4/19/2017 2017 Airstream Classic 31'

The narrow dimensions of our SP100 solar panels make them ideal for the curved roofs of Airstreams.  Our adjustable mounting feet allow clients choose if they want the panels mounted level or following the contours of the roof.  We replaced the Airstream factory charger with a Progressive Dynamics PD9260 for more gentle treatment of the batteries, which increases their lifespan.  At 600W, this is one of the largest solar arrays we have installed on an Airstream.

Equipment Added: 6x SP100 Solar Panel Kits 1x Roof C-Box 1x Sun Runner Signature MPPT 40A System Core 1x Progressive Dynamics PD9260 Charger

Equipment Added:
6x SP100 Solar Panel Kits
1x Roof C-Box
1x Sun Runner Signature MPPT 40A System Core
1x Progressive Dynamics PD9260 Charger

600W of solar panels

600W of solar panels

System monitor

System monitor

Blue Sky 3024iL charge controller

Blue Sky 3024iL charge controller

4/7/2017 – 2016 Thor Tuscany XTE, 40’

A powerful 960W solar charging system with an 800Ah AGM battery bank and battery monitor give this motorhome energy independence.  When parked for long periods, three of the 160W solar panels can be tilted toward the south to maximize solar production.  The Magnum BMK (Battery Monitor Kit) uses a shunt to measure current and communicates battery status to the existing ME-RC50 inverter/charger monitor.  The Victron charge controller in the system core conveys solar charging status to a smart phone.  Unless these clients need to run their air conditioner for several hours, they won’t have to worry about plugging into shore power.

Equipment Added: 6x 160W Solar Panel Kits 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Signature 100A System Core 1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle 3x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets 1x Magnum Monitor ME-BMK 4x AGM-GPL-L116 6V 400Ah Batteries

Equipment Added:
6x 160W Solar Panel Kits
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Signature 100A System Core
1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle
3x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets
1x Magnum Monitor ME-BMK
4x AGM-GPL-L116 6V 400Ah Batteries

Victron Charge Controller

Victron Charge Controller

Existing Magnum Inverter/Charger

Existing Magnum Inverter/Charger

Magnum BMK

Magnum BMK

4/21/2017 - Triple E Regency, 28'

This client wanted an upgraded battery bank with a monitor, inverter and a solar charging system.  We installed a Magnum 1000W inverter/charger, 300Ah of AGM batteries and 320W of solar panels.  The Victron charge controller and battery monitor use Bluetooth to communicate system status to a smart phone.  This should cover fans, lights, entertainment center and a small refrigerator.  

Equipment Added: 2x SF160 Solar Panels 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 50A System Core 1x BMV-702 Battery Monitor 1x Wall Box for BMV-702 2x BlueTooth Smart Dongles 2x AGM-GPL-6CTs 6V 300Ah Batteries 1x Magnum MMS1012 Inverter/Charger 1x Magnum Remote ME-RC50

Equipment Added:
2x SF160 Solar Panels
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 50A System Core
1x BMV-702 Battery Monitor
1x Wall Box for BMV-702
2x BlueTooth Smart Dongles
2x AGM-GPL-6CTs 6V 300Ah Batteries
1x Magnum MMS1012 Inverter/Charger
1x Magnum Remote ME-RC50

320W of solar panels

320W of solar panels

Charge controller and inverter

Charge controller and inverter

Batteries

Batteries

4/17/2017 – 2006 Fleetwood Revolution, 41'

This client won’t be able to run their air conditioner ALL the time, but they will be able to do a couple hours per day with the 1280W solar charging kit, 3000W inverter and 600Ah lithium battery system.

Equipment Added: 8x SF160 Panel Kits 3x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPTS 100A Core 1x 3000VA Victron MultiPlus Inverter 1x 600Ah Signature Lithium Battery Bank 2x GPL-3100T Starter Batteries

Equipment Added:
8x SF160 Panel Kits
3x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPTS 100A Core
1x 3000VA Victron MultiPlus Inverter
1x 600Ah Signature Lithium Battery Bank
2x GPL-3100T Starter Batteries

Battery Bay

Battery Bay

Inverter, Charge Controller, Lithium Battery System, starter batteries

Inverter, Charge Controller, Lithium Battery System, starter batteries

4/21/2017 - Fleet Truck Camper

Our 100W Victron complete charger kit is ideal for small installations like this.  You can expand up to 200W and the robust, marine rated, MPPT charge controller is ideal for a wide range of applications from boats and campers to gate openers and security systems.  The Bluetooth communication dongle reports system status to a smart phone without the need to mount a meter.  If you only want one or two panels, this is the way to go.

Equipment Added: 1x 100W Victron Complete Charger (15A) 99-100VT15 1xTrik-L-Start Charger 98-TRIKL

Equipment Added:
1x 100W Victron Complete Charger (15A) 99-100VT15
1xTrik-L-Start Charger 98-TRIKL

Battery Compartment

Battery Compartment

Charge Controller and Bluetooth Dongle

Charge Controller and Bluetooth Dongle

High current from the solar panels is dangerous. ...or is it?

I recently had a conversation with a customer who was insistent that 50A DC flowing from the roof mount combiner box to the charge controller was dangerous. But, that isn’t at all the case when you consider the low voltage.

The Physics:

Circuit-Diagrams

Voltage is pressure, or the driving force behind electrons and Amperage is how many electrons pass through an area per second (1A = 6,241,000,000,000,000,000 electrons per second). While it is true that amperage is what kills you, in order to have high amperage passing through something with a high resistance (flesh) it needs to be driven by a high voltage.

Consider this equation: Voltage / Resistance = Amperage

In this 50A scenario with a combiner box through roof cables and a charge controller to a battery bank, you have 18V / 0.36Ω = 50A. If you get your body in the way, you add a huge resistance, lets say it is roughly 10,000Ω. This resistance causes the panels to operate at a higher point on the IV curve which drives their voltage near Vsc = 22V. Now the equation looks like 22V / (10,000Ω+0.36Ω) = 0.0022A. Suddenly we have a situation where the amperage is actually very low.

Now imagine you are getting shocked by a taser at 50,000V. Now you have 50,000V / 10,000Ω = 5A. This is dangerous.

Long Term Storage for RV Solar Power Systems

RV Solar Power System Maintenance

RV Maintenance - What an oxymoron.  Recreational Vehicles are for recreating, not something to be constantly working on.  Put those tools down and go relax!  But even while driving a car you have to pay attention to your gasoline levels, and that’s a form of vehicle maintenance.  So, by definition, everyone performs some kind of service on their primary vehicle fairly regularly. 

What about an RV?  Well, that will vary from rig to rig.  But solar charged batteries on an RV require some extra care.  Here are some maintenance suggestions along with the minimum frequency these “services” require.  After reading, see how you can fit these basic chores into your RVing lifestyle.

FYI - Calling for a tow when you’re stuck out in the woods, is also not RVing…

There are the three categories or pieces of an RV’s Solar System that may require maintenance:
Solar Panels (either mounted on the roof or portable)
Solar Charge Controller System (and the remote if installed)
Battery Bank (Flooded, AGM, GEL, or Lithium)

(Fuses and potential wire connection oxidation are also areas to check, but these items are included in one or more of the three solar categories listed above.)

Solar Panels -  Clean the solar panels as desired for optimum performance. After a hard rain, clean them. After a drive through dust or dirt, clean them. Sitting in a dry nearly wind free area - they can still get dirty from birds, plants, trees, and flowers that secrete sticky goo - clean them using water or 92% alcohol or a combination.  Infrequent cleanings won't harm the panels, but performance will suffer if dust or other debris is preventing photons from reaching silicon cells.

WARNING: Solar Panel Glass has an Anti-Reflective coating - abrasive cleaners may damage this surface.

Solar-Panels

The easiest way to check the cleanliness of your solar panels is to read your solar charge monitor and take note of any steady decline in solar electric input. Sometime during the first two days after setting up a long term camp, write down your solar activity at morning, noon and pre-dusk.  Then in a week or so, write these numbers again, comparing them to your initial readings. Keep comparing every week or so.  When the performance decreases, clean the panels and start your list all over.  

A leaf or a bird mess will create a very noticeable reduction in solar panel output.

Charge-Controller

Solar Charge Controllers require little in the way of actual elbow grease, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on them.  Every week or so (weave this into your schedule so you can officially avoid a worse chore) grab the big wires going in and out of the charge controller(s) and make sure they are tight - easy here, don’t pull anything loose.  Do not tolerate loose connections.  Either tighten them or get them tightened.  If/When you find a loose connection, fix it then make a note of it or take a picture and monitor it closely during the next couple of inspection cycles.  If the connection stays tight, good.  If it continues to loosen, then have this item inspected by a professional.  

As for corrosion, that can be an even bigger problem.  White powder on any electrical connection is cause for concern.  That powdery substance is oxidation (in iron this is called rust). This powder indicates a poor connection or a failing component in the wire run.  Once again, seek professional assistance to locate and correct this situation quickly.  Near batteries, the powder could have shades of green or blue mixed in. This is usually the remnants of evaporated battery acid.

Battery acid is a mixture of water, sulfur, and some other compounds that should be avoided.

AM Solar Lithium Battery System and Lifeline starter battery

AM Solar Lithium Battery System and Lifeline starter battery

Battery Bank Inspections come in three varieties based on which of the three types of batteries being inspected.  Flooded batteries have liquid acid sloshing around - but they can be re-filled.  GEL / AGM Batteries have their acid stabilized (it won't slosh) but can’t be re-filled.  Lithium batteries have a paste-like substance that absolutely cannot be re-filled.  Inspecting batteries is pretty straightforward and all battery types have some checks in common.

Check for loose cables.  Check for corrosion (powder).  Lastly, and only with flooded batteries, check the water level. Never overfill flooded batteries and always keep the cell water levels equal.  Never let the top of the material in the cell get dry (the finned “stuff” is called the plates and that's where the reaction takes place).

Storing a solar equipped RV for long periods of time, a month or more, can cause issues, most common among these is battery damage.  Here are three common types of RV storage and what you should do to protect your equipment:

A)   Park it outdoors

  • Log all issues found or fixed before you store your solar equipped RV and write them down.
  • Turn off all the loads that can be turned off.  This includes DC loads coming directly from the battery and AC loads using the inverter or shore power.
  • Leave solar and house battery charge circuit ON and walk away.  A well designed/matched Solar System should be able to keep the batteries in operational condition so long as there are no loads left on. Loads could cause the batteries to be drawn down below the capability of your solar system.
  • If using lithium batteries, turn OFF the Lithium Master Disconnect switch to prevent current from entering or leaving the lithium battery bank.

B)   Park it inside (like a Storage Facility or Garage) and walk away

  • This is a bad idea for lead-acid, flooded, GEL or AGM batteries.  These batteries must be kept charged.  Only lithium batteries can be left for extended periods of time without being charged.
  • Log all issues found or fixed before you store your solar equipped RV and write them down.
  • Turn off all the loads that can be turned off.  This includes DC loads coming directly from the battery and AC loads using the inverter or shore power.
  • Turn OFF the Lithium Master Disconnect switch to prevent current from entering or leaving the lithium battery bank.

C)   Park it at a Fully Staffed Storage Facility where your rig will be monitored

  • Log all issues found or fixed before you store your solar equipped RV and write them down.
  • Turn off all the loads that can be turned off.  This includes DC loads coming directly from the battery and AC loads using the inverter or shore power.
  • All Flooded Lead-Acid Batteries including GEL and AGM, must have a continual “trickle” charge (about 5% of the battery’s amp hour rating) when stored (a 100 Ah Battery needs a 5A DC trickle charge). If these battery types are left unplugged and unattended, their natural, internal, self-discharge will ruin them in a matter of weeks.
  • If using lithium batteries, turn OFF the Lithium Master Disconnect switch to prevent current from entering or leaving the lithium battery bank.  Some of our clients have had their batteries ruined while in storage at a facility with a trickle charge system because the power was accidentally disconnected by someone tripping over a cable or an outage caused by a lightning storm.  Lithium batteries are expensive, don't take any chances by storing them ON.

Note: Lithium batteries have almost no internal drain.  Therefore, after turning the battery master switch to Off, they can sit for up to a year without any charge source, yet will remain fully serviceable.

(Keep in mind that this article only covers RV Solar Systems. Other components and areas of your RV may need additional or even specialized treatments.)

AM Solar’s RV Solar “Ease of Install” List

QUANTIFIABLE ISSUES that reduce the efficiency of Installing a solar system ON FACTORY RVs

DEFINE RV SOLAR -
Any Recreational Vehicle or Towed RV with Portable or Fixed Solar Panels on the roof that are wired to a Solar Charge controller that is in turn connected to the “House Battery Bank”. All electrical needs are fulfilled by the batteries, which in turn are charged by the sun.

RV Off-Grid System Clarified -
Any RV or Home not connected to the “Electrical Grid” that has the above described RV Solar installed, will also need a way to store more energy than may be available in a single day.
This means more solar panels, larger wire sizes for the added electrical generation, and a sophisticated Solar Charge Controller. Further, a bigger “House” Battery Bank will be needed
(more batteries or larger capacity units, or both). There is also a way to produce “Household Electricity” by using stored solar energy for day to day energy usage - an inverter.

Overview of RV Solar Installation Difficulty -
Given the broad range of solar components available, the “System Options” one can chose in addition to the varying layout and design differences (even within a range of similar RVs) - it is tough to say what “a normal Solar Installation” is.
For this list, we shall imagine a roof filled with solar panels, the largest wire sizes we can use (bigger wire is more difficult to handle and install), a sophisticated Solar RV Battery Charger that safely manages the batteries’ condition (with a remote monitor needing extra time and wire to install), a “full sized” inverter (to change the DC energy of solar and batteries into the AC “household” energy to operate “appliances”) and an electrical interface that will manage the engine alternator and battery of the RV to “charge” the RV House Battery Bank while traveling.

The list:

1 - Navion / View

2 - Lazy Daze

3 - Basic/Bare Van or Towable Camper

4 - Fifth Wheel Towable

5 - Class A or C with no Slide Outs

6 - Fifth Wheel / Class A Toy Hauler

7 - Airstream (easier wire routing, but more difficult roof work)

8 - Class A or C with Slide Outs (easier roof work, but more difficult wire routing)

9 - Roadtrek

10 - Newmar or Monaco

1. Navion (and view)

  • Winnebago’s nearly identical twins
  • Class C - MB Chassis -
  • Unified Chassis Component Locations
  • Roof has room for “full size” solar panels
  • Similar Floor Plans - convenient wire runs

These RVs aren’t easy because they offer zero challenges, they are easy because they are pretty much all the same. So that’s good for “production” type work.

They are also the easiest for the DIY-er (compared to all other Factory Built RVs). There is lots of room on the roof for several “full sized” solar panels.

There is plenty of room in the “basement” (under floor storage accessed from the outside). This is where additional batteries can be installed, larger solar charge controllers and inverters can be housed without intrusion into the “house” and without losing too much outside storage.

Lots of “voids” in the walls can accommodate “hidden wire runs”, and several locations will house a Solar Charger “Remote” or “Monitor”.

Very little drilling though walls and floors is required. When enough time is spent by a RV Solar DIY in planning and “dry fitting” components, the number of drilled holes can be significantly reduced.

 

2. Lazy Daze

  • A single product company
  • Only builds this RV
  • Class C - Ford Chassis
  • Universal Chassis Component Locations
  • Roof has room for “full size” solar panels
  • Only two Floor Plans - convenient wire runs

Lazy Daze has been building this motorhome for years. The advantages are many and obvious. Resale value is high (they all look alike). The Ford Truck Chassis that is used changes little from year to year. The body of the “coach” also hasn't changed since the first models.

For production work this is even easier than a View / Navion, but that’s where those benefits end. A DIY installation will be easier than on most RVs, but not as simple as the “Winnies”.

The roof offers sizable real estate, so a number of solar panels will easily fit. Tilting panels to take advantage of the low winter sun is also a plus. The roof is also easier to “navigate” because of the room.

A well thought out plan for the placement of all the solar, supportive equipment and wire runs will be time well spent (and time a DIYer will regain during the actual install). There are several places to install extra / upgraded batteries and the type of battery (flooded, AGM or Lithium) will also factor in to the location. Something will have to go in order to accommodate all this extra equipment - storage. This also needs to figure in to the layout and time allotments.

Again, the Ford Chassis affords ample room for the wire runs needed to include supportive engine alternator charging of the house batteries.

3. Basic/Bare Van or Towable Camper

  • Ease = Owner’s Flexibility
  • Empty Shell
  • Unknown Layout
  • What other parts will be installed
  • Wire runs open or hidden
  • Plans for Roof Vents & Antennae
  • Air Conditioning add on?
  • Potential convenient wire runs

A blank canvas.

Some artists “freeze up” over a blank sheet. At least you can “get to everything”. Yes, but…

This solar RV panel installation requires even more planning than a finished rig because all the finish parts have yet to be installed. Many times the finished “camper” is an afterthought.

In a production situation and unless the owner knows exactly where all the “other stuff” will go, the job becomes very straight forward. This rarely happens.

The key to this type of installation is to include and plan for the interaction of all the parts and pieces the now empty rig will eventually contain.

To the unwitting this can become a very bad trap…

4. Fifth Wheel Towable

  • A Towed Rig
  • Requires a Tow Vehicle
  • May have Slide Outs
  • ALL Have a “Generator Room”
  • Lots of Room for Components and equipment

Towed behind (in the bed of) a Pick-Up Truck, these rigs have a lot of room for everything -
solar panels on the roof, components can be placed in a number of areas and the walls are thick enough for serious wire runs.

This will be the first rig in the list to actually have some degree of difficulty inherent in its design. Still a bit easier than a Class A or Large Class C without “Slide Outs”, the main challenge is in adding supportive engine alternator charging of the house batteries.

Production installations can be relatively smooth because of the limited design of these rigs. As form usually follows function there aren't too many variations on this theme. So once again, rote installations eventually reduce time spent.

DIYers most likely will find all the challenges this style RV offers. Very careful planning and a
“hands on” inspection of where everything will go is what is required on this rig.

5. Class A or C with No Slide Outs

  • First of the Actual RVs on List
  • Usually Lots of Roof Space
  • No moving walls or appliances
  • Room for Components and equipment
  • Engine Available for Support Charging of House Batteries

Our “first” true RV (by connotation). Nothing is like any other in this category. Once more, the efficiency of production installations become more routine with the route of numbers.

DIYers- do not get sucked into this class of rig until you have carefully plotted your course of action. These jobs look easy at first (and can be) if you remember to plan it all out (cardboard cut outs and product boxes are typical for these jobs).

Try to not get caught discovering the need to re-plan a wire run or component placement part way into one of these “full boat installs” (meaning solar and Inverter and supportive charging). Look for “hollow” spots in the walls and voids behind panels that could aid in your install.

Know this - no matter how tough you think this is - there are five others more difficult.

6. Fifth Wheel/Class A Toy Hauler

  • Class A (front engine) OR
  • A Towed Rig
  • (Requires a Tow Vehicle)
  • Usually has Slide Outs
  • Limited Outside / Under Storage
  • Little Room for Components and equipment

Be it a Class A with a gasoline front engine or a Fifth Wheel towed by a truck, these rigs are difficult.

With a wide-open area in the back for a garage, you'd think there would be plenty of extra room. Not so. Much of the support “stuff” that goes with “Toys” that are hauled is included in/on the rig. Like a dedicated gas tank for fueling the toys. A helmet shelf and riding suit locker take up space. Some even have a dedicated wash down area that also occupies otherwise valuable solar system space.

The theme continues from the previous five - Plan, plan plan.

Thin walls that keep weight down offer little room for wire runs. The undercarriage is also usually beefed up or otherwise filled up, making that space unusable.

Concluding - Production Installs and RV Solar DIYs alike are going to be a challenge. What always seems to throw everyone off – all that space!  That’s the real problem - no hidden space!

7. Airstream

  • A Towed Rig
  • Requires a Tow Vehicle
  • Never has Slide Outs
  • All Have a “Soft Roof”
  • Limited Room for Components and equipment
  • Wire routes straight forward

The biggest challenge for an Airstream (and there are quite a few challenges) -
the “Soft Drop In” roof. To keep intrusions into the living space with Air Conditioners and Fans and hanging lights, Airstream has a “new” roof. The thing is kind of hollow in that it carries overhead vents for the HVAV as well as flush mount lighting besides.

Special mounting hardware and sealing systems have been developed in order to safely and non-destructively mount solar panels on the roof (semi permanently). RV Solar DIYers should track these mount systems down and just use them. The time and monies involved in re-inventing this could leave you with leaks.

Wire runs become obvious once the initial inspection begins. Removing a few panels and other components will reveal some great places for components and wire runs.

Plan. Plan. Plan. Then inspect by taking things off and apart. Then “test fit”. Finally -
install the system.

8. Class A or C with Slide Outs

  • Roof Space Limited
  • Moving walls and appliances
  • Restricted Room
  • Some Areas unusable
  • Engine Available for Support Charging of House Batteries

Big Challenge here. No two of these are alike, yet they share similar difficulties - the walls move. Called “Slides” or “Slide Outs” these mini rooms are stored inside the main body while traveling, then, once parked, the rooms are electrically “Slid” out and thereby increasing the living spaces.

Does your rig have a bathroom in a slide? If so, flexible plumbing and moving electrical wires are a real issue. Or how about a kitchen that slides?  Moving propane lines too?

The walls may be able to accommodate wire runs, but those runs may stop to make room for a moving wall. Much more planning is needed inside these “slide out” rigs.

The roofs are also problematic because of the slides that may limit mounting options for solar panels. This category of RVs has earned it’s #8 place on the difficulty list.

9. Roadtrek

  • Roof Space very Limited
  • Very Restricted Room
  • Some Areas unusable
  • Engine Available for Support Charging of House Batteries

Big Challenge here.

No space- Anywhere. On the roof? No. In the walls? What walls? Under the rig? What, with the spare? No.

Are you sensing a theme? This is why we consider this brand (and type) of RV to be next to the most difficult RVs into which a full solar system can be installed.

Again, yes, it is possible to load this rig up so that two people could “live” off grid - but. You may also need to redefine “off-grid”.

This job will take at least twice as long as a Slide Out Class A or C.

Planning is paramount. Period.

10. Newmar or Monaco

  • Roof Populated w/Air
  • Moving walls and appliances
  • Restricted Space Inside and on Roof
  • Some Areas unusable
  • Engine Available for Support Charging of House Batteries
  • Expensive Vehicles

The high-end coaches are a problem. Yes, the cost of the rig is a consideration, but the real issues are electrical. Sure, accessing the voids takes great care and skill, but once opened the areas are available. You can cover the interior with mover blankets and you’re safe, but it’s all about the electrics.

The roofs on these types of rigs are usually populated with Satellite Dishes, multiple Air Conditioners, “smart” vents and booster antennas. This limits where and how many solar panels can be installed.

Further, trying to interface with some very sophisticated electrical systems that can be sealed up for proprietary matters, is a real-time consumer.

A full system solar RV install on a typical Class C with slides will average one week. With the same facilities and technicians, this rigs average is two to three weeks.

By Ray Monigold

4/13/2017 - 2014 Scamp

When our installation schedule permits, we occasionally take on small solar trouble shooting projects.  This client came to us with an old solar charging system that wasn’t working properly (Not one of our jobs) and asked us what we could do to make it work.  We remounted the solar panel, changed out his cabling and connected his charge controller.  A system this size will maintain his batteries when the trailer isn’t in use.

Equipment Added: 1x 35mm Mount Set 1/4 tube of dicor 15.5' 10/2 2 10-12 ga butt splices 6" 3/4" black heat shrink 2 10-12ga ring lugs w/ heat shrink

Equipment Added:
1x 35mm Mount Set
1/4 tube of dicor
15.5' 10/2
2 10-12 ga butt splices
6" 3/4" black heat shrink
2 10-12ga ring lugs w/ heat shrink

4/12/2017 - 2016 Itasca Navion 24J, 24'

This client needed a small solar charging system for DC loads and battery maintenance with a battery monitor to help them regulate energy consumption.  What they got was a solar panel kit consisting of two of our SF100 solar panels connected in parallel with our roof mount combiner box.  To reduce DC line losses, heavy 6ga wire was routed from the combiner box to the MPPT charge controller and then to the battery bank.  Between the most negative battery and all negative connections, we installed a shunt to measure current.  The shunt and the charge controller communicate with the Blue Sky IPN Pro monitor to give full system status with Amp-hour precision.

Equipment added: 2x SF100 Solar Panel Kits 1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 25A System Core 1x Roof C-Box 1x Tilt Bar Set 15.5"

Equipment added:
2x SF100 Solar Panel Kits
1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 25A System Core
1x Roof C-Box
1x Tilt Bar Set 15.5"

200W Solar Kit

200W Solar Kit

Blue Sky 2512iX HV Charge Controller

Blue Sky 2512iX HV Charge Controller

Blue Sky IPN Pro Remote

Blue Sky IPN Pro Remote

Thinking of going solar?

Spring is here and summer is growing closer and closer. It’s getting close to the time when you take the covers off your RV and start planning your first road or camping trip. If you’ve ever thought about outfitting your RV with a solar panel kit, now is the perfect time to do so. Get your RV ready for endless summer trips, and head off the grid with new solar panels. Learn about why you should go solar here.

Benefits

There are many benefits to having a solar equipped RV. While solar can be harder to understand, we’re here to break it down for you. Outfitting your RV comes with a price tag, but it’s one that you should consider as an investment. While there is some cost associated with going solar, it’s cost that will pay for itself if you give it time.

If you’re looking for a way to upgrade your RV and add value, going solar is the best way to go. Adding solar panels to your RV makes it more attractive to potential buyers.

Get Out of Dodge      

If the sound of campground generators is starting to annoy you, it may be time for you to go off the grid, and with solar panel kits you can do just that. All solar panels require is energy from the sun. They’re cleaner than running a generator for long periods of time.

With solar panel kits and a little planning you’ll never need a campground hookup again, which enables you to truly get off the grid. When you’re not dependent on RV hookups, you can drive anywhere and set up camp, just make sure you’re within the law to park there overnight.

If you’re hitting the road, you won’t have to worry about driving all day just to reach the next campground location. With a solar-powered RV you can set up camp anywhere. The other added benefit to solar power is that it’s much easier to maintain than a generator, and generates much less noise. With a basic solar panel package, you’ll have one or more panels that generate currents, using the sun’s rays, and this charges your batteries.

Outfitting your RV with solar panels does require some planning on your part. If you’re relying only on solar power to run your RV, you’ll have to budget for your energy use. You can’t expect to run a microwave, tv and shower all with minimal solar power collected. There are different tools you can use to determine how much power you’ll need to collect to do the things you need in your RV. If you’re committed to running your RV mostly off solar power, you simply have to plan for what you need, and collect enough energy to do so.

 

 

Solar Panel Kits for Boats

We don’t just do RVs.  We have created a solar panel kit specifically for charging batteries on boats.  This kit comes with a 50W solar panel, marine rated charge controller and wire harness.  This is ideal for electric trolling motors, downriggers or simply maintaining the starter battery.  The 50W solar panel will produce about 12 amp-hours per day in summer weather.

50W Boat Battery Charger
100W Boat Battery Charger

50W Boat Charger Kit

50W Boat Charger Kit

Mounting hardware is not included

Mounting hardware is not included

A proud customer brought his boat by to show off the kit.

A proud customer brought his boat by to show off the kit.

Lithium Batteries Explained

In the world of solar equipped RVs, Lithium batteries are the batteries of choice. What is it that makes them the preferred battery of solar battery banks and more? We’re here to explain how they work and why we choose them.

Price

Lithium batteries used to cost an arm and a leg. They used to fall under what we could consider technology of the future. The age of lithium has arrived. Now they’re easy to find and affordable. They’re even getting close to the price of lead acid batteries.

Charge

Lithium batteries are also smaller and lighter, which make them much more desired when it comes to outfitting an RV with a solar charging system. Lithium batteries are also known for delivering more power for a longer duration of time. While lead batteries drop voltage as their battery power gets lower, lithium batteries deliver a consistent level of stored power. Lithium batteries are also known for being able to sit longer than lead acid batteries, which is ideal for a solar RV. If you’re not using your solar RV for portions of the year, it’s better to find a battery that won’t deteriorate if left to sit for a month or two.

Solar RVs

In our solar RV’s we do like to use a battery management system, so that the lithium batteries don’t get over charged or completely discharged. They tend to have a longer lifespan in our RV’s if this system is installed. With lithium batteries weighing in lower that lead acid batteries, they’re perfect for use in solar powered RV’s. They don’t need regular full charges, and they require less maintenance. With a higher current output, they provide more usable capacity.

We do offer two different set ups for our lithium battery banks. The sizes directly depend on how much use you plan for your solar equipped RV. If you’re planning to run several appliances, like air conditioning, it might be best to set up your RV with a bigger capacity battery bank. If you’re only planning on using solar power for smaller necessities, than the smaller set up would probably work better for you.

3/30/2017 - Arctic Fox Cab Over Camper

We get several Cab Over Camper projects each year.  This particular camper will have ample power for a variety of DC loads.  The 320W solar charger will keep the 220Ah AGM battery bank healthy for many years.

Equipment Added: 2x  SF160 Solar Panel Kits (320W) 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 25A System Core 1x 19.5" Tilt Bar Set 2x AGM GPL 4CT 12V 220Ah Batteries 1x PD9200 Wizard Pendant Charger

Equipment Added:
2x  SF160 Solar Panel Kits (320W)
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 25A System Core
1x 19.5" Tilt Bar Set
2x AGM GPL 4CT 12V 220Ah Batteries
1x PD9200 Wizard Pendant Charger

SF160 Solar Panels

SF160 Solar Panels

Blue Sky 2512iX-HV Charge Controller

Blue Sky 2512iX-HV Charge Controller

Lifeline AGM Batteries

Lifeline AGM Batteries

4/3/2017 - 2008 Defender Toy Hauler

This client scheduled a troubleshoot because his old Heliotrope PV controller wasn't functioning very well. He had suspected it had gotten damaged by moisture. After an inspection, our techs determined it was time for an upgrade. He went with a Victron Blue Solar MPPT 100/30 charge controller and bluetooth monitoring.  It was a pretty straightforward swap out. 

Old Heliotrope PV controller Equipment Added: 1x Victron 100/30 Charge Controller 1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle 1x 40A DC Breaker 3' 8/2 wiring

Old Heliotrope PV controller

Equipment Added:
1x Victron 100/30 Charge Controller
1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle
1x 40A DC Breaker
3' 8/2 wiring

Replacement Victron Controller

Replacement Victron Controller

Bluetooth Dongle

Bluetooth Dongle

40A DC Breaker

40A DC Breaker

3/29/17 - 2016 Airstream Interstate Grand Tour, 25.5'

This tech savvy client wanted a solar charging system with a battery monitor, and they wanted to be able to communicate with all of it over Bluetooth with a smart phone.  The 300W of solar panels will generate approximately 900Wh or 75Ah of energy per day.

Equipment Added: 3x SP100 Solar Panel Kits 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 30A System Core 1x Victron BMV-702 Battery Monitor 2x Victron BlueTooth Smart Dongles 1x 15.5" Tilt Bar Set

Equipment Added:
3x SP100 Solar Panel Kits
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 30A System Core
1x Victron BMV-702 Battery Monitor
2x Victron BlueTooth Smart Dongles
1x 15.5" Tilt Bar Set

Inverter and battery monitor

Inverter and battery monitor

300W from AM Solar plus the original 100W flexible panel

300W from AM Solar plus the original 100W flexible panel

Charge controller

Charge controller

RV Solar Factory Pre-Wire: the Issues and Solutions

We frequently get calls from prospective customers who are interested in adding solar to their factory pre-wired RVs. To their dismay, utilizing a factory pre-wire is not usually as simple as they would expect. Many times, in order to achieve customers’ dry camping goals, the factory pre-wire must be modified or completely thrown out. Often we find factory setups are not designed to support even modest energy consumer needs. Regretfully, there are three major factors holding RV dealerships back from having sufficient solar pre-wires: cost, quality, and technical knowledge.

Cost: The RV industry manufacturers represent over a billion dollars in general sales every year. Looking at that number across the entire industry, you can understand why it would be cost prohibitive to make big changes in areas that are not considered critical. So despite years of advancements in solar technology, the RV industry has not kept up with solar industry standards, keeping changes to a minimum. 

Quality: Along the lines of cost, turning a profit is also a key consideration for RV manufacturers. Price, more often than quality, dictates the systems provided in solar pre-wires. To keep costs down, the factory will frequently use smaller gauge wires on their ‘solar ready’ installations. Also, judging by the way we have seen wires routed, the runs weren’t designed based on optimal panel or charge controller placement or length of runs to the battery banks. The routing is likely based on keeping labor costs down. So both the products and installation techniques are chosen with little regard to quality or value in performance.

Technical Knowledge: RV manufacturers are experts in their field of RVs; however, they are amateurs in the area of solar. By standardizing solar pre-wires, factory workers are able follow the same, simple schematic to route wires, but when it comes to making informed decisions based on line losses or energy consumption, they fall short. Leaving their customers looking for answers on travel forums which will inevitably lead them to the experts in RV solar. 

Fortunately, the RV solar experts at AM Solar have heard the cry of RV owners who want to take advantage of solar pre-wires and they have devised a solution. With the right equipment and some creative wiring, we can maximize those small, less efficient factory pre-wires.

3/30/2017 - 2015 Wind River Trailer, 32'

This rig came to us with a factory solar pre-wire that was completely inadequate for the client’s power requirements.  We replaced the pre-wire with a much thicker set of 4ga cables and we replaced the factory PWM charge controller with a 40A MPPT controller.  Now the rig has 480W of solar, a new 300Ah battery bank and an advanced three stage charger.

Equipment Added: 3x SF160 Solar Panel Kits (L-feet were customize to accommodate the crown in the roof) 1x SunRunner Signature 40MPPT/4/Pro System Core 1x Progressive Dynamics PD9260 Charger 2x 300Ah GPL 6CT 6V AGM Batteries

Equipment Added:
3x SF160 Solar Panel Kits (L-feet were customize to accommodate the crown in the roof)
1x SunRunner Signature 40MPPT/4/Pro System Core
1x Progressive Dynamics PD9260 Charger
2x 300Ah GPL 6CT 6V AGM Batteries

480W Solar Charging System

480W Solar Charging System

Solar Charge Controller

Solar Charge Controller

300Ah 6V AGM Batteries in series

300Ah 6V AGM Batteries in series

3/15/2017 - 2014 Newmar Baystar, 28'

It is surprising that after being in the RV solar installation business for as long as we have that we still make regular discoveries regarding odd factoring wiring/components or cable routing challenges.  Despite these obstacles we are still able to deliver.  This client for example, with five 160W solar panels will now be able run a residential refrigerator and power an entertainment center.  The Tri-Metric monitor will allow them to view battery status down to the amp-hour and the Bluetooth dongle will send solar charging system data to a smart phone.

Equipment Added: 5x SF160 Solar Panels 3x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets 1x Roof C-Box 1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 70A (Sub 70A controller for a 50A controller) 1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle 1x Monitor Tri-Metric 2030A 1x Tri-Metric Wire Harness Complete

Equipment Added:
5x SF160 Solar Panels
3x 19.5" Tilt Bar Sets
1x Roof C-Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 70A (Sub 70A controller for a 50A controller)
1x BlueTooth Smart Dongle
1x Monitor Tri-Metric 2030A
1x Tri-Metric Wire Harness Complete

Victron 50A MPPT charge controller

Victron 50A MPPT charge controller

Tri-Metric Battery Monitor

Tri-Metric Battery Monitor

Roof mount combiner box

Roof mount combiner box

3/8/2017 - 2000 Monaco Imperial, 40'

With a 640W solar charging system, this client can now run a residential refrigerator, lights and some TV usage from energy captured by the solar panels.  As a part of the system core that we regularly install, the client will also be able to monitor their battery bank and determine remaining charge to the Amp-hour.

Equipment Added: 4x SF160 Solar Panels 1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 40A System Core

Equipment Added:
4x SF160 Solar Panels
1x SunRunner Signature MPPT 40A System Core

Blue Sky 3024iL Solar Charge Controller

Blue Sky 3024iL Solar Charge Controller

Existing Flooded Battery Bank

Existing Flooded Battery Bank

Roof mount combiner box

Roof mount combiner box