SOLAR PANELS AND CHARGERS

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NorthStar96

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Im seriously thnking of dropping a few hundred on some solar equipment just for the convenience of keeping car batteries and personal electronics charged up.
What kind of Solar equipment do you use, and what Brand of solar equipment do you recommend for toughness, reliability,etc?...how much wattage will I need for charging personal electronics and possibly a ARB style fridge?
 

Michael

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I would love to become more aware of the options out there.
 
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Lifestyle Overland

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We opted for a single battery in our Turtleback and a 90W solar panel vs. using two batteries. The logic being that we get plenty of sunshine in the Southwest, and we save 50lbs in the nose of the trailer. I'll keep you updated on how it performs. (We pick it up in 2 weeks!)

As to sizing; you'll need to make a list of all your equipment, it's power usage, duration of use, and then come up with a total amp-hour number. Once you know your load, and how often you apply it, you can then determine how quickly your battery will be drained. Once you've established that, you can then go solar panel shopping for something that can replenish the battery in a 8-14 hour period of sunlight.

A quick google search scored this handy calculator:
https://www.batterystuff.com/kb/tools/solar-calculator.html
 

BigTuna117

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I've been curious about fitting a panel or to to Pegasus, and have done a TON of research. I'd like to set it up on a "reverse charge" or, charging the secondary battery first, since it takes the beef of the useage when she's parked. The one major thing that I've found in my research is that either type of charger module will work for the things that we generally do. PWM is more of a basic charger. It makes sure that the battery(s) are not overcharging, and can be set for different types of batteries, similar to a 120v charger. MPPT chargers are supposed to do all the things that their PWM counterparts do, but more efficiently (Something about the charging curve?). I don't know the details as far as the science of it, but every testimony I've heard from people who have owned both seem to prefer the MPPT style.

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As far as the panels themselves, I'd have to have some experience with them before I could offer up any testimony.

Since I don't usually use the roof rack during "down time," I was considering getting a flexible panel or two and strapping them into the rack as if they were cargo. That way when it comes time to load up the rack, I could just remove the panels, load the rack, and strap the panels back down on top.

Another Idea I had was to install a solid panel underneath the rack, in the space between the rack and the roof of the Jeep. Talking to my Pops about this idea (He works in Energy management for the local power company, he deals primarily with solar panels and wind turbine systems), he seemed to think that the extra shadows from the rack would drop the efficiency of the panels too far to justify the purchase. This would likely be a good option for those who would prefer not to have a rack (I doubt there are gonna be many of these on here! haha) or if you have empty roof space somewhere large enough for a panel.

Another idea, which could be implemented as a "stationery design" would be to hang a panel off the rack, dangling off the side of the vehicle. With this design, I figured that the best way to deploy this would be to attach a small flexible solar panel to some sort of "backplate" made of a material which is more rigid than the panel, yet still slightly flexible, and to attach a couple of hooks of draping it off the rack, with either magnets or suction cups (maybe a set of both so it can be moved around?) so that you can hold it stationary and prevent wind movement.
Since the panels can be daisy chained, this could be implemented and deployed once you reach a stopping point, or if you have a "base camp" vehicle or trailer that you plan to return to.

These are all of the ideas that have come outta the think tank since I started researching. Some time this year, preferably before our hot Arizona summer, I intend to attempt one of these ideas, probably the top one. I don't drive far enough to keep both batteries changed going to and fro, from and to work, so this may be a means of keeping my batteries good through the summer.
 
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ethernectar

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My setup is an ARB fridge plugged into a National Luna power pack with a deep cycle. When the truck is running, the motor charges the pack and then the fridge runs off that. If I'm on a camp trip where the truck (Tundra) is going to be sitting for more than a day I throw out two of the Goal Zero hard panels. On a recent three day stay they kept the pack topped off despite solid overcast days. Prior to the hard panels I used one of their folding panels that would just barely keep up with the fridge with good sunlight.
 

Overland-Indiana

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For my Degree I was required to take 2 courses: Alternative Energy and Wind/Solar Power. I'll look through my notes and see if I can come up with useful info. I built for my home a battery bank that uses solar panels (2 smaller ones) to maintain the charge and then It has a plug 110v type plug to charge them when they get really low. I used it as a back up power source for my gas furnace blower to heat the house in a power outage. I never used it like I though I would so I got rid of it and bought a Honda generator. I still have a couple small panels, this thread makes me want to build something lol
 
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vegasjeepguy

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I picked up this 45W setup from Harbor Freight for around $150 a few years ago. Keeps the battery in my tongue box charged and the charging control unit has multiple direct charging options. The solar panels easily store in my RTT. For a cheap set up, it's holding up well.

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Mademan925

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I'm installing a solar setup on my trailer this weekend. I picked up an optima bluetop and a flexible 100w solar panel with a charge controller. Going to bolt a lockable Plano box to the side of the trailer with the charge controller and volt meter and plugs inside. The battery will be in a battery box in the back of the trailer.

This will allow me to run my goal zero lights in my tent and on the trailer without parking my truck nearby. I will also be able to store my fridge on the trailer whenever I want.
 

Kelly

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I have been looking for a reason/excuse to go solar for years, but the numbers, for OverLanding, just don't add up. Hear me out.

The average rig puts out about 1200w at idle. So running your engine 5 min is equal to an hour of a 100w solar panel at high noon, with no clouds, trees, or dirt on the panel. In my mind, capturing more of the excess power you're already paying for when you drive, is the way to go. A couple of 6v golf cart batteries should be plenty to hold you over between trail runs. If you like to sit in one spot for weeks at a time, get a bigger alternator and two more batteries (you need them to take full advantage of your solar anyway). Run your engine for 20 min, a couple times a day, and you're set! Btw, IT WORKS AT NIGHT (not to mention, when it's overcast, raining, or late in the day). Plus, you get to park your rig in the shade!

All that being said,... I've got $2000 burning a whole in my pocket for a Solar Blanket ;-)
 
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MizMoosie

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I have an Indel B fridge powered be an ArkPak using a 105amphr AGM battery. I also have a Renogy 100w solar suitcase with 25' of #10 wire connecting it to the ArkPak via 50amp Anderson power pole.
While driving I plug the fridge into a 12v socket in the back of the Jeep and charge the ArkPak via the smart charger off a 12v plug in the front of the Jeep. In camp, I plug the fridge into the ArkPak which lasts about 4 days before dropping to 50%. On a sunny day I can park the Jeep in the shade and deploy the solar in the sun.
 
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The other Sean

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I have been looking for a reason/excuse to go solar for years, but the numbers, for OverLanding, just don't add up. Hear me out.

The average rig puts out about 1200w at idle. So running your engine 5 min is equal to an hour of a 100w solar panel at high noon, with no clouds, trees, or dirt on the panel. In my mind, capturing more of the excess power you're already paying for when you drive, is the way to go. A couple of 6v golf cart batteries should be plenty to hold you over between trail runs. If you like to sit in one spot for weeks at a time, get a bigger alternator and two more batteries (you need them to take full advantage of your solar anyway). Run your engine for 20 min, a couple times a day, and you're set! Btw, IT WORKS AT NIGHT (not to mention, when it's overcast, raining, or late in the day). Plus, you get to park your rig in the shade!

All that being said,... I've got $2000 burning a whole in my pocket for a Solar Blanket ;-)
One thing to consider is the space requirement for an additional battery and parts. Many vehicles don't have the extra underhood space and some of us live in climates with bad winters so adding things under the truck is many times a no go due to moisture and salt spray for half the year. Having the option to supplement battery reserve with a simple solar setup could be cheaper or more compact than a dual battery setup.
 

1Louder

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I have been looking for a reason/excuse to go solar for years, but the numbers, for OverLanding, just don't add up. Hear me out.

The average rig puts out about 1200w at idle. So running your engine 5 min is equal to an hour of a 100w solar panel at high noon, with no clouds, trees, or dirt on the panel. In my mind, capturing more of the excess power you're already paying for when you drive, is the way to go. A couple of 6v golf cart batteries should be plenty to hold you over between trail runs. If you like to sit in one spot for weeks at a time, get a bigger alternator and two more batteries (you need them to take full advantage of your solar anyway). Run your engine for 20 min, a couple times a day, and you're set! Btw, IT WORKS AT NIGHT (not to mention, when it's overcast, raining, or late in the day). Plus, you get to park your rig in the shade!

All that being said,... I've got $2000 burning a whole in my pocket for a Solar Blanket ;-)
That's why I like portable panels with extension cords. The rig can be in the shade and the panel in the sun. Batteries like slow charging vs quick charging so I think the running the truck solution isn't as effective. People can argue that point until the cows come home. Extra batteries add a lot of extra cost. Until the large Lithium batteries come down in price I am happy with my single battery setup, Renogy 100 Watt Solar Suitcase, and my Anti-gravity jump box. I also have an ArkPak with a smaller 55ah battery if I feel like bringing it. Of course I live in the SW where the sun always shines. Don't kid yourself though. Solar can still work on cloudy days. For me I don't like to waste gas charging my stuff up unless I have to. I also don't like the noise of the truck just sitting there idling. To each his own.... So I look at charging via alternator as a last resort other than while driving. I don't need to charge my batteries at night but if I did well Plan B works.
 
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