Solar Versus Generator

Submitted: Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 22:57
ThreadID: 9874 Views:4147 Replies:12 FollowUps:13
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Yes guys and girls I have performed an archive search.....Firstly> I previously posted a quetsion as The Butlers - Greenhorns travelling west via the top end and recieved some excellent feedback, with thanks. Since then I have become a member as I a found the site both informative and social, thus I now have a new site name to go with my new membership, waffle waffle waffle, snap out of it Peter!!

Anyway.....I am not going to run a dual battery setup in the new 100 T/D. Toyota dont like it (apparently) and I didnt just spend a c%^p load on a camper trailer to swag it in the near future. I intend running a deep cycle battery, the largest I can sensibly fit to the Camper "A Frame", and carry a solar panel and matched charger to keep it full of juice.

This way I can connect the spanking new Anniversy edition Engel on the deep cell overnght without fear that the vehicle batts will be drained while on the road and once we find that dream camping spot we can hook up the solar panels and leave the fridge at camp permanently connected to the dep cell. Remember gang that while I like to drive I also like to find a nice spot and park up from 10 to 20 days, supplies depending.

I will also be getting either an inverter or DC charger for the Laptop, Video Camera, phone batts etc.

My other option is to buy a generator.

I have racked my brains and the best option to me is to stick with solar panel / charging and a big battery on the trailer. I will also be able to charge the vehicle batteries if they lose their charge for some reason from the solar set up.

Can anyone offer their views on my train of thought.

Thanks

Pete
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Reply By: Michelle from ExplorOz - Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 23:08

Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 23:08
I absolutely concur with your reasoning for a solar setup as opposed to a generator, having much experience "living" in the bush for extended periods. The gennie requires fuel, is noisy and are in fact banned from some areas. Just ensure you don't fall into the trap of mounting the panels permanently to the vehicle or camper - you will want to park your rig under the shade whilst you are camped out and hence the portable type you can setup in the sun while you and the vehicle are in the shade is the way to go. These are just observations as we unfortunately are not setup with solar but I hope you find these tips of assistance. I'm sure others who are setup with solar panels will add further detail in this post.ExplorOz
AnswerID: 43598

Follow Up By: Member - Peter- Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 23:21

Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 23:21
Mental note to self.....Get big fat long leads for remote location of panels (in sunny spot that is) that wont lose to much to volt drop!!!

Thanks Michelle

Pete
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Follow Up By: John - Saturday, Jan 31, 2004 at 16:04

Saturday, Jan 31, 2004 at 16:04
I have a honda eu10 Inverter generator and is quiet and yes it does need fuel BUT SO DOES YOUR SOLAR PANELS. IS there a palce with all sunny days.
My Eu10 Charges a battery and runs a 80l trailblaza fridge at freezer settings for 1o\0.5hrs on 2.2L of fuel.
Why not take both
John
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Reply By: Willem - Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 23:35

Monday, Jan 19, 2004 at 23:35
Why don't you get both...so as to have complete reliabilty of all the mod cons you can think of out bush...talk about taking the kitchen sink et al and all brand spanking new at that, of course :-)))

Good luck in your travels....you will have all that technology to worry about whilst out camping at the idyllic spot .

Cheers,
Willem

Always going somewhere
AnswerID: 43601

Follow Up By: Member - Peter- Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 09:29

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 09:29
Willem,

Only my second post and already atarget of your cynicism, I like it!!

You noticed the intentional taking the proverbial out of myself....we are going to be a very large target for the seasond traveller on the first legs of our trip.........." Look at those tossers with all the new gear. Do you think they know how to use it all? Oh oh,look at the arguement he just started with the Managing Director"....he he he

Willem, you sure seem to know your stuff....what do you truly believe to be the best option for a single source of backup power?

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Follow Up By: Willem - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 16:46

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 16:46
Peter,

A bit of tongue in cheek stuff.

I am however amazed that in these modern times we are so reliant on the very best that technology can dish up so as to be able to take all the comforts of urban living with us when we travel through the open spaces to get away from it all. Our argument is usually that SWMBO wants this and requires that and so we go out and buy those particular items. I spent a number of years on the road and commenced by carting too much gear around including a generator. The gennie was used primarily to run machinery for craft work and the fridge. I looked at buying solar panels but in the end they were beyond my financial means and it meant more gear to carry. I have settled in one place again now and try to get 3 or 4 camping trips in every year. I try to keep my camping as simple as possible but do have a fridge and all the modern toys such as GPS, Laptop,inverter, dual batterries, winch and so on.

After the first few days of camping, when we have devoured most of the contents of the fridge I turn the fridge off at night as there is no point in running it all of the time. I am one of the few 4x4 campers who do not require copious amounts of beer to keep my sanity and take none with me hence less refrigeration worries. I have a plastic bush shower but more likely than not I just have wash out of a bucket. For extended trips I carry more gear in the trailer for repairs such as soldering iron, battery drill, welding rods and mask, trolley jack, bullbag, nuts bolts screws etc plus extra fuel filters, sparkplugs and so on.

You will find that you will need a(or more) large solar panel to run whatever you need to run. Cost may come in to it but it is better to spend the right money to begin with and to get the best system for your requirements. Personally I detest running a gennie in the bush and always tend to camp away from others for that reason. If you are worried about back-up power for whatever reason then buy a small 350cc genset for peace of mind.

Enjoy the bush before they bulldoze it all.

Cheers,

Willem

Always going somewhere
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Reply By: V8troopie - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 02:37

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 02:37
With a fridge to keep cold you really need both, genny and panels. About 80W of solar panel is the minimum I would suggest for running a fridge for extended periods. I tried it once with 40W and just a little 15l engel, it was hopelessly inadequate.
If you can angle the panels towards the sun or, even better, relocate them from under the shade you parked your trailer in, so much the better.

As the sun doesn't always cooperate a genny is a good standby to avoid warm beer :-). Preferably a DC only genny that tops up the battery in a short time rather than listening to that drone for the whole cloudy day.
For the battery size, 100Ah minimum, which won't discharge too deeply in between top ups from the sun.
klaus
AnswerID: 43616

Follow Up By: Member - Peter- Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 09:35

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 09:35
Klaus

Can you let me know the anticpiated charge time of the deep cycle you run with the DC only Generator and if possible what you have found to be the most reliable brand of genny and battery?

Thanks Pete
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Reply By: Member - Wim (Bris) - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 08:13

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 08:13
Peter.

Take the time to do the math. Check some of the solar sites as they have calcs to work out panel size required.
You may need to keep battery charged while driving.
I have 2 x 80watt panels hinged together to protect the panel surface while travelling. 160watts & 120amp deep cycle still requires top up. Remote mounting is the way to go, you can angle the panels for best result. Make sure you use large cable to reduce voltage drop.
Note: Security will be an issue in some places. Solar panels are very tempting to some of the socially chalenged that inhabit of our camping areas.

RegardsThis 4WD stuff is addictive,
time consuming & expensive.
AnswerID: 43626

Follow Up By: Member - Peter- Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 09:47

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 09:47
Wim

Say I fully charge the deep cell before I leave mains power.....I run a 39 litre Engel for 12 hours on freeze on two overnight stops while on the road. I then hit the bush camp and first thing I set up is the solar panels (assume in late afternnon with two hours sunlight remaining) and hook up the fridge.....I then camp in the same spot for X days running the fridge from the deep cell only, with it being charged by the panels (all as per your set up). NO other accesories to be run off the deep cell

I can do the math though, how long would you expect in real life conditions to have enough power to run the engel on freeze, in the shade and in a transit bag without looking to top up the battery with a second charging source?

Also, how do you pack your solar cells for transport over tough terrain and 100's of kilometres of corrugations?
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FollowupID: 305869

Reply By: captnsnooze - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 10:59

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 10:59
Gooday Peter

I am by no means an expert but I have an interest in this subject having just gone through the processes over the last twelve months.

I found that the sums on the solar panels just did not seem to add up. I have gone with a Honda generator and the twqo deep cycle batteries I already had and find this is more than adequate even when camped at spots that i cannot use the genny.
I hook an auto Battery charger to the genny and can basically run it throught he day while I am not at home. I camp away from people so dont need to worry about ruining anyone elses time.

I have only posted a couple of times on here also and wouldnt worry about cynics you soon get to work out who the jacks of all trades are and who the people to listen to are. I camped for many years right back to childhood roughly and while I enjoy that we eventually get another half and then some add ons and need to get a bit more comfportable to keep them in the mentality that they like camping

I run a Bushman Fridge and a couple of 12volyt lights and a 12 volt shower.

Anyway you enjoy playing with your mod cons the objective of camping is to get out there and enjoy where you are in whatever degree of comfort you choose.

Cheers David
AnswerID: 43645

Reply By: Peter - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 12:57

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 12:57
We currently run 32l engel and a couple of lights. This is powered by 2x60w solar panels.

We also have a regulator for solar panels and this was necessary as when in central aust with solar panels connected the batteries were charged by 11.00 am. If we did not have regulator then the battery would of over charged. (Reducing life of batt).

Our solar panels are on a long lead that connects to 4x4 with 2 pole plug and sockets. Hella Navara etc.

Our 4X4 has dual batteries in it.

DC charger for the Laptop, Video Camera, phone batts are they way to go as invertorscan use a bit of power.

The suggestion I have is to have 2X 80ah batteries with 2X80 watt solar panels + regulator

With the batteries make them removable from trailor and in landcruser have a 12v to 12v regenerator. that battery can be connected into.

This is not a dual battey system as such and with the regeneration you should get a full charge into battery.

This is in case of bad whether you can connect one battery into 4x4 and charge it up while other battey keeps fridge going.

I would use anderson plugs to connect these up.

Hope this helps
AnswerID: 43662

Follow Up By: Peter - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 13:26

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 13:26
check out these web sites

http://www.airaus.com:8082/airaus/category.jsp?categoryID=91

and post 6259 is interesting.
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Reply By: Member - Peter (York) - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 12:59

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 12:59
just as a side comment the solar panel makes no noise ,I have camped next to peolpe running a genny for hours on end in the so called quite of the bush and have been ready to creep over and kill the thing in the middle of the night , it has but me off the b....... things for life, its like taking the city noise with you.......99 GU Patrol 4.2 TD
Peter York 4x4
AnswerID: 43663

Reply By: Member - Peter- Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 17:17

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 17:17
Thank everyone for the valuable feedback thus far. I guess I have now decided that solar is the way to go, price dependent of course.

Can anyone tell me where I can find a small high charge rate DC generator to give me the juice when solar panels are not providing the kick I am looking for?

Thanks in advance, again,

Pete
AnswerID: 43698

Follow Up By: Member - Nobby - Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 19:31

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 19:31
Peter.. have a look at the Christie Gen. Set. They only charge 12v but do so very quickly. I have one and it puts out about 60amp/hour so my 2x 105amp deep cycly only have to be topped up for one hour every two days, not like the Hondaeu10 that has to run for hours to acheive the same result. I also have 2 x 80w panels and obviously don'tn have any power problems. Remember, without power the other half very quickly lose their sense of humour.Jack at sleep
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Follow Up By: Member - Peter- Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 20:58

Tuesday, Jan 20, 2004 at 20:58
Nobby....What panels do you run.....how do you have them packed for travel....I am going to do a google for a Christie Gen set..

Cheers Pete
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Follow Up By: V8troopie - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004 at 01:40

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004 at 01:40
Peter, I have the honda EDX (EXD?) 400, DC only generator. It puts out 30 Amp or 15 Amp at a lower noise setting. At the lower setting it sounds like a sewing machine. I sometimes run it on my boat on the fore deck, from inside the cabin - only 2 meters away - I know its running but it does not disturb conversation nor is annoying while having a nap.
I believe these are no longer on the market. the genny is fully regulated and by watching the Ampmeter drop back one can see when the battery is getting full.
Running the fridge in freeze mode will churn up heaps of battery juice unless you have a fridge with eutectic holding plates (Autofridge is one brand) Engels are more enconomical, powerwise, in refigerate mode.

You could also check out 'Wattagen' for DC only generators, do a google on these as well. Their smallest model (which a friend recently got) looks a bit too tiny, I would prefer the next size up.
Try to listen to the genny before you buy it. Some use just simple mufflers and no intake sound dampening.
Solar panels could be mounted securely on trailer tops or roof racks for travel, They are far too large and cumbersome to pack away inside the car. You need to wipe the dust off the panels for optimum efficiency.
Klaus
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Reply By: nola - Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004 at 20:08

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004 at 20:08
Hi Pete,

There seems to be a lot of people out there who are hooked on Sola. I myself can't comment on sola as we have never used it. However we do have a Honda EU10I one KVA generator which we wouldn't part with.

This generator is very quiet and very reliable. We have run it on eco mode, which will run our engle, caravan lights, T.V. and Video and in full mode we can switch on an upright freezer too! We have run it for 12 hours on eco mode and used only one tankful of fuel, (2.4 ltrs).

When we hook up the freezer, we turn it up to maximum, so that it stays on all the time and doesn't keep cutting in and out.

Some people have had bad experiences being camped near people who use generators, but you can get bad neighbours anywhere. In reality it is not necessary to run the genny all day. We run outs for 4 hours in the morning and then turn it off until about 6 or 7p.m. when we run it until we are ready to hit the hay (about 9.30p.m.) Our freezer and fridge stays icy.

We figure that the tiny amount of cost involved in the fuel is well worth it. It packs away into a small box which we carry in the boot of our caravan. Hubby usually packs it into the caravan boot (this genny doesn't get too hot with use) before we go to bed at night. You can turn it off and leave it outside, but make sure it's chained and padlocked, then you might get away with it!

To those who hate genny's because of noise, give the genny's a chance and blame the people who use them unnecessarily. I have friends who had a big genny that really did bark a bit. They arrived at a spot and were on their own for a long time with the genny running. As the day grew longer, people pulled up and parked right next to them. When they turned off the genny at 9.30 p.m. these people clapped. I would have turned the bugger back on! They didn't have to park 5 feet away.

Anyway, that's my advice. Cheers. Nola.
AnswerID: 43835

Reply By: Member - Peter- Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004 at 22:03

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2004 at 22:03
Well gang,

I spoke directly to Mr Les Christie of Christie engineering, makers of the Christie generator. I have elected to turf the solar panel idea after this conersation and go with two 90 amp batts and a Christie generator.

Two hours of running a very small generator every 48 hours days (based on 39 litre engel running only) seems like a bl**dy good deal. The generator batteries and cables will set me back all up around $1500. It also gives me a battery charger for the car if I need it and the batteries in the trailer will be compatible with tow vehicle if I clag a vehicle battery. I do plan on doing some work on the sound attenuation side of things when I get it though!!

Feedback very greatly appreciated, problem solvered.

Thanks

Pete
AnswerID: 43865

Follow Up By: -OzyGuy- - Monday, Jan 26, 2004 at 13:42

Monday, Jan 26, 2004 at 13:42
Peter,
Am sorry to read that you will have to pack and take the generator and fuel for it with you on your holiday, and then LEAVE THEM with the National Parks Officer in West Australia and Northern Territory, some areas refuse generators due to fire risk up north and then there is always the realy nice small area where there is someone already parked and you arrive with your generator and are 'advised' that they don't want you there ruining their holiday with the noise, tis amazing how quickly a generator stops working with some sugar poured into the tank during the dark of the night.

As was stated in the first few posts "you can't use generator's in National Parks" in either of those states.... and the vast ammount of National Parks will amaze you, seems like a total waste of time and money if you can't use a product that you have paid good money for in the first place, however tis your money......

My own choice is .......
Solar power, 2 x Deep cycle Gell batteries, isolated from the vehicle battery by a quality battery isolator.

Mount the Solar panel on the roof of your vehicle with a quality, easily removable, roof rack. With this combination you don't require a regulator, assuming that the fridge is permanently connected to the system the panel is replacing the power during the day, if you camp in a shady spot for a few days simply unclip the roof rack and place it back in the sun again with a long lead and a chain firmly attached at both ends, as panels tend to walk.

I have been touring Ozz since 1997 and using this system without power hassles.

Note:
I have not specified brand names as every man & his dog has a better one than I have, ask them.
If you require more detailed info ... size's, methods, pictures etc, just ask.
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FollowupID: 306573

Reply By: John - Saturday, Jan 31, 2004 at 16:29

Saturday, Jan 31, 2004 at 16:29
OZYGAY

Generators dont ruin other peoples holidays.
Inconsiderate people do. IF I usea a generator I stay awy from other campers and use at convenient times of the day when there is most noise around the camp.
People whoh bring a 5kva generator from the farm with enough ligths and beer to run a night football test and the tuckerbox freezer from home ruin holidays.
Not seasoned campers who appreciate the bush.
John

May the corrigated roads turn your glass panels int dust
AnswerID: 44978

Follow Up By: -OzyGuy- - Friday, Feb 06, 2004 at 13:42

Friday, Feb 06, 2004 at 13:42
John,
sorry you are so angry about the generator subject....

I aggree that people who use generators in the proxcimity of other campers enjoying the tranquility of the bush are inconciderate and the hassle.

I was not referring to you personally in my post, because as you stated "you stay away from other campers" which I actually find is a bit of a pity that you can't camp and interreact with-in the general camping community only because you use a generator and you are 'nice' enough to respect other peoples desires to have a holiday in the solitude of the bush without the noise of a generator, so you stay away from them.

As for your desire to see my solar panel turned into dust, it won't happen, it has been down some rough roads in the Kimberley's including the Gibb River Road and still gives me 5+ a/h to recharge the duel 3 x battery system, which, thankfully is more than my fridge uses.
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Follow Up By: -OzyGuy- - Friday, Feb 06, 2004 at 13:56

Friday, Feb 06, 2004 at 13:56
John,

I aggree that 'people' who use generators in the proxcimity of other campers who are enjoying the tranquility of the bush are inconciderate.

I was not referring to you personally in my post, because as you stated "you stay away from other campers" - which I actually find is a bit of a pity, that you can't camp with-in the general camping community only because you use a generator, and you are nice enough to respect other peoples desires to have a holiday in the solitude of the bush without the noise of your generator, so you stay away from them.

As for your desire to see my 80wt solar panel turned into dust, it won't happen, it has been down some rough roads in the Kimberley's including the Gibb River Road and still gives me 5+ a/h to recharge the duel 3 x battery system, which, thankfully is more than my fridge uses.
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FollowupID: 307749

Reply By: John - Sunday, Feb 08, 2004 at 14:17

Sunday, Feb 08, 2004 at 14:17
im not angry about generators or solar panels.
my family and friends enjoy finding plases that are still available without having to stay in national parks or caravan parks,
We do not stay away from other campers because of our generator.
A generator used propely provides adequate means of topping batteries and providing power if needed,
We have just had one of our best camping grounds closed on the mcleay river because of incinsiderat people usnig the quite area as a ski lake and leaving rubbish.
Dont forget that generators are not the only sort of noise pollurion.
A nisy sterio, lights left on all night. someone using a chain saw to get wood or someone using a shoewer system on their car revving at 200 rpm., a dog barking or a domestic argument. someone leaving early in the morning or arriving late at a camping ground.
no I dont stay away from other campers because of my generator.
The worst sound of all is that of a solar panel owner cursing a week of bad weather,
Happy camping
John
AnswerID: 45871

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