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Old 03-23-2010, 04:24 PM   #15
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Part VIII - Golf Cart Modification

Around here, one can have pretty grey days & not a lot of sun. It makes sense to make sure that one has a big enough storage for all that 'free' solar when you can get it. I wasn't too impressed with the performance of the stock 12V deep cycle batteries. My on-line research seemed to show that 6V GC batteries were inclined to perform better in this application. I considered AGM batteries but I wasn't sure that the extra cost was justified. (A debatable point perhaps.)

A local marina had very good prices on 230 Ah Interstate Golf Cart batteries at $130 each. I bought two of them knowing that the stock battery box was too small to accommodate these...these sit about 1 3/4" taller than the stock batteries (piece of cake I thought, I'll just raise the sides of the box 2" & I'll be fine...)

I bought the batteries & then started looking for aluminum stock to raise the box. Home depot didn't have any C-channel & to use Square 1 Inch tubing was going to cost me almost $80+ just for the aluminum & bolts etc.

I was kicking myself a bit when I was prowling around looking for alternatives. I came upon some powder coated aluminum fence posts (for decking) & realized that this 4 inch square material could be ripped in half to make C-Channel & would be a lot cheaper. (~ $27-)

So here is what worked for me:

The stock Battery Compartment. (One of my sons already claimed one battery for his Delica van.)



I decided to re-orient the lid to open the opposite way but I'm not sure this was a good idea in the end. There is enough space to still have the hinge forward and still clear the front wall of the unit.

Here some homemade C-channel & 1 inch square tuning setup as base for hinge and lock edge.



Side pieces go on:


From the other side:


From Curb side (Keyed Lock not yet installed)


The batteries in place: ( I have since used a collar nut ground down to accommodate a washer & attach to the buried threaded rod - to hold the batteries down.) It's a snug fit & may not be necessary, but better safe than sorry.



Another view:



A key lock completes the install:



So after all this...does it work?

I go out to the trailer in the morning & see this:



Full charge even after sitting all night.

With cloudy overcast skies, I am seeing this:

I have yet to see what the whole system can crank out under demand but have seen as much as 8 amps with partial sun coverage on the roof.

We are planning a 4 week trip in the near future & should have a good idea of what it's capable of at the end of this, but I am overall pleased with the final results.




If you've read this far, thanks for your interest. Your tenacity is commendable


Any comments or questions cheerfully entertained.


-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:27 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mello mike View Post
That looks like a good placement. Of course, you'll need to remove the panels to get to the vents when it comes time for maintenance.

As for where to run the wires, I would use either the refridgerator vent or one of the tank vents.
Thanks Mike,

I bought the Tilt bars, which allows one to prop up one edge of any of the panels to service the underside, wiring , cleaning etc. Even if you had no intention of using these camping, they are worth having just for maintenance.

As far as running the wire goes, the rest is self explanatory. I wanted to stay curbside with the wiring. The stock 10 AWG prewire stuff was probably adequate but I wanted the ability to add more panels if needed... the curb side definitely has advantages for fishing wires etc.

-evan



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Old 03-23-2010, 04:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by dufferin View Post
The fridge vent is the way to go.

I would have agreed with you at first thought, but AM Solar & others were pretty adamant that 10 AWG wasn't enough for 3-4 panels (100+ watts each potentially = ~ 33 - 35 amps of current at 12 V nominally)

I suspect that it would be fine but elected to run 8 AWG wire to the battery bus. To do this on the Street side via the Reefer vent represented a lot more fishing or going down through the floor & back up again. I had no appetite for that. I'm afraid.

Fortuitously, drilling through the roof allowed me to discover the sorry state of those $#@&*% plumbing vents and the leak. I'm sure my small hole in the roof is a lot better protected than those vents were by the factory.

-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:39 PM   #18
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you're right... at least it helped you to spot a leak... and what about the gasket under that vent?
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:39 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by thecatsandi View Post
10AWG is plenty for any amount of current you could produce with three panels. 10GA is good for 50A at 12/14V, 8GA is good for 70-75A.
The panels at most are going to produce is 25A.
What is the rating on the controller?

You're probably right. In retrospect, I could have probably got away with using the factory pre-wire with the 3 panels (~35 amps max?) . I didn't want to compromise on all this though & went with the higher spec. Would I do it again?

I'm not sure but I suspect that knowing what I know now, I might install the panels using the stock pre-wire & if I were seeing currents in the 30 + range add the 8 AWG wire as a revision.

-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:43 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by wmarsha View Post
I vote for the larger cable. And one more hole in the roof, as long as you know where it is and how to seal it isn't a problem. Way to go! looks terrific. current isn't the problem, the "spindly" connector points although seemingly small, do not create much voltage drop.

Thanks. AM Solar said the same thing, but the little fused connector to the battery bus seems a little underspec to my eye...




Roger at AM Solar was always happy to answer my many questions & didn't seem to mind my bugging him.


-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:45 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by dufferin View Post
Remove the vent cap... you may find a square gasket (the one used for 70'S square alum square vents) ... I bet you a beer on that...

Yes in fact the gasket was not big enough for the footprint of the Vent cap. It was a kind of trapezoid square shape & clearly did not provide a seal against the elements.

How stupid is that?

A/S needs a little bit of a whack up the back of the head for some of their stupid design flaws.

-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:52 PM   #22
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because they use an old 70's stock... and it doesn't match at all the round plastic vent. I was sure yours had the same since I could noticed the "Wave" at the base of the vent.
It is 100% leak guaranty!!! And it's factory. I started a thread couple of years ago about that. But be sure it was leaking since day 1.
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:52 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Excellent work, and a great photo essay!

A couple of questions:
1) What is the rated wattage of the combined panels?
2) Any concerns about condensation or frost accumulating on the panels from the vents?
3) Have you thought about some sort of spoiler for the forward edge of the panels to minimize drag?
Thanks Jammer.

I've enjoyed some of the other installation blogs I've read here & thought this subject could use a few entries...

1. The panels are rated at 100 watts but according to AM Solar testing can with their higher output voltage produce as much as 130 watts under ideal conditions...

2. The panels are supposed to be weather proof & seem quite well sealed against the elements bot topside & underneath. (They have a 25 year warranty) I don't think there is much concern about condensation underneath...there is quite a bit of breathing space underneath & around the edges. My only concern is that we might trap some off-gas odors from the tank vent near the bathroom vent, but we'll see how that goes.

3. Yes. I was thinking that a spoiler would make a lot of sense and make for a cleaner presenting edge with improved aerodynamics.. If you know of any low profile ones that you think could work, please let me know.

-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 05:00 PM   #24
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because they use an old 70's stock... and it doesn't match at all the round plastic vent. I was sure yours had the same since I could noticed the "Wave" at the base of the vent.
It is 100% leak guaranty!!! And it's factory. I started a thread couple of years ago about that. But be sure it was leaking since day 1.

I saw your thread & it was what prompted me to simply replace the caps instead of just re-caulking around them. I used a wheel barrow inner tube to create my own gaskets & I expect the waterproofing to be good for some time as it isn't dependent on the caulk alone.

I think this is ridiculous of A/S to try and save a few pennies but risk the integrity of their products (literally in terms of withstanding the elements and in terms of their reputation).

I have had 5 different leaks in the year & half that I have owned this unit 2 because the caulk lines were incomplete, one because the caulk over the bedroom curb-side window cracked & failed & two with this plumbing vent issue.

I think I am on top of this issue & am much more careful to keep an eye on any cracking caulk but this was not what I expected to have to do with a brand new trailer of this caliber.

I am not sorry to have this unit but I am disappointed in the shoddy QC of Airstream.
-evan
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Old 03-23-2010, 05:35 PM   #25
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Thanks for such an excellent photo narrative. I'm planning to install the same AM Solar system with only two panels sometime within the year and this thread has given me a lot more confidence in my ability.

I'll be interested in hearing how panels perform in your boondocking adventures.

Since an RV has a kitchen and bathroom it's considered a 2nd home and eligible for a 30% tax credit on renewable energy systems. Bonus!
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Old 03-23-2010, 06:15 PM   #26
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Excellent material. I have two AM solar panels being delivered tomorrow so this will be more than helpful for my installation process on 2006 Safari SE 28. Love the panel placement - I had not considered placing over the vents.
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Old 03-23-2010, 06:26 PM   #27
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Thumbs up Thanks Evan, waiting for our AM Solar panels

Wow!, Evan,
Thanks for that great step by step.
Pics cleared up much of my questions. (Visual guy...)
AM Solar shipped to us yesterday, the panel system arrive this week. We went with the same set-up and combo, only got two panels which will be mounted port and starboard with the centre left open for now.
As we have twins in our International, the run will be a bit different however the location concept will be the same.
I was already thinking of a forward and aft "winglets". Just a snap-on aluminum " foil" to taper the leading and following edge of the panels, you know, a bit more airstream. (AM Solar, an easy add-on option).
Again, thanks, and we'll let you know how our install goes, how our 4 battery boondocking set-up works on the TinDen.
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Old 03-23-2010, 10:36 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by TinLoaf View Post
Thanks for such an excellent photo narrative. I'm planning to install the same AM Solar system with only two panels sometime within the year and this thread has given me a lot more confidence in my ability.

I'll be interested in hearing how panels perform in your boondocking adventures.

Since an RV has a kitchen and bathroom it's considered a 2nd home and eligible for a 30% tax credit on renewable energy systems. Bonus!

Thanks Tin Loaf.

I'll be sure to report back on how well the system performed. We hope to do a lot of boondocking in the next 4-5 weeks.

-evan
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