Monday, January 7, 2013

It’s About Time to Add Solar

Just living is not enough.  One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.

The other day I mentioned how much we had learned over the last few years about traveling and boondocking in an RV.  We’ve spent a great deal of time in RV parks with full hookups and a solar_01great deal of time without hookups.  We have finally come to the decision we are going to install solar --- not major solar but just solar.  After all, we still have our Honda 2000 generator we intend to keep and use to top off the panels each morning – perhaps.

The first step has already been taken. Actually, we have already taken several first steps. Research .. research … research and you know everything on the internet is true.  You also know that salespeople will recommend what they sell and talk down what they don’t sell.

Researching keeps me busy and besides I like to know facts and figures before jumping into something big.  This is big.  I’ve done the math and the calculating based on information provided on the internet.  For some reason all this amperage and wattage and voltage stuff just isn’t overly interesting but it’s necessary.  Math used to be my bag.  Alter all it was what I wanted to major in when I first started college.   I was intrigued with the algebra, calculus and trigonometry problems.     I’m thinking that was when my brain was young because it sure is struggling with all these boring facts now.  How can we calculate all this stuff when we really have no idea what our future consumption is going to be?  That’s never a problem when we’re plugged into that little electrical box in RV parks.  I don't have to think about turning on the spi3microwave, air conditioner or even an electric heater.  I just do it.  With solar you have to think!

We’ve received a few recommendations and suggestions on different sizes and brands.  Deciding on the panels is the hard part.  Buying the controller, wiring and display unit was the easy part.  The  panels themselves are a little more difficult. One suggestion was to buy USA made panels and another one was to get Kyocera panels.

We know the Kyocera panels are pretty popular ones for an RV.  Panels with similar specs run about half what Kyocera does. I would have said  I’m not referring to panels made in China or Taiwan  but to those made in the USA.  However, Kyocera panels are not made in the USA.  The headquarters is in Scottsdale but the panels aren’t made here.  Canadian Solar panels aren’t made in Canada either ….. interesting, right?  It seems most panels aren’t made in the USA.  I did find some that were.  They are Sharp, SPI, SolarWorld, Suniva, Helios Solar Works and Schott Solar.   Obviously, we’re still on the prowl. 

Another suggestion was to look for used panels.  I’m not sure we really want to do that.  Most panels have a much higher percentage of output during the first few years of life than later.   Some panels are warrantied for 25 years!!  I’m doubting we will be around and in our motorhome in 25 years.  What about you?

Something we hear often is you get what you pay for.  Well, that isn’t always true.  Just because we pay more doesn’t always mean we’re going to get more or better either.  That’s where the research can come in handy but hindsight always ends up being 20/20.  It’s only then that you know whether or not you made a mistake.

Placement on the RV is another issue.  Should we do the 235W panels which are big or should we do more of the smaller panels around 100W?  We don’t intend to have such a mass of panels that we’ll be totally dependent on the sun.   Should we put them flat or should we be able to angle them? We have no clue how they will end up but the next few days will definitely be ones spent learning even more about this solar setup.  At least it’s keeping us busy and out of the local casinos …. which is where we went again yesterday with Terry’s mom. 

‘Tis life on the road.


  1. Looking forward to seeing your set up when you get to Q. Jim's working hard on that list today. But since he's making noise outside I have two whimpering dogs on my lap. And why do I always show up as being in Gilbert on your live traffic feed? I keep meaning to ask you that.

  2. I spent some serious time calculating my electrical needes and how many panels and batteries I'd need to do it right.

    Along with the high cost, I'd have to rent a U-Haul trailer to carry all the weight.

    Like I said before, I'll park next to you and plug in the extension cord.

  3. WOW...what a huge decision you two have made. I ma with Sandie...looking forward to reading what you two have decided.

  4. good luck with the purchase of the solar! can't wait to read how much you like it!

  5. One thing I think is a MUST is the ability to tilt them up during the lower Sun in the Winter months. I've monitored mine when I didn't tilt them ie. when I was just pulling in for one O/N.

    With the panels tilted my batteries are fully charged no later than 10:00AM. Not tilted it takes the whole day to get the batteries fully charged - if at all.

    I had to check my Invoice to see what kind I got. I have (2) 135W and they are Kyocera.

  6. We have one 130 watt panel and tilting it really does make a difference in the winter months.
    Good luck with your choices.

  7. Looking forward to hearing more about your progress with solar panels.


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