Solar system for off grid camping





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  1. #1
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    Default Solar system for off grid camping

    Good day, I have done some research on what is needed for a off grid solar system for camping.

    I have the following items that would need 220v

    Fans for the hot summer days - about 120w in total
    Ice machine - not sure what the peak watts on it is
    Toaster (Can do without)
    Kettle (Can do without)
    Phone/Camera charging

    The following can all run on 12v

    LED strip lights - about 48w in total if all used at the same time
    Snomaster fridge/freezer

    From my calculations I would need about 140w of panel generating capacity, so will go with a larger panel, options are

    2 x 100w (Brand: Badger) from 4x4 direct
    1 x 300w (Brand: Canadian Solar from Preston Solar

    Charge Controller
    15amp MPPT Victron charge controller

    Battery
    120aH / 180ah OmniPOwer deep cycle battery

    Inverter
    1000w 12/24v to 220v Pure sine wave inverter.

    Will this all be compatible with each other, and will it allow for further expansion of the system? Is there something else needed?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by Rudolfweyers84 View Post

    Fans for the hot summer days - about 120w in total
    Ice machine - not sure what the peak watts on it is
    Toaster (Can do without)
    Kettle (Can do without)
    Phone/Camera charging
    Use gas for your kettle and toast.
    There are low voltage chargers for phones & cameras.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    That 300w Canadian Solar panel is massive.

    Unless you have a specific plan to mount it on a roof or something, I would not go that route. You will need 2 people to move it, and paking will be a nightmare.

    Actually, scrap the above... DON'T use the 300W panel, even if you think you have a mounting plan.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Any time you use an inverter you will be using a LOT of your power reserves. So try not use any 220V if you can possibly.

    2x 100W panels will be better from a practical point of view.

    How will you charge the batteries while driving? Consider an all in one DC-DC unit like WRND or NL to take care of that.

    Phones etc can normally plug direct into the USB outlet of your battery box.
    Last edited by Quiksilver; 2020/06/08 at 04:21 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Yes, I agree with the above. Just ordered the 40A NL dc-dc with mppt input and I am contemplating to buy 2 x 160w panels. Easier to handle than one 300w panel

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Your biggest consumer here is the ice maker, also the main reason for the 1000W inverter. If you can, then reconsider the ice maker, making ice in the 12V frige while camping is possible.
    If you throw out the ice maker then you can get a much smaller inverter for camera and laptop batteries only, and then you might be able to get away with the setup as you posted it with single 120 Ah battery and 200W or so of solar panels.

    If you keep the ice maker and 1000W pure sine wave inverter in the picture, then in my opinion you'll have to get a second 120 Ah battery or a single battery with larger capacity like a lithium. A second or bigger battery then needs more solar panels to keep it charged and and, you see where this is going.

    That ice maker with a 1000W inverter will consume a lot of power, due to the nature of ice makers it's not something which you can quickly switch on for 20 minutes and then switch off for the rest of the day. Those things must run for long periods and depending on ambient temperature even longer to be effective and a 120 Ah battery won't cope.

    You mention future expansion, for future expansion I will also invest in a bigger solar controller, maybe the Victron 20 amp or even 30 amp depending on your future plans.

    Then others asked about charging while driving, what are your plans here? Charging while driving can help a lot depending of course on your setup and how you camp.

    Toast and kettle can be done on gas or fire, then phones and fans can also be done directly off 12V, so take this out of your inverter calculation.
    Last edited by bigboy529; 2020/06/08 at 07:28 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by Quiksilver View Post
    Any time you use an inverter you will be using a LOT of your power reserves. So try not use any 220V if you can possibly.
    Refer to my posting about the China 750/1500W pure sine. It uses less than 6W as a standing load when switched on. This is really very little if it is used to charge phones, camera and laptop and elec blanket for a few hours per day. This charging can also be done during the day if one it at camp and not on the road. This is then from PV and not battery power.

    I do like the 12V laptop chargers but to find one that charges a Dell and Lenovo is quite a mission and they are no longer as cheap as a few years ago. With cell phones using fast charge the OE chargers are a lot faster than a number of the after market 12V units where the 3A versions are costly. Adding the cost of 12V chargers can cost close to the cost of a pure sine inverter and one can use it for other 220V equipment as well.

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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Stay away from all AC devices if you can.... most can be found in DC anyway.

    But spend your battery money better... Those large Omnipowers are heavy, their efficiency is below 75%, they will not last for the cycles as advertised because you will regulay take them down to 20%SOC.

    Much better idea is a 120ah lifepo4, you can use virtually the full capacity every time, no damage to the battery, 95+% efficiency, charges much faster, weighs 15kg max....... And you can build it yourself!!!
    Last edited by RiaanJ; 2020/06/08 at 08:24 PM.

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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Scrub the fan and ice maker. You'll need huge batteries !!
    There is no task too simple for some people to complicate !



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  11. #10
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    i measured the current draw on my ice maker at 1A
    which means its around 230W

    thats a lot to draw from a camping solar setup.

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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by RiaanJ View Post
    Stay away from all AC devices if you can.... most can be found in DC anyway.

    But spend your battery money better... Those large Omnipowers are heavy, their efficiency is below 75%, they will not last for the cycles as advertised because you will regulay take them down to 20%SOC.

    Much better idea is a 120ah lifepo4, you can use virtually the full capacity every time, no damage to the battery, 95+% efficiency, charges much faster, weighs 15kg max....... And you can build it yourself!!!
    Will the DIY LiFePO4 120aH battery as per the link below work with the Victron Smartsolar 75/15 controller?

    https://lithiumbatteriessa.co.za/pro...sphate-diy-kit
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  13. #12
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by Rudolfweyers84 View Post
    Will the DIY LiFePO4 120aH battery as per the link below work with the Victron Smartsolar 75/15 controller?

    https://lithiumbatteriessa.co.za/pro...sphate-diy-kit
    Yes, the MPPT is very configurable, all of them are, and you could set the Bulk/Absorb and Float volts for the lithium bank as per specs.
    For that I would suggest to get a VE.Direct to USB cable too, to program the MPPT using VictronConnect.
    Unless you get a larger MPPT that has Bluetooth, then use your phone and VictronConnect.

    I'm just not sure how far a +-max of 220w of panels on the 75/15 at 12v will get one ito recharging a 120ah battery bank, and power loads daytime.
    Maybe someone else can confirm?
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by Rudolfweyers84 View Post
    Will the DIY LiFePO4 120aH battery as per the link below work with the Victron Smartsolar 75/15 controller?

    https://lithiumbatteriessa.co.za/pro...sphate-diy-kit
    The battery bank shown is for off-grid and not for off-road and camping. It is meant to be used in a static position and is not designed to take the vibrations and knocks of off-roading.

    There are products available, albeit more costly, that are specifically designed for off-roading eg. Blue Nova (Google them) models that are made for "drop-in" replacement of the standard batteries. Models that would work well in your case are BN13V 108-1.4kW or the larger BN13V 218-2.8kW. They also do a 154Ah one.

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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by Rudolfweyers84 View Post
    Will the DIY LiFePO4 120aH battery as per the link below work with the Victron Smartsolar 75/15 controller?

    https://lithiumbatteriessa.co.za/pro...sphate-diy-kit
    As you are getting a smartsolar 75/15 you can do all the settings and monitoring via Bluetooth on your phone. No need for the extras for USB cable. As indicated all settings can be done to suit the Lithium. Just try and limit vibration by using high density foam and keep away from heat.
    Last edited by ekkekan; 2020/07/30 at 07:32 PM.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by TRON View Post
    The battery bank shown is for off-grid and not for off-road and camping. It is meant to be used in a static position and is not designed to take the vibrations and knocks of off-roading.
    Bain just called that "off-grid", maybe because no charger included ... and it is a extremely small bank for off-grid to boot.

    One can take any battery and if you install it right, it will be fine for off-road and camping.
    The key with lithium banks, having individual cells, is to tape the cells together with duct-tape so that they can never move/shift, not even a micro millimetre, thereby loosening the busbars.

    And pad the box they are in, or put the box on some good padding, to absorb the worst from corrugated roads.
    And check the bolt tightness once in a while, same as with a normal battery.
    Political Correctness
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by the_terrible_triplett View Post
    I'm just not sure how far a +-max of 220w of panels on the 75/15 at 12v will get one ito recharging a 120ah battery bank, and power loads daytime.
    Maybe someone else can confirm?
    See my post in the below discussion to get a rough idea, I did not mention my battery size but it is a 105ah.

    https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/showthread.php/332610-Trailer-Solar-Options?p=4443983#post4443983
    Last edited by plakkie; 2020/07/31 at 08:12 AM.

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  20. #17
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by plakkie View Post
    See my post in the below discussion to get a rough idea, I did not mention my battery size but it is a 105ah.

    https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/showthread.php/332610-Trailer-Solar-Options?p=4443983#post4443983


    I also use a 75/15 with two 100W panels to charge a 105Ah deep cycle, unfortunately it's a Bluesolar so I don't have the advantage of the detailed graphs in the app, but at peak I get around 9 - 10A.

    It holds up nicely never going under 50% over a long weekend with a 30l fridge, light or 2 and then the HF radio continuously running late in to the night.

    If this one ever goes I'll get the same size only Smartsolar for the bluetooth, it suits this application perfectly and I can only imagine how good it will do with a lithium battery.
    Last edited by bigboy529; 2020/08/01 at 10:53 AM.
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by the_terrible_triplett View Post
    I'm just not sure how far a +-max of 220w of panels on the 75/15 at 12v will get one ito recharging a 120ah battery bank, and power loads daytime. ...
    Quote Originally Posted by bigboy529 View Post
    ..., but at peak I get around 9 - 10A.
    Therein my original question as 9-10amps from 2 x 100panels is about what it is needed to recharge a 100ah battery at 10% of ah, does not include the loads during the 24h period.

    Paneling should cover the loads AND the recharge during the day, ideally speaking.

    Otherwise the batteries are constantly under charged, reducing their life expectancy.
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by the_terrible_triplett View Post
    Therein my original question as 9-10amps from 2 x 100panels is about what it is needed to recharge a 100ah battery at 10% of ah, does not include the loads during the 24h period.

    Paneling should cover the loads AND the recharge during the day, ideally speaking.

    Otherwise the batteries are constantly under charged, reducing their life expectancy.


    I get what you are saying, but for a camping setup which typically gets used for 1 weekend per month, you quickly reach a point of diminishing returns.
    Use it like it is and your lead acid battery lasts you 5 years, or spend double the money on controllers and panels now and that battery lasts you only one year longer.

    Different story if you spec something for camping off grid 150 days of the year and even more so in a large system for a house or something.
    Last edited by bigboy529; 2020/08/01 at 02:33 PM.
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    Default Re: Solar system for off grid camping

    Quote Originally Posted by the_terrible_triplett View Post
    Therein my original question as 9-10amps from 2 x 100panels is about what it is needed to recharge a 100ah battery at 10% of ah, does not include the loads during the 24h period.

    Paneling should cover the loads AND the recharge during the day, ideally speaking.

    Otherwise the batteries are constantly under charged, reducing their life expectancy.
    My setup is used often, at least 5 days every month, even during this lockdown period (working in off-grid locations) and my battery is always full by around 10:30 and the controller moves to float charge for the rest of the day.

    I run a 55L fridge(-2C), some LED lights at night for max 2 hours and a VHF radio 24/7. If it is very cold in winter an electric blanket via inverter but that is maybe once a year.

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