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Old 12-02-2018, 11:50 AM   #1
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Looking at going green

I have a Tiffin 2003 Allegro Bus. I have 2-12v battery and 4-6v battery in my bin. I have a Magnum ME series Modified Sine Wave inverter/chargers. Can I use this equipment for solar and if so what would I need to complete. My DW and I would like to try boondocking. At this time we are just starting our full timing adventure and would like to do boondocking. Just need help getting set-up. Any help from the pro's will hwlp. Thanks
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Old 12-02-2018, 01:15 PM   #2
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An Allegro has plenty of topside real estate for solar panels and a lot of compartment space for batteries.

A problem will be ground clearance with a Tffin Allegro. This should be considered in National Forest, BLM, etc campgrounds. Always check with the Forest Service or BLM regional HQ for information.

If planning on dispersed camping, then recon route to proposed camp site with your Towed vehicle. We do this with our pickup tow vehicle before we drive in with 34’ fifth wheel. Have to make sure that one does not get high-sided and has sufficient swing room.

I have badly read the GPS twice. Fortunately, Elaine is very good at backing up:

A mile once in Baja and the second in San Miguel de Allende remains to painful for me to relate (But Elaine will do such gleefully)Reed
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Old 12-02-2018, 01:25 PM   #3
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I boondocked for 10 years without any solar...run the generator a couple hours/day to charge the batteries when not needing AC. Since you are FT adding solar to decrease the amount you have to run the generator might actually make economic sense if you are a DIYer. If you hire the solar done your payback becomes many many years. I would wait until you are sure you’ll keep your new rig...Yes that is ASSUMING a lot of things on my part based on your posts that I read.
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Old 12-02-2018, 03:03 PM   #4
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Two 300 watt panels, about $600, solar charge controller about $200, cables & fuses about $100 and you are in business, IF you install yourself. You can get along with one panel if not a heavy user. And you don’t know that until you boondock. You can always add another panel if of components are sized for two panels.
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Old 12-02-2018, 03:28 PM   #5
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There are two things I would get besides the solar panels and charge controller.
1. I'd replace the inverter with a 2000w to 3000w (maybe 2800w) PURE Sine Wave inverter. Your coach and inverter are 13 years old. Inverter tech, and all the things your inverter will supply power to have advanced and will require a PSW inverter.

2. With your new inverter get a Battery Monitor Kit. It can be built into the inverter "remote" display (with the addition of a shunt) or it can be stand alone. But it's vital to know the true condition of your battery bank, to know how much power each item is using and to know what power you're bringing in via solar and or generator.
There are lots of ways to go here. But lets say you buy a Magnum 2000w inverter/charger with a ME-ARC50 Remote display. For a $150 you can add the BMK and for another couple hundred a Auto Gen Start kit and all three will work together to keep your battery bank in tip top shape.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:09 PM   #6
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Harry nailed it. In addition, you need to know things such as lead-acid batteries needing to get back to full charge as often as possible for long life (and not be taken below about 50% any more often than necessary). These are things you likely never had to think about when camping with hookups. The keys are the bulk charge stage (high constant current to get to about 85% charge) and the absorption stage (several hours to get from 85% to 100%). Solar can do both if sufficient. A generator can only do the bulk stage unless you are willing to listen and smell it for hours on end with it putting out just a few amps through the absorption stage.

A compromise is running the generator to help the solar get through the bulk stage each morning, then letting the solar take you through the absorption stage. In inclement weather you will run the generator more, in sunny conditions likely not at all.

I've never heard of having too much solar, so I'd go with two panels right off the bat. It will be easier to put both in at the same time and you WILL use them!!

I'd arrange the panels so that a third could be added. 900W is a nice system for frequent boondockers. Be sure the charge controller can handle a third panel (it's voltage capability is sufficient). Heck, even if you start with one 300W, you might want to allow for expansion to three!

I started with 2x100W then added two more then two more again. I ended up with two banks of three panels each on its own controller (linked below). The two strings are on opposite sides of the roof so more often than not at least one will have full sun. This also gives me two independent systems for reliability. I could have upgraded the controller and linked all six panels, but I already had one 30A controller so it was cheap to just add a second one and get the redundancy. I don't particularly recommend this controller. It's plug-n-play with lead acid but the custom settings which are needed for LFP are difficult to decipher. In the end I'm happy with it, but I recommend it for lead-acid only.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

If, down the road, you become an avid boondocker/dry camper, and your lead-acid batteries get tired (they won't last as long under boondocking duty) you may find yourself looking into an LFP battery. You might want to plan for this possibility with a controller that has a mode for LFP.


BTW, I get along fine with a 900W inverter. I run espresso maker, microwave, toaster, office computer, etc. on it just fine. The trick is an inverter microwave ($110) that will work with as little as 600W input. The espresso maker overloads the inverter but is done before the inverter trips. The toaster pushes the inverter to it's limit but is fine.


An issue with a higher powered inverter is that it may shut down when the batteries are down around 50% where voltage can drop under 12V under heavy load. Your batteries have to be up to the task and will be less capable as they age.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:39 PM   #7
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Solar config really depends on what your needs are. Do you have a residential refrigerator? If so you will likely consume 90 - 100 Ah’s per day just to power that item. Then the rest of your daily living requirements on top of that. We have an rv fridge, 200Ah LFP, 650 watts solar on the roof + 200 watts portable if needed. On that we live pretty comfortably, watch tv every night (sometimes two tv’s on football nights ��) and rarely use the generator.
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Old 12-02-2018, 06:13 PM   #8
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The above replies have covered the most of RV solar. For a newbie, you might want to get to the bottom and gain knowledge about how solar works as a whole and on RV in particular.

In 2012 I read Handy Bob's blog, though some of his concepts were questionable his writing had a good value. I recommend you read it, then come back and read these answers. His blog is at here.
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Old 12-03-2018, 10:11 AM   #9
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We have 500 watts of solar, four GC batteries, 1500 watt MSW inverter/chatger and a residential 10.7 cf refrigerator. Yes the refer uses about 100 ah per nite, other stuff another 35 ah, so have another 65 ah to use.. on good sunny days the batteries will be back to 100% by 11:00 am next day. Even on cloudy days they will be back by 3:00 pm or so.
Happy so far.
Not all refers will work on MSW inverters, Whirpool is one of them. TV and sat dish seem to be fine, computer & phone charging ok also.

I agree battery monitor is essential if you want to be on top of things, about $150 for a Vitron, will do, you can spend more.

All depends on how you will use it. We spent about $1700 on our system but first panel & controller was professionally installed. I added the second panel & battery monitor when I installed the Whirlpool refer. I
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Old 12-05-2018, 12:07 PM   #10
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Your current setup will allow some boondocking.

As noted above, it is likely that you will eventually want to switch to a pure sine wave inverter.

If it were me - at that time, I would slightly rewire to make the system battery packs mostly 24 volt vs 12 volt setup and buy a matching inverter at the same time. No doubt others will disagree but I help people do this all of the time with good results.

There are some significant benefits to moving up to 24 volts, such as doubling the effective capability of solar charge controllers (2x as many panels for the same controller), more efficient inverter, etc.

You can still keep the 12 volt internal coach distribution items the same.

It makes sense to "consider" this change at the same time that you are purchasing a new inverter, as that is one of the larger cost effects.
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Old 12-05-2018, 06:48 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by creativepart View Post
There are lots of ways to go here. But lets say you buy a Magnum 2000w inverter/charger with a ME-ARC50 Remote display. For $150 you can add the BMK and for another couple hundred a Auto Gen Start kit and all three will work together to keep your battery bank in tip top shape.

I would add it's not about solar it's all about batteries. You have no solar at nite. Focus on energy storage/usage not how to replenish. No matter how you recharge your batteries you need to know usage. A quality inverter/charger (like the Magnum MS series) with proper metering (ME-ARC with BMK) as stated above will let you learn usage. Go AGM for batteries as they can accept higher current charging so less generator run time.

My current off-grid RV has an MS2012 and 200 amp hours AGM batteries. I run my generator (on propane) about 50 minutes a day to charge my batteries. Recently did a 5 day trip with Microwave usage and never drained a 20# bottle Including multiple showers.


- Jeff
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Old 12-05-2018, 06:57 PM   #12
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Solar is just another battery charger. If you have a generator to charge the batteries you do not need solar to do dry camping. Solar will allow the reduction of generator run time.

If you want solar the basic components are solar panels, solor controller (a battery charger), wiring, and circuit breakers/disconnect switches. Depending on how many panels and how wired you may also need a combiner box to interconnect the solar panels.
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Old 12-07-2018, 11:44 AM   #13
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My current off-grid RV has an MS2012 and 200 amp hours AGM batteries. I run my generator (on propane) about 50 minutes a day to charge my batteries. Recently did a 5 day trip with Microwave usage and never drained a 20# bottle Including multiple showers.

- Jeff
Jeff, A bit more information, please. Is 200AH the total capacity of your AGMs or is 200AH the 50% that is usable (if you subscribe to that practice)?

Also, how many AH do you typically use in a day? More succinctly, does 50 minutes of charging get the AGMs back to 100% each day?

Thanks
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Old 12-07-2018, 12:00 PM   #14
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Jeff, A bit more information, please. Is 200AH the total capacity of your AGMs or is 200AH the 50% that is usable (if you subscribe to that practice)?

Also, how many AH do you typically use in a day? More succinctly, does 50 minutes of charging get the AGMs back to 100% each day?

Thanks
200 AH total capacity so 100 usable. Ran the furnace first night and batts were at 89% in the morning. That generator run was around 1.5 hours.

Did all cooking on Weber gas grill re-plumbed to use RV quick connect propane and the gas stove with the exception of a few short microwave runs and a few cups of coffee with the Keurig. Batteries around 95% each day so waited till 9am to run generator. Charged to 100% each day.


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