This client came to us equipped with a Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station, a Zamp 100W solar panel, and a 30A Zamp charge controller. Her primary use for the Yeti 400 Power Station was to power her CPAP machine, which she was able to do for about 2 nights before it needed to be recharged. She used the Zamp solar system to power her refrigerator, but 100W wasn’t enough to keep up with the refrigerator’s power needs. We upgraded her solar system to 260W using a Zamp 170W panel, and a Zamp 90W panel, which we bolted together using two angle aluminum bars. We installed a conveniently placed outlet for her CPAP machine, which is now powered directly from her house batteries, along with her refrigerator. Now she has a solar power system that meets her energy usage needs without the worry of charging the Yeti 400, or her food getting warm.
We installed a Blue Sky system for this client several years ago, and they recently came back to have a new solar power system installed in their new coach. Their primary need for a solar power system is to offset the energy used by their residential refrigerator. We installed 680W of solar power on their roof, about three-fourths of which will go towards powering their refrigerator. In ideal conditions (lots of sun) the excess solar power can be used to charge their batteries faster. Sometimes conditions are less than ideal though (not enough sun), which is why no one complains about having too much solar power.
These clients like to travel around the country with the goal of avoiding hot weather. They are headed for Alaska for the next several months, and on their way, they stopped by to have solar power installed to offset some of their electrical usage. We installed 400W of solar power on their roof, and the majority of their system control components were installed under their bed. This Airstream came with a Zamp portable solar panel plug, which they wanted to be integrated into the solar system we installed. We set up this system with expansion in mind, so if they find that 400W isn’t enough to offset their light DC loads, they have the option of using a portable panel, and/or they could choose to install up to another 200W on their roof.
This client asked us to install as much solar power as possible on the roof of their Winnebago View. The space was pretty limited, but we managed to install three Zamp Solar 170W solar panels, providing a total of 510W of solar power. Ideally, we would recommend a 400Ah battery bank with this system to provide enough power to manage their frequent microwave and hair dryer use. Due to space constraints there was only enough room for a 300Ah battery bank, which we placed underneath their top step. Due to the height of the LifeLine AGM batteries we had to modify the lid to the compartment housing the batteries so that the battery terminals were not going to be touching a metal lid. With this accomplished, they are able to use their microwave and hair dryer, they will just want to monitor their power usage to ensure they are not draining their batteries more quickly than they would like.
This client has had solar power installed on many rigs in the past. Some of the solar systems he installed himself, but he had us do the installation on his last rig, and he recently came back to us to install solar power on his brand-new Bay Star. In addition to installing a MS2012 Magnum inverter to invert solar generated power from DC to AC, he asked us to separately install his Iota 45A converter. When necessary, he plans to plug this converter into a small, relatively quiet 2000W portable generator to charge his batteries when his power usage exceeds the power available from solar. This way he won’t have to run his larger, much noisier generator. He says the reduction in noise will go a long way towards keeping his wife happy.
CAUTION: Dryers Plugs are 240 Volts - RVs are 120 Volts
If you Own / Operate an RV with a 30 Amp Service plug -
do NOT try to plug it into a “Dryer Socket”
DAMAGE will most likely occur. WHY?
Clothes Dryers (I assume it’s clothes we’re talking about and not money laundering), anyway, dryers are powered by Household Electricity. ALL houses, apartments and dwellings with electricity from the Power Company have 240 Volts at the MAIN Electric Panel (with the circuit breakers, etc). This “box” is where the 240 volts is divided into 3 circuit feeds -
- 240 volts for Range and Dryer
- 120 volts for toaster, some lights and wall plugs
- 120 volt GFI circuit that shuts off ALL electricity when you drop a toaster into the bathtub
Most household electrical consumption involves 120 volts AC - things like lights, toasters, wall chargers, etc. NOT the Electric Range or the Clothes Dryer - these each require 240 volts. To keep “us” mere mortals from accidentally plugging a toaster into a 240 volt outlet, the power people designed a LARGE Plug and Socket that ONLY a dryer or electric range can “use”. Fixed it.
These 240 volt plugs and receptacles are WAY bigger than a regular plug-in end - there is NO mistake as to what it will and WON’T work with. So, 240 volt electrical stuff CAN’T get mixed up with 120 volt things. Great THEORY…
RV rigs, that are equipped with 30 Amp Service use 120 volts at a relatively high 30 Amp Rating. In order to keep the RV from plugging into a receptacle that is unable to provide 120 volts at such a hight Amp Rating - a LARGE Plug and Socket that ONLY an RV can “use” is installed. Fixed it.
TWO Special, Oversized Plugs and Receptacles? But one is for 240 volts - the other is 120 volts?
Just because two things are roughly the same size and have the same number of wires does NOT mean they are the same - Mastiff dog is about the same size as a Panther, both black, must be the same. Ridiculous? Well, if you know electricity (or have paid any attention to this stuff), then the TWO different uses for similarly large electrical plugs are NOT THE SAME.
P.S. Class A (50 Amp) “rigs” are 240 volt, 50 Amp electrical systems. So they COULD be plugged into a dryer receptacle - COULD, not should… Your House Panel may not provide that much draw.
This article is a summation presented by the most senior Ray, of the Senior staff.
We rarely work on boats because we are so busy with RVs, but a friend needed some power before a fishing trip and we were able to squeeze him in last week. Prior to coming to AM Solar we had directed him to a 30W panel on Amazon.com since we didn’t have anything small enough in our inventory at the time. The client also supplied the rings to attach the bar across the top of his boat. After connecting the panel we notice that the voltage differential between the panel and the battery was too low for conventional charge controllers and the system would only have worked on very cold days when the battery was extremely low. To solve this, we used a Genasun GV-Boost charge controller that can take any input from 5V-63V and feed current onto a 12V battery bank. The controller worked perfectly and quickly brought his battery bank up to a full charge.
This is one of the coolest campers we have worked on. The client used to live in a Tiny Home. Now he has moved into a camper that is about the same size. We installed 540 Watts of solar power and substantially upgraded his battery bank. This camper is designed to be very energy (and space) efficient, so the solar power we installed should go a long way towards powering his light DC loads.
This is another client of ours that made the decision to move out of their traditional home and live the RV lifestyle full-time. This client actually had their brand-new Escape trailer delivered to our facility by the manufacturer. They are planning on working full-time out of their trailer while traveling around the country. The 360W solar power system we installed will help keep their batteries charged, and allow them to run some light DC loads while they journey throughout the country.
This client’s rig came to us equipped with both a residential fridge, and an AC/DC freezer. They also had a 3000W Xantrex inverter (previously installed), and a battery bank consisting of eight 6V Discover AGM batteries providing 414Ah of usable battery capacity. We installed 1400W of solar power on their roof, mixing five SF180W solar power kits with 5 SP100W solar power kits. On average, the solar power generated by this system will restore about 350Ah a day to their batteries. We also installed a Victron 150/100 charge controller with built-in Bluetooth capability, a Victron BMV-702 battery monitor, and a VE.Direct Bluetooth Smart Dongle so they can easily and accurately monitor their battery bank’s state of charge.
This premium system contains some of the best components money can buy. These clients had us install a 960W solar charging system with a 600Ah lithium battery bank, and a 3000VA inverter. They live full time in their RV, and now they can enjoy some of the same comforts of a grid connected home while on the road. Living off-grid is much easier with a powerful system like this.
This client was looking for something small and relatively inexpensive to keep his batteries charged and in good health. To accomplish his goal, we installed 360W of solar charging power along with a 25A Blue Sky charge controller. He’ll also be able to use the added solar power to help run some light DC loads.
One decision our clients have to make when setting up their RVs with solar power is what kind of battery bank they want. Lifeline AGM batteries are very popular for this type of application, but we also offer Lithium batteries, which are the latest and greatest battery technology. For this client we installed an 800Ah 12V Lifeline AGM battery bank. A comparable lithium system would have cost over $6000, while this client paid around $2200 for their AGMs. This is a very powerful system for someone who doesn’t want to spend the additional money on a Lithium system.
This client was already familiar with BlueSky solar products, so he chose to go with a BlueSky 3024iL charge controller. Along with the BlueSky charge controller we installed a 2000VA Victron Inverter kit, and a 300Ah AGM battery bank to complete the system. The mid-sized solar power kits provide enough power to keep his batteries healthy, and run some electronic devices when disconnected from shore power.
This client elected to go with a Refrigerator Vent Combiner Box instead of our usual Roof Combiner Box because they didn’t want to have another hole drilled into their roof. The Refer Vent Box utilizes the existing hole that is used to vent the refrigerator, but it can only accommodate up to four solar inputs. It’s not a bad option if you’re definitely not going to expand, but it is obviously limited. The Roof Combiner Box we manufacture allows for eight solar inputs, doubling the possible capacity.
Some clients bring us rigs with very little work done in terms of making the van a viable place to live. An empty rig gives us plenty of options when it comes to strategizing the placement of our equipment, but we also want to make sure that our clients have some flexibility as they make changes. We completed this installation knowing that when the client ultimately builds out their rig they may need to move our equipment. This van was set up so that the client can relocate the components we installed (if needed) without much of a headache.
This client originally requested to have three SF180 Solar Power Kits installed, along with a 40A charge controller. After about a month he realized that he didn’t have enough solar power to meet his needs and he came back to upgrade his system. We added three more SF180 Solar Panel Kits, and replaced the 40A charge controller with an 85A Victron charge controller to accommodate the additional solar charging current. We always recommend that our clients have us install a system that is easily expandable to avoid duplicate costs. It is much more cost effective to install a larger system core that allows for expansion than it is to install a smaller system core that has to be completely replaced in order to add additional power.
If you’re looking to add solar panels to your RV, there are some important facts you need to know about solar panels and cold weather. While the cold isn’t harmful to your solar panels, it can impact the way that they function. Read about some of the frequently asked questions about solar performance in the winter months.
It’s important to know that when the weather turns cold, it can affect your battery storage capacity for your solar panels. If you keep your batteries fully charged, and you use them on a frequent or daily basis, they won’t freeze very easily. Temperatures would have to drop significantly, to negative 70 degrees or more, before you could be worried about that. It is important to note that if batteries aren’t fully charged they can freeze much faster, around 10 degrees F. Ask your solar provider what they recommend during the cold winter months.
When AM Solar installs solar panels on an RV they’re sure to install them so that they can collect the most sunlight possible. Typically in the winter snow won’t stick to solar panels, because they’re really smooth and snow mostly slides right off. If you’re able to store your solar powered RV so that the panels are facing the sun you’ll see the best results. If the panels are facing the sun, whatever snow sticks should melt.
If you do find that snow is sticking to your solar panels, you need to be careful about removing it. Try to gently remove most of the snow from your panels and RV roof. Try to always have a broom or brush on hand, so that you can clear fresh snow off. The longer snow sits, the more likely it is to freeze and stick to your panels. The longer you leave snow on your panels, the longer they’ll go without collecting energy.
You also want to be sure to prevent any damage to your solar panels. Just like water melts into cracks on the sidewalk, it can melt into any cracks in your solar panels, and expand the cracks when it freezes. This is one of the main reasons why it’s important to keep snow off of your solar panels.
Don’t worry if you experience more cloudy weather in the winter. Even if it’s cloudy, your panels are still collecting energy. If there’s any light, your panels are collecting it and converting it in to energy. Remember that solar panels don’t react to heat, they react to light, so as long as there is light, they’ll be collecting energy.
If you’ve always struggled in giving gifts in the holiday season, maybe it’s time to go solar with your gift giving. There are a wide variety of solar gadgets that are fun to give, and some gadgets are highly functional for your next solar outing in your solar equipped RV.
If you’re looking to go solar in all aspects of life, it might be time to invest in some solar decorations for the holidays. There are plenty of solar operated light to choose from, whether it’s outdoor or indoor you’re looking for. Solar lights collect the energy they need during the day, and stay lit well into the night. The next day they start collecting energy again.
Most people love holiday trains riding around the base of your Christmas tree, and there are now new options. There are now solar powered trains, that you can set up as part of your holiday decorations.
If you’re looking for fun solar gifts to give, there are solar figurines that are simple and easy. Figurines that light up or move, if left in the sunlight by a window, are a fun gift to give.
Think about giving a solar powered flashlight, or hand crank flashlight. In a world that is slowly transitioning away from batteries, it’s important to have a flashlight on hand that doesn’t require them.
Another great solar gift to give that has a high functionality is a solar mobile charger. Perfect for the solar RV camper in your life or just someone who enjoys getting out on the trails. A great stocking stuffer, a solar mobile charger is great for those instances where your phone unexpectedly dies in the middle of the wilderness.
While tools have always been a hallmark staple gift around the holidays, this year it’s time to shake that up. Many manufacturers are coming out with solar alternatives to power tools. Find solar powered tools, tool kits, and multi-tools this year.
There are plenty of smaller solar gadgets to find for a solar fan this time of year. From solar showers, to mobile chargers, to solar powered flashlights, to even holiday decorations, there’s plenty to find when it comes to converting to solar.
This client wanted to install a small amount of solar power now with the potential for adding more in the future. We fully wired their trailer, installed a 40A Blue Sky charge controller, our AM Solar Roof Combiner Box, and 360 Watts of solar power. When ready to expand, all they will need to do is mount more solar panels to the roof, and wire them into the Combiner Box. That’s a job they should easily be able to do themselves as a DIY project now that the hard work is out of the way.