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Hi all,

 

I'm new to this forum. My wife and I are in NW Arizona and we're looking at another owner's Oliver on Labor Day in Lake Havasu City.

 

This looks like a great forum for anyone shopping for an Oliver or deciding how to customize it. I have read through the forum and learned a lot, but I have some questions about solar panels. I'm familiar with PV in general, since our house is off the grid and powered by solar.

 

What exactly do you get with the "solar ready" option? My guess is: 1) a standard connector, 2) accurate battery charging monitor. Or does this also include a different battery charger than the one the Oliver normally comes with? Anything else?

 

Since I intend to use solar, I'll probably opt for the "solar ready" option. But I'm not sure about the panels. Based on what I've read in the forum, I assume that the built-in panels for the Technomadia build are what is now offered as the "solar panel" option. Is that right?

 

I'm torn between the built-in panels on the roof and simply bringing a portable set of panels with an on-ground stand. The trade-offs are:

 

1) The built-in panels are much easier to set up (just tilt them up), and no extra storage is needed. This is a big difference in convenience.

 

2) On-ground panels can be placed in a slightly differently location from where the trailer is parked, facing a different angle. Since I have solar at home, I know the angle is pretty important for getting the most energy from the panels. Depending on where you are, positioning the trailer in the sun and at the best angle may not be practical.

 

3) The built-in panels take up the space normally used by the TV satellite dish. This isn't a factor for me, as I don't want the satellite dish anyway.

 

Can the built-in panels be tilted in all four directions? In other words, can any of the four edges be tilted up?

 

Any other advice or experiences you've had with the solar system?

 

Thanks in advance!

Mark Hayes

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Helo Mark,

 

Welcome to the forum! If you've perused the forum, you likely saw my postings about the solar system I chose for the Wonder Egg. At the time I was looking for solar, I was not well versed on the topic. (I believe Technomadia [Chris] is the most technically savvy around these parts.) I used the resources of the internet to get informed and decided to go with a complete package from AM solar, Inc. I selected the 100 watt system that can be found at: http://www.amsolar.com/sunrunner100-22.html.

 

My theory was to go with a ready proven system that had been on the market already. Since then, Oliver travel Trailers has worked with the AM Solar folks and they have combined two 100W panels into a small package which several new Oliver owners have opted for on their trailers. Technomadia's are side-by-side centered on the top and I think Seadawg is about to get two connected long-wise to the right side of the trailer's hump. It will overhang the awning housing a few inches but will not interfere with its operation. This configuration can be done with the King-Dome in place.

 

Right now the brackets allow for either left/right tilt or for/aft tilt. But if it was reeeallly necessary I bet the Oliver wizards could do whatever magic you'd prefer.

 

As you know, you won't be running the a/c or microwave effectively only powering the batteries with solar. I've kept my Fantastic Vent running a month, in Texas, with only solar power charging the batteries. It runs them down a bit at night, but by the end of the day, they are back up to 14.7 Volts, ready for the darkness.

 

While panels on long extension cords may let you park in the shade and get maximum power, the simplicity of the system permanently mounted works for me so far. even while in a shady spot or under cloudy conditions i am charging the batteries a small bit at a time. With the 100W panel, i get 5 to 6 amps per hour loaded into the batteries on a sunny day under full exposure with no tilt in use.

 

Good luck on your quest for a trailer, if you chose Oliver, you'll surely be one HAPPY CAMPER!


Pete & "Bosker".    TV -  '18 F150 Super-cab Fx4; RV  - "The Wonder Egg";   '08 Elite, Hull Number 014.


Travel blog of 1st 10 years' wanderings - http://www.peteandthewonderegg.blogspot.com


ABBCMBNBNLNSONPEQCSKYTALAKAZARCACOCTFLGAHIIDILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNJNMNYNCNDOHOKORPAPRSCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYsm.jpg

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Hi, Mark,

 

Since most of our camping is high in the forests and mountains here in Northern California, where we are almost always parked in the shade, we decided to go with an outboard system, where we move the panel around on the ground to the areas of strongest sunshine over the course of the day. The panel, of course, is attached to an electrical cable which is plugged into the side of the Oliver. I believe that we got the same solar panel and controller that Pete (Bugeyedriver) did--AM Solar 100 watt panel and the HPV-22B charge controller, also from AM Solar. I believe that the "solar ready" option offered by Oliver uses a different controller. You will need to discuss this Oliver to make sure that you get the controller that you want, as we did.

 

My advice is to consider very carefully where you will be camped in order to decide whether to have the panels mounted on the Oliver or to have an outboard system, such as ours. Our system is much more labor intensive in transporting (we carry the panel and electrical cord in our TV), setting up, moving, and putting away the panel when we are not around camp (so it will be there when we come back!). However, it is what we need where we camp: If we had the panel mounted on the Oliver, we would have to search out and try to camp in the few sites in each campground that have significant sun exposure (if there are any). Otherwise, the dense forest shade would reduce the panel's charging amps too much and make the panel of little practical value. We have found that by moving the panel around a few times to different parts of the site to follow the sun and by adjusting its angle to be perpendicular to the sun, we are able to maintain output of around 5.5 amps over several hours and still to maintain reasonably strong output as the sun gets much lower in the sky. To do this, of course, we must be in camp. This works for us, though, since my wife generally stays in camp doing things she enjoys while I go off to fish.

 

So, if your camping will be anything like ours, you might consider an outboard system. If you are going to be in the sun or light shade most of the time, I would probably recommend that you have the panel(s) mounted on your Oliver.

 

Steve

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Pete and Steve -- thank you very much for the detailed responses. I really appreciate it.

 

Based on this I think we will ask Oliver to mount the panels on the roof. We will seldom be camping in dense forest (like the redwoods in N CA) -- mostly desert and sparser forest. When I read about moving the panels around all day, I realized that we probably just wouldn't want to do that.

 

I think I will ask Oliver if they can make a splitter connection of some kind so I can plug the solar panels into a different charger via an external cable and an Anderson Connector. That way I can use the panels to charge my EV at home, or perhaps even camping if we bring it along.

 

http://www.doranev.com/SOLAR-charging-y ... ehicle.htm

 

Thanks again, this is a very friendly forum!

 

--mark

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Just a quick reply while I've got some wifi at Burning Man...

 

But one factor to consider is the height of Oliver. Unless you are about 8' tall - tiliting the solar panels on top of the roof does require some sort of ladder to be carried with you, or camping next to something you can climb up on. As a result, we've yet to tilt our panels :)

 

- Cherie

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Thanks Cherie, that's good to know. I am going back and forth about solar panels now, after re-reading these posts and coming to grips with reality.

 

Since we sometimes camp in the desert, I'm going to need a generator anyway for A/C. So I could save cost by not installing the solar panels, and using the generator for charging the batteries when I need to (as well as for A/C).

 

Rather than the propane-converted Honda generator you use, I'm thinking about a small diesel (2500 watt) generator:

 

http://www.electricpowergenerator.com/RGD5000.html

 

I run my truck on biodiesel, which I brew myself, so I could also use it in the generator. My fuel is easily accessible from my aux tank, so I don't have to carry anything extra. Using biodiesel makes running a generator once in a while for battery charging a lot more attractive. The noise is still a problem, but at least I wouldn't be running it at night. And the generator would come in handy for other uses.

 

Still thinking....

 

Thanks again,

--mark

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Hi again,

 

Now I'm on to the question of the battery charger.

 

If I will occasionally be charging the batteries with a generator, to conserve fuel I need to make sure that they charge as quickly as possible. Therefore I'd like to use the AGM batteries that Chris and Cherie used: 2 LifeLine AGM GPL-4C. I can't find any better batteries.

 

And in addition I will need to install a high quality (smart) charger that works well with the AGM batteries, in place of the standard charger. I learned this from the forum thread on battery charging.

 

So I'm not an expert but I've been reading. The battery bank capacity will be 220 amp hours. AGM batteries can be charged at about 75% of capacity, or 165 amps in this case. My 2500 watt generator, charging at 15 volts, can supply 166 amps. A pretty good match.

 

So ideally the charger should operate at up to 150 amps. I can't find anything nearly that large for an RV. The largest I could find is the Xantrex 80 amp, the XADC 80A Converter/Charger:

 

http://www.bestconverter.com/XADC-80A-C ... 5-244.html

 

Although not 150 amps, I think it will do pretty well at 80 amps. This will leave some spare capacity while the generator is running, but it will take most of the generator's capacity. I understand that it is not healthy for diesel generators to be running with a light load, so that's good.

 

I'm not sure if I will also need a special battery monitor to go along with the AGM batteries and Xantrex charger, or if the standard battery level monitor that comes with the Oliver will work just as well.

 

I'm also not sure if this charger will fit in the space of the existing charger, or if I'll need to do what Chris and Cherie did and sacrifice the power cord roller, and use that space for the charger.

 

Any thoughts on any of this?

 

Chris, I've gotten most of this from your research, although I've tried to modify it to fit my needs for charging with a generator and without an inverter. I very much appreciate all the research and write-ups you've done. I'm benefiting from that.

 

Thanks,

--mark

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I'm not sure if I will also need a special battery monitor to go along with the AGM batteries and Xantrex charger, or if the standard battery level monitor that comes with the Oliver will work just as well.

 

I found the answer to this question in the post by Chris on battery monitoring:

 

I didn't realize that the built-in battery meter was just voltage. I will need one of the Xantrex monitors.

 

--mark

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I have not seen any high amp chargers that are not also inverters. Why not get an inverter / charger combo?

 

Being able to charge the batteries quickly is nice. Our current setup can charge at 60A - 70A from the generator. If I had gone with the ProSine 2.0 Inverter / Charger, I think we would be able to charge at 100A, which would be even nicer.

 

- Chris

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Rather than the propane-converted Honda generator you use, I'm thinking about a small diesel (2500 watt) generator:

 

 

I run my truck on biodiesel, which I brew myself, so I could also use it in the generator.

 

That is an interesting generator, and you would get lots of cool points for running it off of home-brew biodiesel. But, looking at the specs - it is a LOT louder than the Honda generators. And it is twice as heavy.

 

Also - I don't think it is an inverter-style generator that dynamically adjusts its speed to match the power load, allowing for dramatic fuel consumption reduction.

 

If you had this generator, I'd match it with the fastest possible battery charger you could find and use it just 1hr a day to top off your batteries. It would probably not be well suited to running the AC for long periods of time.

 

- Chris

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Chris, thank you very much for your posts. That's the kind of feedback I needed. I'm going to do more research and then I'll post a new plan.

 

--mark

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Has anyone considered mounting the panels on the street side over the windows and raising them when camped?? :shock: Someone on either Casitaforum, CasitaClub or the FiberglassRVForum has done it on, I believe, a Casita on the back window.

Just food for thought.......Chuck 8-)

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We did actually consider this, especially before we discovered the Oliver and thought the Casita was our best option. We thought about making awnings out of solar panels. The drawbacks being that you would have constant shade over your windows (I prefer natural light whenever possible), and possibly total blockage (since we stealth camp a bit - that was a concern for us.) when you wouldn't necessarily want it. Also, you would loose a good deal of power potential by simply facing the wrong way towards the sun.

 

For us, having them on the roof was optimal. We're also toying with the idea of a second/third panel that we could carry in the tow vehicle - or the under storage that we're currently lusting after on Jim & Evon''s Oliver parked next to us here in Virginia City - that could be placed in the best sunny spot possible and camp in the shade.

 

- Cherie

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Under storage ? :shock: WOW ! :o Pictures ! Pictures ! I wanna see ! That is the very way we would like to carry solar instead of on the roof ! 8-)


I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth 08' Oliver Legacy Elite HULL NUMBER 0003(sold)

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I'll try and sneak some pictures in the morning. I'm hoping they come up with a way to do it more affordably.. right now, it's a several thousand dollar expense to create. But man, is it sweet!!

 

- Cherie

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Paul started talking to the folks at Oliver about retrofitting solar panels on our Oliver awhile back. Last week in Hohenwald, we had a system similar to Technomadia's installed. However, with the king dome and AC, we had to locate ours in a place other than the center of the roof top. They fabricated beautiful saddle brackets molded to the hull to attach the two 100 watt am solar panels, and ran the wires through the roof and between the hulls... no easy task, I'm sure. We're very pleased with the installation. Our first day out in Hohenwald was overcast and drizzly, but we were picking up 4.6 amps of power anyway, and on sunnier days, 10.5. Here are a few photos of our new installation: LakeOuachitaPetitJeanMtMagazineU-24.jpgLakeOuachitaPetitJeanMtMagazineU-21.jpgLakeOuachitaPetitJeanMtMagazineU-22.jpg We'd like to thank the whole installation team for doing such a great job!

August2008CarolinasTN164.jpg Sherry


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Sherry,

 

Wow...those fit surprisingly well on the side, more or less staying within the overall width of the trailer. Now you just need two more on the other side to balance things out!

 

Are those fixed panels, or do you have some tilt adjustablility (which would make a second pair even more appealing)?

 

As you may know, I'm not having solar installed on my trailer, but it's nice to know there's a retrofit solution if my camping habits change.

 

Herm

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Sherry & Paul,

 

Your solar set-up looks simply awesome! I think you are the only Oliver with both the King Dome & Solar . . . looking very much like a George-Jetson vehicle. I think you should rename it "The Space Egg"

 

Have fun "solaring" :lol:


Pete & "Bosker".    TV -  '18 F150 Super-cab Fx4; RV  - "The Wonder Egg";   '08 Elite, Hull Number 014.


Travel blog of 1st 10 years' wanderings - http://www.peteandthewonderegg.blogspot.com


ABBCMBNBNLNSONPEQCSKYTALAKAZARCACOCTFLGAHIIDILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNJNMNYNCNDOHOKORPAPRSCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYsm.jpg

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Mark,

 

Good posting, good questions. I also appreciate your posting the links where I can go to learn. My battery technology is 30 years dated so I know I’m going to be of no help to you. My last touch point was to learn why a die hard lasted longer than conventional lead-acid batteries. Let me ask about high charge rates for the class battery that is going into the Oliver. Does that effect the battery life (charge/discharge cycles) and where does the heat go. A charge rate of 80 amps is somewhere between 1000 – 1200 watts, about what an iron draws. Is that a concern? Is there a concern about the venting with these fast change rates?

 

If you are off the grid, I would be interested in accessing some of your links. I’d like to learn more.

 

Bill Patterson

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Herm, The panels are still adjustable, and a little easier to reach than the rooftop panels. We do need to carry a short ladder/step stool to reach them. We were very pleased that Oliver agreed to do the retrofit for us, and did such a good job with the custom brackets, etc. Sherry

 

PS... Probably should have taken photos AFTER the carwash... I see all the little gnats on the brackets! :D


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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We got a good look at Paul and Sherry's solar panel setup at the RVER II. It was ever so cool. No storage problem or carrying problem with their set up. A quality installation and set up in every way. Betty and I have talked about it every since the rally in VanBuren Arkansas.

After much discussion about our style of camping and our power needs, we have came to a bottom line conclusion. The majority of our camping is here in the mid west, you know, trees and shade around the lakeside. That means that our Ollie is almost always parked under a oak tree, in the shade. Bad for solar panel productivity.

So we need a panel or panels that can be set up in a sunny area away from the Ollie. That brings up several other issues. Cable length, cable size, wattage output, controller location and equipment security, just to mention a few.

Portable solar panels were discussed in this thread earlier, but most of the questions above were either not brought up, or just barely touched upon.

We found a 120 watt folding panel set up in Australlia. Shipping was as high as the initial cost.

Things we worry about in our quest to go solar:

Where to store the panels and protect them from travel damage. ( Had same issues on our generator )

Most panels don't have protective frames around them, no storage case, and don't fold for storage.

Higher wattage panels usually are designed for permanent installation on a roof, and are large and heavy.

One high wattage panel might do for us, but a single rock strike might put it out of business .

Replacement cost for a damaged larger panel could wreck a good trip's budget.

Gradually we became of the opinion that if we had a metal, under the Ollie, lockable storage, it would solve some of the above.

The panels that we think might work are small 15 watt units that have a plastic frame and a ground stand bracket. They gang togather with a controller to make a 60 watt charger. Two of these setups would give us a 120 watt system for around $800. Northern Tool Part # 50044

NorthernTool50044.gif

I guess that going out on the lake and leaving a $800 solar system sitting there unattended in a boondocking location would worry us some. Any ideas on how to secure panels sitting 50 feet away from the Ollie ?

I probably havn't listed all of the issues, solutions or concerns, but if you would, please, help us to brain storm this solar thing. We really would like to have solar battery replenishment capability. Your questions, suggestions and critique will be appreciated.


I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth 08' Oliver Legacy Elite HULL NUMBER 0003(sold)

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Mountainborn said:

"Any ideas on how to secure panels sitting 50 feet away from the Ollie ?"

 

Shoot, Mountainborn! All ya need to do is put up a small poster next to your solar panel with your picture of the Camo-Wearing Masked Chain-Saw Killer and a note saying "This solar panel is protected by a high velocity bullet, aimed by a long range sniper scope, gyro stabilized, on a boat so far away you can't see it sucker . . . go ahead, MAKE my day!!!"

 

If you do go with the portable panel idea, be sure to check with Astrocaster about his super-deluxe mounting system where you can easily point it at a any location in the sky. Its the best I've seen.


Pete & "Bosker".    TV -  '18 F150 Super-cab Fx4; RV  - "The Wonder Egg";   '08 Elite, Hull Number 014.


Travel blog of 1st 10 years' wanderings - http://www.peteandthewonderegg.blogspot.com


ABBCMBNBNLNSONPEQCSKYTALAKAZARCACOCTFLGAHIIDILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNJNMNYNCNDOHOKORPAPRSCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYsm.jpg

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Thanks Pete. I think Astrocaster, Steve, is trying to figure out how to post photos so he can give us a look at his setup. We have traded a couple of pm's about photo posting, and I bumped up the "PHOTO POSTING THE EASY WAY" thread in the campfire forum.

Neither he or I was able to locate the thread we needed using the search functions, both regular and advanced. It maybe something we can get Jonathan to look into. I will copy, past and send this to Jonathan.


I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth 08' Oliver Legacy Elite HULL NUMBER 0003(sold)

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Larry,

Good questions. I invite you to have another look at the response I posted early in this thread. Elizabeth and I decided that any solar panel we had would need to be able to be moved around to find the sun, since we, too, would normally be camped mostly in the shade. So, we have a 100W panel attached to a 40-foot cable that plugs into the Oliver near the water connections. I have designed a mount for the panel that is pretty easy to set up and that allows the panel to be oriented in a "landscape" format, to make it less liable to be caught by the wind, and it is easy to rock up and down, as needed, to follow the angle of the sun. It is also very easy to lift the panel a little to swivel it right and left. Here are a couple of pictures I took of it before I painted the wood:

 

SolarPanelMount1.jpg

 

SolarPanelMount2.jpg

 

The two "D"-shaped supports are held in place by the removable struts and they swivel inward for storage, to pack flat. (Thank you very much, Pete, for the compliments on this setup. I enjoyed showing it to you.)

 

We have found that the panel produces far more charging amps when it is oriented perpendicular to the angle of the sun, and, therefore, we adjust the angle of the panel rather frequently. It is very easy to do with this setup.

 

We are concerned about security, since it would be easy to steal the panel. So far, we have not left camp when the panel has been deployed. This has not been a problem for us, though, since Elizabeth usually stays in camp and reads when I go fishing. Also, it seems that most folks don't easily recognize this as a solar panel, due to its unorthodox mounting system. When we are away from camp, and at night, we simply unhook it and stick it in the back of our Suburban.

 

I would be happy to share more info regarding this mounting system,

Steve

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Astrocaster, that is a super setup ! The D shapped brackets will allow the panel to not only adjust, but will fold inward for storage ?

We tow with a Jeep Wrangler and TV storage is limited. Is the box on the back of the solar panel a connection point, or is it also the charge controller ?

Say, it didn't take you long to get that photo posting thing whupped !


I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth 08' Oliver Legacy Elite HULL NUMBER 0003(sold)

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