Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Disillusioned new solar panel owner seeks advice


Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkWe just bought two solar panels for our motorhome. My husband said it would eliminate the need for hookups. We spent almost $2,000, and now two weeks later he wants electricity.

We have been parked in Montana for two weeks in a national forest campground. Mostly it has been cloudy and rainy. I guess he didn’t plan thoroughly enough. Our batteries have slowly died until last night everything shut down. So much for solar.

Am I being too hard on him? Do most people find these sun catchers sometimes helpful? —Mostly upset with a slight chance of forgiveness in Lincoln

Dear Lincoln:
It would be my guess that your stormy disposition has been brought on by bad timing. They are solar panels, which is pretty self-explanatory. “That lucky old sun has nothin’ to do, but roll around heaven all day.” It is true that the sun shines every day at 72,000 feet, depending on high cumulus clouds, but that is not always helpful to solar panels.

You don’t say what your battery bank is made up of, but for two grand I’m going to guess you bought some good batteries to enhance your system.

Go find some sunshine. You will feel a lot better.

We run 300 watts of solar into four 6v golf cart batteries from Sam’s Club. It is budgeted with a real good controller. In five years I can only think of a half dozen times that it was dreary long enough to put a big dent in our solar savings account. In those same five years it has paid for itself more than once in electricity and convenience.

If you travel often you will become an appreciator of the magic of the sun to continually top off your batteries.

I am sitting in a National Park right now listening to several generators around me sucking fuel, making noise and pollution to accomplish the same thing my quiet panels are doing.

Hang in there. I see sunny days in your future. —Keep Smilin’, Richard E. Mallery a.k.a Dr. R.V. Shrink

Newest Dr. R.V. Shrink book
Crossing the Divide
Birdfeeding 101
Nuts About Squirrels



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Don Lee
6 years ago

We have eight roof top panels that feed three lithium ion 12v batteries. We can run everything in our rig for a period of time. The “period of time” is the key. Normal lighting and occasional use of major appliances will not drain the batteries. Use the air conditioning and the batteries are drained in about an hour. We watch the voltage reading and space out appliance use to avoid dead batteries.

Tommy Molnar
6 years ago

We’ve got 375 watts of solar on our trailer roof, which feed two 6-volt golf cart batteries. We also have a Cobra 2500 watt inverter which can run everything in the trailer except the a/c. We never use the ‘nuker’ anyway, but wifey can use her hair dryer. Living in Nevada helps because we’ve got lots of sun. But on the cloudy and rainy days (yes, it DOES rain in Nevada – occasionally) we just watch our power usage. Swapping out all our light bulbs for LED’s has also paid huge benefits. We’ve been using solar for 20 years now (on two trailers) and can’t imagine life without it.

6 years ago

I had the same experience as “lincoln.” I spent $2500 on panels, controller, and batteries. After struggling with dead batteries for a year and a half I finally bought a Honda 2000 generator, then a year later another one. I can run one for 30 minutes to recharge batteries without any of the “Shrinks” sucking of fuel, noise, or pollution. PLUS, I can run 120 volt appliances, PLUS the air conditioner, PLUS jump start my tow vehicle. PLUS when the power goes out at my house I can run the refrig, lights, TV, etc. My solar panels couldn’t do any of that. I’m still pro-solar though.

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