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Old 02-16-2015, 11:31 PM   #11
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Consider this:

1. Will you be using a generator for:
Boondocking with no one nearby
Or Dry Camping, in non-hookup campgounds?

2. Will you want one to run the a/c?

3. What's more important, quietness or price? Can't have both.
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Old 03-06-2015, 09:36 PM   #12
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I live and camp in the SE where A/C is essential for comfort, so AC power is, too. Barring that, you can live without a microwave. All you need for coffee is boiling water and you can do that with propane. A French Press or Melitta filter makes a decent cup, especially if you start with quality coffee.

You still need a generator or a solar system to recharge. But you don't have to run the generator continuously and your neighbors, if any, would much rather you didn't.
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Old 03-15-2015, 12:52 AM   #13
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Lightbulb

It's already been answered that your 12v system doesn't run much of anything other than essentials like the water pump, heat fan, etc..

If you want to go solar, here is what I did to my Grey Wolf 23DBH... This may jump around a little but bear with me.

DC Power:

I ordered two LG 260 watt solar panels, about 36 pounds a piece. I added some hardware to make them fold up similar to the zamp kits. These put out a total of about 18 amps in ideal conditions. Solar conditions are ideal for only a couple hours a day for a couple of months per year for most of the US/Canada. So realistically you should plan on 12-16 amps at peak hours unless you live in the southwest USA. I do not mount my panels to my roof, and for the life of me I can't figure out why anyone would. The flexibility to move the panels around will give you much higher efficiency.

The solar panels run to a solar controller, I use a 12v/40amp capacity controller with a smart charger connected to my battery bank. The controller keeps the batteries fresh by using a 3 stage charging mechanism, and passing on the the excess energy from the panels to the inverter (I'll get to that in a second).

I replaced my factory 12 volt battery with 4 Trojan T-105-RE batteries. These are 6 volt, and the pairs are wired in series and parallel for 12 volt output. If that is confusing there are a ton of diagrams on the Internet to follow. I'm not posting any diagram details because newbies could make fatal mistakes with this setup. Make sure you get the RE version if you go with Trojan. The RE stands for renewable energy, so they're designed to withstand the beating constant discharging and solar recharging puts on them. The batteries combine to give me 450 amp hours to play with. That's more than enough to run anything in my trailer assuming I have the correct inverter.

DC to AC power:

The DC battery bank feeds my 3000 watt inverter, which turns that DC power into beautiful AC power. The inverter has the ability to take on 9000 watts for 20 seconds, which is enough to start the air conditioner compressor, OR run the microwave. Never run both at the same time. The one caveat here is that the air conditioner cannot run for long or you will drain your batteries quickly. Run it for 30-60 minutes on LOW to cool down your trailer if needed. Some argue to never run it on battery, but if you have the correct capacity, then I say (and have) go for it. The newer AC models are much more efficient than in previous years. This was demanded by large campground owners associations to deal with power demand. Which is very understandable.

I ran the inverter AC current to a transfer switch. The transfer switch sits between the shore power line, a DC converter/battery charger, and the main breaker panel. I'm sorry if this is confusing, if you have any questions I can try to clear it up. But here is why I have it setup this way...

The transfer switch can detect when the trailer is being powered by the inverter or the shore/generator power. It will then switch the power source on to the breaker panel. As mentioned above, the transfer switch is also wired to a DC Converter/battery charger, this is because the system will also charge the battery bank when on shore power. This converter will provide the battery bank with the correct amount of charge. Most TT's and 5'ers come with a dumb charging mechanism built into the breaker panel for the battery bank. It's a constant charge that will cook the batteries in about 2 years, especially wet cells. If you are going to drop some serious coin on batteries, you want 7-10 years out of them. The converter/charger will help do that. You want to get every possible discharge/recharge that your batteries are designed for, because well, you paid for it!

This diagram should piece it all together for you:

Click image for larger version

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There two things I don't like about this diagram:

1. The solar panels were mounted. Park under a tree and its game over. Some parks don't offer the option of not parking under a tree. Rather than dealing with shade, help the panels find the sun by moving them around accordingly.

2. The converter/charger is in the same general location of the transfer switch. There is DC power coming from the converter, so it needs to be with the rest of the DC power components to prevent loss. There is no reason to run DC over any distance unless absolutely necessary. AC power doesn't experience loss over distance like DC, so that's an engineering flaw in the diagram design.

What I do like about the diagram is that it'll help explain everything that I've written :-)

If you have any questions you can send me a PM or post them here and I'll answer to the best of my knowledge. With that being said I'm not liable for anything you do to your trailer. Modding is fun but it's also amateur hour most of the time and serious injury and damage can and WILL occur if you don't know what you are doing. If you are unsure about about anything, hire an electrician.

Here's my assumed FAQ's:

Q: Can this system run anything in my camper?

A: It can run anything in MY camper. If you have dual AC's, larger AC's than 13,500 btu, convection ovens, or any other high wattage/high draw items then it might not run them. Make sure you consider all of your appliances and power needs beforehand.

Q: Can I use a modified sine wave inverter

A: You technically can, but I wouldn't endorse it by any stretch. Pay the extra and get a pure sine inverter. Your tv/DVDs will look better, your sensitive electronics will thank you, and so will your wallet in the long run. A simple youtube search on pure sine vs. modified sine will clear this up in 5 minutes.

Q: Why LG panels?

A: High efficiency, good price, reputable company

Q: Do I need a remote switch and monitoring panels for my inverter and converter? (as seen in the diagram)

A: The short answer is no, if you use a transfer switch there's no need for a remote on/off switch for your inverter. You also don't need a monitoring panel for the controller and inverter to monitor current draw and battery life. The inverter will shut power off automatically when the battery bank is at 10.0 - 10.5 volts to prevent discharge damage to the batteries. However, a monitoring panel while expensive, will let you know exactly how much power you need, how fast your batteries are charging, how effective your solar panels are, and help scale your system correctly. So I recommended a monitoring panel, but if cost is an issue, then skip it. It's in my build out, it's valuable, and it should be in yours.

Q: Are these solar mods tax write offs?

A: Yes. Until Dec 31, 2016 you can write the entire cost of the system off on your trailer. This will get you back about 30% of the investment. Trailers are considered 2nd homes and the tax rebate works on them.

Q: How effective is this system?

A: I'm not getting technical unless it's asked of me. So my best answer is that I'm constantly asked when I'm camping at the local state parks how it's possible that my lights are on, my tv is going, and my A/C is cranking when my generator has been off since the quiet time curfew. Very few people are aware of the capabilities that a solar and deep cell battery system have when done correctly. There are a lot of hack jobs out there on the internet, and I can guarantee you that my system when done correctly is no hack. It took months of research and careful installs to perfect.

Q: I've researched other solar setups on the internet and they're different from yours, why?

A: This is complicated because there are designs out there on youtube and websites that drive a TON of traffic to their videos/sites. I've dissected their setups and found where they went wrong and fixed it. I hate that I have to step on their toes, but there are setups out there that use different batteries in an array (horrible for your best batteries), there are setups where the weekender didn't understand a lick about the differences between AC/DC power, and there are setups where costs were cut that were detrimental to the project. Just be very careful, my setup/advice included, before you going all gung ho and begin to modify your RV electrical setup. Please please please PM me if you have any questions, or reach a point where you are uneasy about your install.

Q: Do you have a components list?

A: I'm not endorsing any company here, most of my decisions leveraged cost, features, and product reviews. Whatever you decide to go with should be based on research, not my word. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are my components:

2 x 260 LG Watt Solar Panels
Blue Sky 3024DiL Solar Controller
Blue Sky ProRemote for Solar Controller
Go Power 3000 watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Go Power Remote Switch/Monitoring Panel for Inverter
Go Power AC to DC Converter/Charger

Q: How much did this cost?

A: Be prepared to spend $2000 - $3000 dollars, or basically the cost of a really nice generator. I will say that this system is NOT for the occasional RV'er. I'll reiterate this point... please do not go out and spend this kind of money if you are someone who doesn't RV for more than a few weekends a year. You need to be someone who spends extended amounts of time in your RV in places where a generator isn't practical to justify the expense on solar. A Yamaha or Honda generator for about 2 grand is perfect for you and will last a LONG time.

Q: Is this system expandable?

A: Absolutely. Add as many even numbered 6v batteries as you want. Same with solar panels. Just make sure not to exceed the component loads.

Q: Do I have a YouTube channel, website, or anything with further information, installation help, or advice?

A: No. Currently, this is not a profitable venture for me. My goal is to make sure you have a basic understanding of what a successful solar installation looks like. Make no mistake, for the most part, those with videos and websites dedicated to this are trying to make a buck. That is not my goal. I just want my fellow RV'ers to understand what they are getting into, and what it takes to do this right.

I will admit that I haven't ruled out creating a website, complete with affiliate links to make sure that any clicks make me a few bucks. But that is out of sight at the moment. I'm knowledgeable in this field, but I'm not an expert. I have a bachelors in information technology, and an MBA with a concentration in finance, with classes taken in Green Business. I am NOT an electrical engineer, so please, approach anything I post with skepticism, and challenge me, so together we can make this system even better. I welcome it!

Happy modding everyone!
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Old 03-15-2015, 03:35 AM   #14
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WOW! just taking a Honda 2000 is WAAAYYY easier.
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Old 03-15-2015, 03:36 AM   #15
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LOL no kidding Dan. I have a Honda EU3000is myself. But boy do I love solar power
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Old 03-15-2015, 02:38 PM   #16
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Yeah, the problem with solar is that it's barely cost effective for your house, where you'd use it every day.

It makes zero sense for RV's (except trickle chargers while your parked in the storage lot) unless you're boondocking A LOT.

The situation will probably be much better in another 10 years, but we're just not there yet.
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Old 03-15-2015, 03:17 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by rockfordroo View Post
It makes zero sense for RV's (except trickle chargers while your parked in the storage lot) unless you're boondocking A LOT.
I couldn't get by without it, but you're entirely correct. Ain't nuthin cost effective about it.

You could say though it's a pretty responsible way to waste money.
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Old 03-15-2015, 03:49 PM   #18
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I couldn't get by without it, but you're entirely correct. Ain't nuthin cost effective about it.

You could say though it's a pretty responsible way to waste money.
Unless you happen to get a 140 watt panel, controller and wiring for free.. Then it pays for itself...lol..
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Old 03-15-2015, 04:53 PM   #19
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We spent $2,600 on our solar system and haven't wanted for electricity since. That's 600 watts of panels, 5,000 watt inverter, an extra 125 amp hr battery [already had 3] and a auto transfer switch. A few extra cable end fittings and lengths of solar cable to tie everything together plus three inline fuses. Added remotes for controller and inverter.
We don't have to crank anything, carry cans of gasoline and oil, refill gen with fuel every few hours, worry about securing the generator while away, keep rain out of it or have to listen to it run, not to mention putting it in and out of my truck [69 years old with lots of mileage]. Been down this road before and it just didn't work FOR US. To each their own, but solar really works for us AND it doesn't wear out like a gen. Seagull poop and leaves are the only down side. Once it's done, it's done!
Yes, you do need to park in the sun, but even with some shade, it produces a surprising amount of power. Oh yes, 3 digital gauges for inverter and controller temps and bat level.
I agree with GREY Wolf, it's once and done, but not for everyone especially if you don't actually use your unit that much. A small system [100 watts for about $300] will work just fine to keep your bats up while being stored.
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Old 03-15-2015, 06:05 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Yarome View Post
I couldn't get by without it, but you're entirely correct. Ain't nuthin cost effective about it.

You could say though it's a pretty responsible way to waste money.
Are generators now FREE?? Last time I used one, I had to pay through the nose to buy it, pay for and carry gasoline and oil to feed it and replace it when it wore out or broke[crank ropes, spark plugs, fuel filters, maintenance] That isn't cost effective to me. OBTW, changing oil in a gen is not fun! With solar, it's once and done.
I'm sure there are campers out there that would argue, but as yet, I have not met one that has ACTUALLY USED a solar system that didn't prefer it. MHO
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