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Old 05-07-2022, 08:17 PM   #1
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I know nothing...about solar. Need help

Hi all,

Well, I ended up buying the 2019 Mountain Series 27 BHS and passing on the new 2022 Titanium 28 BKS we have on order. The ordered unit was all set up for solar with 510w on the roof and 4 6v AGMS. The one we end up with has a tiny little panel on the roof (maybe 8x12 inches) which i am assuming is a battery tender? it also has a hook up on the roof that says 500W max or something like that.

So, thoughts on setting this 2019 27 BHS up with a solar panels and all the necessary gear to make it work. ideally, I'd like to stay in the $3,000 range.

Here is the link to the TT we bought. https://www.vancouverrv.com/product/...bhs-1834280-29

We paid $37k for it as I know everyone will ask. Not a great deal, but not a bad deal either. I am good with the price. As you can see from the pics, it's in pretty solid condition.

Any thoughts would be great. Also thoughts on what else I need are greatly appreciated.
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Old 05-07-2022, 10:48 PM   #2
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Lots of things we need to know, and while the basics are the same, there are a lot of opinions, too.

Is there existing wiring, like the roof mounted Zamp junction box? Did you get 4 batteries? What kind of camping do you do, and where?

My system is 4 - 6 volt batteries, 4 - 100 watt Renogy panels. I have them wired in 2 pair of panels in series with inline fuses into the Zamp box. I do that to keep the amps into the pre-existing wire lower. The voltage is higher, but that isn't usually a problem. I have that going into a Victron 100/30 charge controller with an inline fuse on the positive to the batteries. I also have a Victron Smart shunt.

I have taken one trip, for two weeks, and didn't run my generator to charge the batteries. I was plugged in for a couple of days in the middle, but that system charged me to 100% every day in Arizona and Nevada. I don't know how it will work in Washington, I suspect it will be fine in the summer.

On the other hand, I will probably add another pair of panels to the roof. I halfway think I wish I had used bigger panels, but I don't think I would be comfortable doing that either the pre-existing wire. I have read that people have had success using the existing wiring to pull in larger diameter wire, but my confidence was low.
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Old 05-07-2022, 11:21 PM   #3
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NOT sponsored by Renogy----but they had good prices when I was putting together a two panel suitcase set up.
I have 4 -6volt batteries but the portable 200 watts don't seem up to the task of keeping them charged.
Figure what type of outings you might do, whether RV parks, weekends, or boondocking and figure what you might need from there.
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Old 05-08-2022, 05:27 AM   #4
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I am going to take a different approach here, and list out what you could probably get for $3,000 from Amazon and a DIY install. Note I am ignoring the factory supplied connector cable to the roof, as we do not know its actual size, as wire size has nothing to do with watts, and if it is rated in watts, that is most likely at 12VDC, which would not apply if you are using a higher voltage panel and an MPPT solar controller. I am also listing using Lithium batteries, since this is a fairly new RV I am suspecting you plan to keep it for a while, we have reached the point that LiFePo4 Lithium batteries are on price parity with lead acid batteries when you average cost over their longer life span. Then you also get the ton of advantages of lithium, lighter, faster charging, less voltage drop, etc.


Now to try to spend $3,000:


$1,400 for 2 200AH Weize brand LiFePo4 batteries off ebay (good independent reviews online for a cheaper imported battery model, some are real junk in this price range) https://www.amazon.com/LiFePO4-Lithi...dp/B09LXMW3YR/ (you could probably get away with 1 but I am trying to get to that $3,000 price tag.


$1062 Renogy 600 watt premium solar kit with MPPT controller https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Solar-...dp/B08BYBWST9/


$250 100 amp Lithium charge profile enabled converter https://powermaxconverters.com/produ...ithium-series/ (not currently listed on amazon)


This still leaves you a couple of hundred dollars to spend on battery cables, etc. though I did not account for tax.
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Old 05-08-2022, 08:08 AM   #5
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Here's my thoughts. Get a shunt meter and stick it on your battery ($44 on Amazon) and then you can see what's up.

First step is to determine your needs, which is based on lifestyle. We came from the tent/back packing world so our needs are light. Camp style: If you're in a site with power, solar is mute. Without power, solar needs sunshine (somewhat lacking up here in PNW), compounded by all the trees around here. I have 300W on the roof and 2-100W panels that I can move around to find a patch of sun.

Looks like a propane refrigerator so it won't suck the battery hardly at all. The furnace will be the power user.

On the 120VAC side of things, you probably need an inverter. Small 600W is good for laptop charging needs.

The adventure begins.
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Old 05-08-2022, 08:08 AM   #6
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While I understand the approach, I don't think you need to start off changing the batteries, if you have 4 batteries already. If you are short of capacity, and have batteries that are 3 or 4 years old, then it makes sense.

However, when my new batteries are done, I will switch to lithium ion. I suspect in 4 years or so, it will make even more economic sense. My 4 - 6 volt batteries are worth about $800 at current prices, and only have half the regularly useful capacity of lithium batteries. But lithium batteries can't be charged at freezing temps, if you use them in the winter. So they either need to be inside your coach or self heated batteries, if that's a consideration.

Portables have advantages, but having to set them up every time you need them, and considering the possible need to take them down fro security, isn't for everyone.

You may not need to change the converter, mine came with the ability to change to a lithium charging profile, it will depend on what they used on your model. Most manufacturers used less expensive converters.
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Old 05-08-2022, 09:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeatCJ View Post
Lots of things we need to know, and while the basics are the same, there are a lot of opinions, too.

Is there existing wiring, like the roof mounted Zamp junction box? Did you get 4 batteries? What kind of camping do you do, and where?

My system is 4 - 6 volt batteries, 4 - 100 watt Renogy panels. I have them wired in 2 pair of panels in series with inline fuses into the Zamp box. I do that to keep the amps into the pre-existing wire lower. The voltage is higher, but that isn't usually a problem. I have that going into a Victron 100/30 charge controller with an inline fuse on the positive to the batteries. I also have a Victron Smart shunt.

I have taken one trip, for two weeks, and didn't run my generator to charge the batteries. I was plugged in for a couple of days in the middle, but that system charged me to 100% every day in Arizona and Nevada. I don't know how it will work in Washington, I suspect it will be fine in the summer.

On the other hand, I will probably add another pair of panels to the roof. I halfway think I wish I had used bigger panels, but I don't think I would be comfortable doing that either the pre-existing wire. I have read that people have had success using the existing wiring to pull in larger diameter wire, but my confidence was low.
Yes, there is an existing zamp prewire "roof port" on the roof that says 500w on it with three outlets. Which I assume means I can put three panels on it. It has two batteries which are 12v, so i can replace them if necessary. About 1/2 or our use will be at the campground right down from our Lake house, as we plan on using it for Guest who come to visit. The campground (although beautiful) does not have water, sewer or electricity. We will also be able to run a generator during the day to charge, but I'd rather have that as a back up to solar.

This will be in Northern Idaho and mostly in the summer. When we are using it for ourselves on trips, we'll almost always be at full hook up except for the occasional in transit stop over.
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Old 05-08-2022, 09:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isaac-1 View Post
I am going to take a different approach here, and list out what you could probably get for $3,000 from Amazon and a DIY install. Note I am ignoring the factory supplied connector cable to the roof, as we do not know its actual size, as wire size has nothing to do with watts, and if it is rated in watts, that is most likely at 12VDC, which would not apply if you are using a higher voltage panel and an MPPT solar controller. I am also listing using Lithium batteries, since this is a fairly new RV I am suspecting you plan to keep it for a while, we have reached the point that LiFePo4 Lithium batteries are on price parity with lead acid batteries when you average cost over their longer life span. Then you also get the ton of advantages of lithium, lighter, faster charging, less voltage drop, etc.


Now to try to spend $3,000:




$1,400 for 2 200AH Weize brand LiFePo4 batteries off ebay (good independent reviews online for a cheaper imported battery model, some are real junk in this price range) https://www.amazon.com/LiFePO4-Lithi...dp/B09LXMW3YR/ (you could probably get away with 1 but I am trying to get to that $3,000 price tag.


$1062 Renogy 600 watt premium solar kit with MPPT controller https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Solar-...dp/B08BYBWST9/


$250 100 amp Lithium charge profile enabled converter https://powermaxconverters.com/produ...ithium-series/ (not currently listed on amazon)


This still leaves you a couple of hundred dollars to spend on battery cables, etc. though I did not account for tax.
In this scenario, I would scrap the factory roof mounted prewire zamp kit, correct?
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Old 05-08-2022, 09:30 AM   #9
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Not necessarily, it depends on the gauge of the wires they used, and the voltage of your panel layout, though you might need to either splice the wires, or buy adapters to connect to their proprietary connections.
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Old 05-08-2022, 01:42 PM   #10
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I also need to figure out if it came with a charge controller. Not sure if it did.
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Old 05-08-2022, 04:39 PM   #11
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A friend of mine recommended these

https://www.currentconnected.com/product/sok-100

Said they were almost half the price of battleborn. Anyone use these?

What if i don't want to add the solar this year. Can these be charged with my generator or when the TT is on shorepower?
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Old 05-08-2022, 05:39 PM   #12
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Rating the roof box at 510 watts is weird. Amperage is really the controlling factor. Too much amperage for your conductors and things can overheat. And too small a wire for the amps you are trying to push and you increase your voltage losses. If yours is like mine, you have 8 gauge wire from the roof box to the controller location, and from there to the batteries. For the distance we are talking about, if you use higher voltage panels (or panels wired in series, so the voltage adds up) then you can get acceptable performance from what's existing. Optimal would be 4 gauge wire, but evidently it's too expensive to upgrade. (Frankly, a couple of bucks, but then the Zamp rooftop combiner wouldn't work, and the system was designed by Zamp)

As for charging lithium batteries with your generator, resoundingly yes. If you want to optimize your charging, you will need to know what converter you have, and if possible adjust it to a Lithium Battery charging profile. If the 12 volt batteries you have are AGM batteries, that charging profile is said to work well with lithium batteries. No personal experience, just what I have read.

SOK batteries are well thought of. They do make a 100 ah battery with an internal heater, so they can be left on the tongue, and warm themselves when your system starts to charge. Pretty slick, if you ask me.

I expect battery technology to evolve before I need to replace mine, but currently SOK is at the top of my list, after watching the Will Browse YouTube video showing him deconstructing one and testing it. Very well built.

OTOH... On the other hand. You have the ability to use your new coach as it is. Is this your first trailer? If so, you don't really know what your needs are. Yes, solar makes it a lot nicer, eliminates generator noise except for AC. We don't use the microwave, use the stove to percolate coffee, I could pretty much camp until my black and gray tanks filled with my system. Do some research, and after the season, then upgrade.
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Old 05-08-2022, 07:12 PM   #13
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SOK is another somewhat well regarded import battery, though like many tend to change their internal construction without any type of notice, so just because they have tended to ship good designs in the past does not mean that identical looking product will be a good design in the future. Based on the online commentary tear downs, etc. I would rate SOK slightly better than the Weize batteries I linked to, and had intended to like to SOK when I started putting that list together, however they were out of stock at Amazon. Overall my feeling is for the dollar Weize is a better deal, they are a good bit cheaper than SOK and nearly as good, that is unless you decide to upgrade to the SOK internally heated battery, which allow use (charging) in below freezing temperatures by pre-heating the battery until it gets warm enough to accept a charge.


My personal solution when I switched to LiFePo4 last year to this choice was to move the battery bank from its exposed location into a hard to get to corner of the lower kitchen cabinet inside the climate controlled interior.


Ike


p.s. As to what I bought, I bought a pair of 200AH Rebel Brand LiFePo4 batteries that were discounted due to being slightly irregular (label read 150A BMS, and they were built with a 100A BMS, which is what most 200AH LiFePo4 batteries had last year). Rebel is a small company in Texas that imports batteries and sells batteries built to their custom specs, so sort of in between typical import batteries, and better built units like Battleborn, which assemble their batteries in North America from imported components.


When it comes to drop in LiFePo4 batteries, I divide them up into basically 4 categories:


Low end, fly by night, often relabeled batteries, Chins is a common example, where the same battery out of the same factory is sold under several different names, Chins, Rainbow, etc.


Larger foreign LiFePo4 sellers, I will not say manufacturers, as it seems many are exclusive importers to the US of batteries built by other companies, Renogy is a prime example of this along with SOK, Big Battery, etc.


Custom spec built imported batteries sold by North American companies, Rebel, Lion Energy, ...



Finally the prime level such as Life Blue, Battleborn, etc.
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Old 05-08-2022, 07:14 PM   #14
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Rating the roof box at 510 watts is weird. Amperage is really the controlling factor. Too much amperage for your conductors and things can overheat. And too small a wire for the amps you are trying to push and you increase your voltage losses. If yours is like mine, you have 8 gauge wire from the roof box to the controller location, and from there to the batteries. For the distance we are talking about, if you use higher voltage panels (or panels wired in series, so the voltage adds up) then you can get acceptable performance from what's existing. Optimal would be 4 gauge wire, but evidently it's too expensive to upgrade. (Frankly, a couple of bucks, but then the Zamp rooftop combiner wouldn't work, and the system was designed by Zamp)

As for charging lithium batteries with your generator, resoundingly yes. If you want to optimize your charging, you will need to know what converter you have, and if possible adjust it to a Lithium Battery charging profile. If the 12 volt batteries you have are AGM batteries, that charging profile is said to work well with lithium batteries. No personal experience, just what I have read.

SOK batteries are well thought of. They do make a 100 ah battery with an internal heater, so they can be left on the tongue, and warm themselves when your system starts to charge. Pretty slick, if you ask me.

I expect battery technology to evolve before I need to replace mine, but currently SOK is at the top of my list, after watching the Will Browse YouTube video showing him deconstructing one and testing it. Very well built.

OTOH... On the other hand. You have the ability to use your new coach as it is. Is this your first trailer? If so, you don't really know what your needs are. Yes, solar makes it a lot nicer, eliminates generator noise except for AC. We don't use the microwave, use the stove to percolate coffee, I could pretty much camp until my black and gray tanks filled with my system. Do some research, and after the season, then upgrade.
Thanks for the insight. This is our second unit. Our first was a cheapy KZ Connect which got totalled last July in a 22 car pileup caused by a sandstorm in Utah. We got hit by a tractor trailer.

Since then, we bought a lake house which has just enough room for the five of us. We want to have guest come stay with us so the ORV will serve as guest house of sorts. There is a campground right down the road from us (HOA doesn't allow us to park it in our yard) but the campground does not have power.

I do not know what converter it has. I am assuming it is the one ORv put in from the factory. Note that the unit does not have solar now with exception of the factory roof mounted battery tender.

having no experience with solar or lithium batteries, wondering if I should just go with 4 6v AGMs. That is what the 22 I ordered was going to have (dealer installed) with 510W solar.

I am very technically inclined, built most of our 4300 SF home and know my way around an engine pretty well, but this is totally new to me, so I feel kind of lame having to ask so many questions.

All the help is really appreciated.
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