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2014 136” HR
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Solar is so logical, I'm reluctant to say no, but the more I consider our particular situation, the less logical it seems for us. I'm thinking 200ah of battery, charged by the alternator with a separator, will do us fine.

Before I make the final decision, I'd appreciate some opinions.

We have never camped more than 3 days in one spot.

We always choose the shadiest site we can find.

Our electrical desires are modest:

LED lighting
iPhone and camera battery charging
Hot water pot--1500w for <5 minutes/day
Microwave--?700w for <5 minutes/day
 

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2014-159 HR in CT
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...We have never camped more than 3 days in one spot.
...We always choose the shadiest site we can find.
I'm thinking the same thing... was wondering if a solar panel that is movable (ie. not on top of the van, but set up in the sun once parked) would be practical as far as size, wires needed, etc.

Ed
 

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Solar is so logical, I'm reluctant to say no, but the more I consider our particular situation, the less logical it seems for us. I'm thinking 200ah of battery, charged by the alternator with a separator, will do us fine.

....cut.....
What's logical depends on your needs. I've looked at solar for my next van and can't justify it. Can't justify the cost (which has gotten lower) or the extra equipment to maintain that I won't end up needing. Plus I don't like stuff on my roof.

Besides, all our long stays (multi-days) had shore power.
 

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When the costs for a 100 watt panel and a charge controller are so low I'd have to say why not install some solar? If anything it may help prolong the life of your alternator and battery bank by keeping the batteries topped off as opposed to the draining and charging cycle that being dependent on the alternator alone would.
 

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Your needs are very modest and you would be wasting your money on solar. If you decide you need more power in the future you can always add it on. I got by for ten years in my Sprinter with four 6v golf cart batteries connect to the alternator with a simple disconnect switch. I ran a 110 v dorm fridge, 800 w micro, coffee maker, TV, and a whole lot of 12v items with no problems. You just have to make sure your batteries get charged up every day and I would recommend starting the engine when brewing coffee and using the microwave. A fridge is the big power user and the main reason to go solar.

Having said all that, I've just completed my 300 w solar system with a 2000 w inverter to run my dorm fridge, micro and coffee maker and it works well. I spent about $800 more or less on the solar equipment for what it's worth and did it all myself.

If you have the time and money to install solar go for it but you can easily forgo it with your needs.
 

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As an option to solar, you can also evaluate the pros and cons of applying the same investment towards additional battery capacity. I'd look at cost, weight, space, maintenance, etc... A second battery (or incremental capacity) may power a small fridge for a day or two. I personally wouldn't want to start the engine every time I use the microwave, so greater battery bank capacity would come in handy for that too.

My greatest electrical power deficit is at night so solar has limited use. That's the deal breaker for me. Solar would mostly help keep my batteries charged while parked at home between trips. And that by itself is not worth it.
 

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No fridge on your list? If you have a cook stove, the microwave & water pot aren't really necessities. In my opinion you don't need solar and 100 amphr would probably be plenty.

I've been thinking about the same thing. I don't want the extra drag solar arrays on the roof would give, the flexible panels would be nice, but not sure they're ready yet. I think I'm going with about a 100W portable panel. I have a fridge and a 150 ah battery & had hoped to get 3 days without driving, but we bumped up the size of the fridge after buying the battery & now I don't think it is enuf.
 

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If you don't have a fridge your battery's should be able to handle a small micro and coffee maker without starting the engine but not together at the same time probably, just as long as you do run the engine sometime to recharge them, either by driving or simply idling. Just be sure you have a good size inverter. I got a cheapie ($125) 2000 w from Harbor Freight, on sale , and it works fine for everything much to my surprise!
 

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I have had two camper vans/class B motorhomes without solar as I travelled in northern areas, in winter, and camped in the shade most of the time. Battery power was always sufficient with charging from the engine alternator when not on shore power. 250/300 amp hour battery capacity worked for me. Solar panels on the top reduce fuel MPG.

As with boats, refrigeration is the biggest use of power. Use a cooler or a small compressor type top loading fridge. To extend battery life it helps to reduce the rate of draw and a smaller inverter may be used.. Although rare, 700 watt microwaves are still available from places like Walmart. Heating hot water with less than a 1500 watt element saves and you can use just a 1000 watt inverter for your setup.
 

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I must say I have noticed no change in my MPG since mounting my solar panels.
 

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I'm more concerned with the Fiamma awning affecting mileage than solar panels. Panels I can mount low and put a shallow deflector across the front. The Fiamma is a big ol' cylinder just hanging off the edge.




I would guess that for most builds, solar is something that you can add later if you want to. Go ahead and run with just a coach-charged battery for awhile. If you find that's not enough, then evaluate whether more capacity or solar charging would work better for you.
 

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I decided on solar so I could isolate my driving battery from my house battery. I must say it love my solar system and it feels so independent. We had a power outage the other day and I told my wife, just go out to the van to make rice. She plugged in the rice cooker to the inverter and bam, we used our gas stove in the house and rice was ready for dinner.

I have 2 265 watt panels (Grape Solar through Home Depot) and 2 6v LR16 batteries and NO hookups. Where ever I go I have *PLENTY* of power. I have
Norcold Fridge 6 amps @ 12 volts
Wallas Nordic 85 DT stove
10 1 watt LEDs house lights
2 3 Watt reading lamps
2 USB chargers
1 Maxx Air fan
7 amp Water pump
1500 Watt Inverter

These items are easily replenished by the solar even on cloudy days. I was in Yosemite last weekend with rain showers and overcast sky and was still pulling down 7-10 amps (20 amps in full sun) and that was enough to keep the fridge running all day plus more to top off the batteries. It's nice to not worry about starting up the van for power or stressing about finding a full sun site for camping.
 

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Then I would go for the solar if you can afford the extra $700 - $800 (if you can do it yourself).

You won't be sorry and I think you have heard all of your options here. It comes down to the extra cost now. I'm pleased I did it and would do it again.

Good luck!
 

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Why pay so much for solar? Do Amazon or EBay search for Renogy solar. I just bought and installed a 100 watt monocrystaline panel with 20' wire, Z mounts, cheap controller(mppt later) for $190.00. Works great. Look at reviews on Amazon. Used it in Joshua Tree last week. Worked great. We have Dometic cool freeze cf-18 fridge that we use for ice and super cold beer n drinks in addition to our built in gas fridge. Look at my YouTube review for the cf-18. This is my second one. The first got sold with my Sportsmobile.
 

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I bought all of my solar from Renology thru Amazon. 2 - 150 panels, controller, wire, fuses, mounting hardware, etc. it cost me a bit under $700 for my set up. You can get less and pay less. Plus you need an inverter and battery bank, of course that will add $200 - $400 at least to the cost but you need those with or without solar.

Today at 2pm it's very overcast and I'm getting 22.3 volts out of the PVC panels into the controller - not bad. Yesterday in heavy rain and overcast sky, no sun at all, it was 21v - 22v all day long.
 

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I decided on solar so I could isolate my driving battery from my house battery. I must say it love my solar system and it feels so independent. We had a power outage the other day and I told my wife, just go out to the van to make rice. She plugged in the rice cooker to the inverter and bam, we used our gas stove in the house and rice was ready for dinner.

I have 2 265 watt panels (Grape Solar through Home Depot) and 2 6v LR16 batteries and NO hookups. Where ever I go I have *PLENTY* of power. I have
Norcold Fridge 6 amps @ 12 volts
Wallas Nordic 85 DT stove
10 1 watt LEDs house lights
2 3 Watt reading lamps
2 USB chargers
1 Maxx Air fan
7 amp Water pump
1500 Watt Inverter

These items are easily replenished by the solar even on cloudy days. I was in Yosemite last weekend with rain showers and overcast sky and was still pulling down 7-10 amps (20 amps in full sun) and that was enough to keep the fridge running all day plus more to top off the batteries. It's nice to not worry about starting up the van for power or stressing about finding a full sun site for camping.
Hey Darren, curious about the 6amps for the fridge, is that the manufacturers number or did you check that out for yourself. Trying to pin down some numbers for my system
 

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it doesn't have to be one or the other - plan for both but only buy isolator and install the isolator for now - that is what I'm doing but will add solar in the future (but still thinking whether to buy roof racks etc for the 100w panel I have or just go with flex panels. Since tech is getting better every day, no harm in waiting until needed.
 

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100w is pretty wimpy. Hardly worth the time and money. For short change you can double or triple the watts!
 
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