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Thread: Solar or Generator?

  1. #1
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    Default Solar or Generator?

    I am having trouble making up my mind about a power source. I have an Engle 45 in my Chaser, I want to get a smaller one to use in my Jeep for a day trip cooler and when I take off for a longer time I want to use the smaller one for a freezer. I want to be able to charge both up should I need to, my problem is a generator or solar? Solar needs no fuel and is quiet and will last longer, a generator is probably more powerful and able to do more but needs fuel and will wear out more quickly than a solar panel, I have seen 55 watt foldable solar panles that are about the same price as a Honda or Yamaha 1000. Please help this unworthy one in deciding how to spend all my money.
    Also a second Lifeline group 31 battery might be an optin, help please...

  2. #2
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    Aug 2005
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    Since the Engel's draw is so little I think a generator is overkill. I would honestly think of a dual battery set up, IMO this is your best bet.
    Wil Kuhns KF7CDH
    Sierra Expeditions *Forum Sponsor* 866.507.4254
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    I vote solar.

    I have a 50 watt panel on my 4WC and it's great and some. I plan on adding another 150 watts down the road for the addition of more electronics (laptop, speakers, things of that nature) but it produces 3.3 amps at full load which is more than enough to run my engel 45.

    It is also useful in the rare cases in which fuel conservation is needed.
    -David

    2004 Toyota Tacoma, V-6, 4x4, Extra Cab, 5-spd.
    255/85 R16's
    TJM T-15 with 55 watt HID Lightforce 240's
    Sonoran Steel front lift
    Alcan rear springs
    Fourwheel "Eagle Shell" camper, deep cycle battery 1000 watt inverter, stove, shower, recovery gear, etc.


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    "Wrinkles only go where the smiles have been" -Jimmy Buffett

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by oly884
    I vote solar.
    Another pro for Solar is no moving parts and no required gas...
    Wil Kuhns KF7CDH
    Sierra Expeditions *Forum Sponsor* 866.507.4254
    The only regrets in life are the risks you didn't take.
    Mod Progress Gauge:[||||||----] = 60% Complete.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Gresham, Oregon
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    Whatever you do, a second battery with a manual or automatic isolator system will go a long way to at least protecting your starter battery from being run down..

    A lot depends on how long you want the refrigerator to run without the engine charging the battery. If you’re looking to park the rig for long periods of time during the day while your off hiking or biking somewhere, then a good high power solar system could potentially power the refrigerators, with minimal draw on the battery for hours at a time. Just remember that solar panels rarely work at their peak rated output, so if it’s rated for 50 watts, you’d probably be lucky to 25 watts out it average at any given time throughout the day. Although you’re better off in Arizona than a lot of a places. 25 watts will not completely power the refrigerators, so there will always be some draw on the battery. Also, at night while camping, you’ll be fully drawing from the battery if you decide to leave the refrigerators on and the solar panels would be useless.

    If you spend most of your time driving around with only short stops, then neither a solar panel or generator is going to make much difference, since the draw on the battery will be minimal during the day and constantly recharged as you drive around.

    For night time use, the alternatives are letting it run off the battery all night long and then recharge the battery as you drive around the next day, in which case you’ll need a good deep cycle battery, or get a generator and run the generator all night long. While the Honda EU1000 is quiet, it still makes noise and I personally wouldn’t run it with neighbors nearby. I also would hesitate to run it all night long and instead would likely only run to power camp while I’m up and about, cooking dinner, etc, then shut it off just before I went to bed and run the refrigerator off of the truck battery…or turn the refrigerator off. I’ve found that unless it’s excessively hot at night, my Engel stay pretty cool over night inside even when it’s not running. If you need a full freezer to operate all night long, then a generator will go a long way to keeping it frozen, especially in hot weather overnight.

    In my opinion, for multi-day use without using the vehicle to charge up the battery, a generator is the only way to go. You’d need to some serious solar power and good environmental conditions to keep the battery charged up and then it would only be charging less than half the day, while you’re use would be potentially using the power all day and all night. Solar panels are better for burst loads, where the system goes through extended periods of time of no load, giving the solar panels a chance to charge up the batteries.

    But if you plan to run the vehicle every day, then a generator just to run the refrigerator is not needed. It can be useful to power other things and as an emergency back up, however.

    To sum it up, as someone who recently purchased both solar panels and a generator, if I had to choose between the two, I’d easily give up the solar panels and keep the generator, just because it’s more versatile and powerful in an emergency. But a duel battery system is first and foremost long before I would consider the gen or solar.
    Last edited by Brian894x4; 09-14-2006 at 08:53 AM.
    Brian McCamish
    In Search of History Expeditions
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  6. #6
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    Jun 2006
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    Woodinville, WA
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    I do agree a lot with what Brian has to say.

    Too add though, take into account how much sun you get. Being in Az. I imagine that you get a decent amount of sun year round (ie. few clouds) where as Brian, being in Or., probably doesn't get quite the amount that you do.

    Here in bozeman, the skys are usually clear, but during the winter, the sun isn't out for too long.

    One thing that can be done is exactly what Brian said, look into getting a deep cycle battery and a battery combiner as seen here.

    I have one of those, on top of my solar panel. So, in cases where weather or time of year inhibits the function of the solar panel, I have means of charging my deep cycle.
    -David

    2004 Toyota Tacoma, V-6, 4x4, Extra Cab, 5-spd.
    255/85 R16's
    TJM T-15 with 55 watt HID Lightforce 240's
    Sonoran Steel front lift
    Alcan rear springs
    Fourwheel "Eagle Shell" camper, deep cycle battery 1000 watt inverter, stove, shower, recovery gear, etc.


    Photography

    "Wrinkles only go where the smiles have been" -Jimmy Buffett

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    Prescott, AZ
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    13,849
    Steve,

    What would be a typical number of days you would camp? What would be the longest number of days in one camp? Do you plan on running a laptop to view and back-up pictures?

    These questions will help me better answer.
    Scott Brady
    Overland Journal
    D1 | LJ78 | LR4 | MKIII | J8 | G-Wagen | Range Rover Classic | TE630

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    3,050
    FWIW -some real world use here - I have (now both new) in the starting and all accessories position a grp 34 yellow top - and an Aux. battery ( just for back up) grp 31 yellow top - a Hell Roaring dual battery isolator combiner - I can sit for at least 4 days with normal use of the Engel 45 - and interior door light on occasionally - I can sit for one evening say 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 am - with the engel running to about 36 degrees cold - Maybe an ARB outdoor light on occasionally - I can use my Macbookpro all through the night plugged into a small 150-watt inverter - ( PB draws 90 watts max) Watch DVD's - work with Apps - and run iTunes music ( an I mean all through the night) - when morning comes my starting/accessories battery will be at Approx. 10.4 volts left - not quite enough to start the Tacoma - I flip the switch and then use the Aux. battery to start the truck -

    I have the Honda EU1000i for almost seven years - no problems no additional maintenance - just fill it with gas and go - this is really over kill for most things I do on a day to day basis - if I need 110 power for any length of time this is when the generator comes in handy or if I fell I will be in camp sitting still for over 4 days - otherwise I can start the tacoma take a spin for 30 minutes and be fully charge for the next few days.

    Solar while not out of the question - takes much more research - money and space to do it properly...

    YMMV
    Pasquale - KE7GVY

    DesertDude Films, LLC <> DesertDude Music.com <> 110 Project Group, Inc

    "Taking the path less credentialed"

  9. #9
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    WOW... Sounds like a toss up with everyone. Scott, I would be camped at most for 5 or 6 days, I currently have a group 31 deep cycle in the Chaser. I have the Engle 45 and would like a smaller one too. I was out for 2 days and 3 nights recently and the battery in the Chaser dropped to 12.6 volts, I know that's enough to run items for a bit longer but I am one who can't have enough power. I am planning on using my laptop as well as charging flashlight as well as the camera off the deep cycle battery via inverter. I guess it boils down to either have another deep cycle battery in the Chaser or figure out which other power supply would be easiest and charge the single deep cycle battery I currently have.
    I want to thank everyone who has responded with their information, all I have to do is figure out what is best for my use.

    Steve

  10. #10
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    Nov 2005
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    Mesatopia, AZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian894x4
    To sum it up, as someone who recently purchased both solar panels and a generator, if I had to choose between the two, Id easily give up the solar panels and keep the generator, just because its more versatile and powerful in an emergency. But a duel battery system is first and foremost long before I would consider the gen or solar.

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