Newby has ancient travel trailer

After spending several hours reading this forum, I am freshly reminded that I don't even know what it is I don't know.  Advice in minimally technical terms would be appreciated.

I recently bought a 1978 Boler travel trailer that is entirely solar powered.  In other words, the battery on the trailer does not charge from the tow vehicle.  I have a solar panel (with no identifying markings or rating) and a 10 - 30 amp charge controller.  

I live in a nicely cloudy area on the north coast of British Columbia. 

I have installed all LED lights, the furnace operates from convection alone (i.e. No fan), so the only strong draw is the water pump.  In the few days we used it last fall, we had no power problems, but we normally boondock, and I want to feel confidently independent.

My questions are:
1.  Can I simply clip my generator to the battery and fire up the generator to top up the battery, or will I need to first disassemble the system to isolate the battery before charging it?
2.  I would like to add a second panel to the roof of the trailer so that I get some charging while driving rather than just when camped, when I haul the panel out of the rig and point it at the setting sun.  How complex would my wiring have to be?  In other words, can I just wire the second panel into the charge controller by joining the wires from the existing panel?  

(Back to youtube to learn more about amps and watts)

Thanks,

Comments

  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,877 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 12 #2
    questions
    1...  if you are thinking of using the DC outlets on a Honda or other Inverter generator, don't waste your $$ and go buy a reasonable 120v  A/C charger, 3 or 4 phase (BULK, Absorb, FLOAT and EQ maybe..) if you can get one... Crappy Tire has some 3 stage (B/A/F)  smart ones that will do ... 
    No, you do not need to isolate the battery to use an A/C charger.. solar will work nicely with it..
    2...  as long as you only have 2 panels the same , you don't NEED  a Circuit Breaker bit it might make your connecting the second panel a lot easier...  look at 'Distribution Blocks on Ebay for some ideas and also Anderson  Powerpole connectors for simple quick connections...
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • BC_WarrenBC_Warren Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    Thanks, westbranch.  I appreciate the advice.  

    I already have a couple of generators -- the one I bring along is the small Honda, as you thought.  I do also have an AC battery charger: are you saying that I would be better served to run the battery charger from the AC on the generator (better than just using the DC from the generator?)

    As a side note, I bought a bigger generator from China (via Crappy Tire) and generally prefer the portability and dependability of the Honda.  

    I doubt I can match my current panel -- it looks kind of old-fashioned and it has no identifying marks I've seen.  When you say "two the same" are you referring to capacity or something else I should consider.

    Again thanks for taking the time to respond.
  • BC_WarrenBC_Warren Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    And I've got to add I love that Chilcotin country -- once dragged my Boler across the Gang Ranch from the calving barn at Churn Creek to the Farwell Canyon and up to Riske Creek (took 2.5 hours to cover about 90K) before enjoying the hill down to Bella Coola.  We stayed at the Gnome's Home for 3 days before trying to get back up the hill before the 18-wheelers started down.  Lots of country to explore in there.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,877 ✭✭✭✭
    Yes , use the A/C side, its much more effective, the DC is non regulated also and not preferred  for charging.  A/C chargers are easily available to replace and most do a reasonable charge profile B/A/F though the values are set and not adjustable as you get in most mid to better Solar charge controllers.
    What battery do you have?  The maker should have sme charging specs listed.  I know Trojan does have good ones for wet FLA )+flooded lead acid)... google Trojan T145 charge
    You want to match the Vmp and Imp as close as possible, identical being best..BUT yours has no markings so you may want to get another panel and cheaper CC than put the 2 together....  seek out a Solar retailer NOT C.T.. their prices are horrendous... ask around I know there are some electricians/shops that also do Solar installs, but unless you want to buy an MPPT charge controller be sure not to get a GT Grid Tie panel as their Vmp is not suitable to use with a PWM CC. they are like 30 volts and up and usually ~ 250W and more or less.  they run ~ $1 a watt...hth
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • littleharbor2littleharbor2 Solar Expert Posts: 708 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 12 #6
    On a good clear sunny day you can take some readings off your panel, open circuit voltage, short circuit amperage, (Isc.) and voltage and amperage under load, (Vmp and Imp.) with a digital volt meter. Standing behind the panel line it up to the sun by watching the shadow coming off the back falling onto the ground. When checking amperage you can watch the meter as you tilt the panel up and down. The amperage will rise until you are aimed directly at the sun, then start to fall as you tilt it beyond that high amperage point.  Should give you some idea what you have.

    2.1 Kw Suntech 175 mono, Classic 200, Trace SW 4024 ( 15 years old  but brand new out of sealed factory box Jan. 2015), Bogart Tri-metric, 700 ah @24 volt AGM battery bank. Plenty of Baja Sea of Cortez sunshine.

  • ShadowcatcherShadowcatcher Solar Expert Posts: 226 ✭✭
    We have a 185W high voltage panel (70+V no load) on the top of our teardrop. What this means is we get some usable power even when shaded, it did however require an MPPT controller, Morningstar SunSaver. I made a call to the battery manufacturer, our Morningstar plays well with charging from the tow vehicle and from a Progressive Dynamics converter. Wiring two panels in series to get a higher voltage, as long as they are matched...
Sign In or Register to comment.