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Old 11-06-2016, 08:32 AM   #1
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Gone solar

Had AM Solar put a 1,600W system (10 panels) on the roof.

First impressions:

  • Folks there rock. Cody and Roger are 100% professional and straight up
  • It was done on time and under budget, in spite of the fact they were short-handed
  • They didn't roll the rig out of the shop until almost 11am and it was moderate high overcast until about 13:30 when it hit 100% cloudy and stayed that way the rest of the day, but somewhere between those times it managed to generate 50% of rated capacity at some point. The Victron charge controller history showed max output of 795W!
  • I've got a residential fridge and it managed to keep up with it and take the batteries from 80% range to 98% charged before i hooked up for the night
  • No significant wind noise. I expected there to be some additional "whooshing" nose on the roof with all those square edged panels up there, but I couldn't detect any. I don't go over 65mph and generally only drive 55 to 60, so it's possible they make some noise at high speeds, but as far as I can tell no noise at normal speeds.
  • The only semi-oops: They only included one set of braces for tilting a single panel, but that's not as much help as it could be. They're wired series-parallel, 5 pairs of panels. If one panel in a pair is shaded or not tilted it will pull down the output from the panel it's paired with that is tilted.

    One of the reasons I got such a big array is that I'm hoping I never have to go up there to tilt them, so it probably doesn't matter but I bought a second pair of braces just in case. If I'm going to haul my fat ass up on the roof to twiddle, I want to get lotsa extra juice out of the deal!
Time will tell on the performance and reliability. I'm holed up here in Winchester Bay RV park for a week while getting over the flu and as luck would have it, I managed to murder my cell phone yesterday by going out to watch 20'+ breakers rolling in to Winchester Bay in the rain. It rained so hard I ended up with 1/2" of water inside my jacket pocket. I can't monitor the panels at the moment as I opted for the bluetooth monitor rather than the hard-wired one.



I'm very happy with the setup so far, and it was soooo nice not to have to worry about when the generator might need to kick in or if I need to run it before quiet hours start. I was also able to run the microwave and my teapot without running the generator. Yay!



Which reminds me, Cody helped solve the problem of why I couldn't heat water in my electric teapot or run the microwave unless the generator was running: Tiffin had configure the Magnum to stop inverting at a pretty high voltage. I can't remember for sure but I think it was at 12.8V, but LifeLine battery specs said they were good until a lower value...again can't remember for sure, there was a lot of information to absorb while he was showing me how it all works, but I think it was 12.2V or 12.4V.



Great experience, better than expected results, less cost than projected...I still gotta find something to bitch about: Hang a sign out front guys! I missed the turn into your place like 3 times! There, I feel much better now
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Old 11-06-2016, 09:47 AM   #2
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Have you a picture to share of the panels on the roof?

Your comment regarding the paired series / parallel is because of having just one set of tilt rods? I am sure they will send you the additional tilt rods.

Nice system!
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Old 11-06-2016, 07:32 PM   #3
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Glad to hear you are impressed with their work. I'll be there the Monday after turkey day for an install. I hope to have room for 650 watts.Problem is that I am a ham guy and I have a 23 foot antenna that lays down on the pax side so installing any panels there would be shaded by the antenna. We shall see.

Oh yes, I know about the hidden sign!
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Old 11-06-2016, 10:05 PM   #4
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How much was that system?
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Old 11-06-2016, 10:32 PM   #5
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What kind of batteries?
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Old 11-06-2016, 10:47 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by vsheetz View Post
Have you a picture to share of the panels on the roof?

Your comment regarding the paired series / parallel is because of having just one set of tilt rods? I am sure they will send you the additional tilt rods.

Nice system!
I bought the second set of bars before I left. That way with both panels raised, they'll both get about the same amount of sun.

Given that the cost of the bars is about 0.45% of the cost of the system, it's an insignificant cost. I'd have just thought "Dang, wish I had another set of these" if I ever needed to tilt them to get enough juice. In theory I shouldn't ever have to tilt them.

Fingers crossed, should get me by.
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Old 11-06-2016, 10:51 PM   #7
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What kind of batteries?
The factory 6 AGM battery option (LifeLine batteries)

They suggested I track my usage for a while, that way we can properly size a lithium battery setup. When the AGMs start to fade, I'll beat the last gasps out of my savings account and have them do the lithium. (hmm...that may have different connotations at an abnormal psych conference...or amongst big-bang cosmologists...)
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Old 11-06-2016, 11:05 PM   #8
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How much was that system?
Around $9K. Every RV and system is different though, so I wouldn't base expectations on that. It's scary how they have to route some of the wires so costs can vary widely even between systems with similar specs depending on hidden variables like whether they have to run wires up down around through between beyond and under.

I just emailed them and they worked up a good ballpark estimate based on what I was looking for, what RV they were putting it in and what equipment was in it.
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Old 11-06-2016, 11:18 PM   #9
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Glad to hear you are impressed with their work. I'll be there the Monday after turkey day for an install. I hope to have room for 650 watts.Problem is that I am a ham guy and I have a 23 foot antenna that lays down on the pax side so installing any panels there would be shaded by the antenna. We shall see.

Oh yes, I know about the hidden sign!
Yeah I had the advantage of no satellite antennas up there. I don't watch much TV so no Winegard or anything like that.

I do still need to mount my Wifi Ranger, but I got the "flat pack" version so it's pretty low profile. Hopefully no shading from it.

They could have fit 12 panels on the roof, but he said it would have made access to the front AC unit pretty tight. We figured that 1,400W would probably accomplish what I wanted, so 1,600W from 10 panels will almost certainly be enough. Almost 2KW would be maximum overkill, plus it's pushing the envelope and more likely to produce unwanted surprises during install. In full sun it would produce more power than the Victron controller can handle, so that extra power would be dumped. Add that to the increased odds of a tech accidentally damaging something while doing annual service on the AC units and I decided 10 panels would make things a tad less exciting in the future.
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Old 11-08-2016, 09:26 PM   #10
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What panels did they install? I'm wondering if the difference in price on the 100 watters is worth it.
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Old 11-08-2016, 09:33 PM   #11
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Do you know how much additional weight your coach is post-install? A four corner weighing would be very interesting to me with that many panels.
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Old 11-09-2016, 02:46 PM   #12
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Do you know how much additional weight your coach is post-install? A four corner weighing would be very interesting to me with that many panels.
No clue - I'm guessing the wires probably weigh more than the panels do, or at least as much.

I'm guessing if they lighten the load on the alternator, it's a wash, energy-wise.
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Old 11-09-2016, 02:48 PM   #13
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Not a good angle to see the panel layout, but I forgot to take pics from their viewing window inside the shop.

RV Solar Panel Installation - RV Solar Installation - RV Solar Power Installation
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Old 11-09-2016, 07:22 PM   #14
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How are the panels affixed to the fiberglass roof? Glued, taped, screwed, or other?
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