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Old 05-31-2016, 02:52 PM   #1
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Solar Panel Addition

I am in the process of researching solar for my coach. I currently have a 100 W panel for the house batteries and a 10 W for my chasee batteries.
My question is
1. Can I use the existing wiring coming from the roof to the battery compartment that was installed by WRV for an additional 3 panels?
2. Should I replace the 100W panel that was installed by WRV for a newer model?
3. Where did WRV install the charge controller (if there is one) for the current 100W panel?
4. I am considering the Renogy Panel System.

Any ideas or suggestions would would be helpful.
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Old 05-31-2016, 03:37 PM   #2
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Jim,


I installed 4 new panels on my Apex a few years ago. Replaced the panel that was installed by WRV with a new panel (to ensure that all panels match, maybe overkill), I did run a new wire to the battery compartment and installed a Heliotrop controller on the roof of the battery compartment, the existing wire size didn't match for the load. The WRV installed controller was in the DC compartment inside the coach and wasn't much of a controller. I have been very happy with the nearly 500 watts of solar I now have. The Heliotrop was a bit more money, but the gentleman who helped me out swore by it and I have not been disappointed. My panels are BPs.
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Old 05-31-2016, 03:49 PM   #3
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The only way to use the existing wires, if 16 or 14 gauge, is to run the panels in series.

In series, the voltage goes up but the amps remain the same as 1 panel. Doing that would require a MPPT controller.

If 10 or 8 gauge, 400 watts at 12 volts should work. You would need to calculate the wire run distance.
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Old 05-31-2016, 04:31 PM   #4
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Jim, please keep us [me] posted on what you decide to do. I have been looking at a similar "upgrade" for my 03--hope to have things on line before Quartzsite next year. So far, I have collected a few facts and a lot of opinions. Right now, I am looking at 300-400 watts; 3-4 Renogy panels; and a Morningstar MPPT controller. Also thinking I should plan for growth potential, just in case I start to like this "solar-thingee." Accordingly, it looks like I will need to upgrade the "infra-structure" [ie wiring] to support this project. While the size and length of leads from the panels is important, it appears locating the controller in proximity to the battery bank [but not the compartment] and the size of wire between them is more important. Could be wrong on any/all of this but that's what I see so far.
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Old 06-02-2016, 04:15 AM   #5
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About 6 years ago I added 250 watts to the 100 watt that was WRV installed. I used the same wiring (10 ga) but removed the small controller and replaced it with a Blue Sky solar boost 2000. I also replaced the 10 amp fuse in the fuse panel on the back wall of the battery compartment with a 20 amp fuse. The solar doesn't product much during winter months unless the panels are raised and face the sun. In summer in can peek out at about 20 amps even flat.

The quest for solar power is wasted if you don't turn off the inverter. It draws up to 10 amps at idle with the TV and Sat Receiver plugged in even they are not turned on. Important to also install is a Zantrex Link Light (or another brand), It reads your battery bank like a fuel gauge in amps.
It tracks amps in and out of the batteries, with included shunt, mounted in the battery compartment. If you learn to use the link light meter you can make your batteries last much longer and save wasted diesel running your generator at the wrong times or for too long. My last motorhome had four 6v costco golf cart batts that lasted 9 years and were still kicking when I sold it. In the Alpine I have six 6v AGMs for over 6 years and still going strong. I never/seldom draw them down beyond 50% of they Amp Hr rating.
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Old 06-02-2016, 11:43 AM   #6
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I like the idea of this Xantrex Link Light! Batteries are expensive and maintaining them well is a strong desire. Any info on the device concerning cost etc. would be appreciated as I do boondock at the track quite often.
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Old 06-03-2016, 07:16 PM   #7
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One place to buy the Xantrex Link Lite is Hodges Marine, The unit and shunt is $190 and the Wiring Kit is $90. (50 ft plenty to share with a friend) I ran the wire thru the floor into the rear wheel well and then into the battery bay. To protect the wire in the wheel well, I used rubber fuel line with inside diameter to accommodate the wire.

When charging the batteries with the generator, you can watch the amps going to the batts. It starts at 125 amps per hour and tapers down as the percent of charge increase. Once it gets to about 30 amps per hour I cut off the generator, as its no longer efficient to get the Batts to full charge.
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:27 PM   #8
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Evening Tom, I definitely can appreciate the value of getting feedback from the bats as they progress thru the charging process. I have seen any number of references to shunts and meters that are available out there--Trimetric brand comes to mind. Anyway, my question is how does the feedback from these stand alone products differ from the data I see on my RS2000 control panel? I am no fan of the RS2000 product line, but I can watch the genset or shore power charge the bats in the same fashion, eg, starts at about 120 amp in bulk and drops into the teens or 20s as it approaches float. Also curious about using the "30 amp" level as a charge cut-off level vs letting the RS2000 go to float.

PS--I remain interested in "going solar" but the math [ie, cost vs watts] continues to bother me. Using the very rough formula of 1 to 100; three hundred watts of solar produces about 3 amps AC. That's not bad but about all it does is off-set my daily residential fridge consumption--not trivial but still not that impressive either.
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Old 06-04-2016, 07:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Scout View Post
Evening Tom, I definitely can appreciate the value of getting feedback from the bats as they progress thru the charging process. I have seen any number of references to shunts and meters that are available out there--Trimetric brand comes to mind. Anyway, my question is how does the feedback from these stand alone products differ from the data I see on my RS2000 control panel? I am no fan of the RS2000 product line, but I can watch the genset or shore power charge the bats in the same fashion, eg, starts at about 120 amp in bulk and drops into the teens or 20s as it approaches float. Also curious about using the "30 amp" level as a charge cut-off level vs letting the RS2000 go to float.

PS--I remain interested in "going solar" but the math [ie, cost vs watts] continues to bother me. Using the very rough formula of 1 to 100; three hundred watts of solar produces about 3 amps AC. That's not bad but about all it does is off-set my daily residential fridge consumption--not trivial but still not that impressive either.
Old Scout
I do not believe that the RS2000 control panel has the ability to display the amphours left in the battery. This information becomes extremely important in increasing the battery bank life. Insuring that the battery level stays above 50% is probably the best way to save money on batteries. Although I could get the information by making voltage checks, the accuracy of this method is not to good without remove loads.

Since I have been fulltiming for over 17 years with a propane refer I am certainly no expert on residential units. But, my guess is that although the unit may draw 3 amps when the compresser is on, the on cycle is probably no more than 25% of an hour, which means the acutal draw is less than 1 amphour. Of course the cycle time increases when it is hotter and there is no solar at night - hence the need for an amphour meter.

Cost benefit is an individual calculation. If someone does very little dry camping solar really has little or no benefit. Since I boondock about 1/4 - 1/3 of the year and since my three panels have been on my motorhome for over 15 years I have certainly got my moneys worth and continue to use my free electricity.
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Old 06-05-2016, 12:05 PM   #10
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Has anyone contacted or discussed with Silverleaf if they can reprogram an upgrade to track amps in and out of the batteries like they do for charging batteries or link the solar system to the Silverleaf?
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Old 06-21-2016, 11:07 AM   #11
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For what ever it is worth, I have 5 large panels that are connected in parallel on #6 cu.
wire. I ran the new wire down in the back of the washer/ dryer/ coat closet to the controller in the basement. I have the Residential Refrigerator option with 6 house batteries. We regularly dry camp for two week periods and this setup works well with only minimal generator usage. Depending on the weather and time of year. Ken
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Old 06-23-2016, 11:49 AM   #12
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Ken
Can you tell me what brand of panels you installed? I'm looking at a few different brands and the prices are all over the place.
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Old 06-23-2016, 12:38 PM   #13
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For ten years I have had 5 100w+/- pnls. on my roof. They are connected in parallel to #6 cu. wire run down to the basement through the back of the Washer closet. Each pnl. is individually fused on the roof. They are connected to a 'Blue Sky" controller in the basement. I have 6---6v. coach batteries. I have a Zantrex Link System that monitors batt. voltage, charge amperage, percent of full charge and other information. I am very happy with this installation. We have the Residential Refrigerator option, and Boondock 2-3 weeks at a time. Our generator usage is at a minimum, depending on the time of year and the weather. I hope this helps.
Also I have 3 BP. pnls. and 2 shell pnls. The output of each is just added together. Ken
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Old 06-23-2016, 12:49 PM   #14
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After almost 35 years of RV'ing and three coaches we wouldn't be without solar panels. Started with 2 75w panels, next coach had 3, 100w, and we now have 5, 130w Kyoceras plus the WRV OEM 100w panel. We wouldn't have an RV without solar panels. Yearly we average three trips for two to three months each. During these trips we probably dry camp about 20% of the time for periods of 3 weeks or longer. Yes, depending on the time of year and sun angles, the time to top off the battery bank can vary quite a bit. For instance we uaually dry camp at Quartzsite for 4-5 weeks and during January and February it can take as long as until 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., while during summer months we often recharge by 11:00 a.m. Morning coffee, toaster oven, TV news are not a problem; as the same being true during the evening with lights, TV, satellite receiver, DVR, and surround sound/tuner amp usage. Pereonally, not using the generator all the time with all the noise and diesel usage is a real plus. For those with residential refrigerators you too could no doubt benefit by using solar panels.

Old Scout is absolutely correct, one has to balance the cost against how much dry camping is anticipated. But, the convenience of electrical independence has, to us, proven well worth the expenditure.

I can highly recommend RV Solar Electric in Scottsdale, AZ, 480-443-8520. They have provided all of our panels, regulators, monitors, and hardware through the years and are a first rate and very professional operation.
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