Solar Power for our Rig

We are just a week or so from finally purchasing our fifth wheel trailer, a Peterson’s Industries Excel Winslow 34IKE. The road searching for the right fifth wheel trailer was a long one and frustrating at times. I have written before on the subject and could certainly write much more but just to keep it simple we ended up ordering a new one, worked with Peterson’s Industries in customizing it for our needs, it is built and waiting for us in Holland, Michigan at Holland Motor Homes.

We are certainly beginners when it comes to RVs, what they call newbie’s in the RV world. Though we have been working to understand as much as possible, lots of time reading and speaking with folks that are in RVs, and one topic I have been spending a considerable amount of time researching is solar power in RVs. Early on in our Full-Time-Odyssey we discussed that we wanted to have solar panels as part of our “rig” but with little knowledge of what it entails. And for me, trying to understand solar power and all the details has been challenging. But the other day I was able to successfully explain it to my sister so maybe I have finally gotten it.

Electrical power in an RV is rather confusing and I am not going to try and explain it here, but one thing is painfully clear, RVs are basically designed to stay plugged-in to the power grid, be it next to your house or at a campground or RV park, however there are two options to give you true off the grid mobility, they are a generator (gas, diesel or propane) or solar panels. We do not want the hassle, smell, expense and noise of running a generator, so for us it is solar power that will allow us to “cut the cord”.

There are a lot of good resources out there for anyone interested in learning about RV solar power. It is rather a “wild west” though since unlike home-based solar installations there are no firm guidelines or standards at this time. As a result one should be very careful, do a lot of research, ask a lot of questions and make sure if you have someone else do the installation that you have found a reputable company. For us it will be an installation we do ourselves. I have read a lot, an understatement, and I can give two good references to get started. One is HandyBob’s Blog (http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com) and the other Kelly’s RV Solar Blog (http://cuernoverdesolar.wordpress.com). HandyBob will give you all the information you need, and then some, and will entertain you at the same time! His “The RV Battery Charging Puzzle” post is a legend in the RV Solar World. It is a long post and I have probably read it at least four times (like I said, for me RV Solar Power is a rather challenging subject). Even someone with no interest whatsoever in installing a solar system will gain much from this post. Kelly’s RV Solar Blog is very informative and breaks things down nicely helping one grasp the big picture.

So where are we in this RV solar process? Well in an uncharacteristic moment of compulsiveness, and a strong recommendation from one of HandyBob’s posts, I ordered a pair of solar panels. They were on sale and highly rated (DM 158w Monocrystalline), what could I do? And then we took another of HandyBob’s recommendation and will soon purchase two 6V Crown CR-260 batteries. This is just the beginning but it is very exciting. We are on a pretty tight schedule at this time so probably the best we can do in the short run is mount the solar panels on the roof of our Excel Winslow when we get it and then start filling in all the pieces on the road. The good thing is I actually know what the missing pieces are, how they work together and I hope how to install them properly.

One of our DMSolar Panels

One of our DMSolar Panels

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4 Comments

Filed under Jeff, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Solar Power for our Rig

  1. RE: Solar Power for our Rig
    “We do not want the hassle, smell, expense and noise of running a generator…”
    Hallelujah!!
    I am looking forward to hearing more about this.
    Where did you buy your supplies? Amazon is currently out of these panels.
    WV-Mike

    • Jeff

      Hi Mike,

      The panels came from DMSolar.com, http://www.dmsolar.com/dm15somo2pkp.html

      They are great panels, German made and a fantastic deal. I need to buy two more at some point. We are doing the solar installation in two phases, Phase one is just to keep our four Crown batteries happy and Phase II will be the installation of an Inverter so we can poser all our AC devices from the batteries. Yesterday evening we installed the two panels on the roof (Natasha, Nick, her brother, and I). Next up is trying to figure out how to run the wires from the roof to the solar controller that will live near the batteries, and also our fancy Trimetic 2025 battery monitor.

      If you want to really get into solar and RVs check out HandyBob’s Blog:

      http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com

      The guy is a legend in RV Solar. I have read his “RV Battery Charging Puzzle” entry 3-4 times now and just finally understanding it.

      Jeff

      • Thanks for the info.
        I have been thinking about doing something like this with our van.
        I think I will wait until you do all the work and make all the mistakes then you can tell me what to do / not to do…
        -mb

  2. Jeff

    I am trying not to make many mistakes, so far so good. I have really been reading as much as possible and there is good information out there but also, alas, very bad information on RV Solar. The other good blog is Kelly’s RV Solar Blog. For your van you could get by with just one panel probably, just enough to keep your technology charged up and a few lights, etc. Being off the grid will be nice for us, opening all kinds of possible places to go, that is our goal. And we never for a moment thought of using a generator, solar all the way!

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