Solar Power

General Lee

Well-Known Member
I most likely would go to propane refrigerator with what you do.
As would I. I have a camper and I have always been intrigued by dry camping. But I would take the worry out of refrigeration and use a propane fridge and put my solar energy into everything else.
 
I thought long and hard about a gas fired fridge. Yeah, it would work just fine in spite of all my negative arguments, but if you look at my pop-up,, it cannot be used inside, no space, so it would be outside. A stiff breeze would probably blow it out. But this has become more of a challenge now, to see just how far I can get on solar alone. I may change my mind as limits are hit, but I like projects like this.

To that end, I made a few purchases this morning. I got a watt usage meter, similar to a kill-a-watt but will show me the peak surge and idle wattage. This will help me determine actual needs on real world devices.

I also bought my first solar component, an MPPT 30 Amp charge controller. It's the same make as one recommended by mobile-solarpower, but upgraded with newer features and support for all Lithium batteries as well as lead acid and gel. It's not the best, but was less expensive and a good starting point. I can always replace it if it doesn't perform.

Still looking at solar panels. Everyone says monocrystalline are better than polycrystalline, more power dense, but I'm finding real world tests have the poly panels of the same rating providing more voltage and current for less money. Right now the standard size is 100W single panels and if you want more power, you add more panels. Just found a 160W poly panel, just slightly larger than the 100W panel, and so far, good reviews. 2 160W panels provide more power than 3 100W panels. That's significant when you have limited real estate to mount them.

I also found an old cooler in the basement with a 12VDC Peltier chiller. Just hooked it up to a fully charged 8Ah motorcycle battery just to see how long it will last and how cool it gets.
 
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Chris0nllyn

Well-Known Member
Mono or poly cells aren't much different and I wouldn't hinge my purchase on one or the other. Since you're going to be camping with them, you may want to look at thin film cells. They aren't as efficient as mono or poly modules but work better in low light. This depends on how big of an array you need as thin films need much more space.

Have you added up the loads and determined your Ah needs?
 
Have you added up the loads and determined your Ah needs?
Not yet, still in the discovery/thought process stage. If it can include a fridge, the rest will be in the noise. It hinges solely on having enough battery to carry the load over time, and enough panels to replenish the batteries. It has to break even or it won't work. It may be unreachable for a small portable system like I'm planning.

Looked at thin film, not really considering it right now. Biggest drawbacks are cost, mounting and size needed. It would take more surface area than hard panels for the same power capture, even considering lower light. I have limited mounting space and need every watt I can get, and preferably at the lowest cost. Toying with the idea of removable panels and placing them on the ground so I can have a larger array, but not one of my favorite ideas right now.

Tests I've seen of poly vs mono show the poly panels producing 15-25 watts more per 100 watt panel than mono. That's significant.
 

PeoplesElbow

Well-Known Member
How much does that projector draw, the only projectors that I have used have used a pretty strong incandescent bulb, ours at work puts off some serious heat. Do you have a link?
 

Clem72

Well-Known Member
How much does that projector draw, the only projectors that I have used have used a pretty strong incandescent bulb, ours at work puts off some serious heat. Do you have a link?
You can get both LASER and LED projectors that are much more efficient, but you pay for that efficiency.
 
You can get tiny projectors using LED or laser. A few I saw had theri own battery, lasted from 120 min to 4 hours, recharge via USB.

There's a UO Smart Beam, a Nebula Capsule, etc...
Too many to list here, and I'm still researching something I like. Do Google for 'tiny laser projector' and that will get you started.
 

nutz

Well-Known Member
Not yet, still in the discovery/thought process stage. If it can include a fridge, the rest will be in the noise. It hinges solely on having enough battery to carry the load over time, and enough panels to replenish the batteries. It has to break even or it won't work. It may be unreachable for a small portable system like I'm planning.

Looked at thin film, not really considering it right now. Biggest drawbacks are cost, mounting and size needed. It would take more surface area than hard panels for the same power capture, even considering lower light. I have limited mounting space and need every watt I can get, and preferably at the lowest cost. Toying with the idea of removable panels and placing them on the ground so I can have a larger array, but not one of my favorite ideas right now.

Tests I've seen of poly vs mono show the poly panels producing 15-25 watts more per 100 watt panel than mono. That's significant.
Might take a look here, if you haven’t already. https://us.sunpower.com/flexible-solar-panels/
 

wittykitty

Member
I have a decent amount of off-grid living experience. I personally find that it's a chore to regularly babysit the refrigerator and make sure it gets enough hours of power to retain it's temperature. It's much easier, cheaper, and less fussy when I pack my "grocery cooler" with ice and keep it buried in the ground, in the shade or under the dwelling, with access only to the top portion of the cooler. It helps to keep the cooler closed to retain temperature for the maximum number of hours, so if you're frequently opening your cooler for beverages, perhaps you might consider a separate cooler for those. The "grocery cooler" I referred to can often last me 5-7 days in the summer time.

I find that electronics are true luxuries, and I use them sparingly when I am away in my solar-passive cabin. In fact, I found I am much better off without it! My cell phone is my primary technology when I am off grid, and I use a "battery bar" which is basically charged using a vehicle or home power. I previously owned an off-grid solar system, which was a full time job itself, and requires far more knowledge than I have the education to safely understand and handle! At peak performance, the cables melted and nearly caught on fire! The lesson I have learned thus far, is that relying on only one source of power is unrealistic.

Since I learned to go mostly unplugged, my off-grid life got even better honestly! A gasoline generator does the job for my true power needs, when I really need it. I still have thoughts of using a deep-cycle marine battery to accomplish my charging needs, but I don't really see the need to pursue it right now.

Good luck! Please keep us posted!
 
At peak performance, the cables melted and nearly caught on fire!
It's very easy to underestimate the power that can be produced, and under-design the connections. People think, ok, solar, not a lot of energy if I'm only able to charge a phone.... It's real easy to get up into the hundreds of amps of power draw with a few batteries.

Thanx for your experience and insight. Appreciated. I'm not looking to go off grid, tho, just set up for a week at a time of camping. or should I say glamping. I like my luxuries....:biggrin:
 

Monello

Awww, jeez
PREMO Member
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.
I considered doing this to our cooler last year. I watched a few videos but they all said the lids became warped once the fill expanded. So I got the reflex material and made a cooler cover. I attached a rope handle to it. I also did 2 layers of material on the inside top of the lid. It seems to have helped. We reached 112* last summer in Texas. Bags of cubed ice melted in no time. There was no block ice available or I would have used that.
 
I considered doing this to our cooler last year. I watched a few videos but they all said the lids became warped once the fill expanded. So I got the reflex material and made a cooler cover. I attached a rope handle to it. I also did 2 layers of material on the inside top of the lid. It seems to have helped. We reached 112* last summer in Texas. Bags of cubed ice melted in no time. There was no block ice available or I would have used that.
I didn't have a problem with the lids, but the sides expanded. It's not a problem, just looks a little odd, bloated coolers. The insides are ok.
 

wittykitty

Member
Monello, I'm curious what brand and type of cooler you used.
Here's something you may consider. Affordable and effective.



 

PeoplesElbow

Well-Known Member
As far as the coolers go, i saw this one guy had a great idea.

He took a big cooler and put two smaller throw away styrofoam coolers inside it, they fit perfectly. The first was for frozen items, the second for unfrozen but must be refrigerated items. Finally for stuff just like drinks he used the extra room inside the big cooler and had ice in that.

This way his frozen stuff and unthawed meat stayed cold without getting hot air in it whenever he opened the big lid. The extra insulation of the styrofoam provided more than enough to keep the frozen stuff frozen for over a week.

Yeti coolers only work as good as they do because they have very thick stryofoam walls. The innovation about the yeti is how the hard plastic shell is molded.
 

Monello

Awww, jeez
PREMO Member
Monello, I'm curious what brand and type of cooler you used.
Here's something you may consider. Affordable and effective.



We have an inexpensive Coleman cooler. Here's my solution to our ice melt issue.

This is the cooler cover I came up with last year. We use it daily. It's still hanging in there pretty well.
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I lined the lid with a few layers of material. It's at least 2 and may be 3 layers. I forget the exact number. It's taped in place with postal package tape. We never overload the cooler so there is no loss of storage capacity.
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Here's my solution so we could remove the lid. It's just a rope that is held in place by knots and cardboard to give it some strength. And we have a can opener tied to the rope so it's always close by. But this year our beer drinking is down quite a bit since weed is now legal in most of the west. 🆒
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