Join Date: Aug 2016
Solar Controllers?? (and more)
I recently got a Forest River 2306. We are planning on going to various national parks without any hookups. As such, we're going to add a solar/inverter setup to maintain the comforts of home.
My frame of reference is my parents' TT. It has about 375W of solar, a PWM controller, and a modified sine (my dad keeps saying half-sine), 2000W inverter. Also, two L16 Trojan batteries. Finally, a Yamaha 2400 inverter generator. The setup worked great. Never gave batteries a thought, had plenty of power, and run the generator when we needed AC but didn't have shore power.
I've been researching a more modern version of this setup. I've pretty much decided on a 2000W AIMS, true sine inverter with the remote display. Amazon reviews are acceptable to me.
Also, either Renogy or NewPowa panels. Probably 150W times 3 for a total of 450W. Which panel depends on what size(s) I need for my roof space. With 3 panels, it isn't *too* many penetrations in my roof and it somewhat protects against shading.
The batteries, I'll match what he has with the Trojans.
The generator, I'll probably match the Yamaha. It's quiet and I *know* it runs the 13,500 BTU AC just fine, which we both have.
Hopefully you've made it to this point. Now the dilema.......the solar controller. I'll go through some specifics (for my own and hopefully to help someone else down the road) below. However, in general, I'm not even sure what size controller I need. 30A is a common size, and 450W of solar at 12V exceeds 30A. However, I've seen articles reference wattage/amperage and back-calculated voltage. They are using 19.2V to calculate. Well, which is it? I know the "12V" panel is nominal. I've seen people talk about 18V, and articles that are evidently using 19.2. I also know that the max current is when sun is at 100% and batteries are at 0%. Obviously that shouldn't "ever" be happening. I'm sure I could run 31.5A through a 30A controller (if it's not junk), but there's no point in *intentionally* under-sizing components). Gotta love how panels are in watts and controllers are in amps. C'mon, make the sizing easier. So anyway..... I'm assuming I should just pony up and get an MPPT controller, and it should be more than 30A. Both are up for debate.
Prices are amazon. Might be able to do a little better, but prices should be relative.....
Blue sky - 30A/400W (so too small, unless I lessen my panels) for $259.
40A for $410. Good reputation, I think. Probably too expensive for 450W. No remote display.
Renogy Tracer - 40A controller, $188. Same brand as panels I"m considering, if that matters. Not sure about display. Amazon shows people buying it with some other brand display.
Morningstar - 45A, $420. Great reputation, I think. Too spendy for me.
Victron Blue Solar - several options (30A for $226). 50A for $327. Also has a "bluetooth dongle" for $50, which takes care of my remote display desire(s). Victron aso has "color control GX monitor", which doesn't seem like it's out yet. It's an awesome display, but $435 for it ALONE. So, that isn't happening.
Finally, an AIMS 60A for $470. Same brand as the inverter I'm likely going with, if that matters. No remote display, as far as I know. Has LAN, but to use it I'd need to get a USB network card for my stick-PC (media center) and run software. High geek factor, but arg.
What I do recall about using my parents' camper is that I never paid attention to the solar. It displayed voltage, I suppose, but honestly, I didn't pay it any attention. So, maybe my remote display (or worse, mounting the controller where I can see it) is mostly useless. A controller to monitor current usage would be cool, but again, after one "gets used to things", it'd be ignored, I believe.
Super long post to basically say (like many others) MPPT or not?
Any super amazing MPPT controllers for a great price out there?
What size controller do I even need?
I'm probably leaning Victron with bluetooth dongle for name/price/display.
Perhaps in combination with the battery monitor, I dunno...