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Battery Maintenance while boondocking

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Battery Maintenance while boondocking
« on: August 11, 2014, 07:20:30 am »
Request for advice -
We are doing a lot more boondocking and expect to increase that when we head west this fall. We will need an efficient way to recharge our batteries. We do not have solar panels (yet). I have read the past posts on this and looked at the recommended battery chargers but since technology changes so quickly, I am asking not what you currently own but what would you buy if you were replacing your charger now. We have the deep cycle marine batteries Phoenix installed in 2012 models.
John, Holly, and sometimes Chloe.
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Pax

Re: Battery Maintenance while boondocking
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2014, 08:42:48 am »
I don't have any direct experience with (or anything more than general knowledge of) chargers, but during our last trip we met some folks who love and recommended this portable solar charger....

http://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Foldable-Suitcase-Battery-Charger/dp/B00HR8YNK6/ref=sr_1_6/184-3421508-4384255?ie=UTF8&qid=1407763798&sr=8-6&keywords=rv+solar+battery+charger

    - Mike

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Re: Battery Maintenance while boondocking
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2019, 12:26:38 pm »
We're about to test drive that suitcase. We bought it and had it shipped to the campground here in San Antonio. We roll for Big Bend Friday and hope the solar suitcase will keep the batteries up enough to avoid too much generator use. I HATE listening to a generator in a peaceful campground. That said, we did book into the "generator allowed" area to make sure we can recharge for the fridge and such as needed.

Advice from solar experienced people is greatly appreciated. What we know or think we know:

- We have the original golf cart batteries - Interstate wet/flooded - Two 6v, deep cycle in series. We found info that says we hook the solar panel's jumper cable type connectors to the positive terminal on battery one and negative terminal on battery two. Our batteries are side by side with (1) on the left and (2) on the right. Hooked up this way, our 12 v suitcase charges our 12 volt battery bank.

- the suitcase has a shortish cord, maybe ten feet, so I know we may not get to full sun. I hoped to order an extension but a review for the suitcase says it uses a different connector than the other Renogy panels and it says you need to make your own. I haven't contacted Renogy to see if that's true and we'll be rolling soon so can't get delivery in time if they do sell one. Our test run will be with the supplied cord.

- There are basically three parts to this system: Battery, Controller, Solar Panel. Renogy instructions say you HAVE to hook the batteries to the controller BEFORE you hook the controller to the solar panel with the exception of the solar suitcase. The solar suitcase has the controller hardwired to the solar panel so you cannot connect the controller to the batteries first. We are assuming they know what they are doing and we won't zap anything (or anyone) when we set this up. Does anyone know WHY you normally hook up this way? I assume permanent panels mounted to the roof of an RV are permanently wired to the controller so if the battery is removed then reconnected, you would have the same situation as the portable panel we have.

- Some reviewers state that they throw blankets or towels over the panels while they are hooking up to avoid solar gain and the possibility of sparks or getting zapped. The Renogy instructions say nothing about this. Is this being overly cautious or is there a reason for it? Our folding suitcase panel has a zipper bag that we might be able to keep on the panels and lay face down on the ground while we hook up.

- One reviewer stated he detaches the controller from the back of the panel (velcro) and lets it hang by the wires while in use to avoid excess heat from the back of the panel affecting the controller (and to make it easier for him/her to read the display). Does this make sense?

- We read that you should place the controller as close to the batteries as possible to make it all more efficient. With the controller mounted to the panels with at least ten feet of cable between them, is this a big issue? Does anyone know the power loss over distance? (example: so much per foot or some such)?

This is our first foray into using solar so any help is appreciated. We regret not getting panels mounted when we purchased and will probably get them eventually if this little suitcase experiment works out. We'll know how far a 100w panel takes us.



 


John, Holly, and sometimes Chloe.
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Volkemon

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Re: Battery Maintenance while boondocking
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2019, 07:50:10 am »
We're about to test drive that suitcase. We bought it and had it shipped to the campground here in San Antonio. We roll for Big Bend Friday and hope the solar suitcase will keep the batteries up enough to avoid too much generator use. I HATE listening to a generator in a peaceful campground. That said, we did book into the "generator allowed" area to make sure we can recharge for the fridge and such as needed.

Advice from solar experienced people is greatly appreciated. What we know or think we know:

- We have the original golf cart batteries - Interstate wet/flooded - Two 6v, deep cycle in series. We found info that says we hook the solar panel's jumper cable type connectors to the positive terminal on battery one and negative terminal on battery two. Our batteries are side by side with (1) on the left and (2) on the right. Hooked up this way, our 12 v suitcase charges our 12 volt battery bank.

Just make sure the + and -  terminals are the ones that connect to the coach, not the ones that go to the jumper between. Not trying to insult anyone, but it COULD be interpreted that way  :-D

- the suitcase has a shortish cord, maybe ten feet, so I know we may not get to full sun. I hoped to order an extension but a review for the suitcase says it uses a different connector than the other Renogy panels and it says you need to make your own. I haven't contacted Renogy to see if that's true and we'll be rolling soon so can't get delivery in time if they do sell one. Our test run will be with the supplied cord.

- There are basically three parts to this system: Battery, Controller, Solar Panel. Renogy instructions say you HAVE to hook the batteries to the controller BEFORE you hook the controller to the solar panel with the exception of the solar suitcase. The solar suitcase has the controller hardwired to the solar panel so you cannot connect the controller to the batteries first. We are assuming they know what they are doing and we won't zap anything (or anyone) when we set this up. Does anyone know WHY you normally hook up this way? I assume permanent panels mounted to the roof of an RV are permanently wired to the controller so if the battery is removed then reconnected, you would have the same situation as the portable panel we have.

- Some reviewers state that they throw blankets or towels over the panels while they are hooking up to avoid solar gain and the possibility of sparks or getting zapped. The Renogy instructions say nothing about this. Is this being overly cautious or is there a reason for it? Our folding suitcase panel has a zipper bag that we might be able to keep on the panels and lay face down on the ground while we hook up.

If you had a high voltage panel setup, or 'in seires' you could get zapped. Yours show in paralell from the link, so no more than ~25 volts DC with low current. Not a bad precaution, but not necessary IMO

- One reviewer stated he detaches the controller from the back of the panel (velcro) and lets it hang by the wires while in use to avoid excess heat from the back of the panel affecting the controller (and to make it easier for him/her to read the display). Does this make sense?

Sure! One would HOPE the controller is able to handle the heat, but a bit cooler doesnt harm. And if it is easier to read, bonus. 

- We read that you should place the controller as close to the batteries as possible to make it all more efficient. With the controller mounted to the panels with at least ten feet of cable between them, is this a big issue? Does anyone know the power loss over distance? (example: so much per foot or some such)?

Indeed, closer is better. Your setup will not exceed 15 amps at best, and prolly closer to 8. Power loss charts are readily available, one is here if you scroll down. https://www.powerstream.com/Wire_Size.htm    Scroll down the 'voltage loss table'  You should be able to get the existing wire size from reading the sheathing on the wire. HOPEFULLY it is at least 14ga. 10 feet of 16ga loses ~7% of power over the run at 10A   14GA only ~4%.  Moving up to 10Ga would be a good idea for a longer run, 20 foot run of 10ga loses ~4% over 20 feet. All numbers from the calculator I linked to, using 10A at 12V DC

This is our first foray into using solar so any help is appreciated. We regret not getting panels mounted when we purchased and will probably get them eventually if this little suitcase experiment works out. We'll know how far a 100w panel takes us.

Hopefully someone else with more complete answers and better experience chimes in.  :lol  Answered what I could help with.  Read the comments and questions on the Amazon link also, they cover some of your concerns.

https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Foldable-Suitcase-Battery-Charger/dp/B00HR8YNK6/ref=sr_1_6/184-3421508-4384255?ie=UTF8&qid=1407763798&sr=8-6&keywords=rv+solar+battery+charger#Ask   

There are 400+ there!!!!!

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Cropduster

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Re: Battery Maintenance while boondocking
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2019, 12:19:13 pm »
Most of the outings in our PC2100 are boondocking.  To help maintain the charge on our single 12v battery we purchased a "50W Complete Kit Folding Portable Solar Panel Off Grid 12V Camping Home Caravan".  Manufactured by Eco-worthy.   The small size suitcase design takes up minimal space in the RV.  Granted, the 3amp output will not charge a low battery, but it does help maintain the battery, which has reduced the need to run the generator.  Now closing in on three years using the solar panel.

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2 Frazzled

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Re: Battery Maintenance while boondocking
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2019, 02:30:56 pm »
Will post more when back on grid but so far so good. First two days cloudy and drizzle but batteries held, no drop. We were on minimum electric use as first concern was fridge. Third day full sun, batteries topped off by 10:00am. Recharged devices, used computer for hours, batteries stayed at 100%. Moved to less ideal site, having trouble placing panel but still maintaining. Will look into longer cord. More later but loving it now. Over a week and haven't turned on generator. Unfortunately get to listen to other campers running them twelve hours a day. Arggggggg!

Big Bend is awesome!
John, Holly, and sometimes Chloe.
Travel Blog: Spiritofthewoods.net