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Old 04-15-2015, 01:32 PM   #1
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Questions about installing portable solar

I understand that the idea of "installing" portable solar almost sounds like an oxymoron, so let me preface this with the explanation that, to me, electricity is nearly indistinguishable from magic.

My wife and I live, and travel, full time in our 30' classic. We are looking to dip our toe into the solar pool with a couple of panels that we can move around so that, if we have the option of parking in the shade, we can do so. The plan is to start with 200-300 watts with about 30-40' of wire in order to reach the sunny spot. I intend to have an mppt charge controller which I understand, needs to be located as close to the batteries as is practicable.

One of my objectives is to be able to plug and unplug the panels easily. Also, I'm not sure if there are options for installing the controller outside somewhere.

The basic idea seems to be connecting solar panels to a controller and then to batteries, but there are a few details which I don't quite have a clear picture of...
such as, if I have to install the controller inside, then my location choices are limited. I have a front sofa with roof lockers above. One of the roof lockers would be an ideal location, but I'm not sure how to run the wires up there.


On the classics, the batteries are stored in separate compartments which project into the living space under the sofa on opposite sides of the coach. If I can connect directly to the batteries, then I don't want to have to leave the doors of the battery storage compartment open while connected.

The wires coming from the controller to the batteries should be connected to what? directly to a positive and negative of the two battery terminals, or to the positive and negative buses?

So, I'm looking for ways to plug and unplug the panels that don't leave a couple of wires hanging loose on the outside of the coach when the panels are not in use.

I have heard of a 7-way plug that can be wired into the lines from the panels, but then it seems like the controller needs to be between the 7-way and the panels.

My preference is to not use the solar pre-wire which is located behind the fridge, over the axles because I may want to install a couple of roof panels later to improve our flexibility.

I am aware of voltage drop issues with wire lengths.

References to helpful videos, and or posts would be appreciated. I have looked, but haven't quite been able to fill in all of these details, thus far.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:46 PM   #2
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I have done something very similar. I mounted a MPPT controller near the batteries using heavy (4 ga?) wire to the batteries with a single in-line fuse. From the controller toward the solar, I used 20' or so of #10-4 flex cable, doubling up the conductors, 2 on the + and 2 on the -, for the equivalent of 2 #8's.

This is routed into my bumper trunk and terminated with MC4 connectors, about 10' of cable is free to extend out the rear of the trailer and hook to my 2 x 100W Renology flexable panels.

I also have 30' of the same cable setup as an extension.

One notable thing I did is selected a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 2512i 12V controller so it could handle my panels in Series, dropping the current along the extension because the voltage is double.

I can place my panels on the street awning or a single rear awning. I also can move them away from the trailer and point toward the sun. The panels store nicely under the matterss.
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Old 04-15-2015, 04:00 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RivetNV View Post
I understand that the idea of "installing" portable solar almost sounds like an oxymoron, so let me preface this with the explanation that, to me, electricity is nearly indistinguishable from magic.

My wife and I live, and travel, full time in our 30' classic. We are looking to dip our toe into the solar pool with a couple of panels that we can move around so that, if we have the option of parking in the shade, we can do so. The plan is to start with 200-300 watts with about 30-40' of wire in order to reach the sunny spot. I intend to have an mppt charge controller which I understand, needs to be located as close to the batteries as is practicable.
I'll try to help. I have a 30' classic also, and while I don't have solar, I've done some mods with it and am familiar with the electrical system.

Quote:
One of my objectives is to be able to plug and unplug the panels easily. Also, I'm not sure if there are options for installing the controller outside somewhere.
In general, MPPT controllers aren't weatherproof, so you're probably better off putting it inside.

Quote:
The basic idea seems to be connecting solar panels to a controller and then to batteries, but there are a few details which I don't quite have a clear picture of...
such as, if I have to install the controller inside, then my location choices are limited. I have a front sofa with roof lockers above. One of the roof lockers would be an ideal location, but I'm not sure how to run the wires up there.
That's a difficult area to reach because of the windows. Also, it is small and poorly ventilated. My first suggestion would be to put the controller under the gaucho. There should be room next to the subwoofer, and the battery cables and everything are right there. That area has some airflow.

Another possibility would be the large roof locker streetside above the "credenza" -- just forward of the dinette You can run cable along the corner between the streetside wall and the floor, come up through the "credenza", then go through a surface mount cable raceway (self-adhesive plastic ones available at any home center, use screws or rivets in addition to the adhesive) for the short distance between the "credenza" and the roof locker above it.

Quote:
On the classics, the batteries are stored in separate compartments which project into the living space under the sofa on opposite sides of the coach. If I can connect directly to the batteries, then I don't want to have to leave the doors of the battery storage compartment open while connected.

The wires coming from the controller to the batteries should be connected to what? directly to a positive and negative of the two battery terminals, or to the positive and negative buses?
The battery leads terminate under the gaucho. You can connect there, using suitable overcurrent protection and disconnect means. The marine circuit breaker/switches on the delcity web site would be a place to start.

Quote:
So, I'm looking for ways to plug and unplug the panels that don't leave a couple of wires hanging loose on the outside of the coach when the panels are not in use.

I have heard of a 7-way plug that can be wired into the lines from the panels, but then it seems like the controller needs to be between the 7-way and the panels.

My preference is to not use the solar pre-wire which is located behind the fridge, over the axles because I may want to install a couple of roof panels later to improve our flexibility.

I am aware of voltage drop issues with wire lengths.

References to helpful videos, and or posts would be appreciated. I have looked, but haven't quite been able to fill in all of these details, thus far.
I would suggest installing a suitable connector on a bracket or box attached to the A frame, then running the two wires individually through the exterior and interior skin using suitable grommets. That's easy to do and won't leave any dangley bits. There are a number of suitable connectors, but I would recommend a two-pole "trailer liftgate" connector:

Zinc Die-Cast Dual Pole Socket #15-326

They're inexpensive, readily available on the road should you need to replace it, and designed for highway use.
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Old 04-28-2015, 12:35 PM   #4
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Portable solar

I have set up a small 170 watt portable solar system very simple, using 10 ga wire with mc4 connectors. I know wire on light side but the easy set up is worth the voltage drop. I used two hinges to attach the panels together they fold up and bolted some folding legs. I can adjust legs for a 25 to 30 deg panel angle. I have two short wires with mc4's on the battery terms.and a fuse on the pos post with mc4's also on the terms. at the controller. I mounted the controller in a vented box that I place just under the camper in case of rain. If heavy rain is expected I unplug the controller and bring it inside. I have two sets of cables 10ft and 25ft depending on the sun /shade situation.
It takes about 10 mins to set up and take down. It puts out 6.8 to 9.1 amps depending on the sun and which cables I'm using. That keeps my two 6 volt wet cell batteries charged nicely. I have been thinking lately about mounting the panels on the rack on top of my truck cap and mounting the controller on the inside of the truck cap. That would shorten wires to controller. Then would be charging while driving down the road. I did not want to add wt. or drill holes in my AS.
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Old 04-28-2015, 12:42 PM   #5
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http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ar-124920.html

I just received a Zamp 200. Haven't tried it yet, been too cloudy to test it out. Maybe this weekend.

Kelvin
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Old 05-24-2015, 09:48 AM   #6
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I use a Zamp 200 in three different applications (battery back for trailer, portable battery back for tent camping, plus the MH) and have wired all three with a Roof and Sidewall Solar Port which is basically a bulkhead SAE connector....means I can plug in either the Zamp or a Battery Tender or a charger. Interesting the the Deltran battery tender has a reversed polarity (normally the live is screened from the battery, the Deltran has it's positive screened so I had to make a short 'gender changer').

This setup also allows the use of the a Portable Solar Extension Cable and allows me to have the battery (and so tent/trailer/MH) in the shade but the panel in full sun and for the panel to be turned during the day to maximize effectiveness.
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Old 05-24-2015, 10:19 AM   #7
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[QUOTE=RivetNV;

One of my objectives is to be able to plug and unplug the panels easily. Also, I'm not sure if there are options for installing the controller outside somewhere.




So, I'm looking for ways to plug and unplug the panels that don't leave a couple of wires hanging loose on the outside of the coach when the panels are not in use.

I have heard of a 7-way plug that can be wired into the lines from the panels, but then it seems like the controller needs to be between the 7-way and the panels.


[/QUOTE]

RivetNV,
I have a friend who places his charge controller in a plastic battery box, which he connects to his panels and Airstream using Pico Battery Cable connectors, http://www.picowiring.com/pdf/Cat-21.pdf These connectors are great. Totally portable and safe!

I mounted my charge controller inside next to batterys and ran the cable outside and I use the Pico Battery Cable connector under the frame to connect my extended panels.

I am sure you will research it and find the best configuration for you.

Try the Pico Battery Connectors they really work well, They will handle the amp load while in use and keep it safe when not in use.


-Dennis
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Old 05-24-2015, 10:27 AM   #8
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The Zamp has the controller mounted on what they call an EZ Bracket, which folds with the panel and is protected under the panel in use.



Setup is less than a minute, straighten the legs, unwind the cable from the controller and plug it in whichever battery source I am trying to power.
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Old 05-27-2015, 09:44 AM   #9
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Questions about installing portable solar

Ok I am on this same journey now. I scoffed at solar now with my AS Ina storage facility I am looking at battery charging. I discovered that to put out money for solar I might as well look at something that benefits even more so...

I did find waterproof MPPT controllers used for harsh conditions. The Zamp is PWM.
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Old 05-27-2015, 09:48 AM   #10
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Rodster,
Here is my thread on my portable solar and mods to improve it.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ar-124920.html
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Old 05-27-2015, 11:41 AM   #11
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Hmmm... interesting, you make all those mods to gain approx 20-25% more output from a 160watt panel, which you would have got from the 200watt panel and no mods?

Yes, the standard 200watt Zamp isn't perfect but it works straight out of the box for me.
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Old 05-27-2015, 11:46 AM   #12
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I have the Zamp 200. I'm using the extension cable which gives me about 30ft radius from the batteries. It is a thicker cable than the cable from the built in controller. The combined length matches the flexible, plastic coated 30ft security cable, with loops on each end. There are some holes in the solar panel frames you can use a padlock with the security cable. The other end of the security cable I'll loop through the A frame or the wheel rims depending where the panels are positioned. I don't have time before my trip out to Utah to add the better cable and my 25fb doesn't have the same battery storage like Rich's AS so new wires and moving the controller off the panels into the Airstream is for a future project. My batteries are in an A frame compartment.

The 3 folding legs on the Zamp 200 seem a little flimsy to me but once the panel is on the ground it seems steady.

I'll be laying down a piece of green grass rug for the panels to rest on.

The 200w Zamp is bulky and heavy almost 50lbs about 13lbs heavier than the 160w model but only 7" wider in the closed position compared to the 160w.

Kelvin
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Old 05-27-2015, 12:08 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by martin300662 View Post
Hmmm... interesting, you make all those mods to gain approx 20-25% more output from a 160watt panel, which you would have got from the 200watt panel and no mods?

Yes, the standard 200watt Zamp isn't perfect but it works straight out of the box for me.
As I said, size and weight were a consideration for my storage area. Also, the mods really need to be done to a 200W system, IMO. 16' of extension is not enough for my woodland camping, and you need much heavier cable to extend to 50', whether a 200W or a 160W system.
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Old 05-29-2015, 06:19 AM   #14
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Questions about installing portable solar

Update. After two discussions with the "solar people" I was given some ideas. One was to fit the battery box or, in your case I guess, the door with an SAE 2 plug with the back end fused and hooked to the batt. No clips no doors open. The controller location is my challenge right now as I am planning a dual system, one portable suitcase with its own controller in place to use with a plug like I mention and a second storage area solution with a dedicated controller and plug for battery maintenance since I cannot leave a suitcase out at the storage facility.
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