Monday, September 27, 2010

Gas Generator, Wind Generator, or Solar Panel for your RV

One of the hardest decisions I had to make was what kind of generator to use to recharge my batteries. Would I purchase enough solar panels to recharge them, a wind generator, or get a gasoline generator. I really liked the idea of free charging just by parking the home in the sun or rasing up a wind generator. This is definitely the green solution. However, as a frugal vagabond, this was a costly option. Then i priced generators and realized, they were all cost;y options. Seems like each was going to cost about $1000.

Wind, solar, or gasoline?
While the wind generator was a reasonable cost, a pole to raise it up was more than the generator. The other problem with wind generators is that they aren't very efficient when camping in the forest so I decided to forgo one for now. I also like to park underneath the shade trees in the forest so there would be areas without enough sun to charge my batteries. There is a work around for that by making the solar panel portable so I decided to look at both a solar panel and a gasoline generator.

Power requirements
On the positive side, I don't use much electricity anyway(15amps a day) which makes solar panels a definite possibility. My stays are usually 14 days and my batteries are 300 amps. So to stay in the 50% range, I will need to recharge after 10 days. Or rather I need to generate 60 extra amps of power in 14 days. That is only an extra 4 amps a day. I also don't need to run a generator when boondocking to power my accessories. I just do without anything that is a power hog on the 12 volt circuit. So, my generator is used to recharge my batteries. I don't have to run it often but when I do, I  can use a few appliances at the same time.

Solar Panels
As I mentioned earlier, the main drawback for me in using solar panels is that I camp in places underneath the trees. I can get around this by making the Solar Panel portable and I did just that with my one solar panel. Sometimes, that doesn't even work very well where I camp. Since I use very little power every day, the panel will more than keep up when it is in the sun. So, as a frugal vagabond, I certainly advocate being conservative with your power requirements. It makes it so much easier to provide for them. A 50 watt panel will give me 4amps over an average of 5 hours of sun which keeps ahead of my 15 amps a day. Don't forget, you can always add more panels later if you find you need more power.

Gasoline Generator
The 2000 watt Honda or Yamaha generator is what I recommend for the following reasons. I don't use my air conditioner unless I am plugged into shore power so I don't need a bigger one to power it. These two generators are very quiet but expect to pay a premium( $900) for their advantages. The 2000 watt generator and a 45amp charger will charge my ( 50% discharged ) batteries in about 3.5 hours. The generator will run for 9 hours on one gallon of gas so it is very economical to run it.  It is also a backup for battery failure and if I decide to boondock longer.

So I recommend a solar panel and a small generator as a backup if you are doing frugal boondocking. The solar panel works to keep me charged most of the time but the generator saves the day when the sun isn't shining or I am in  the deep forest. I also have a backup if the batteries fail.

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