Solar Panels

Submitted: Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 13:24
ThreadID: 23557 Views:3290 Replies:18 FollowUps:15
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Im looking at possibbly buying a solar panel to keep the batteries in my camper trailer charged when we stay in 1 place for any length of time. We normally just run a couple of lights and are about to buy a wacoe 50 l fridge freezer. What I would like to know is what size panel, what purchase cost , and where did you purchase your solar panel from. Thanking you in advance, Matt
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Reply By: DEANO WA - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 14:19

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 14:19
matthew, depends on your total of amps required to run everthing at once, but as a general i have 80l waeco and flouro's run by 200ah deep cycle battery and 100w solar panel. this setup lets me run contin for 1 week approx (sunshine dependant).Im top ending next season and will hook in another panel as currently not enough. panel approx $750 inc regulator, battery approx $220 and you'd have to look for nsw panel shops?? I also hook into car battery for charging off alternator while running using a marine battery switch
Hope this helps

AnswerID: 114232

Follow Up By: Skinny- Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 13:44

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 13:44
Did you say 100w solar panel. Good lord how much did that cost?

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Reply By: Member - iMusty (VIC) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 14:37

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 14:37
I did this excersize and it just blows out.

The more people (experts) I spoke too the more I got confused.

The final straw for me was when I heard that the total energy it takes to make/buy/design and pay for a system to meet my needs out ways the total energy returned.

So what was the point?

Dollars was my reason for stopping.

Search the threads prior to this one and you'll uncover a myriad of advice and knoweldge. But it all stops and starts with money.

I will say though one thing I learned is that there is no SURE way to work it out FOR SURE because just don't know how much sun and cloud cover you will actually get.

It is not a guessing game but ...

My finaly thought is ... buy as many panels and batteries as you can afford to carry to harness and store the energy. And if it is not enough in the end then no calculation would of surficed as you couldnt afford any more anyway.

AnswerID: 114235

Follow Up By: viz - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 19:28

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 19:28
Generator. $80

Noisy, unsociable, impolite. And sometimes banned.

But still $80.

Been through the solar panel exercise meself. Got the generator...

FollowupID: 370244

Follow Up By: Member - Davoe (Widgiemooltha) - Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 at 01:33

Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 at 01:33
yep If i thought i had a use for one I would I mean you cant even get a half decent battery for that!!!
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Reply By: V8troopie - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 14:42

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 14:42
Matthew, the best answer anybody could give you is "it depends".
Seriously, there are far too many variables for a straight answer.

you have to consider the sunshine hours where you travel, the capacity of your battery, the length of stay, wether you run the Waeco as a fridge or a freezer, and on and on.

There is a lot of info on the net about your dilemma but you still have to come up with a Amp hour figure ( number of amps your fridge & lights draw times number of hours it needs running per 24h) per day to get you to the starting block.

Then you find out how many solar hours are available at the time of the year where you are travelling, add a big margin for cloudy weather and work backwards for various size panels to get a figure what number of Ah they would put back into the battery. You have to allow for charging losses here too. In case you are not familiar with charging terms, Watts = Amps x Volts. You'd use 13V for yor calculations since a battery needs at least 13v to start charging.

Or, you can try the suck it and see method and start with a 80w panel and be prepared to use alternative charging methods if you find the panel is too small. (80W is at the very low end of the scale for running a fridge, and it would have to be placed to face the sun all the time). Be prepared to purchase an additional panel once you get an idea how what you have performs and perhaps is below expectations.

Where to get it? Shop around!!! there are big differences in panel prices, sometimes one or the other is on 'special' at one or other retailer.
I got my last panel at a mailorder place called "Tasman energy". A 64W panel, shipped to Perth from Queensland was cheaper than any local supplier could offer

Do yourself a favour and also get an Ampmeter to see just how much charge you get at any moment. A multi meter would do but you'd have to disconnect wires every time you use it. Better to get a little panel meter, perhaps 0-10A size and permanently wire it into ONE lead of your charging circuit.

good luck in your search
AnswerID: 114236

Reply By: Member - Roachie (SA) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 15:27

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 15:27
I went through all this caper about 6 months ago. Was all set to lash out on expensive panels etc. Then I went camping with a mate who has a Honda 1KVA gennie. Whisper quiet; only need to run it for a couple of hours per day (I use a 15amp 3 stage battery charger...NOT the 12v output of the gennie).

On that trip we had a few dramas with another bloke's trailer and needed to drill holes and re-bolt the camper section to the box-trailer section. No probs..he pulls out the gennie and ol' black n decker and drills the holes. Job's right. Can't drill holes with a solar panel.

So I ended up with a Yamaha 1kva gennie; too easy.


AnswerID: 114240

Follow Up By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 18:34

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 18:34
" Can't drill holes with a solar panel."


You could try using a magnifying glass and burn a couple of hole in it...

I gotta say even those crappy $99 GMC Gennies are quieter than the surf's diesel rattling away at camp... There is a lot of pro's to these new gennies.
The biggest Con with both solar and Gennies for me is SPACE (or the lack of).
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Reply By: Steve - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 16:54

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 16:54
you're going to enjoy this, Matthew. Keep delving for info and you'll probably arrive at a conclusion by springtime. By that time you could've learned to fly a Boeing. It can get a little complicated.

I'd agree you'll need at least a 80w panel, a regulator and decent battery. Minimum $900 - or just go for a bit extra wattage and for just over a grand (at my local bloke's prices $660 for an 80w panel $50 for a reg and pay anything between $150-450 for a good battery) you should be right. Actually, to some degree it's pretty straightforward in that you get the wattage that you pay for and there's not usually a great deal of variation in cost. Then you need a regulator and decide on how good a battery you want.

A lot depends on whether you'll be up and about in the car every day or camped and staying put most of the time in which case you are not re-charging from you're alternator. I've done the homework and am still avoiding the cost until really necessary.
AnswerID: 114249

Reply By: topcat - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 17:33

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 17:33
I have just done the exercise and the best answer would be to invest in a good dual battery system. By the time you add up all the costs and unknowns of the solar set up you'd be set up and enjoying the freedom of a good battery system. The cost is just too inhibitive to warrant the outlay for the perceived return. The dual battery system is always there and you don't need to set it up each time. As much as the sun's energy is free the technology and equipment isn't.
AnswerID: 114254

Reply By: nick riviera - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 17:41

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 17:41
Hi Matthew,

I live in the west kimberly (Derby) and have a solar power setup to suit the temperature we have here. I decided on 2 x KC80 panels and a 3 stage charger i got off ebay for $130 (MP3129 PV charge controler) jaycar sells them for $166 from memory.

The panels i got from tasman solar
tasman energy
for $600 each including freight to Derby so I think he is a good guy to deal with from my own experience.

My own setup is simply mounted to the roof of my cruiser and can be easily moved to our other vehicle in a matter of minutes.

I did do a lot of technical research and number crunching before settling on the two 80 watt panels, and we have been very pleased with this for the climate we live in. Hopefully that has answered you question.
I almost bought a yamaha/honda genset but i did not like the idea of carting it around plus fuel just to charge my aux battery for the engel (a little overkill for me) and the panels take up no space as they are roof mounted, but i can see why a gen set may suit other peoples needs.

Search for Collyn Rivers and some of the articles he has written on solar.

From what i found with solar energy, what you need is up to you and your personal requirements and where you use it ie temp, sunlight ect.
AnswerID: 114256

Reply By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:12

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:12

I run an 80L Waeco and lights from an AGM 100 amp deep cycle battery coupled to a Unisolar 64 watt Solar Panel. I have done field tests at home with it (search the archives for "Jimbo", around December last year) and used it numerous times camping. So far bloody brilliant. Panel cost $540, regulator $110 (don't buy a cheapie) and cable $20.

I haven't yet tried it in winter, but will do so over the Q/B weekend. The advantage of the "amorphous" panel is that it still produces power in low light condtions. The disadvantage is that it is very big for the given power output.


AnswerID: 114275

Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:32

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:32

for old times sake I looked them up myself. Try 18636, 18685, 18698, 18712, 18737 and 18962.


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Reply By: Steve - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:25

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:25
hi Jim. a) how big is that amo.... panel and b) what's the diff between regulators? Does it have a readout?
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Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:37

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:37

The panel is packed in the camper so I can't measure it, but it's about the size of a 100 amp poly panel. If you have the time to check through the above archives I gave to Matt it's in there somewehere.

The regulator is a Morningstar 10 amp job. No readout at that money. If you want a flash one with the charging amps, volts and amps used (like Al and Lyn have) it will cost you about $300.


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Reply By: Spratty - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:31

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:31
why a waeco, why not a gas 3 way, I know they draw more amps but work fine when motoring and when stopped run on gas, I've run mine for 10 days straight out of a 4.5kg bottle and came home with some still in it and they work brilliant on gas, I know this dosen't solve the battery charging dilemna but the lights will draw very little compared to the fridge so may not need to worry about the charging.
Just a thought.
AnswerID: 114277

Follow Up By: Member - Jimbo (VIC) - Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:47

Friday, Jun 03, 2005 at 20:47

I've got a Chescold 3 way that got retired about 6 years ago when I got a 39L Engel. I've since updated to an 80L Waeco.

I agree the 3 way is a very good option and more cost effective than an electric fridge. However they simply don't work as well. They are very old technology and very big external size for the amount of fridge space. They don't work very well on 12 volt, or in the car when they are not on a level surface.

Having said that, you can pick up a 35L job for less than $500 these days and compared with the cost of an electric fridge plus dual batteries and panels they are a very attractive alternative. And they are great for an extended stay in one location.


FollowupID: 370254

Follow Up By: viz - Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 at 10:44

Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 at 10:44
Blew up a campsite with one one day... :) Uhwinding a gaslight stem from the bottle which was next to the pilot light of the fridge... Kaabooom! Lots of flame and noise as the gas in the stem flushed out. Lost a few hairs on the leg and apparantly looked very funny dancing around with flames whirling around me as I tried to get away from the stem... Something for Australia's Funniest Home Videos.

For long term camping in one spot I do recommend 3-way fridge. For camping over a weekend or up to a week, the thumper and the dual battery setup I have runs the utectic fridge quite happily. I have a back up gennie which has been used twice in 3 years - and that was to test that it works... I used the 240 socket on the gennie to a 3 stage battery charger connected to the thumper then the fridge (don't use the 10 AMP 12 Volt DC socket - too dirty I have been told - and the 3 stage charger much easier on the battery). This cleans the power (thumper can take dirty power) and also takes care of start-up surge (engels type compressors have up to 30 amp start up current).

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Reply By: B. Ryan - Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 09:50

Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 09:50
I sell solar gear and I dont bother with them for my set up
large batteries, charged from home last for most weekend trips,
panels are expensive and a pain to carry around with you if you are going longer take two batteries and your charger. when spending a few days at powered site in town charge up again..simple
AnswerID: 114325

Reply By: Gully - Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 10:05

Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 10:05
Hi Matt;
I'm with everyone who suggested a generator. I have been down the road you are going and just got a headache. I ended up buying a Honda EU10i gennie. They're not cheap ($1639 RRP), but they are quality, quiet, have good clean 240 volt power and a DC battery charger and will work on a cloudy day. Don't pay full price, bargain with cash and if the retailer won't give you 10% min. off leave and find a dealer who will. I got mine for $1475 with this approach. Lookat is as a one-off, long term investment.

AnswerID: 114326

Reply By: Steve - Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:08

Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:08
how do those 750w gennies at Bunnings compare? @ $98????????
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Follow Up By: Steve - Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:09

Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:09
forgot to add.....GMC brand
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Follow Up By: Gully - Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 18:48

Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 18:48
Hi Steve;
I guess its one of those cases where you get what you pay for (I know that that will bring some howls of debate). If you don't mind smelly, noisey 2 strokes and have others around you that are of like mind, go ahead. We are also talking apples and oranges here to. A 750w GMC will probably give you 650w of "dirty" power, the Honda will give 900w (and peak at 1000w or 1kva) of "clean" power quietly. And yes I know I could buy 15 GMC gennies for one Honda. But I only want one good generator.

I love the debate though. Keek up the good work.

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Reply By: Al & Mrs Al (Vic) - Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:22

Saturday, Jun 04, 2005 at 11:22
Hi Matthew

we have 2 US solar panels, and last Christmas we ran our 70Lt waeco for 10days without any other charging, and also ran Glenn's 50Lt for a few days as well, the panels so far have been great, we have 2 100amp batteries in the camper that the panels keep charged, and a flash regulator - will have to check with Al what type it is, but it has a read out so you can get an idea of just how the batteries are doing.

Not sure on the panel cost, will have to check with Al.

AnswerID: 114332

Reply By: Member - Barry W (VIC) - Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 at 14:03

Sunday, Jun 05, 2005 at 14:03
I agree with all the others spent months trying to work it out got confused and a massive head ache went and bought a Christie Honda / Bosch 55 amp alternator works great for me. The other consideration with solar is if mouted on vehicle you have to park it in the sun poor old fridge has hard enough time trying to keep cool with out inside car temp reaching huge degrees or buy those " suit case " style pannels park car in shade go for a walk and I'll bet your solar panels will walk off in the opposite direction.
Genny for mine
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Follow Up By: nick riviera - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:16

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:16
parking the truck in the shade just isnt an option for me here in WA when camped at the beach or most places we go, so its never made a difference to us. Unfortunately WA is not blessed with much in the way of big trees, except down in the SW, we have lots of FLYS however.

We find the panels extremely handy mounted to the roof you just cant skimp on Watts.

I was trully skeptical at first but after using solar I would never go back, my setup cost me less than what i could by the latest pure sine wave gensets for, which you still need to buy a three stage charger for to correctly charge your deepcycle Aux battery (from what i have researched and seen).
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Reply By: Mainey (WA) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:02

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:02
Mathew, some interesting replies here for you to derive some answer from!!
Most, as you can read here, don't use a solar panel, some sell them but still don't use them L0L...

Jimbo has done various tests with his own system and as you can read can give you the answers you need to make an informed decision.

I also have been using an 80w Solarex panel since 1996, originally wired direct to the Deep Cycle battery system, I now use a German made Steca 15 amp solar regular that really has "all the fruit" as they say, ($225) and shows all the Voltages and amps on a screen large enough to read from a good distance, my system also works, there are many out there that work and those that don’t are few in number and I would say would have been set up by someone without the experience to be able to offer expertise in getting the best from the solar system anyway!!

Remember it is not just a solar panel you require but a solar system, including the battery, regulator and associated wiring.

The big thing with any electrical item is the wiring, get that wrong and it undervalues the item, it comes down to money and convenience a good solar system wins for me.
AnswerID: 114694

Follow Up By: Member - Barry W (VIC) - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 23:33

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 23:33
It all depends on the amount of " SUNLIGHT " no sun = no power
You can spend as much or as little as you like but it will always come down to where you spend your time camping and how long in one spot, I travel all over this country and find that quite a lot of times I do not get enough sunlight hours to make it worth it, ok if you spend your time in the northern parts or deserts areas but we spend a lot of time in National parks amoungst the trees limited sun = limited power
My point is that you have to take " ALL" things into consideration
What works for one does not always work for someone else
Good Luck
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Follow Up By: Steve - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 08:01

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 08:01
mainey: isn't your's roof-mounted. If so does that mean you always have to park in full sun? Also, any security issues whilst the panel is sitting there on the roof or on the ground for that matter? Perhaps it's no different from any other piece of equipment in that it might be vulnerable to the light-fingered
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Follow Up By: Mainey (WA) - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 11:26

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 11:26
When I spend my time in areas where the sun is covered by trees, I remove the panel from the roof (takes about 2 minutes max) and put it out into the sun via an extension lead and chain, this allows the power to come my way and stop the panel going away, while I camp in the shade, which is a rarity as I most often camp in full sun on the beach.

As to sun hours, I get amps into the battery from sunup till sundown on sunny days, I can tell that simply by looking at the Steca regulator screen which shows amps available, and also amps delivered to the battery, on an ‘at present’ or ‘accumulated daily’ basis !!

Have just looked…
it is 9.18am, the panel is flat on the roof, it is sunny however the panel has NO direct sun shining on it at all, is wet as has been raining, the three batteries, eg; Starter & 2 x Deep Cycle are ALL presently wired in parallel and showing 12.9 Volt, there is o.2 amps being created at the panel and same is also going direct into the three coupled batteries.
The vehicle has not been started for at least two weeks, hence I parallel the starter battery into the loop with the two DC batteries occasionally.
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Reply By: Steve - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 13:30

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2005 at 13:30
next question mainey: what sort of extension lead do you use bearing in mind power loss.
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Follow Up By: Mainey (WA) - Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 00:12

Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 00:12
is a twin sheathed lead so it rolls up as one lead, is thick, minium of about 6mm each side. Has a connection to plug into the panel lead one end, and also the solar regulator extension socket in the vehicle at the other end.
Have not actually measured it for power loss, as I don't use it that often, maybe only three times in eight years.
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Reply By: Steve - Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 15:06

Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 15:06
AnswerID: 115075

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