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Old 06-06-2012, 01:47 PM   #1
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New Solar System Install

Folks,

Attached, find a PDF that details the new solar install I did on a Keystone Cougar 318SAB fiver. It isn't a how to as much as a what I did and why. This is the second installation I've done on an RV.

Questions and comments are more than welcome! Here or privately.

Thanks,

Kelly
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File Type: pdf 318SAB Solar Install.pdf (1.49 MB, 1844 views)
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Old 06-06-2012, 02:03 PM   #2
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Good Paper.
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Old 06-09-2012, 07:00 AM   #3
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Hi

I admit I did not read every word of the nice document
Agreed Handy Bob is a good "wire nut" guy too bad he does not take advantage of what most high end units offer with the computer interface. Tried several times with Bob to explain the advantages of taking it to the next step. You spent big $ on a great controller take advantage of it wonderful capabilities.

I hope you did not simply set the dip switches of the very fine MPPT 60 and call it good to go.

If so you are missing more than 30% of that units capabilities and chanrging functionality of your battery bank

Why no remote control panel for the MPPT 60?
Why no ethernet connection or even a Wifi interface for the MPPT 60?
How about the serial data cable and firmware upgrades - Morningstar is great at updating the firmware on their units. What iormware version are you running? You will need the Rs232 interface to accomplish the upgrade.

Take a look at MSVIEW application and setup wizard for the MPPT Tristar units - the dip switches just do not offer the flexibility. I download different configiration files depending on time of year, it's a simple process. Cold weather with clear sunny days and dip switch setting can get you system past 16.5Vdc not a good thing for some applicances.
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Old 06-09-2012, 09:31 PM   #4
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Kellylipp,

Congrats on your new solar charging system. I would like to build something similar.

I have a couple of questions.

What are the voltage and current specs on your Helios 245 W panels?

It looks like you wired them in parallel?

What size fuses are in the disconnect? Can you get away with just a disconnect, or do have to fuse it before connecting the panels to the charge controller. Do you ever disconnect it? Can you let your panels operate "no load-open circuit"

Thank you in advance for your response.
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Old 06-10-2012, 05:55 AM   #5
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I was wondering about voltage drop calculations till I looked up the Helios 245 W panel specs and at Voc: 37.26 you can get away with smaller wire.
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:47 AM   #6
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Nice job!
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Old 06-10-2012, 04:27 PM   #7
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Smile

Thanks for the kudos.

I'm fooling with the MSView program from Morningstar. Cursory glance and no studying I would have to say that for the average user it will be a bit of a struggle. I'm a techie and I know that with time I can learn this. But will I?

KJINTF, perhaps some ideas on what settings one might change? Certainly voltages in some cases but perhaps timing? How long to float, etc? There are a lot of knobs on this guy and like anything with a lot of knobs easy to have so messed up you might not recover! I'm sure there is a reset to factory someplace that might come in handy.

I don't have the remote as I haven't discerned value in it. In my case, I have more solar watts than I am likely to use in almost any situation. If I find myself at the point where I need to squeeze extra out of them I can invest the time and energy into optimization. IMHO if most folks get the correct wiring and reasonably close with the correct watts they won't need to fool around with this much. I may "want" to fool around with it, but I don't "need" to. I find that if I indulge my wants I'm more likely to mess something up!

In answer to some of the other questions...

What are the voltage and current specs on your Helios 245 W panels?

The specs are here:

http://www.heliossolarworks.com/Port...36/docs/6t.pdf

It looks like you wired them in parallel?

Yes I did. I suppose I could have serial wired them but I have more than adequate wire for the down run so chose not to. I think, though, if you are running the higher end controllers there may be a good reason to serialize but frankly I don't know.

What size fuses are in the disconnect?

60 amp fuses in the disconnect. I'm only likely to get at most 30 Amps on the input side and could, thus, conceivably have close to 60 on the output side.

Can you get away with just a disconnect, or do have to fuse it before connecting the panels to the charge controller.

There are two sides to the disconnect. One one side I have the feed from the panels through the fuse to the CC. On the other side I have the feed from the CC through the other fuse to the battery bank. The way I have it wired, then, has the solar input side fused so the answer to the second question is yes.


Do you ever disconnect it? Can you let your panels operate "no load-open circuit"

I only disconnect if I need to reset the charge controller. Yes you can operate the panels no load open. That's what they're doing when the are sitting in the garage before you install them . Seriously, no problem doing that. I had mine on the roof for a few days before I completed the wiring to the junction box. You know those black lines you see coming off the roof on some RVs? That's from excess amps running off the roof. Just kidding.

Since I'm wasting power out there I'm thinking of a grid tie so I'll feel better about myself! From the logging capability of the controller I notice that when the rig is just sitting there (like most of the time) it uses 200-300 watt hours. The most I've seen was 2500 watt hours during one day of camping last weekend. That ain't much.

One other thing: don't try to run your power washer on the inverter. Just saying...

Thanks and keep those cards and letters coming!

Kelly
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:09 PM   #8
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Kellylipp

Morningstar’s MSView and MSLoad applications are really simple and easy to use / understand applications. If you are looking for a bit more complex / flexible application take a look at Solar Guppy's MODBUS interface. Yes of course each and every one of them offers a simple method to return to any setting you might desire including the factory defaults. These applications allow / enable a exact match of the battery manufacturer's specific charge requirements. Resulting in both a quicker charge and longer battery life. An example of an important configuration setting is the HVD and Temperature compensation - a simple setup via the dip switches will in cool / cold clear skies get you in excess of 16.5Vdc, which can and will fry some electronics including your refrig control board. Be careful very taking Bob's recommendations of 14.8V until you make a few other changes.

Additionally these wonderful controllers offer SNMP/Email interfaces - if you have an onboard computer system you can get emails and or other forms of your complete system's data. Say the rig is being stored with the system active and you would like to know what is happening from 500 miles away, is the battery being boiled dry, Has it been fully charged in the past week or so, etc...

I have the Relay Driver interfaced with my MPPT 60 that gives me visual and audio indications, warnings & alarms. Just a few include house battery high / low voltages over time limits, Starting battery voltage over time conditions, over/under temperature notification, etc...

I also have the Trimetric meter and the remote control panel for the controller but these require an operator to physically look at something. The proactive lights / audio alarms will tell me what's happening.

To each their own .......Just making a few suggestions and wondering how many folks actually take advantage of the wonderful features and benefits offered by these high end controllers. As far as I can tell less than 1 in 25 installations actually take this additional step.

Your "wire nut" connections and dip switch setting will do a great job for you - I was only suggesting taking it to the next step.

Ken
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:51 PM   #9
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Thanks for your quick response to my questions.

Helios panels are made in Milwaukee, WI.

Since the panels are rated for approximately 8 amps X 3 =24 amps @ 30 volts. You said you have seen 30 amps @ approximately 14-15 volts. The MPPT function of the controller is working to give you the extra amps at the lower voltage. Now how cool is that!!!!!

I read somewhere that some people are using an AC disconnect. The kind that are mounted on the side of your house by the AC to disconnect the AC unit. They are cheap and you can purchase them at almost any hardware store fused and unfused. I like the idea of fusing the positive wire in and out of the charge controller.

I want to build a system that I will have a full battery charge when the sun goes down after I started with a battery 75% of 440AH (about 110AH down) and can run my TV, Dish receiver,and 2 laptops, and an occasional water pump all day. I already have a Trimetic 2025-RV that shows a constant draw of 12 amps for these devices.
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Old 06-11-2012, 12:54 PM   #10
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MGSCOTT,

The disconnect you describe is the exact one that I used. About $10 at Home Depot or Lowes. Two fuses and you're out about $16.

Your requirements are met by the system I describe in the original paper. Sounds exactly like my requirements. We run a few additional 110V devices than you describe.

The biggest single cost in this system is the inverter. I went with the Magnum.

I haven't seen a draw down to 75% but have seen 79%. Still full again by noon in bright sunlight.

Kelly
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Old 06-11-2012, 08:03 PM   #11
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Kelly,

I like your system. I found the Helios panels for around $350 each plus shipping. The Morningstar 60 MPPT charge controller for $524 with the temp sensor, and the remote display for $124.

Two of my 3 panels will fit side by side and the 3rd panel will fit 6 feet away. Did you use the MC4 connectors and extensions into your combiner box?

My problem is going to be the long run from the combiner box on the roof to the charger controller is about 42 feet. I can shorten this run 8 feet if put the charge controller 6 feet from the batteries instead of 2 feet. Either way I the cost of 2 gauge wire or 4 gauge wire is almost $200. At 30 volts, the loss will be 1/2 of what they would be if I used 17 volt panels, but I still need 4 gauge minimum. I am thinking if I am going to pay that much for 4 gauge, go ahead and spend a little more and get 2 gauge wire.

I like your combiner box, I can buy that power distribution block in it for $42. Where did you get the case?

I already have a Xantrex freedom 458 2000w inverter installed. It has 2 output circuit breakers, one 15 amp and one 20 amp. These 2 circuits feed 4 outlets in my rig that I can use for 120 power. The inverter is fed from a 30 amp breaker in my main panel and passes through my inverter when I have shore or generator power. It has a 100 amp charger that I can turn off if my solar system works well.

So I figure just over $2000 for a 735 Watt system like yours.

Do I need a system like this, not really, But I am full time and sometimes stay a week or 2 in the same place. My generator and charger sucks when it comes to getting a full charge on my batteries. They will charge as high as 60 amps for a little while then the amps drop over the next hour or 2 and then end up less than 10 amps for the next 5 or 8 hours and still only get the batteries to 90-95%. It takes a long time to get 4 golf cart batteries to 100% charge using my generator. It only takes 3 or 4 hours of driving for my alternator to fully charge my batteries.

I think it will be a fun project that I can benefit from. Hey, its only money right!!!
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Old 06-12-2012, 09:52 AM   #12
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MGSCOTT,

Why such a long run to the CC from the junction box? Can you put the junction box perhaps farther from the panels but closer to a good downwire point nearer the batteries below? I know that isn't always easy! Having longer #10 MC4 runs from the panels is preferable to having the long run from the combiner to the CC. I'm a trailer guy not a motor home guy so haven't investigated downwire possibilities there! Take what I suggest with the appropriate grains! But worth another look. Maybe send me a snap or two and perhaps I can see something? I bought custom made MC4 cables twice as long as I needed and then cut them in half and brought both ends to the junction box. I wound up wasting less than four feet of wire that way. Your analysis of the basic differences in wiring cost is spot on. Don't skimp on that. Less than 5% of the system cost and if it doesn't work the most likely cause.

I bought the junction box at Home Depot or Lowes. Simple water proof 4x4x3 box. Maybe $10. The combiner block from Northern Arizona Wind and Sun (You probably found them for your charge controller).

I picked the Helios as I got them on clearance but I like the "buy American" thing as well. I had Evergreen 195W panels on the previous system. Chose them because they were LV and I wanted to use the less expensive PWM charge controller. I'd probably scope all the options for panels at this point. I know that LV panels are more and more scarce and expensive. The HV full size panels are produced in larger volumes. You might check with a local grid tie solar installer and see if he has any left over panels from a job.

Bottom line for you is I think you will accomplish your objectives! Quiet that generator and get your batteries charged. You can always add another panel if you have the roof real estate as there is room for one more connection in your combiner box.

Let me know as you get closer to implementation. I'll have some other ideas/comments as you start your work.

Thanks,

Kelly
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:07 AM   #13
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With that long 42ft run and having a great MPPT controller connect the panels in series. Remember current squared times resistance = power loss getting the voltage higher reduces the current and all is well.

Also make sure you install the "Voltage Sense" line from the controller to the battery bank

Should be as fun project
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Old 06-18-2012, 12:10 AM   #14
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For a long run from the panels to the converter having the panels in series will minimize the current loss. Drawback is reduced output with any shading of any of the panels in the series.

I was checking voltage drop with 10/8/6/4 gauge for the panels to combiner box and from the box to the controller and the controller to the batteries. With 8ga for the 10' panel to C-box segment, 6ga for the 12' run from C-box to controller, and 4ga for the 8' run from the controller to the batteries, I got a total voltage drop of 0.4% which was good enough.

What surprised me was finding that the Blue Sky MPPT 2512i(X) controller had a bus that would only accept 10ga or smaller wire. Their tech support people said I should splice on sections of 10ga wire for the panel input and for the output to the batteries.
If they had even limited the connections to 8ga at least there are 4ga terminals with 8ga tips that could be used for a good mechanical and electrical connection.

The more expensive MPPT controller can increase output to the batteries by up to 30% but tilting the panels can increase it by up to 94%. Tilting may not be practical for driving but when parked at a campsite it can certainly improve the system performance, especially at higher latitudes or during the winter months.
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