Generator or Solar panel for Caravan?

Submitted: Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 10:31
ThreadID: 133106 Views:4541 Replies:11 FollowUps:16
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In prep for a trip, I am doing some research, and it seem I have completely fallen into the dilemma, a generator or a solar panel cliche....

Has anyone ever brought these generator and solar panel?

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/NEW-GenTrax-Max-3-7kVA-KW-Rated-3-2-GENERATOR-Inverter-Portable-Petrol-Camping-/162118319570?hash=item25bf013dd2:g:P~kAAOSwbsBXmB7d

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/12V-250W-Solar-Panel-Generator-Power-Mono-Caravan-Camping-Battery-Charging-Kit-/251881313531?hash=item3aa54bd4fb:g:e30AAOSwARZXmB6V

I have a roadstar caravan with enough room on the roof to mount 1 solar panel to keep up my fridge/freezer waeco 60L, but this second hand comes with a terrible alternator(told by the fella I bought from). And I was a bit worried if I spend a big money on all of these. I got 2 deep cycle dual battery system, do I have to get another alternator?

Sorry I am new into this stuff, would solar panel be a long consistent power source, and less investment? Or a generator is better?

Thanks in advance
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Reply By: TomH - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 11:20

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 11:20
Your neighbours wont thank you if you have a generator. At that price you will get what you pay for.
There is a reason why Hondas and Yamahas are in the $2000 range.
Dont understand what you mean by the alternator

Read the comments of the web page about capacity of the genny, It may be rather optomistic about the output I would think
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Follow Up By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 12:46

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 12:46
I agree if you want to camp with others forget the generator. (hate them and unnecessary) maybe as emergency backup for health equipment but vans should be designed around not needing generators.

If you have neither then caravan parks maybe for you

Solar panels are the way to go.
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Follow Up By: Paul E6 - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:29

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:29
Disagree, I love my little compact gennie
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Follow Up By: Member - Blue M - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 21:43

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 21:43
I have got 720 watts of solar and 5x120 ah full river batteries in my rig. I also have a generator.

I have been over here in W.A. for the past 4 months and have had to top up several times with the gennie.

If the sun don't shine, you get no power to run things.
I would like to be able to get 4 days out of a 100 ah battery like some can, running a fridge / freezer and accessories, but I can't.

As I have stated before, if you are there first I will ask if you mind if a run my genie, if you do I will go somewhere else and run it.
Should you arrive after I get there, I will tell you when I am going to run my genie, and if you don't like it you can do like wise.

Cheers

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Follow Up By: GREG T11 - Tuesday, Aug 02, 2016 at 21:50

Tuesday, Aug 02, 2016 at 21:50
Ha, does that mean I can snore as loud as I want, I warn you I can snore louder than your bloody gennie, my wife can back me up on that. I guarantee it I could out do your tv and diesel heater too.
We travel in a camper trailer so sound levels are clear and crisp. Oh and when it's cold enough where you might put a heater on we would need a fire, and perhaps some green ginger wine, and being nice and warm around the fire we might stay up a little while and get a little melody going, a singalong of sorts, probably sounds a bit like a dog howling at the moon thing for the adjacent "campers"
We don't put music on but if we did we would warn you first and you would then have the choice to " GO ELSEWHERE "
The above is all bull apart from the snoring but doesn't it sound arrogant. Along the lines of your last paragraph for instance.
Each to their own I guess.
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Follow Up By: Genny - Wednesday, Aug 03, 2016 at 21:42

Wednesday, Aug 03, 2016 at 21:42
I reckon it was fair enough.
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Wednesday, Aug 03, 2016 at 23:09

Wednesday, Aug 03, 2016 at 23:09
You wouldn't be biased though would you "Genny".

Sorry couldn't resist LOL

Cheers

Anthony
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Work - a 40 hour interuption to my weekend!
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Reply By: Notso - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 12:47

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 12:47
It depends a lot on what you want to run when camping. If you just want the lights, television and maybe a small 12 volt freezer then the Solar panel would most likely do you fine. The other thing you need is a decent method of charging the Van batteries while you are travelling.

You either need some very substantial wiring from the car to the van or put a 12 volt to 12 volt charger in the van to charge your batteries whilst towing. This allows you to use less substantial wiring but you'd still need up around 6 B & S sized cable.

Most Alternators in vehicles will handle charging the van batteries. Your mate may have been referring to the Smart Alternators that some vehicles have in them. I suggest you contact a reputable Auto Electrician for more advice.
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Reply By: Sigmund - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 13:29

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 13:29
Many public camps don't permit or limit the use of gennies.

And it's not possible to answer your question till you work out how many amps you need to supply over how many hours. Then what your total batteries Ah are, then in the case of solar the daily sun hours for the region you're travelling in.
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Reply By: Paul E6 - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:27

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:27
I carry a small gennie to run lights and fridge when necessary, or charge the battery apart from the alternator.
It weighs eight kg and is the size of half a jerrycan, so it's a no brainer for me.
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Follow Up By: Gronk - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:35

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:35
If you also had a solar panel....and it was sunny....then that would be a no brainer as well.

Zero noise, no petrol needed.

Then IF it was raining for a few days, the gennie would be a good back up !!
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Follow Up By: Paul E6 - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 23:26

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 23:26
A genni produces more power much faster than any panel, and you run your fridge on 240 proper volts. You can't keep things frozen properly on battery for a real length of time.
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 11:52

Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 11:52
Sorry Paul...

That is absolute rubbish.

I travelled around Australia for 8 months. I would have periods where I was not connected to 240 volts for periods of 4-5 weeks at a time. In fact the only time I connected the trailer to mains power was when I parked it up and left it or was in a capital city caravan park doing the touristy stuff. My National Luna maintained - 18 on the freezer. (Nothing like eating a Drumstick icecream on the top of Big Red).

A well maintained solar setup with adequate production, good batteries and sensible power consumption does work.

Cheers

Anthony
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Follow Up By: Member - Blue M - Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 22:14

Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 22:14
ACD 1, what you wrote in your last paragraph is correct,

"A well maintained solar etc, etc, and sensible power consumption does work"
I have an adequate solar and batteries set up, but you also need sunshine to make them work.

I did all my testing at home (south west Qld) for a month or so, where I had full sun shine and everything was good and charged by lunch time.

But come to the S.W. of W.A. In the winter time when you run your lights, a 12 volt 175 ltr fridge, a diesel heater, a Cpap machine, watch a few shows on the TV as well as a 40 ltr Engel as a freezer, and it is a whole new ball game.
There are times when you only get 3 hours sunshine a day, sometimes none for days at a time is not enough to maintain the batteries.

That is when the genie comes.

The wife and I don't switch the lights out much before 02:00 each night, as we love to read a lot, as well as travel and stay in nice spots.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 22:56

Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 22:56
BlueM

My comments do not have anything to do with using a gennie. They relate to Pauls comment about not being able to maintain frozen foods for a real length of time.

If you choose to quote someone, do it in its entirety. You chose to leave out the pertinent point so I'll say it again...

"A well maintained solar setup with adequate production, good batteries and sensible power consumption does work."

From your own words, I would suggest that your power consumption is not sensible nor does you solar setup it have adequate production.

"In the winter time when you run your lights, a 12 volt 175 ltr fridge, a diesel heater, a Cpap machine, watch a few shows on the TV as well as a 40 ltr Engel as a freezer, and it is a whole new ball game." You also state "The wife and I don't switch the lights out much before 02:00 each night..."

No wonder your solar setup won't keep up. I doubt it would anywhere.

As for your assumption that "There are times when you only get 3 hours sunshine a day, sometimes none for days at a time is not enough to maintain the batteries." Again, what a load of rubbish.

I lived in Manjimup for a number of years, I taught in Nannup during this time. The school where I was the boss was powered entirely by battery power that was recharged by solar panels. Not only was the school fed by the solar/battery array, so to was the hostel that housed 10 teenage boys and 3 adult carers.

Cheers

Anthony
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Follow Up By: Member - lyndon NT - Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 23:37

Saturday, Jul 30, 2016 at 23:37
Ditto, Paul has scored some free Crack from somewhere.................
Sorry Paul :-)
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Decide now what you will,
Place faith not in tomorrow
For the clock may then be still

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Follow Up By: Paul E6 - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 13:25

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 13:25
Thanks for the feedback guys. Well Lyndon nt, your nudge nudge wink comment about me being on drugs works well on an anonymous forum.
Better than in person.
I disagree on certain aspects of your opinions,as per some of the above drawbacks pertaining to solar. I have some 240v appliances to power consistently. You scored a point against me about freezing temps, and that's how you view it obviously. Well done, I'm humbled by your expertise, but I don't agree entirely.
I too have traveled for extended periods.
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Follow Up By: Nigel Migraine - Friday, Aug 05, 2016 at 17:03

Friday, Aug 05, 2016 at 17:03
"It weighs eight kg and is the size of half a jerrycan"

What make and model of generator is that please Paul?
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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:39

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:39
You really do need to go and talk to some technical experts in solar for caravans, after you have decided on just what you need to run. New panels are much more efficient than those of even five years ago and you are unlikely to ever need a generator if you have a reasonable solar set up. You certainly don't need blazing hot Qld sun on your van for hours each day to charge batteries with solar panels these days. Remember that many campgrounds ban generators altogether or severely restrict the hours you can run them. Cheap ones are very noisy and never seem to give the power claimed. You have to carry fuel for a generator which can create further problems. Solar will add to the resale value of your van if that is important to you. Lynne
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Reply By: Member - nick b - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:58

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 15:58
I would say it will depend on your trip , how long your going for & where .
If you stay in shady camps solar will next to no good . Always over engineer your requirements.

But if your getting generator only get the good one's .... not crap ~ waste of money .
We are camped next to people now & can hardly hear there honda !!!
If this is your big trip go big Solar & good genny 2 kva .
Cheers Nick b
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Reply By: rumpig - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 16:20

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 16:20
I have a Honda 2KVA genny, but can't recall the last time i used it when camping, these days i use solar. Who wants to listen to a genny running when you can listen to nature instead.
AnswerID: 602907

Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 09:38

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 09:38
I also have a Honda eu20i in the front of the trailer (just in case).

I have never had the need to use it to charge the batteries.

Cheers

Anthony
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Reply By: 2517. - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 16:26

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 16:26
Solar is the way to go for a $1000 you can buy 2 200w panel and all you need to run it, mount it on the roof and end of problem.I assume you have a charger in caravan for when you are on power,this is all I have even thou I have a dc charger in Toyota never plug the lead in to caravan you will be amazed how little time it take to charge them up.Honda generator stay in garage.
AnswerID: 602909

Reply By: eaglefree - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 16:38

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 16:38
Been away for 12 weeks
Here's my thoughts

We run- cpap for 8 hours, waEco cf18 fridge (same motor as yours I believe), lights.
120w solar on roof, 90w mobile. 100amp battery.

Had my time again I'd go an extra 120w on the roof. Yamaha Genny as back up to give the battery a boost.
Came to this conclusion at Albany, battery going under 12 volts meaning on the way to going flat. Battery shop put it on charge for two days and all OK but told me 1/ buy a 12amp charger so when at a van park charging battery up helps a lot 2/ get more solar...120w alone while driving isn't enough.
Have thought about a Yamaha 1kva Genny but think the extra panel will be enough.
AnswerID: 602910

Follow Up By: Gronk - Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 20:22

Friday, Jul 29, 2016 at 20:22
With your setup, I'd recommend adding another battery and solar panel.

No use having a fully charged battery at 4pm if it won't comfortably last the night running your cpap and fridge. Even worse is if the solar isn't fully recharging the battery either..
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Reply By: Pete Jackman (SA) - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 16:03

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 16:03
I had a Gentrax generator that failed after 10 hours use. No service support available anywhere. After 15 months of arguing with the supplier and finally a small claims court case I was eventually refunded.

We camp with 160W solar, 120 AH deep cycle and get uy on solar alone exept in the worst conditions. Waeco CF50, lights, tablets and phones and TV if we have the van with us.

Cheers

Pete
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Reply By: Ron N - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 11:46

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 11:46
Someone has a very poor understanding of solar power when they talk of "only 3 hrs sunshine a day", stopping solar panels from producing good power output.

You don't need sunshine for solar panels to produce a reasonable amount of power.
In fact, you can often get substantial power output from them on cloudy days.
Clouds don't stop the all suns rays, that's why you get can get sunburnt on cloudy days.

It's the thickness of the cloud cover, and the intensity (length of time the thick cloud hangs around) that governs solar power output.

I've had solar panels on the house for 5 years and I watch the power output daily. Cloudy days often produce only modest reductions in power output.

As regards gensets - be aware that all Chinese gensets are over-rated in their output, have much lower levels of quality control than the "name brands" - and they have very little by way of backup, as regards spares and service.

They are like toasters of today - your toaster burns out, you don't even consider fixing it, you throw it away and buy a new one. Chinese gensets are the same.

Cheers, Ron.
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