a slow appreciation for the sun
i got my first solar panel in may of 2009 after my gasoline powered 2000W honda-knockoff generator died the death of john henry. i had it maxed, 12 hours a day, running an air compressor while putting up tongue and groove. it stroked out and never ran again. a moment of silence for that well-used, annoyingly loud generator of electricity.
my first panel, a 60W kyocera, was at once a wonder. to this day it has never made one noise, and it can generate up to 5amps of electricity. i have never once wished i had a gasoline powered generator since. it puts out 12 volts DC so all you need to make it charge your batteries is a charge controller that stops the panel from charging an already full battery. so my first panel installed with very little effort, and immediately began charging my batteries. it was relieving having a source of electricity again, but it was not immediately clear how much i had scored in switching to solar.
First, The panel was a larger investment than i hoped it would be. i paid over 500$ at a local place in flagstaff, AZ. The sales rep was nice and very helpful, but i could have saved hundreds of dollars just by waiting. In just over a year the price of panels has dropped considerably. the same panel i bought is now 350$ at the same company i bought it from. Furthermore you can find screaming deals online. A friend recently told me about this company, which has the best deals i've seen anywhere. Second, your solar panel is only as good as your batteries, and the batteries in my trailer weren't very good to begin with, and were almost totally flat.
After a year of use, even with inferior battery technology, my 2 deep cycle batteries operate almost exclusively on a full charge, and keep humping out the amps through the night. My laptop stays fully charged, my electric razor stays charged, my cellphone stays charged, all my AA and AAA batteries stay charged, and i still have electricity to spare for my cellphone amplifier, as well as for my record player and speakers. Even at such a hefty price, my panel has paid for itself in the last year.
In the not too distant future i'm gonna be buying new batteries. The batteries i have now are run-of-the-mill distilled water deep cycles. I'm impressed with the newer AGM battery technology. Instead of having a liquid in the battery the batteries use a silica glass. There's no maintenance, the batteries don't off gas, and you can mount them sideways. Currently i'm using 2 Trojan AGM 12v deep cycle batteries, wired in parallel, to pump water into the bath house i built. it's worked brilliantly with another 60W of solar panels. but for the new trailer batteries, i'm gonna wire in series and use 2 6v deep cycle. Other RV nomads have told me i'll get more amp hours that way.
Always an adventure .. from Flagstaff, Arizona, Best wishes.