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Using the Solar Panels and Inverter


dougi
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I am interested in finding out if anyone is tilting their top mounted solar panels in order to maximize the electrical recharging of the batteries. I am seeking a way to do it without the assistance of another person and two ladders.

 

Also, I wonder if those of you who got the big inverters are finding that you get as much use out of them as you expected. If you are, tell us how and for what you are using them in order to power your 110 volt applications. I would think if you use the inverters very much, you would need to tilt your solar panels to maximize their effectiveness. Installing the tilt arms is an awkward task for me, so if any of you have any good solutions, please let me know. I have two 100 watt panels mounted center top. So far, I have not needed to tilt them in order to keep my batteries charged, but if I set up longer term off-grid, I feel I may need the ability to tilt them to the sun.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I too am looking for an easier way to tilt the panels...

 

I may try to find a folding ladder that collapses small enough to fit in our tongue basket. But right now we have no easy way to get on the roof other than parking the Jeep next to the Oliver and climbing up that way.

 

I am also looking for ways to run more and more stuff off of DC, so that we can save on needing to have the inverter on so much. I'll post an update soon on that project.

 

Cheers!

 

- Chris

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As an add on to Chris' reply.. one of the things we do definitely use the power of the larger inverter for is our blender :) There's nothing like blending up a frozen margarita for friends on a hot desert day.

 

But as far as our essential stuff, we mainly turn on the interverter to power our two Macbook Pro laptops, Mac Mini, back up drive and LCD monitor panel. But as Chris mentioned, we're about to switch a lot of that over to DC as well.

 

We generally get enough sun to run both our laptops off solar during the day and into the night. And in the grand scheme of things, that's the most essential for us :)

 

 

- Cherie

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Chris, I am wondering if a long handled tool of some sort could be used by someone on the ground to keep the solar array lifted up to the appropriate height for installing the tilt arms, while another person on a ladder could install the tilt arms, one on each end of the two panel array. Even that would be awkward because the tool would have to be placed in the middle of the up-side of the two panel array and the person on the ladder would have to come down and reposition the ladder to access the other end of the panel in order to install the arm at the other end of the array, all while the parson on the ground held up one side of the array .

 

I tried to make short prop sticks to use while I installed the tilting arms, one for each end of the array, but they kept slipping off the trailer because it is slick and slanted where the prop sticks have to meet the trailer's gel coat. Those panels are heavy and it is next to impossible to hold up the array while you insert and install one or two arms at each end of the array.

 

Maybe Oliver could give the project some thought and come up with something, however the need to tilt them is not ever present. If we camped without electricity for weeks at a time it would likely be necessary if you used much electricity. It would be easy to accomplish with two people and two ladders, but I have found that an 8 foot step ladder is necessary to access the area while you are comfortable lifting the array, so I think it would take two 8 foot ladders and one person at each end of the array, not an easy thing to find while camping in most places. Eight foot step ladders are a load to carry in and of themselves. To have to carry two of them is even more of a challenge, although it is doable if you have a suitable roof rack on your tow vehicle.

 

An long aluminum (or other light weight material like a wooden clothes rod) pole with a device on the end that would fit under the side of the array and hold it up with no danger of it slipping off could be handled by someone on the ground while another person on an 8 foot ladder could install the tilting arms, one set of arms on each end of the array. That sounds like the most feasible solution to me, unless shorter prop sticks could be used by someone on the ladder, and that would take installing something to hold the bottom of the prop sticks to keep them from slipping and letting the array crash down on it's frame while you are trying to install the tilting arms. Such prop sticks would need to be adjustable in length so that the tilting of the array could be maximized for the highest amperage charging (a steeper angle in the winter than in the summer). Something like the handles that are on the mini Adjust-A-Brush washing brush, which extends from 26 to 40 inches long (Camping World item #11055) should do the job if you could outfit them with a device on the end that would hold up half the weight of the heavy array. Perhaps the Adjust-A-Brush people could make a device to fit on the end of their brush wand that would do the trick.

 

Oliver could custom design and fabricate adjustable length aluminum prop rods to hold up the solar array while someone installs the tilt arms to the ends of the array, but they could not sell enough of them to make it worth their effort. They could even permanently install the prop rods on the roof, one set on each side of the trailer so the propping up of the array could be accomplished from either side of the trailer.

 

Let's continue to work on a solution. Let me know if you think of something.

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I don't have solar panels so I'm just taking a WAG here, but would it be possible to use gas struts (like the ones used on hatchbacks) to lift the panels? They come in all sorts of sizes, strokes, and weight ratings. With the right ones the problem would then be one of holding them DOWN instead of UP.

Aubrey and the two wingmen, Woodstock & Rascal


Oliver #032, "El Huevito"


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I don't have solar panels so I'm just taking a WAG here, but would it be possible to use gas struts (like the ones used on hatchbacks) to lift the panels? They come in all sorts of sizes, strokes, and weight ratings. With the right ones the problem would then be one of holding them DOWN instead of UP.

 

That is a great idea! I think it has promise.

 

I would think Oliver could find a pair of struts to permanently install on the roof, once on each end of the array. I don't think it would allow any adjustments of the tilting, but it would provide for much higher amperage charging than we can get from leaving the panels flat. It would make the tilting arms that we have to install on the array and on the bracket that holds the array unnecessary. Just climb the ladder, disconnect one side of the array, lift the panels lightly, and one side of the panels rise to the fully extended height, designed to approximate the proper tilt for maximizing battery charging.

 

I will talk to Robert to see what he thinks.

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I don't have solar panels so I'm just taking a WAG here, but would it be possible to use gas struts (like the ones used on hatchbacks) to lift the panels? They come in all sorts of sizes, strokes, and weight ratings. With the right ones the problem would then be one of holding them DOWN instead of UP.

 

You know - this is indeed a fabulous idea!

 

With a strut providing lift and a cable holding it down, you could adjust the angle just by cranking out the length of the cable.

 

It will take some clever engineering to do, but this is perhaps the most workable avenue I have heard. It will be particularly hard to design it to allow tilting in both directions, but even if the panel can just tilt one way that would be useful.

 

- Chris

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