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Old 09-26-2010, 04:05 PM   #29
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Money is the limiting factor in a solar set up.......the most bang for the buck would be a Moringstar Tri Star TS45 at about $137.00 charge controller.....It is programmable and works great......If you have a long wire run from your panels to your charge controller I would consider using #4 welding cable as it is quite flexible and big enough to cover the current drop over a long run of wire.....I used a simple fuse box from Home Depot that was on sale for $12.50 and is meant for a large a/c unit on a house.....It had two fuse holders inside and I used one side for the solar panels and the other side for the charge controller......the charge controller should be as close as possible to the batteries ....just not in the same box or compartment......hope some of this helps.....
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Old 09-26-2010, 09:47 PM   #30
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I have tons of wire laying about, and my deep cycles are all wired together with the aforementioned 4 ga welding cable I had from an old welder. The panels come with about 3 feet of 10 guage wire and mc4 connectors.

I used 6 guage jumper cable wire to keep my 25 ft run under 5% voltage loss, since I started with a lower voltage panel to maximize my amps. You can cut the connectors off and splice, or buy two more from Sun Elec. and mate them together.

Do keep in mind, that your wiring gauge depends alot on how many amps your sending thru. If you have a small 45 watt, 3 amp system you can probably get away with 10 gauge without much loss. Consult a wiring chart that tells you what the allowable gauges are for the voltage drop from your panel's max that you are willing to tolerate. Measure the max voltage based on the panel's max power output, NOT the open circuit voltage which is typically several volts higher.

As for a mounting, EVERYTHING I put on my RV is custom and cheap. As an example, my $25 craigslist Thune storage box went on my roof mounted to an old aluminum sliding glass door frame which was bolted thru the roof. The point is, as long as you have basic tools skills, don't hesitate to fashion what you need to make something work. It's part of what makes RVing fun.

My solar panel goes on the roof on my lil 21ft Toyota class C, over the driver section/bunk. I made a lil box from 2x4s for it to slide into and out of easily (remember, I use mine on the ground so I can park in the shade). On top of the box goes my spare tire from the back. I had to move as much weight as I could from rear to front, since I have a 400lb motorcycle hanging 5 feet off the back of a 4 cyl pickup chassis!

There's really not alot of magic when it comes to fastening things to your RV. The only tip I can offer for putting any holes in your roof....use way more 100% silicon than you'll think you'll need around the hole...then double that! I use the GE SiliconII from HD for all my sealing. Do NOT use generic latex caulking. It will leak.

On the other hand, if you have zero handyman skills or tools, best to stick to a professional install and just eat the cost. Just make sure they put in the wiring gauge you determine to be optimum, as many installers use the smallest wire based on safe ampacity, NOT the least voltage drop.
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Old 09-30-2010, 03:01 PM   #31
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Money is the limiting factor in a solar set up.......the most bang for the buck would be a Moringstar Tri Star TS45 at about $137.00 charge controller.....It is programmable and works great......If you have a long wire run from your panels to your charge controller I would consider using #4 welding cable as it is quite flexible and big enough to cover the current drop over a long run of wire.....I used a simple fuse box from Home Depot that was on sale for $12.50 and is meant for a large a/c unit on a house.....It had two fuse holders inside and I used one side for the solar panels and the other side for the charge controller......the charge controller should be as close as possible to the batteries ....just not in the same box or compartment......hope some of this helps.....
Okay I've made the initial splurge on the battery meter (trimetric 2020 per Bob) and the Tristar-45 charge controller with battery sensor.

I'm also going to order the welding cable and have a question. If I run 2-3 panels...how are these connected? Does each panel have a cable run directly to the fuse box or are the cable combined prior to the box? Should I get the double or single cable?

Sorry for the basic questions, but I want to ensure I don't burn anything up during the install.
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Old 10-01-2010, 09:44 AM   #32
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My solar panels are fairly close together on the roof.......I used #10 wire from the solar panels to a junction box and the #4 welding cable from the box to the solar charge controller......you can see pictures and exactly what I ........http://home.earthlink.net/~wbrown02/...re22/id16.html did at my solar page listed above.......I used a "Pelican" brand plastic box that is meant for small firearms as the junction box and bought terminals to fit inside on the Internet.......
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Old 10-01-2010, 11:09 AM   #33
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My solar panels are fairly close together on the roof.......I used #10 wire from the solar panels to a junction box and the #4 welding cable from the box to the solar charge controller......you can see pictures and exactly what I ........The Truth About Solar Power for Your RV did at my solar page listed above.......I used a "Pelican" brand plastic box that is meant for small firearms as the junction box and bought terminals to fit inside on the Internet.......
Wow...thanks Wildbill this is just what the doctor ordered! When searching for welding cable I found some that had 1 wire and another that had two 2 (positive and negative). Do we run 1 or 2 wires from the roof to the controller? My thought is that we could buy the double wire welding cable (runs together) instead of running 2 separate cables.
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Old 10-01-2010, 07:09 PM   #34
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Wow...thanks Wildbill this is just what the doctor ordered! When searching for welding cable I found some that had 1 wire and another that had two 2 (positive and negative). Do we run 1 or 2 wires from the roof to the controller? My thought is that we could buy the double wire welding cable (runs together) instead of running 2 separate cables.

I'm thinking cost-wise, it would be cheaper to hook the panels up in parallel using the wire it came with, then a single run of wire to the controller. As for the size of the wire, you simply add up your max amps from the panels, then decide the voltage drop you are willing to accept (Mine is always 5% or less). Then use a voltage drop chart that will tell you the size of the wire you will need based upon the total length of the run to the batteries.

Also, if your run is say, 12 feet to the controller, 4 gauge is kinda overkill based on the wattage you were aiming for. You'll be pulling about 20 amps. You could run 8 guage wire that far with only 2.5% voltage drop. You could run 6ga 20 feet with the same drop. Both of these you can get as jumper cables much cheaper.

Now if money and weight is no object, buy all means get welding cables. Make sure you put some kind of wrap around them though, as they don't stand up to UV well, and will start soon cracking and splitting. Mine did.

Also, if you get the smaller ga wire, twist them together to reduce the RF. Until I did this, my AM radio went bezerk as the run was right next to the antenna lead!

Here is a cool little calculator you can use. Scroll down the page. I use it all the time to figure my wire runs,,,

American Wire Gauge table and AWG Electrical Current Load Limits with skin depth frequencies
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:54 PM   #35
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You could run 6ga 20 feet with the same drop. Both of these you can get as jumper cables much cheaper.


American Wire Gauge table and AWG Electrical Current Load Limits with skin depth frequencies
Thanks for the great tip.

Okay so now we're waiting for all the parts to come in. Got a pair of 200 watt Evergreen panels from Sunelectric at a great price (less than $1000 with shippping). Also decided to go with flat mounts and I will get the breaker box and combiner box from Lowes/Home Depot.

Love the idea of using jumper cable wiring for the cables....man you guys (and this forum) are awesome.
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:37 PM   #36
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Thanks for the great tip.

Okay so now we're waiting for all the parts to come in. Got a pair of 200 watt Evergreen panels from Sunelectric at a great price (less than $1000 with shippping). Also decided to go with flat mounts and I will get the breaker box and combiner box from Lowes/Home Depot.

Love the idea of using jumper cable wiring for the cables....man you guys (and this forum) are awesome.
Just a tip from a guy with a similar panel...if you are going to be doing any extended boondocking, find a way to tilt your panel to roughly match the sun's angle for the latitude you will be staying at. Also, try to re-position your vehicle a few times throughout the day so it follows the sun. You will more than double your daily out-put.

The reason I went with a portable system was just for that reason, and so I could adjust the position throughout the day on the ground. I move my panel about 4 times a day and get 'almost' the full output from sunrise to sunset.

Assuming you are roof top mounting them, aim them (when angled up) towards the rear or front of your coach, so that the sun doesn't bake the sides...the largest heat collecting surface area. One exception might be, the awning side which would be heavily shaded. Just think ahead about how you will be positioned where you camp before you bolt anything down.

One friend of mine was only getting about 30% of his panel's daily output until we re-thought his system and repositioned everything. He had a flat system too, but I made two vent holes in the roof they he could reach through, push up and/or lock down the panels. when it rained, the panels came down over the vent hole with the enclosure we fashioned. He never has to go up on the roof and it is watertight.

If you are as dependent on alt energy as I am, every watt has to count. Conservation + maximized Production makes a very happy, energy-independent camper...
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Old 10-02-2010, 07:34 PM   #37
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Okay...got the panels on the way as well as the controller and battery meter. I also picked up a fuse box from Home Depot to all me to fuse the system as well as turn it on and off when needed.

For the combiner/junction box on the roof I saw a combiner box on the the AM solar website that has connection points within it to help secure everything together.

The question I have is how did you connect the panel wires to your jumper cable going to the controller?

PS. After talking with my RV guy...he suggested going through the rear cap of the coach rather than down the refrigerator vent. He indicated that it might be quicker (and less wire) to do this. In addition this would place the jumper cable wires right next to the compartment the controller will be mounted in.
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Old 10-02-2010, 09:46 PM   #38
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Okay...got the panels on the way as well as the controller and battery meter. I also picked up a fuse box from Home Depot to all me to fuse the system as well as turn it on and off when needed.

For the combiner/junction box on the roof I saw a combiner box on the the AM solar website that has connection points within it to help secure everything together.

The question I have is how did you connect the panel wires to your jumper cable going to the controller?

PS. After talking with my RV guy...he suggested going through the rear cap of the coach rather than down the refrigerator vent. He indicated that it might be quicker (and less wire) to do this. In addition this would place the jumper cable wires right next to the compartment the controller will be mounted in.

What exactly do you mean by the "rear cap"? As long as it's an existing hole in the roof, like a vent, it sounds fine. Anything that reduces wire length is good.

But if it's drilling through the roof structure, I'd rather run a foot or two of extra wire. Hard to say without seeing your setup.

Just make sure you seal the BeJesus out of everything with GE Silicon II flexible silicon or the sealant recommended for your roof type. As for joining, I'd probably just splice them together, but again, make sure you have plenty of weather proofing sealant around the spice. Try to keep it under the panel where the sun won;t ravage it with UV. And as I stated before, make accommodation for enclosing the jumper cables in some kind of UV tolerant sheath. The sun can destroy most other plastics within a few months.

So far though, sounds like you're on the right track. Can't wait to see final pics...
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Old 10-03-2010, 03:16 PM   #39
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It takes two wires from each panel to the junction box and two wires from the junction box to the charge controller........I purchased a plastic wire cover that is meant to cover where the wires enter the roof from Camping World and used Dicor sealant generously........I also placed the wires inside a slip on plastic cover to protect them from the sun.....Welding cable is very flexible even in large diameters....I like it better than anything I have ever used. My wire run is almost 30 feet from the junction box th the charge controller......
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Old 10-03-2010, 04:26 PM   #40
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Handy Bob provide a great photo of how to make a combiner box. After looking at it for a while I went to Home Depot and bought a 4 X 4 X 2 waterproof junction box and 2 grounding bars. In addition I picked up two ground lugs which fit into the bars.

This will allow me to split the incoming panel wires into positive and negative and drop them through the bottom of the junction box. The cool thing is I used JB Weld (works on thermoplastic) to attach the grounding bars to the junction box so there are no additional holes.

Also ordered a 25 ft #6 set of jumper cables for the primary wiring. Since this wire is primarily within the coach I don't need to worry about the UV impact. Also odered 15ft MC-4 extension wires from the panel because the Evergreen warranty indicates that if the cables coming from the panel are altered the warranty will be void. These wires are #10 (UV resistant too) and will run to the combiner box. We're going to drop the jumper cable wire down through the back of the coach (it's a diesel pusher) since that section is easy to access and is close to the compartment where the controller will be mounted.

Question for the experts....the wires coming out of the controller go where? I know they go to the batteries; however with 4--6 volt batteries I am curious where the wires are attached on the 4 batteries.

It's slowly coming together and as the sytem is put together I'll be sure to take some photos.
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Old 10-03-2010, 05:19 PM   #41
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I don't have solar power but in what I've been able to learn is that the higher wattage panels with the higher voltages are more expensive but they are the ones that ensure that the power generated will reach the batteries.
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Old 10-04-2010, 01:32 AM   #42
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#6 wire is too small for 400 watts. Use a #4 wire. Even better use a #2 wire. Too small of a wire will not transmit the power to the controler and batteries.

Reread Solar Bob's web site.

DO NOT SKIMP ON THE WIRE SIZE !
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