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Old 06-12-2017, 07:48 PM   #1
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Austin , Texas
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Renogy, Am Solar, Grape Solar, Go Power what's the best or what are you running?why?

Im trying to put a solar power system together and really have NO CLUE!!! I don't know what brand is the best. I recall reading blue sky controllers? Can anyone please help me figure out a 400-600W system? I need everything and will be installing it myself on a 1989 34ft. excella 1000. Looking for brands and model numbers for parts I will be needing. I would like to stay below $4000.


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Old 06-12-2017, 08:05 PM   #2
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So if you really have no clue than I suggest AM Solar because of their packages and technical support. If you want to spend some time doing some research you can put together quality components and source them on your own a little cheaper, but you'll spend weeks doing this (don't ask me how I know this). Get on the Generators and Solar forum here and read about a number of the different installs reported there. --Frank

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Old 06-12-2017, 08:09 PM   #3
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Think more like 10-15k for a practical system. 100 w panels at $200 each, Magnum inverter $2500, Lithium battery $4,000. Plus charge controller, remote monitor, cables, fuses, connectors, etc.
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Old 06-12-2017, 10:01 PM   #4
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Hi Judy,

AM Solar is a great resource. They have a wonderful website where you can learn lots and they will answer your questions on the phone, as well.

Good luck!
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Old 06-12-2017, 10:55 PM   #5
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If money is more of an issue than weight or space, or you don't need 1000 amp-hours of storage, you can do fine with AGM batteries in most cases and wait a few years for the price of more exotic battery chemistries to come down.
— David

Zero Gravitas — 2017 Flying Cloud 26U | Il Progetto — 1976 Argosy 28 Center Bath | WBCCI# 15566

He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. — Sir Winston Churchill
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Old 06-13-2017, 07:04 AM   #6
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I have two Renogy panels and they work just fine. Provide plenty of power to keep me going when boondocking, easy to use and affordable.
Steve "Centennial Man"
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Old 06-13-2017, 08:52 AM   #7
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AM Solar......but then I'm just a little biased!! .......
Lew Farber...ABYC Certified Master Marine Electrician...RVIA Certified Master Tech ...AM Solar Authorized Installation Center...AIRSTREAM Solar & Electrical Specialist...Micro Air 'Easy Start' Sales and Installations
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Old 06-13-2017, 09:04 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by lewster View Post
AM Solar......but then I'm just a little biased!! .......

I used AM solar - great products - AWESOME support
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Old 06-13-2017, 11:04 AM   #9
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I have a GoPower 80 watt. I use it because it had everything in one package, was portable, easy to setup, met my electric needs and was available local.

I am sure there are other brands equally as good.
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Old 06-13-2017, 11:22 AM   #10
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Smile I recommend

I recommend AM Solar. I decided to take a trip out to Oregon in large part to have them install my system. It has been in place 8 years, we are on the third (because of illness that left the 2nd set uncharged for a year)set of batteries and have had no problems to speak of. One time I could not get readings on my control panel, and they patiently walked me thru the placement of a fuse near the battery-- in spite of being smart, I can be dumb at times.
I have had friends get parts, and complete systems from them for self installation and they have been extremely pleased with their service and support. Questions are answered at a level you can understand without treating you like a dummy. Wonderful company, well worth working with or at least checking out.
"Honor those who serve by listening to them and caring. Parades end, caring needs to be there every day."
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Old 06-13-2017, 12:06 PM   #11
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AM solar sell's what what they install and it works well, i set it all up in the yard to understand how best to install in trailer.
AGM bats from lifeline will do a good job without breaking the bank.
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Old 06-13-2017, 12:31 PM   #12
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Another interesting source for the do it yourself gang is
The more information you can glean on this subject, the better off you will be in trying to decide what you want and how far you want to go.

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Old 06-13-2017, 12:51 PM   #13
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We had our solar system installed one year ago with AM Solar and Lew did all the work. We full time in our 30' AIrstream. Lew installed 6 - 100 watt panels, lithium battery, new inverter, all other accessories and wiring.

Lew did an amazing job. Quality of materials and craftsmanship are impeccable. Lew has been available to answer and questions that have come up during our travels.

We stay off grid a lot. We use induction cooktop, blow dryer, iron, tv and what ever we want. In the Badlands we ran the roof mounted AC (1) for an hour and a half, one day, with no hook-ups and no generator.

Just another very satisfied customer of Lew's and AM Solar.

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Old 06-13-2017, 01:13 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by centennialman View Post
I have two Renogy panels and they work just fine. Provide plenty of power to keep me going when boondocking, easy to use and affordable.
Me too. I upgraded the controller that came with the renigy 100w briefcase to the renogy 20amp MPPT Rover and attached the pwm one to my truck battery so it can be charged by solar when I want. I recommend goin slow, buyin less and learnin about the stuff and your needs before spendin too much. My dealer wanted $5k for a solar package with a pwm controller and 200w. so far I'm about $350 in and almost good. I will probably need to spend another $500 to upgrade the batteries to AGM and then $300 or so for two more flexible 100w panels and I think that'll do it. that's $1150 with mppt controller and 300w instead of 200w. and i learned a bunch doin it in increments and never needed to put holes in the trailer or add weight to the top. pretty good.
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Old 06-13-2017, 02:30 PM   #15
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Travlinman, what flexible panels are you going to get? Renogy doesn't have them anymore and according to this forum, there aren't any reliable ones out there.
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Old 06-13-2017, 03:11 PM   #16
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I was gonna get 2 of these....
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Old 06-13-2017, 04:11 PM   #17
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I've been using 2 100w Suoaki flexable panels for 5 months now, so far so good. My controller is Midnite's Brat very water resistant pmw 30amp. I have a liberal arts degee and the set still charges my batteries with good sun to float level by noon. Love that each panel is only 5lbs. Use it as a portable system, storing the panels on the bed when traveling or not needed.
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Old 06-13-2017, 10:27 PM   #18
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This is a complex question with no short answers. Having spent over 3 months researching and 6 more putting things together I would suggest the following:
Do some research if you are not already familiar with the basics of how batteries work and learn the terminology relating to them.
But first decide now much and what type of power you are going to need. There are several good websites that can help with this.
This will help explain inverters, and why there is such a price range.
Consider how much battery capacity you have and compare with what you need.
There are several good sites such as "battery stuff" where you can learn all you need.
I started with a 100w Go Power panel which was installed by a local AS dealer and have since added by DIY a GP 2000W inverter/charger and changed up my batteries to AGM. I went with the combination inverter/charger because there was little room under the couch for adding a separate inverter without removing the old charger. I realize that to use the full power of the inverter I would need to add more solar charging power and more battery capacity but not sure that I will spend the $$ to do this. Go Power have been very helpful with technical support and their products seem to have good reviews.
If you want the challenge and satisfaction of doing it yourself it can be a great new hobby, but if not and money is limited then consider the alternative of packing a generator.
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Old 06-13-2017, 11:06 PM   #19
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I vote for Lew and AM Solar. Straight forward, honest, sound engineering and at a fair price. Go Lithiums, they have twice the capacity, half the weight and long life. I would expect the overall cost when the Li batteries finally give up the cost would be the same as other replacements through the years.
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Old 06-13-2017, 11:08 PM   #20
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AM Solar does a fantastic job, but is pricey. If one goes to the site and looks at the rig in the upper left (with five panels), I talked to the owner of that rig when I was up in Idaho recently. The solar and battery installation was awesome and beautifully done. He was just leaving as I engaged him in conversation, and I made the mistake of commenting that with a rig like that he should have solar (I didn’t see that he had solar, viewing from the ground level). He stopped and showed me the entire rear compartment of his RV and WOW. He then commented that he was on the home page of and I could contact them for details.

I contacted am solar to find out what his system consisted of, and they agreed to send me a copy of the invoice, with names, addresses marked out. I believe the owner spared no expense in the install, as the lithium battery pack alone was $10,000 (total installed price including labor was $23,000, but that included three full pages of itemized expenses).

My installation is much simpler, but I am happy with it. I do mainly dry camping and I replaced my two size 24 batteries with two Trojan T-105, 6-volt golf cart batteries (other than having to modify the battery box, the Trojan batteries were about $125 each). I already had a single solar panel with a Blue 25-amp solar controller. I opted to add two flexible 100-watt panels (inexpensive), and found on a sunny day my batteries were fully charged by 9 or 10 AM (I previously converted all my lighting to LEDs). Several years back I had installed a pure sine wave 600-watt inverter, but that wasn’t enough for a toaster, coffee pot, microwave, and certainly not air conditioning. The combined battery capacity of these two batteries, at 12 volts is 225 amp-hrs. Now good practice dictates that you should not go below 50% of you battery capacity, so really, I have a working capacity of 112 amp-hrs.

Now, here was my dilemma. I wanted to put in a larger 1500 or 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter, which means I needed to put in some very heavy 12-volt wiring to feed the inverter (2000 watts from a 12 volt source would pull 2000/12 = 167 amps). This would have been too large of a load for these two deep cycle batteries, but I arrived at a very simple solution.

Enter the Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 1000. This is a simple, yet expensive package that has taken care of all my needs, except air conditioning. Costco is the only place that sells the Yeti 1000, and it costs $1,000.00. The Yeti 1000 is rated at 1000 watt-hours, which, for a 12-volt equivalent, would be 83 amp-hours which is fully three-quarters the working capacity of the two Trojan batteries (thus I’ve increased my battery capacity by 75% by just setting this device in the Airstream). Now, part of the beauty of the Yeti is it has a pure sine wave 1500-watt inverter, with 3000 watt surge capacity built in. I’ve ran this at 2200 watts in a trial test for 40 seconds, and it still didn’t trip out on overload. From a practical standpoint, when we want to use the toaster we just plug it into the Yeti. When we want to run the microwave I plug an extension cord into the Yeti and run it around to the 115-volt AC input at the street-side AC input and plug it in. Thus the Yeti is now the power source to the entire trailer. I can then run the microwave and heat my coffee or whatever.
I use the solar to continually keep the Yeti charged. I just use two 70-watt power supplies from the 600 watt inverter to feed the Yeti (purchased a 2nd power supply). The display shows the amount of incoming and outgoing power. When I have 140 watts going in and am drawing 200 watts going out, I have a net drain of 60 watts. So if I left the system like this, after 1000watts/60watts = 16.7 hours, the Yeti battery would be dead. At night time I run the computer, etc off of the Yeti and then recharge it during the daylight hours. The Yeti 1000 weighs about 42 pounds. I no longer carry a generator in the back of my pickup.

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