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Old 09-28-2019, 06:37 PM   #1
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Help building solar system

I'm having my 4 door Norcold 1211 updated by JC Refrigeration to a 12 volt residential fridge.

I have 3 12 volt deep cycle batteries for the coach; no inverter - replaced with converter.

Unit has factory installed 10 watt battery charger panel that is 13 years old.

We don't boondock a lot but occasionally do.

Batteries charge when I drive the DP through the alternator. I usually run the generator as we travel down the road if AC is needed or heat using my infrared heater or furnace so generator provides any additional charge needed. When I park at home or at RV Park I'm plugged into 50amp.

Would like to add solar system to DP and add to it as needed so was thinking of using MPPT charge controller and planning on up to 1250 watts total.

What panels should I use? (Roof is fiberglass with nothing to shade panels as AC is basement model.) Was looking at wire the panels in series to reduce voltage loss; is this a good idea?

Do I need to replace batteries? If so, what should I use? My coach batteries have room for a 4th 12 volt battery.

What size wire should I use? What is the best way to route the cable from the panels to the controller in the battery bay? It is located just behind the rear tires on the passenger side.

How much wattage should I start with? How much do I need if I want to run my fridge, microwave. basement AC, lights and TV.

Is there a kit that I can buy to do this or should I just piecemeal it?

Thank you in advance for your assistance - Richard



Do I need to do anything else to complete the job?
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Old 09-28-2019, 08:34 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by rrtribble View Post



Is there a kit that I can buy to do this or should I just piecemeal it?



Check out AMSolar.com. They have some great kits at reasonable prices. Plus, a lot of instructions and videos for DIY.
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Old 09-28-2019, 08:53 PM   #3
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You need to do a great deal more research. I might suggest "Gone with the Wynns", "Mortons on the Move", "I'm not Lost I'm RVing", "Dan and Jen Nevada" and a search of Youtube for "RV Solar Install". This is not a project for the faint of heart, but it most certainly can be done. But please be aware that an improperly constructed system can burn your coach to the ground. I'm not trying to scare you, just make you realize what you're getting into. For instance, the wire size you need is completely dependent on the amperage you will be drawing from your panels which is dependent on the way they are wired and the voltage. The higher the voltage the smaller the wire. This leads to the question of how much capacity do you need etc. The place to start is to do an energy survey of your coach. Get a Kill-a-Watt to do this. The basement A/C is probably out, but again, how much do you want to spend. AMSolar is good, so is Northern Arizona Wind and Sun, they have lots of reading material you should probably avail yourself of.



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Old 09-29-2019, 06:40 AM   #4
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jmltech - thanks for the info.

arcaguy - thanks for the warning and the information. This is not a project I will be doing myself but before I look at getting bids I like to know what I'm looking at, what I need or want, and how it should be installed.

Thanks for helping me build up a reference file to check out each option.

Have a great day - Richard
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Old 09-29-2019, 06:56 AM   #5
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A small 300 to 400 watt system and 400 AmH battery bank can carry you for a few days, if you run your generator a couple of hours a day, especially when running the microwave. Forget about running an air conditioner and you’ll do just fine.

Driving will top up the batteries just fine, but when parked it will take some generator time.

Microwaves are a huge currant draw. We always start the generator to run the microwave. It can pull your charge down in a minute or two. Same for coffee makers, hair dryers and space heaters.

There is tons of info out there on this topic. Learn as much as you can now, then decide on how to proceed. Starting without a lot of research would be a mistake.
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Old 09-29-2019, 07:04 AM   #6
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Richard,

Start with adding a battery monitor like the Victron BMV-712

https://shop.pkys.com/Victron-Energy...y-Monitor.html

Then...use this monitor to measure your rigs loads...

You can then calculate the battery storage you will need.

Then the solar. The solar should be right sized to recharge the batteries.

Not knowing your actual aH usage...I would be speculating...which wouldn’t make for a very efficient final project for you.

I used AMSolar.com for 10/2 cable, rocker mounts, combiner box...

Welding cable, fuses, crimper, terminals, 3m primer, dicor, from Amazon.com

Victron MPPT Smart solar charge controller, BMV-712, BMV-712 temperature sensor, VE.direct cables, Venus GX from pkys.com

Start with a battery monitor...go camping the way you intend for it to be used and get a good energy survey. Calculate the storage requirements...ideally enough battery to get you 24 to 48 hrs of use without a charge. Then decide the solar needs to keep that bank charged up each day.
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Old 09-29-2019, 02:08 PM   #7
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Generally rule of thumb...for every AH of battery you need 1-1.5 Watt of solar. 400AH of batteries need 600W of non tilting panels or 4-500W of tilting panels. More panels is easier than tilting them.
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Old 09-29-2019, 04:22 PM   #8
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We don't boondock a lot but occasionally do.

Batteries charge when I drive the DP through the alternator. I usually run the generator

Excuse me, why solar? Solar is "one way" of charging your "off grid" aka "boondoocking" battery bank. You don't do this.

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Old 10-09-2019, 11:14 AM   #9
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Richard,

Start with adding a battery monitor like the Victron BMV-712

https://shop.pkys.com/Victron-Energy...y-Monitor.html

Then...use this monitor to measure your rigs loads...

You can then calculate the battery storage you will need.

Then the solar. The solar should be right sized to recharge the batteries.

Not knowing your actual aH usage...I would be speculating...which wouldn’t make for a very efficient final project for you.

I used AMSolar.com for 10/2 cable, rocker mounts, combiner box...

Welding cable, fuses, crimper, terminals, 3m primer, dicor, from Amazon.com

Victron MPPT Smart solar charge controller, BMV-712, BMV-712 temperature sensor, VE.direct cables, Venus GX from pkys.com

Start with a battery monitor...go camping the way you intend for it to be used and get a good energy survey. Calculate the storage requirements...ideally enough battery to get you 24 to 48 hrs of use without a charge. Then decide the solar needs to keep that bank charged up each day.
Hi C.Martin was wondering if the combiner box can be installed in a bay as opposed to on the roof? Think I remember you doing it that way? Protected from the elements, fewer holes on the roof if you have conduit (2) pre-wired from roof to solar charge controller and inverter/charger bay and you don't have to go on the roof

Can you get long enough wires running from the panels to the bay to do that?

Thanks
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:24 AM   #10
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I built your solar system with a big, orange Sun and 9-ish planets....


Oh, you mean a solar powered charging system? That's for mere mortals.


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Old 10-09-2019, 12:23 PM   #11
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To start you need to know What the Capacity of your batteries are and What the amp Draw of the 12v Fridge is and other appliances you will run from the bank. you do NOT want to just add another battery in, all batteries in a bank should be the same capacity and age as aging will reduce capacity and you will have either some undercharged or some overcharged batteries which could cause issues especially if the older ones are getting overcharged.




once you know your amp usage you can size a battery bank and from there the solar system, Deep Cycle batteries Drain faster Under Heavy loads a 100AH battery will discharge in less than 1 hr under a 100 amp Load. If possible Lithium batteries are ideal as they can take more charges and discharges than lead acid Based Batteries and do not often suffer Damage from Freezing although it will deplete the battery fully if they freeze, they will generally charge right back up and function again (Flooded, AGM, GEL are all lead acid Based!)


attached is a Basic Guide for Wire Gauges on a 12v System Make sure the Wire From the controller to the battery is appropriately gauged to the controllers MAXIMUM output and to be safe and decrease power loss you can always go one size bigger it wont hurt!




As For Solar array Size that will depend On your Battery bank and daytime Draw, you want to produce More power during the day than you use so you can Still charge the batteries while using power.



As For a series Connection raising the voltage is Great you dont need heavier wire Etc but there is a LIMIT, your charge controller will have a Maximum input Voltage going beyond that WILL damage it mine has a 150v Maximum Input Voltage.
Another Downside to Series is one panel becoming shaded will affect the entire array, it would be best to Use a Series/Parallel Setup where you wired the panels into banks in series then wired those banks in parallel to each other you will raise both the Voltage and amperage this way make sure you use appropriate wire for your setup and the banks should be Exact so if you have 8 panels you can make 4 banks of 2 panels or 2 banks of 4 panels. please Note that Different Panels and Different manufacturers of the Same Wattage panels Run at different Voltages and Amperages so 4 100w panels in series at 18V is a 72V system running about 5.6-5.8 amps however if its mixed models or manufactures some of those panels may be lower voltage higher amp or higher voltage lower amps and a 200 or a 320w Panel from the same manufacturer may Run at a completely different voltage often 24v or higher for 300+ watt panels and should not be wired together as it will loose system efficiency as it will run at the Lowest panels Output
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Old 10-09-2019, 03:15 PM   #12
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Hi C.Martin was wondering if the combiner box can be installed in a bay as opposed to on the roof? Think I remember you doing it that way? Protected from the elements, fewer holes on the roof if you have conduit (2) pre-wired from roof to solar charge controller and inverter/charger bay and you don't have to go on the roof

Can you get long enough wires running from the panels to the bay to do that?

Thanks
I have an AMSolar combiner box on the roof...the panels connect there...and the 6awg solar prep wires transport that to the bay.
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