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Old 11-17-2015, 08:03 PM   #1
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RV 5th Wheel Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

I just wanted to share my 5th Wheel RV Solar plans. This is a work in progress. With the upcoming Renogy Cyber Monday Promotion, the 400 Watt Solar kit in this design would only be $718. The install is partially complete just need to add the Solar, charge controller and Battery monitor. More info or to follow the progress check out. RV POWER UPGRADE | Live, Breathe, Move
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Old 11-23-2015, 04:10 PM   #2
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Please post lots of pictures. I am not even close to your league in understanding the layout. I do plan on better batteries and an inverter at a minimum to my 5er.

Does this setup have a manual switch on for the inverter? When on does the system auto detect shore power and switch to inverter power only when shore power is not connected?

What about recharging the batteries? Are batteries only recharged from the solar panels?

I would love to see a picture where you connected into the existing RV converter. Regarding the battery recharge when using shore power, is that still coming from the RV OEM original Converter/Charger?

Sorry if these are dumb questions. I am a newbie trying to educate myself and get pleasure out of designing and installing things myself. Also saves a lot of $$$.

Thanks for posting this!
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Old 11-23-2015, 08:52 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Appalachian Ed View Post
Please post lots of pictures. I am not even close to your league in understanding the layout. I do plan on better batteries and an inverter at a minimum to my 5er.

Does this setup have a manual switch on for the inverter? When on does the system auto detect shore power and switch to inverter power only when shore power is not connected?

What about recharging the batteries? Are batteries only recharged from the solar panels?

I would love to see a picture where you connected into the existing RV converter. Regarding the battery recharge when using shore power, is that still coming from the RV OEM original Converter/Charger?

Sorry if these are dumb questions. I am a newbie trying to educate myself and get pleasure out of designing and installing things myself. Also saves a lot of $$$.

Thanks for posting this!
I did not interrupt the existing shore power converter systems that was delivered with the 5th wheel and that will still charge the batteries when plugged in with the existing wire feed to/from the removed battery.

As far as the inverter. I turn that on manually via the on/off switch that came with the inverter and that I am mounting near the interior circuit breaker panel. The connection of the inverter to the AC outlets is also "manual" not automatic. On the schematic you will see two "3-way light switch" type switches also near the interior circuit breaker panel. I use these two switches to manually switch my trailer's two AC outlet circuits over from the Circuit Breaker Panel (shore power) to the inverter when shore power is not available. The AC, microwave, and fireplace circuits will not be available to be powered by the inverter and the Fridge, and hot water heater will only be available for use in propane mode when disconnected from shore power.

I will try to post more pictures once I get this complete. Hope that helps.
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Old 11-23-2015, 10:31 PM   #4
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It looks like you are not using the inverter, even for the microwave, which you WILL want to use sooner or later. Also, IMHO, you might want to give thought to an automatic transfer switch. I made the mistake of installing a manual switch and fried it on our first outing.
Are you installing a MPPT solar controller or the PWM unit. From my personal experience, there is a Big difference in the two. BTW, Renogy makes a great MPPT controller and their customer service is excellent!
Also consider the MT-5 remote controller head. A huge help in managing your solar controller.
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Old 11-23-2015, 11:42 PM   #5
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I hate that the exact kit I want is going on sale when I can't spring for it! Ugh, off to count pennies.
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Old 11-24-2015, 12:15 AM   #6
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Also, to answer your question about charging the batteries, they charge from both and or the solar system and onboard converter. My inverter [5,000 watt] powers everything in the unit through an Paralax auto transfer switch. It's over kill on the size of the inverter, but it's there if I need it and I have 500 amp hrs of batteries to power it. Again, overkill, but it's what I wanted AVAILABLE if I needed it. The inverter has an on/off switch.
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Old 11-24-2015, 09:39 AM   #7
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It looks like you are not using the inverter, even for the microwave, which you WILL want to use sooner or later. Also, IMHO, you might want to give thought to an automatic transfer switch. I made the mistake of installing a manual switch and fried it on our first outing.
Are you installing a MPPT solar controller or the PWM unit. From my personal experience, there is a Big difference in the two. BTW, Renogy makes a great MPPT controller and their customer service is excellent!
Also consider the MT-5 remote controller head. A huge help in managing your solar controller.
I DO NOT want the microwave connected to the 2000 watt inverter and it is actually not possible to "fry" anything with the manual switching system that I have designed because the inverter and converter outputs can not be tied together with the 3-way switches.

I am installing the MPPT charge controller and I have also installed an Ethernet cable up to the interior beside the battery monitor so that I can add the MT-5 if I decide I need or want it. Sounds like I will. Thanks.
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Old 11-24-2015, 09:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Blackhat6mike View Post
It looks like you are not using the inverter, even for the microwave, which you WILL want to use sooner or later. Also, IMHO, you might want to give thought to an automatic transfer switch. I made the mistake of installing a manual switch and fried it on our first outing.
Are you installing a MPPT solar controller or the PWM unit. From my personal experience, there is a Big difference in the two. BTW, Renogy makes a great MPPT controller and their customer service is excellent!
Also consider the MT-5 remote controller head. A huge help in managing your solar controller.
How many Watts of PVs do you have? Looks like 6 panels. Are they all connected to the MPPT charge control? Is that the 40 amp charge control?
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Old 11-24-2015, 09:51 AM   #9
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Is it easier to install an inverter system that is simply connected to the entire 5er electrical system or to selected regions as you are doing. I am learning but my logic says connect it to the existing system and I have the option when running on the DC batteries to not use items (such as AC or Microwave) if I fear they will overload the size inverter I install?

I would really appreciate more details regarding tapping into the existing system. Sorry if I am slow here but don't have a clear picture in my mind on wiring into the existing breaker panel to choose selected devices (or all devices)? Do you simply connect into the breakers you want to power from the inverter so that both existing system and your inverter are able to feed power into the system?
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Old 11-24-2015, 11:59 AM   #10
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Is it easier to install an inverter system that is simply connected to the entire 5er electrical system or to selected regions as you are doing. I am learning but my logic says connect it to the existing system and I have the option when running on the DC batteries to not use items (such as AC or Microwave) if I fear they will overload the size inverter I install?

I would really appreciate more details regarding tapping into the existing system. Sorry if I am slow here but don't have a clear picture in my mind on wiring into the existing breaker panel to choose selected devices (or all devices)? Do you simply connect into the breakers you want to power from the inverter so that both existing system and your inverter are able to feed power into the system?
If you want to be able to power everything (microwaves etc) from the inverter you likely need larger than 2000 watt inverter and you also need some sort of auto transfer switch as suggested. My design was cheaper and easier for what I want.

To use the switches you just need a standard 3-way light switch from a hardware store or a dual three way switch if you want to wire two separate circuits to the inverter like I am.

1. Run a single Romex (2-wire plus ground) from the inverter output to the 3-way switch mounted near interior circuit breaker panel and connect the black wire of this inverter wire to the "Normally Open" stud on the 3-way switch. (should be the terminal on the right side looking at the 3-way switch from the front.)

3. Disconnect the wire from the existing outlet circuit breaker you want to be able to power with the inverter, pull it over to the 3-way switch and connect that black wire to the "common" stud on the 3-way switch (lower left side) and splice the white wire to the white inverter wire.

4. You then just run a short wire jumper from the 3-way switch and connect the black wire to the "Normally Closed" stud (upper left) and splice the white wire to the two other white wires in the switch box. The other side of this wire black goes to the vacated breaker and the white wire goes to the common terminal in the panel.

My 5th wheel has two 15 amp breakers that cover all AC outlets so I used a Dual 3-way switch and did the above procedure for each switch and jumpered the black inverter wire to both "normally open" switch contacts. Here is a before an after schematic that may help.
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Old 11-24-2015, 08:19 PM   #11
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I DO NOT want the microwave connected to the 2000 watt inverter and it is actually not possible to "fry" anything with the manual switching system that I have designed because the inverter and converter outputs can not be tied together with the 3-way switches.

I am installing the MPPT charge controller and I have also installed an Ethernet cable up to the interior beside the battery monitor so that I can add the MT-5 if I decide I need or want it. Sounds like I will. Thanks.
The MT-5 is worth every dime you pay for it. Tells you everything you want to know about the system. Not the best built piece of equipment, but it works well. You can operate the entire system from the MT-5 head. Has a 6' ethernet cable with it. Once you see how well the system works, odds are you will be adding panels.
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Old 11-24-2015, 08:34 PM   #12
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How many Watts of PVs do you have? Looks like 6 panels. Are they all connected to the MPPT charge control? Is that the 40 amp charge control?
Yes it's 600 watts and a 40 amp controller, but I have never seen more than 500 watts coming down the line. I have a 25' run from the panels to the controller, through a fuse and circuit breaker, so there is some loss.
My batteries stay at 13.8 unless I add a load, but recover quickly with any sun at all. Today I saw 62vdc from the panels at 8 amps. That's 496 watts.
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Old 11-24-2015, 10:31 PM   #13
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Do you recommend the series connection for the PVs? Any issue when there is partial shading?
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Old 11-25-2015, 12:38 AM   #14
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Do you recommend the series connection for the PVs? Any issue when there is partial shading?
You can connect 4 x 100 watt panels in series with the 40 amp controller which will keep your vdc up [88vdc] and your amps down [5.5amps]. The 40 amp controller will take 100vdc. This is the ideal setup for 4 x 100 watt panels.
If you connect 2 strings of 2 x 100 watt panels in series, then parallel them, you will have 44vcd and up to 11amps. The BEST setup is to keep the volts high and the amps low in a 12vdc system. The harder you drive [amps] the volts, the larger the wires from the panels you will need. The 10AWG wires that come with your Renogy panels will handle much more than you will need and keep the losses down.
When you series panels, the volts increase, not the amps. When you parallel panels, the amps increase, not the vdc.
Partial shade will decrease the output of the panels, but they will produce during virtually any sun condition including cloud cover, just not as much. You should try for open space parking in any area possible when you are boondocking.
DON'T SKIMP ON THE BATTERIES!! All the solar in the world will not do you any good if you can't store it. I have 500+ amp hrs of batteries in my ststem.
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Old 11-25-2015, 01:31 PM   #15
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To use the switches you just need a standard 3-way light switch from a hardware store or a dual three way switch if you want to wire two separate circuits to the inverter like I am.

1. Run a single Romex (2-wire plus ground) from the inverter output to the 3-way switch mounted near interior circuit breaker panel and connect the black wire of this inverter wire to the "Normally Open" stud on the 3-way switch. (should be the terminal on the right side looking at the 3-way switch from the front.)

3. Disconnect the wire from the existing outlet circuit breaker you want to be able to power with the inverter, pull it over to the 3-way switch and connect that black wire to the "common" stud on the 3-way switch (lower left side) and splice the white wire to the white inverter wire.

4. You then just run a short wire jumper from the 3-way switch and connect the black wire to the "Normally Closed" stud (upper left) and splice the white wire to the two other white wires in the switch box. The other side of this wire black goes to the vacated breaker and the white wire goes to the common terminal in the panel.

My 5th wheel has two 15 amp breakers that cover all AC outlets so I used a Dual 3-way switch and did the above procedure for each switch and jumpered the black inverter wire to both "normally open" switch contacts. Here is a before an after schematic that may help.
Thank you Jwhitacre! That help me very much. If I wanted to do the same thing with automatic switches, it would work basically the same wouldn't it. Just a more expensive switch right?

Again this was very helpful to me. I just ordered a book on RV Electrical systems today. I am a tinkerer but new to this. I know I need an inverter just working out the details.
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Old 11-28-2015, 10:01 AM   #16
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Another question popped in my mind last night. Sorry I know I ask a lot of questions.

Do you leave the inverter running all the time or does it have an off switch? I suppose you disconnect the battery when in storage which would effectively shut the inverter off. However when you are on shore power or towing. Is the inverter still running even though it is not being use?

Thanks so much for your patience.
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Old 11-28-2015, 11:41 AM   #17
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Yes the inverter has an on/off switch that I mounted in the interior. This stays off unless I am specifically using the inverter for power.
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Old 11-30-2015, 12:17 PM   #18
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Another inverter question...

If I have a 1000 Watt inverter and am currently using 400watts, if the inverter still draining 100 Watts of power from the battery? If I am currently using 0 Watts, is the inverter drawing more than simply enough to keep the inverter on? I read something making me feel an inverter is drawing complete power it was designed for all the time from the battery.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-30-2015, 12:27 PM   #19
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There's always a parasitic loss, even with the inverter at idle it will draw a little power for it's own consumption, circuitry, cooling fans, etc. Results will vary, but it's always there.
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Old 11-30-2015, 12:38 PM   #20
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If it's turned on that is. Mine drops to absolute zero amps draw when off.
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