All Types: Vented AGM Gel) RV Camper Boat https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VM6S6QJ...91812054244-20

and there’s a smaller version of the solar I bought. They’re out of stock or discontinued the 300w version, I guess.
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+-200 watts will just keep ya going.
A solid 300 watt array and a real charge controller along with a bank capable of storage will get ya an easy 4+ days dry.

My 2 interstate rv batts and 2 - 100 watt panels will rock a sunny weeked then the big honda comes into play!
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