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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Clouds & Rain Impact On Camper Solar

Even in sunny Arizona it gets cloudy rain and even cool.  I designed my camper solar / battery to last 3 days powering my Engel fridge without sun/solar.

3 days may not be much for my vandweller friend Ming in British Columbia with days of clouds and showers, but for out of the gate on my camper but you should understand I can charge from my engine while driving too, but have not done this to prove out my solar setup.

So, here I am in Tucson with 2 days of rain and a forecast of 2 days of clouds after. Being a vandweller means if you don’t like the weather, you move.

I wanted to do some testing first.

It’s fully overcast outside with rain this pm.  I’m playing disc golf this am and I went in to check my solar.  Yea! Total clouds and 1.14 amps coming in.  My fridge uses a max of 12 amps per day, and even though I’m going to use more power than I take in today, I will take in enough to get a fourth day off my 50 Ah LiFePo4 battery.

16 watts with heavy overcast off my 170 watt panel is good considering there are no specs for panels and what you can get from your system in the clouds.

In terms of voltage, with sun everyday and what I use overnight, I wake to 13.2 or 13.3 volts on my LiFePo4 battery.

I tell others that they don’t need fansy meters on their system, as long as they understand their systems voltage.

Here it’s simple.  My voltage says 14.0 volts from the cloudy solar and running the Engel fridge at the same time.  I also know that the battery is full after it reaches and sits at 14,7 volts.  The conclusion is that I’m charging on a cloudy day.  How much is the clamp-on meter above at 1.14 amps

It rained heavy all night and decided that the forecast didn’t suit my vandwelling and decided to head to Gila Bend, AZ for the night.

When I got there I was on the edge of the rain and just decided to head to Quartzsite, AZ 2 hours further.

In Quartzsite I got well ahead of the rain and clouds. I had sun all pm driving to my camping spot above.

In the morning I woke to cloudy conditions, but that would be only temporary.  

My fridge is the most important item to keep poweredoff the solar and I had no problem doing it and know that once I go east I will be tested more.  The good news is that my solar works with clouds sufficiently to get me through a number of days with the fridge alone.

During low solar conditions I do not watch TV, run my ceiling fan or charge devices to leave solar for the fridge.  

Although more solar is always better, and my friend Ming comes to mind knowing she would want/need 2x the solar I have, I am good with my current setup.  Yes I still have charging from the engine as a backup charging at 10 amps per hour.  So, one hour of driving will get me close to a charge needed for one day of running my Engel.



  1. This info is very helpful, thanks Brent

    1. Dzry,

      Solar has worked great on my travels, and it works well on cars too. My friend who I put solar on her roof lives the solar fixed on her RAV4. It runs her Engel fridge 24x7