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600 Watts of Affordable RV Solar Power


2015 UPDATE – We have a new and greatly improved solar system!

Click the button to see our most recent upgrades:


 

A look at our new 600 watt RV Solar System; the gear, the power and the cost.  For us it’s 4 times more power than we had in 2011 and way safer for our gadgets.

We first met the GoPower team while speaking in Abbotsford at the Earlybird RV show.  At the time we knew our RV solar setup was way under powered for our Wild Camping needs; however we hadn’t considered an upgrade due to cost.   Then we were introduced to the 120 watt Portable Solar Kit.  With a street price just over $500 this no installation folding panel produces equal power for way less cost than our previous roof mounted solar setup.  Needless to say we were sold on the upgrade.

After leaving the show we did a little research on the company and found they offer a host of other solar powered products.  The item that really caught our eye is the 3000 watt continuous pure sine wave inverter.  The Magnum inverter originally installed inside our Windy was a measly 1200 watts (barely enough to run the microwave), it only powered one outlet inside the RV, and due to the modified sine wave several of our appliances wouldn’t work when running off solar and the house batteries.

One thing led to another and we ended up with the 120 Watt Portable Kit and the 480 Watt Solar Extreme Kit.  That’s right…600 watts of RV solar power…I think we may have gone a little overboard!

The kit is under $4,000 on Amazon.com (this is the best price we have found so far, here’s the link: Go Power! Solar Extreme Kit) and comes with:

  • 160 watt solar charging kit + 2 x 160 watt expansion kits
  • 3000 watt pure sine wave inverter for AC power
  • 30 amp pulse width modulated digital solar controller
  • 75 amp smart battery charger
  • 30 amp pre-wired automatic shore power/inverter AC switching kit
  • DC inverter install kit
  • Inverter Remote on/off

It also came with everything needed for RV setup including detailed install instructions.  I thought about installing myself but considering I have very few tools on board, limited knowledge of electrical, and wanted to wire a lot more outlets, I opted for a dealer install.

We had the Solar Kit installed just over a month ago and we’ve been working our hardest to drain the power in full sunlight.  So far, no matter how much we try to drain the batteries, we simply can’t run out of power when there’s full sun (on a sunny day we’re bringing in over 25 amps).  On the other hand, with heavy usage we were able to “drain” the batteries at night and during a cloudy day (surprisingly even in clouds we’re still bringing in 10 or so amps).  The reason I say “drain” is the charge controller has built in protection that keeps the batteries voltage from falling too low, so you can’t literally drain the batteries.  This has us realizing we have more than enough solar coming in, just not enough batteries to fill with that power.  Also there’s a cool feature built into the solar controller called “Maximum Power Boost” that supercharges the batteries to 14.4 V so your batteries will last longer through the night (extremely helpful but don’t expect to run a bunch of high draw appliances without sun or lots of batteries).

Over the next few months we’ll be doing our best to understand the system, push it to the limits and see how it works in all types of weather/sun situations.  After a month of use our solar has allowed us to boondock several extra days without having to worry about power and for that piece of mind I’d say we’re off to a great start.

Just to clear up a few basic questions that we’ve already received via facebook:

What’s the big deal with a pure sine inverter?  A pure sine inverter operates just like household power.  Basically if you can run it inside your house it will work in your RV.  For example our modified sine wave inverter wouldn’t run our induction plate, milk frother or espresso machine (and I’ve read it’s hard on laptops and camera battery chargers).

If you’re dream is to switch to a Sailboat in 2014 why are you investing in more solar?  We can’t think of a better reason to test out a new solar setup!  When we hit the water the last thing we want to deal with is learning more equipment than we need to.  Plus a lot of this solar will work on a sailboat too (if it’ll fit) 🙂

How in the world is $4,000 affordable?  2 main reasons we’re calling this solar setup affordable: 1. Compared to our last solar setup installed at the factory this kit is way cheaper per watt.  2. Assuming an average campground cost $40 per night, this solar setup will pay for itself in a year if you wild camp just 2 days per week (or 100 days).  Often times we’ve found free camping in the surrounding areas of popular destinations like Lake Tahoe, Grand Tetons, Savannah, Lake George and many more.

Did you upgrade the batteries?  We did not.  With so many different types of batteries, and varying reviews on which battery is best for each application, we’ve decided to live with our solar setup for a bit before we invest in new batteries.  If you have any info to share about batteries (flooded vs. gel vs. AGM) please share in the comments below, we’re all ears and looking to upgrade sometime in the near future.

Share your solar experience or questions in the comments below, it’s a complicated subject and the more we talk about it the better it’ll be.

Disclaimer:  While our solar was provided by GoPower for review purposes…all of our experiences and opinions are not purchased and are still our own.  It’s also important to know we contacted them after learning they were a small company with great quality and sustainable business practice’s.  We only work with companies we truly believe in and who support our mission to live a sustainable and adventurous life.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (149)

  • Richard J Roberts

    I recently bought 4 residantial solar panels 255w. ( BenQ Solar Panel PM245P01-255 ) I have four 6v batteries. What size charge controller do I need? Thank you!

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      Add up the wattage of the panels, divide by 14 (voltage to charge) and that gives you your amps. That’s 73, so you need a 75 amp or higher controller. A couple of good suggestions are the Magnum 100amp, the 80amp Outback, or BlueSky energy 24i and link 2 of them together. If you got the 100amp Magnum that would give you the capacity to add another panel later down the road if you wanted to without having to upgrade the controller.

      reply
  • J. Concory

    Thanks…
    Works great on my camper. Followed the instruction that came with it and there wasn’t any issues. Remember connect battery first, second solar panel last the load. Now I got a fully charged battery any were go. Now I don’t have to worry about power when I take my camper to the lake or just camping. The unit has four holes at each corner to mount we’re you need it. If you don’t want to put holes on your camper you can always just glue it down.
    Thank you!

    reply
  • Vincent R Mullett

    Hi. I will soon be purchasing a 30 ft rv (not certain of the model yet) and will be parking it on a piece of land, then building a roof over it as my permanent home. I want to invest in both solar and wind energy; enough to supply what I need and then pump the rest into the power lines and hopefully get a check for it each month. What is the best advice you can give for what I am hoping to pull off?

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      The first thing you need to do is to check with the local power company to see if they allow net metering (selling power back to the grid). Some states and locations don’t allow it or have limits on it.

      reply
  • Fred

    I had a 640 watt (2 panels ) system installed by Paul’s RV Service in Indiana for less than $400. I bought the components from Ecodirect for less than $1,700. I have a 2,500 watt inverter that came with the Country Coach Magna. Make sure you go big enough so that you don’t have to redo your system.

    reply
    • Katherine

      Looking at solar right now and I so happen to live in Indiana, how was your installation service with Paul’s RV?

      reply
  • Jesse

    Hi Guys…I was just wondering how much stuff I can run off an 400w solar system?
    Im using about 10 12v lights, a water pump, a water heater and I wanted to install a tiny fridge and be able to run other appliances. Most people seem to say that that won’t be enough power (without running a generator or being hooked up) but if I had many batteries and was sparing with the appliances would it work? (cos in your video boondocking with solar @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbrwhq4ooWs your have 600w and only two batteries but you run the huge fridge and use quite a lot of appliances!)

    Anyways…Thanks for your help!

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      Your first step is to do an energy audit to see how much power you’re using. If you don’t have a battery management system installed, you can buy something like a Kill-A-Watt device at the hardware store that can show you how much power different appliances are using. Once you know how much you’re using, you can figure out how big your system will need to be.

      reply
  • Brett

    I spend a lot of time in the south, what would it take to run a roof A/C at night, would this power it?

    reply
  • Allan Shi

    Solar power for RV. Very easy. Just need buy:

    1. 160 Wp portable solar panel
    2. 300W ESS (which built-in Li-ion battery, Inverter, MPPT charger and BMS)
    3. Cable

    reply
  • alexa davis

    Hi

    Just curious how long it tool to install- trying to get a sense of labor costs for the system on a AS 64′ overlander?

    thanks
    lex

    reply
  • bruce sanders

    I became tired of trying to figure out every different kind of battery in the world and some too complicated to understand, so I just bit the bullet and went with 4 Lifeline 6v GPL-6/CTs @ 300AH each. Bit pricey but who cares. I noticed them throughout my 30 year military career, so they must be built to MILSPEC and that gives me certain comfort. With 600 amps of solar, 5500 watt Onan and a composting toilet the only weak spot is water. But hey, it might rain, right.

    reply
    • Don Fairbairn

      Have you ever thought of adding an Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG)? It’s like a dehumidifier on steroids that makes potable water out of the air…Don

      reply
  • Jon

    I’ve been doing a ton of reading about batteries and still don’t really know what I’m talking about, except that you don’t want to get the “marine/RV” batteries from walmart or wherever because they can’t be deep cycled very much or they’ll be ruined in pretty short order. Long story short, I went with 6, 6V golf cart batteries because they can be discharged down to about 50% without being too hard on them. I have a tiny off-grid cabin that I’m using them for. 6 batteries might be a little overkill. Also, you can’t mix new batteries with old so that’s another reason I went with 6 from the get-go.

    reply
    • RLW

      Actually the MarineRV batteries Deep Cycle Maxx at Walmart are quite good. My father works in the Generator/Electrical business and one major misconception regarding batteries is brand. He knows from experience regarding major brand premiums and regular. He has told me many times that Johnson Controls batteries are one of the best (they make many brands including Walmart’s higher end, DieHard (some) and several others under various names.

      reply
      • David

        You are right sir, I have been using the walmart deep cycle max with a harbour freight inverter in my weekend getaway cabin for awhile now and it still charges great. Paid around $100, has 110 amp hours plus a 2 year replacement warranty, just besure to keep your reciept. Also the new led dc lights will run almost forever before the battery needs a charge.

        reply
  • Daniel Gehring

    If adding or upgrading solar to your RV is something you are about to do may I suggest a website that is very informative. Handybobsolar.wordpress.com
    The information in this site will answer many questions that are frequently asked when considering PV power.

    reply
  • Chris

    Please forgive me for saying this, but I don’t consider a $4,000 system cheap. That’s why I buy things seperately. Unfortunately, I don’t always get the best made products, but at least I have a system that I can use until I get a hold of some real cash.

    reply
  • Chris

    AGM is better than Flood Acid. They are 12V and it is easier to couple them in groups. Be very careful with Flood Acid. They leak gas and are not always reliable. They have to be handle with care as any sparks from from will result in their uselessness. That isn’t so much the case with AGM. They can tolerate the red on black accidents better. Don’t ask me why. I’m dealing with it now. I don’t know how the Flood Acid are going deal with the cold or heat, as I owned them only 5 months now. But AGMs don’t do very well in the heat and cold. I do like how they hold a charge and how they charge. However, you will pay for these benefits.

    reply
  • Andrea

    Great article. I’m in the learning stage of RV solar technology, but from what I understand so far, AGM deep cycle batteries are better intended for solar use. They are said to charge twice as quickly, and hold the charge twice as long. They cost a bit more, but are worth it from what I’ve read. Thanks for sharing your experience with the Solar Extreme. It’s the exact system that I’m looking at right now.:)

    reply
    • You got it, AGM batteries are best and Lithium is even better.

      reply
  • Sylvain bourgon

    Would this 3000 watt inverter run A/C?

    reply
    • sure, if you had enough of a battery bank to handle that (and you would need a lot).

      reply
      • Sylvain Bourgon

        How many batteries would you think would be needed to run an A/C 15000 btu

        reply
  • Sarah

    A couple of questions.
    1. Did you have to buy both “kits” or can you hook up extra panels to your Extreme kit?
    2. We have an RV now and the car engine charges just the one 12v battery for the lights. If we plug in we can use everything. How did you resolve the crossover issues of adding a new system? can I use the inverter that I have or will I have to replace it?
    These look like good systems and we are needing to get a new system so thanks for your great post!

    reply
  • Adegboyega

    I am relocating home back to Nigeria after a few years in Russia. I have been thinking of cheap alternative source of power to the epilectic source of power back Home. We have lots of Sun. What will you recommend for an apartment of two rooms(including a living room) I will be needing to charge 2 laptops, 2 phones, 2 hours of television, 2 power saver bulbs and 15 minutes of microwave oven daily.

    reply
    • Residential instillation’s are different from RV. I would suggest calling up whomever you plan to buy your panels from and get their input on the right set up for your application.

      reply
      • Hello Nikki and Jason,
        We’re most interested in knowing if you moved the GoPower Solar Extreme Kit to the new Excursion RV? In watching your “Roy” introduction video, you revealed a 2000watt inverter in a back holding bay versus the 3000watt GoPower system. And, how do they install the roof panels to insure against water leakage as I gather they are somehow bolting the bracket on the roof? Did you have the Fleetwood factory do the installation of the GoPower including all of the interior control panel units? Thanks! Safe Travels!

        reply
  • Bone

    I would highly suggest 2 – 6v golf cart batteries for high amp hours instead of an expensive Trojan type 12v. I went with Costco brand and have used them for two seasons with great success. They are more durable than 12v batteries as well. I’ve broken batteries on rough dirt roads but these Costco golf cart batteries have survived it all!

    Renogy is a good brand for panels too.

    reply
  • Hi
    I am about to lose my home and have bought a cargo van which is being refitted with a new powertrain et. al. Has anyone installed one of your systems on the roof of a vehicle such as mine.
    Time for new adventures.
    Best
    Denn

    reply
    • Have seen commercial van body trucks with panels on the roof at several movie sites. Supports and cross bracing looked like aluminum frames made specially for this purpose. If you can mount it, you can hook it up.

      reply
    • Chris

      Wow Denn, sorry to hear about your home. Some unsolicited advice here… To put solar on the roof and having the extra shade, versus parking in the shade and having the panels (and more panel area versus limited to the surface area of the vehicle), is a tough one.
      Maximize your solar input, get a charge controller that can do MPPT, listen to the advice above about a pure sine inverter (Samlex is nice). Don’t abuse your batteries. Supplement with a small wind turbine if you can get away with in and if you’re in an area that gets decent wind. Check reddit’s /r/personalfinance for decent financial tips. Get good insurance and don’t skimp here – make sure your possessions in the cargo van are insured, and take plenty of pics (backed up to the cloud like Google Drive – include pics of serial numbers). The good news is solar is cheaper than ever. The downside is that’s just one piece of the system and quality batteries/charge controllers/inverters are not cheap. Consider reduction of energy consumption a force multiplier – insulate the crap out of that cargo van, cook outside when it’s hot, get a small inductive cooktop for indoor efficient cooking (B0045QEPYM), also microwaving is one of the most efficient methods of cooking so don’t discount it. For entertainment / computing you have your smartphone of choice, maybe a tablet, and instead of a TV try a small LED projector, unless you’re comfortable using a notebook for everything. The ZTE Spro 2 is a really cool looking product to save space, I’ve never played with one yet. Find some good neighbors. Best of luck.

      reply
      • trevor

        Holy crap that projector is really cool! It has 2 terabits of memory and is a wifi hub, and projects 10ftx10ft screen. I will have to wait until after I get solar stuff to buy a toy like that. Imagine a moonless night out in the desert watching horror movies.

        reply
  • eliot

    Whats dealer installed your solar

    reply
  • Leah

    We have been doing a lot of research about investing in solar. However, every time we talk to a new expert to verify information we get a different story. So my main question is if this new 600 watt system with the larger inverter is strong enough to run even your Air Conditioning and Refrigerator???? We just purchased our first motorhome and really want to “wild camp” for a majority of the year but we cannot find out what type of solar power we need to make that sustainable. Any information you can offer would be extremely helpful. Thanks so much!

    reply
  • Laird Bishop

    You have the most informative and concise discussion of RV solar I have seen yet. Just one question remains, and I have not seen it on your site yet: A discussion of batteries. Am I just missing it? We are considering the extreme solar kit but we would like to be a little bit more “in the know” about what battery upgrades we might want to consider to optimize it. Would love to see you do a segment on that.

    reply
    • You haven’t missed it and it is a very important topic (and one that we will be covering soon)!

      reply
  • TwoMcGeachys

    Hi Jason,
    I read through all the previous comments on this thread to see if you had answered this already and didn’t see it anywhere… Just wondering if you ended up upgrading your batteries? And if so, what you went with?
    Cheers!
    Ken

    reply
    • We did not upgrade the batteries. We will have a much bigger battery bank on our next coach which we will pick up any day now! So stay tuned!

      reply
      • TwoMcGeachys

        Thanks Nikki! Thats exciting. Looking forward to it!
        Ken

        reply
  • Bill

    I like the way the remote panels connect right at your rig. Does the connection on you rig come with te kit or is that separate?

    reply
  • Redds

    Hello, You have shown the Inverter side of your RV from GoPower but what about the Converter side. I am planning on converting a School bus to an RV and would need both correct if I hook to sure power?

    reply
  • Redds

    Check out Master Luck video on his solar he got a 30% Fed discount on his system.

    reply
  • Kiera

    Sooo… Being that I am ready (NOW) to buy my solar system But I can’t figure out how to do it or better yet how to get what I want… I want the Extreme package but I want the flexible panels (I have an Airstream). On the Go Power! Website it says that “it can be built into A complete solar and inverter kit”. However I want to make sure you guys get credit for my purchase and I don’t see that option on your “shopping” list. Any ideas? Thank you!!

    reply
  • TriKen

    Hello Wynn’
    Thanks for all the fun and informative vids. You guys are Awesome and entertaining!!!
    San Diego is my home, I’m an avid sailor and last fall bought a new 2014 Fleetwood Bounder.
    I’m thinking it’s going to be fun enjoying “See to Sea”
    You have me sold on upgrading Bounder to include a Go Power 3000K kit. However, I’m struggling finding a competent, and trustworthy shop for installation. I have upgraded lighting, sound system, and etc, but seems shops don’t have any expertise in electronics.
    Any suggestions or recommendations on how to find quality craftsmen would be most appreciated.
    Hope to see you in So-Cal….
    Thanks, Ken

    reply
  • Thanks Jason

    I thought you were using the Pro Power 3000 not the Magnum MS2012 2000W Inverter .

    is the Magnum this model? Magnum MS2012 2000W Inverter 12V W/50A Pfc Charger

    Thanks

    reply
  • John

    Hi Jason/Nikki, 2 Quick questions: re Go Power! GPC-75-MAX 75 Amp 4-Stage Converter/Battery Charger – did you replace the existing converter in rv? and do you recommend the 100 amp model? ( I have 2 banks of 4-6v golf cart batteries in my Monaco) … regards John

    reply
  • Paul

    Basically I want to power a laptop in a Jeep. And store power in batteries for night/cloudy use. Any suggestions

    reply
  • Jenn

    Hi it’s me again clogging up your comments! If it is better you can always reply to my email address [email protected]
    I am wondering if you folks have installed any of the solar panel set ups yourself and if you have was it difficult? I ask that knowing that “difficult” can completely vary for everyone depending on background, experience and other factors .

    I am getting close to the point where I feel I have a lot of the necessary information to make the leap, but the installations of everything is what I am unsure about. Electrical wires? whaaaat haha. I am certainly no electrician but I am super passionate about the rock we all call earth and solar/composting toilets seems like pretty rad ways to help keep it around for a while longer 😉 !
    I would love some insight because we have the right size system and package picked out from renogy and are excited about the next step!
    Thanks for your lovely blog!!
    Jenn

    reply
  • Dany

    I’m going to have a system of the same size for about $1220 including every component you mentioned including the batteries
    How?
    -scratch and dent panels for 75 cents a watt.
    -,4 deep cycle batteries meant for scooter at an auction for ,$50 a piece
    And the list goes on.
    Aust ask around, take, your time and never buy a kit

    reply
  • Rich Vahsholtz

    Hi My Wife and I are Now Full time we Have A 36′ Class A & We Really Want To Go Solar All The Way & Are Willing to Take A Step at A Time to Do it One Time Right, Thanks to everyone for All Your Info Please Keep it Up Great Stuff Rich & Terrie Vahsholtz

    reply
    • Fantastic to hear! There is nothing better that the sweet sound of silent power!

      reply
  • Larry Butler

    How long can batteries last that are drained every night then left drained to sulfate from, say, midnight to 10AM when the panels will be in enough sun to seriously recharge them….day after day, except on cloudy days when they’ll be left drained for 2 or 3 days, unless you have a generator to charge them?

    Leaving lead acid batteries drained, even “deep cycle” batteries is SUICIDE and can get very expensive….

    reply
  • Roger

    Oops, my bad, 450 watts @ 17.8V, not 12, =25A duh.

    The RainX is still a cool idea though.

    reply
  • Roger

    Just found your site, because our new trailer also uses the same GO Power charger (but just one panel.
    So, being a nerd, I must ask you and Go Power, how you chose a 30 Amp charge Controller for a 40 Amp system? Is that OK if it’s fused properly?

    Also, I see you cleaning your panels a lot, do you find you need to do that often? You should try Rain-X on ONE panel and see if it stays cleaner, like a well waxed coach!

    Thanks for all the cool info!

    reply
    • hmmm, I will have to ask go power about the rain-x idea. Sounds like it would work as long as the chemicals don’t affect the panels.

      reply
      • Roger

        Yup, good call!, Rain-X says no. Not on solar panels and not on plastic. I’m 0 for 2. The inventors of Rain-X apparently do make Solar Shield (thanks Google) for glass solar panels, so perhaps I get half a point back.

        reply
  • Vanessa G

    I’ve been trying to sort out the battery situation myself, I found this article that should give some insight on what types of batteries are best. Hope this helps.

    http://www.freesunpower.com/batteries.php

    reply
  • Darren

    Hello Wynns,

    I have been researching solar for a while and found your website after doing a solar panel search. Thanks to your very simple, but informative review of the Go Power portable solar panel kit we have decided to purchase one. We tow an older 21 ft. Airstream so the 80watt kit would suffice……..but…..why not go,for it all. We will very shortly grab the 120. Watt kit and since we love to camp on the beach we will not be inhibited by any pesky trees whil we are charging up.

    Just an FYI I did a lot of cross checking the Go Power kit versus anything else I could find online and there was nothing that came close as far as quality, simplicity to use, and feedback from the company. They got back to my email very quickly.

    Thanks again Wynns, if you ever end up at assateaque State Park maybe we will see you there.

    Darren

    reply
  • Scott Helmann

    We absolutely love National Parks and wild camping too! For 20 months now we have had 600 watts of solar on the roof and a 150 watt portable panel (for use when we are parked in the shade), a high powered xantrex pure sine inverter for running the big loads like the induction plate, microwave, blow dryer and ice maker or when excess power is available the refrigerator. We also have a smaller super efficient Morningstar sure sine inverter that is on all the time for the satellite receiver, internet hotspot, computers and cell booster, TV, electric bike as well as chargers for an array of other items. Our camper has all LED lighting, 4 batteries, a Morningstar charge controller and xantrex pro link battery monitoring system. We carry a honda 1000 generator which never gets used. In mid summer we also take along a honda 2000 generator that we combine with the 1000 to run the A/C when needed. The entire solar setup was about $2600 with myself doing the install. We were camping at Devils Tower and people were amazed and loved that we were giving away free ice that was made by the sun… Just because we could…..

    -Scott & Joy

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  • David

    Hello, Wynns! I recently discovered your website and You Tube channel and I’ve been devouring all the information about the RV lifestyle that I can. Your solar setup looks fantastic and it’s on my Amazon.com wishlist. One question I’ve yet to see answered is about the installation of the panels on the roof. What happens to them if it hails? Are they protected at all, or do you (or can you) cover them when not in use? Thanks for all the great info you provide on your sites.

    reply
      • Hi David – great question! In 15 years, we have had less than 1% of our modules returned to us and the only weather-related issues we have heard of were due to lighting strikes. (I should note here that we do not cover ‘acts of God’ in our warranty). A few years ago, one of our RV dealers in Alberta had a costly ordeal with a hail storm, resulting in heavy damage to multiple RVs, however, our solar was able to withstand the abuse on the roof.

        Hope this helps and good luck on your adventures. – Andrea

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        • David

          Thanks, Andrea. It’s nice to know that if I’m gonna fork out $4000 for your system, that the panels are tough enough to withstand hail. That’s really been my only concern with installing them on the RV roof.

          reply
          • Our pleasure David. I checked the standard testing for hail, and our 160 watt modules meet this standard:
            1″ diameter (25.4mm), 7.53g. Test velocity is 23m/s (82.8km/hr, or 51.4mph).

      • Scott Helmann

        Last August (living in Rapid City, South Dakota) we got 1.9 inch hail and it totaled out the roof on our home (it had been redone only 16 months previously) but the solar panels on the camper were completely undamaged. It made me think that I should have covered the roof of the house with solar panels than roofing shingles….

        I think the fact that the panels were lying flat allowed the hail to bounce off with out any damage to the panels… The refrigerator vent didn’t fair so well…

        Scott & Joy

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  • Dave

    Re your request for batteries to consider: Check out the Odyssy PC2250 AGM battery. An RV/truck battery tech has it in his rig and referred me as my 3x8D batts (1 start, 2 house) are near the end. The best price I’ve seen at store is $495 each. Lot’s of $$$ but they suffer abuse very well and can remain in storage w/out power in or out for 12months or so whereas wet cell will be lucky to hit 3-6 months before running dead at which point they are basically ruined and need replacing (at about $225 each). If you mothball your rig under cover w/o trickle or float charge Oydssy may be of interest. It you mothball w/solar or trickle it may not be worth the cost. I’m thinking I will fork for Oydessy when time comes as if all else fails on one of my adventures I should still be able to crank the 330 HP diesel and get out of town (or back 1nto town as case may be!!)

    reply
  • Reed Cundiff

    Read Ron Jones’ comments last year and followups on Technomadia (see Cherie’s comments above) and got interested in Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. Totaled old rig in 70 car pile up between Vera Cruz and Puebla, Mexico. Older son Cary is in solar/alternative energy for 22 years (is installing panels and low voltage system for a 1.5 megawatt solar system at this time) and he got excited about designing/fabricating a solar/battery system that wouild make us autonomous, i.e. never have to utilize line power or generator again.

    This system has 1.4 kW of solar, 9.7 kW-hours of Lithium IronPhosphate (LFP) batteries, 4.0 PSW inverter, 1.5 kW of battery chargers and associated controllers, converters etc.

    We have been able to run air conditioning for 3.5 hours and still have over 60% battery storage. LFP can utilize 90% of power storage as opposed to 40% for lead sulphide batteries. This means that the LFP system which weighs 160# is equivalent to over 1000# of LFP. We have exercised the system running both a/c and microwave and it worked well though we were running 3.0 kW through the inverter. This is something wewould never do except for testing.

    We were caught in a snow storm in November while boondocking and ran the forced air heater for three days and still had 60% power capacity. The solar was still giving us 10 or so amps through 8 inches of snow.

    Not having to run generator means that wildlife seems to accept us and we have had coyotes, deer and elk come within 15 meters of rig while dispersed camping aka boondeocking (and this is we do) and had two young Bull Moose fighting with 25 meters of our rig at Vedauwoo, Wyoming last year

    Reed and Elaine Cundiff

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    • Thanks for sharing your system stats and successes!
      Can you give us an estimate on the overall cost and/or cost break down?
      Thanks!

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  • amanda mckinney

    Hello,

    My name is Amanda and im about to begin living in my RV full time with my two children. Im actually using the same system you have but i was wondering how many batteries one needs?… I’ll need to run my fridge 24-7 obviously but other than that everything else is plug in as needed, or runs off its own battery supply like alarm clocks and such.
    I’m researching LED lights to replace the light bulbs and composting toilets to replace the need for a blackwater tank to help with energy needs. I am also investing in a good Generic Generator for emergencys. I will be completely “off-grid” by the end of the month. Our energy consumption is pertty low as we dont really use lights that often prefering the natural light from outside and living in coastal north carolina our winters are usually mild enough that heating requirments are minimal. Im rather handy on a grill so i dont NEED power for the stove and oven. Sooo… i was hoping youd be able to clue me in on the number of agm deep cycle solar batteries i would need?..
    Thank you, stumbling on and reading your blog has been entertaining and very informative…Amanda

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  • Scott Barker

    Hi Jason,

    My wife and I are seriously considering installation of solar power equipment on our Monaco Vesta. We’re pretty much sold on the concept and would like to replicate the system that you had in Windy, but would need someone to do the installation. In that regard, could you tell us who did your installation? According to your blog, it appears that you intend to install solar on roy, too. Do you plan to use the same installer? Thanks, for the great information that you provide, it is invaluable.

    Sincerely,

    Scott and Carolyn

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  • Brandon

    How much was the labor to install your last setup?

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  • I’m am about to embark in this journey of living in a travel trailer. I’m 24 and wanted to do this when I was 21 so bad. Now I can’t wait to begin the upgrades and use solar for my energy and learn to live with necessities and space management. You guys moto-vate me! Oorah!

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  • Norman Retzke

    Many devices don’t care if they have a “pure sine wave” power input or not. Such devices don’t need power line protection.

    So, it’s a reasonable alternative to purchase a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for the specific purpose to protect delicate electronics and PCs.

    Now, not all UPSes are created equal. Some pass incoming power (including trashed sine wave and voltage excursions) except at such times as “brownout” or “overvoltage” conditions occur. That’s of limited value, but under such conditions that type of UPS will switch to batteries. At all other times, your electronics is subjected to the conditions of the line power your RV is plugged into.

    However, there are UPSes which continuously condition power. Garbage in = pure sine wave and 120V out. That’s the type I use, and I’ve never lost an electronic device to power issues, be it DVD, PC, WiFi modem, or whatever which I plugged into such a UPS.

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  • David

    Really nice set up. We’ll be going full time soon and it’s time to add solar for boondocking. Did you look into connecting the panels into the existing inverter/charger? I have a fairly new Xantrex inverter/charger that monitors all the power and has a genset to shore switch. Any reason that I cant connect to this system? I too like the AGM batteries.

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  • Crystal

    Hi there, I have what might be a dumb question, so forgive me. Can you set yourself up in such a way that you run everything from your solar energy, and when that drains, the system automatically knows to start pulling from the RV electrical hookup (assuming you’re hooked up)? I hope I asked that right. Thanks!

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    • Hey Crystal, that is actually a great question and one I don’t have a solid answer for but I will look into it. I do know there is a device you can have installed called an “auto gen start” that will kick your generator on automatically when your batteries are low, so I don’t see why they couldn’t do something to kick you over to shore power. I am going to start by emailing our solar peeps at Go Power and see what they know of anything.

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      • Crystal

        Hey Nikki, thanks for that! Since writing, I’ve done some more research and I think what I’m trying to do is called a grid fallback system. Could be wrong though 🙂

        take care!

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  • Tom

    Hello Wynns, You gave me lots to think about in your boondocking video. Thanks!

    Re: batteries, I installed Lifeline AGM’s 5 years ago, and am really happy with them. My brother-in-laws Lifelines are about 14 years old now and still going strong. The key of course, is to keep them topped up, and your solar is ideal for that.

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    • Hey Tom, thanks for sharing your experience with the AGM’s! We are going to have to bite the bullet soon!

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  • Brian Carter

    Jason thank you for all your advice on RVing full time. I really appreciate the free RV training as I am considering buying RV and living full time with my wife. Please keep the solar training videos coming would like to know how you’re using your 600W

    Thanks

    Brian

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  • Bert & Bernice Hogendoorn

    Wow, you guys are doing it! Nice solar setup but battery technology is where we finally have arrived Li-Ion that are totally RV friendly and your Magnum Pure Sine wave panel can set it up to work efficiently with this green technology.

    I currently have AGM (advance Glass Mat ) batteries that were the next best thing (they outlast standard wet cell batteries, can take more rocken and rolling and will except a higher rate of charge.)

    But Li-Ion are the best (but also more money) but way outlast any other battery technology. Thing is I have been looking for a great reputable company that makes them and I finally found one just recently.

    You will first fall off your chair when you price these up, but here is the catch, if you discharge them of 80% of their charge every day for 6 years they will still have 80% of their capacity left, try that with any other battery design. So total cost over time is way lower than any other battery.

    Other thing about Li-Ion, Lead acid be it AGM of Wet cell can only be quick charged to about 75% of their full capacity in short order the rest of the charge is slow and steady as she goes, not very efficient. Li-Ion will take what you throw at them and because they are smart will never be over or under charged!

    Here is the place for your battery questions (http://www.lithiumion-batteries.com/index.php), and check with Magnum on how to properly setup your charge controller for these smart batteries (the tech department says you need the ME-ARC Advanced remote Control Panel) see http://www.magnumenergy.com/Products/ME-ARC.htm.

    Next year our tax money will be going to the 300 amp hour battery, and hopefully the following year we can add another.

    Keep us posted on more helpful info, we love your site!

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    • Thanks for sharing…batteries are going to be our next big investment and Li-ION are at the top of the list. We’ve got way too much power coming in for our tiny little flooded batteries.

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  • Greg Seed

    Hi all,

    Your site is wonderful chock full of great info, thanks for all you put into it. If you have an MPPT controller is there a reason you dont use grid tie style panels that run 30 volts or better? I just finished my system with 490 watts on the roof pulling 25 amps laying flat and 12 on a cloudy day. Will be experimenting this weekend with tilting the array. Not many sites publish their real use data. Again thanks,

    Greg

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      • Greg Seed

        Jason,

        Ok tiltis quite beneficial as you may imagine. My tristar mppt 60 got a short in its output so i traded up to a more professional Outback Flexmax 80 with meter. With my 490 watt array flat in full sun facing south pulling 240 watts, tilting the array to approximately 60 degrees bumped me to just shy of 500 watts. Shifted my fridge to 120v and was still charging the battery. Big panels and get them up offthe roof good magic.

        Good luck and happy travels,
        Greg

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  • David A

    I know you’re sponsored by GoPower, but I was wondering if you could comment on the value of this system from Costco: http://www.costco.com/.product.100049288.html; it’s a 400W solar system with 2000W pure sine wave inverter, and 35 amp charge controller for $1399. I know it’s less total watts in panels, lower wattage inverter, but the only other difference I see is your system mentions a charger, this one does not, though it says all you need is a battery to charge for this system to work? TIA.

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      • David A

        Thanks so much! I guess this bargain ain’t such a bargain. 🙂 Thanks for breaking it down for me! When the time comes, I’ll definitely lean toward a Go Power system!

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  • Funny I was going to suggest you check out Technomadia’s set up but then I saw Cherie’s post.I’m a big fan of them also.

    Here’s a link, after a lot of research, to the way we will probably go.
    http://www.lithiumion-batteries.com/lithium-rv-deep-cycle.php

    Good luck, Greg

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  • Are you still traveling in Windy?

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  • Fred Stock

    I noticed Windy does not have a propane oven. While you’re boondocking do you miss the ability to bake? Or does your solar arrangement allow you to use the micro?

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  • John

    Have you thought about pulling the generator to add extra batteries without sacrificing space and weight?

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      • Rosemary

        We’re new to all this but what about the air conditioner? If you’re move the genny, what are the options? Maybe more important is asking you how often you run your AC. Obviously, you avoid hot summers — how effective is that?

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  • jim

    I guess I’m just not green enough…
    For 4 thousand dollars, I can run my 8kw diesel genny 4 hrs a day to keep my batteries charged for every single minute left in my natural life…. and probably have a grand or two left over to leave my kids….

    Kinda reminds me of the windmills and alcahol fuels, that wouldn’t exist without government subsidies.

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  • Pat Costa

    3000 watts @ 12 volts means (at 100% efficiency) you are pulling 250 amps out of your batteries. That is a lot of power and your batteries won’t do that for long. Back when we had a boat (42 foot Grand Banks Classic) the inverter (it was sine wave too) ran off of two 8-D gel batteries. They were heavy, over 150 pounds each but they would run the 2500 watt inverter for a couple of hours. Lithium Ion batteries are light and powerful (that’s why Boeing use them in the 787, where weight equals fuel burned ) but they are expensive and can get hot enough to exploded (just ask Boeing) if charged/discharge improperly (The electrolyte in LI batteries is flammable). I think they require a special charger also.

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    • Boeing does not use the LiFePO4 batteries so the warning is not apropos. The LiFePO4 chemistry is not flammable or have the thermal runaway problem. Why the Boeing engineers don’t use them is a mystery to me.

      My 8 year old AGMs are dead and I’m looking to replace them with LiFePO4. More money but a lot more available AH. I’m trying to find info on others who are doing the same, hence I came to your page. Interesting that the http://www.lithiumion-batteries.com/index.php got two citations as I’ve been thinking about biting the bullet with them. My big driver is that I have very limited space for the batteries in my Class B so the drop in replacement is attractive and I need more amp hours than my current 100AH AGMs provide. I just want a good battery management system. Their 5 year warranty is better than any other I’ve found and indicates they stand behind their claims.

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  • Redds

    Forgot to ask is your new system expandable?

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      • The wife and I are just starting “new” again with full time RV living. We did this for 5 years in a 36 ft Cruise Aire about 30 years ago, and Solar wasn’t an option so we used the built in Generator often, which was noisy and costly. But then we also had 3 small children with us and needed much more room and energy, Both personal and electric.
        We recently purchased an old 1983 Jamboree that sat more than it was used, with only 45,000 original miles on it, but from sitting and neglect I have done a lot of remodeling and repairing.
        I have been purchasing 100 watt panels at very good prices when I find them and are up to 4 now, which I thought was a decent amount of power for a small RV and 2 adults who watch a little TV with a satellite dish and surf the web and play games on our PC’s. We use our Iphone for our “hotspot” internet which works very well but needs to be plugged in the entire time when used this way.
        We currently are in Wyo. which is very hot most of the summer so we are using the rooftop AC often and are paying for power.
        We have an onboard Generater which isn’t very efficient and also runs off the main fuel tank, not a good idea when wild camping far away from fuel suppliers.
        I have been researching solar power systems for nearly a year now and I found your site today and have been engulfed in it now for over 3 hours which passed like minutes to me.
        Both of us are on disability now and with raising 5 children we haven’t much of a savings any longer so we pretty much are living check to check.
        After all this reading, I am aware that we may not be able to afford such a glamorous camping life as we once enjoyed, using solar power, and I am now questioning my purchases for the system.
        To date I have 4-100 watt solar panels I was going to mount to the roof and have them portable ready for hot states to easily be removed from the roof and placed in the sun so we will be able to park the RV in shaded areas when necessary. I also purchased 2 more batteries of the same that came with the RV when purchased as an aux power supply. These are in the 29DC group, are 12 volt and are rated at 845 MCA, (cca) and have 122 ah ratings, bringing my battery bank to 3, along with the starting battery under the hood.
        I realized these were not the best batteries for a solar system but for less than $100.00 each and providing 122 ah’s ea., they fit the budget we have to work with. I have been using a mere 410 watt inverter in our conversion van for the laptop and sometimes a desktop PC while traveling and came across a link which brought me to this site and I have been glued to it since.
        After pages of reading about all the different batteries used by all who have visited here, I still haven’t read a quantity of batteries in any ones banks.
        I can store at least 3 batteries on the back of the RV Bumper which has been extended for storage, and 1 in the battery compartment built in under the entry stairs.
        Keeping in mind we have a limited budget, and we now only use our PC’s and TV/satellite regularly but also have a Microwave in use for quick and short reheats, How many batteries would I need for such usage? I am also thinking of selling the on board Gen. and using the compartment for battery’s then maybe purchasing a newer, portable Gen. which would be more efficient, quieter, and run on a separate fuel supply from the RV.
        I have not installed anything yet so the batteries can be returned for a few more days, but the panels I have been putting to use regularly for testing applications such as a portable solar generator and I am very happy with their performance but I am always running the 600 watt battery Power supply and Jump starter to the limit., mostly because I am trying to figure out how many batteries to place in the RV.
        I have found reasonably priced 6 volt batteries which have high ah ratings and was considering changing to them and wiring them as 12 volt in series, but after reading all the info you have here, I am back to being totally confused about all this again.
        I was, in the beginning, thinking of using a 3000 watt pure sine inverter and plugging the RV supply cord from the generator into it and using the Panels as the power source in place of the gas powered gen. which I could then simply switch the plug back to the Gen output plug when needed. Now I’m not so sure if that will work that way.
        I am off to watch as many of your videos as I can while I wait for a reply, and want to thank you for having taken the time to post so much user info. I apologize for the lengthy post but wanted to give you a solid idea of our situation and needs. Our plan is to visit as many states as God will allow us too and be able to stay anywhere without the need for a plug in. Anything anyone can share will be greatly appreciated, Especially about how many batteries and sizes they use and for what / how long. Thank You, Rocky and Dianne

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          • Thanks Jason, you guys are awesome, I hope you continue to keep us posted. Your information is priceless to people like us. I am currently awaiting the arrival of my 5000 continuous and 10,000 watt peak pure sine wave power inverter from Green Power Solutions, $147.50 and free shipping. We are also adding 3 more of the Walmart batteries today to bring the total to 6 giving us 732 ah of power. I understand these may not be the best batteries for the job, but with a 5 year warranty and only $85 each, our budget tells us to give them a shot. I will keep you updated as how it all works out as we get it online and in use. I decided to build a battery compartment on the rear bumper using 3/4 treated plywood and drilled venting holes around the sides and added a hinged roof for easy access keeping the on board genny in tact. Until next time, Keep up the great work and Happy Trails, Be safe always 😉 Rocky

  • Redds

    Thanks for the prices.

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  • Take a look at LiFePo4 Batteries. (Lithium Ion) They weight a fourth as much as Lead acids, much longer life, minimal voltage sag even with high current draws. Plus you can discharge them more than the 50% of leads and they don’t mind sitting uncharged for long periods of time.

    Basically you can get by with a smaller pack (Off sets the higher costs) due to being able to discharge them 80% percent or more.

    I think the cycle life is around 2-3000 with 80% discharge.

    That is heaps more than lead! 🙂 It is basically why I went with them on my recent off grid solar build.

    That and I’ve been watching them being used for years in electric vehicle conversions at the evtv channel on youtube.

    Anyhoot. Love your channel! – Cloud

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      • hi Jason I like the setup you have. As far as battery’s I went with Walmart 29 series. the batteries are not too heavy .V/s golf cart batteries their cheaper a more readily available and have 5 times the warrantee (5 year v/s 1 year for the 6 volt golf cart style) as far as the lithium the weight would make them out of the question in my rig. Also I could not change them out by my self too heavy to lift. when warnteeing a battery I’ve had no problems with Walmart and their everywhere I have had flooded lead acid batteries last up to 10 years with proper care and routine mataince. .

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  • Dick Epler

    Too good to be true …

    I was in a hurry and made a typo regarding the price of the Fullriver AGM battery. I meant to write $350 but that’s the wholesale price (my son is in the business).

    The retail price is about $100 more ($450) but of course the final price depends on the battery size and capacity. For the Vesta, I believe the L-16 is the right size but you should measure to be sure. Of course you’d want to buy from a high-volume dealer to get the best price … shipping charges would be prohibitive.

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  • Dick Epler

    600 watts! I’m envious and jealous. That’s what we had on our last RV (4 x 150) which had more real estate on the roof than our Vesta. I like how they positioned your panels on the roof … to achieve maximum use of the available real estate with no shading from roof components. The ground panels seem to be a good idea as well … more options for charging when RV orientation or tree shading is a problem. I hadn’t considered that. And of course, the 3000W pure sine wave inverter is a big plus. I got a quote from Monaco to install the Magnum 2000W sine wave inverter/charger … $3400. I assume that would have also powered all the Vesta’s receptacles.

    You asked about batteries. Our previous solar setup used 4 AGM (Lifeline) 6V batteries ~ 480 Ahrs capacity. That’s about right for a 600W solar charging cycle for latitudes in most of the US. But the Lifelines were expensive ~ $640 each = $3840 just for batteries. However last year I helped install a commercial set of 6 AGMs from China in my son’s motorhome that were only about $150 each … much cheaper. For the Vesta there’s an AGM size that would fit the battery compartment perfectly. I think their 6V capacity about 440 Ahrs, so 2-6V AGMs would supply 440 Ahrs at 12V. That would work … a little less than optimal, but satisfactory most of the time.

    I don’t think there’s much disagreement that AGMs are better than Gels for the higher capacity configurations. Both power density and life time (cycles) are greater … and they’re a little cheaper. AGMs outsell Gels by about 6:1.

    Jason, can you tell me who your installer was? Having already done one Vesta might be an advantage in time and cost. I always like to follow the pioneers … fewer arrows that way.

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  • Randy Spencer

    If you only have the two batteries and not room for some crazy large battery like the Group 4D or 8D you will get about the same AmpHours from any format. If you already have an outdoor battery storage area than Gel or AGM are just overkill. They are great indoors as AGMs do not vent toxic flammable gasses when charging and Gels can be mounted any direction to fit anywhere, but Flooded Lead Acid are still the cheapest. Finding the biggest you can use in the space gets you the most AmpHours to charge up. Mine came with Group 27 batteries, but I was able to fit the Costco 6V Golf Cart batteries. At $80 each they have GREAT deep discharge characteristics, but still only a total of about 200-240 AHrs. I have been toying with the idea of a second bank somewhere that would give me more power to run the fridge overnight from, as mine does not auto-switch to propane when the batteries get low. Another good resource for charger/inverter knowledge outside of solar is http://www.bestconverter.com, and not just cause the owner’s name is also Randy. They upgraded my converter to 4 stage charger, soon will provide me my Samlex Pure Sine Wave 1500-2000 watt inverter.

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  • Hey guys… congrats on your new solar setup, seems like a great package and way to go. We’ll be tackling this project ourselves soon too.

    Since you asked about batteries, from your list – I’d definitely recommend AGM for a solar system. There are a lot of benefits to AGM over flooded that make them a touch more ideal. We did flooded on our first solar install, and AGM on our second.

    However even more ideal, if you’re feeling a bit adventurous – lithium ion has even more advantages. Like not needing to top them up to 100% regularly, being able to drain them lower safely, minimal peukert’s loss, smaller/lighter size, etc. We have lithium as the base of our power system and are designing our solar around them.

    If you’d like to learn more – we have a series of our research at:

    http://www.technomadia.com/lithium

    There’s two articles that compare/contrast lithium & AGM.

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    • Thanks for the info Cheri and the link to your research. Always helpful to see what others have learned!

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  • We are in Depoe Bay Oregon and have become pretty successful at crabbing (soon to master clamming) so let me know if you need any pointers. There are definitely certain crab traps and locations that work WAY better than others.

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  • Gary

    What a sweet setup. Going Green baby!

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