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Old 04-25-2014, 01:28 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member

2013 25' FB International
Flagstaff , Arizona
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 30
Solar install using factory pre-wire

I am seriously considering installing a solar charging system for my 2013 25' FB International and would like to hear from others who have installed systems using the factory installed pre-wire, specifically those with a DIY install. I have read through most of the threads in this forum and have gathered some bits and pieces on this but though it would be helpful to have a single thread that specifically addresses installations using the factory pre wire. A couple of questions I have after doing some research to get this discussion started are:

System max capacity - I have seen it discussed that the max system size the pre wire will efficiently, perhaps safely, accomodate is about 100 watts. I understand the AS factory installed systems use two 53 watt panels so this seems to make sense. What is the maximum size anyone has installed using the prewire and have there been any challenges with it?

Panels - where did you source your panels? Did you purchase them with the controller in a single kit?

Controllers - Did you use a controller other than the Atkinson? If so did you find a controller that provides a remote display panel using the existing cat 5 cable? If you don't have a remote display where/how did you locate the controller so you can read it withouy crawing on your hands and knees?

Roof penetration - What size hole did you drill the roof to locate the yellow and green wires? How did you cover and seal the penetration? Any issues with finding the wires where AS indictes they are located?

I am not looking for a debate on why one should not use the exisiting pre- wire, there seems to be plenty of discussion on that topic already. I am only interested in hearing about the success or failure of those that have done an install with it and the system componants they used. Look forward to hearing from you.

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Old 04-25-2014, 02:49 PM   #2
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,592
On my '14 20' FC I used the factory pre wire. It was #10, and goes from the front roof vent to the front electrical area under the bed (yours may be different). I used two, 100 watt Grape Solar panels from Costco, $140 each, delivered to my door. I used a Blue Sky MPPT charge controller, about $220. It does not need any additional control system. I drilled through the flange of the Fantastic Vent in the front to get the wire through the roof. I built my own mounting system, although now I would use the adhesive tape system which I believe is better. No roof holes.

I have changed out my batteries to two golf cart 6 volt batteries in series (from Costco). I replaced my Parallax converter/charger with a PD 4645 for better three stage charge regulation.

My system works well. I believe that about 200 watts of panel is the most that should be put through the factory pre wire, but it will handle that just fine with no serious loss of capacity. I also think that 200 watts of panel will be enough for most people's use in their RV.

There are no absolutes of course, each user has differing expectations and needs. I have been doing solar systems since 1995 and have done a number of them, including volunteer work for the Forest Service and their needs for remote solar systems. I tend to be a minimalist, that is I want good value for the money spent. Others don't mind spending a lot for a the very best system and are happy that way too. One size fits all solar is not for everyone, on either end of the financial or size, or equipment standpoint. There are differing opinions on which way to go. My self installed solar system cost about $700, the batteries $200 more and the PD converter/charger in the range of $200. I also installed a Tri Metric battery monitoring system for about $200. My labor is free to me of course.

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Old 04-25-2014, 02:50 PM   #3
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2012 25' FB International
Trent Woods , North Carolina
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 1,053

I can only comment on the controller as I cut the stock one out of the circuit and installed a Morningstar PWM. I did not want to spend the money on a MPPT but I wanted something with multistages since the stock controller(Atkinson) is simply on or off. I installed it under the fwd bed and can just lift the bed to see the indication. My battery monitor is in the fwd hanging locker.
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Old 04-25-2014, 03:15 PM   #4
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1978 25' Tradewind
Metro Phoenix , Arizona
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 1,398
One way to get the most out of existing wire would be to put the panels in series, and get a MPPT charge controller that will handle that voltage.

You'll get the same wattage, but the amps part of the wattage will be lower, and so your resistive losses through the wire will be lower.
"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?" - E.C. Bentley, Trent's Last Case
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