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Old 04-26-2018, 09:38 PM   #1
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Solar Install Part 1

All,

I've had a heckuva time (in a good way) trying to figure out and plan my solar install, and now that the process is underway, I figured I'd share a bit as I go along.

I've divided the project into five major phases:

1) Research and shopping
This included watching a ton of video, reading this site, emailing with Renogy/AMSolar, and buying and returning lots of bits and pieces. Also a fair amount of looking through the nooks and crannies of the trailer.

2) Pre assembly on the Ground
Anything that I can do on the ground, I want to do on the ground.

3) Roof Mounting
I'm attaching all the roof panels and wiring the combiner box first, before moving inside.

4) Interior/Battery Wiring
This includes installing the charge controller, charge monitor, and shunt... and pulling cable all the way back to just below where it will penetrate the roof.

5) "Through the Roof" final hookup
I am planning to use a short cable to go from the combiner box through the roof to a solar panel disconnect switch just inside. I thought that this was the best way to simplify the roof penetration process and keep inside and outside tasks interdependent and separate. My cutoff switch will be up near the ceiling in my bathroom.

===

Right now I'm in the preassembly phase.

First I added some pool noodles to the ladder.

Then, using cardboard first and a real panel with real feet second, I analyzed how the feet I was using (Renogy Curved brackets) would need to be adjusted to fit to the roof and clear my vents. I marked those brackets once I hit the sweet spot, then pulled the whole thing inside.

While I was up on the roof, I also measured how much cable I'd need to get from each panel to the combiner box.

I'm using Renogy curved brackets because they fit well, give me enough height to clear my shower fan, they are removable, and they cost about 1/4 of the AMSolar mounts (which otherwise do seem to be superior)

Next, I preassembled all my feet, adding VHB tape to the bottom. (The feet were assembled to match the ones I'd pre-fit and marked while up on the roof.)

Then I attached the feet (there are "inboard" and "outboard" versions) to the panels.

Then I cut my cords to the right length and attached them to the panels. I purchased four MC4 "solar extension cords," and when I cut them to length, that left me with two cords (one MC4 end, one bare wire end) for each of the ONE extensions I'd purchased. It worked out that as long as I could tolerate using the wrong color cords in some cases (I can, and I am marking them anyway) this allowed me to avoid ANY splicing/MC4 crimping! Saved some time there and it keeps me using 100% factory crimped cables.

Lastly, covered all the panels with cardboard.

I've stacked up all these preassemblies in my shop, ready to be mounted on a sunny day.

Here are some photos. I hope this is helpful to someone!
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Old 04-30-2018, 07:33 AM   #2
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Thanks Thiel for posting your solar installation pictures. My complete 400W solar system is in route from AM Solar as I write. After reading all the self-install threads, I've decided to tackle the installation project myself. I await further posts on your installation experience.
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Old 04-30-2018, 08:34 AM   #3
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Thiel,
You are on task. Looking good and well thought out. The project is the fun part. I did my 200 watt system using Renogy panels and a Victron 100/30 controller.
I made my on solar mounts but did use 3M VHB to mount them.
I used the factory pre-installed 10 gauge wire which some people frown upon but since I was only installing 200W of solar I was well within the limits of the 10 gauge wire. My thoughts were since I only have two Trojan 6 V batteries that 200 W of solar would more than cover my charging needs and anything over that my battery bank could not hold.

I canít wait to see pics of the install. PM me if you have any questions Iím well versed in the Airstream electrical system.
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Old 04-30-2018, 11:25 AM   #4
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GMFL:

Thiel could use the factory pre-wire if he chose to wire the solar panels in a series-parallel configuration. A 400W series-parallel configuration will have about half the voltage drop as a 200W parallel configuration on the same factory prewire. My 400W installation will be wired in a series-parallel configuration using the factory pre-wire to keep the voltage drop to less than 2%.

Here is a link discussing the series-parallel configuration: https://www.renogy.com/learn-series-and-parallel/

Here is a line loss calculator to see the improved voltage drop with a series-parallel configuration: http://www.calculator.net/voltage-dr...11.4&x=73&y=20

This is what AM Solar has to say about this topic: "Fortunately, the RV solar experts at AM Solar have heard the cry of RV owners who want to take advantage of solar pre-wires and they have devised a solution. With the right equipment and some creative wiring, we can maximize those small, less efficient factory pre-wires." https://amsolar.com/solar-panels-for...-and-solutions
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AirMiles View Post
GMFL:

Thiel could use the factory pre-wire if he chose to wire the solar panels in a series-parallel configuration. A 400W series-parallel configuration will have about half the voltage drop as a 200W parallel configuration on the same factory prewire. My 400W installation will be wired in a series-parallel configuration using the factory pre-wire to keep the voltage drop to less than 2%.

Here is a link discussing the series-parallel configuration: https://www.renogy.com/learn-series-and-parallel/

Here is a line loss calculator to see the improved voltage drop with a series-parallel configuration: http://www.calculator.net/voltage-dr...11.4&x=73&y=20

This is what AM Solar has to say about this topic: "Fortunately, the RV solar experts at AM Solar have heard the cry of RV owners who want to take advantage of solar pre-wires and they have devised a solution. With the right equipment and some creative wiring, we can maximize those small, less efficient factory pre-wires." https://amsolar.com/solar-panels-for...-and-solutions
Thatís my plan if I go to 400 is series into two pairs. Again my battery bank of 2 6volt Trojan t105 batteries it would not matter to have a little voltage drop
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Old 05-09-2018, 02:10 PM   #6
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I finished up my 400W solar self-install using the factory pre-wire and have posted pictures and a description of my results. By turning off the solar, drawing down the battery to 12.17V with a 15A load, then turning on the solar around noon resulted in 357 watts of solar production and 23.9 amps of battery charging. Check out the pictures here:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...ml#post2099320
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Old 05-09-2018, 06:17 PM   #7
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Nice.

I've been able to plan mine completely in parallel so far. I am hoping to get the panels up on the roof this Sunday.
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Old 05-18-2018, 05:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GMFL View Post
Thiel,
You are on task. Looking good and well thought out. The project is the fun part. I did my 200 watt system using Renogy panels and a Victron 100/30 controller.
I made my on solar mounts but did use 3M VHB to mount them.
I used the factory pre-installed 10 gauge wire which some people frown upon but since I was only installing 200W of solar I was well within the limits of the 10 gauge wire. My thoughts were since I only have two Trojan 6 V batteries that 200 W of solar would more than cover my charging needs and anything over that my battery bank could not hold.

I canít wait to see pics of the install. PM me if you have any questions Iím well versed in the Airstream electrical system.

The Victron 100/30 controller requires a 5 Volt difference between the solar panel voltage and the battery voltage to turn on. In my case with stock Airstream solar panels and a Lithium battery bank the MPPT controller never turns on and I have zero current.

Typical max voltage here in sunny Redondo Beach is ~15.4 Volts.
Typical battery voltage at 25% SOC is ~13 Volts.

Not meant to be thread hijack, but what is your panel voltage?
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Old 05-19-2018, 08:32 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by mythbuster88 View Post
The Victron 100/30 controller requires a 5 Volt difference between the solar panel voltage and the battery voltage to turn on. In my case with stock Airstream solar panels and a Lithium battery bank the MPPT controller never turns on and I have zero current.



Typical max voltage here in sunny Redondo Beach is ~15.4 Volts.

Typical battery voltage at 25% SOC is ~13 Volts.



Not meant to be thread hijack, but what is your panel voltage?


My panels are rated at about 18 volts but I have seen everything working when they are pulling in much less. I think it needs +5 to start but only +1 to keep going.
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