The Current State Of Flexible Solar Panels

A few years ago, flexible solar panels became popular with RV owners as they represented a innovative solution for smaller RV’s, where weight reduction played an important role. Less weight meant more panels and more power to stay off-grid longer.

With a weight difference of about 20 lbs per panel, easy installation without holes in the roof, conformation with the curvature of vehicle roofs, it is easy to understand the potential for these panels among boondockers and alike.
Their popularity rose when several videos showed them improperly used by bending the panels at extreme angles, both inward as outward or by sitting or walking on them. It made for good watching, but in the end Continue reading The Current State Of Flexible Solar Panels

RV Hookup Cable


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Boondocking is the primary use of this stealth van, yet a 15 amp RV hookup cable will be installed to connect the electrical system to the grid, when hookups are available.

Commercial campgrounds have never been my favorite places to stay, as I prefer the immersion that only nature can provide. But sometimes, when your black water tank fills up, fresh water is needed or your batteries run low, a campground visit may be required. Some form of access to the electrical system of the RV is necessary. Continue reading RV Hookup Cable

Ford Transit CCP

The Ford Transit, like many of its competitors, is equipped with a Customer Connection Point (CCP) that enables the upfitter to access the surplus electrical power produced by the engine’s alternator.

A direct connection between alternator and the house battery bank of a RV has always been the acceptable way of charging the batteries. But vehicle alternators have been changing in the past few years and less suitable for this kind of setup. Continue reading Ford Transit CCP

Samlex SAM-450-12 Modified Sine Wave Inverter

After the decision to buy the Samlex 450w inverter, it was a matter of ordering on-line. samlex plug-inI received the SAM-450-12 Modified Sine Wave Inverter this morning and by all means, it’s a fairly small and lightweight device, but that’s to be expected when we’re dealing with these small loads.

No remote start is included, but it has a built-in 2.1A 5V USB outlet, dual 110V outlets, a set of cables with a cigarette lighter plug, a set of cables with battery clips and a readable manual.
Continue reading Samlex SAM-450-12 Modified Sine Wave Inverter

How A Simple Inverter Saved My Day!

I’m just at the beginning of the conversion of my cargo van and the decision about the final design of the electrical system is still a long way off. I had to rethink the design again, as I’m preparing for my first multi-day trip with the van.

The Electrical System

I have long envisioned a basic electrical system, comprised of a few solar panels, lead-acid batteries and a modest inverter, supplemented with some propane for cooking and heating. Continue reading How A Simple Inverter Saved My Day!

Lithium Battery Prices Set To Plummet 65%!

Lithium battery prices could fall from $550 per kWh in 2014 to $200 per kWh by 2020. That whopping 65% is one of the results of an energy storage study published by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

This would be a game changer in the RV environment, by making such a battery bank overall much more affordable, with big technological improvements over lead-acid batteries. Such a quick adoption would equal the current implementation of solar energy, which has been the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the US.

Battery prices will be under big pressure starting 2016 when Elon Musk’s monster factories will go on-line and start producing 500,000 Lithium batteries a year in Nevada. May be just in time for my van conversion!

RV Electrical System: My Setup

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Sizing

Now that we have a good understanding of the intricacies of a well-designed electrical/solar system for an RV, it’s time to select the actual components for my upcoming Ford Transit cargo van conversion.

Considerations

The goal I’m striving for, is a fully electrical, self-sufficient van/RV that can handle a minimum of 5-6 days off the grid. No other power sources such as propane for cooking & heating are considered and average consumption is calculated to be between 80-90 Amps per day.

Batteries

The heart of the electrical system is the battery bank. Long dominated by lead-acid batteries (first flooded and more recently AGM’s), finally the more appealing Lithium technology is gaining a foothold. With the Continue reading RV Electrical System: My Setup

DC-Powered Air Conditioner

Sharp will launch its first DC powered air-conditioner later this year. Marketed to the solar home crowd, this and other DC appliances may find their way into your RV.

With the increasing use of solar panels worldwide, manufacturers are beginning to explore more and more DC devices for the home. The major advantage is a further 5%-10% increase of efficiency in locations powered by solar panels.
Ordinarily these panels produce a 12V DC current that is converted into 110V AC, to be used by the home’s appliances, which often convert it back to 12V internally. Each conversion causes a substantial efficiency loss, that can be avoided with these DC-to-DC devices.
dc air conditionerThe RV Electrical System is structurally different from the solar home, yet these future efficiency improvements will greatly enhance the off-grid lifestyle.
The announcement doesn’t include any specifications of amperage use, which, very likely will be high and in the RV environment, such an air-conditioner may be feasible only in combination with a Lithium battery bank.

Sharp aims to release an air conditioner powered by direct-current (DC) electricity in 2015.

RV Electrical System: Sizing

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels

Sizing

Sizing the electrical system in your RV means choosing the different components and making sure they work well together, while their relationship in terms of quantity, size and number is well proportioned.
Setting up solar is fairly simple, yet involves many interdependent parts and unless done correctly, will heavily influence the final setup. There is a certain order to the chaos:

  1. Sizing solar always starts with establishing demand. This is partly an exact science (add amps from appliances), partly guesswork (how often do you use lights, heater, etc.). But try first to minimize demand by replacing old incandescent or even fluorescent lights with highly efficient LED lights. Continue reading RV Electrical System: Sizing

RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Design

Batteries

Central to the system and most visible are the batteries, which have to supply the electricity during the days when a hookup is not available. Two basic types are currently used in RV’s:

  • Lead-Acid Batteries
    Trojan T-105Types:

    • Starting Battery – Use only to start the vehicle; its plates are too thin.
    • RV/Marine Deep Cycle Battery – Used as start and house battery. Don’t use.
    • True Deep Cycle Battery – Has thick plates made to store and hold your power.

    Flooded or AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat)
    Flooded batteries, need regular maintenance, but their price make it the most affordable solution. Continue reading RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels