Newbie in OKC - Need help/advice - Looking to pay someone to install solar on my 88 Chevy Horizon

Rain? In New Mexico? >10" annually depending upon where you live if I recall. These guys out here all got batteries and all the bells and whistles. One of them spent almost $50k! (Don’t know what the other spent). That sounds outrageous… and also sounds like they ran into a salesman… but I’ve resisted my natural impulse to blurt out the obvious. These guys thought they had systems that would keep them powered up when the lights went out but it didn’t work that way.

Sounds like your friends got taken for a ride, and may be big power users. A big system with battery backup will cost a lot, but of course it should work.

We’ve never used a lot of power. Living in a dry southern state at 5,300 ft above sea level allows us to not use a lot of power because of relatively mild weather (Albuquerque). New Mexico has abundant natural gas, so we use that for cooking and heating, and in summer we use evaporative cooling - no refrigerated air. Temps hit 98 or so for a week in the summer (but dry) and winters aren’t too bad. Overnight snowstorms are usually melted by afternoon here in the city. Almost all of our friends also have solar and I haven’t heard any complaints from them either. Even if you don’t have solar here, the power company derives 30 to 40% of its energy from solar and wind, depending on weather - cloudiness for solar and wind for the wind turbines. Ten years ago I did a lot of the initial groundwork for New Mexico’s solar and wind farms (I’m a geologist, and did a lot of geotechnical engineering work before going into water resources and environmental cleanup).

The $50k folks were pretty heavy users. He has a mechanic shop and did a lot of work out there when they got it installed, paying ~$300/mo. It’s less now cuz he works for his brother; but, the thing still oughta give 'em more than $40/mo in savings. Plus they pay $175/mo for the system.



That chart is a decent representation of solar, but also the flaw in it when it comes to systems with batteries. The correct battery charging algorithm would start at solar noon. That incorrect charging causes premature battery death.

It isn’t about fossil fuels, it’s about better technology, preferably renewable, and reducing or eliminating the need for batteries which are a consumable and not eco friendly. Even IF solar worked for half the people, it doesn’t make it a good technology. You should read up on the havoc solar has caused to the power infrastructure in Germany and other countries. We need better solutions, we DESERVE better solutions AND the technology exists. I don’t believe fossil fuels are a good solution either. The problem lies in getting corporate & government greed out of the equation, which of course is no easy task.

You’ve left out important info about your home solar, like how many watts of solar do you have, and how much was your electric bill before solar. I’m also curious as to what happens if you’re producing more power than what you’re using. Does the electric company pay you for it like they should?


"Be a credit to the human race, and make the world a better place." ~ Off Grid

@Van_Dweller - when you say noise gun do you mean decibel meter? Because 75db while only being half the rating more than 50db is considerably louder than half. That’s a super high difference and actually pretty loud.

It also sounds like the “top” solar guys are doing it wrong. The 200watt plug and play kits that are less than $500 from renogy take about 30 minutes to install and there is almost zero trouble shooting required. I don’t see how buying a $99 generator and then pumping gas into everyday is a more affordable solution? In some states you’d outpace the cost of that generator and gas in 100 days total.



You are totally misinterpreting what I’m saying, which granted, could be my fault…

I’m suggesting a generator for a BACKUP plan, not the main source of charging. I’m suggesting that people using solar, often need additional charging methods. I’m suggesting that for most people, in most places, the weather isn’t reliable enough to count on solar alone, especially in the winter when the days are shorter.

Sure, the guy from last week that we got up and running with a cheap generator, worked, and worked quickly, but I never suggested that it was a good permanent solution. It was an immediate solution. It was a backup plan that could be implemented quickly, cheaply, and get him through until we can fix things properly. That case is a pretty typical one, barely enough solar for in the summer, and not nearly enough for in the winter, so he needed to run his generator every day. When his generator died, he was screwed. Even if he had the money to fix his factory generator, that isn’t an immediate solution. He needed power now, not weeks or months from now. His MH is new enough that even his propane stuff all needs power to make it work, but old enough that most RV parks don’t want him, and most of them up here are either closed or full anyway.

In the following evenings, we totally eliminated the need for his on board power system, so that he can boondock comfortably without it, which also eliminated the need for the constant use of the generator. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it works, it was cheap, and everything was readily available locally. (Another VERY important factor!)

Solar is a dead duck up here in the winter. It doesn’t work when covered with ice and snow, and I’m not going to recommend to anyone to go up on their roofs in these conditions to clear their solar panels. I recommend people stay off their roofs entirely.

What I am preaching is that you need backup plans. If you’re relying on batteries, you need backup plans to charge them, preferably portable plans that will work anywhere and anytime, day or night, rain or shine. Plans that can totally bypass your normal power system are even better, and a generator can accomplish that. If all your batteries are dead, including your starter battery, a generator can save the day. A GENERATOR IS NOT A POOR CHOICE!


"Be a credit to the human race, and make the world a better place." ~ Off Grid

I like your plan “upgrade the vent fan, add solar panels, alternator charger and another battery.” I might also buy a small generator to have for emergencies.

I found the “power converter with battery charger” which appears to be a Magnetek Series A Model 6332 Power Converter (I’d upload a couple images but cannot since I’m a new user) which states the following…

Electrical Rating:
Input: 5 amps 120 VAC 60Hz
Output: 32 amps 12 VDC (includes 3 amp charging rate) 12 VDC Fuse Block – Max. Fuse size: 20 amp

Class CTL Panelboard - Type 1 Electrical Rating: Max. Main 30 amps 120 VAC

Series 6300 A Model 6332

I’m definitely open to upgrading this if necessary.

Van Dweller, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. If you read through my posts above they answer most of your questions. Our power bill was between $50 and $75 before solar, and now all we pay the power company is the meter fee, which is $8.19 - same every month. Our excess power goes into the grid, and comes back to us when it’s dark or cloudy. It’s called “net metering.” We never pay more than the meter fee because we always generate more than we use. Our system is sized at 3,200 watts (ten 320-watt panels).

Germany and other European countries have been a success story in terms of solar and wind. They’re well on their way to becoming independent from fossil fuels. I travel to Germany and Switzerland about every two years to see my son in Germany and visit my cousins, uncles, and aunts in Switzerland. Every time I go, there are more solar panels and more wind turbines. If it didn’t work they wouldn’t keep doing it. Germany produced 46% of it’s energy from renewable sources in 2020. Europeans aren’t stupid.

What’s stupid is putting out blanket statements saying, “solar doesn’t work” or it’s “nothing but trouble” without giving specific examples.

When it comes down to it, solar is very simple - not much to go wrong because it’s all solid state. If you’re seeing problems, it’s likely not the panels or charge controllers, it’s more likely incompetence, bad battery/electrical installation, improperly-sized system, or expectations that cannot be addressed by solar on a van, such as running refrigerated air or other power-hungry appliances. There just isn’t enough room on the roof of a van for the power-hungry slobs.


@Van_Dweller why on earth would you try and turn this political? This is a thread to try and help a guy get power in the back of his van so he can travel and play golf for gods sake.

My personal opinion is that everyone I’ve met and spoken to loves solar in their van, its easy to install, cost efficient (despite an initial upfront cost), environmentally friendly and reliable. Yes its not a perfect system but its one of the strongest and combined with a b2b charger works perfectly for a lot of van lifers.

Personally I think generators should be used as a very last resort and their environmental impact is just one of those reasons. But that is just my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own. If you want to run a generator to power your vehicle go for it, there’s no one right answer for all situations. However claiming the vast majority of people at rallies hate their solar is simply not true (a few maybe but the vast majority, no chance)! I’ve met my share of van lifers and not one of them has ever said they wished they didn’t have solar.

Surely this forum and this community is here to spread the good side of living in a van, to inform people and try and help them follow their dream? We look out for each other, learn from each other and look for the best way to help each other, we not here to talk crap to make ourselves look better. We’re better than that, at least I hope we are

Anyway enough from me, I hope you’re all have a great Tuesday!

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I’ve deleted most of my messages in this thread, and won’t be commenting any more.


"Be a credit to the human race, and make the world a better place." ~ Off Grid


I would like to respectfully request that you reconsider this decision.

As a newb, I’ve really enjoyed your perspective and insights and I’m sure that many others do, too. This is also one of those topics that I think is very helpful to other newbs and here’s why.

Maybe all they can afford to do is the $99 Harbor Freight piece of junk and if it is I bet that most of 'em didn’t know they need an “isolator”. I ain’t completely stupid; but, I read the definition a coupla times and all I know is that it isolates,

It also lets some folks know that it’s ok to go with the $99HFPOS cuz other folks have, prefer, and still do use them. Even somebody who is experienced in this lifestyle. And if they want to make it quieter, I’m sure you’d help 'em with how to add a muffler.

Do this newb and all the others a big favor. Delete this last post and reinstall the others.

And I ain’t for sure exactly; but, a political inference might have crept in a bit earlier than this last one if you look closely enough.

And I truly do hope that no one stops sharing their experiences and opinions because they each create a valuable ecosystem of ideas.

And all that good stuff is what makes the world flat and keeps us all from fallin’ off the edge!

Sorry but it looks like your thread was taken over by others here and I missed this. I’m going to send you PM so we can continue there.