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.
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.
We like to install our systems as cleanly, and as easy to manage as possible. These clients came to us with an existing battery bank wired by the manufacturer that worked well enough, but wasn’t quite as clean or as orderly as we would prefer. During the process of installing their new battery monitor we cleaned up the battery bank and decluttered some of the wiring to create a more efficient battery bank. We also installed 1440 Watts of solar power which will go a long way towards offsetting the power used by their residential fridge.
This client’s RV was pre-wired by the manufacturer with 6-gauge cables, and an inverter. We installed 960 watts of solar power, which is more than we would recommend for 6-gauge cable, so we had to take additional steps in order to make the system as efficient as possible. With these under-sized cables, voltage would have been lost between the solar panels and the charge controller. We installed the solar panels using series/parallel connections to increase the voltage, reducing the amount of voltage drop to less than 1%, which resulted in increased system performance. This client will be able to run their residential refrigerator without using a generator or shore power.
In systems with AGM batteries we like to have close to a 1:1 ratio of solar panel watts to battery bank amp-hours. Too little solar, and your batteries won’t get up to a full charge as often as needed for healthy operation. Not enough battery amp-hours, and your charge controller will throttle down the solar input to keep from over charging full batteries which means your panels aren’t fully being utilized. This Class A motorhome hits the sweet spot with 1280W of solar and 1200Ah of battery capacity. (This does not apply to lithium batteries, because lithium batteries don’t need a regular charge. You can install as many amp-hours of lithium batteries as you can afford and it doesn’t matter how much solar you have on your roof.)
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.
This customer purchased a 3024DiL controller and 2x SF160 solar panels from us and did most of the installation himself. We finished the job by adding a temp sense to his controller and a new bank of AGM batteries.
This customer wanted to be able to run larger loads like a microwave or a blender from their battery bank so we added a 2000W pure sine inverter along with a 480W solar charging system. The roof mount combiner box was prepped for easily adding a 4th panel in the future. Batteries weren't added, but preparation was made to the battery bank for future expansion.
We installed 1,120W of solar through a Victron charge controller on this Class A motorhome. Routing solar cables through vehicles like this can be especially challenging but we were lucky to find a path through a bathroom cabinet. Special care had to be taken with the cables and shunt to preserve the functionality of the sliding battery rack.
This class A motorhome received a very powerful 1400W solar charging system with a Victron MPPT system core.
For the ambitious do-it-yourselfers out there who are overwhelmed by doing a full solar installation, consider having AM Solar do a partial install. In this case, we’ve secured the panels and routed the solar cables. The owner intends to tackle the remainder of the project, which will include a Victron charge controller and lithium battery system. This saves the customer time and money, while giving them a head start on their solar project and control over the installation process.