#8128  by johnaye
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:29 am
Ok guys

I really appreciate all your imput so far and it is an ongoing learning curve for me.. Basically as i originally stated we feedom camp where possible and only go into motorcamps for laundry etc.. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we dont do too much in the winter months but certainly the 3 other seasons we are out and about when we can.I think after perusing your responses we have 2 camps ie you lucky guys with big buses and big set ups and the smaller casual unit like ourselves. I guess in an ideal world for me i would install a 3way fridge and a solar unit but budget doesnt allow it. So to change tack slightly with the thread should i go solar or fridge? My mind was made up for solar but am swaying a little toward fridge. My fridge is only a 60l drawing approx 3.5a (so i have been advised) and as stated the tv is rarely used apart from the news and weather and coro (not for me)
If i do go with solar i appreciate bigger appears to be better and have had several proffessional estimates including 2 who say 80 w would be sufficient for my needs. That is why i suggested a 100-120 panel . I do think multiple panels and 500w systems would be overkill for what i need in this instance.

Your thoughts would once again be appreciated
regards John
 #8131  by Mark
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:49 pm
John, to add some thoughts from a different direction:
We've had our Rosa for 3 years. Apart from a few shorter trips we have,in that time been away for breaks of 6, 10 and 12 weeks at a time. In that period we have not once connected to mains power while away.
We have no solar panels. The house battery is charged from an extra alternator.
We have no TV (we read!). We have never "run out" of power.
Our power usage is laptop, battery chargers (toys: eg VHF radios, GPS, camera, razor, phones) stereo (usually on) and lights (not (yet) LED). We have a 3 way fridge which we use on gas (apart from a mains session to bring it down to temperature before leaving home).
I think the laptop is the highest draw and we make sure it is plugged in to charge it's battery while we are driving.
We do not typically stop in one place for more than 2 days, so the house battery gets another charge every day or two.

After having an "issue" with our 95 amp-hour battery a couple of months ago (and learning a lot more about the care and use of deep cycle batteries) I have now bought a smart charger which I will use every 3 months while parked and maybe once 3-4 weeks while touring.

Hope that adds some useful information :)
 #8137  by johnaye
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 4:33 pm
Thanks Mark

Apart from the fridge we really have limited power useage . I dont have the toys that you have and think if i did go the 3 way fridge avenue i too would 'manage" to get through without running out. On our recent Sth island trip i thought i was doing the right thing relying on the van alternator knowing it was only charging to 75-80 % capacity and topping it up on 240v charge through the van system occasionally . Unfortunately the deep cycle battery i had was near enough to dead at only 14 months.!!! An expensive lessen to learn. Maybe i do need both solar and the 3 way fridge but dont want to overcapitalise. I take on board your comment re another alternator but would that only charge it to 80% as well. My understanding with the solar, with all things being equal, it should recharge the battery to 100% on a daily basis which must be the best scenario for the longlivity of the battery.

I must say i have enjoyed the comments from the far more knowledgable forum members and have taken the knowledge on board so far

regards John
 #8138  by The Flying Tortoise
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:02 pm
The important and key words in Marks posting is that they 'typically stop for only a couple of days'... if this is the sort of lifestyle you see yourself living then that is fine and it suits Mark for now... lots of people do it that way and very successfully... BUT... if you want to FREEDOM CAMP for weeks on end WITHOUT running you engine or going off for a drive to charge your batteries, or without the noise, inconvenience, cost and extra fuel carried to run a generator which have a tendency to make one unpopular if others are around, you will go for solar... If you haven't purchased a fridge/freezer yet, have a look at the 40litre Engel... they have been discussed on this forum before and any owner/user will tell you how good they are and how efficiently they run on the least amount of amps of any fridge/freezer on the market... only 2.5amp max.
They are Australia's most popular brand, for good reasons... I've been using mine for four years or so and it is excellent.
Lots of good advice for you on this thread... it was a good one to raise...
 #8142  by Mark
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:49 pm
I take on board your comment re another alternator but would that only charge it to 80% as well.
I'm not sure, now, what the maximum charge with an alternator is, in theory, but you are right: it is not 100%
Given my experience, though, (still on the same battery that was in the MH when we bought it, after 3 years of "rough" use) I suspect that for you to kill a battery in 14 months (even though you were topping it up regularly) there must have been something else going on.
There are lots of theories about not running a deep cycle battery down below 75% (is it?) of capacity.
I have had no idea at all, over the last 3 years, of what amount of discharge I have imposed on the battery, and still it is lasting - maybe I have a particularly forgiving one :)

I'm not saying that the abuse that I have subjected my battery to is something you should aspire to :o all I'm trying to say is that sometimes the theory and the practice don't always seem to correspond.

What I would really like is an inexpensive way to measure the the discharge percentage, so that I can treat the battery a bit better in future.

As Keith says, though, it really depends on not only what you are going to run but also how long you are likely to be between charges (through running the motor).
 #8143  by The Flying Tortoise
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:46 pm
The system, whatever one you choose, should be designed and installed to suit the way you wish to live... you should not have to adapt how you live to suit a system that is inadequate or badly designed... I think that's it from me on this subject, don't you... :D
 #8145  by RaymonD
 Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:19 pm
I have enjoyed reading this thread, must have a look at Pierre's (AA Solar) web site re the low price panels.
We have 200 watts of solar and 200 amp hour AGM battery but I have decided we need another solar panel as it has been only due to being on power for a lot of the time that we have got through this winter without having to start the gennie.
With all the goodies running we generally get down to 75 - 80 % capacity over night and with 200W of solar on a cloudy day we would be lucky to get back up 5 %.
MPPT controllers, yes magical and they work, I got a 25 amp one, this allows me to add more panels as with the Morning Star regulator I was restricted to 15 amp., on a low battery,cloudy day I have seen an increase of 1.2 amps through the MPPT controller.
Fridge/Feezers, I think our 185l dometic uses about 22 amps, so we only have it on battery when driving and that is via an inverter DC to 230vac as on direct battery they do no regulate.
Extra 12vdc alternators indeed do not fully charge deep cycle batteries, I did have some info where you lifted the stator winding earth and fitted high current diodes between winding and earth to trick the regulator into regulating at a higher voltage more in series diodes for higher voltage.
Also you can get external regulators that are designed for charging deep cycle batteries, you of course have to remove the alternators built in regulator.

My pennies worth.

Ray
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