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 > Powering AC unit built into travel trailer with solar?

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dodge guy

Bartlett IL

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Posted: 08/13/22 10:32am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Every inch of your roof will need a solar panel. And a 4kW inverter as well as at least 4 if not 6 LifePo batteries. It can be done and is very possible, but it won’t be cheap.


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Lantley

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Posted: 08/13/22 10:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I think cheap is relative term when it comes to A/C capable solar.
I have a built in Onan 5500 lp genset. I also have 80#'s of lp on board. Push a button and I can have A/C anytime anywhere! No set up, no genset to haul no gas cans. That genset was a 7K factory option.
You could save a few grand with a after market DIY install. But still you will pay 5-6 grand for push button power for A/C anytime anywhere.
With that in mind $7K is not an unreasonable figure a solar package that can provide push button A/C anytime anywhere. Solar will also give you the ability to escape genset rules.
You can have A/C in places where gensets are not allowed.
You can book non electric sites or boondock with ease.
If I were to do it again I would stronly consider a large A/C capable solar package vs. a large built in genset.


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spoon059

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Posted: 08/13/22 11:42am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Lwiddis wrote:

Seems like an awful lot of trouble, spoon, to avoid getting an adequate solar system which is essentially an “install and forget” project. And who wants to move every day? For A/C? Not me.

I'm beginning to think about my cross country trip with the family when I retire in 4 years. When I was 12, my family did a cross country trip. I remember times where we stayed in dry campgrounds for a night, just while on the move. I'm thinking that having a charged battery bank that could power an AC for a night would make that MUCH more bearable!

I am almost 100% certain that I will be installing a mini-split heatpump on my next camper. I am not at all pleased with the noise, inefficient cooling and electric load of 2 15K roof mounted AC units. It seems that a minisplit could more quietly and efficiently cool my camper, with significantly less strain on my electrical system. Even in a campground, I'd rather pull 4 amps with a minisplit than 30-40 amps with 2 roof mounted AC units.

Also, we would like to do some legit dispersed camping in BLM type lands out west. If I had sufficient batteries (and charging was a relatively quick endeavour), we could use the battery bank overnight, spend the day out exploring, come back to camp for dinner, fire up the generator for 2 hours and recharge the battery bank, turn off the generator overnight and rely on the battery bank again for overnight AC.

Again, not at all sure if this is something that is doable. I'm educating myself on solar, but it seems that it would be in the several thousand dollar range for a solar setup. There are certainly benefits to a solar setup, but I wonder if it makes financial sense for people that don't fulltime, or only fulltime at full hookup locations.

Perhaps an efficient mini-split and a small quiet invertor generator are the best option, but then it limits me to staying at places that either provide power or will allow overnight generator use. I'm hopeful that we can not have a strict itinerary when we take this trip, maybe plan out some longer stops, but then take some stuff day by day. If we get somewhere and like the local sites, have the ability to be self contained for a couple days and stay, or else find a new place to go while we meander towards the pre-planned stop.

I'm also curious about a Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome subscription during our trip, as that would give me more options for more creative camping, outside of traditional campgrounds.

I like the idea of a charged battery bank that can get us through a night if we are someplace that we can't get electrical hookups or run the generator though. It might be camping... but I don't want to be roughing it!!!


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KD4UPL

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Posted: 08/13/22 01:29pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Where are you going to find a mini-split that only draws 4 amps? I installed the smallest one I could find (12,000 BTU) in my cabin and it draws about 6.5 amps at 120 volts.
Even if you're unit draws 4 amps that's basically 500 watts. Overnight would be about 12 hours so you need 6,000 watt hours of storage. Using something like a Simpliphi PHI-3.8 you would still need 2 of them to just barely have enough. That's around $6,000 for the batteries. An inverter will cost you another $1,000 to $2,000. Then you need cables, lugs, etc. I'd say figure $8,000 minimum for just the inverter and batteries. If you can get 1,000 watts of solar panels on the roof that would be quite helpful. That's about another $1,000 for the panels, brackets, and wire. A charge controller will be another $500 to $1000.
I, like most people, would love to have this in an RV but the space it takes up, the weight it adds, and the money it costs are all prohibitive for most people. You can find a few Rvers on Youtube and where ever that have installed systems like this.

pianotuna

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Posted: 08/13/22 02:48pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

48 volt dc air conditioners do exist. They are not cheap.

I've been able to run roof air since 2009.

I wish I had redone the solar instead of caving into running a generator. In the long run, it would have been cheaper.


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Gdetrailer

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Posted: 08/13/22 03:51pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

pianotuna wrote:

48 volt dc air conditioners do exist. They are not cheap.

I've been able to run roof air since 2009.

I wish I had redone the solar instead of caving into running a generator. In the long run, it would have been cheaper.


They are not worth the time and effort.

HERE is one that claims 12,000 BTU, uses 48V DC and draws a max of 1008W..

They claim for "entry level".. "Depending on conditions, the entry-level setup can operate up to 10 hours per day using 4 x 250w panels. A configuration
of 6 panels can provide up to 15 hours of daily operation, with 8 panels yielding up to 20 hours. A 10 panel configuration
can handle up to 24 hours per day operation. Batteries and charge controller must be sized appropriately. "


So, you would need 2,500W worth of panels, plus the battery capacity to go with it and you will be 1,500 BTUS shy of standard 120V 13,500 BTU AC.

12,000 BTU Might work in a TC or a 15ft travel trailer but then you run into the issues of where to put 2,500W worth of solar panels plus the battery capacity..

A generator is still far less expensive over the long run when you factor in the cost of 2,500W worth of solar, battery capacity to handle the load and the cost of that 48V A/C unit..

I suspect you would be in it for north of $10K US just to get 24 hr operation and that would just be for the A/C only.. Add in other normal items you want to power in your RV and I suspect you might be over $15K US.

Makes a $1K US for a generator look better and better even if you factor in cost of oil changes and fuel for the gen.

spoon059

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Posted: 08/13/22 04:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

KD4UPL wrote:

Where are you going to find a mini-split that only draws 4 amps? I installed the smallest one I could find (12,000 BTU) in my cabin and it draws about 6.5 amps at 120 volts.
Even if you're unit draws 4 amps that's basically 500 watts. Overnight would be about 12 hours so you need 6,000 watt hours of storage. Using something like a Simpliphi PHI-3.8 you would still need 2 of them to just barely have enough. That's around $6,000 for the batteries. An inverter will cost you another $1,000 to $2,000. Then you need cables, lugs, etc. I'd say figure $8,000 minimum for just the inverter and batteries. If you can get 1,000 watts of solar panels on the roof that would be quite helpful. That's about another $1,000 for the panels, brackets, and wire. A charge controller will be another $500 to $1000.
I, like most people, would love to have this in an RV but the space it takes up, the weight it adds, and the money it costs are all prohibitive for most people. You can find a few Rvers on Youtube and where ever that have installed systems like this.

Based upon my initial research, many of these 12K 22+ SEER units draw 4 amps initially, then phase down to closer to 1-2 amps to maintain temps. I'm not sure how many amp/hours I'd need to get through 10 hours of quiet time at night, but I doubt it'll be 6000 amp/hours. I'm seeing plenty of people that have done this with solar and are making it work... but its involving thousands upon thousands of dollars for solar panels and chargers, etc. I'm just trying to figure out if there is a less expensive way. Without having the RV and the mini-split, I'd only be making educated guesses at best, which is why I'm seeking out info here.

Hey, you may be right, this may be more expensive than its worth. A small generator and some noise (thus limiting my options on where to stay) might be the ultimate solution.

CA Traveler

The Western States

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Posted: 08/13/22 06:03pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Not sure about a mini-split cycling down with the typical poorly insulated RV. But if a 4A 120V unit does the job then for 12V use a 11x multiplier. So 44Ah for 1 hour and 440Ah for 10 hours. For flooded batteries 880Ah with a 50% discharge would work. Thats 8 6V GC2 deep cycle batteries weighing about 500 lbs.

Thats great - err oh wait - It's day 2 and I now have to recharge the batteries... Gens looking better...


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spoon059

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Posted: 08/13/22 06:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CA Traveler wrote:

Not sure about a mini-split cycling down with the typical poorly insulated RV. But if a 4A 120V unit does the job then for 12V use a 11x multiplier. So 44Ah for 1 hour and 440Ah for 10 hours. For flooded batteries 880Ah with a 50% discharge would work. Thats 8 6V GC2 deep cycle batteries weighing about 500 lbs.

Thats great - err oh wait - It's day 2 and I now have to recharge the batteries... Gens looking better...

Ha, I get your point, but how long do you think it would take to charge that battery bank with a generator? If I'm staying in a National Park and limited to generator use during the day, it still solves my problem of having air conditioning overnight!

CA Traveler

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Posted: 08/13/22 07:42pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A 2000W gen could easily power a 100A charger but I was trying to imply running the A/C off of the gen.

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