Solar Power

Been doing a lot of research on "off grid". I'm not looking to go off grid, but I do want to do some camping in remote areas, but still want the luxury of cold drinks and a charged cell phone/laptop. The price of components has come way down, a decent 100 watt solar panel can be had for around $80. Biggest expense is still the batteries, so the fewer you can get away with, the better the cost and the less weight to carry around.

A big stumbling block is refrigeration, it can use a lot of power. Been finding ways to reduce power needed. A decent camper 3-way (propane/12V/120V) fridge can be very pricey, and the technology used isn't very efficient (ammonia evaporator as opposed to compressor). There are companies that make 12VDC fridges/freezers that are really efficient, but cost a bundle. Also saw videos of people replacing the compressor with 12VDC kits. Less expensive, but a lot of work with refrigerant tools I don't have, and still not cheap. Using a 12VDC to 120VAC inverter works, but you lose efficiency (read as shorter battery run times) in the conversion, and the 120VAC fridge still uses too much power to be effective for any length of time.

Then I came across a series of videos that make total sense: use a small deep chest freezer and use it as a fridge. They are inexpensive and easily retrofitted. Because it's designed to hold cold longer at lower temps, it's already got more insulation than any standard fridge. The fact that you don't lose cold air when you open it is huge. The only mod is to either replace the thermostat with a fridge thermostat, or use an inexpensive external thermostat. In either case, you're taking a cooling system designed to reach temps -30 degreesF and asking it to only get to 34 degreesF. The power requirements are dropped dramatically, and now in the range of easily being powered with solar and battery. Some folks are doing this successfully on two batteries and a single 100 watt solar panel. Probably live in the SouthWest where it's sunny all the time.

So, just discovery at this point, but getting closer to adding solar to my pop-up. I'm looking at 2-3 100 watt panels with a 1000 to 2000 watt inverter powered by a small bank of batteries. Still researching batteries, the good deal on those 120AH LiFePO4s fell thru.

On a little bit different topic.... I've turned my ice coolers into super coolers. They don't have enough insulation, and usually none in the top door. Drill holes around the inside of the cooler, and shoot Great Stuff in it. Way cheaper than getting a Yeti.

Interested in any feedback or thoughts anyone has or better design options.
 
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Yep, YouTube is my primary source.... :lol:

I'm trying to design the system to provide as much power as I can with the limited space I have. If I can design in enough to power a fridge, I'd like to, and stop dealing with ice chests altogether.

Besides.... it's a helluva fun thing to try!
 
If you're looking for info I have found this to be SUPER helpful as I try to understand solar....

Link: Mobile Solar Power Made Easy!: Mobile 12 volt off grid solar system design and installation. RV's, Vans, Cars and boats! Do-it-yourself step by step instructions

Good luck! And looking fwd to reading updates.

--- End of line (MCP)
Agree.
I didn't get his book, but I have been watching the author's videos. He is a little hyper, a non-stop talker and can change his mind on a subject or item, but an absolutely invaluable source of information.
Thanx!
 

PeoplesElbow

Well-Known Member
Yes, but not for 12 or more hours without depleting the battery. It's the length of run time that's at issue.
Probably going to be your biggest power user? What are you planning on keeping in your fridge?

What else are you planning on powering?
 
Uh... food? :lol: I try to pack most things as non-perishables or single serving, but I can't stand fake eggs or powdered milk and there will be leftovers that need to be chilled. Meats, mayo, etc....

Yes, the fridge will be the big energy user. Other than that, camp site lights, camper lights, recharging laptop and cell phones, an LED projector for evening movies. The trick is, if I size it right, all of this is a reality for as long as I want it, if it's 2 days or 2 weeks without having to worry about ice.
 

Yooper

Childhood idol: George Washington, Fighter Pilot
PREMO Member
[A]dding solar to my pop-up.
Am interested in your pop-up experience. We still have our late 1980s Coleman pop-up that (while we no longer use it for travel) we still use as a "cabin" on our property.

Is yours relatively new? If you were to buy a new one, what would it be? Dealer recommendations (you're located somewhere in the DelMarVa, I presume)? We'd love to buy Coleman again, but they've long been out of the pop-up game.

P.S. If you have time/interest/enthusiasm to "go sidebar" that is.

--- End of pop-up line (MCP)
 

black dog

Free America
PREMO Member
Uh... food? :lol: I try to pack most things as non-perishables or single serving, but I can't stand fake eggs or powdered milk and there will be leftovers that need to be chilled. Meats, mayo, etc....

Yes, the fridge will be the big energy user. Other than that, camp site lights, camper lights, recharging laptop and cell phones, an LED projector for evening movies. The trick is, if I size it right, all of this is a reality for as long as I want it, if it's 2 days or 2 weeks without having to worry about ice.
Eggs that are bought local that have never been refrigerated can be coated with cooking oil and kept without refrigeration for weeks as long as as they are kept out of the sun and turned daily.
Milk can be bought in juice boxes that don't need refrigeration.I sent my son a rollup solar panel that will keep his iPhone and laptop charged easily when they are in the field.
I most likely would go to propane refrigerator with what you do.
There are many ways to skin a cat.
 
Eggs that are bought local that have never been refrigerated can be coated with cooking oil and kept without refrigeration for weeks as long as as they are kept out of the sun and turned daily.
Milk can be bought in juice boxes that don't need refrigeration.I sent my son a rollup solar panel that will keep his iPhone and laptop charged easily when they are in the field.
I most likely would go to propane refrigerator with what you do.
There are many ways to skin a cat.
Agree with all but.... I don't want to find out the hard way that the eggs weren't local/fresh.
Tried the non-refrigerated milk products. Nope.
Can't use a propane fridge while moving, generates heat with open flame, requires a bottle, not inexpensive to buy, doesn't cool adequately in hot weather, will be outside so a wind can blow out the flame.

I have a concept, have thought about all the pros and cons, stop harshing my mellow!!!! :lol:
 

PeoplesElbow

Well-Known Member
Uh... food? :lol: I try to pack most things as non-perishables or single serving, but I can't stand fake eggs or powdered milk and there will be leftovers that need to be chilled. Meats, mayo, etc....

Yes, the fridge will be the big energy user. Other than that, camp site lights, camper lights, recharging laptop and cell phones, an LED projector for evening movies. The trick is, if I size it right, all of this is a reality for as long as I want it, if it's 2 days or 2 weeks without having to worry about ice.
Asked about what you was keeping in it because keeping something cool takes less energy than making something cool.

Personally I would have a dedicated system for the refrigerator and one for everything else.
 
Am interested in your pop-up experience. We still have our late 1980s Coleman pop-up that (while we no longer use it for travel) we still use as a "cabin" on our property.

Is yours relatively new? If you were to buy a new one, what would it be? Dealer recommendations (you're located somewhere in the DelMarVa, I presume)? We'd love to buy Coleman again, but they've long been out of the pop-up game.

P.S. If you have time/interest/enthusiasm to "go sidebar" that is.

--- End of pop-up line (MCP)
Just got a new one, not your conventional pop-up. here's a link:
Very lightweight, because I want to tow it behind my Slingshot. The fold-out tent is completely contained in that plastic shell. I can carry 850 pounds of load in addition to the trailer itself. The supports on top can be used to mount rooftop accessories like the Thule stuff, but I plan on mounting the solar panels up there.
 
Asked about what you was keeping in it because keeping something cool takes less energy than making something cool.

Personally I would have a dedicated system for the refrigerator and one for everything else.
Separate dedicated systems would require more batteries and additional weight and maintenance, duplicate charge systems, duplicate inverters....

That's what's nice about using electric. It can be pre-chilled with contents, and still be actively chilling while driving. It would already be cold when you arrive.
 
:lol: Ok... I think I pissed off everyone....

Don't let my blinders stop anyone from giving me alternate ideas and suggestions. I do appreciate the comments, although it didn't sound like it.
 

Yooper

Childhood idol: George Washington, Fighter Pilot
PREMO Member
Just got a new one, not your conventional pop-up. here's a link:
Very lightweight, because I want to tow it behind my Slingshot. The fold-out tent is completely contained in that plastic shell. I can carry 850 pounds of load in addition to the trailer itself. The supports on top can be used to mount rooftop accessories like the Thule stuff, but I plan on mounting the solar panels up there.
Very cool! I have seen the Sylvan Sports before. We're not looking something that light, looking to get back to a heavier-duty pop-up, but one that is "back country" capable. I've seen what I want at RV dealers that are far from SMC, so was hoping there was someplace nearby (Economy RV in M'ville don't sell the ones I'm looking for.)

Had never heard of the slingshot before. Wow! So what you're really looking for is a solution for motorcycle pop-up camping. Didn't realize that. Sorry if I missed it in your original post (I was more drawn in by the solar/electricity aspect). Now I understand the weight issues much better.

Am very interested and look fwd to future posts....

--- End of line (MCP)
 
We're not looking something that light, looking to get back to a heavier-duty pop-up, but one that is "back country" capable. I've seen what I want at RV dealers that are far from SMC, so was hoping there was someplace nearby (Economy RV in M'ville don't sell the ones I'm looking for.)
I got my pop-up from Road Trip Camping in Orange, VA. Check out their inventory, I suspect they might have what you're looking for.
 
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