Well, I have been receiving lots of mail from folks that are asking the same few questions. I'm going to try and answer them now.
|OLD FAILED PANEL FROM CHINA|
NO! Those were amorphous laminated silicon at 6.3% efficiency, the power generating modules inside the panels I am using are exactly like the ones inside regular, glass sandwiched, aluminum framed types. The modules we are using are 17.85% efficent, much better than the 14.6% I was getting from the old China sourced ones. The Unisolar panels were very low efficiency per square foot and you need a panel 216" (~18 FEET!) in length to make 144 watts!
|My Installed Energy Monitor|
The first thing anyone should do before deciding on any solar charging system is try to estimate (as close as you are able) the amount of energy you will consume in an average day. There are a few calculators online and spreadsheets that will help, but it's pretty simple. After that, take a look at Energy Monitors. It's nice to be able to know, at a glance, where you are Power-wise.
|Old Incandescent LEFT, New L.E.D. RIGHT|
Easy (mostly.) Take a look at everything you use. I started with my lights. When I first began, I had lots of incandescent lighting in my rig. These are just standard bulbs, where the filament is heated to produce light. VERY power hungry. Each one used 2+ AMPS of power every hour. Yikes! Now I use LED bulbs, each one uses about 1/10th of an AMP every hour. Essentially dropping my consumption by a factor of ten. Since I had about 20 bulbs around my RV, that was a whopping 40 Amps every hour. Since I only have 100 amps to play with, it got eaten up very quickly. Next, look at your TV and entertainment use. Most folks these days are using 120V AC TV's and DVD, Satellite, Media players, etc.
|My Solar Charge Controller (Left) And Inverter (Right)|
After entertainment draws, take a look at your parasitic use. Parasitic use is things you can't really turn off. Like your CO/LP detector(s), your Fridge 12V control panel and anything else that stay on no matter what switch you flip!
|Typical RV Style Propane Heater|
***Remember, as soon as sunlight begins to stream onto the panels, you will be generating SOME power, more as it gets lighter. So, that will reduce the amount of power you are drawing from the batteries in the AM or even as it is getting into twilight in the evening.***
|My Inverter Control (Top) Solar Charge Controller Remote (Bottom)|
|Topping Off My Batteries With DISTILLED Water|
All in all, the system I have now, works perfectly for my use. It was designed to be useful and intervention free for most RV folks. Since I KNOW I am raising more questions than I could answer in these short articles, I've set up an email for additional questions and interested parties to contact me about my system. Feel free to email me at:firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be happy to help anyway I can. This winter in the Northeast (I'm in NY, south of Kingston off the NYS Thruway - US87). I'll be available to take a look at your rigs, make recommendations and if you're interested putting together my system for you.
Be Seeing You...Down The Road,
Rich "The Wanderman"
*There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
*See Part - 1
**See Part -2
***See Part - 3
****See Part - 4
*****See Part - 5
See Original Article