Our solar Mod: There are already plenty of blogs, articles and even books on RV solar mods, so I will skip the basics, how-to, etc and simply explain what is different about ours and why. First, we only boondock a few weeks each year, so adding a large expensive, system did not make sense for us. We started with four Interstate 6 volt 108 AH batteries, one 100 watt panel and a 40 amp MPPT from WindyNation, which cost much less than $300, not including the batteries. I mounted the panel with hinges and bolts so the panel could be tilted in any direction to maximize solar power.
We started the solar mod incrementally to keep the cost low, and determine how many watts we really needed. We also already had a Honda 2000 generator, so if the single panel proved to not meet our needs we could always go back to running the generator and dealing with the noise and exhaust fumes.
We first tested our new solar system in Quartzite during the big show in January 2014. For those of you that do not know about the big show in Quartzite, basically over 500,000 RVers arrive and spend about a week in the middle of January to attend the show and boondock in the BLM deserts. Everything you want or need for RVs is for sale during the show. (I’ll explain our big find later)
When we first arrived, we pointed the rig to the East, with Southern exposure to our awning/solar side for maximum sun coverage. I raised our panel and check the amp meter, 5.6 amps.
With full batteries already from our travels, we made the first day no problem. We typically do not use a lot of electricity during the day, however, most evenings we like to check emails, internet and perhaps watch a DVD movie. Well, this exceeded our new solar systems capabilities by the second day. As the week went by, we lost 3-5% more each day making us run the generator more and more just to bring the batteries back above 80%. Time for more solar panels!
Next we purchased three more 100 watt panels from WindyNation for right over $300, bringing our total to about $600 so far. We also purchased a motorized tilt solar mount at the big show – our big find! This was a big deal for me, because I do not like climbing on the roof every time we arrive or leave and really don’t want to if a rain or wind storm comes in quickly and you jump up on the roof and fight the wind or rain to lower the solar panels.
After the installation of the new panels and the motorized tilt system we returned to Quartzite to retest our solar system. We were able to stay several days, use all the electric power we wanted (no A/C of course), and each evening the batteries were back to 100%.
Some more picture of the installation: