What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is energy that can be recreated, or energy that doesn’t harm the environment as much as fossil fuels do. There are many kinds of energy, for example solar power, that are deemed renewable, like the following:

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is energy that comes from the heat of the earth. It comes from heated rock and reservoirs of hot water that are miles below the earth’s surface. Geothermal plants are able to harness these naturally occurring heat sources and turn them into energy. Geothermal energy can help heat office buildings, help grow greenhouse plants, heat water, and more.

Hydroelectricity

Harnessing the power of water isn’t new, as water wheels and mills have been used for decades. Now the energy of rivers is being converted into hydroelectricity. The most common example of this is a dam. Dams store water, like a reservoir, and release the water through turbines that produce electricity. Another way dams work is where a portion of a river flows through a channel with turbines, and energy is collected from the river as it flows through.

Ocean Thermal Energy

Along the same lines of harnessing the power of a river, lake or reservoir, is the power of the ocean. The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal energy from the sun’s heat and energy from the motion of the water, tides and waves. Anything from ebbs and flows of tides, to wind-driven waves, and ocean currents can help generate power if harness properly. With most of the earth’s surface covered in water, the future is promising for hydro-related power.

Bioenergy

Bioenergy is used to create alternate renewable energy, such as biodiesel. It can be used to create heat or electricity. It uses biomass, or organic matter, to create the energy. It does use the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, but it helps remove an equal amount of CO2 from the atmosphere with replacement plants. It’s an ongoing process.

Wind

While wind is technically considered to be a solar-powered energy, it still falls into the renewable energy category. Wind is caused by the warming and cooling of the atmosphere. The power of the wind can be harnessed by wind turbines and converted into energy. In some farms today, windmills are still used to pump water.

There are many alternate ways of getting the energy that we need to exist. A lot of them aren’t as explored as fossil fuel energy is, but are well on their way to getting there. Solar power is just one of many alternate ways to supply energy from things like water, wind and sun, that already exist.

2/10/2017 - 2016 Airstream Flying Cloud FB, 25'

This client came to us with an existing 400W solar charging system using flexible panels (which we discourage due to reliability issues) and an additional 120W folding panel.  We replaced the original roof wiring because one of the four panels had stopped functioning, added two SP100 solar panels and upgraded the charge controller.  We also replaced the PWM charge controller on the folding panel and added a Victron MPPT charge controller with Bluetooth monitoring.  Next, we added a 600Ah Signature lithium battery bank and a 3000W inverter, which all fit tightly under the bed.  This is one of our most elaborate installs.
 

Equipment Added: 1x  600Ah Signature Lithium Battery Bank w/o Color Control Monitor 1x  Victron Multiplus 3000VA Inverter/Charger 2x  SP100 Solar Panel Kits 1x  Roof Mount Combiner Box 1x  Victron 100|45 charge controller 1x  Victron 100|15 charge controller 1x  Victron Bluetooth dongle

Equipment Added:
1x  600Ah Signature Lithium Battery Bank w/o Color Control Monitor
1x  Victron Multiplus 3000VA Inverter/Charger
2x  SP100 Solar Panel Kits
1x  Roof Mount Combiner Box
1x  Victron 100|45 charge controller
1x  Victron 100|15 charge controller
1x  Victron Bluetooth dongle

Lithium BMS components

Lithium BMS components

Charge Controller

Charge Controller

3000VA inverter and three 200Ah lithium batteries under the bed

3000VA inverter and three 200Ah lithium batteries under the bed

2/6/2017 - 2013 Pleasure-Way, Mercedes Chassis, 22'

We installed a 220Ah AGM battery bank and a 300W solar charging system on this client’s van.  In typical weather conditions, the solar panels will replenish about 75Ah per day (70% of the battery bank’s usable capacity).  Solar, combined with alternator charging will keep these batteries topped off.

Equipment Added: 3x SP100 Solar Panel Kits 1x Roof Mount Combiner Box 1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 25A System Core 2x 12V AGM 4CT 220Ah Batteries

Equipment Added:
3x SP100 Solar Panel Kits
1x Roof Mount Combiner Box
1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 25A System Core
2x 12V AGM 4CT 220Ah Batteries

Charge controller and shunt

Charge controller and shunt

Combiner Box

Combiner Box

AGM Batteries

AGM Batteries

12/5/2016 - 2010 Creekside FQ, 20'

This trailer got a powerful roof mounted solar charging system along with a Zamp 120W folding panel.  The folding panel has been customized to work on the same charge controller and monitoring system as the roof mount solar panels. 

Equipment Added: 3x SF160 Solar Panels 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 50A System Core 1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle 1x Zamp 120W Panel with Folding Case 1x Portable panel plug

Equipment Added:
3x SF160 Solar Panels
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 50A System Core
1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle
1x Zamp 120W Panel with Folding Case
1x Portable panel plug

480W roof mount solar system

480W roof mount solar system

50A MPPT Charge Controller

50A MPPT Charge Controller

Flooded Battery

Flooded Battery

11/14/2016 - 2007 Tiffin Allegro Bus, 40'

We installed a powerful 960W Solar charging system, a 300Ah AGM Battery bank and a 3000W inverter on this class A motorhome.  Fortunately Victron inverters can be installed in a variety of orientations.  This one is upside down.

Equipment Added: 6x SF160 Solar Panels 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 70A System Core 1x Color Control Monitor 1x BMV-702 battery monitor kit 4x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets 2x 6V 300Ah AGM Batteries GPL-6CT 1x 3000W Victron MultiPlus Inverter

Equipment Added:
6x SF160 Solar Panels
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 70A System Core
1x Color Control Monitor
1x BMV-702 battery monitor kit
4x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets
2x 6V 300Ah AGM Batteries GPL-6CT
1x 3000W Victron MultiPlus Inverter

Inverter compartment

Inverter compartment

System Monitor

System Monitor

Inverter

Inverter

11/30/2016 - 2011 Airstream International, 28'

Our SP100 solar panels are ideal for the curved roofs on Airstream installations because of their compact footprint.  This client ended up with a 300W solar charger and two new AGM batteries.

Equipment Added: 3x SP100 Solar Panels 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 30A System Core 1x Victron MPPT Control System Monitor 2x AGM GPL24 12V 80Ah Batteries

Equipment Added:
3x SP100 Solar Panels
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 30A System Core
1x Victron MPPT Control System Monitor
2x AGM GPL24 12V 80Ah Batteries

300W Solar Charging System

300W Solar Charging System

System Monitor

System Monitor

Solar Charge Controller

Solar Charge Controller

2/3/2017 - 2014 Newmar Canyon Star Road Hauler w/ 10' Garage, 36'

This client opted for a unique configuration with his lithium batteries and had us put them inside, under the couch.  Wiring was extremely challenging but the installation was a success.

Equipment Added: 600Ah Signature Lithium Battery System 1x Victron MultiPlus 3000 Inverter 6x SF160 Solar Panels 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron 150/70A System Core

Equipment Added:
600Ah Signature Lithium Battery System
1x Victron MultiPlus 3000 Inverter
6x SF160 Solar Panels
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron 150/70A System Core

Lithium under couch

Lithium under couch

System Monitors

System Monitors

Solar charge controller

Solar charge controller

What is a Carbon Footprint?

Learning about the world, and the effect that we have on it can be mind-blowing. Here at AM Solar we try to do our part by supporting green or alternative energy, such as solar energy. Now that 2017 has fulling arrived, and people have either kept or not kept their New Year’s resolutions, we’re here to suggest another. What if you pledged to reduce the impact you have on the environment? The best way to learn about your impact and come up with ways to reduce it, is to learn about what a Carbon Footprint is.

What is it?

Carbon dioxide is a color-less and odor-less gas that occurs in the atmosphere. It occurs naturally from the life cycle of oceans, soil, plants and animals. It’s also caused by human activities, and released into the environment at harmful amounts. The majority of human-caused carbon dioxide is from the burning of fossil fuels, decay of solid waste and combustion of wood products. If narrowed down, the top three sources of carbon pollution are electricity, transportation and big industry.

How to help

Of course, we can all pitch in by turning the lights of, making sure extra appliances aren’t plugged in all the time. Taking a bike or walking to work if possible is a great option. Taking public transportation isn’t a perfect solution, but it does help. Some cities have even pledged to use more environmentally friendly fuel (like biofuel) in their public buses, etc.

Carpooling is another great way to at least reduce the carbon emission that you personally put out. It takes a car relatively the same about of energy to get one person to a destination as it does to get 3 others. Sometimes there are even other perks to carpooling, such as programs offered by an individual state or city, or faster commuter lanes.

There are a lot of things you can do to help conserve energy, like investing in energy efficient appliances, weatherproofing windows and being conscious of the energy you do use. Recycling is also helpful to reduce energy.

Going Solar

It’s hard to feel like one family or one home or one RV can help make an impact on the growing carbon footprint, but you can. Taking small steps to using alternate energy methods does help. Try using a solar powered phone charger, or solar powered crank flashlight.   

Another great way to test out solar options, is to outfit your RV to be solar. It’s not as big of a commitment to solar energy as your home, but it will give you an understanding of what the freedom of solar power can do.

Any way that you can contribute to a reduction in energy used will help reduce carbon emissions. One family, home, or RV can make a difference.

2/03/2017 - 2016 Monaco Diplomat, 44'

Four months prior these clients had us install four SF160 solar panels and a SunRunner Signature 40/2 Pro Core.  On this installation they swapped out the Blue Sky components for Victron, added another 640W and got one of our 800Ah Signature lithium systems.  Now they have 1280W of solar with one of the most advanced RV battery systems on the market.

Equipment Added: 800Ah Signature Lithium System 4x SF160 Solar Panels 1x Victron BlueSolar MPPT 150/100 1x Victron BlueSolar MPPT 100/15 1x VE.Direct BlueTooth Smart Dongle 1x Magnum ME-ARC50

Equipment Added:
800Ah Signature Lithium System
4x SF160 Solar Panels
1x Victron BlueSolar MPPT 150/100
1x Victron BlueSolar MPPT 100/15
1x VE.Direct BlueTooth Smart Dongle
1x Magnum ME-ARC50

Signature Lithium Battery Bank

Signature Lithium Battery Bank

AM Solar combiner boxes can be used for more than just solar cables.  Here we have connected an antenna wire.

AM Solar combiner boxes can be used for more than just solar cables.  Here we have connected an antenna wire.

Magnum inverter with Victron charge controllers

Magnum inverter with Victron charge controllers

2/01/2017 - 2016 Airstream Flying Cloud 26U

Airstream systems are a substantial portion of our business.  This customer got 400W of roof mount solar and a 160W folding panel from our friends at Zamp Solar. Another common upgrade for Airstreams is to replace the charger with a Progressive Dynamics PD4655.

Equipment Added: 4x SP100 Solar panels 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 40A system core 1x Zamp 160W Portable Panel with built in charge controller and portable case 1x PD4655 Charger Replacement/Upgrade

Equipment Added:
4x SP100 Solar panels
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 40A system core
1x Zamp 160W Portable Panel with built in charge controller and portable case
1x PD4655 Charger Replacement/Upgrade

Blue Sky 3024IL charge controller being connected

Blue Sky 3024IL charge controller being connected

Blue Sky IPN Pro system monitor

Blue Sky IPN Pro system monitor

The system is installed in this cabinet.

The system is installed in this cabinet.

2/2/2017 - 2002 Chinook Premiere, 21'

This client was tired of worrying about his batteries running low while using a CPAP machine.  He also wanted to run a small refrigerator and power a laptop.  He ended up with a roof covered in solar panels (460W), a 300Ah AGM battery bank and a silent Suresine 300W inverter.

Equipment Added: 2x SF100 Solar Panels 1x SP100 Solar Panel 1x SF160 Solar Panel 1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 40A System core 1x Roof C-Box 2x AGM 6CT 6V 300Ah Batteries 1x SureSine 300-12 Inverter 1x PD4645 Charger Replacement/Upgrade

Equipment Added:
2x SF100 Solar Panels
1x SP100 Solar Panel
1x SF160 Solar Panel
1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 40A System core
1x Roof C-Box
2x AGM 6CT 6V 300Ah Batteries
1x SureSine 300-12 Inverter
1x PD4645 Charger Replacement/Upgrade

Charge Controller

Charge Controller

Battery Bank

Battery Bank

Blue Sky IPN Pro

Blue Sky IPN Pro

Things you never knew about solar energy

Solar energy, while not a new concept, can seem a bit out there to some people. There are a lot of things that even solar users don’t know. Here’s a breakdown of some little-known things about solar energy:

1.       The first solar cell was developed in 1954. It was built by Bell Laboratories and made The New York Times. The silicon solar cell was essentially the precursor of all solar-powered devices.

2.       The demand for solar energy has finally reached an all-time high. Solar power abilities have increased 23 times in just the past decade. The United States is producing enough energy to power roughly 5.4 average American homes. The U.S. still falls in third as the largest solar market in the world, but is rapidly rising to become second. The demand for solar installations is on the rise. China is currently the world’s leading solar producer, and they’re even seeking to triple capacity by 2020.

3.       One of the first major industries to start using solar was the space industry. Solar energy was used to provide the on-board power to spacecraft. The first official satellite to function on solar power was the Vanguard 1. This satellite is the oldest man-made satellite still in orbit.

4.       Pricing is only going down for solar power. It’s increasingly becoming a more economical way to power homes and businesses. Some states offer tax credits, or green house funding, for going more green in newer construction or going solar.

5.       The largest operating solar thermal energy plant is in California in the Mojave Desert. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility uses concentrating solar power technology to convert power. This plant only came online in 2014 and has a unique feature that allows the solar energy to be stored for use after the sun sets. This has been a huge focus in recent solar research and development efforts. This is important as it helps prevent over delivering solar power, and gets the power to where it’s needed.

6.       Solar power produces zero pollution. Not even noise pollution.

7.       Just one household rooftop solar system can reduce CO2 pollution by 100 tons in the system’s lifetime. This also takes into consideration the energy that was required to manufacture said solar panels.

While the demand for more solar energy has risen, the cost of solar panels has dropped, by nearly 80 percent. Solar panel warranty has reached 25 years for some products. Solar energy is only getting more efficient and more affordable, as the industry is rapidly growing.

Lithium Battery Banks

Ever wondered what the purpose of lithium battery banks is when it comes to outfitting a solar RV? Learn why more people are turning to lithium batteries than ever before and the pros of choosing lithium when it comes to updating your system.

While a basic lithium battery system can cost more to update, there are various benefits to switching over:

Lithium batteries have a longer lifespan that other solar powered batteries. Lead acid batteries have an estimated lifespan of around 5 years, while Lithium batteries can last for more than 10. Lithium batteries typically need less maintenance. They don’t require full charging regularly and they don’t need equalization. Some solar batteries need to keep a complete charge at most times in order to stay mostly functional. It is usually advised to keep your batteries at full charge, which is a great idea for unforeseen solar emergencies, and colder weather.

The cold tends to leach energy from batteries, so the more charged they are, the more of a charge they’ll retain. The power storage of lead-acid batteries can drop by 50 percent during sub-zero temperatures, compared to an only 8 percent drop with Lithium batteries.

Lithium battery systems can be custom designed to any of the following 5 sizes that Victron makes: 60Ah, 90Ah, 160Ah, 200Ah and 300Ah. AM Solar offers two types of lithium battery systems, the Essential and the Signature. The signature is the recommended system for RV-ers who are anticipating heavy usage for appliances like air conditioners, etc.

When using Lithium batteries, it is recommended by AM Solar, to use a Battery Management System or BMS. Management systems for batteries help protect lithium batteries from being over charged or discharged.

Due to the fact that these batteries have a high current output, they also offer a more usable capacity. They’re also smaller in size than other solar batteries and they’re more light weight. Lithium batteries are about one third of the weight that lead-acid batteries are, which is great for RVs.

Lithium batteries also lose less capacity if they’re left for longer, than if compared to lead-acid batteries. They lose about 1-3 percent for every 5-15 percent that lead acid does. This makes lithium batteries perfect for in-frequent use.

While lead-acid batteries are a great option for a solar powered RV system, Lithium batteries have many more benefits. It may cost more to outfit an RV with lithium batteries, but the batteries have nearly double the lifespan, and they hold a charge longer and at colder temperatures. If you’re considering going solar in your RV, check out the lithium batteries available at AM Solar.

11/30/16 - 2002 Country Coach Intrigue, 40'

This client needed a power solar charging system with the potential to upgrade to a lithium battery bank.  They got 960W of solar panels and a Victron charge controller with Bluetooth monitoring.

Equipment Added: 6x SF160s 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 70A 1x Bluetooth Smart Dongle

Equipment Added:
6x SF160s
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 70A
1x Bluetooth Smart Dongle

Victron Charge Controller

Victron Charge Controller

Combiner box with six panels

Combiner box with six panels

AGM Batteries

AGM Batteries

10/20/2016 – 2013 RoadTrek 190, 20'

This client was looking for a solar charger to keep their flooded batteries topped off and run small appliances.  We installed our Complete Charger Deluxe kit using two SP100 solar panel kits to give them about 50Ah of energy per day. 

Equipment Added: 1x 100W Complete Charger Deluxe with SP100 1x SP100W Panel kit addition

Equipment Added:
1x 100W Complete Charger Deluxe with SP100
1x SP100W Panel kit addition

200W of SP100 Solar Panels

200W of SP100 Solar Panels

Interstate Flooded Batteries

Interstate Flooded Batteries

Blue Sky Charge Controller

Blue Sky Charge Controller

Solar Gifts for the Holidays

If there’s someone in your life who has outfitted their RV with solar panels, or who is obsessed with solar everything, it might be fun to get them something solar related for the holidays. Here are some great solar gift ideas for the solar lover.

Radios

Everyone has been on a camping trip where it rained the whole time, and boredom seeped in. Finding a solar powered radio could be a fun saver on one of those trips. Some radios are hand crank versions that get some of their power from smaller solar panels.

Portable chargers

Some solar chargers can be quite affordable, in the $50 range. They’re made up of solar panels that are around the size of a computer or a couple of iPads. They usually come with a USB port or two for charging your phone or computer. There are smaller versions of these chargers, that are more compact. Some of these versions feature separate battery packs so that you can carry them around for portable power, once they’ve been fully charged.

Solar lights

There’s always need for lights, lanterns and flashlights when you’re camping.  Solar powered handheld lights come in a variety of different pricing, but tend to be $50 and under, which makes them a pretty affordable gift.

You can even find solar powered spotlights that can light up the majority of your campsite or camping area.

Solar showers

The power of a warm shower in the middle of a camping trip can’t be underestimated. Give the gift of a solar shower. Solar showers are water bag that gets warmed by the sun, and hung over a tree branch. Stand under it, and it’s a makeshift shower. Solar showers come in multiple sizes, like a 3 or 5-gallon size.

Solar Speakers

Looking for a little music while camping? Bring a long a new solar chargeable speaker. A lot of speakers offer the capability of playing music from your phone via Bluetooth, but they require a plug to charge or batteries. Find a model that can be recharged with solar power, and you can take your tunes anywhere.

Take away

There are a ton of affordable solar gadgets that the solar lover in your life will appreciate. One always loves the ease of solar powered accessories that make camping more enjoyable. Do some research and find a gift that will just keep giving, or maybe it will just keep charging.

How to Store your Solar RV for the Winter

Solar in winter

The snowy season is here and for those of you with Solar equipped RV’s that means it’s time to check in on the health of your solar RV, and how you should be taking care of it throughout the winter.

Routine Maintenance

Before it gets too cold, it’s a good idea to check in on the condition of your power system, and do any needed maintenance. If you live in a warmer or dry climate, you may want to check in on this as well.

If you’re still trying to collect solar power with your RV you may want to consider the angle that your solar panels are angled at. With the shorter, and often, more cloudy days of winter, getting your panels tilted at the most ideal angle can save you a lot of power. The ideal angle is simple, use your location’s latitude and add on 15 degrees. If you’re concerned with the amount of snow that may pile up on top of your solar panels, you may want to consider adjusting them to a steeper angle.

Keep it free of snow

If it snows, try to routinely clear your solar panels of any snow you can. If you let snow sit and freeze onto solar panels, it could take even longer before the panels are able to collect power again.

Batteries

Consider that in colder weather batteries hold a smaller charge. If you’ve left a battery sit through a cold winter, chances are in the spring you may find a dead battery. If you’re using your batteries on a daily basis, they tend to keep their charge much longer. Fully charged batteries freeze at a much lower temperature than low batteries. A battery that is half charged can freeze at a much warmer temperature than a fully charged one.

Solar behavior in cold weather

Consider that you may be collecting less energy during the winter months and modify your behavior to accommodate for that. Turning off appliances to save energy is a must. Keeping your solar panels free of snow allows for them to charge every time the sun comes out, rather than wasting the sun’s energy.

Winter can be a great time to catch up on the maintenance of your solar RV. You may have not had time to fix something or update your system in the summer, as you were too busy enjoying your RV. Spend the time to take care of your RV and make sure that it is properly stored and taken care of for the longer winter months. 

What you need to know about Solar Panels in Colder Weather

Solar Panels in Snow

You’re interested in investing in solar panels for your RV, but are hesitant to commit because you want to learn more about how solar panels function in colder weather. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about solar performance and maintenance in colder weather and winter months.

When it’s Cloudy

Winter tends to be cloudier, especially in snowy areas, with the occasional flurry rolling through. The good news is, even when it’s cloudy, your solar panels are still collecting energy. If there is light, your panels are still converting it into clean energy. Solar panels don’t work with heat, they work with light. As long as there is light outside, you will be collecting energy. Solar panels actual perform better in cooler temperatures than very hot temperatures.

Because the days of winter aren’t as long as summer days, you’ll have to plan for less time collecting energy. You’ll have less hours of daylight to collect energy. Consider adjusting the angle of your panels to properly capture the sunlight, if you have an adjustable rack mount.

What if it snows

AM Solar will ensure that your solar panels are able to collect the most sunlight they can. Snow typically won’t stick to solar panels, as they’re quite smooth and snow should slide right off. Because the panels should always be facing the sun, what snow does stick should melt.

If you find that snow is piling up on your panels, you should be careful about removing it. Gently remove the bulk of the snow from the panels and your RV roof. Keep a broom or a brush on hand to clear freshly fallen snow off. If you let the snow sit and freeze onto the panels it will take longer for your panels to start collecting again. It could also damage your solar panels. Much like water melts into cracks, and then expands those cracks when it freezes, the same thing could happen to your solar panels without the proper snow care.

When it’s cold

Consider the fact that battery storage capacity is reduced in a colder climate. Fully charged batteries that are used on a frequent or daily basis, won’t freeze very easily. The temperature would have to drop to -70 degrees F or more. If a battery isn’t fully charged, it can freeze much faster, somewhere around -10 degrees F.

Talk to your local solar professionals and see what care they recommend for colder, potential snowy weather. Ask for recommendations for products, panels, rack mounts and more.