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Trainman

Solar Questions

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I guess my question is pretty simple, why the big change to Solar? We have been camping for years, back in the old days and now today again, took off some 40 years between the two time periods. I see many of the Oliver trailers look like they are equipped with Solar and the four battery systems, are there that many Olivers being produced new with the Solar option, or does it just look that way. I personally don't really care to Boondock unless I get caught some night without being able to get hookups, then I just rough it, I can make it eight hours on the factory batteries if needed. I personally don't think that Oliver trailers owners are that big on Boondocking and just maybe they are sold on this Solar thing just because it's a high end trailer and it's the thing to have, it goes with the high in thinking, I know.  Maybe I'm missing something here, but please tell me why I need Solar when I can plug into the power post and all is well. Please don't tell me it just in case you don't have power for sleeping one night or in an emergency. We are pretty sure our next trailer will be the Oliver, but I'm pretty happy with the Oliver as built in it's stock form and all these upgrades I think are not needed and are more for show then actual use. I we go for the Oliver it will be the Elite II with very few options, I can see not spending much more then $2000 for upgrades, don't tell me everyone spends $65,000-$70,000 on an Oliver. I do understand that Oliver owners probably have more disposable income to spend, but I have a hard time thinking they spend it on not needed things. I thought we were all going camping to get away for home, not bring it with us.

 

 

 

trainman

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Elite II, Twin Bed, Hull #489, 2019 RAM 1500, 5.7 Hemi, 4X4, Crew Cab, 5'7" bed, Towing Package, 3.92 Gears.

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We love the Oliver with solar. Our wife uses a Cpap machine. We might stop at a rest area or maybe a state park without hookups. To have power to run the furnace and water pump is a bonus...

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Trainman, based on your post I would say you definitely don’t need solar.

 

I think you would be surprised how many boondocking Oliver owners there are. We’ve camped with many of them in primitive locations. We got the solar because many of the places we wanted to visit (National Parks and Recreation Areas) do not provide any hookups. We’re about 50/50, we like hookups when we can get them but have no problem boondocking when we can’t. It gives us enormous flexibility. If you will be in campgrounds with hookups all the time don’t waste your money on the solar or the inverter. The other option we got that we like is the cell phone booster, it has helped us keep in touch with kids while we’re out on extended road trips. Mike

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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My guess is you live east of the Rockies. With practically no easily accessible public lands, it is really hard to find campgrounds there that don’t have full hookups. There is no need to have solar as long as you are OK with the very high nightly cost of that kind of highly commercialized “camping”.

 

If you plan to travel west you will find most non- commercial places (National, State and local parks, public lands)  have no hookups, or perhaps a very limited number of power sites. Here solar makes extended stays possible without running a generator. It is a polite, completely silent way to do real RV camping without disturbing other people. Your truck won’t recharge your batteries enough on a short drive if you are using much power from them. It will usually be enough over a day of towing. If you want to fully use your 110 volt system including the microwave, you MUST have a 2000w inverter, a big battery bank and the solar array to keep them charged.

 

You could delete the microwave, which is a real battery killer, and then you could get by on a small aftermarket inverter, two batteries and maybe a 100 watt suitcase solar panel, or a generator run for an hour in the evening.

 

If you don’t have any need for 110, then skip the solar, inverter and quad battery system entirely..

 

But you simply cannot count on having a power hookup out here..... last year we camped with hookups maybe 10% of the time, but shore power is definitely nice on a blistering hot day.

 

It would be interesting to see a chart showing trailers sold with solar, and where they ended up. I am guessing, but I bet only 20% sold to eastern owners have solar. The owners there that do have it most likely travel extensively in the other half of the country....

 

872A6EC8-DA32-4254-B9ED-BBDDD10175B4.thumb.jpeg.3f2004ce6efce38c1af15ff5102a29ab.jpeg

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Trainman,

 

Sounds like we camp at similar campgrounds. Started camping out west this year with Ollie. We like State Parks and Army Corp of Engineer Campgrounds.

 

Purchased Ollie used and don't have factory solar system on our LE2, it's perfect for our needs. Ninety nine percent of the campgrounds we camp at have at least 120V available. We have a 100W portable solar panel and 2000W Honda Gen-Set for trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway when camping at Federal campgrounds without electrical connections. Ninety nine percent of the time we don't use on board LP gas system unless camping on the BRP without 120V. We use a 120V 1500W portable heater for cool nights and 120V portable induction cook top or microwave for cooking needs.

 

Bill


Bill

LE2 Tundra

 

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we like State Parks and Army Corp of Engineer Campgrounds. Ninety nine percent of the campgrounds we camp at have at least 120V available.

 

Do you mind telling us where those places are? Around here none of the Corps or Bureau of Reclamation  campgrounds, which are my very favorite type, have any sort of hookups. And only a small number of State parks do, at $40 per night.... and those that do are in the heavily populated parts (Seattle, Portland) and weekend reservations are mandatory in the summer.

 

The Corps sites are usually $9 with the Geezer Pass, and half that after September... i have to admit that here in WA the state parks away from the Coast are in disrepair and are a very last choice for us. The ones along Puget Sound are crazy busy, and expensive, but a pure delight to visit.

 

Thanks.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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John,

 

Find campgrounds with research using US State Park guide and ACE guide purchased from Amazon.

 

 


Bill

LE2 Tundra

 

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John,

 

Here's an example,  stayed mostly at State Parks on our trip from NC to UT, returned back to NC only camping at SPs.  All of the SP campsites used had at least electricity and not too far from I-40 & I-15 in following states:

 

TN, AR, OK, NM, AZ, NV, UT

 

 


Bill

LE2 Tundra

 

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Trainman:

 

We ordered our 2015 Elite II without solar or the inverter and we have never regretted it.  The Oliver is our 7th travel trailer we have owned in 51 years and we have travel all over the United States and Canada.  We camp 75% of the time in campground with at least 120VAC connections; when it is hot we like to run the AC and it will not run for very long via the inverter.  There are lots of state parks and Corp of Engineers across the U.S. that has hook ups that we have stayed in.

 

We did order the enhanced battery bank, which has allowed us to stay in campgrounds without electricity for two weeks.  Some times I carry a Honda 2000 watt generator with us, but most of the time that is only in the fall when we are camping without electricity and will be running the furnace.  Your trailer batteries will obtain a good charge from your tow vehicle if you are driving several hours of the day.  When in campgrounds without electricity and no generator, I just plug the trailer into my tow vehicle and let it run for 30 – 60 minutes per day; this is just a way to keep the charge up on the batteries and gives us more time to stay without electricity.

 

At home the trailer is parked under a carport with no access to the sun; we have a 30 amp connection for the trailer.


Horace & Dianne

Chesapeake, Virginia

2016 Toyota Tundra Crewmax 4x4 Limited

2015 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull # 93

 

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It entirely depends on who you are and what you like to do. The main thing is to be honest with yourself about how you camp or want to camp and then build your trailer to suit. I think you’ll find that Oliver owners are a very eclectic group and what may suit one owner perfectly wouldn’t suit another at all.  This forum is great in that there’s so much to learn from those who have different interests and priorities than our own.  But trust me, any effort you’ve spent judging those people is effort that you have thoroughly wasted.

 

My wife and I love spending weeks at a time away from campgrounds and love having the amenities out there that solar allows. If you’re happy staying at campgrounds with hookups then there’s not really much point in spending the money on solar and adding complexity to your trailer.  You can always add it later if you change your mind.

 

 

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Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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Trainman:

 

My 2017 Legacy Elite II does not have solar.  I chose not to get it for several reasons.  Some are:

 

A.  The cost.

 

B.  The aerodynamic drag.  One of these days Oliver will be able to offer direct adhered solar panels that will eliminate this reason.  I am told that currently the flexible panels on the market will not make the radius curves of the roof.  So aerodynamically speaking, the existing "Dirty" panels must be used. Of course, an option would be to modify the roof curves to reduce the radius so that they could.  I think it wise that OTT is waiting for more flexible panels vs. changing their roof profile.

 

C.  The compromises needed to make a solar generator free system work.

 

Reasons A and B speak for themselves.  So, the following attempts to address Reason C.

 

Unlike your camping style, we are boon-docking 75% of the time at locations that have no hookups.  Sure, we take advantage of hook-ups when we can, but frankly I agree with the above owners that it is rare out west to be able to do so.  So, to take care of our power needs, we have the 2000-watt inverter, the EZ Start option on the A/C, and a Honda EU 2200i generator.

 

With this setup we can run the microwave every day (and yes, it is "a battery killer"), occasionally the A/C (when the MaxFan is not enough cooling).  We typically make our coffee (electric pot), make breakfast using the microwave and stove.  Then later in the morning we run the very quiet Honda generator for an hour or so.  Then if needed, during the evening will run it again for about 90 minutes or less to fully charge our batteries.  This setup works very well for us and we have avoided Reasons A and B.

 

After 50 years of sleeping under the stars and tent camping, we very much enjoy the comforts of our Ollie.  Especially when we find ourselves out west at an extremely hot site.  Most of the time, Ollie with its white color and well insulated walls does very well with the Max-fan.  But there are a few times that we just have to run the A/C.   I suspect that this is the case with most of our Oliver peers.  It is the A/C that drives this issue in my opinion.

 

I would love to hear how the Oliver Solar Owners address running the A/C when needed when they don’t have a generator. How long will the batteries last when doing so?  I suspect that if they have a need for A/C, the limitations of power storage and sunny weather pretty much requires them to also have a generator handy.  If not, what compromises are needed to make a solar system work with A/C loads without a generator in the game plan?

 

Geronimo John


Tug:  2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Trailer Tow, FX-4, 4X4, Rear Locker

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Thanks for all the replies, now I do see why west of the rockies does give more reasons for solar. I'm in that state that is 1.9 percent of sales, probably answers many questions on why I have not considered solar. I will now look at solar for the trailer with a different outlook, who knows, maybe we will add it. Thanks

 

 

 

trainman


Elite II, Twin Bed, Hull #489, 2019 RAM 1500, 5.7 Hemi, 4X4, Crew Cab, 5'7" bed, Towing Package, 3.92 Gears.

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I guess my question is pretty simple, why the big change to Solar? We have been camping for years, back in the old days and now today again, took off some 40 years between the two time periods. I see many of the Oliver trailers look like they are equipped with Solar and the four battery systems, are there that many Olivers being produced new with the Solar option, or does it just look that way. I personally don’t really care to Boondock unless I get caught some night without being able to get hookups, then I just rough it, I can make it eight hours on the factory batteries if needed. I personally don’t think that Oliver trailers owners are that big on Boondocking and just maybe they are sold on this Solar thing just because it’s a high end trailer and it’s the thing to have, it goes with the high in thinking, I know. Maybe I’m missing something here, but please tell me why I need Solar when I can plug into the power post and all is well. Please don’t tell me it just in case you don’t have power for sleeping one night or in an emergency. We are pretty sure our next trailer will be the Oliver, but I’m pretty happy with the Oliver as built in it’s stock form and all these upgrades I think are not needed and are more for show then actual use. I we go for the Oliver it will be the Elite II with very few options, I can see not spending much more then $2000 for upgrades, don’t tell me everyone spends $65,000-$70,000 on an Oliver. I do understand that Oliver owners probably have more disposable income to spend, but I have a hard time thinking they spend it on not needed things. I thought we were all going camping to get away for home, not bring it with us.

 

 

 

trainman

 

 

Hello Trainman, I have been following the very "interesting" discussion over on the Escape forum about the body alignment issue and I will tell you here that I completely agree with your assessment. I decided it would not be prudent to comment as such on their forum but if I were interested in that model it would be a deal breaker for me.

 

Anyway...welcome to our forum. I know you are looking to buy (something) and asking good questions and I thought I'd jump in and address some of yours.

 

We have talked to many prospective owners over the 10 years we've owned an Oliver.  The question of solar and whether it's needed always comes up.  I always respond with the question "What kind of camping are you planning on doing?"  You've already answered with "I personally don’t really care to Boondock."  As others have pointed out, you will have no need for, nor will you benefit from, the available Solar Option. In addition you won't need an inverter and you won't need the larger battery bank.  You might consider it because of the additional amp hours it will provide in case you wanted to boondock at Walmart or Cracker Barrel or where ever during travel days to save on paying for a place to just park overnight.

 

Further your stated that you "...don’t think that Oliver trailers owners are that big on Boondocking..."  To that I would beg to differ.  Based on the number of folks that have attended mine and Tali's Boondocking seminars and the questions that are asked, I would say that more owners boondock that not.  Nobody here is going to judge someone on their camping style. As you inferred, it's all about getting out away from home and enjoying whatever interests you.

 

Good luck on your quest for your perfect trailer.  We all hope you choose an Oliver and outfit it so it suits just you. If your do, I am confident that you will not be disappointed. My father always told me "Nobody was ever sorry they bought the best there is."

 

 

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Steve, Tali and the dogs: Reacher, Lucy and Rocky plus our beloved Storm and Maggie (both waiting at the Rainbow Bridge) 2008 Legacy Elite I - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0026 2014 Legacy Elite II - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0050 2017 Silverado High Country 2500HD Diesel 4x4 

 

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You can’t run a conventional air conditioner unit off your inverter, it requires a generator of at least 2000 watts (110 VAC), preferably 3000. In an Oliver the air conditioner circuit is never tied into the inverter system, just to shore power. There are a few very high end RVs (XP Camper for example) that offer a DC powered mini split (residential style) system that can run for perhaps four hours off a big battery bank, but that will pretty much drain it completely. For a 20 minute lunch break on a blistering day, that works fine. If you had a second alternator, you could run that type continuously while driving.

 

If you want to run the AC for eight hours straight, which is necessary if you are camping in full sun on a 100 degree day at say Colorado National Monument (scrub trees and zero shade), you need that generator. Or you can flee the area to a 10,000 ft forest service campground with full shade... Or try to find a commercial CG in the hope that it might not be fully booked. This is the main reason western owners carry a generator in summer. Not because there is a shortage of sunlight for their panels, which is an early Spring/ late Fall concern when the sun is so low in the sky and the day length is so short... sometimes you just get stuck in a hot setting and it is really hard to find a shore power outlet.

 

Your inverter is NOT your friend, it uses huge amounts of power. For an Ollie it draws 75 amps DC to run the microwave, the worst offender in the trailer. Even running the outlets to operate say a small fan is very inefficient. It is much better to invest in a good DC powered marine fan that uses perhaps a third as many amps, straight from the batteries.

 

https://www.redarc.com.au/faq-tech-tips/inverter-current-draw

 

With solar you could cook a couple of frozen dinners in the microwave using the microwave at noon, and with good sun exposure your batteries will recover by dark. Try that at dinner time and they might go flat overnight, depending on how much power you are using in the dark. On a grey day in Fall, your inverter is indeed a battery killer.

 

Your generator lets you run off shore power in the evening to top up the batteries while you are nuking those TV dinners. Inverters are neat but they are horrible for conserving energy. When in doubt about your batteries, leave it off and boil some stew on the propane burners

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Quite an interesting discussion, especially about inverters being power hogs. Wishing I had thought through the options more carefully before placing my order. I elected to get practically all the options, including the solar, batteries, and inverter. Since I obviously failed to fully explore the pros and cons of these upgrades, my only defense is the same logic I apply to most of my "wasteful" purchases as I enter my final "golden?" years - leaving money to the kids will likely create family arguments so best to spend it up while I am still able. After all, $53K versus $70K - both amounts are pretty substantial (another way I rationalize my lack of self-discipline).


KWR


2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II, Hull#444


2019 GMC Sierra 2500HD Crew Cab, 4WD, Denali, Duramax 6.6L Turbo Diesel V8 Engine with Allison 6-speed transmission

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I did not mean to be discouraging. You can still enjoy the great convenience of your microwave and inverter, or you can just leave it all turned off when the sun is not out. If you understand how it uses power you can have popcorn or hot coffee at the appropriate time of day so that the batteries stay happy. Just cook the big evening meal outside on a propane grill or on your cooktop.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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No worries. Good heads up about the inverter. No question I am pleased to have purchased it and appreciate the awareness of the inverter power demands. Great suggestion to leave it turned off until needed. Upon taking delivery of my Oliver in April, it will be fun to monitor the various power demands and learn about optimizing off-grid camping.


KWR


2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II, Hull#444


2019 GMC Sierra 2500HD Crew Cab, 4WD, Denali, Duramax 6.6L Turbo Diesel V8 Engine with Allison 6-speed transmission

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Thank you for your comments on the solar, I do see that many more are boondocking them I ever thought were, I guess when you just stay in facilities that have hookup all the time you don't see the other side.

 

 

 

trainman


Elite II, Twin Bed, Hull #489, 2019 RAM 1500, 5.7 Hemi, 4X4, Crew Cab, 5'7" bed, Towing Package, 3.92 Gears.

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In almost eleven years of camping, we've used hookups fewer than a dozen times. So, the solar panels are truly an important part of our camping life.

 

Its also true that you dont need them for travel camping... if you can charge the batteries as you drive, and move on every day or two, you'll be solid. We do that in rental deliveries in the amazing road to Alaska.  The Yukon  territory campgrounds have no services, other than pit toilets and free firewood,  but we're on the move every day or two. No worries. Even with a single house battery in a class c. Our preference is our usual weeks in the woods, with no service,  and a lot of quiet. Solar is silent...

 

Its all about what you need, and want to do. Thats why solar is an option . One we love, need, and enjoy. But, its not for everyone.

 

Sherry


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Trainman,

 

Our Oliver EII is the first factory built RV we have purchased - having spent 43 years camping without the conveniences of a full fledged RV, Solar or not. The vast majority was tent camping or Van equipped for camping - usually boondocking, or in unimproved campgrounds.  I chose to equip our Oliver with the full solar package, AGM's and inverter - because of our experiences. Yes I think the package is expensive, but quite honestly it works well, is simple to maintain, and it adds a huge amount of comfort options when we are not in an area with shore power. We wanted to be fully self contained - and short of AC, we are. We don't usually go where we need the AC, but when we do, its usually at a place with shore power. I haven't decided if I'll purchase a handy dandy gen set - or not.

 

Having camped over much of the US, BC, Yukon, and Alaska - I can attest to basic closure of public areas to dispersed camping east of the Mississippi.  We have been singing the praises of Western states camping for years - the shear amount of area open for dispersed camping - BLM, FS, and other is simply unmatched elsewhere. Not to mention, we like to stay at elevation - and the cooler temps inherent there. We envision staying out "there" for extended periods of time, with water our only limiting factor - and we have that somewhat covered. In short  the solar give us almost unlimited options, and true to our form, we don't have to plan  - much. Just depends on where we want to end up. OH- and the days spent getting to "Back of Beyond" - stopping and resting  at the wally worlds, rest stops, Cracker Barrels, and such is also much more "convenient" - no gen needed, and as comfortable as any motel, hotel, campground and FREE.

 

To understand loads get a "kill a watt" it will give you all the info needed to understand what's going on with the various appliance power draws. Not to mention the information you can get from the power monitor on the progressive remote.  Keeping the microwave - over the additional storage bay - was a debate we had at order - we rarely use it, but it is nice to have for some things- still not sure we would go MW again. I like to cook outside - when possible- and my little propane stove fits that option.

 

Enjoy the Ollie.

 

 

 

RB

 

 

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Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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