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When I planned my campervan I checked out my expected electrical usage and was surprised to find that it was about 500 watt hours per day. We had a pop-up pickup camper before the van and had 80 Watts on the roof and a 100 amp hour FLA battery. That would provide the 500 Watt hours if the sun shone on it 6-7 hours a day. BTW that panel cost nearly $500 in 2007

When I looked at panels for my Van I was shocked how much cheaper they had become and because of that I went nuts and bought TWO 100 Watt Renogy panels. I never dreamed I would use it all but what a bargain at something like $140 each ($109 often now). I was right, I have a Watt usage meter (https://www.amazon.com/bayite-6-5-1...rd_wg=ei6VA&psc=1&refRID=G73CRT7B3HATNH2ZHY7G) and use about 340 Watt hours overnight. Not much of a strain for my 220 Amp hr FLA Golf Cart battery set. The batteries are recharged by 10 most mornings. I could go three days with no sun but choose to manually interconnect my batteries to the alternator if we move and it is pouring rain so they fill each day. An automatic connection like a BD would not be a good thing.

Some posters here have put on as much as 500-600 watts on their vans and they may have a need I can’t imagine. Each 100 watt panel should produce 25 KWH per month- more in the summer and less in the winter of course. My last electric bill for my AZ house just came and was 136 KWH. I could live in it on 600 Watts.

I wonder what usage some of you have? What is enough power. I would suggest 100 watts of solar is enough for a simple van. I clearly have twice what I need. I have an Espar heater for cold, Fantastic Vent for Hot, LED lights, a 1500 Watt inverter (seldom used), a 3 cu ft Norcold Refrigerator, 2 Computers, 2 iPads, 2 iPhones- charged via 12 volts each day or through USB, a 19 inch Samsung TV/video, and several small 12 volt appliances like a 12 volt vacuum.

I have commented on several threads about my disbelief in their adding so much solar panel and battery storage. I hope I have not offended anyone but I can’t get my head around this. Please add your details and usage so I will.
 
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I am not offended by your comments, but I think your needs differ from mine (and probably a few others that have large setups). I'm still in the planning stage so I don't have any yet, but my goal is to have a single fuel source (diesel), period. This means no propane for cooking or heating up water. Because of this, we will be using a 1500w electric kettle to boil water and a 1200w induction cooktop for cooking and possibly a 900w pressure cooker (I just bought an instant pot and it's amazing!). These are VERY power hungry devices and I know it's easy to say "just get a propane or butane stove and save the money". However to meet my goal of a single fuel source camper, a large electrical setup will be needed.

I'm also thinking because the roof will be empty, I might as well fill it with as much solar that will fit (currently I think I can fit 540w on the roof).
 
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Hi RD,
Besides high usage scenarios like Matt's, one exception that might be using the RV in the winter in a Northern state. The sun is low and you get more cloudy days.

If you run PVWatts for Helena, MT with 200 watts of solar in a horizontal position, the monthly output in mid summer is 33 KWH (or average of 1100 watt-hours per day). But, for Dec, the monthly output is 6 KWH (or average of only 200 watt-hours per day).

If you tilt the panel at 60 degrees (latitude + 15 deg for best winter performance), the Dec output per month goes up to 14 KWH (or almost 500 watt-hours per day).
So, being able to tilt your PV panel during the winter is almost as good as going from 200 watts of solar to 500 watts.

PVWatts is a great and free solar planning tool from NREL. It takes into account all the thinks like panel size, azimuth and tilt, but also uses the local average weather and sun at the location you specify. Your tax dollars at work :)
http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

One potential problem with the idea that you have a lot of roof and might as well fill it up with solar is that you may want to use the roof space for something else in the future. Saw a van the other day with a sort of rack on top that could be used as an elevated viewing platform, and thought what a neat idea for photography or event viewing.

Gary
 

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Gary see my questions on Promaster roof weight capacity in the thread on a leaking roof concerning a platform on top--so many uses for one; in a way I'm glad I didn't think of
one but really don't have the real estate on top with what we have there.
So far I'm impressed with our 1 x 160 watt panel. Even in my cloud stricken area it is easily
keeping up with the ARB 50 quart frig.
We returned from this last trip. Left the frig running and nothing else. For the last three days
Victron still reports 100 percent battery capacity and the Blue Sky solar control panel still says
power is available for the auxiliary port if needed.
As Gary points out this will change in winter big time for us. Our panel will tilt but honestly I'm
not setting up a ladder for that unless I know the van will be sitting for a month.
RD your point is most of us over size and over build I think? I would have to agree. My example is
the honking Samlex EVO 2200, way more than we'll ever need.
Forgot, our solar charge controller is MPPT if that makes a difference.
 

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Evening and morning use total about 60Ah max, so my 200Ah bank never dips below 70%. Not unusual to stay above 80 or 90%.

1.3cf Engel chest fridge
10 minutes 600W (950W used) Microwave
Webasto heater
MaxAir fan
Laptop
Phones
Lights
5 minutes 800W Water boiler

300W solar and glad we have it. Also glad we have a shore power charger and can use the alternator. Each method has its use.
 

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But my leatherman draws at least 200 amp hours
 

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Novakool 3800 fridge
Wallas XC Duo
Water pump
2 iphones
Random other DC electronics - jambox, kindles, cell booster, etc
3 laptops (I do software development 2 days a week)
LED lighting
Fantastic vent fan
700W water boiler on days when the xc duo isn't running in the morning

We average 55-70AH usage on normal days, and as much as 120AH usage on days when I am working in the van.

Keeping the state of charge above 50%, we can do 3 days with no charging if we are frugal on the third day. Definitely happy to have the 400W of solar on the roof, shore power, and alternator charging. We spent 21 days in BC during February with not a single sunny day.. had to rely on a small amount of solar charging through the clouds and the alternator the entire time. Now we are in the California desert where we have excess solar and are charged to 100% by the end of everyday. It's good to be able to adapt to different conditions.
 

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I got 400 watts on the roof just because. It fits well. And on short or cloudy days it still throws plenty of amps back into the storage batteries. In the summer on sunny long days, it is more than enough. On short cloudy Fall days it can be "just" enough.
 

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Definitely happy to have the 400W of solar on the roof, shore power, and alternator charging. We spent 21 days in BC during February with not a single sunny day.. had to rely on a small amount of solar charging through the clouds and the alternator the entire time.
Thanks for the confirmation, Tyler. The 400W part, not the lack of sun here. I already knew that.
 

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Some posters here have put on as much as 500-600 watts on their vans . . .
. . . but I think your needs differ from mine (and probably a few others that have large setups). . . . my goal is to have a single fuel source . . . I'm also thinking because the roof will be empty, I might as well fill it with as much solar that will fit.
RD, we feel slighted - - did you forget our 800+ watts of solar?

Matt, we couldn't have summarized the contrary point of view better. If nothing else, we're blocking the sun from the van's roof . . . should help keep the heat under control.
 

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No I didn’t forget you, just wanting you to stop by and I’ll run a cord into my house from your inverter and disconnect my connection to Arizona Power! Of course it would hardly create a blip in your system! Sometime I will create a tongue-in-cheek list of possibilities for using all that power in your honor. In the meantime I wonder if you shouldn’t be running an electrolysis apparatus to get hydrogen from water and then convert the van to run on it? In reality, I don’t think Matt will use much more than I do as his high current appliances generally run just a few minutes each use. I’d encourage everyone to install a Watt-hour meter like I did or a Bogart like MsNomer has to better report what they really use. Being in AZ part year I know white roof paint is better at cooling the roof than even the panels and it’s $10 a quart! I know you were kidding!
For KOV and Quest.... Get the Leatherman solar attachment kit and your problems will be over.
 
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Some posters here have put on as much as 500-600 watts on their vans and they may have a need I can’t imagine.
I resemble that remark. ;)

We have 640w total from four 160w panels on the top of BoB. Feeds into a 200ah lithium battery.

Power draws are the 5 cubic foot fridge/freezer (12v), the MaxxFan in season, the microwave through the 1000w inverter. All that certainly does not need the 640w, even in the winter here in WA state.


And then there's our 12v A/C unit.

It draws 32-40 amps when operating. And when are we most likely to use it? When its warm and there's full sun. With the BlueSky MPPT controller, I can see 35-40 amps incoming from the panels. Now, as I've mentioned before, its a small A/C unit and doesn't keep up under high cooling demands, but it does help, and as such is basically a solar-powered A/C.


Oh, and we primarily did it to keep the dogs cool in the van. I have a setup to direct the output back to the dog crate. Its all for the dogs.

And that's why a full roof with 640w of solar is just enough for us.
 

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I've got 200W of Renogy panels powering a 2000W inverter and all my DC stuff as well. For the first few months I forgot that I never hooked into the house battery/alternator and being in Arizona, CO and southern CA during those times, I was totally ok on solar. This is using LED lights, fans, charging phone/pad off USB, microwave use, electric kettle, and plugging in my macbook.

The last 3-4 days I've been in Oregon/Northern CA and I noticed immediately that instead of 90-99% my batter was at 80-90%. That made me realize that I forgot to connect the stupid house/battery/alternator and as soon as I did, I'm back at 99% after an hour or two or driving (that alternator pumps out some SERIOUS power).

So having said all that, it a) depends where you live and b) depends what your usage is. I'm planning on adding one more panel. I'm hoping to do one of those 180W panels and put it sideways for a total of ~380W. That should set me up if I'm not moving regardless of where I'm located and what the weather is. That's what I want :)
 

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For the past several years I had a Ford Ranger long bed with 300 watts of solar on the roof of the bed cap feeding a 200Ah 4D AGM battery. Thought that would be plenty for my Dometic CFX35 fridge, RoadPro 12v crock pot, 1300 watt induction hot plate etc.

Then I got a request to teach a class in Pennsylvania in early spring of 2015. Rained for 10 days straight as I traveled from California to PA, and back. Ran out of juice after 4 days. Being from sunny Calif. it never occurred to me that I could travel across 17 states and not see the sun for 10 days. Decided that when I upgraded to a van that I'd go with as much solar as possible and add in a tie to the vehicle charging system as a back up.

I now have 600 watts of solar panels and a 540 Ah LiFePo4 battery bank. Backup is a Sterling battery to battery charger.

Now all I need is the van to install them in. Ordered a diesel on 4/28/16. Ended canceling that in Jan'17 and ordering a 136 HR gasser. That was built on 3/16 but has been on "Informal Hold-Quality Audit" (whatever that means) since 3/31. Dealer and Customer Service have no shipping or delivery dates. Very annoying.

Lex
 

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When I planned my campervan I checked out my expected electrical usage and was surprised to find that it was about 500 watt hours per day. We had a pop-up pickup camper before the van and had 80 Watts on the roof and a 100 amp hour FLA battery. That would provide the 500 Watt hours if the sun shone on it 6-7 hours a day. BTW that panel cost nearly $500 in 2007

When I looked at panels for my Van I was shocked how much cheaper they had become and because of that I went nuts and bought TWO 100 Watt Renogy panels. I never dreamed I would use it all but what a bargain at something like $140 each ($109 often now). I was right, I have a Watt usage meter (https://www.amazon.com/bayite-6-5-1...rd_wg=ei6VA&psc=1&refRID=G73CRT7B3HATNH2ZHY7G) and use about 340 Watt hours overnight. Not much of a strain for my 220 Amp hr FLA Golf Cart battery set. The batteries are recharged by 10 most mornings. I could go three days with no sun but choose to manually interconnect my batteries to the alternator if we move and it is pouring rain so they fill each day. An automatic connection like a BD would not be a good thing.

Some posters here have put on as much as 500-600 watts on their vans and they may have a need I can’t imagine. Each 100 watt panel should produce 25 KWH per month- more in the summer and less in the winter of course. My last electric bill for my AZ house just came and was 136 KWH. I could live in it on 600 Watts.

I wonder what usage some of you have? What is enough power. I would suggest 100 watts of solar is enough for a simple van. I clearly have twice what I need. I have an Espar heater for cold, Fantastic Vent for Hot, LED lights, a 1500 Watt inverter (seldom used), a 3 cu ft Norcold Refrigerator, 2 Computers, 2 iPads, 2 iPhones- charged via 12 volts each day or through USB, a 19 inch Samsung TV/video, and several small 12 volt appliances like a 12 volt vacuum.

I have commented on several threads about my disbelief in their adding so much solar panel and battery storage. I hope I have not offended anyone but I can’t get my head around this. Please add your details and usage so I will.
Is the main difference in the renogy and renogy Eclipse panels just size? Any other reason why I should get the Eclipse instead?

Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk
 

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I have 300 w of Renogy solar and it runs my 110vac dorm fridge 24/7 while camping and probably 10 mins a day (max) on the micro thru my cheaply HF 200o watt inverter. I run my LED lights and 14 VDC TV plus charge my cell phones and tablets at the same time. I have never run out of power or had a dead barrery (2- 12v AGM's). Even in the winter with short days and no sun the panels constantly put out 19 to 20 volts and usually over 21. Cloudy rainy days don't make much of a difference in my real world experiences. Even in a snowstorm last winter they were still pumping out over 16 volts!.

Theory is great but real world experience is better! ;)
 

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Just for the record, Winston made full use of his electrical system the three days we were together. A double burner induction cooktop is sweet as can be, but you can practically hear the electrons rushing through.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Winston this one’s for you. I was looking for a picture of your van with the solar panel (wing) sticking out all around.
 
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