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Old 10-18-2016, 01:32 PM   #1
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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...
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Old 10-26-2016, 08:31 PM   #2
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Do your batteries in series not parallel,- thinner wire. Your controller will change all that to amps required anyway. Look into Xantrex/schneider C40 controller. Its 129$ will do 40 amps, and 150v max input , it is pwm. you can setup different voltages for different battery banks-24/12v.
If you are not living in it i wouldnt bother with mppt. Your 450w will be more than enough to recharge batteries. Read reviews on Xantrex c40 on amazon. They arw workhorses that never fail, battery settings are fully customizable for charging modes.
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Old 10-26-2016, 08:42 PM   #3
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6 years later, 24/7 on. Runs all soffit lights in the house and xmas lights - Aims
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Old 10-26-2016, 08:54 PM   #4
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OK...let's slow down here. (1) You cannot wire your panels in series if you use PWM controllers as they cannot use the higher voltages. (2) You don't want to wire them in series anyway as you will lose virtually all output if even a small area of one panel gets shaded, and I mean a really small area. (2) 150 watt panels will only put out a little more than 8 amps each...into a short circuit, which never happens, and normally operate around 6 amps each, so 3 panels generally never even get to more than 20 amps.

My vote is wire them in parallel, use a PWM controller and I prefer the Bogart SC2030, which cooperates with the Trimetric monitor to produce a really nice integrated system. Even offers battery equalization capability and the panels have the voltage to do it.

Trojans are great as well. Wire size need only be 10 Ga down to the controller, or 10 to 8 Ga from a combiner box and then to the controller. There is plenty of voltage available and the 2030 uses remote sense, so it will get the battery voltage to where it needs to be with reasonable cables (#6?).

At these sizes, MPPT doesn't add enough. With a 5000 watt home installation, it allows panels to be wired in series to reduce the size of cabling to the controller.
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Old 10-26-2016, 08:56 PM   #5
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Renogy's 150 watt panels are rated at 8.38 amps output. That's just a little over 25 amps for 450 watts of panels. Any of those 30 amp controllers would work. As you mentioned you will rarely ever be able to get the full output from each panel so you should be good with a 30 amp charge controller.
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Old 10-27-2016, 02:09 AM   #6
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What Scott said

MPPT does voltage conversion which comes into play with series wired panels. You wire panels in series to A) increase voltage and B) reduce current in the down feed wires. This means you can run smaller wires from the panels and lose less power. UNFORTUNATELY... it also means if just one little square cell is shaded you lose output from the whole string of panels.

SO you usually want to wire panels in parallel as much as possible. Many panels are putting out a voltage which is not much higher than battery charge voltage. So dropping the voltage by turning power on/off (which is what a PWM controller does) is not turning off very much and thus not losing much.

And IF you put your controller close to the battery you run the higher panel voltage down the longest wires. Which is good because you can afford to lose a bit of voltage there without much cost in power (the PWM controller just turns off a bit less and on a bit more).

As to the controller size, well from a reliability perspective it is always better to run less power through a controller capable of higher power. So to some extent you can think of excess controller capability as insurance against failure. Cost will keep you from going silly there but 20A coming down into a 30A controller is not unreasonable margin. It is also true that if you have some extra capacity in the controller you can add panel capacity if you need to scale up in the future. I think I put in a 20A controller with my 100W panel with the thought I can add another 100W panel without changing the controller.

And one last comment on monitoring. In a best case you want to track both the goes innas and the goes outas. This is how you can tell if your solar production is keeping up with your consumption. So you need a meter that tracks over time for you. The Trimetric does this, for a price. I run a much cheaper meter, a Bayite, but it only tracks the goes outtas. I think I could put in a second Bayite to track goes innas but two meters would seem silly to the non-nerds.
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Old 10-27-2016, 06:25 AM   #7
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I was reading this thread and it sounds very educational for me. I understand that aeblank was the one asking for help hear, maybe I can get some help also?


OK, here is me, I'm running 2 15k ac units in a 36 ft 5th wheel. hot water heater, washer/drier, 3 electric heaters, all dc lighting, microwave, complete entertainment system and computer system, several small appliances, air compressor and portable welder.


looking into getting a 6.5kw onan lp generator and a complete solar system.


correct me if I am wrong please, the parts as they connect to each other, what do you think I will need?
- solar panels size___________ how many___________
-hook into a wiring hub then one pair of wires feed
-controller size__________type________model___________amps____ _____volts
-battery pack size_______how many_____
-inverter size________model________make__________
-is there an auto switchover that can automatically change from shore power to generator or solar?
-RV power supply. is there a remote that can be used from the control center inside the RV, to monitor and / or adjust solar activity and is there a monitor that can monitor the individual batteries in the battery pack?


hopefully this is the proper order starting from the roof and working my way down. if not please correct me. almost forgot, the current RV battery, should it get incorporated into the solar system or leave it alone?


any help would be greatly appreciated, if I do this alone I just know I will over kill this project.


Thank you
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Old 10-27-2016, 10:56 AM   #8
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2014 Sierra...

That is a pretty big question and there are a lot of ways to look at it. First off, get that generator as no solar system is going to serve your needs without a generator, especially to run those AC units and provide electric hot water for more than an hour since those AC units will draw way too much for a reasonable inverter and battery setup.

That aside, solar will give you a lot and should shorten your generator run times when not using electricity for the AC and hot water.

- solar panels size: 150 watt (12 volt) how many: at least 2, but 3 or 4 would be better
-hook into a wiring hub on the roof then one pair of #8 or #6 running down to the controller if you use PWM and panels in parallel (best for shading)
-Bogart controller type PWM model SC2030 30 amps 18 volts
-battery pack size: 6 volt deep cycle how many: 4 or 6 if you have $$ and room
-inverter size 3000/6000 model: Xantrex make: Freedom SW 3000

the Freedom inverter will provide two 30 amp outputs and automatically switch to shore power or generator when present. It will also charge your battery bank at 150 amps when external AC is present.

Now, there are a lot of variations (panels, number of panels, controllers and inverter/chargers. The inverter chargers are pretty pricey the Freedom is around $1,700 bucks on its own.

You seem to be a high power guy, but a nice 2 or 3 panel system with a 70 amp Progressive Dynamics converter (you already might have that), a 2000 watt Xantrex Prowatt inverter, a 15 amp Xantrex transfer switch, 4 batteries (6 or 12 volt but I prefer 6 volt Trojans), a Bogart SC 2030 and a Bogart Trimetric (shows you everything about the batteries and the solar solution inside the RV) would do for most "off grid" RV experiences.(Don't forget that generator!)

This is what I have (I added the solar and the Trimetric) Georgetown did the rest with their residential reefer package.

I am sure that others will respond with their favorites as there are a ton of possibilities, but I like Xantrex, PD and the Bogart stuff as it works together and gives me total control as well as idiot proof operation.

I did a lot of research as well as spending some time in the solar energy world. Some of the stuff (Xantrex, Progressive Dynamics and 4 deep cycles came with the rig) I added a second Xantrex and the rest is what I chose for performance after significant research.

What I like about the Bogart stuff is you look at the Trimetric, it tells you how much power you have in the bank, how much solar, generator and converter (in my case alternator as well) are giving you and you act accordingly.
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Old 10-27-2016, 12:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2014 sierra View Post
...OK, here is me, I'm running 2 15k ac units in a 36 ft 5th wheel. hot water heater, washer/drier, 3 electric heaters, all dc lighting, microwave, complete entertainment system and computer system, several small appliances, air compressor and portable welder.

looking into getting a 6.5kw onan lp generator and a complete solar system.
I think the first thing you need to do is refine your definition. You have some large electrical loads there which will be very difficult, maybe impossible, and very expensive to address with solar. I think you understand that so you have the generator. The generator will more capably handle the AC units, washer/dryer, electric heaters, air compressor, and *portable welder*!

So you must have a generator making the question: what do you want solar to do?
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Old 10-27-2016, 01:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PSU Turf View Post
Renogy's 150 watt panels are rated at 8.38 amps output. That's just a little over 25 amps for 450 watts of panels. Any of those 30 amp controllers would work. As you mentioned you will rarely ever be able to get the full output from each panel so you should be good with a 30 amp charge controller.
This continues to confuse me. 8.38A and 150W is at nearly 18V. So the panels are "nominally" 12V but actually 18V? I've gotten a reply from one of the charge controller places that used 12V to calculate the amperage. While I don't doubt the output is nearly never at full capacity, it's foolish to intentionally under-size any components, either.

So which voltage should I be using for sizing?
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