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Old 03-22-2016, 11:47 PM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Jamestown ND
Posts: 102
Wanted to share our current and future solar setup

Just wanted to give a little insight into our current and future solar setup with real life #s

This is a link to a public facebook album with the specs of the equipment and batteries, and 3/23/16 I will add some pics of the array on the roof as well.

Current System setup:

4- 100W solar panels connected in series to give about 40-45V coming in on most days

2 - 125Ah Solar AGM batteries
1 - 8D tractor battery which when last tested held 210Ah at a 20A draw
2 - Automotive 75 group car batteries for high A output for surge loads/compressor etc. last tested at about 45-50A each at 20A draw
FlexMax 60 solar controller

These tests were done on a state of the art battery tester /charger at the new hardware store and it cost them well over $3000.

The Charge controller said I was getting 70-77Ah @ 13-14V per day when i first connected the batteries when they were discharged.

I live in North Dakota, we do not have long days yet so maybe 4-5 hours of direct sun at best.

The panels were NOT tilted to compensate on the first few days.

I have the ST1500-112 model pure sine inverter
1500W continuous
1750W for 3 minutes
3000W surge

Our rooftop unit pegs my 110V meter between 8A - 13A between low and hi with the compressor running surge much higher.

We have opted to try a Hi-Efficiency Portable A/C rated at 10,000BTU it uses 630W/5.5A A/C with fan low and Compressor running
55W/ 0.5A for just fan when the compressor is off.

All windows minus the driving area will be tinted with either 5% or 2.5% limousine tint, I have used it in previous motorhomes and it helps with staying cool but makes the windows colder during the winter and fall months.

The fridge has not been metered yet but it rarely cycles and it is less than 3 years old.

LED lights use minimal power.

DC Amps required just to run the A/C would be about 60A DC per hour If it was on nonstop. however in my experience if its insulated halfway decent and door is shut most of the time it usually runs about 10 minutes then fan for 20, and repeat. during evening and overnight it might run the compressor 5 minutes or less and fan the rest.

So 20 minutes per hour of compressor + fan = 20A DC
Add on 40 minutes per hour of fan running = 3A DC

Total = 23-25A per hour assuming 82-85% inverter efficiency at partial load

The 400W solar could theoretically produce 30A per hour of direct optimal sunlight.

We already know it will not, however it should be able to maintain it at least during the peak parts of the day.

Total battery bank capacity 550Ah at a 20Ah discharge

So assuming 20-40A per hour discharge in the summer also accounting for radio, cell phones, lights, etc

Our battery run time would range from 13 hours to 27 hours, and of course if its a rainy day we could be frugal lol

The hot water is also solar, or rather will be once i implement the new system

The alternator on the engine is 150-200A i have not had it tested since i bought it. But that will be running the inverter while driving or idling in parking lots etc. or if the generator runs out of gas.

I am thinking of investing in a 900W harbor freight generator for $100 just to have a secondary in case of extended cloudy days or early spring/late fall use.

We intend to add 200W-600W to the roof as well either this fall or next spring because that is all the remaining roof space.

If the Portable A/C works out well we are going to remove the roof A/C and sell it then put a "bathroom" fan with light in its place.

If the portable A/C doesnt work well (we have heard + and - reviews of them) we have a digital Hi efficiency 8,000BTU window unit that shuts the fan off completely once temperature is reached, and we were able to cool a pop-up of similar size with canvas walls with it just fine.

Any questions or comments feel free to ask, this is not our first time with a solar or off grid setup but we are always open to tips or improvements
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Old 03-25-2016, 06:08 AM   #2
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PrimoWorks's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Filbert SC
Posts: 16
*greedily takes notes!*

Thanks for the breakdown! We're looking into going solar very soon.

Living in the 25' Puma,
Traveling in the 21' Coachmen,
Looking for the next adventure.
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Old 03-25-2016, 08:57 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 345
I have looked at your photos. You have a very dangerous installation. Please take me seriously...your battery install is a fire or explosion waiting to happen. Please have a professional fix your battery wiring and location. If you want my advise, I have posted my phnoe number. In the mean time, try not to camp too close to any other RV's.

Most Sincerely,
Larry (928) 342-9103
I have a vast knowledge about PV solar, batteries and inverters. I'll try to provide the best answer if I know it and hopefully correct some "Campfire" talk. Full-time 1999-2004. Part time now. '92 Hawkins, 360AH Lithium Battery, 1480 Watts PV solar.
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Old 03-25-2016, 09:07 AM   #4
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 39
Wow! Not in a good way. Better read up alittle more on battery placement.
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Old 03-25-2016, 10:39 PM   #5
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Jamestown ND
Posts: 102
Originally Posted by BatteryPro View Post
I have looked at your photos. You have a very dangerous installation. Please take me seriously...your battery install is a fire or explosion waiting to happen. Please have a professional fix your battery wiring and location. If you want my advise, I have posted my phnoe number. In the mean time, try not to camp too close to any other RV's.

Most Sincerely,
Larry (928) 342-9103
Originally Posted by robt View Post
Wow! Not in a good way. Better read up alittle more on battery placement.

I will be re-locating the entire battery bank down into the external area where the generator was JUST removed from. I had 6 dead automotive batteries and i needed to get them to a decent SOC so as not to have to toss them and my 30A charger got snow in it this winter and went "kaput" and my .75A float mode chargers wouldn't even recognise the batteries as 12V because they were so low. (my alternator failed in the middle of winter right after surgery so I didnt have $100+ to replace it and just charged my batteries and drove around with a spare battery) I am in a temporary layoff and just had that surgery so going out to spend $50-$100 on another charger wasn't really an option. I just decided to utilize what I had. Right now the RV is sitting parked in the driveway and the smaller automotive batteries are currently unhooked so the only one that could possibly vent explosive gases is the 8D, but ive monitored it and for the last 2 weeks no signs of increased temperature to cause that. I have 4 years of computer maintenance and 2 years of automotive mechanics in already, i know the dangers of the gases, however there is nothing else dangerous about the setup other than the current location which will be resolved in a couple weeks. The cables are all more than capable of handling the current flow with ease and no voltage drop. I am not entirely sure if I want to keep the 8D mixed with the 2 AGM solar batteries, however the PO setup the system to maintain the standard coach and marine house battery under the step so I would think that if it was really that bad of an idea they would have found out in the last 3 years. just my thinking. the 8D has the capacity of the 2 AGM combined and I have absolutely no other use for it anyway.

My Grandfather-in-law worked for the local utility company for i believe over 45 years as a journeyman electrician and showed me many many things in regards to wiring and electricity, he didn't want me to lose as many fingers as he did.
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Old 07-30-2016, 08:56 AM   #6
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Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Jamestown ND
Posts: 102
sorry i havent posted anything in a while, i broke my heel the day of our trip so it got cancelled, and then 3 weeks ago a storm totalled our trailer house and red cross said its uninhabitable for all the mold and falling ceilings.

I have some real world numbers now for the solar system since we have been living in it for a couple weeks.

I am getting roughly 120-160Ah every day depending on how much i use overnight, we are plugged into shore power for all the 110V stuff, so i know we have a phantom draw somewhere in the engine wiring, and we are only running 3 incandescents, the bathroom and kitchen fan on occasion, and 8 LED light fixtures, and the 1156 bulb for outside sometimes gets left on 24/7 by accident since i am not supposed to be on my feet at all -.-

I have a total 200Ah if i never exceed 50% SoC but i know i have gone down alot lower than that when i had the A/C cranked.

cloudy days we only get 70-80AH on average

I intend to swap the solar "tank" with 4-6 100' coils of black garden hose and that will give me like 8 gallons every 15-20 minutes according to the youtube videos i have watched.

I also intend to add 400-600W of addtional panels, just not sure how i want to configure them yet.
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