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electrical:solar:builds

Words of Wisdom: “The difference in bright sunlight between the least efficient and the most is little. What a panel does in cloudy conditions can make or break your system.” – jimindenver1)

Real world solar configurations

This is a collection of real world solar setups used by nomads. They are grouped roughly by nominal panel rating and include as much info on use and functionality as available from the owners' own words. The text may be edited for clarity or brevity; follow the footnotes for the original text.

The purpose of this page is to help the solar-curious see how other people have set up their solar, how they use it, and how it is working for them. This may help onlookers design their own system.

100w

I have 120 watts and it's enough for my very basic needs. 2 6 volt golf cart type batteries. No fridge, but I run a ham radio at times. Also a laptop, but not a lot. – crazybill2)
So far I'm impressed with our 1 x 160 watt panel. Even in my cloud stricken area it is easily keeping up with the ARB 50 quart frig. – Medicineman40403)
We have a 100W solar panel with a Morningstar controller , 2 AGM group 31 batteries. Also an BlueSeas battery link, this charges the AGMs off the trucks alternator, when you start the truck the link connects the batts, when you turn the truck off it disconnects so you don't have to worry about having a dead start batt. It is also equipped with a 20A Xantrex charger that can be plugged into AC at the campsite or a Yamaha 2KW inverter, everything marine grade with marine wire and lugs. – Flipper4)
I have a 100w renogy panel [and Blue Sea ACR] on my trucks roof rack powering my aux battery which powers my fridge and accessorys. – Mademan9255)
I have an Indel B fridge powered be an ArkPak using a 105amphr AGM battery. I also have a Renogy 100w solar suitcase with 25' of #10 wire connecting it to the ArkPak via 50amp Anderson power pole. While driving I plug the fridge into a 12v socket in the back of the Jeep and charge the ArkPak via the smart charger off a 12v plug in the front of the Jeep. In camp, I plug the fridge into the ArkPak which lasts about 4 days before dropping to 50%. On a sunny day I can park the Jeep in the shade and deploy the solar in the sun. – MsMoosie6)
My setup consists of a 100w panel and a 105ah battery. With that, I charge my laptop, charge my camera batteries, charge my electric razor, and charge the AA batteries for my hockey-puck interior lights. That's all I use.
I find 100w to be plenty of power during the summer. In the winter, when the sun is less intense and the days are shorter, it BARELY serves, and I charge the laptop in a mall or library whenever I can to save on the battery. – Lenny Flank7)
I'm a full-timer … for years I've been running an ARB 50 qt. frig, 12v water pump, 12v TV & power ant., 10 spd Max fan, led house lights & charging laptop, hotspot, phone – off of a 100 watt panel [renogy] , 20a mppt , 105 ah batt. - no problem. – RetiredNomad8)
I power [a highly insulated cube fridge] with a 100 watt panel, a $10 PWM controller, a $10 fuse box, a Harbor Freight 400/800 ($20 with coupon) inverter and a 75 amp hour group size 24 “deep cycle” battery that is also the engine starting battery. This is what I had been using to charge my laptop and cell phone, and run led lights, MaxxFan, and my electric shaver. The main reason for the solar power system was to have the MaxxFan. – Trebor English9) My 100 watt panel produces 3 to 5 amps. Tall trees can reduce it to 2 hours per day, 4 is more typical. I plan based on less than 20 amp hours per day and 3 to 5 amp hours if it is a rainy day. I don't have a load to measure what I'm not harvesting.10)
I have one large portable 120w flexible panel and it works well. – Tx2Sturgis11)
I am currently using 150 watts of panel and my ailing walmart deep cycle. I only run the [Dometic CC-40] freezer when I can power it directly from the sun. This works okay in mostly sunny climes. There is risk of stuff defrosting, but less so when it is full. When it isn't full you can eat through what you've got before spoilage.
My next upgrade will be a MPPT controller that will increase the available solar power utilizing this same strategy. I'm holding off upgrading my battery hoping the Lithium will get cheaper. – DLTooley12)
…[Dometic] CF-18, 60 watts of fixed roof mount panels, 100 watts of portable ground mount panels on adjustable angle brackets and a single group 24 marine/rv battery. – jacks1861413)
We started dwelling at the beginning of the month with a 100w panel. Trying to use a fridge drained our 230ah golf cart batteries to 11.7v and now we just use the fan and so far after 6 days, the 100w panel can't seem to make a dent and get the batteries charged. - [deleted-unknown]14) [note from secessus: reports of failure are at least as important as reports of success!
Dometic CFX 35 12V compressor fridge, 105 amp deep cycle house battery with manual switch run off the van battery. The fridge will run 2 days off the house battery before charging. I have a 100 watt portable solar panel which depends on where you are and amount of sun etc. In Arizona it mostly keeps the fridge running full time but in Canada the solar is spotty at best. - hobitarm15)
100 watt [mono] panel with an [100Ah Universal UB121000] agm battery, [Renogy 30A] wanderer solar [charge controller], and 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter….. 700w microwave. – crustmuster16)

200w

198 watts. More than enough in Summer, not quite enough in winter. – Sternwake17)
I've got 200W of Renogy panels powering a 2000W inverter and all my DC stuff as well. For the first few months I forgot that I never hooked into the house battery/alternator and being in Arizona, CO and southern CA during those times, I was totally ok on solar. This is using LED lights, fans, charging phone/pad off USB, microwave use, electric kettle, and plugging in my macbook. The last 3-4 days I've been in Oregon/Northern CA and I noticed immediately that instead of 90-99% my batter was at 80-90%. That made me realize that I forgot to connect the stupid house/battery/alternator and as soon as I did, I'm back at 99% after an hour or two or driving – Trhoppe18)
I have 235 watts and it is able to run my small dometic fridge and laptop all day, most days. I do need to run my generator about once a week in winter or when it's cloudy. – Reducto19)
I am using a large 240 panel in a rack on my hightop with 2 big 6 volt agm's and a morningstar 15 mppt controller, all is well. – wagoneer20)
One roof mounted 245 watt Kyocera panel. Two 224ah six volt Sun Extender AGM batteries. Morningstar TriStar 45 Amp MPPT Solar Charge Controller. Breakers, wire, etc. I more or less matched the max output of the panel with the ah rating of the batteries. I run a Whynter refrigerator, T.V., lights, laptop, Ipad, cell phone, radio, etc from the batteries. Works great and improved my quality of life a lot. – Freenez221)
I have 2 x 100 watt solar kit, 2 x 125 amp/hr aux batteries, running a Dometic CF-040 fridge, DC fan, and DC phone charging – and I barely had enough power to keep the fridge running all night. I ended up installing a battery isolator so I could charge my aux batteries using my van's alternator, and now have plenty of power. – voidqk22)
I have two 100 watt flexible panels from HQST, and 250 amp Hour battery. It powers my 45 qt Whynter fridge 24/7 at 36 degrees. Also enables me to charge my cell, laptop, kindle, electric toothbrush, and shaver. Also run my LED lights. Only issue is if you run into foul weather longer than 5 days. Then you have to think about adding a battery, or perhaps a distribution switch. – matrixdutch23)
I splurged on a high quality Engel 12V freezer. It runs off my 200 watts of solar panels and a pair of big deep cycle batteries with power to spare for my (low power) laptop, cell phone, and other occasional uses like recharging my electric razor. – lshiva24)
I have 200W of solar and 208 AH of battery. My big loads are a 12 volt, 2.1 ft³ refrigerator and a Maxxfan. I am seldom below 90% battery capacity in the AM. Additionally, I am usually up to 100% by noon on an overcast day. My system hardly notices my charging a cell phone, laptop, digital camera or running LED lights (all on 12V, I don't have an inverter). – Spaceman Spiff25)
200W works for me. It runs my 4.8 cu ft compressor refrigerator, lights, water pump and 12V fans and charges all my electronics. I use a very small [200W] inverter which grinds my coffee and runs my pencil sharpener when I need it [I do crossword puzzles]. When I don't bother setting up my catalytic heater, I run the furnace in the morning. It's important to get a high-quality controller. – mockturtle26)
…a pair of 100w panels (200w total) mounted to a gutter-mount van ladder rack
The controller is a Morningstar sunsaver duo… I do not use a battery isolator up front on the alternator (maybe this will change). The contoller serves 10% of it's solar power to the starting battery, and 90% to the house battery. When the starting battery is full, it gives 100% to the house battery.
2 100ah batteries in parallel. They are Ocean brand off ebay
…dometic cc-40us fridge. Works great so far! Eats up 5 amps when it cuts on, and only runs for a few minutes at a time… it eats up about 10-12 amp hours each 24 hour period. I've got it set on 32 right now.
…a 200w inverter that I keep off most of the time unless I want to turn on the tv – jmel27)
I have 175 watts of solar feeding two 12v marine/RV batteries. I run the refers and charge my lap top of this set up. I have no problem with power and have gone 1 week in cloudy rainy conditions, however we did get a couple of hours of sun everyday – highdesertranger28)
I could easily make 50AH of power with my 2-100W mono panels on a sunny day. Panels are ground mounted and I chase the sun with them. 20AH on a few of the overcast days we had [at quartzsite in Jan]. Just running LED lights, water pump, fridge propane solenoid(120ma) and charging 2 tablets, 2 smartphones plus a few ham radio HT's. Batteries are 2 group 24 costco deep cycle batteries in parallel, 2 years old and going strong but I take care of them. – DangerBird29)
I have 200 watts of solar, and two-100 ah agm batteries and using an edgestar 43 quart fridge. I have had no problems, I did install a battery isolator and that really helps keep the house batteries fully charged on the cloudy days which are few in AZ. – Burbanlife30)
We have an [Engel fridge], a roof vent fan, 200 solar watts and one marine battery. No issues. – Snikwahjm31)
[battery] capacity: 40ah… daily usage: 10-15ah… solar: 200 watts – boat_alexandra32)
I've got a 320 AH battery and 2 125W panels on my transit. It rarely goes under 90% here in california. Before solar I could go 1-2 weeks depending on outside temps. Only real load is lights, fan, fridge, charging phones and laptops (inverted). - shreddydkrueger33)

300w

[300w panel and 200Ah bank] never dips below 70%. Not unusual to stay above 80 or 90%. 1.3cf Engel chest fridge, 10 minutes 600W (950W used) Microwave, Webasto heater, MaxAir fan, Laptop, Phones, Lights, 5 minutes 800W Water boiler. Also glad we have a shore power charger and can use the alternator. Each method has its use. – MsNomer34)
For the past several years I had a Ford Ranger long bed with 300 watts of solar on the roof of the bed cap feeding a 200Ah 4D AGM battery. Thought that would be plenty for my Dometic CFX35 fridge, RoadPro 12v crock pot, 1300 watt induction hot plate etc. Then I got a request to teach a class in Pennsylvania in early spring of 2015. Rained for 10 days straight as I traveled from California to PA, and back. Ran out of juice after 4 days. –Rookerlw35)
I have 300 w of Renogy solar and it runs my 110vac dorm fridge 24/7 while camping and probably 10 mins a day (max) on the micro thru my cheaply HF 200o watt inverter. I run my LED lights and 14 VDC TV plus charge my cell phones and tablets at the same time. I have never run out of power or had a dead barrery (2- 12v AGM's). – keeponvaning36)
I have 200ah of AGM batteries and 300 watts of panels. I have two people running a laptop EACH for 8 hours a day and a 12v fridge. Plus cell phones, tablets, and other rechargeable devices, and never come anywhere near [50% depth of discharge]. Biggest I have ever seen the batteries down [was ~27% depth of discharge]. Van-Tramp37)
Added an independent 100 amp hour battery and portable 100w solar panel to the van. Brings it to a total of 300 ah batteries and 300 watt solar panels…38) Haven't been able to use much solar up here in Alaska; very cloudy. It has enabled me to see how much generator time I need for my powere usage though. I use a Vmax Tanks 7 stage smart charger. I recharge every other day, batteries showing 12.5, and it takes 3 hours generator time for them to recharge fully. The Honda EU2000i has an .8 gallon tank and will run 14 hrs on that. – BobBski39)
I've been using the Bogart SC2030 and TM2030 combo with temperature compensation for almost 2 years on my current rig with 300w flat mounted solar. I run a Dometic 65qt dual fridge/freezer 24/7. The freezer is set at 13 degrees and the fridge is in the mid 30s. I don't turn it off at night or adjust the temperature. I also have all the other typical loads. LED lights, computer phone and camera charging, AA battery charging, 300w pure sine inverter for the computer charging. The solar feeds two 6v batteries so about a 220AH bank. I don't have a generator and do not plug into shore power ever as I strictly boondock. –vtwinkicker40)
300 watts. 2 Wally World 125 ah batteries. Propane water heater, refrigerator, furnace. Plenty of power for the tv, lights, furnace fan, etc. – bigskybob41)
I have 300w and two 6 volt GC2 on a 12v fridge that draws 3 Amps. Batteries are usually at 12.6 or so in the AM. – UptownSport42)
~350w of solar panels on the roof and ~210Ah of AGM. – Willy43)
Two 150 watts, an Indel B (Truckfrige) and 6 volt golf carts sitting between the seats. – MN C Van44)
420 amp hours, although batteries are long in the tooth so lets call it 320 ah. 350 watts of solar, virtually unshaded. I use 75-100 ah per day. How much is largely a function of how hot the water I'm in is and how hard the fridge has to work due to heat infiltration through the hull. I get to float by around 1pm on an average day. – Suijin45)
I have two 150-watt Renogy panels and run a Dometic fridge. SunnySouthTexas46) Our 300 watts in panels pull around 275 watts at high noon on a clear day.47)
250Ah of battery with 360W solar. It really depends how often you run everything.
I have a 70L DC dual compartment fridge, some LED lighting, a fan, a water pump, and run an induction cooktop off an inverter to cook (10 minutes only a day at low power). – dsuliuno48)
In summer with 2×150 watt flexible panels I was getting 16amps, and it even went up to 22 amps for a while which everyone I spoke to was surprised at such high numbers. Now, in sunny days I'm getting 2 amps for about 2-3 hours a day. Whereas summer was 7 hours of peak sun and a few more of non peak. My panels are flat. Flexible. No air gap underneath. - crap_allnamesrtaken49)
I have three 100w flex panels, MPPT charge controller with MT50 monitor all connected to two 125AH AGM {Vmaxtanks} batteries. Everything but the batteries is from Renogy (amazing customer service). I use this to run my ARB cooler style fridge, lights, fans and to charge my lanterns/laptop/phones/ereaders. Never been below 70% in 3-4 years. – diverdaddy050)

400w

Novakool 3800 fridge, Wallas XC Duo, Water pump, 2 iphones, Random other DC electronics - jambox, kindles, cell booster, etc. 3 laptops (I do software development 2 days a week), LED lighting, Fantastic vent fan, 700W water boiler on days when the xc duo isn't running in the morning. Keeping the state of charge above 50%, we can do 3 days with no charging if we are frugal on the third day. Definitely happy to have the 400W of solar on the roof, shore power, and alternator charging. We spent 21 days in BC during February with not a single sunny day.. had to rely on a small amount of solar charging through the clouds and the alternator the entire time. Now we are in the California desert where we have excess solar and are charged to 100% by the end of everyday. – Tyler Wick51)
I got 400 watts on the roof just because. It fits well. And on short or cloudy days it still throws plenty of amps back into the storage batteries. In the summer on sunny long days, it is more than enough. On short cloudy Fall days it can be “just” enough. – Rich Maund52)
480 watts of Solar Panels – akrvbob53)
I've been traveling in the northern states and have 4x100w panels on the roof with a ePever 40A MPPT controller. On an average day, I usually take in about 1.6Kwh (it would be more but once it hits float it stops producing as much). It can be more/less depending on clouds. My battery bank is 620ah and I discharge up to 50% of it in the course of a night of gaming. It usually is fully charged by 2pm the following day. If not, driving and charging from the alternator does the rest. As a side-note, the most wattage I've seen from the 4 combined panels in full sun was 292w. – ScreamingEel54)
I have 445 watts. But one panel is folded down on the driver's side. Right now, I'm needing the shade on the north side of the van, So I've parked to get mostly morning (when I need it the most) and some afternoon sun. I have 300ah of crappy Chinese UPG (supposedly deep cycle) batteries. – TedOnWalkabout55)
I have four 100 watt Renogy panels and 4 batteries. I was doing OK on two however. I run a coffee pot, a laptop, a couple of tablets and two phones, a little stereo thing, many lights (LED) all on my solar and never get close to running down my batteries. – Cammalu56)
400w & 300aH, 2k inverter, no issues running a large dual zone dometic fridge, water pump for sink, heater, 2 fans, lights, & charging devices. – veteranvans57)
4 100 watt rigid panels the compact size, 40a mppt charge controller, 4 6v volt golf cart batteries sealed deep cycle AGM total 450ah, 800w and 1500w inverter. solar panels will be mounted on a vantech conversion van rack system – expressvanman58)

500w

I have 520 watts on the roof of my 2008 Chevy Express Cargo. I think I could fit another 260watt panel up there. Joseph_Grey59)
I'm running 480W solar with a 24V 250Ah battery. Most things will run practically indefinitely. Fridge, lights, fan, tv, gas heater, phone/laptop all sip a couple percent per day. Depending how sunny it is the panels can charge up to ~80% on a good sunny summer day. What I do need to ration is use of the induction cooktop and microwave. Either of those running is closer to the scale of 1% per couple minutes. So it's a balancing act between how much I cook and how sunny it is. So far I haven't come close to draining the battery, but I've got more battery capacity than most and haven't lived in it for a span longer than 2 weeks at a time. - A4W_Squiggles60)

600w

We have 640w total from four 160w panels on the top of BoB. Feeds into a 200ah lithium battery. Power draws are the 5 cubic foot fridge/freezer (12v), the MaxxFan in season, the microwave through the 1000w inverter. All that certainly does not need the 640w, even in the winter here in WA state. And then there's our 12v A/C unit. It draws 32-40 amps when operating. And when are we most likely to use it? When its warm and there's full sun. With the BlueSky MPPT controller, I can see 35-40 amps incoming from the panels. – Zyzzyx61)
570w of mono panel, 40A 4215BN tracer, 2x Duracell GC-2 6v, 75A Battery Doctor isolator, 10A DIY shore power converter. This yields ~420w in clear [and 100F) conditions and ~100w when completely overcast. [500w+ does happen, but it's rare in overpaneled systems since they are already mostly charged by solar noon] – frater secessus62),63)
We run 2 ~60w laptops, 2 phones, lights and a fridge (all 12v) on 600 Watts of panels with 3 125ah batteries. It works well unless it's overcast and rainy for a few days in a row. We started with 400w and upgraded after running the batteries too low a few times. [deleted-unknown]64)

1000w+

1080 watts theoretical, which corresponds to about 950 to 1000 watts in full summer sun, although I have seen as much as 1100 watts on a really cold sunny morning (must have been some cloud reflections too). They are flat mounted but with nothing shading them… I have the Midnite Classic 150 solar charge controller set for the correct absorption time for my rather small 24V 125 AH bank. I probably under estimated the time it is truely at 100%, it is more like 95% at 11:30am and then stays in float until it is 100% a few hours later (but only using about 60 to 80 watts of the solar during that time). – IGBT65)
1185w system and … 675 Ah bank – jimindenver66)
I have 1,380 with a 6,000 watt battery bank…. I sized for the worst case with a smaller battery bank that I know will get refilled each day.67)
The reason I said 6,000w is it's a more universal number, my bank is 24v @ 250 amp hours so 24*250=6,000 but I could have achieved the same thing with the same four 125ah batteries with a 48v/125ah bank or a 12v/500ah battery bank.68) – TucsonAZ
… 945w solar array feeding a 102 amp hour group 31 Northstar AGM battery… The battery is bulk charged fast on cloudy mornings. On sunny mornings if you are not watching closely you will miss the bulk charge
3 LG 315w panels in their rack cover the entire [6×10 cargo trailer] roof.
Morningstar tristar MPPT 60. The inverter is a Magnum MSH3012 “hybrid” with load support to allow one to start tools with large starting loads by dipping into the battery bank for a moment. To run heavy loads all day, my 2000w peak Yamaha generator comes into play. Options are good. – 29chico69)
960w of Renogy panels power air conditioner and trailer. L80 charge controller. DannyB195470)
12kWh primary battery Bank 1.2kW solar array I run AC, induction cooktop, lights, Alexa, smart home stuff, TV, a 12-volt fridge, and probably other stuff that I forget. – time2van71)
655ah of [Lifeline AGM] batteries… 960w of solar on the roof…mostly I use it for A/C so me and the pups stay cool in the summer, and my gaming laptop for VR. – frankvagabond30372)
8)
I'm a full-timer … for years I've been running an ARB 50 qt. frig, 12v water pump, 12v TV & power ant., 10 spd Max fan, led house lights & charging laptop, hotspot, phone – off of a 100 watt panel [renogy] , 20a mppt , 105 ah batt. - no problem
29)
http://www.capacity: 40ah daily usage: 10-15ah solar: 200 wattscheaprvliving.com/forums/showthread.php?tid=27940&pid=351923#pid351923
53)
from signature 6/4/20187
66)
1185w system and the low end could easily run off the 675 Ah bank
electrical/solar/builds.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/11 19:48 (external edit)