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Old 11-10-2014, 04:57 PM   #1
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Posts: 35
DIY Solar Install and Battery Upgrade

We've bought our 2014 Solera in July of 2013 and have made several trips where we were without plug in electricity for up to 5 nights. Often our standard coach batteries were discharged after a day or day and a half. I would need to either run the engine on the Solera or the generator for an hour to an hour and a half just to get the batteries charged for another day. The last trip was a hunting trip to the Colorado mountains several weeks ago when we spent 4 days of trying to conserve what electricity we used but it was very frustrating.

I decided after reading numerous treads on this forum that I should upgrade both the house batteries and install a Solar System on the roof. As for the batteries, I read where we could handle Group 31 batteries which are larger than the OEM ones. I also read where the AGM batteries were considerably longer lasting and were considerably more expensive. I decided that it was important for my enjoyment to get the longer lasting batteries so I purchased some AGM Dual X2 batteries from Batteries Plus Bulbs. The cost including tax was roughly $765.

I started researching solar system installs for RV's early this year but couldn't convince myself of spending the money at that time. However, after the frustration of draining the coach batteries so quickly, I decided to purchase from RENOGY.COM. They are also listed on Amazon. I purchased the 200 watt RV kit but substituted two 100 watt Monocrystalline bendable panels for the hard shell ones. I got the ViewStar 20 amp PWM controller and 20 ' of connector cables, branch connectors, and 8' of tray cables to hook up to the batteries. I also purchased separately from Amazon, 2 packs of 2" Velcro Extreme, an in-line fuse holder, and a Battery Disconnect switch. The total material cost of the Solar system was a little under $600. Take a look at the pics and let me know if you have questions.

Again, much of what I learned and selected was from information off of this forum so thanks to many of you. I'm so pleased with the results, I thought i would share with others of you that felt my frustration with Dry camping and enjoy DIY projects.
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Bob & Trish Williams
Fort Collins, CO
2014 Solera S
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Old 11-10-2014, 05:12 PM   #2
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Looks good, so how it preforming?

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Old 11-10-2014, 05:55 PM   #3
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Unfortunately, I won't know until January when we take our next long trip to the SE. The monitor was reporting good voltage from the solar panels and the batteries were reporting a full charge. As a side note, I re-ran my Sirius antenna up to the top of the air conditioner and enclosed the wire in 3/8 " wire insulation using more of the Velcro to secure. I drilled a hole into the side panel in front of the coach door and about 5 feet up. I was able to run the wire into the awning tray and up on to the roof. I'm thinking that my Sirius radio reception should be much improved.
Bob & Trish Williams
Fort Collins, CO
2014 Solera S
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Old 11-10-2014, 06:46 PM   #4
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Location: Indiana
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Looks great! We are planning something similar, Renogy bendable panels with Velcro holding them to the roof. Thinking about Eternabond tape covering the edges, as our panels will be up front and will catch the wind effectively. Please share results when you get more experience with it.
Steve & Debbie Russell
2013 Sunseeker 2900
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Old 11-10-2014, 07:31 PM   #5
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I was cringing as I read your post about how your old system performed and was maintained! LOL... Anyway...beautiful install and you're in a lot better shape now.
I would further comment that:
1. AGM batteries actually do NOT last longer than Wet Cells...they have about 10% less cycle life than the EQUIVALENT wet cell. They have MANY admirable other qualities that make them worth the extra money to some...but cycle life is not one of them.
2. You need to add a real battery monitor to your system so that when you boondock you can determine the actual state of charge of your new many Amps you are using NOW...How many NET amps are coming in and being used while the sun is shining... How LONG you have at present usage before you need to recharge....when you should much longer you need to run the generator before you are 100% charged.
3. One thing you really need to know is that AGMS are MUCH more sensitive to being 100% charged than wet cells are. Do NOT charge them to 80% or 90% or THAT will quickly become the new capacity of your expensive batts...then it will spiral downward from there. Get a 100% charge into them at least once a week. Typically this means running the genny for around 4 hours for a half discharged battery. You can only tell when you are fully charged with a true battery monitor...NOT a voltmeter.

On average your 200 watt panels will supply around 50 amp hours per day total when it is sunny. Your Group 31's will store around 210 amp hours... of which you can use roughly 100-110 before a recharge is needed without damaging battery life cycles/capacity. With a battery then can see your daily usage and have a good plan for recharging and use while out boondocking AND preserve your investment. Good luck and nice, clean work!
2015 Georgetown 280DS
2014 Vespa LX150 2014 StellaAuto 125
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Old 11-10-2014, 07:34 PM   #6
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I noticed in the image of the solar shut off that the metal drawer slide was extremely close to the terminals. You might want to insulate the terminals from possible accidental connection. Just my 2 cents worth!
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Old 11-13-2014, 10:53 AM   #7
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This is a great thread. Hope to see updates after January!
Thanks, and safe travels!

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Old 11-14-2014, 11:54 AM   #8
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Just a question
Why do u need a solar shut off
I was going to run system directly to my mppt solar controller and direct to battery. There is an on off switch on the controller but the whole point is to keep batteries fully charged 24/7
Even when unit is not being used

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Old 11-17-2014, 06:41 PM   #9
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When we did the Solar install on our Solera (2 100W panels) it allowed us to go for 7 days without ever needing the generator at all on the normal house batteries. We even installed a small 600W Pure Since Wave inverter to watch TV (morning and evenings) and it was all fine on the standard Group 27 batteries (about 210Ah each)

However we made sure that everything was off when not needed and all lights switched to Solar. The 2 batteries recovered sufficiently during the day to get us through the night. Most of that was also during winter camping in southern CA/AZ.

A good charge controller is key to the whole setup as it will maintain batteries in the best possible state. A better charge controller will provide battery maintenance (i.e. monthly high input charge) to assure the maximum possible life time from a battery - better than all the normal charge controllers installed in an RV.

AGM batteries will last about the same as normal batteries provided they are taken care off. They do not have the memory effect described by another poster. However they DO NOT like an extreme discharge - they will be dead forever after that.

2011 Solera
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Old 11-18-2014, 09:44 AM   #10
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So my question still out there
Do I need a solar shut off switch
Or can it be on all the time even when I'm plugged in? Hooked up to batteries

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