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Old 08-23-2018, 04:44 PM   #1
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Cool Do you use a solar trickle charger?

Hi all!

I came across a solar trickle charger on Harbor Freight for $13. I don't think it's strong enough but it gave me the idea that maybe a bigger one would work to keep the battery charged up when we dry camp. We only use the lights for the most part. What do you think? Does anybody successfully use a cheap $25 or less solar trickle charger?

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Old 08-24-2018, 12:56 AM   #2
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Well the avarage deep cycle battery has between 75 and 100 amp hours. A 5 watt solar trickle charger puts in around 0.4 amps per hour. So a good 10 hous of direct sun might get you 4 amps into the battery. You could never use it to charge a battery but it might be enough to keep a fully charged battery topped off. Better bet would be to buy a 15 or 25 watt charger. And if you want something that will charge at around 4 amp per hour, you will need about 50 watts.
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Old 08-24-2018, 09:16 AM   #3
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For whatever it's worth, we use a 120 watt portable solar panel -- it replenishes our battery completely, every day. But we travel in sunny places and are minimal users of electricity.
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Old 08-24-2018, 09:43 AM   #4
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Thanks guys! Pretty much what I thought. I am just not knowledgeable enough about solar, and would love to get into it. Thought maybe this would be a painless way. Lol

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Old 08-24-2018, 12:06 PM   #5
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A portable suitcase model is so easy -- plug and play. Set the panel in the sun. Use the clips to clip it to your battery. That's it.

We transport our panel on the bed, laying down. When we get to the campsite, we take it out and set it up.
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Old 08-25-2018, 04:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by profdant139 View Post
A portable suitcase model is so easy -- plug and play. Set the panel in the sun. Use the clips to clip it to your battery. That's it.

We transport our panel on the bed, laying down. When we get to the campsite, we take it out and set it up.
Would you mind telling me what kind you have?

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Old 08-25-2018, 08:31 PM   #7
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It's a no-name (literally) knock-off of a Renogy suitcase model. If you are willing to gamble on quality, you can get imitation panels for a lot cheaper than the name brands. I took a chance on this one, and it paid off. I got it used from a private party.
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Old 08-26-2018, 07:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaintyLiz View Post
Hi all!

I came across a solar trickle charger on Harbor Freight for $13. I don't think it's strong enough but it gave me the idea that maybe a bigger one would work to keep the battery charged up when we dry camp. We only use the lights for the most part. What do you think? Does anybody successfully use a cheap $25 or less solar trickle charger?

Liz
If this is what you are referring to ~ don't waste your $$ as they are useless.

Don't ask how I know.
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Old 08-26-2018, 02:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
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If this is what you are referring to ~ don't waste your $$ as they are useless.

Don't ask how I know.
Lol... Sounds like some of my experience.

Anyone have a recommendation? This is why I don't have solar, I get too confused.

Liz
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Old 08-26-2018, 04:04 PM   #10
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Liz, if you want a 120 watt portable solar panel, you have a few choices. You can go to Amazon and buy from a reputable manufacturer, which will cost you several hundred dollars. (Based on what I now know, I wish I had done that several years ago, instead of waiting for a bargain to fall into my lap.)

Or you can buy a no-name unit on Amazon -- much cheaper, but what if it does not work well?

Or you can buy from a private party on Craigslist or ebay. With Craigslist, you can meet the seller and see if the panel really works -- just hook it up to a battery and put the leads of your multi-meter on the terminals. It should read 13 volts or more.

That is what I did. I saved a few hundred bucks; but as I said above, I should have gotten the panel several years earlier, for full price. If you are careful with electricity, a 120 watt panel might be plenty -- it is for us. It has given us a lot of freedom. We almost never run our generator these days, and that is enormously valuable -- we go camping in order to enjoy the silence, a big contrast to our noisy home in suburban Orange County, Calif.

Here is a link to a good unit -- not cheap, though:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...d_i=2236628011
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:39 PM   #11
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Thank you! Ok, now i will show my complete lack of understanding, and yes, I have tried researching it, but I just don't get it... If I get something like you described, it will power the 12v system but but the 120v, right? I would need a larger more elaborate system with an inverter, etc and more batteries for 120v? Not that I have to have 120, but I do like my dishwasher lol.

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Old 08-26-2018, 10:00 PM   #12
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Exactly -- the solar panel charges the batteries, which are 12 volt. But with an inverter, you can convert the 12 volt to 120 volt, which (in theory) can run the dishwasher.

In reality, unless you have a huge bank of batteries, they won't run much in the way of 120 volt appliances. So with a 120 watt (not volt) panel, we recharge our batteries, and turn on the inverter, and recharge my laptop and our phones. Not a big draw on the batteries.

But for us, a 120 watt panel is enough to power the fridge (which runs on propane but needs 12 volt for the control panel). The water pump, the furnace, the lights, and a few other things run directly on 12 volt, with no need for an inverter.

My advice is one thing at a time. Don't even worry about an inverter yet. Start small. Keep your batteries topped up.

If you find that you are doing a lot of off-grid camping in hot weather and need the air conditioning, it is almost impossible to have enough solar and enough battery to do the job. Some folks do, but not many.
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:01 PM   #13
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One more thought -- don't be intimidated by all this stuff. It is really learnable. I knew nothing about any of this until a few years ago. Be patient with yourself!
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Old 08-27-2018, 08:52 AM   #14
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Thank you for the clear explanation Profdant139! That is what I will eventually do. The only dry camping we've done has been national parks. We are in the 189FBR full time, but staying at my sister's land until we get our house sold and our home base (sister's place) ready for storage. I am so frustrated, we haven't gone anywhere this year!!! On the good side, we have had time to refine the camper amenities for full time and see what we really use/need. (Dishwasher & washing machine)

Thank you again!

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Old 08-27-2018, 09:04 AM   #15
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Oh, p.s. I actually have a little tiny inverter that I keep in the truck, I could plug that into the 12 volt system and charge the computer! Thanks for the idea.

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Old 08-27-2018, 09:16 AM   #16
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Liz, if you are full-timing and want a lot more solar power, you may wish to look into roof panels. I am not sure how much real estate is available on top of your trailer -- mine is so small that we could maybe put 200 watts up there, which is not much.

A lot of folks have installed roof systems without professional help. I am not good with fancy electrical projects (simple ones are ok), so I would probably get a pro involved.

There are roof kits available, with the mounting hardware and the controllers and the cables and so forth.

The downside of roof panels is that they are flat, rather than tilted toward the sun. The good part is that they are always deployed and always out of the way. We always try to camp in the shade, so a portable unit works better for us (since it can be placed in a sunny patch).
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Old 08-27-2018, 10:52 AM   #17
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We will see if we work up to more boondocking. We are in our 60s and not brave lol. Plus we don't use much electricity while in national parks. So just keeping the battery topped off is probably enough.

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Old 09-03-2018, 06:06 PM   #18
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Default 75 watt panel and an MPPT charge controller

This year we started using a 75 watt solar panel as our batteries (2x 6volt deep cycle) are getting older and not great at fully recharging, but still very capable of keeping things functioning. It was much cheaper at this point to just get the solar panel and charge controller than replacing the batteries. We set up for a few days and keep the solar panel connected and pointing somewhat toward the sun through the day. I picked up a very inexpensive IP68 waterproof rated MPPT solar street light controller from China. It's really designed to be a stand alone solar street lamp widget, but I have it just connected from the solar panel through the charge controller to the batteries, and just capped off the street light connection. An MPPT controller is designed to work with a "larger" solar panel like the 75 watt one I bought. The solar panel actually produces up to 21 volts and the charge controller is designed to do it's magic with that voltage and adjust it down to 12 volts to charge the battery more efficiently. You will need some sort of charge controller like that if your solar panel produces a higher voltage than the batteries store. Don't get a PWM charge controller as they are less efficient. You should get about 30% better results from an MPPT controller. Here's a link to the sort of MPPT controller I am using http://www.alibaba.com/product-detai...584a7b9eapOvGe
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Old 09-03-2018, 06:42 PM   #19
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Default More like this controller

I couldn't find a link to the exact controller we are using, but this one is closer to the model I have. Mcc15 High Quality 12v 24v 15a Mppt Solar Charge Controller Constant Current Driver With Remote Control - Buy 15a Ip68 Waterproof Solar Street Light Battery Controller,High Quality 12v 24v 15a Mppt Solar Charge Controller With Constant Current Driver
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Old 09-03-2018, 07:07 PM   #20
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We have never needed a solar panel or trickle charger with this unit so far and I have been boondocking for 5 days straight with one 12 volt battery. I do not haul the generator any more as I found I don't need it. I wait until the battery meter reads 2/3 full than charge it with the tow vehicle for 10 minutes which tops it up to full every time. If I do not have shore power when setting up I do not unplug the trailer from the truck until the slide and jacks are finished being used to start with a full battery. This system has worked for me so far and my battery shows no signs of ill effects and we only have power 50% of the time when camping . Silverado
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