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  1. #1
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    Default Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Using solar panels in winter - what has your experience been with your rig and
    what would you seek to change.

    How many watts do you think is ideal to power a fridge and lights during winter.
    Clearly ambient temperatures are much lower which should help.

    ďAfrica changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Very open ended question, just so many variables to consider. Fridge or freezer, Western Cape vs Free State vs Namibia winter sunshine conditions.
    If you just camp a night or two at one spot and then move on allowing the vehicle's alternator to charge the Aux battery through a decent DC DC charger, a 100W panel will maybe be just OK. If you camp a few days at one spot, with little driving, a 200W panel will be the absolute minimum needed.

    So, a very broad answer would be 100W minimum and at least 200W for a happy camper.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Thanks - the 200W is a useful figure.

    ďAfrica changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    We mainly camp off grid.

    Trailer:
    2 x 12V fridges, 80W 220V floor fan on bed end or 70W 220V blanket depending on season..1500W PSW inverter. I have extra 15mm polystyrene insulation between my fridges sides and their jackets/covers.

    At places like Tsendze there are a lot of tree shadow. Especially in winter with the sun angle low. We camp there for between 7 and 14 days!

    I got gatvol tracking the sun by moving panels during the day....decided to go bigger.

    Trailer:
    I upgraded to 5 x 80W panels and 400Ah lithium self built batteries. I set up between 3 and 5 of the 80W panels in parallel as required. Facing the full sun exactly 90deg at midday and ditched moving panels. 4 hours of full sun per day keeps all topped up 100% easily.

    Also have another 240Ah lithium set in box with DcDc MPPT as auxiliary in the Patrol - mainly used when travelling without the trailer and not camping stationary, just backup when camp is set up stationary.
    Or heaven forbid the trailer setup breaks down for some reason. (This is also my load shedding tool in the house)

    No more issues....and yes I always have ice for the Scotch

    So yes I agree, 200W Panels + minimum 105Ah battery per fridge is the answer....
    Last edited by Dungbeetle; 2021/06/07 at 07:01 AM.
    Donít blame yourself over past mistakes. Itís like driving down the N1 while looking in the rear view mirror only.

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    2014 Patrol GU 3.0CRD "teenager" in puberty - 126 000 km
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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    I am aiming to go well above 200W with a single fridge.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dungbeetle View Post
    We mainly camp off grid.

    Trailer:
    2 x 12V fridges, 80W 220V floor fan on bed end or 70W 220V blanket depending on season..1500W PSW inverter. I have extra 15mm polystyrene insulation between my fridges sides and their jackets/covers.

    At places like Tsendze there are a lot of tree shadow. Especially in winter with the sun angle low. We camp there for between 7 and 14 days!

    I got gatvol tracking the sun by moving panels during the day....decided to go bigger.

    Trailer:
    I upgraded to 5 x 80W panels and 400Ah lithium self built batteries. I set up between 3 and 5 of the 80W panels in parallel as required. Facing the full sun exactly 90deg at midday and ditched moving panels. 4 hours of full sun per day keeps all topped up 100% easily.

    Also have another 240Ah lithium set in box with DcDc MPPT as auxiliary in the Patrol - mainly used when travelling without the trailer and not camping stationary, just backup when camp is set up stationary.
    Or heaven forbid the trailer setup breaks down for some reason. (This is also my load shedding tool in the house)

    No more issues....and yes I always have ice for the Scotch

    So yes I agree, 200W Panels + minimum 105Ah battery per fridge is the answer....

    ďAfrica changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    My setup remains the same throughout the year.

    Trailer - 105ah battery and 200w panels (85l fridge, CPAP, 220v fan, lights)

    Jeep - 105ah battery and 200w panels (60l fridge and helps trailer if needed)

    Spend two weeks off-grid in May, with only one day's driving, not problem, solar kept batteries full.
    Jeep Grand Cherokee 2002 4.7 V8
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  10. #7
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Quote Originally Posted by Dungbeetle View Post
    We mainly camp off grid.

    Trailer:
    2 x 12V fridges, 80W 220V floor fan on bed end or 70W 220V blanket depending on season..1500W PSW inverter. I have extra 15mm polystyrene insulation between my fridges sides and their jackets/covers.

    At places like Tsendze there are a lot of tree shadow. Especially in winter with the sun angle low. We camp there for between 7 and 14 days!

    I got gatvol tracking the sun by moving panels during the day....decided to go bigger.

    Trailer:
    I upgraded to 5 x 80W panels and 400Ah lithium self built batteries. I set up between 3 and 5 of the 80W panels in parallel as required. Facing the full sun exactly 90deg at midday and ditched moving panels. 4 hours of full sun per day keeps all topped up 100% easily.

    Also have another 240Ah lithium set in box with DcDc MPPT as auxiliary in the Patrol - mainly used when travelling without the trailer and not camping stationary, just backup when camp is set up stationary.
    Or heaven forbid the trailer setup breaks down for some reason. (This is also my load shedding tool in the house)

    No more issues....and yes I always have ice for the Scotch

    So yes I agree, 200W Panels + minimum 105Ah battery per fridge is the answer....
    Dungbeetle, where di you buy your cells? I see Takealot have some 3.2v 272ah cells but cannot see if they are Grade A cells. Lithium Batteries SA has some 100ah cells available, I've tried to contact them to see if they are fit for mobile use, however have not heard back as yet.
    Mike

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  11. #8
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Quote Originally Posted by AfricainHD View Post
    Dungbeetle, where di you buy your cells? I see Takealot have some 3.2v 272ah cells but cannot see if they are Grade A cells. Lithium Batteries SA has some 100ah cells available, I've tried to contact them to see if they are fit for mobile use, however have not heard back as yet.
    For all mine from LBSA. . last bought about 8 months ago
    Donít blame yourself over past mistakes. Itís like driving down the N1 while looking in the rear view mirror only.

    2000 Patrol GU 4.2D(onkey) "old-timer" chugging along towards 900 000 km.
    2014 Patrol GU 3.0CRD "teenager" in puberty - 126 000 km
    2007 Echo3 Trailer "the nest" with Braked Axle fitted >60 000 km
    2012 NP300 YD2.5 D/C 2x4 High Rider "platkar" - 125 000 km

  12. #9
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    My 2x 85W hinged panels are permanently mounted (one of which is always exposed to the sun) and removable with a 15m extension cord close by.

    I can remove them by undoing two wing nuts taking less than a minute.

    Provided I track the sun 3 times a day with both panels removed and angled, 170W is plenty and it keeps a 90L NL running without draining the battery of a single amp. Tested this over the course of 2 days in 42 degree temps that does not see the fridge switch off during the day.

    So with 200W + and no shade, you probably don't even have to angle or move the panels (save for out of the shade of course).
    Last edited by Die SwartKat; 2021/06/08 at 04:28 PM.
    Nico Swart

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  13. #10
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    Default Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Winter = cooler conditions, fridge uses less cycling to optimum temps.
    However less sun available in the day time so less charge amps into the battery.
    Winter creates longer shadows with objects, trees etc
    So effectively you might have to move panels often due to sunís trajectory.
    Why I use parallel connections to find the sunny spots, by splitting our panels with long cables.
    Winter time has longer nights so possibly needing more power for other uses.

    Battery capacity in winter May diminish due to cold nights.

    Based on the above, I would always have an extra panel to add to my charge array.

    We have always managed one 40l Engel fridge off a 105A/h battery and two 80W panels.
    I add a backup 30W if needed
    With cloudy days it gets interesting, but in winter you can manage your fridge due to cooler conditions.

    Lately after re-building a small battery box (12A/h battery), Iíve run the fridge off that during the day on one 80W till my main 105A/h battery get charged fully on its own no load off the 80W and 30W.

    So I would say to be safe a 200W array , preferably 2x100 is good to go, as we are easily managing on 190W
    Also Iíve never looked at watts when charging anything, I want to know what charge amps is supplied or consumed from the battery.
    Invariably by 1pm our battery is already on float charge, with the fridge dipping what it needs.
    We get 4.8/4.8/2.2Amps off the three panels +/-11A

    Especially note: to not exceed the batteries recommended charge rate, most 100A/h are happy with 10Amps, otherwise you may reduce the battery longevity.
    Last edited by DirtBasher; 2021/06/08 at 03:57 PM.

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  15. #11
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    I dont know all the technical stuff so I will tell you what I run winter and summer that works for us.

    I have two deep cycle batteries (105ah) running a 52ltr twin and a 90ltr twin National luna fridges. My wife likes to set 90ltr twin freezer at minus plenty (-8C) and fridge at around 1C - I always say to her -2/3 is fine for the freezer as meat will remain frozen if placed in there frozen, but ja well no fine!
    The 2nd fridge runs at about 2C with drinks in it and usually some Ice. I have two 150w fold up Flexopower panels that I place in the sun and I am useless about moving them to follow the sun but generally they are in the sun most of the day.

    I can generally camp for several days like this. In December with a few cloudy days it was around a week and not once was I concerned about power but we also did game drives most days. IIRC the most consumption I have seen is around 8amps during the day (with both fridges running obviously which is not all the time) and solar charging is generally between 6 and 10amps during the day IIRC. My family are not very power conscious so leave lights on, leave the fridge open while they get several things and put them on the table etc etc. We have no problems with this setup.
    Last edited by BruceT; 2021/06/09 at 02:54 PM.
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  16. #12
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Bruce - very useful stats!
    I can see your set-up works well.
    As a matter of interest how long have you had the Flexopower panels?

    ďAfrica changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

  17. #13
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Ive had one about 2 years I think and the other about a year.

    I changed from glass (2x 90w) as the glass is always a PITA to transport. These are absolutely brilliant. I bought them from Jacque at Bush-power in JHB.
    BruceT
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  18. #14
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    Default Re: Using solar panels in winter sunshine - winter camping

    Thanks! I am sure many will find it most useful. Especially the tip on watching the charge rate.
    Impressed with you using the 12A/h battery.
    I never considered this!


    Quote Originally Posted by DirtBasher View Post
    Winter = cooler conditions, fridge uses less cycling to optimum temps.
    However less sun available in the day time so less charge amps into the battery.
    Winter creates longer shadows with objects, trees etc
    So effectively you might have to move panels often due to sun’s trajectory.
    Why I use parallel connections to find the sunny spots, by splitting our panels with long cables.
    Winter time has longer nights so possibly needing more power for other uses.

    Battery capacity in winter May diminish due to cold nights.

    Based on the above, I would always have an extra panel to add to my charge array.

    We have always managed one 40l Engel fridge off a 105A/h battery and two 80W panels.
    I add a backup 30W if needed
    With cloudy days it gets interesting, but in winter you can manage your fridge due to cooler conditions.

    Lately after re-building a small battery box (12A/h battery), I’ve run the fridge off that during the day on one 80W till my main 105A/h battery get charged fully on its own no load off the 80W and 30W.

    So I would say to be safe a 200W array , preferably 2x100 is good to go, as we are easily managing on 190W
    Also I’ve never looked at watts when charging anything, I want to know what charge amps is supplied or consumed from the battery.
    Invariably by 1pm our battery is already on float charge, with the fridge dipping what it needs.
    We get 4.8/4.8/2.2Amps off the three panels +/-11A

    Especially note: to not exceed the batteries recommended charge rate, most 100A/h are happy with 10Amps, otherwise you may reduce the battery longevity.
    Last edited by Paul Dold; 2021/06/09 at 03:06 PM.

    ďAfrica changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

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