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Old 04-28-2016, 12:31 AM   #31
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so what you are saying is that if I do not want to invest in Solar at this time I could get a HO alternator and whenever I am away from shore power if I needed to charge a battery bank I could just run the Bus for a short amount of time to charge that battery bank?
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Old 04-28-2016, 01:47 AM   #32
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That's generally the idea and that's my plan. Charging either with shore power or the alternator when necessary. I like to keep it simple.
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Old 04-28-2016, 07:30 AM   #33
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so what you are saying is that if I do not want to invest in Solar at this time I could get a HO alternator and whenever I am away from shore power if I needed to charge a battery bank I could just run the Bus for a short amount of time to charge that battery bank?
That's exactly what I am saying. The alternator I am looking at is a 220 Amp HO that would charge a 1000 Ah battery bank in a couple of hours, take solar, it has maybe a 7 to 10 amp trickle and that same bank can take days to charge, providing you don't have any appliances running and had 100% clear sunny skies for 24 hours straight.

You can also install a genset, but for me, a belt, 2 wires and a few bolts is a much easier install process. Plus that's more space you have for something else.
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Old 04-28-2016, 10:16 AM   #34
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Ok, ok.. This is my last post about it, but I feel the need to dispel some FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about these sun-catchers. I've done extensive research, visited the factory and have experience of my own.

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...there are so many producers. It's pretty hard to tell if those materials are going to hold up for 25 years or how long they will actually be effective.
There is an easy solution: buy from a company that's been around for a long time and works in other fields as well. I purchased my solar panels from Heliene (Helios). They have been in the solar panel biz for 25 years, but more important to this argument is that they also operate in the automated process systems industry for the pharmaceutical, food, automotive and other industries. There are many businesses like that out there. It's just as likely that Maytag will go out of business and your refrigerator warranty will be useless.

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Then the batteries are an expensive part of the solar system themselves, but they don't last for 25 years either.
Yes, batteries have a shorter life than the panels. But 90% of the electrical systems - generator, plug-in or solar - on this forum require them anyway (including yourself), so it's not an additional cost.

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Many people say the true effectiveness of panels is about 50% of the rated power, sometimes as low as 20% depending on producer.
This is simply not true. There are several standardized tests from which solar panels receive their rated watts. The STC is the most common, but it is optimistic for most installations. The PTC testing standard provides a rating that most people will easily achieve with proper installation. It can be 20% less than the STC standard. If the panels are installed properly, you will see the PTC rated watts unless you live in a perpetually gloomy land. Like anything, if you're worried about a company inflating their claims then buy from a reputable company. There are many out there now.

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Solar is appealing. I've read a lot of information about it, but like I've said before solar panels on the outside of the bus scream "I'm living in here."
Fair enough. That's a personal choice.

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Solar panels are expensive and I don't feel it's longevity has been maximized yet. My electric bill is about $30 a month, maybe $40 in the winter, so I'm not visualizing the payback for about 10 years to break even.
Solar panels are expensive compared to what? To go from being directly connected to the grid to completely off-grid with solar panels would be very expensive and not worthwhile.
There are savings to be had by staying grid connected and feeding solar energy back into the grid. It's a common operation around here.
To go from zero power to a solar system can be as affordable as the other options. In my case, it was ~$7000 cheaper to install a solar system than it would have been to pay for a few power poles to be installed. A generator would have been cheaper initially, but - as I mentioned previously - the solar panels have already saved me money vs buying a generator and fuel.

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I drive around in the mountains a lot with branches occasionally scraping the exterior of the bus. I'd be crying already if there were panels up there.
My bus is a bush donkey as well. The paint on the roof will peel and the roof vents, antenna, etc will be demolished well before the solar panels receive damage (I know this from experience ). They are incredibly tough. They are essentially a composite of several layers of sheet products glued together to create something akin to solar panel plywood.

I'm not invested in getting you, Robin, to install solar panels. Really I'm not. I'm simply broadcasting my findings that, yes, solar panels are now a feasible and affordable option for many situations. The time isn't coming. It's already here. There's nothing magical, nothing secret, nothing "uncertain" about them. There will be advances (as with anything), but for anyone who is interested there's no reason to wait another 5 years.
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Old 04-28-2016, 10:25 AM   #35
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That's exactly what I am saying. The alternator I am looking at is a 220 Amp HO that would charge a 1000Ah battery bank in a couple of hours, take solar, it has maybe a 7 to 10 amp trickle and that same bank can take days to charge, providing you don't have any appliances running and had 100% clear sunny skies for 24 hours straight.

You can also install a genset, but for me, a belt, 2 wires and a few bolts is a much easier install process. Plus that's more space you have for something else.
One thing to watch out for:
If you're installing deep cycle batteries (which is a good idea for house power) then you'll have a bulk charge current cap. It's usually around 10% of the C/20 Ah rating. So the likelihood is that a 1000Ah battery bank should not be charged at a higher rate than 100A, otherwise it will start boiling and damaging the batteries.
Bulk charge, for anyone who isn't aware, is the higher amperage charge that gets the battery up to around the 80% mark. After that the amps will slowly taper down to finish the charge.

PS. My solar panels charge the batteries at 40a, which is just a hair lower than the batteries maximum bulk charge rate. I specifically sized the system to get the fastest charge possible without damaging anything

Comparing a solar system putting out 10a vs a 220a alternator is an apples to oranges type situation..
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Old 04-28-2016, 10:26 AM   #36
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Another option to a single, huge, $$$ alternater is to simply add a second one. That is the arrangement you will very often see on fire trucks and EMT vehicles. Not only does it give you extra output, but you have a back up if one fails.
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Old 04-28-2016, 10:41 AM   #37
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?? What do you mean by this? I live in central Canada and my solar system is effective 95% of the year. Note that I said solar system. That would be solar panels, a charge controller and batteries. You don't have a working system without all three parts. If the battery bank is sized appropriately you will easily be able to coast through several days of heavy clouds. That is, you don't need to live in a desert to take advantage of the sun. I still get reasonable charge rates even when the sky is overcast.
We've been living in the bus for over a year now. In that time I used a (borrowed) generator to top up the batteries 3 times. All in December.. It was an unusually dreary month.
While the solar system is a larger up front cost than a generator, it will eventually pay for itself. And not after too long (in my case)! I did some rough math and as of August 2015 a generator+fuel+oil met the price point of my solar system.

the thing most people DONT understand is that HEAT is BAD to a solar system, so areas like arizone may have lots of sun tis also too hot for the panels to operate efficiently.. a place like canada has cool temperatures and good strong sun for a healthy porion of the year.. enough to make up for the weak sun in the winter months..

-Christopher
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Old 04-28-2016, 11:00 AM   #38
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Another option to a single, huge, $$$ alternater is to simply add a second one. That is the arrangement you will very often see on fire trucks and EMT vehicles. Not only does it give you extra output, but you have a back up if one fails.
there are quite a few companies making brackets to add a second alternator... it gets tricky unless you run isolated as 2 alternators can yell at each other unless they are tied together properly.. but it is a good way to get a lot of electricity into your bus when driving..

-Christopher
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Old 04-28-2016, 11:01 AM   #39
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?? What do you mean by this? I live in central Canada and my solar system is effective 95% of the year. Note that I said solar system. That would be solar panels, a charge controller and batteries. You don't have a working system without all three parts. If the battery bank is sized appropriately you will easily be able to coast through several days of heavy clouds. That is, you don't need to live in a desert to take advantage of the sun. I still get reasonable charge rates even when the sky is overcast.
We've been living in the bus for over a year now. In that time I used a (borrowed) generator to top up the batteries 3 times. All in December.. It was an unusually dreary month.
While the solar system is a larger up front cost than a generator, it will eventually pay for itself. And not after too long (in my case)! I did some rough math and as of August 2015 a generator+fuel+oil met the price point of my solar system.

most people have the misconception that solar panels "only work" in desert-like sunlight, forgetting that, for example here in FL, even during a rainy day, i don't have to walk outside with a flashlight at 2PM...

Sunlight is sunligh; sure there's less of it, so the panels won't generate as much power as in "nominal conditions", but unless the sun blows up, they'll work! And at that point, we'll all have bigger fish to fry....
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Old 04-28-2016, 11:55 AM   #40
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Another option to a single, huge, $$$ alternater is to simply add a second one. That is the arrangement you will very often see on fire trucks and EMT vehicles. Not only does it give you extra output, but you have a back up if one fails.
I didn't really think of that option. But getting a specialized pulley made to add another belt is expensive, no?

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One thing to watch out for:
If you're installing deep cycle batteries (which is a good idea for house power) then you'll have a bulk charge current cap. It's usually around 10% of the C/20 Ah rating. So the likelihood is that a 1000Ah battery bank should not be charged at a higher rate than 100A, otherwise it will start boiling and damaging the batteries.
Very true! Which is why a charge controller will be used. However, I do get 100% of my charge power 100% of the time when the motor is running, unlike solar, the only condition is it has to spin at 1000 rpm. Solar may be in my future, just not my immediate one.
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