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Cable length for portable solar panel
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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:19 pm    Post subject: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

I am slowly working on my solar setup and need to acquire the cable to run from the portable panel to the van. For those of you that use a portable panel how much cable are you actually using. There are lots of pictures of vans where the panel is close to the van so 25' feet of cable would do. I know the concept of park in the shade and put the panel in the sun, I am just looking for the reality of how it usually plays out. Do people have 50 feet of cable wishing they had 75 or 100? Or do people have 50 feet and wish they only had 30 feet of cable to pack around?
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shagginwagon83
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

I'm maybe using like 20ft. The longer the cable the thicker the cable you will need.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

Renogy suitcase: 15 feet, could definitely be longer.

Flex panel: roughly 25 feet, pretty much perfect.

Anything over 30 feet would be entirely too much for my needs.

YMMV.🍺
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Silverghost500
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

My cables are 20 feet long, and I wish I'd gone with longer ones. I only use the solar panel boon docking on our property, and where I park the van in the shade I'm having to "chase the sun" and move the panel around more than I'd like. If I had longer cables I could probably get away with repositioning the panel 2-3 times the entire day.
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

Here in BC, as Monty Python explains, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfRdur8GLBM ) the trees are huge and cast shadows everywhere. At least on the Coast.

So, for me, the 50 foot cable I use is barely adequate. I can't recall the gauge, but it is a heavy gauge. If we camped in the desert, 25 feet would do.

This wilderness campsite location below is rather typical for us here in coastal BC, July at around 10:00 am:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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Sodo
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

I bought 50 feet of 10ga cable, cut it in half and have used 25 feet, which has been long enough. I have camped in the desert.
100watts / 7 amps

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The remaining 25 foot section is still rolled up as a “kit” that travels in the van
The idea being to add the terminal ends (SAE plugs) at some shady campsite the evening before its needed.
Perhaps some BC campsite 😉😉
Someday.

Reading this reminds me.
Maybe I’ll go out to the shop and attach the plugs tonight.
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Last edited by Sodo on Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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sphet
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

Longer than you think!

To howesight's point I camped on the gulf islands in BC and I was moving my panel around constantly trying to stay out of the shadows. If I'd had 50 feet I could have just dragged it out into the clearing. I have a Renology 50W and it has made a big difference in our little-to-no driving week-long camps.

All those pictures made me sad about camping. Here's to warmer weather and covid vaccines.

S
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Howesight
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

Gulf Islands - - a distant memory . . .

Damn you, COVID. Mad
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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

Sounds like 25 feet is a good length to target unless you are camping around big trees. It made me think how much we camp in the trees vs. more open space. We typically are in more open space but do wander into the trees on occasion. In some campgrounds the trees are so thick and tall I think the panel could be close to useless. We have a 100 watt panel so I think I'll target a 10 gauge wire and see what the voltage drop looks like for a 35 feet cable.

Thanks for the feedback!

We're in the U.S. so no Gulf Islands for us either. So to keep the memories fresh here is our favorite Vancouver Island campground outside of Tofino. It's so nice to sleep with the sound of the waves and to have the ocean right out your sliding door.
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Syncronoid
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

50ft.
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Sodo
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

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OK it's done.
So now I have two 10ga 25-foot SAE extension cords.
The wire is 10ga, the SAEs are 12ga.
Focus here is not power-handling capoacity, but line loss reduction 'cuz its only 5 to 7 amps.
One little item checkmarked on the "DONE" side.
Not a giant leap, but one small step for Vankind.

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The purpose of ^^this^^ is to show the difference between copper and aluminum wire.
Many wires for "a good price' are aluminum wire.
It's less significant for 25 feet, more significant at 50 feet.
Basically, if buying aluminum, you should go up one size (bigger gauge).

===== OK now for the SOLAR SPOILER =======

All this work I did, and cables I bought, were BEFORE 150AH of LiFePO4, 60A DC charger and 130A Tribeca alternator.
Solar was lots more important back in the days of 80 AH (when 80AH of Lead = 40AH of LiFePO4).
Actually my 80 AH battery had degraded to about 30AH, =15 AH of LiFePO4.
Less than one night of fridge from my battery.
Solar could extend it to about 3/4 night of fridge.
You get the idea.
That's the old days (way back in '19 Wink ).

But solar is still kinda fun of course.
But now that I have about 5 days capacity and can get five more days by driving 2 or 3 hours
Solar becomes more 'camp hobby'.
Howesight what are you going to do with Solar AND 280AH?
Maybe a trickle charger at home just to keep it topped up?

I guess we'll see how ofen I set the panel out as time goers on.
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Vanlife Geek
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 11:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

The suitcase solar panel I got from GoWesty several years back came with 50' and that seems like a good length. Sometimes a good shady spot to park/camp can have a pretty good distance to a sunny spot. And sometimes it's not about does that sunny spot have sun now, it's about will it still have sun in an hour.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
The above image shows the panel out the full 50' if that helps give some context. Also, my charge controller is mounted behind the driver's seat, so the cable has to go around the van and up through the window, with enough slack that I can still open the door.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
There have been plenty of times where 50' has just been barely enough and other times where it's way more than needed. I think more is better.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

I recently purchased another set of portable panels (this time the thin panels) and it came with a very short cable so I purchased two 25' lengths that I can connect together if needed. This might be a better way to go than a single 50' run.

And don't forget the solar panel security guard on the long runs Laughing
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BCgee
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:54 am    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

X2 for suggestions above. I own the portable Renogy suitcase and use two, 10ga, 25’ lengths. 10ga seems to handle voltage drop over distance and allow use in most camping locations. The Renogy panel is pretty durable and has served us well in year around use.

Suerte


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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

Sodo, definitely doing copper and it seems like 10 gauge should get the job done. I'll be curious to check the voltage drop with my voltmeter once I get the wire. I am still lead acid so I'll be with solar for awhile. We do have a route 66 bucket list trip on the agenda and when that comes up I'll probably switch out the stock fridge for the hot ticket of the day along with a battery update. Nice calculator by way, I did a quick search and found.
Sodo wrote:

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SSWesty
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Cable length for portable solar panel Reply with quote

BCgee wrote:
X2 for suggestions above. I own the portable Renogy suitcase and use two, 10ga, 25’ lengths. 10ga seems to handle voltage drop over distance and allow use in most camping locations.

Seems to be a theme going here for two 25 foot cables. It seems to make a lot of sense as many have stated 25 feet is great when the panel close to the van but if the van is shaded you need more reach to get the panel into good sun. Great feedback gang.
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