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Old 01-02-2019, 10:52 PM   #1
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Solar - Do you have it? Worth it?

Im curious as to who has solar and how is installed: roof vs ground.

Im guessing roof mounted would be more popular and possibly more expensive out the gate. You then dont have something else to set up upon arriving.

Do you see a lot of benefits? I dont see us doing a lot of extended boondocking where I see this would be a benefit.

Thanks
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Old 01-03-2019, 02:14 AM   #2
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I have two roof mounted roof panels. I think their great. Going to look into adding two more. I boondock frequently though. They were pretty cheap to buy and if you install yourself it is cheap. If you do not boondock you made not need them. One upside for you is that it keeps the batteries charged without being plugged in while your motorhome is not being used. One panel should do that for you. Is your motorhome prewired for solar? If so, I say install one or two.
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Old 01-03-2019, 02:30 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by sanjaun2 View Post
I have two roof mounted roof panels. I think their great. Going to look into adding two more. I boondock frequently though. They were pretty cheap to buy and if you install yourself it is cheap. If you do not boondock you made not need them. One upside for you is that it keeps the batteries charged without being plugged in while your motorhome is not being used. One panel should do that for you. Is your motorhome prewired for solar? If so, I say install one or two.
I dont know if our coach is pre-wired for that. We bought it on Dec 26 and take delivery in mid February. I am doing research on potential upgrades for the rig.

Thanks for the response.
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:03 AM   #4
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I have a 100 watt panel mounted on the roof, Only time I plug in is when we are camping. Batteries stay fully charged.
I lost a battery last winter when My GfCI outlet went. I kept resetting the outlet thought it was good but 2 weeks later tripped outlet and dead battery. Eventually replaced the outlet but battery didn't survive.
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:10 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by JJMON View Post
I dont know if our coach is pre-wired for that. We bought it on Dec 26 and take delivery in mid February. I am doing research on potential upgrades for the rig.

Thanks for the response.
From what I have read here and seen in person at CW it looks like most 2018 Thor products are prewired for a solar panel only (at least on the Gas motorhomes I have looked at).

You should find a junction box on the roof (sealed) and orange wires that go to your fuse panel area (not connected - just coiled up). So you would have to add a solar controller and add wiring to your battery(S) to complete the system.

If it a 2019 Thor Gas motorhome it will have everything prewired and a small (10 amp?) solar controler that I beleive is connected to the battery already. So all you should have to do is add one (or two) 100 watt panels to your system and your ready to go. But you are limited to 10 amp (that I have seen) input of solar.

Any Thor product 2017 or older I dont think has any solar setup.

Some of the high end DP may have had solar installs from factory sooner than 2018 (but Im not lucky enough to see them).

check your facts - I may not be 100% correct but this is what I have seen / read.

I hope this helps.
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:16 AM   #6
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I hope to install around 300 watts this year some time. I dont do a lot of dry camping right now but we do several day /weekend trips (mtn bike trips within 100 - 200 miles of home) and the generator gets old real quick (but necessary to run the AC anyway).

Plus I will be prepared for when we do some real boondocking down the road.
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:53 AM   #7
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my 31E is solar ready. came from thor with 10a charge controller and wires going to the roof. only thing needed is the panel. looking into upgrading controller and figuring out how much the 10 awg wire can take to figure out max solar using factory wires.
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Long & Winding road View Post
From what I have read here and seen in person at CW it looks like most 2018 Thor products are prewired for a solar panel only (at least on the Gas motorhomes I have looked at).

You should find a junction box on the roof (sealed) and orange wires that go to your fuse panel area (not connected - just coiled up). So you would have to add a solar controller and add wiring to your battery(S) to complete the system.

If it a 2019 Thor Gas motorhome it will have everything prewired and a small (10 amp?) solar controler that I beleive is connected to the battery already. So all you should have to do is add one (or two) 100 watt panels to your system and your ready to go. But you are limited to 10 amp (that I have seen) input of solar.

Any Thor product 2017 or older I dont think has any solar setup.

Some of the high end DP may have had solar installs from factory sooner than 2018 (but Im not lucky enough to see them).

check your facts - I may not be 100% correct but this is what I have seen / read.

I hope this helps.
Yes, this helps. Our coach is a 2017. Im doing research on future upgrades. I know Harbor Freight has a two panel kit that goes on sale for $150. So maybe this would be an option along with the other needed RV components.

Thanks
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Old 01-03-2019, 04:20 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by JJMON View Post
Harbor Freight has a two panel kit that goes on sale for $150.
My opinion, don't waste your $ on HF panels. Better panels available online with higher wattage output.

Boondocking R Us, rarely plugged into anything. I use a small tri-fold 100 watt set of panels and controller to keep batts charged, moving them for ideal sun location when in the pines. Fixed panels on the roof and your RV parked in the shade for the weekend, not the best mix.
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Old 01-04-2019, 02:11 PM   #10
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I do quite a bit of boon docking thus solar was well worth my while. With a means to add fresh water and drain holding tanks, I could spend the winter with no electrical hook up. I also have an extend a stay for a portable propane cylinder. I went with roof mounted. I documented my install here. http://www.thorforums.com/forums/f27...31e-14555.html My model is a 31Y. At the time of posting this I must have had a senior moment.
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Old 01-04-2019, 02:31 PM   #11
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If you look around in Amazon: they've got some complete kits that are attractively priced.
We'll end up with solar panels on our new rig: but we'll probably get a "suitcase kit".
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Old 01-04-2019, 03:08 PM   #12
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having 'solar' is and easy answer to your initial question, but the question of whether it's 'worth' it or not is highly debatable ... it really all depends on 'how' you camp, or rv, and/or how 'often' you are off-grid.

I realize that solar is popular, especially as a 'silent' charging for the battery bank, but the financial benefit may not be as easily ascertained, as they are so many variables when you are considering the use of solar for a 'mobile' environment, like your RV.

Here's what I mean:

- for many of us, who own motorhomes, the Alternator is usually connected to provide charging to your House battery bank, while driving, or while the engine is running.

- when plugged into shore power at a campground or rv park, or anywhere, you will have charging for your House batteries.

- when you run your generator, whether the onboard type many of us already have on our RV, or a separate one, it will be charging the House batteries.

- Solar, then, is only really employed when any of these other power situations are not in play. If you park at your favorite campground or rv park and plug in, you'll not really ever need it. If you overnight at a parking lot along the way, it won't really do anything for you since you usually are not parking during sunlight hours.

I agree that those who really off-grid a lot, and for several days or more at a time, can use Solar power to help offset their generator run time, but whether the upfront COST of solar can be financially offset by the relatively small amount of solar power you will ever consume, is the real question.
Many of us will do it anyway, just because it's the 'thing', and it makes us feel good, and gives us more 'quiet time' between generator runs.
Others will admit that while solar has some positive attributes, especially if you are at a ground-based home where the cost of Utility electric service can be offset by the use of the solar, and eventually become a cost savings, it is really hard for it to be a great effective power supply for the general RVing public.
There will be some special users of solar that can certainly prove that their 'set up' is giving them an almost totally off-grid existence, but the vast, vast majority of RVrs who do not 'live' in their home-on-wheels may find that it's simply a feel-good purchase, without much understanding of the true financial aspect.

I would suspect that most will have it because 'others' do and they don't want to be somehow left out of what everyone else is doing - it's part of the natural human reaction.

I have some, and I crunched the numbers before a two month journey to Alaska and back, with many off-grid overnights, and purchased it because I could better justify the 'offset' of diesel fuel costs, though that trip alone did not justify the full purchase, only the expediting of the 'break even' point, especially as we tend to off-grid overnights quite a bit more than the average RVr, and have put 20,000 miles a year on our coach. I will admit, though, that without the solar, our travels and overnights would probably not have been impacted with any great degree, with or without.
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Old 01-04-2019, 03:43 PM   #13
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I currently have 200W of panels on the roof and plan on adding another 200W this spring. I also have a 120W portable panel that connects to an SAE connector on a pig tail to my solar controller. With the 400W on the roof plus the portable, that will max out my controller's capacity (a little over, but I doubt I'll ever see max panel output). The portable is a hold over from when we had a trailer, but is handy to be able to locate it in the sun if the rig is shaded.

We dry camp a fair amount of time so the solar really helps keep the batteries charged. Also my storage location doesn't have power so the solar keeps the batteries charged all winter.

The solar panels are 100W (each) Windy Nation flexible panels fixed to the roof with Eternabond tape

Solar controller is a Bogart Electronics SC-2030. This is a PWM 40 amp controller chosen mainly because it integrates with my Trimetric battery monitor.

Solar controller is mounted in the storage compartment nearest the battery compartment, but is still about 10 cable-feet away. I routed two No 8 cables down the refrigerator vent and then into the belly bay below the refrigerator. Then across the bay to the driver side storage bay. Solar panels are run in parallel due to the PWM controller and a desire to have them independent. The No. 10 panel wire connects to the No 8 trunk cable under the refrigerator vent cover.

If you use the Thor provided wiring, you probably can't support more than 200W unless you use an MPPT controller and series the panels.

Another spring plan is installation of a 1500W Windy Nation inverter in the same bay with the solar controller. I need bigger battery side wire for the inverter so I'll replace the No. 10 I'm using for the solar controller with 1/0 and tie in the solar controller output to the inverter battery terminals.
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Old 01-04-2019, 04:07 PM   #14
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[QUOTE=TurnerFam;160611]having 'solar' is and easy answer to your initial question, but the question of whether it's 'worth' it or not is highly debatable ... it really all depends on 'how' you camp, or rv, and/or how 'often' you are off-grid.[QUOTE]

I agree: the question of it's usefulness can only be answered by the person using it.
Sometimes: that answer is "Just because...".
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Old 01-04-2019, 04:45 PM   #15
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Well Said Turnerfam.... you sumed it up nicely.

No everyone really "needs it" but they all "want it". Just figure out what you really need and how much you really want to spend on it.

Denvertransplant - Sounds like a nice system... You will really love it once you have the inverter installed.

I think for most of us 200 watts would be enough to supplement our energy needs. But if your boondocking a week at a time ....ramp it up accordingly. But dont forget to add more batteries. 600 watts of solar sound nice but if you only have one battery its just a waste of money.

I think most figure about 100 watts of solar per one battery but I would figure 150 watt per one to account for cloudy days and lost efficiency with heat, age of system, long wire etc.

I really dont need solar but its still on my long term mods list. Go figure.

Plus I would think it would be great "selling feature" down the road (but dont expect to get your money back out of it).
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Old 01-04-2019, 06:49 PM   #16
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Solar is great for sailboats and RVers that like to boondock out in the wide open. When I boondock/camp here in the south I try to keep my RV in the shade so solar wouldn't be too effective. I use a Honda 2000 on eco mode to keep my batteries charged as necessary, an inverter to power TVs, fans, and other smaller appliances when required, and crank up the onboard generator if I absolutely need to run that Air Conditioner.

So for me, no, solar would not be worth it.
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Old 01-04-2019, 06:52 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurnerFam View Post
having 'solar' is and easy answer to your initial question, but the question of whether it's 'worth' it or not is highly debatable ... it really all depends on 'how' you camp, or rv, and/or how 'often' you are off-grid.

I realize that solar is popular, especially as a 'silent' charging for the battery bank, but the financial benefit may not be as easily ascertained, as they are so many variables when you are considering the use of solar for a 'mobile' environment, like your RV.

Here's what I mean:

- for many of us, who own motorhomes, the Alternator is usually connected to provide charging to your House battery bank, while driving, or while the engine is running.

- when plugged into shore power at a campground or rv park, or anywhere, you will have charging for your House batteries.

- when you run your generator, whether the onboard type many of us already have on our RV, or a separate one, it will be charging the House batteries.

- Solar, then, is only really employed when any of these other power situations are not in play. If you park at your favorite campground or rv park and plug in, you'll not really ever need it. If you overnight at a parking lot along the way, it won't really do anything for you since you usually are not parking during sunlight hours.

I agree that those who really off-grid a lot, and for several days or more at a time, can use Solar power to help offset their generator run time, but whether the upfront COST of solar can be financially offset by the relatively small amount of solar power you will ever consume, is the real question.
Many of us will do it anyway, just because it's the 'thing', and it makes us feel good, and gives us more 'quiet time' between generator runs.
Others will admit that while solar has some positive attributes, especially if you are at a ground-based home where the cost of Utility electric service can be offset by the use of the solar, and eventually become a cost savings, it is really hard for it to be a great effective power supply for the general RVing public.
There will be some special users of solar that can certainly prove that their 'set up' is giving them an almost totally off-grid existence, but the vast, vast majority of RVrs who do not 'live' in their home-on-wheels may find that it's simply a feel-good purchase, without much understanding of the true financial aspect.

I would suspect that most will have it because 'others' do and they don't want to be somehow left out of what everyone else is doing - it's part of the natural human reaction.

I have some, and I crunched the numbers before a two month journey to Alaska and back, with many off-grid overnights, and purchased it because I could better justify the 'offset' of diesel fuel costs, though that trip alone did not justify the full purchase, only the expediting of the 'break even' point, especially as we tend to off-grid overnights quite a bit more than the average RVr, and have put 20,000 miles a year on our coach. I will admit, though, that without the solar, our travels and overnights would probably not have been impacted with any great degree, with or without.

Thanks, very well said.
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Old 01-04-2019, 07:57 PM   #18
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the question of SOLAR often brings differing views from RVrs and home owners alike, but it makes for a good conversation - in the end, the learning experience helps reveal the onboard systems that we already have that are tested and true, with or without the sun. The sun is a great 'free' source, but is relatively short-lived when it comes to how 'long' it's available, 'when' it's available, and even how 'much' of it is usable - it's a hard condition to attach financial comparisons to.

And, we haven't really made the dive into the cost of the STORAGE - i.e., batteries.
While most any RV already has a battery, or set of batteries, onboard, ramping up your system for SOLAR also has to take into consideration the amount of storage you have for the solar power itself, as the solar really doesn't power anything directly, but indirectly thru the battery bank, by adding recharging as the batteries are used by the 12v system needs.
If, for example, you want to add 400w of solar to the roof, with a 20-30amp controller, for somewhere between 18-24amps on good sun hours, you want a set of batteries in enough numbers/amp hours to be able to STORE all that great power, at least the amount above and beyond what you are 'using' during that time. If you have filled your battery bank in the first two hours, but have 4 more good hours of sunshine, then you've oversized your SOLAR power for the small battery bank you have to store the power in. The 4 good hours are essentially 'lost'.

You get the idea. Batteries and storage may be just as important as the number of solar panels we have, and yet the conversation rarely includes that calculation. Some issues may be that batteries are heavy, and sometimes hard to find a place to have mount them, along with the additional wiring that helps mandate that they be 'close' to each other.

Maybe the 'tesla' type car batteries are a better way to 'store' power in RVs(?)...
just a thought.
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Old 01-04-2019, 08:14 PM   #19
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[QUOTE=
Maybe the 'tesla' type car batteries are a better way to 'store' power in RVs(?)...
just a thought.[/QUOTE]

Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move posted a set of videos of how he retrofit a Tesla battery into their RV.



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Old 01-04-2019, 10:55 PM   #20
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I am a firm believer in solar and if you want to boondock a necessity I feel. I have 900 watts, 2000 watt inverter and 400AH of Lithium batteries. 100watt panels on amazon are around $120. If you are going to buy panels buy a name brand, you should try and keep all the panels the same wattage, same voltage, there are panels that vary from 18.5-21v. Mixing supposedly degrades the higher output panels. I can't say I ever noticed a huge difference but there certainly was a difference. I ended up using 2 solar groups, I have 4) 75 watt panels in one loop and 6) 100 watt panels in another, each loop has its own controller.
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