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Old 03-04-2014, 06:52 PM   #15
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That is obviously your problem, not anyone else's. Good luck in life with that persecution complex.
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Old 03-05-2014, 12:10 AM   #16
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DumOleBob - Handy Bob is a 'fun' read.

Don't let JackFish bug you. I've found his previous posts to sometimes be more then direct, easy to be read as being rude. Possibly his intent. I also find his input to be good. Like reading the two sites he first mentioned in this thread and then adding Jack's too.

If his intent was to be rude, following his lead - that's his problem! And, this site gas good moderators. If it is not intended as rude, great - hope he keeps sharing good input.

Very easy to misread the intent of a poster.

Hope the OP reads some of these sites, as I agree that the more you know, the easier it is to work with vendors on a system.

Best to all,
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Old 03-05-2014, 01:13 AM   #17
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Something not mentioned is not running batteries below 50% or you will kill the life of the batteries.
If you have two 125AH batteries you only have maximum 125AH available for use.
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Old 03-05-2014, 11:17 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DumOleBob View Post
Suggest you digest this info from Handy Bob! There is more confusion out there about rv solar and more people in business that don't ... Oh heck, just read what Bob sez b4 you do anything. Save yourself a lot of trouble!
HandyBob's Blog « Making off grid RV electrical systems work
X2 on the Handy Bob. Read it 2-3 times
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Old 03-05-2014, 09:29 PM   #19
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Hi there, thinking of getting a solar system. They say (dealers) because I have a residential Fridge to boondock I'll need solar.
My question, how much should I expect to pay for a good system (3panels 160W?) installed? (want it done right
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:57 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Hwyhermit View Post
Hi there, thinking of getting a solar system. They say (dealers) because I have a residential Fridge to boondock I'll need solar.
My question, how much should I expect to pay for a good system (3panels 160W?) installed? (want it done right
Good question!
3 panels at 160 watts each for 480 watts total?
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Old 03-06-2014, 12:25 PM   #21
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Hi there, thinking of getting a solar system. They say (dealers) because I have a residential Fridge to boondock I'll need solar.
My question, how much should I expect to pay for a good system (3panels 160W?) installed? (want it done right
Check BHA Solar, 480W (4x120) is about $1400 for Kit w/free shipping if you can do the install DIY style. I am going for the 400W kit, same price but higher grade controller + Trimetric Meter
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Old 03-06-2014, 02:04 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Hwyhermit View Post
Hi there, thinking of getting a solar system. They say (dealers) because I have a residential Fridge to boondock I'll need solar.
My question, how much should I expect to pay for a good system (3panels 160W?) installed? (want it done right

As this is in the Boondocking section, I assume you plan some off grid usage?

Have you done an energy audit, to determine what your average daily AH usage is? In general, do your audit, add some safety margin above this, and size your SP system to replenish that amount in a normal sun day.

For example, if you consume 100AH's on average per day/night. Then round up by say a 25% safety margin. And plan to replensih 125AH's per day. This way you can 'size you SP system' to be sure you hit at least this minimum amount.

I said minimum, as I agree with comments that Jack Mayer, and others, have made in the past. SP watts per hour has dropped so low, go ahead and add as much Solar Panel Watts as you can. The cost of the panels will be marginally higher then the minimum. But that way you can size the balance of the system wires and controller and possibly expanded AH of the battery bank itself, to use this higher SP Watts capability.

This will give you added odds of a full Solar charge, in days of clouds, patial shade of trees, low sun angle, etc. And finally, with extra capacity to SP's, you may will not need to 'tilt panels' to get full potential output from them.

(We averaged about 130-135AH day, but prior to full time usage where we may be locked in during rain storms, using more AH's then this. So for our system I:
-Used 150AH as our daily replenishment need
-Rounded this up with a safety cushion of 200AH per day
-Install X4's L16 Lifelines for 800AH bank
-Installed 1200 watts of high efficiency 48V Solar Panels
-Midnight Classic 150 controller
-Upgraded to PSW Magnum 2800 inverter, with associated Magnum modules, including their BMK Meter

No tilt needed, usually fully recharged batteries before 11:00-11:30AM.


But, this was for sure overkill, as I really wanted to have excess capacity for expected new toys in the RV. (I'm a HiFi buff, and plan to add a few Tube (Got Tubes?) components to our RV.)

It all comes down to what you feel you may need now and in the future. Go slow, and have fun! If like most of us, budget is an issue, plan components to have headroom for adding SP's if you don't do it all at once. (Larger gauge wires, larger capacity Controller, etc.) This way they'll support future growth.

Best of luck,
Smitty
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Old 03-14-2014, 09:56 AM   #23
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Smitty, I also have a Midnight Solar 150 classic controller and 1300 watts of solar on my new Ventana. Do you follow the Midnight Solar forums? Have you installed a WhizBang battery monitor or tried to use the Local App or the just emerging Android local App to monitor the Classic? I have the WhizBang installed but have not yet tried the local app.
Ted & Ruthy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty77 View Post
As this is in the Boondocking section, I assume you plan some off grid usage?

Have you done an energy audit, to determine what your average daily AH usage is? In general, do your audit, add some safety margin above this, and size your SP system to replenish that amount in a normal sun day.

For example, if you consume 100AH's on average per day/night. Then round up by say a 25% safety margin. And plan to replensih 125AH's per day. This way you can 'size you SP system' to be sure you hit at least this minimum amount.

I said minimum, as I agree with comments that Jack Mayer, and others, have made in the past. SP watts per hour has dropped so low, go ahead and add as much Solar Panel Watts as you can. The cost of the panels will be marginally higher then the minimum. But that way you can size the balance of the system wires and controller and possibly expanded AH of the battery bank itself, to use this higher SP Watts capability.

This will give you added odds of a full Solar charge, in days of clouds, patial shade of trees, low sun angle, etc. And finally, with extra capacity to SP's, you may will not need to 'tilt panels' to get full potential output from them.

(We averaged about 130-135AH day, but prior to full time usage where we may be locked in during rain storms, using more AH's then this. So for our system I:
-Used 150AH as our daily replenishment need
-Rounded this up with a safety cushion of 200AH per day
-Install X4's L16 Lifelines for 800AH bank
-Installed 1200 watts of high efficiency 48V Solar Panels
-Midnight Classic 150 controller
-Upgraded to PSW Magnum 2800 inverter, with associated Magnum modules, including their BMK Meter

No tilt needed, usually fully recharged batteries before 11:00-11:30AM.


But, this was for sure overkill, as I really wanted to have excess capacity for expected new toys in the RV. (I'm a HiFi buff, and plan to add a few Tube (Got Tubes?) components to our RV.)

It all comes down to what you feel you may need now and in the future. Go slow, and have fun! If like most of us, budget is an issue, plan components to have headroom for adding SP's if you don't do it all at once. (Larger gauge wires, larger capacity Controller, etc.) This way they'll support future growth.

Best of luck,
Smitty
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Old 03-18-2014, 12:35 AM   #24
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Good thread on the subject going here: New Solar Panels

I have a lot of interest because we prefer off grid camping. I had a lot of questions and have done a lot of research. It's fascinating. Handy Bob is a good read, other links are too. There's good info out there based on what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend. DIY is definitely more economical.

My big query currently is whether to risk a system with new-fangled chinese electronics or spend the extra $$ for the tried and true components. And whether there's enough advantage for mppt controller for a low-voltage system to warrant the added cost. BTW, handy-Bob doesn't think so. LOL.

Anyway, I was doing some measuring on my roof and 12 volt panels will fit a LOT easier than the large high voltage ones would.

Solar power is a maturing technology and industry and there are lots of bargains to be had if you know what you're dealing with.

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Old 03-18-2014, 07:10 AM   #25
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Chris... I had read everything that is currently posted on this thread in the past as I was hunting ideas as to which solar direction to go....VSHEETS offered a copy of his proven system. I looked it over...saw that everything was very solid and well founded. I bought almost every item verbatim that he listed. It installed easily. I now have a growing and rock solid solar system on my old coach that will last my lifetime. You can do as I ...build the system in stages. I improved battery first....then wiring.... then monitoring.... then charging.... then and finally solar panels. Took me a year of mini projects....but I did not have to beat my wallet to death. Waited and hunted sales...got decent pricing and I am still not finished. Am currently working on the inverter systems....slowly and surely...I will get all main systems on battery.
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:31 AM   #26
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Vince has a good and basic setup for his needs. I suspect it's considerable overkill for what I need, so as I pick components there are alternatives. And that's what I'm trying to figure out.

For example, I'm sure 400watts of panels would be more than sufficient, possibly even 300. So that could be 100watt panels, or now there are larger wattage panels in the same size, all the way to 150watts. So my array could be 3x130, 2x150, 2x100 and later add one, or use a HV mppt controller and on 235w commercial size panel - I have room on the back of the coach, but probably only room for one. So then adding would a problem as 12v panels would not be compatible.

Morningstar controllers are highly rated, but I sure don't need a 60amp. My whole 12v electrical system is on a 50a breaker, 30a for 110. So something smaller will be fine for the 3-400 watts of PV I need. Should that be pwm for 12v, or mppv for 12 or 24 or 48v panels?

We've been dry camping for 10 years now with two GC batts without issue. We don't need a whole house inverter - we have a couple of portables and a 300w built in for the entertainment system.

He explains well what kind of controller, so I'm thinking that pwm for 12v PV's will be fine, there are several Morningstar controllers that would work, or a BlueSky with the built in control panel that is flush-mount - I have space to do that.

I also don't need 4g wire for 3-400 watts of panels, I have a 8' run and 8g or 10g is probably fine.

So I'm shopping for high-watt kyocera or sharp panels of 130-150 watt. Should probly get panels and then pick a controller that would work - I'm thinking a 20-25 amp is sufficient. If I pick up a couple of panels I want to be able to add to them in case I find I do need more.

IMO the needs are different for a 31' coach without a big inverter than a larger coach with a lot of electrical load. We don't run sewing machines or stereos, or any big power appliances, no need to run the microwave. And if we did it's not a problem to fire up the generator which we would have to do for AC anyway. Being in southern CA the need for AC is common for at least a few months of the year so it would charge batteries as well.

I know once a guy gets a system that matches their needs it all seems simple. As a noob I find the hard part is picking out equipment that will be compatible and will perform to what our requirements are.

All good info. I appreciate all the good advice. There's no way I would drop a few grand to an installer for a few hundred watts of PV. Most of them seem to be way weighted with profit to the installer.
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Old 03-18-2014, 02:23 PM   #27
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Chris: I did not spend more than $1200 thus far on everything including new batteries. I went with a lighter controller... that 45 amp controller is what I use. I started last year with two panels and two batteries....and expanded as I saw my expectations were met and grew to 5 panels and 4 batteries. But the gift I took away from Vince was...how to build a system that can grow. I wired a bit differently... but it was all in the design. Vince has a solid excellently documented project that is very flexible to change. The battery monitor that he used is wonderful. $50 for the part and a weekend of fitting it into a location where it can be seen often. But like you said...you will make something that you find useful.

PS ... I do not have a sewing machine in my rig either...YET! But the coffee maker, microwave and other things like a vacuum cleaner can really put batteries to the test. I even run a power tool or two off the batteries and a compressor if needed. Yhep things grow
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Old 03-21-2014, 09:25 AM   #28
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Bob is always a good read. I enjoy his writing style. We agree on most things, we just approach the end result from different directions. When I did installs I focused mainly on higher end systems, while Bob focused on the lower end systems. These days things have progressed enough that we have both kinda settled on the mid-higher end systems. We share the same view of the state of the RV solar industry - it is VERY hard to find a good installer and accurate information.

To address some of the comments and questions:

If you are installing nominal 12-volt panels do not bother with an MPPT controller (Vmp less than 19 volts). You are wasting your money. If you want to use the less expensive (and larger wattage) grid-tie panels then you must use MPPT. If you have the roof space use the high voltage panels in the 250+ watt category. They generally cost less.

Be very careful about "just" meeting your current needs. Because unless you simply have no roof space almost everyone increases their solar wattage over time. So my advice is to spend a "little" bit more up front for a controller and wiring that will handle additional panels.

You NEED a monitor - I like the Trimetric and so does Bob. It is easy to read, relatively inexpensive and fairly accurate.

If you wire your panels in series/parallel make sure that you have no shadows on the series panels...it will kill the entire string output. This is a big disadvantage of series wiring.

Now to start the controversy: In the past it was drummed into people to never mount a panel where it is shadowed. And this is still what you should do until you run out of unshaded space. BUT, with the price of panels under $1/watt once you use all of the unshaded space consider mounting some additional panels where they DO GET SHADED. But only if there is significant time that they are unshaded and can contribute to your power collection. So....it is not a "blanket" rule that you have to have unshaded panels ONLY.

It has also been a rule of thumb to balance panels capacity with battery capacity. So a 400 Ah battery bank would have "around" 400 watts of panels. Now, I say "go for it"...just add as many panels as you can fit, or want. (still using somewhat reasonable judgement, of course) They are relatively cheap compared to the rest of a mid-higher end system.
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