Need Help With Running PC On Solar

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Daniel Feldt New Member • Posts: 23
Need Help With Running PC On Solar
1

I'm getting my 8 foot truck camper ready for winter photography in the Pacific Northwest. I remodeled and tore out all the old electrical and propane stuff. I am upgrading to solar. I am not sure about electrical stuff and would rather get some opinions.

I will be running (not all at the dame time) a 1500 watt stovetop, 90 watt laptop charger, 1200 watt toaster oven, maybe 60 watts of LED lights, a desktop computer and a 41 watt monitor. The desktop is an AMD 3900x CPU with an RTX2070 GPU, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM with a wifi motherboard. I don't know the wattage but I think the power supply is 600 watts. Other than that I'll be charging 3 A7iii camera batteries each day and a Godox ad200 flash every week.

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

I know I'll need a pure sin wave inverter to run the PC, but is more needed? I'd use the PC maybe 2-3 hours each day.

I'm thinking 4 100 watt solar panels, a 30 amp charger that allows charging via alternator or solar, a 2000 watt pure sin wave inverter, and 3 122AH deep cycle batteries.

Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or tips? Thanks!

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CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 17,315
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

Also look at Jackery.

https://www.jackery.com/products/jackery-explorer-1000-2-x-solarsaga-100w-solar-generator

If I were you, I'd switch to low-power Apple Silicon, which can be charged by USB.

Cariboo Contributing Member • Posts: 729
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar
1

Spend the extra money and double the solar panels to 800 watts and ONLY get a 50-100 AHr LiFePO4 battery. Other battery chemistries are dinosaurs, heavy and inefficient. You need more panels for faster charging or even some charging on cloudy days and especially in low sun months. A 600 watt power supply under load will consume your battery storage quickly, though only a killowatt type meter monitoring real world use will tell you for sure. Also place the inverter such that the fan noise under load is minimal or it could be very annoying and loud in a small space. Have you searched YouTube for your info? That would be your best resource to search before buying anything.

$1200 is a low budget for off the shelf components and IME your proposed system is woefully under powered for real world power generation and use and inversion which is for low cost inverters usually 85-90% efficient. Real world use vs calculator math of components and hypothetical use are quite different, especially if one has little experience.

At minimum, ONLY get a Lithium battery or a diy battery kit to save money. Forget your proposed battery choice.

Keekerseeker Regular Member • Posts: 232
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar

Winter short and low natural light conditions are unlikely to charge several deep cell batteries in a useful timely manner. I think a honda 2200 or yamaha 2400 pure sine generator is going to be your friend. To have a reliable system for what you describe , I think your budget is not going to cut it. Once your deep cells get drawn down they take a lot of hours to get back up to over 90% .

CBR1100XX Senior Member • Posts: 1,154
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar

First thing is to get a Kill-A-Watt meter. That'll give you an accurate meter at the wall for the total system draw and you can measure everything else as well.

Is your 3900X overclocked? If not and you're not using 100% CPU/GPU at the same time it actually might not be that much. Even with both I'd guestimate 400-450W?

My other question is what kind of laptop do you have? The reason is that I have a very similar setup with a 3900X desktop and while power isn't my constraint heat is during the summer since my AC has trouble keeping up. So during the worst days I'll do all the heavy lifting like preview generation and exports with it but a lot of the other work can be done on my Surface if I use smart previews with power consumption/heat generation just a fraction of the 3900X's. You'd need to see if it fit parts of your workflow and overall was feasible but if it is then that could cut the amount of storage/generation that you'd need for computing.

Rambow Senior Member • Posts: 1,698
Uh....get a laptop?

Since we're talking about a lot of power hungry stuff running on solar during winter, maybe those panels won't be running at 100% capacity all the time...

So replacing a pc and it's huge gpu with a laptop that has a APU instead probably is a much better idea and also takes up much less space.

But again, basically it all comes down to how much electricity OP can produce, because that computer alone is going to be power hungry.

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WryCuda Forum Pro • Posts: 10,950
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar
4

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm getting my 8 foot truck camper ready for winter photography in the Pacific Northwest. I remodeled and tore out all the old electrical and propane stuff. I am upgrading to solar. I am not sure about electrical stuff and would rather get some opinions.

I will be running (not all at the dame time) a 1500 watt stovetop, 90 watt laptop charger, 1200 watt toaster oven, maybe 60 watts of LED lights, a desktop computer and a 41 watt monitor. The desktop is an AMD 3900x CPU with an RTX2070 GPU, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM with a wifi motherboard. I don't know the wattage but I think the power supply is 600 watts. Other than that I'll be charging 3 A7iii camera batteries each day and a Godox ad200 flash every week.

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

I know I'll need a pure sin wave inverter to run the PC, but is more needed? I'd use the PC maybe 2-3 hours each day.

I'm thinking 4x 100 watt solar panels, a 30 amp charger that allows charging via alternator or solar, a 2000 watt pure sin wave inverter, and 3 122AH deep cycle batteries.

Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or tips? Thanks!

Having 1500W and 1200W appliances seems rather ambitious given the 400W (max) solar panels. You might want to "cook with gas" and keep the solar system for the digital equipment. Console yourself by calling it a hybrid system. 

Someone mentioned another version of "hybrid" which included a generator. This probably won't appeal to you, especially considering that you'd need a fairly expensive generator to provide enough oomph to run a 1500W stovetop.

BTW, I recommend power boards with surge protectors when you are running digital equipment. I'd also recommend acquiring a digital multimeter to check voltages etc. Note that digital multimeters will give incorrect or variable reading when the sine wave is noisy, so this can be a handy warning.

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Mark Scott Abeln
Mark Scott Abeln Forum Pro • Posts: 17,869
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar
1

Your panels won't deliver 400 watts:

  • They won't work at night or when it is overcast.
  • They won't work much when the sun is low in the sky due to atmospheric absorption. This is an important factor in winter. 
  • The solar panels need to be steered throughout the day to capture as much light as possible, or you'll need more panels. 
  • Dust will also block light, as will snow.
  • They won't work under tree canopy or otherwise in the shade.

Solar is doable, but it will probably require a much larger, and more expensive system than you expect. Another important factor: how many days in a row without direct sun should your system continue to operate?

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hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 21,041
Alternative suggestion
1

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm getting my 8 foot truck camper ready for winter photography in the Pacific Northwest. I remodeled and tore out all the old electrical and propane stuff. I am upgrading to solar. I am not sure about electrical stuff and would rather get some opinions.

I will be running (not all at the dame time) a 1500 watt stovetop, 90 watt laptop charger, 1200 watt toaster oven, maybe 60 watts of LED lights, a desktop computer and a 41 watt monitor. The desktop is an AMD 3900x CPU with an RTX2070 GPU, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM with a wifi motherboard. I don't know the wattage but I think the power supply is 600 watts. Other than that I'll be charging 3 A7iii camera batteries each day and a Godox ad200 flash every week.

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

I know I'll need a pure sin wave inverter to run the PC, but is more needed? I'd use the PC maybe 2-3 hours each day.

I'm thinking 4 100 watt solar panels, a 30 amp charger that allows charging via alternator or solar, a 2000 watt pure sin wave inverter, and 3 122AH deep cycle batteries.

Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or tips? Thanks!

Honestly, I suspect you can't accomplish what you want with solar unless you spend a LOT more money. Between the cells, batteries and controller it's going to cost a ton. The stove and toaster oven are especially problematic. Coffee makers also use lots of power and a small gas stove might work better, too.

For home power emergencies (I live in Texas and our grid is junk) I opted for a modest inverter generator. I bought a Champion 3400 Dual Fuel inverter generator that operates on either propane or gasoline. That comes well within your budget and is very quiet. It runs 16-18 hours on economy mode and puts out clean inverter power for computers and whatnot.

Later I attached a power transfer switch to my circuit breaker panel so I don't even need to run cords. I understand the desire to use solar, but think this approach might work far better for you with less cost and hassle.

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Mark Scott Abeln
Mark Scott Abeln Forum Pro • Posts: 17,869
A quick example

I had an application that needed to deliver ten watts continuously: day and night, sunny or cloudy, summer and winter. I spec'd out a system for my location and determined that I needed 90 watts worth of panels, or nine times the power needed, along with batteries that would last several days without sunshine. And that was just a 'back of a napkin' estimate, it could be worse and need more.

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gscotten
gscotten Senior Member • Posts: 2,185
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar
1

You have gotten some good advice so far in this thread.

I have similar solar and battery power in my small Class A. It works well with my much more modest power demands, but I think you are going to far exceed what your system will put out. We typically fire up our built-in generator when we occasionally use our high-draw appliances.

Also, your solar panels wil not push 30a into your batteries. Into a dead short, sure. Into a battery, never. And you should not draw even deep cycle batteries down below 50% of their capacity.

However, you have a high power charger built into your truck. (My RV alternator puts out 130 amps.)  If your solar is not keeping up, you can always top up the batteries in pretty short order by starting the engine.

Make a rack so you can tilt you panels toward the sun. It will make a huge difference. With judicious use of your appliances and occasional engine support, you should be able to stay in the boonies for extended periods. But get a laptop. The Pacifc Northwest is not known for sunshine in the winter.

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swalkeratvail Junior Member • Posts: 39
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar

I used 200 watts of solar panels with a travel trailer for 4 years.  I found that as my need for energy increased, I could not rely only on the solar panels and had to augment it with quite a few hours on a portable gas generator.

As my energy needs increased, I concluded the travel trailer with solar was not the appropriate solution.  I swapped it out for a motorhome with a built in 8 KW generator.

You are talking about trying to support your energy needs (which seem quite high) with only 400 watts of solar panel in the Pacific northwest over winter (known for short days and lots of clouds during the winter).  It is just not going to happen.

Your camper probably does not have room for all the solar panels it would take to meet your needs.

I suggest you do as others have recommended.  Monitor you energy use and build a realistic energy budget.  Then configure a battery system that will support your need along with a way to generate the requisite amount of energy.  I doubt you will conclude that solar alone can meet your needs.

Steve

tkbslc Forum Pro • Posts: 16,753
Reduce power consumption
4

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm getting my 8 foot truck camper ready for winter photography in the Pacific Northwest. I remodeled and tore out all the old electrical and propane stuff. I am upgrading to solar. I am not sure about electrical stuff and would rather get some opinions.

I will be running (not all at the dame time) a 1500 watt stovetop, 90 watt laptop charger, 1200 watt toaster oven, maybe 60 watts of LED lights, a desktop computer and a 41 watt monitor. The desktop is an AMD 3900x CPU with an RTX2070 GPU, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM with a wifi motherboard. I don't know the wattage but I think the power supply is 600 watts. Other than that I'll be charging 3 A7iii camera batteries each day and a Godox ad200 flash every week.

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

I know I'll need a pure sin wave inverter to run the PC, but is more needed? I'd use the PC maybe 2-3 hours each day.

I'm thinking 4 100 watt solar panels, a 30 amp charger that allows charging via alternator or solar, a 2000 watt pure sin wave inverter, and 3 122AH deep cycle batteries.

Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or tips? Thanks!

You are doing this the wrong way. Solar panels are large and expensive. You need adequate battery storage to power things at night. Winter means not very much sunlit hours and a lot of dark hours. PNW is onw of the worst place in the country for solar generation as well. You need to be thinking of reducing the power usage as much as possible, not how to cover normal things with solar.

This map is a yearly average. Figure maybe half as much in the winter. So if it not cloudy, and you angle them right, you might get lucky and generate your full 400W for 2 hours a day. In the morning maybe only 100-200W. If it is cloudy you might get about 50W peak. Best case maybe 1200-1500Wh for the day or worse case 300-400Wh.  Now you have to add in efficiency loss converting DC to AC and lose another 10-20% again.

Desktop PC is a no-go. 200-500W of power for presumably long sessions means you need a HUGE battery to power it. And you'll be using ALL the power you generate above, just to run it for an hour or two.

You can get 80% of the performance with a gaming laptop at 1/10 the power consumption. Plus it can run on its own battery when using, so you don't need to worry about it except when charging. Charge when the sun is up. I know you are used to your beefy desktop with GPU, but I would really consider going with the lowest power laptop with longest battery life you can find. Maybe even switch to an M1 macbook. Those still have very respectable photo and video editing performance and can get 10-20 hours on a battery charge. And only take 2 hours to charge at 60W. I don't know of a more efficient laptop at the moment that still has good performance.

For cooking and heating off grid, you really should go propane. It is so much more efficient at creating heat than electric, and a tank or two could last you months for a single person. Or you can drain a whole day's solar charge in the 20 minutes it takes to make dinner or with an hours heat.

If it were me, I'd get the most battery efficient laptop I can find. Propane appliances. And then you only need solar+battery for lights at night and charging laptop, phone and camera, etc during the day. Make sure to leave with a charged battery and top up from power grid whenever possible.  You will still probably need your 300-400W system just to manage these.

To really run everything you mentioned, without worry, you would probably need to massively increase your solar requirements. Check out this site: RV Solar Calculator for Off Grid Living | Mowgli Adventures (mowgli-adventures.com)

Looks like maybe 2000W of solar for what you have listed above and where you live and the fact you are going in winter.  And you'd need a massive 100lb battery.

Cariboo Contributing Member • Posts: 729
Re: Reduce power consumption
1

Actually high output solar panels can be quite cheap and usually the lowest cost of any system. Very common for new panels to be 50-80 cents per watt. They can be cheaper too if buying used and still with excellent output. Of course name brand RV stuff like Renogy often gouges people with overhyped features and cost. My new high quality 385 watt panels were about $.50 cents per watt. IME solar panels are / can be CHEAP $$$$.

He will hardly need a 100 lb battery. That is grossly wrong and IMO borders on fear mongering. I have a 24V - 100 AHr Lithium Ferrous Phosphate battery in a beefy metal case with cables and BMS etc that shipped weighed max 38 kg or 83.7 lbs. It feels lighter to me. A 12 volt LiFePO4 battery of 4 cells vs 8 for 24 volts would weigh maybe half that. In a plastic case or DIY case even less.

Again name brand LiFePO4 batteries like Battle Born or Simpliphi are expensive but others like SOK or DIY imports can be quite low cost. Lead Acid or AGM should IME not even be considered.

I run a large cabin off a 2 KW system. I live in an area like the PNW. I got rid of my propane crap expensive fridge, stove, hot water heater and only use electric from solar. I would NEVER recommend propane, nevermind that the exhaust / fumes are carcinogenic and bad for lungs as is any natural gas and diesel fumes. Been there done that, cough, cough, cough. OP could get a 700 watt Instapot and do 90% or more of the cooking with that and it briefly maxes out at 700 watts, then cycles lower to cook or keep pressure. Very energy efficient compared to induction or microwaves, all of which I have and use for different purposes, but in a cabin vs camper. I'd use an instapot and small quick coffee maker. My moka pot on my induction plate on level 3/10 uses 600-700 watts for 2 minutes 30 secs every morning. The battery loss barely registers.

I run big loads when the sun is out otherwise I am conservative with energy use even though the battery has great capacity and capable of deep discharges if needed. Usually even in cloudy days a 50% drawn battery will charge to 100% in a few hours, on sunny days it's 1-2 hours.

Besides a must have LiFePO4 battery (IME) the next highest cost is a good MPPT solar charge controller. The normal RV type inverters can be really low cost or extremely expensive if brand names like Victron, Schneider, etc.. OP may need inverter with charger if wanting to charge batteries with a gas like generator as well as solar and not off a 12 volt generator, which would add cost over an inverter only.

Other items are not too expensive, unless one needs a big combiner box which a camper won't.

And again, IME, you exaggerate about DC conversion loss of 20%, which I have NEVER seen. The cheapest inverters are @ 8-10% loss, my Trace/Xantrex is excellent at 6% and not many if any are better than that, but 20% loss ?????? I doubt it unless wires were too thin and long, which is unlikely in a camper or just not possible with normal 12 gauge wire at minimum.

Power gauges can be low cost or expensive if Bluetooth and or with analyzing software. Cables 2-12 gauge are also not that expensive if one shops around and a camper doesn't need many feet of the best most efficient cable size or length. Anything can be expensive if one buys only hyped brand names or one does zero shopping around or one is in a hurry and must purchase.

Solar even in cloudy weather can be excellent but one needs to learn how to manage watts in and watts out, in clouds and sun. It's about learning energy management.

OP said he had a laptop. He could easily run an external monitor during daylight as they usually don't use many watts unless huge. The desktop could be used on sunny days only or with a generator but +400 watts of solar are needed. 2-450 watt panels transported in a box on the roof would be great and manageable when camped. Lots of creative DIY Solar and RV stuff on YouTube to learn from. Then the OP can stay away from over priced options like Renogy etc..

I use my solar panels and the sun as my power source and my Lithium battery as back up and not my big load power supply. Many people want the battery to be the big energy supplier. But that is false economy and more limiting. Other than the darkest storm clouds days, I am SO often shocked and tickled at how many watts my panels produce on cloudy days summer and winter. And the OP has a camper engine as a gas backup generator or could have. Or save up for an inverter gasoline generator, or buy one used or a non Hong's or Yamaha brand as a back up dark cloud or night energy source.

Solar has been one excellent conversion I highly recommend and especially DIY vs name brand "kits" which are usually over priced and low in specs, like Jackery, Renogy, Bluetti, etc..

The OP needs a bit more learning, planning, testing, conserving and price checking, but IME it's doable at maybe double his original budget. And DIY is not at all difficult for a simple RV type set up and he'd get far more energy for the dollar.

YouTube had so much Solar, RV, , Off Grid and DIY info.

Simon Garrett Veteran Member • Posts: 7,204
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar
1

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm getting my 8 foot truck camper ready for winter photography in the Pacific Northwest. I remodeled and tore out all the old electrical and propane stuff. I am upgrading to solar. I am not sure about electrical stuff and would rather get some opinions.

I will be running (not all at the dame time) a 1500 watt stovetop, 90 watt laptop charger, 1200 watt toaster oven, maybe 60 watts of LED lights, a desktop computer and a 41 watt monitor. The desktop is an AMD 3900x CPU with an RTX2070 GPU, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM with a wifi motherboard. I don't know the wattage but I think the power supply is 600 watts. Other than that I'll be charging 3 A7iii camera batteries each day and a Godox ad200 flash every week.

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

I know I'll need a pure sin wave inverter to run the PC, but is more needed? I'd use the PC maybe 2-3 hours each day.

it's often said that pure sine wave is needed for anything electronic, but I've not had problems with two different simulated sine wave low cost UPS units (one Cyberpower, one APC) with:

  • Several desktop PCs
  • laptops
  • monitors
  • routers, bridges, DSL modems
  • TVs
  • printers
  • telephones
  • various USB chargers and PSUs
  • probably other stuff I've forgotten

but perhaps I live a charmed life.

I'm thinking 4 100 watt solar panels, a 30 amp charger that allows charging via alternator or solar, a 2000 watt pure sin wave inverter, and 3 122AH deep cycle batteries.

Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or tips? Thanks!

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Simon

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Morris0
Morris0 Forum Pro • Posts: 21,900
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar
1

CAcreeks wrote:

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

Also look at Jackery.

https://www.jackery.com/products/jackery-explorer-1000-2-x-solarsaga-100w-solar-generator

If I were you, I'd switch to low-power Apple Silicon, which can be charged by USB.

I agree you should look at Jackery and some of there competitors.  Some of the competitors battery controller and inverters can be connected together for more runtime and this is something that you will probably need.  As mentioned in the thread, there will be times when charging will not be great so you need to consider how you will charge your batteries in this situation.  A small portable generator or plugging in at the campground are options as well as an inverter running off the RV's alienator.   Build something that is modular and can grow as you will be dealing with a learning curve.   Generators are most efficient when operating at 50% load so take this into account when sizing.

There are lots of YouTube reviews of the battery "Generators".  Spend a few hours and you should be good to go.

Have fun,

Morris

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tkbslc Forum Pro • Posts: 16,753
Re: Reduce power consumption

Cariboo wrote:

Actually high output solar panels can be quite cheap and usually the lowest cost of any system. Very common for new panels to be 50-80 cents per watt. They can be cheaper too if buying used and still with excellent output. Of course name brand RV stuff like Renogy often gouges people with overhyped features and cost. My new high quality 385 watt panels were about $.50 cents per watt. IME solar panels are / can be CHEAP $$$$.

Given this is for a trailer, you can't just use cheap and heavy panels designed for a house roof.

He will hardly need a 100 lb battery. That is grossly wrong and IMO borders on fear mongering. I have a 24V - 100 AHr Lithium Ferrous Phosphate battery in a beefy metal case with cables and BMS etc that shipped weighed max 38 kg or 83.7 lbs. It feels lighter to me. A 12 volt LiFePO4 battery of 4 cells vs 8 for 24 volts would weigh maybe half that. In a plastic case or DIY case even less.

To run a 1500W stove, 500W computer and 1200W oven? Yes he will need a huge battery for that.

If he runs low power devices, no.

Again name brand LiFePO4 batteries like Battle Born or Simpliphi are expensive but others like SOK or DIY imports can be quite low cost. Lead Acid or AGM should IME not even be considered.

I run a large cabin off a 2 KW system. I live in an area like the PNW. I got rid of my propane crap expensive fridge, stove, hot water heater and only use electric from solar. I would NEVER recommend propane, nevermind that the exhaust / fumes are carcinogenic and bad for lungs as is any natural gas and diesel fumes. Been there done that, cough, cough, cough. OP could get a 700 watt Instapot and do 90% or more of the cooking with that and it briefly maxes out at 700 watts, then cycles lower to cook or keep pressure. Very energy efficient compared to induction or microwaves, all of which I have and use for different purposes, but in a cabin vs camper. I'd use an instapot and small quick coffee maker. My moka pot on my induction plate on level 3/10 uses 600-700 watts for 2 minutes 30 secs every morning. The battery loss barely registers.

You are talking a 2000W system in a fixed location, not a portable 400W system. And you are describing using lower watt appliances. So I think your experience proves my point.

I run big loads when the sun is out otherwise I am conservative with energy use even though the battery has great capacity and capable of deep discharges if needed. Usually even in cloudy days a 50% drawn battery will charge to 100% in a few hours, on sunny days it's 1-2 hours.

Besides a must have LiFePO4 battery (IME) the next highest cost is a good MPPT solar charge controller. The normal RV type inverters can be really low cost or extremely expensive if brand names like Victron, Schneider, etc.. OP may need inverter with charger if wanting to charge batteries with a gas like generator as well as solar and not off a 12 volt generator, which would add cost over an inverter only.

Other items are not too expensive, unless one needs a big combiner box which a camper won't.

And again, IME, you exaggerate about DC conversion loss of 20%, which I have NEVER seen. The cheapest inverters are @ 8-10% loss, my Trace/Xantrex is excellent at 6% and not many if any are better than that, but 20% loss ?????? I doubt it unless wires were too thin and long, which is unlikely in a camper or just not possible with normal 12 gauge wire at minimum.

10% loss, and then another 10% loss when his computer power supply or USB chargers convert it back to DC.

Power gauges can be low cost or expensive if Bluetooth and or with analyzing software. Cables 2-12 gauge are also not that expensive if one shops around and a camper doesn't need many feet of the best most efficient cable size or length. Anything can be expensive if one buys only hyped brand names or one does zero shopping around or one is in a hurry and must purchase.

Solar even in cloudy weather can be excellent but one needs to learn how to manage watts in and watts out, in clouds and sun. It's about learning energy management.

Yes, and trying to use a 1500W stove and 500W PC is not energy management. That was my point.

OP said he had a laptop. He could easily run an external monitor during daylight as they usually don't use many watts unless huge. The desktop could be used on sunny days only or with a generator but +400 watts of solar are needed. 2-450 watt panels transported in a box on the roof would be great and manageable when camped. Lots of creative DIY Solar and RV stuff on YouTube to learn from. Then the OP can stay away from over priced options like Renogy etc..

450W panels are about the size of a sheet of drywall (4x7 feet) and weigh over 50lbs. Where are you going to store those in a camper or pickup? What are you going to prop them up with? How will you deal with the impending hernia from moving a heavy awkward object by yourself? Not very realistic.

But I agree for it to work, he is going to need a lot more than 400W, which is also what I said.

I use my solar panels and the sun as my power source and my Lithium battery as back up and not my big load power supply. Many people want the battery to be the big energy supplier. But that is false economy and more limiting. Other than the darkest storm clouds days, I am SO often shocked and tickled at how many watts my panels produce on cloudy days summer and winter. And the OP has a camper engine as a gas backup generator or could have. Or save up for an inverter gasoline generator, or buy one used or a non Hong's or Yamaha brand as a back up dark cloud or night energy source.

gasoline generator? That's far less efficient and dirty (not to mention noisy) than just using propane for the high energy stuff like cooking.

Solar has been one excellent conversion I highly recommend and especially DIY vs name brand "kits" which are usually over priced and low in specs, like Jackery, Renogy, Bluetti, etc..

The OP needs a bit more learning, planning, testing, conserving and price checking, but IME it's doable at maybe double his original budget. And DIY is not at all difficult for a simple RV type set up and he'd get far more energy for the dollar.

I don't think your 2000W Cabin experience is very representative of a system that needs to be portable and fit in a small trailer.

YouTube had so much Solar, RV, , Off Grid and DIY info.

The Point and Shoot Pro
The Point and Shoot Pro Senior Member • Posts: 1,826
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar

Daniel Feldt wrote:

I'm getting my 8 foot truck camper ready for winter photography in the Pacific Northwest. I remodeled and tore out all the old electrical and propane stuff. I am upgrading to solar. I am not sure about electrical stuff and would rather get some opinions.

I will be running (not all at the dame time) a 1500 watt stovetop, 90 watt laptop charger, 1200 watt toaster oven, maybe 60 watts of LED lights, a desktop computer and a 41 watt monitor. The desktop is an AMD 3900x CPU with an RTX2070 GPU, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM with a wifi motherboard. I don't know the wattage but I think the power supply is 600 watts. Other than that I'll be charging 3 A7iii camera batteries each day and a Godox ad200 flash every week.

I'm hoping to spend about $1200 or less to make this happen. I've been looking at Renogy products as I've used their panels and chargers in a previous project.

I know I'll need a pure sin wave inverter to run the PC, but is more needed? I'd use the PC maybe 2-3 hours each day.

I'm thinking 4 100 watt solar panels, a 30 amp charger that allows charging via alternator or solar, a 2000 watt pure sin wave inverter, and 3 122AH deep cycle batteries.

Does anyone have any suggestions, ideas or tips? Thanks!

I think you made a poor choice removing the propane heating and cooking items.  If you could put them back in, and you used a notebook for editing, you would be in a much better position.  2 golf cart batteries wired in series would give you a good reserve of power, charge them with as much solar that will fit on your roof, and wire them to charge on your truck while it is running.  Just make sure they do not freeze.  As an extra, while travelling, get a jackery and plug it into the 12v on your dash, I use one to keep our tablet and phone devices charged while boondocking with our sylvansport go camper.

A third item that would work would be a portable windmill to create power in the night while sleeping.

I am getting one of these to charge our house battery setup on our camper for next season when we get going again!

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swalkeratvail Junior Member • Posts: 39
Re: Need Help With Running PC On Solar

The OP has not checked back in, but it is still an interesting discussion.

The OP laid out a few constraints, among which are:

1.  An 8 ft truck camper (I presume a slide in)

2.  A $1,200 budget

Those two constraints mean that he will be limited to solar panels and batteries that will fit in/on his camper/truck combination.  So, 400 watts of solar panels is a pretty good idea of a practical limit.

Likewise, he is limited to using lead acid batteries, given his budget.  I run a lithium setup (LiFePO4) for another application.  It is wonderful, but my 176 Ah 24 volt system (8 cells in series) cost more than his whole budget, and that does not include wiring, connectors, charger, fuses, etc.

He is also talking about using the system in the winter.  LiFePO4 will be damaged by cold temperatures, so are impractical to use where the temperature drops much below freezing (unless there is a power source to heat the cells).

And, finally, he is talking about winter in the Pacific northwest, where there will be short days with low sun angles.  That means even with a lot of watts of solar panels, he will be limited in the power he can collect.

The OP may have valid reasons to remove propane from his setup.  If it was me, I would

1.  Use propane for heat, water heater, stove, oven, and refrigerator.

2.  Use battery power for LED lights and a laptop computer.

3.  Avoid using an inverter, meaning everything would be DC.

4.  Get the best solar charge controller my budget would allow.

5.  Configure the solar panels so they could be pointed toward the sun.

This is what we did with our travel trailer.  It worked well, but we also needed to carry along a gas generator to provide supplemental power.  There were weeks were we saw little to no sun.  Our camping was in the spring, summer, and fall and at lower latitudes than the Pacific northwest (meaning high sun angles and longer days than he should be planning for).

Steve

CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 17,315
Re: Reduce power consumption

Thanks Cariboo! That was the most practical and informative writeup I have read about solar. I am a tent camper, so I don't need RV grade electrical, but it might help me.

What I want to do is charge a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicle with solar panels so that tooling around town will be free - gasoline needed only on long range trips. The PHEV I'm considering has a 14.4 KWh battery. EV plug standards allow AC trickle charging but not DC trickle charging. So obviously I need an inverter and battery. Never heard of LiFePO4 until now.

Cariboo wrote:

Actually high output solar panels can be quite cheap and usually the lowest cost of any system. Very common for new panels to be 50-80 cents per watt. They can be cheaper too if buying used and still with excellent output. Of course name brand RV stuff like Renogy often gouges people with overhyped features and cost. My new high quality 385 watt panels were about $.50 cents per watt. IME solar panels are / can be CHEAP $$$$.

He will hardly need a 100 lb battery. That is grossly wrong and IMO borders on fear mongering. I have a 24V - 100 AHr Lithium Ferrous Phosphate battery in a beefy metal case with cables and BMS etc that shipped weighed max 38 kg or 83.7 lbs. It feels lighter to me. A 12 volt LiFePO4 battery of 4 cells vs 8 for 24 volts would weigh maybe half that. In a plastic case or DIY case even less.

Again name brand batteries like Battle Born or Simpliphi are expensive but others like SOK or DIY imports can be quite low cost. Lead Acid or AGM should IME not even be considered.

I run a large cabin off a 2 KW system. I live in an area like the PNW. I got rid of my propane crap expensive fridge, stove, hot water heater and only use electric from solar. I would NEVER recommend propane, nevermind that the exhaust / fumes are carcinogenic and bad for lungs as is any natural gas and diesel fumes. Been there done that, cough, cough, cough. OP could get a 700 watt Instapot and do 90% or more of the cooking with that and it briefly maxes out at 700 watts, then cycles lower to cook or keep pressure. Very energy efficient compared to induction or microwaves, all of which I have and use for different purposes, but in a cabin vs camper. I'd use an instapot and small quick coffee maker. My moka pot on my induction plate on level 3/10 uses 600-700 watts for 2 minutes 30 secs every morning. The battery loss barely registers.

I run big loads when the sun is out otherwise I am conservative with energy use even though the battery has great capacity and capable of deep discharges if needed. Usually even in cloudy days a 50% drawn battery will charge to 100% in a few hours, on sunny days it's 1-2 hours.

Besides a must have LiFePO4 battery (IME) the next highest cost is a good MPPT solar charge controller. The normal RV type inverters can be really low cost or extremely expensive if brand names like Victron, Schneider, etc.. OP may need inverter with charger if wanting to charge batteries with a gas like generator as well as solar and not off a 12 volt generator, which would add cost over an inverter only.

Other items are not too expensive, unless one needs a big combiner box which a camper won't.

And again, IME, you exaggerate about DC conversion loss of 20%, which I have NEVER seen. The cheapest inverters are @ 8-10% loss, my Trace/Xantrex is excellent at 6% and not many if any are better than that, but 20% loss ?????? I doubt it unless wires were too thin and long, which is unlikely in a camper or just not possible with normal 12 gauge wire at minimum.

Power gauges can be low cost or expensive if Bluetooth and or with analyzing software. Cables 2-12 gauge are also not that expensive if one shops around and a camper doesn't need many feet of the best most efficient cable size or length. Anything can be expensive if one buys only hyped brand names or one does zero shopping around or one is in a hurry and must purchase.

Solar even in cloudy weather can be excellent but one needs to learn how to manage watts in and watts out, in clouds and sun. It's about learning energy management.

OP said he had a laptop. He could easily run an external monitor during daylight as they usually don't use many watts unless huge. The desktop could be used on sunny days only or with a generator but +400 watts of solar are needed. 2-450 watt panels transported in a box on the roof would be great and manageable when camped. Lots of creative DIY Solar and RV stuff on YouTube to learn from. Then the OP can stay away from over priced options like Renogy etc..

I use my solar panels and the sun as my power source and my Lithium battery as back up and not my big load power supply. Many people want the battery to be the big energy supplier. But that is false economy and more limiting. Other than the darkest storm clouds days, I am SO often shocked and tickled at how many watts my panels produce on cloudy days summer and winter. And the OP has a camper engine as a gas backup generator or could have. Or save up for an inverter gasoline generator, or buy one used or a non Hong's or Yamaha brand as a back up dark cloud or night energy source.

Solar has been one excellent conversion I highly recommend and especially DIY vs name brand "kits" which are usually over priced and low in specs, like Jackery, Renogy, Bluetti, etc..

The OP needs a bit more learning, planning, testing, conserving and price checking, but IME it's doable at maybe double his original budget. And DIY is not at all difficult for a simple RV type set up and he'd get far more energy for the dollar.

YouTube had so much Solar, RV, , Off Grid and DIY info.

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