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On our last RV, a pickup slide in camper which popped up, we did have a system to tilt the (one) panel. In the 8 years we owned that rig we only actually tilted the panel a couple of times. Thinking back, the reasons were many. We often were boon docking in the desert and wanted to move to a new hiking area every day or so, we did not run out of power with the 80 watt panel flat due to having propane for everything but lights, we had to have the camper collapsed to reach the tilting mechanism, we worried about driving away with it up, and perhaps most of all we just had more on our minds than doing that.
When we bought the van and began planning our build we realized we disliked the set up and take down times and felt the van could be camping ready when the key was turned off. No leaving the truck cab and going back, no latches to undo, no top to raise, no nothing! It is interesting how those tiny things get to you after years of camping. Remember getting to a campsite and having to put up the tent? Nuff said. I often warn builders of this syndrome. Keep the camping setup simple! You will come to appreciate this advice in time.
How do you answer this? We installed 200 watts of solar calculating it would give us plenty in the SW in the shortest of days and with the sun lowest in the sky. It has. We are careful to have only OPTIONAL electric devices whenever possible like a 12 volt coffee heating hot pot to use if there is lots of power instead of the butane stovetop, a 12 volt vacuum instead of the broom, and perhaps a 12 volt slow cooker in the future.
Here is a video about tilting showing that a significant increase can be had
Is this important? Do any of you tilt?
 
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Hi,
Clearly you need an automated, motorized tilter :)

It does make more difference as you go north.

For Helena, MT and 200 watts of solar...

Winter (Dec):
flat panel 200 watt-hrs per day (17 amp-hrs into the battery

45 deg tilt 433 watt-hrs per day (36 amp-hrs into the battery)

Summer (July):
flat panel 1100 watt-hrs per day (92 amp-hrs into the battery)

45 deg tilt 1033 watt-hrs per day (86 amp-hrs into the battery)


These are PVWatts numbers, so they take into account both the average weather and the position of the sun and tilt of the panel for your location. Some days would be better than these numbers and some worse.
To use PVWatts for your area, enter your location, array size, tilt etc., then from the results chart, take the output for each month and divide by 30 days to get the average daily collection in KWH.



17 amp-hrs is getting pretty skinny.

Gary
 

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Tilting and parking you might as well as get portable ones then.

Wasn't Ford researching a fresnel len type cover for solar panels they were going to install on the C-MAX hybrid?
 

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On our last RV, a pickup slide in camper which popped up, we did have a system to tilt the (one) panel. In the 8 years we owned that rig we only actually tilted the panel a couple of times. Thinking back, the reasons were many. We often were boon docking in the desert and wanted to move to a new hiking area every day or so, we did not run out of power with the 80 watt panel flat due to having propane for everything but lights, we had to have the camper collapsed to reach the tilting mechanism, we worried about driving away with it up, and perhaps most of all we just had more on our minds than doing that.
When we bought the van and began planning our build we realized we disliked the set up and take down times and felt the van could be camping ready when the key was turned off. No leaving the truck cab and going back, no latches to undo, no top to raise, no nothing! It is interesting how those tiny things get to you after years of camping. Remember getting to a campsite and having to put up the tent? Nuff said. I often warn builders of this syndrome. Keep the camping setup simple! You will come to appreciate this advice in time.
How do you answer this? We installed 200 watts of solar calculating it would give us plenty in the SW in the shortest of days and with the sun lowest in the sky. It has. We are careful to have only OPTIONAL electric devices whenever possible like a 12 volt coffee heating hot pot to use if there is lots of power instead of the butane stovetop, a 12 volt vacuum instead of the broom, and perhaps a 12 volt slow cooker in the future.
Here is a video about tilting showing that a significant increase can be had https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G01A51L-5Vc
Is this important? Do any of you tilt?
NO!

I saw that silly video also. These so called "experts" do these half-arsed tests without following even the least bit of scientific practices and then proudly announce their results. In this particular test (I suggest you don’t even waste you time watching it) the first four of their five panels show no change or lower watts rather than higher then all of a sudden when they pop up the fifth and last panel, lol and behold a huge increase confirming their already determined results! I scream BOVINE POOP! ;)
 

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Tilting and parking you might as well as get portable ones then.

Wasn't Ford researching a fresnel len type cover for solar panels they were going to install on the C-MAX hybrid?
I agree with this. Since the roof is so tall, if you don't have an easy way to get to the tilt, it's going to be a pain to tilt unless you rig something up with lifts or extensions. There are a lot of different types of external hookups you can get for solar to install a portable panel. This might be a better option if you are parked in the shade (even in summer) and still want solar to charge the batteries. You can move it to somewhere with good sun.
 

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I never considered a tilt installation for my panels. I just move the van if I have to and keep the shadows from the trees off my roof.

After almost two years use, I do find my cheap wet cell batteries don't have the capacity they used to. I'll get a couple better AGMs in the Spring.
 

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I never considered a tilt installation for my panels. I just move the van if I have to and keep the shadows from the trees off my roof.

After almost two years use, I do find my cheap wet cell batteries don't have the capacity they used to. I'll get a couple better AGMs in the Spring.
Hi Rich,

I believe that for equivalent size and quality batteries that flooded batteries have a long life than AGMs. So, if you want best life, you might consider a higher quality flooded.

I say longer life for flooded because Trojan makes a high quality 220 AH, 6 volt golf cart battery in flooded and AGM. The batteries are made for the same purpose, have same capacity, and are the same size, but Trojan quotes an about 20% longer cycle life for the flooded version (not to mention half the price).

two years seems like a kind of short life -- wonder if something else is going on? My Costco flooded golf cart batteries are nearing 4 years and still seem fine.

Gary
 

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My Sam’s Club FLA batteries (East Penn) seem as good as new after 2-1/2 years. My last RV battery lasted 8 years and would still run everything. I can purchase two sets compared to AGM’s and have money left over.
 

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Hi Rich,

I believe that for equivalent size and quality batteries that flooded batteries have a long life than AGMs. So, if you want best life, you might consider a higher quality flooded.

I say longer life for flooded because Trojan makes a high quality 220 AH, 6 volt golf cart battery in flooded and AGM. The batteries are made for the same purpose, have same capacity, and are the same size, but Trojan quotes an about 20% longer cycle life for the flooded version (not to mention half the price).

two years seems like a kind of short life -- wonder if something else is going on? My Costco flooded golf cart batteries are nearing 4 years and still seem fine.

Gary
I'm just saying they don't seem to run the fridge as long as they used to before needing moved into the sun for recharge. And recharging seems to take longer to peak them out to 14.2. They have used no water over time that I can detect. I pull them every three months and check water levels and clean the terminals. They are just the cheapest things I could find at the time. On sale at O'Reilleys Auto parts when I needed them!
 

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Did not see the video mentioned above, but have general question. Hope it wasn't answered already.


I'm assuming that by "tilting" we are discussing a one-time tilt and not any kind of tracking by repositioning the van during the day. Is that correct? And if so, as I expect otherwise it would be a PITA, does that not limit how you orient the van too much? If tilt mechanism pivots in one direction only, do you park in order to tilt for maximum sun at noon, or what time?

To me it sounds like adding extra panels would be far preferable unless there isn't enough room.
 

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My thoughts exactly! Spending $125 on a tilting panel mount for a $100 solar panel makes about as much sense as opening the window while driving at 65 mph and showing $125 out the window! Some people just love to feel they are "techies" and in doing so only end up making life more difficult for themselves.

Personally I use my van to travel & relax, not cause more needless work for myself. But, if that's what turns you on - go for it. I'll be drinking a cold one while watching some guy farting around trying to get the best/most sun gain fer next to nothing really useful in the long run.
 

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I wasn't trying to dismiss the idea of tilting solar panels to increase capacity, but rather understand it better.

I've also become a little more selective in how I spend my free time, reducing work through simplicity, etc. In that light if I could install 2 panels in lieu of one, and eliminate the need to tilt at all, I would likely spend a few extra dollars. However, if tilting the maximum number of panels that fit on roof in summer allowed me to run an A/C during the day, that may very well be worth it.

Having said that, Gary's data suggest that the difference in summer wouldn't be very much, particularly further south where A/C is more important. And in winter I wouldn't need as much electricity anyway, so the extra capacity would likely be wasted anyway. For me it all comes down to the numbers.

By the way, there was an experimental RV displayed in Europe that had solar built all over the body. I like solar but still have a hard time justifying the design for our needs except for 3 to 5 days a year when we tailgate in warm weather at football games.


http://newatlas.com/dethleffs-electric-motorhome-concept/51096/#p479424
 

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Hi,
They make mounts that actually track the sun through the day -- this gains about 30% over just tilting the panel up and pointing it at a fixed azimuth. The tracking mounts I've seen are permanent ground mounts -- have not seen anything that could be mounted on an RV roof.

I like everything solar, but does not seem worth the trouble to track or tilt PV panels on a van unless you do a lot of mid winter camping -- and maybe not even then.

One interesting wrinkle might be to use a tilted up reflector for a flat PV panel -- the reflector could hinge down to lie flat on the PV panel when driving and tilted up when parked. Might be easier to work out a simple way to tilt the reflector than the PV panel (or not:)

Gary
 
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