We recently finished upgrading the solar setup in our trailer. And we just went on a trip where we camped right in the redwoods and we got to really test out our system. Not only was it in the shade, there was also a cloudy day. So we went through and we did a full analysis of our camping trip and documented our batteries so that you can get an idea of how this setup works when you aren’t parked in ideal conditions for solar.
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Our Solar Setup
So we just did a big solar upgrade on our trailer. We added three Battle Born lithium 100 amp hour batteries. For 300 amp hours total. We added a Victron MultiPlus Inverter Charger. And we added an MPPT controller. We left our solar panels as the two 190 watt Go Power solar panels. So we have a total of 380 watts.
We left our solar low intentionally because the whole idea behind our solar setup is we like to camp in the shade, we like to camp under redwoods, and so we wanted to have solar up there to recharge the trailer but we also wanted a larger battery bank so we have extra battery capacity when we are camping in the shade. Weight is a concern so we choose to add extra weight to the battery bank instead of to the solar panels on the roof.
So the solar will recharge our batteries as a bonus. But ideally, we have enough battery capacity that we can camp in the shade for an extended weekend and not have a problem.
The Solar Test
We just went on a trip where we camped right in the redwoods and we got to really test out our system. Not only was it in the shade, there was also a cloudy day.
We went through and we did a full analysis on how our power consumption was, how our battery capacity was, and what the different devices were that we used and how much battery power that took. We tried to walk through each day of our camping trip and document our batteries so that you can get an idea of how this setup works when you aren’t parked in ideal conditions for solar.
For each item we took a video of the Cerbo GX touch screen so that you can see what the battery capacity was at and you can also see how many watts are being consumed by DC power and how many from AC power. To see that data make sure to watch the video.
Okay, so when we left our house our batteries were at 100%.
We turned on our refrigerator. When we travel we like to turn the propane off (now that we have an inverter) and we turn the refrigerator and the inverter on so the refrigerator is powered by electricity while we’re driving instead of propane.
The fridge takes about 350 watts and our destination was about 2 hours away. When we got there our batteries were at 89%.
And when we got there, it was only 4pm, but we already weren’t getting any solar. We were parked under trees and it was also a cloudy day. So we turned the inverter off because it does take a little bit of power as well. And we turned the refrigerator back to propane.
While we were setting up camp we turned the on the Bluetooth on the Furrion TV and played some music through the outside speakers. That was barely taking up any battery consumption. It was at about 17 watts. (The usage never goes down to 0, the trailer always uses at least 8 watts of DC power.)
We turned on a couple of lights, two to be specific, and the consumption went up to about 30 watts. When it was time to do dishes from dinner we turned on the water heater, the water pump, and then we did also have those two lights on. The consumption went up to about 37 watts. When we were done doing the dishes our batteries were still at 89%.
We used an air compressor for just a couple of minutes to blow up an inflatable mattress. The air compressor took about 120 watts. And that was on AC so we had the inverter on for that. We only used it for a couple of minutes so when we were done our batteries only went down to 88%.
Then we used the microwave for 2 minutes and that took our batteries down to 87%.
When we were out at camp for the night we did have our big awning light on and then when we were ready for bed our batteries were at 85%.
The First Full Day at Camp
At 7am when we woke up the next morning, our batteries were at 82%. And throughout the night we do have USB nightlights in each bunk that stay on all night. And then we do also have cell phones that charge.
So, in the morning, we turned on the fan and the light above the stove to start boiling some water for coffee. That used a little under 40 watts and the batteries remained at 82%.
At about 9:30 when everybody was up, dressed, and done with breakfast our batteries were at 81% and we still weren’t getting any solar.
After we were done with the dishes from breakfast, which was at about 10, we were down to 80%. And again, during that time we had on the water heater, water pump, and a light. And we were just starting to get some solar then.
So, around that time, we actually made a little trip to a local brewery and hung out there for a while. When we got back, it was about 3pm, we still were not getting much solar. It was showing about 8 watts. But our batteries were all the way back up to 99%.
They stayed at 99% until we did dishes and then they went down to 98%.
That night was pretty similar to the night before. We had our awning light on outside, we had lights on and off in the trailer when we were in there. When we were ready for bed after all of that our batteries were at 96%.
Right before bed we did decide to turn the TV on. So we turned on the TV and we also used a Raspberry Pi to watch a TV show. And that was using about 60 watts and we only watched for about a half hour or so. When we were done the batteries were at 95%.
The Second Full Day at Camp
When we woke up the batteries were at 92% and just like the night before we had the two USB nightlights on all night and then the phones charging.
After making coffee and getting dressed (we had lights on and off) the batteries were at 89%.
At noon we started to get a small amount of solar, about 15 watts. And only twenty minutes later, at about 12:20, we still weren’t getting too much solar, it was about 25 watts, but our batteries were already back to 100%.
We microwaved a cheese dip for 30 seconds and the batteries stayed at 100%.
We decided to use a blender to make some smoothies for lunch. So the blender took about 200 watts and I made four smoothies. And after that our batteries were still at 99%.
For the rest of the night we used power really similar to what we did the night before. We did some more Bluetooth music on the outside speakers, we used the big awning light, we did also use the microwave for three and a half minutes, and we had lights on and off as we were in the trailer, the water pump, water heater for dishes, all of that just like normal from the nights before. And when we were ready for bed the battery was at 91%.
So, we were super happy about that. Not only were we in shade, but the first two days, the day we arrived and that next day was very cloudy.
We did start to get some sun the day after that and our batteries charged up super quick. I think it’s a combination of the MPPT solar controller we have is very efficient. And then we also stuck with the Go Power panels on the roof which are a high quality solar panel.
So even though we were parked in the shade we were still getting our batteries charged back up to 100%.
When we got this trailer we knew we wanted to have a good solar setup. And it seemed a little counterintuitive because we also knew that we wanted to camp in the trees. So this test was really the exact case that we designed this solar setup for and we are very happy to report that it was very successful.
We had no power issues and we barely had any solar to charge our batteries back up. We still were able to use our microwave, we even decided to bust out the blender because we had absolutely no power issues.
So, that was very exciting. We are very happy with this. And I’m super happy to report that we are successfully camping and relying on solar, while camping in the shade with tall redwood trees around.