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.
When it comes to the world of solar, and especially solar equipped RVs, lithium batteries are the go-to choice for solar fans. Why are lithium batteries more chosen, and what makes them the preferred battery for solar battery banks? At AM Solar, we’re fans of the lithium battery, and here’s why.
Lithium batteries are most often chosen because of the wide variety of benefits they bring to the table. Lithium batteries offer more power, and are able to deliver it over a longer duration of time. They’re also smaller and lighter than other batteries, which makes them much more convenient for using in a solar charging system for a solar powered RV.
Lead batteries tend to lower the voltage they deliver as their power drops, but lithium batteries are able to deliver a consistent level of stored power. They’re also able to sit unused for longer periods of time, than other batteries, like lead acid batteries, which makes them an ideal battery for a solar-powered RV.
Price of a Lithium Battery
While the cost of lithium batteries used to be what deterred most people, they have now become more affordable. While they’re still more expensive than lead acid batteries, when you weigh the benefits and how long they’ll last they’re a much more affordable alternative, with pricing close to that of lead acid batteries.
Using in a Solar battery bank
When using lithium batteries in a battery management system, they don’t get over charged or ever completely discharge. While they do have a longer lifespan, it’s the lower weight that makes them perfect for solar powered RV’s. With a higher current output, and less maintenance required, they’re that much more usable.
AM Solar offers different set-ups for their lithium battery banks. It all comes down to how much use you need to get out of your solar power in your solar equipped RV. If you need to function with more appliances you’ll need to set yourself up a bigger capacity battery bank.
On Airstreams, due to their rounded roofs, we often use different sized feet to attach the solar panels to the roof. Some clients like to have the panels conform to the curvature of their roof, others prefer a more level appearance. We are happy to install them either way, or even come up with custom mount sets when necessary. This client asked us to use taller feet on the outside, and shorter feet on the inside, resulting in a flatter look. At the end of the day it’s only about personal preference as the performance difference is generally negligible.
The pictures in this post show the steps we had to take in order to upgrade this client’s battery bank from two 12V wet cell batteries connected in parallel (150Ah) to their new battery bank comprised of two 6V Lifeline AGM GPL 6CT batteries (300Ah) connected in series. The battery bay was too small to accommodate the new AGMs without modifying the bay lid. A plasma cutter was used to remove most of the metal top of the battery bay so that the battery terminals would not touch the metal lid. Now there is just enough room for the new the batteries to fit, thus doubling their battery capacity as a result.
1x SF180 Solar Panel Kit
1x Roof Combiner Box
1x SunRunner Victron MPPT 25A Charge Controller Core
2x AGM GPL 6CTs 300Ah Batteries
This client requested as much solar power as possible. We ended up installing 640W of solar power within the limited space available on their roof. We also installed a Trik-L-Start charger which takes power from their solar charged house batteries and transfers it to the starter battery. The Trik-L-Start charger is particularly useful when the vehicle is parked for extended periods of time. You won’t have to worry about your starter battery dying, and it helps maximize the life of the battery.
This client requested to have a portable panel installed along with an additional 300W of solar power on their roof. We provided a 120W portable panel from @zampsolar, and we installed a portable panel plug on their bumper for easy access. All they have to do is plug the panel in, put it a sunny area, and it will produce solar power. In the event they are parked in a shaded area they still have a way to harness the power of the sun.
Space can be an issue for some of our clients who want as much solar power as possible, but don’t have much room. The available space on this roof was very limited, and we concluded that our standard solar panels would not provide the best fit for this client. Our friends @zampsolar provided these slim 80W solar panels that fit perfectly on the sides of this client’s air conditioner. Zamp Solar also offers some awesome portable solar panels that are designed and built right here in the United States.
This client wanted to be able to run his microwave, and he wanted all of his AC outlets to be functional when dry camping. The existing battery bank was not large enough to power the loads he was planning on running. It’s recommended that when running a heavy AC load (like a microwave) you want to have at least a 300Ah to 400Ah battery bank. We doubled the size of his battery bank (from 220Ah to 440Ah), installed a solar charging system and an inverter, which should give him the power he needs to be comfortable while dry camping.
This weekend camper came to us to have a small solar system installed with the potential for future expansion. The SP100 solar panel we installed will help power his light DC loads while the camper is in use. When the camper is not in use the solar power will help keep his batteries charged and in good health. We also installed a Victron BMV-702 Battery Monitor to allow him to easily monitor the charge level of his battery bank.
This client is a collector of Lazy Daze RV's. This is the 3rd solar and mobile power system we have installed for him. He told us his next Lazy Daze will be for his retirement, and he’ll bring it in to us for one final AM Solar system installation. We hope he’s enjoying a few “lazy days” while dry camping, and using a little solar power to run some of his light DC loads.
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.
As part of our training program we occasionally give quizzes to employees. Employees that get 100% have the company buy them a lunch. How well can you do? We'll post the answers after everyone here has made an attempt.
1. What is the nominal voltage of a typical lithium battery bank that we install?
2. On average, a 100W panel, properly installed on a rig that spends most of its time around Eugene will produce approximately:
A) 5.5 Amps per hour
B) 200kWh per year
C) 15,000 BTUs
E) 25 Amp hours per day
3. Which of the following components would we most likely recommend for a customer wanting to run an air conditioner?:
A) Flooded Batteries
C) Victron Multiplus 3000VA Inverter/Charger
D) Victron BlueSolar 100/15 MPPT Charge Controller
E) Magnum BMK
4. Which components listed below are capable of disconnecting loads when a battery bank’s voltage gets too low?:
A) Victron Battery Protect BP65
B) Victron Mutiplus 2000VA Inverter/Charger
C) AMS Lithium Control Board
D) All of the above
E) None of the above
5. As you charge an AGM battery from low to full, what is the order of modes the charge controller progresses through?:
A) Float, Accept, Bulk
B) Float, Bulk, Absorb
C) Equalize, Accept, Bulk
D) Bulk, Accept, Float
E) Bulk, Absorb, Equalize
6. Which battery bank will store the most usable energy over 20 hour period?
A) 2x 200Ah Victron Lithium Batteries
B) 4x 6V L16 AGM Batteries
C) 6x 6V 4CT AGM Batteries
D) 4x 6V 6CT AGM Batteries
E) 2x 12V 8DL AGM Batteries
7. Which device is likely to consume the most energy over a 24 hour period?
A) Microwave used for five minutes per day
B) Laptop used for six hours per day
C) Portable electric heater used for four hours per day
D) Phone charger used all night
E) C-PAP machine used all night
8. Which best describes the relationship between Volts, Amps and Watts?
A) Wattage is the product of volts and amps
B) Voltage is the root mean square of Amps and Watts
C) Amps is the derivative Watts x Volts
D) Voltage is the sum of Amps and Watts
E) Wattage can be derived by an inverse Fourier transform of Voltage plotted against Amps
9. Which statement is false?
A) An MPPT charge controller will typically harvest more energy than a PWM controller.
B) AGM batteries should be equalized monthly for best results
C) A modified sine inverter will work fine for a laptop or cell phone charger.
D) A 100W panels should not be connected in series with a 180W panel.
E) A Trik-L-Start feeds current onto a starter battery.
10. Which of the following is true?
A) High current travels through 8ga cable with less losses than it does through 4ga cable.
B) You get more amps per hour with higher wattage panels.
C) Voltage is to water pressure as Amps is to gallons per minute.
D) Panels operate at a lower voltage when they are colder.
E) Lithium batteries are designed to handle short circuiting without damage.
These clients came to us wanting to have a small amount of solar power installed with the potential to install more at a later date. We installed one SF180 solar panel with a 50A charge controller and wired the rig with 4-gauge cable from the battery bank to the roof. The 50A charge controller is powerful enough for them to install three more SF180 panels. By installing the oversized charge controller now, we eliminated the need for them to install a new charge controller (saving them some money) when they expand in the future. The roof C-Box was also installed with expansion in mind.
Lithium Batteries have long been the best battery option for going solar. They have numerous benefits and advantages and we’re here to break them down.
Lifespan and Usability
Lithium battery banks can be expensive, and can cost almost three times as much as AGM batteries. With the expense comes a much longer lifespan that makes them work the money. Studies on lithium batteries have shown that they last for more than 2500 cycles, with some showing that the battery is still delivering 75 percent of its capacity at that time. AGM batteries typically only last for 500-1000 cycles which makes the cost worth it for lithium. If you factor in replacement costs, it makes complete sense to use lithium batteries over AGM.
Another benefit to using lithium batteries is that they can regularly discharge 80 percent of their rated capacity. You get more amp hours of charge, nearly twice as much as AGM.
On most lead-acid batteries, when the charge level decreases so does the voltage. Similar to when the batteries are low in a flashlight, and it’s no longer putting out a bright light. This doesn’t happen to lithium batteries. When the battery is at 20 percent it will still be putting out the same voltage as when it’s at 80 percent.
Lithium batteries also don’t need a absorption phase to finish charging, which means they’re easy to charge. It doesn’t take long to charge them to full capacity. If your charger is strong enough, you can charge your batteries in as little as half an hour. If you’re into being off the grid, this means you’ll need to use your generator less, so that you can use solar power more.
Lithium batteries are also better at storing power. They can charge at nearly 100 percent efficiency, which is nearly 15 percent higher than most lead acid batteries. If you’re completely solar, and trying to use every hour of sunlight possible, this really comes in handy. Technically, every second of sunshine you can collect will result in power stored in your battery bank, if you’re using lithium.
Another added benefit of lithium batteries is that they weigh less. A lithium battery is capable of storing almost 3.6 times more usable amp hours than an AGM battery, that is the same weight. Not only will you be capable of storing more power, but you’ll get better mpg in your solar equipped RV.
At AM Solar we could go on about the various benefits of using lithium batteries in your DIY Solar RV.
While you may love getting outdoors, and traveling to places you’ve never been, a noisy campground can ruin it. While you love your RV, you might be looking for a way to get off the grid, and away from the crowded and noisy campground hookups. If you’ve ever thought about getting your RV equipped for solar power, there’s no time like the present.
If you’ve ever considered going solar, you might want to think about it more seriously. With a solar RV kit, it’s not too complicated to outfit your RV to go anywhere. Solar RVs don’t need noisy generators either, if you ration your energy and plan accordingly. With solar power, you won’t need a hookup either, so you can take your RV anywhere, as long as you can legally park overnight.
Benefits of Solar
When your RV is outfitted with solar panels, your panels supply poser to your RV batteries. The Lithium Solar Batteries store that energy until you’re ready to use it. If you install solar panels on your RV, it’s easier than using a self-charging battery system.
It’s important to know that it does take time to collect solar energy. You will have to plan for your usage. You won’t be able to roll into a campsite, or overnight parking and turn on your stove, or run appliances. You’ll have to plan ahead, and get to a site early so you can spend time collecting the energy that you’ll need to cook dinner and shower.
There are also solar calculators that you can use to factor your solar usage. You can figure out if you have enough power to cook dinner, shower and use a laptop for an hour. Or if you’ll have to choose between the three.
Once you go solar with a Solar RV Kit, there are endless solar appliances you can transition over to. Everything from stoves, flashlights, showers, headlamps and more are now available in solar models.
If you’re looking for an easier way to get out and not be tied to campgrounds or hookups, solar is the way to go. Check out AM Solar, and ask them about installing solar panels on RVs. They can help you outfit your RV with solar panels, and help you get free of campground hook up restrictions. With a solar equipped RV you can set up camp anywhere, and enjoy the freedom of solar.
This is the most solar power we have ever installed on an Airstream. Our client will be able to run their residential refrigerator and even an air conditioner for a few hours at a time. This is the gold standard for an Airstream power system upgrade and the artistry and technical know-how demonstrated on this job are why AM Solar is typically booked out four months in advance.