I'm working part time in an RV dealership. Besides the obvious benefit of getting a big discount on parts that I might need to buy for Sherman, I also get to talk to people at work all day about Rv'ing . It's a pretty good job, and if I have to do something, at least I kind of enjoy it.
So the other day someone asked me about the best accessories to buy for a motorhome. Because I work in the parts department, I know about all kinds of things that we sell.
But I explained that the very best accessory we ever bought was the solar panels that mount on Sherman's roof.
The first winter that we went to Mexico, we didn't have solar panels. That meant that the only time the house batteries get a charge is when we are driving, or when we start the generator. And we learned very quickly that when you discharge the batteries to less than 50%, it's takes a fair amount of charging to make them useful again.
So we would park up somewhere in Mexico, and want to stay there for maybe a week. We don't use very much power, but just lights in the evening, and a couple of hours laptop use is enough to wear down the batteries after maybe 3 nights. And then it takes maybe a two hour drive to sufficiently charge the batteries again. Or, running the generator for maybe 2 or 3 hours a day. But we don't like the generator, we find generators noisy and annoying. And, the built in charging sytem when using the generator or being plugged in to 120v power is junk. That's a story for another day.
So the only other way to charge the batteries during the day is with either wind power or solar power. Now, we have seen a few Rv's with wind turbines, but solar power is much more consistant. So we started talking to people about solar panels, plus our friends Glen and Steve were familiar with solar systems and strongly recommended them for the type of travel that we were interested in.
So in the fall of 2008, I found a fantastic deal at Costco.ca. Now, there are quite a few deals online to get solar panels in the US...but getting a good deal in Canada is pretty tough. Long story short, I paid $950 for two 80W panels, a 30A digital charge controller, and all the wiring and brackets to install them. So I installed them myself, and we had a much better trip to Mexico last winter.
Now, we have lots of power. I keep track of the state of charge of the batteries, and never let them discharge below 50%. The next day, they are fully charged again by lunch time, provided the sun is shining strong.
We're totally happy with the way our current system works. However there is still room for improvement. I want more batteries, and better quality...and maybe one more 80W panel...then we would have power to spare!