Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Discussion about camping gear you recommend or have questions about, or camping techniques that have worked well for you. Maybe even gear that is well suited to the Fish Creek experience.
karen230
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Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby karen230 » Sun Aug 10, 2014 10:56 am

Hi All,

We just returned from FC and the rental units next to us had solar panels charging the battery so my question is, does anyone here use them? Please give me your opinion of them. I think DH would prefer a generator but in my head I cannot justify the cost since most of the campsites we go to have electric hook ups. I think solar panels would be a cheaper option for the amount of use but don't have the slightest clue about them. We have just purchased our first HTT so many things are new to us. Hoping to take it up to FC in the future when DH is more comfy towing it and with no electric to hook up to, I know our battery would never last the week. We have to ask our rental companies to leave us 2 batteries for the week we spend now. Also, I see people towing around the totes for their black water, do any of you have them? Again your opinion on those would be helpful.

Thanks.
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby Rollins Fan » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:22 am

We camp at Rollins, which has sites that are pretty shady. We have a solar panel, but I don't think we had things set up correctly and we would charge one battery while using the second one. We haven't used it in a few years, it was just that much more to bring. We got a new camper last year and they gave us a really nice battery. There is just the two of us, and we conserve battery power, and actually have left at the end of the week with it still indicating a full charge (not using solar). We used the public bathrooms most of the time, and public showers all the time. Our older camper would go about 5 days on a battery, but I think between the fridge and detector, that killed our battery more than any lights we used. I am personally not a fan of generators, and am not sure how often someone HAS to run one; I guess it might depend on just how much they are using things. We have no problem going 8 days and just stopped at dumping station on the way out.
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby CampADK » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:53 pm

I met the guy who sells them last year. Drawing a blank on his name, but he does work with Jim Shortell from HIS Rentals.

Anyways, he came by and introduced me to his portable panels. I even did some quick tests on my fairly shady site at Rollins. The smaller foldup panels didn't produce a lot... somewhere I have notes and info on the panels he sells... but I think it was on the order of 1.5A or so which I measured with an ampmeter or my Link 10 monitor in the Airstream. I do like the idea, but I would get the larger units and not expect them to do an awful lot. My 135W panel that I used to use worked pretty well on good light days... on a very open site giving up a good 8A in full sun. It was just too much bother and took up to much room in the trailer when we stored it. Besides that, as soon as you have shade on any part of the panel, the efficiency drops a good 85%. That was perhaps my main issue with my setup. I'd be sure to buy a panel that doesn't react that way.

If you get say 6 hours of good daylight, and can keep it mostly in the sun you might get about 9AH (1.5A X 6) which isn't bad (we typically use about 18AH in our Airstream daily (mostly power for the fridge electronics and the fridge fan).

Shade is definately a problem. Bringing a solar panel with you when you are booked on something like Site 130
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isn't going to do you much good.

You also need lots of wire so you can move the panel around during the day to keep it out of the shade, or be able to move your battery around... uuugh.

Lots to consider huh!?

Now about the tote issue. Perhaps there is the odd person toting around #2, but I think most of us are just toting around grey water (shower water/sink water). #2 in a tote would be nasty! :o

:tote: :poop: :gasp:
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby Rollins Fan » Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:40 am

I saw some photos of floating solar panels in the Ticonderoga area by following "American Guide" on Instagram. Interesting idea.
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby karen230 » Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:52 am

Thanks for the responses. We have basically killed the solar panel idea when DH bought another battery. We thought maybe the old battery wasn't holding a charge but now think that maybe we just weren't giving it enough time to charge :oops: . Anyway, he is going to take somewhere to have it tested and see if is actually ok or not. BUT, he has decided he just wants to keep the new battery anyway so if/when we take the new trailer to FC, we have a backup battery.

BTW, the guy from HIS delivered our trailer and he was helping out Steve Chambers. He had rental units on the sites on both sides of us and his units get solar panels with them. I talked to the folks that rented the units, they didn't seem impressed with the panels. But again, maybe it was the amount of shade that was involved in the sites (we were on 19).
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby CampADK » Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:31 am

Best investment for us was a Xantrex Link 10 monitor. Gives you everything you need to now regarding the state of your batteries, how much power you are using each day, and how much recharging you are doing. You can also see how much each light/appliance is using power wise. I especially use it to tell me if I need to run the generator or not. A lot of times campers are recharging blindly. Once your batteries are topped up pretty good its a waste of time running the generator. I typically charge until the recharge amperage is less than 5A. For example If the batteries are down somewhat, I usually start up the generator and see them charging at 20A or so. After an hour or so that charge rate falls below 10A. Once I approach 5A I shut the generator off. At 5A I'd have to run the generator for 4 hours compared to one hour if the batteries are down 20-30% and recharging at 20A.

There are similar monitors which offer a digital reading of voltage, charge/discharge amperage, AH used. Expect to pay over $200 however.
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby kkirsch » Fri Aug 15, 2014 3:23 pm

The main thing is battery usage the co2 and smoke detectors in most units use a bunch of power so we canceled them and installed the 9 volt battery variety. The next user is the interior lights which we changed several to LED bulbs. Following that is the water pump which we only switch on when needed. Finally the frig. Thank goodness it does not have an internal fan. With these mods and using a portable radio instead of the interior sound system will allow our 5 year old battery to run the rig for over 1.5 weeks and that is with staying inside playing cards for 2 days with lights on. Was tempting to get a solar panel to give us a bit extra to last 2 weeks but the price for Hickock's to charge the battery is $6 so I picked up a small spare battery (lawn mower battery) to give us a couple days while the other is being charged. If only manufacturers would make a constant pilot refrig then we would save even more. At one time they did and most water heaters are constant pilot rigs.
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Re: Solar Panel in Fish Creek

Postby Rollins Fan » Fri Aug 15, 2014 8:10 pm

Not sure if its the set up with our new (2 seasons now) camper equipment, or the better battery than came with it, but we have no problem getting 9 days out of our battery. We don't use the lights, use headlamps or other battery operated lights, we use a portable radio, only turn pump on rarely. I guess its the propane detector and fridge that still use the main battery, but we still had a full charge at the end of the week. Before I bought a generator, I would just get a second battery, if I ever get a chance to camp for 2 weeks at a time.
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Now posting wildlife videos on YouTube as nymcmoo
Other photos posted at http://www.wunderground.com with the handle of mcmoo
If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.

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