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Old 04-13-2017, 08:23 PM   #361
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In your case, I would make two series strings of 2 panels each. This will give you 2 strings at 40VDC+ O/C and guarantee tha the Blue Solar will always function (unless you are in very dark environments! )...... .......

Lew - this suggestion for series-parallel got my attention. I have a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 2512i(X)-HV with four 100 watt solar panels wired in parallel. I bought all the components from AM Solar a few years ago. At the time it was recommended to wire the panels in parallel. Would I be better off with two series strings of 2 panels then paralleled to controller?

The panels have a Maximum Power Voltage (Vmpp) of 17.7V and Open Circuit Voltage (Voc) of 21.2V. The controller specs say max PV input voltage is 50VDC.
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Old 04-13-2017, 08:33 PM   #362
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Might find this interesting.
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Old 04-13-2017, 08:57 PM   #363
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Lew - this suggestion for series-parallel got my attention. I have a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 2512i(X)-HV with four 100 watt solar panels wired in parallel. I bought all the components from AM Solar a few years ago. At the time it was recommended to wire the panels in parallel. Would I be better off with two series strings of 2 panels then paralleled to controller?

The panels have a Maximum Power Voltage (Vmpp) of 17.7V and Open Circuit Voltage (Voc) of 21.2V. The controller specs say max PV input voltage is 50VDC.
I'm not Lew, but I aspire to be his apprentice one day.....

Per the Victron documentation, the most efficient way to string panels for a 12v system is parallel groups of 2 in series. The reason being is their BlueSolar charge controllers need Batt V + 5V in order to start. Once started, they will stay on with Batt V + 1V. You can see the problem. If the panels are at all shaded, you won't hit the Batt V + 5V needed to start your controller. By putting 2 in series, you raise your voltage to 40'ish volts, so even with partial shading, you may get enough voltage to start the controller and take advantage of what light is available. I assume most charge controllers work this way, so this config will likely benefit all of them (but I recommend reading the documentation for your controller to be sure).
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Old 04-13-2017, 11:41 PM   #364
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Amirm has mentioned a couple of times about solar not being optimally suitable for his area, especially given the superabundance of tree canopy in the northwest.
This is more typical of what we have in our state parks:



While there are sunny spots also, we avoid them during summer so that we don't need to run the AC.

The only time I see charging is when we are parked in a parking lot or something and there is direct sun on them. Otherwise it is such a small trickle as to not be worth it. A few minutes of driving which we always do way outperforms Solar for us.

I think if we were staying put multiple days then solar would make more sense. Alternatively if it was easy to put more on, I would do that too but it is painful project due to poor layout of the roof cut outs.
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Old 04-14-2017, 12:05 PM   #365
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This is more typical of what we have in our state parks:

While there are sunny spots also, we avoid them during summer so that we don't need to run the AC.

The only time I see charging is when we are parked in a parking lot or something and there is direct sun on them. Otherwise it is such a small trickle as to not be worth it. A few minutes of driving which we always do way outperforms Solar for us.

I think if we were staying put multiple days then solar would make more sense. Alternatively if it was easy to put more on, I would do that too but it is painful project due to poor layout of the roof cut outs.
Exactly my situation as well. Where we camp there is no sun hitting the coach, and that's on purpose! Our solar is strictly to keep the batteries topped up while it's sitting on the storage lot. I'll likely add a second panel just to bring the charge current up a bit, but I have no delusions that the solar will do much if anything for us while camping. As a result, when it comes time to mod the coach for an all-electric house, I plan to add a LOT of energy storage capacity. Given some of the new technologies being worked on, I think that project is going to wait until the cost and weight are such that the change makes sense for us. In the mean time I'll keep relying on the genny and alternator to keep my meager battery bank healthy while camping.
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Old 04-14-2017, 05:56 PM   #366
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This far north they panels are much less effective when flat anyway.
But lots of times I will look for a sunny place, just because it isn't very warm, and some sun is nice!

I would likely add a panel anyway- it would be good to help extend power a bit more. But no fancy batteries or anything at this point. So far, we have driven pretty much every day when using it, so the large battery has been adequate. Especially since I don't have an inverter and it is just DC loads. For the heck of it, I should turn everything on and see exactly how much current is being drawn.

Of course, this summer I'm helping at the World MotoTrial in Arizona- so I except some serious heat on the way and back. At least at the location it is pretty high, so hopefully just hot.

Mark
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Old 04-14-2017, 09:23 PM   #367
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I think the biggest difference with regard to solar effectiveness has to do with the refrigerator. Our van has a propane fridge so we don't have any significant loads during the day. When we're out, everything we collect goes into the battery. With an electric fridge, we would likely have a negative energy balance on cloudy days.

Additionally, being further south where freezing temps are rare, our camping season is October through early May. This gives us less foliage on the trees and the cooler temps mean we don't have to avoid the direct sun as much.
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Old 04-15-2017, 04:54 AM   #368
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Well, we certainly have full foliage right now. Don't forget the influence of sun angles also. High noon today will see the sun 70 degrees above the horizon in our sky but only 52 degrees in Seattle.

With the old Lifeline battery, we had no trouble achieving full battery charge under partly cloudy skies last August in Nova Scotia when we were parked on my land. The land itself is undeveloped and thickly wooded but the private access road I share with three other owners just happens to be oriented roughly east-west, and my tract is completely undeveloped, so we had to boondock by parking at the edge of the road. Even though the gap in the trees is very narrow, the sun tends to track across that gap, so the battery charged just fine.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing more real-world tests so that we can get a better feel for what we can and cannot squeeze out of this system.
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Old 04-15-2017, 01:19 PM   #369
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Rather than more fixed solar panels look at Renegy suitcase panels and pair with Goal zero controller (now with a lithium battery). I use the combination to charge my electric bikes and add to my 2--6 volt house batteries. Just put portable solar panels at the best angle in the sun and park under the trees if you want. Has worked very well for us for less than $1,000.00. Suitcase panels store in their case behind driver seat. AEW
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Old 04-16-2017, 09:05 AM   #370
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2016 Interstate GT Twin: Victron Lithium System

I have essentially completed the installation of a victron lithium battery system and solar panels on my 2016 Interstate EXT Twin 4 x 4.

It features four 160 Watt rigid solar panels on the roof and four 160 amp-hour Victron lithium batteries and control system for all of the above underneath the driver side twin bed. The circuitry ended up being virtually the same as AmSolar's Signature systems (which they won't sell you without installation) and indeed I found their diagram very useful. I also bought some of my components and received a lot of great help from Alan Ferber at Bay Marine Supply in San Diego.

I relocated the subwoofer to the pedestal underneath the passenger seat. So far I have not incorporated a cold-weather shut-off system, but I wish I had. I learned a lot about the Airstream over the four months that it took me to put all this in.

I used the victron multiplus 3000 inverter charger and I am hoping to be able to run the air conditioner for short periods of time and possibly eliminate the propane generator. I also put in air Springs on the rear axle and side and rear screens from Airstream.
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Old 04-16-2017, 09:17 AM   #371
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2016 Interstate GT Twin: Victron Lithium System

I managed to lose my photo attachments so I'll try this again.
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Old 04-16-2017, 09:21 AM   #372
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2016 Interstate GT Twin: Victron Lithium System

One more photo.
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Old 04-16-2017, 11:08 AM   #373
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Boy, that is pretty extensive modifications! Well done.

Where did you install the inverter?
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Old 04-16-2017, 12:57 PM   #374
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You should be pretty happy with 640w of solar. Any more and you would have been looking at multiple charge controllers.
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Old 04-16-2017, 03:09 PM   #375
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Any more and you would have been looking at multiple charge controllers.
The Victron 100/50 can handle that no problem, and if he wanted even more solar (external suitcase, etc) he could always move up to the Victron 150 series which goes all the way up to 100A and 1450W.
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Old 04-16-2017, 03:23 PM   #376
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One more photo.


Nice setup! Photos don't show batteries. Where did you really put them?
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Old 04-16-2017, 03:25 PM   #377
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I have essentially completed the installation of a victron lithium battery system and solar panels....

......I also put in air Springs on the rear axle and side and rear screens from Airstream.

Which air springs did you install?
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Old 04-16-2017, 04:01 PM   #378
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We did a solar test today, running the 3-way fridge via the inverter. Remember, the old-style 3-way fridges do not have those efficient marine-grade compressors that Lewster raves about. These fridges were designed for shore power in that mode.

While the sun was high and conditions partly cloudy, output kept pace with input. It began to draw down the battery when the sun got lower and the batteries were at 94% by 5 p.m. when I turned the inverter off.

This is helpful to us as we are propane-limited. If we're able to turn the fridge over to the inverter for several hours each day, that extends our range.

Also, when we finally get the new alternator wired up, we'll be able to run the fridge off the inverter at all times while driving, which is when we've observed most of the propane to get eaten up (because of air baffling and the roadway jostling that seems to make the fridge work overtime to stay cool).
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Old 04-16-2017, 10:27 PM   #379
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Boy, that is pretty extensive modifications! Well done.

Where did you install the inverter?
In the middle floor-level cabinet, aft of the electrical panel.
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Old 04-16-2017, 10:31 PM   #380
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Nice setup! Photos don't show batteries. Where did you really put them?
One is just foreword of the water heater, against the port wall, two are in the compartment aft of the inverter (which is just aft of the electrical panel), and the fourth (which is back-ordered) will be in the aft compartment aft of the water heater. I'll post photos one of these days!
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