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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A client brought in his 2015 Airstream with the following request of AM Solar:
Design an off-the-grid power system (for dry camping and boon-docking) that “runs itself” and requires as little maintenance and oversight as possible both when the trailer is being used and when it is stored.
- Trailer is used for six weeks in the summer, often in shaded campgrounds, 95% of the time without electrical hookups. Stays range from 3-5 nights before moving to next location. Trailer is also used during the other three seasons typically for three-night stays.
- Client has monitored his power usage in the trailer for the last year and a half and concluded that 40-50amp hours is the typical 24 hour energy usage.
- Client doesn’t want to have to bring the batteries to a full charge after each use. Due to not utilizing campgrounds with electrical hook-ups, staying in shaded areas, and often driving short distances between destinations, there is often not enough time to fully recharge batteries via solar and vehicle alternator, especially in the off-season.
- When sun is available, the client wants to utilize every watt possible from their panels to recharge the batteries as they often only travel 2-4 hours before stopping at their next destination.
- Client wants an option to add additional battery capacity and/or solar panels if desired for future energy needs.
To accomplish the above client goals we spec’d one of our Lithium Battery Systems, solar panels, solar charger, and battery charger.
- Because the customer has light AC loads, we chose a 200Ah Essential Lithium Battery system. This will comfortably give them the five nights of camping desired with almost no solar panel input if they are camping under trees in the winter. If the client desires greater battery capacity in the future, this system can be expanded easily with an additional 200Ah bringing the total to 400Ah. Additionally, unlike lead-acid battery based systems, the lithium battery does not need to be recharged to 100% after each use.
- Due to the potential for tree cover, we chose 400W of solar panels to give the client ample solar charging capacity.
- We chose a 50A charger to maximize all available power (solar and vehicle alternator) to recharge the batteries as quickly as possible.
- We chose a three-stage battery charger so that the client can leave the trailer plugged in when stored without having to be concerned about the batteries being charged correctly.
Because the BMS on the Essential system acts on the negative side of the batteries (ground control), the negative (or chassis) from the tow vehicle with the alternator is at a slightly different voltage than the negative output of the lithium system. This creates a design challenge since shorting the negative output of the lithium system to the tow vehicle chassis would damage the BMS.
In a van conversion or coach, the issue of having two different negatives is easily resolved by routing the output of the lithium battery through the Orion 12/12 DC converter. The negative output of the Orion converter can then be tied to the chassis and all positives for the DC loads get re-routed to the positive output of the Orion. If the total DC load is more than 30A, multiple Orion converters can be connected in parallel. Inverters, or anything else that can have their negative isolated from the chassis will just connect directly to the output of the lithium battery system without going through the Orion converter.
In trailers, the issue of having two different negatives is solved differently. In this situation, the Orion converter goes on the input side of the lithium system, thus isolating the trailer from the tow vehicle’s chassis. When this is done, the Orion converter has to be modified so it’s output voltage is 14.2V instead of the factory 12.0V. This is accomplished by carefully tuning a potentiometer inside the converter that is accessible when the cooling fan is removed. This design will limit alternator charging current to 30A, but it will protect the BMS from having it’s input and output short circuited.
This customer came to us with two solar panels and a Victron inverter. The solar panels had an incompatible Vmpp with our panels, so we had to remove them. But, we were able to keep the inverter. Now the customer has a 1280W solar charger.
This coach came to us with a complex battery management system that had to be bypassed with a network of diodes in order for the lithium battery bank to function. It was a challenging install, but everything worked out in the end. The customer now has a 960W solar charger with a 300Ah lithium battery bank and a 3000VA inverter.