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Old 12-03-2017, 08:02 AM   #1
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Portable solar panels for lithium battery

We've successfully installed a lithium battery and 200W of solar panels onto our 16' Bambi (dubbed the Aluminium Falcon). Took it on a 3 week trip, where it performed well. Typically, we'd use 30Ah each day, and replenish 20Ah through the overhead panels. The low sun angle and occasional shady spot were our limits, so I'm now looking at portable solar panels. I'm looking anywhere from 100W to 200W, but leaning towards larger is better.

This is my current configuration:

-Two AM Solar SP100 100W panels on top
-Zamp ZS-30A PWM solar charge controller with Lithium mode
-Battleborn 100Ah LiFePO4 Battery
-BMV 700 Battery Monitor

The Zamp controller, battery, and BMV shunt are all placed under the dinette seat, accessible by lifting the cushions.

I had planned to get a portable solar suitcase, which includes the charger, and clamp it to the battery cables that are still present in a now empty battery box up front on the A frame. However, I can't find any portable systems that come with a lithium mode on the included solar charge controller. I don't have an extra wire going from the battery box to the dinette, or I'd just use that to connect to the Zamp controller with a raw panel. I do have the 12v from the 7 way plug into the area, and I had disconnected that to isolate the battery systems (Li battery was trying to charge TV battery). So here are my options:

1. Use a non-Li solar charger set at AGM mode. The BB batteries are made to accept AGM charging modes, and I already do so with the PD4655 converter.

1a and 1b. Sub-options are whether to keep the controller mounted to the suitcase panels, or mount inside the empty battery box.

2. Mount a Li-capable solar controller, like another ZS-30A, into the empty battery box. It's not a waterproof controller, so try to make it as waterproof as possible. This is a general issue of finding a waterproof lithium controller.

3. Repurpose the 12v wire that comes from the 7 way plug to be at solar panel voltage. Connect it into the Zamp controller inside the cabin on one end, and to a simple plug, Zamp or otherwise, at the battery box. Plug in raw solar panels when I want to use them.

4. Find a suitcase system that comes with a lithium-compatible charger.

Any alternatives to these, or opinions between the alternatives?
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:24 AM   #2
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Larry,

I wouldn't repurpose the 12 V from your TV. In fact, I think you should find a solution to be able to power your trailer from the TV if your trailer batteries are low. This might save your bacon at some point - like when you've accidentally discharged your batteries and you can't leave a campsite because your jack doesn't work for example.

I'd go for the simple solution and connect the portable panel/charger directly to your BB batteries. I'd keep the charger integrated with the panel because I don't see a great benefit from separating the two.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:12 AM   #3
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Ideas

I've been having to figure out a similar solution, too. I have BB batteries too (on the way) and a renogy 200w suitcase. Here is my analysis.

The suitcases come with PWM controllers attached and as you say none will support lithium out of the box. Renogy makes a waterproof lithium PWM (Voyager) controller that can be had for $65 online if you shop. Mounting this inside the unused battery box would work well.

One thing that Alano might comment on is that I believe it is better to have longer wire runs from the panel to the controller then the controller to the panel.

No matter what, you'll need to tie the new controller into the battery by connecting it up to the shunt side of you battery monitor. Kind of a pain - means you won't be using the clamp on connectors from the suitcase.

I am planning on going with using a single Victron MPPT controller for everything. I'm following Troutboy's (and others) lead in using a battery swittch (1,2,1+2,off) to combine the portable and rooftop arrays in a manner that allows me to have all permutations of them on and off. What I don't know is the wire size and connectors I will use (Zamp, Renogy, Anderson, etc).

It really is funny how complicated this can get...

-Adam
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:29 AM   #4
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Thanks Al and Adam,

Al, I get your point about the 12v charging line. Today, in a pinch, I could reconnect the charging line and have the TV recharge the BB battery. I would lose this option if I repurpose the charging line.

Adam, the waterproof Renogy Voyager solves a lot of problems! Somehow I missed that. This can be mounted in the empty battery box, or put on the panels. I still have Ground and Battery +12 available in the battery case (shunt is inside), so I could configure these into posts that allow a clip on connection, or I could use these to wire the Renogy solar controller to permanently.

Now, I'm going to think this through....l
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:49 AM   #5
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Correction

Just re-read my last post and see a typo. What I meant to say is...

It is better to have a long cable run from the panel to the controller rather than from the controller to the battery. I believe the reason for this is that we'll often have a higher voltage before the controller (depends on panel and configuration) - especially if the controller is a PWM type.

Glad the renogy Voyager fits the bill!

-adam
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Old 12-03-2017, 11:45 AM   #6
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You geniuses come up with the perfect solar upgrade systems. Then post whats needed and where to buy.. Then offer step by step installation instructions for idiots like me in jr. High english.
And all of us d.a's would love yall for it
Even better. Come install all of it.
A Fan!!!
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Old 12-03-2017, 12:44 PM   #7
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Adam,

This all makes sense. If I put the Voyager into the battery case, by definition I'll have longer cable runs from the panels. Yes, the higher voltages the panels put out should deal better with resistance in the cable runs.

I am also considering going with two Renogy 100 Watt suitcases instead of the Renogy 200W panel. My spreadsheet calculations show the Renogy Eclipse suitcases have the best watts/weight and watts/suitcase-square-inch of the suitcase models so far. (though the Zamp 160 isn't far behind). With limited space/storage in the Bambi and the 4runner, I'm leaning towards two 100W models- which is another reason to have a single common solar controller. Because of the added efficiency of pointing the panels at the sun, I may be able to get by with a single 100W panel, and get a second only if that doesn't do the job.
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Old 12-03-2017, 01:51 PM   #8
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My 80 watt Go Power suitcase automatically defaults to lithium. They make larger systems.
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Old 12-03-2017, 02:25 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larry9000 View Post
I had planned to get a portable solar suitcase, which includes the charger, and clamp it to the battery cables that are still present in a now empty battery box up front on the A frame. However, I can't find any portable systems that come with a lithium mode on the included solar charge controller. I don't have an extra wire going from the battery box to the dinette, or I'd just use that to connect to the Zamp controller with a raw panel. I do have the 12v from the 7 way plug into the area, and I had disconnected that to isolate the battery systems (Li battery was trying to charge TV battery). So here are my options:

1. Use a non-Li solar charger set at AGM mode. The BB batteries are made to accept AGM charging modes, and I already do so with the PD4655 converter.

1a and 1b. Sub-options are whether to keep the controller mounted to the suitcase panels, or mount inside the empty battery box.

2. Mount a Li-capable solar controller, like another ZS-30A, into the empty battery box. It's not a waterproof controller, so try to make it as waterproof as possible. This is a general issue of finding a waterproof lithium controller.

3. Repurpose the 12v wire that comes from the 7 way plug to be at solar panel voltage. Connect it into the Zamp controller inside the cabin on one end, and to a simple plug, Zamp or otherwise, at the battery box. Plug in raw solar panels when I want to use them.

4. Find a suitcase system that comes with a lithium-compatible charger.

Any alternatives to these, or opinions between the alternatives?
Try looking at the suitcase ones at GoWesty.com - IIRC they come in 100 & 200 AH varieties, & are sized small enough to fit into a VW camper van, so shouldn't be too hard to find a place to pack 1-2 of them in your TV or AS.

I think that either both or the newer model works with LiIon.

Cheers!
Tom
///////
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by afk314 View Post
One thing that Alano might comment on is that I believe it is better to have longer wire runs from the panel to the controller then the controller to the panel.
If the charger was an MPPT controller, a shorter cable from the charger to the batteries is preferable because the current is higher coming out of the charger. However, for a PWM controller is makes no difference where you place the charger since the current is the same from the panel to the batteries.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom_T View Post
Try looking at the suitcase ones at GoWesty.com - IIRC they come in 100 & 200 AH varieties, & are sized small enough to fit into a VW camper van, so shouldn't be too hard to find a place to pack 1-2 of them in your TV or AS.

I think that either both or the newer model works with LiIon.

Cheers!
Tom
///////
I really like the folding concept and the little "tent pole" kit you can get too. I'll investigate further. They seem a bit pricey though.
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Old 12-03-2017, 07:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Royce View Post
My 80 watt Go Power suitcase automatically defaults to lithium. They make larger systems.
Thanks. I'll take a look.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:06 PM   #13
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200W vs. 300W on the Roof

Larry - if you had it to do over, and if you had the space up top, would you have installed panels with 300W capacity on the roof right from the start, or would you have opted for 200W + 100W portable? Planning my solar system for a 2005 Safari 25C.

Thanks,
Paul
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Old 12-03-2017, 11:43 PM   #14
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Iíd do the same. The 200W on top is a great convenience. There isnít room for more. The angle on the roof isnít optimal so a 109W portable may add as much or more than the 200 on the roof. If I ever park in shade I need portable panels anyway. My upgrade allowed me to camp for consecutive days,, but having a portable will allow additional options.
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