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Old 04-27-2020, 12:31 PM   #1
SurfnStream
 
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1 Victron controller for Factory Solar + Zamp Suitcase

Hello,

I have a 2020 Caravel 16RB (2 AGM batteries) with the factory solar (90w) installed, purchased in Sept. 2019. We boondock maybe 2-3 days at most (or until the grey/black is full )

I also just recently purchased a Zamp 180w portable suitcase. It works great!

1. Is it possible to replace the Sunexplorer II charge controller with 1 Victron controller, AND have the victron monitor both the rooftop 90w panel and the Zamp 180w suitcase panels (the latter would need the built in charger disabled)?

My goal is to monitor usage/charge for all panels combined, from the App.

2. Both panels charge the batteries quickly and keep them charged during the day, however ~4 hours after sundown my battery is showing 12.1-11.8 with only running a few LED lights and the fridge. Would 1 lithium battery give me more capacity than 2 AGM batteries?

thanks in advance...I'm still learning.
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Old 04-27-2020, 12:57 PM   #2
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I charge our 2 BB lithiums the trough 7-pin umbilical cord directly into the batts, using 2 180w Zamp Suitcases, each with their own controller.
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Old 04-27-2020, 01:12 PM   #3
SurfnStream
 
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Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS View Post
I charge our 2 BB lithiums the trough 7-pin umbilical cord directly into the batts, using 2 180w Zamp Suitcases, no separate controller to deal with.
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Thanks Bob but that doesn't really answer my question. I realize 2 (or more) controllers on 1 pair of batteries wont have a negative affect.

My question is- can I replace the stock Sunexplorer II controller with a Victron MPPT controller (giving me remote monitoring, data, etc.) that monitors/controls BOTH the rooftop 90w and 180w suitcase?

It's my understanding that if I simply replaced the stock controller, all I will continue to see (data) is based off of the 90w roof panel?
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Old 04-27-2020, 04:42 PM   #4
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It is certainly possible but will require some effort. My understanding of your goal is to replace both the factory solar charge controller for the 90W panel on the roof and the controller integrated in your 180W portable panel with a single Victron controller that receives input from both panels. Is that correct?

To accomplish this you with need to remove/abandon the factory controller inside the trailer as well as the controller on the suitcase panel. Wires will need to be routed through a penetration for the suitcase to reach the Victron. If your suitcase panel uses the external Zamp connector on the battery box you could adapt those wires, probably needing to splice in some extra length. To get those wires inside the trailer I recommend locating where the cables from the battery enter and use that location. You would then need to connect both the wires from the panel on the roof to those coming from the suitcase panel so the positives are connected together and the negatives are connected together (that is, they are in parallel), you can find terminal bars to make that a clean connection. Then connect those terminal bars to the Victron controller. For 270W the MPPT 100/20 will do the job.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:22 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by OutdoorIdaho View Post
It is certainly possible but will require some effort. My understanding of your goal is to replace both the factory solar charge controller for the 90W panel on the roof and the controller integrated in your 180W portable panel with a single Victron controller that receives input from both panels. Is that correct?

To accomplish this you with need to remove/abandon the factory controller inside the trailer as well as the controller on the suitcase panel. Wires will need to be routed through a penetration for the suitcase to reach the Victron. If your suitcase panel uses the external Zamp connector on the battery box you could adapt those wires, probably needing to splice in some extra length. To get those wires inside the trailer I recommend locating where the cables from the battery enter and use that location. You would then need to connect both the wires from the panel on the roof to those coming from the suitcase panel so the positives are connected together and the negatives are connected together (that is, they are in parallel), you can find terminal bars to make that a clean connection. Then connect those terminal bars to the Victron controller. For 270W the MPPT 100/20 will do the job.
Exactly what I was looking for, thank you.

This doesn't seem to be a common problem (after searching). Do most people with a Victron + roof + suitcase setup just use the integrated zamp suitcase controller?
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Old 04-27-2020, 06:50 PM   #6
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I would not connect a portable panel and a fixed rooftop panel(s) on a single charge controller. It is important for each panel to have somewhat matched voltage and amperage feeding a single solar controller. If a panels with different voltage and amps are connected to a single controller, the resulting power produced will likely be the lowest common denominator of the either the voltage or amps (or both if connected in series pairs). Its also important to have the same (similar) angles to the sun for all the panels with similar parameters on a single controller so the volts and amps produced are similar. Typically a rooftop panel will be mounted nearly flat where a portable is typically angled toward the sun. I do have experience with mixed roof mounted panels as I have four AMSolar SP100 100W panels and two Renogy Compact 100W panels on one controller, but my panels are angled identically and the voltages, amps and watts are nearly identical on all six panels.

I probably did a poor job in explaining all of this as there are many variables that affect mixing panels on a single controller. Here is an excellent article that fully explains what I was trying to summarize in one paragraph: https://solarpanelsvenue.com/mixing-solar-panels/

On your second question . . . refrigerators are energy hogs when operating from 12V batteries. I am unable to continuously run my DC refrigerator from 235AH of batteries, with 180AH usable, and 600W of solar. Your refrigerator may be more efficient than mine. I would need to know the amp draw of your refrigerator to really answer the question. But I would say one Lithium battery would be better than your two AGMs and two Lithiums would be four times as good. But without knowing the amp draw on your refrigerator and how many minutes per hour it runs, I cannot truly answer your question. But my gut feel, and experience with my DC refrigerator, tells me you will not be satisfied even with a pair of Lithium batteries and 270W of solar. Your refrigerator appears to be an energy hog too if it can take down your pair of AGMs to 12.1V to 11.8V in four hours. My refrigerator also operates on propane and I've decided that propane is the only efficient way to power my refrigerator while dry camping.
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Old 04-27-2020, 09:34 PM   #7
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Airmiles is correct, as usual, that you won’t get optimum performance from dissimilar panels on a single controller. I did something similar, I think, to you are proposing. I put my 500w of parallel panels on the roof in parallel with a 100w suitcase panel on the ground. I removed the controller from the ground panel and rewired the external Zamp connector to go inside the trailer in parallel with the solar feed from the roof into my Victron controller. The ground panel I move around to the sunniest part of the campsite whereas the roof panels get what they get, partial shade and all.

The end result is the 100w external panel seems to add only about 50watts to my energy production even though it is pointing directly at the sun. If I were more serious about my ground panel, which it seems like you are, I’d add a Victron controller just for it. Or, you could just let the roof panel do what it does with it’s inferior PWM controller and just think of it as bonus power. Since you can’t point it I suspect it is probably not producing more than 50w anyway.

If you decide to upgrade to Lithium, which is what I have, you’d want to upgrade the stock PWM solar controller to a another Victron in order to get the voltages right. You’d also want to upgrade the converter in the trailer to charge the batteries properly from shore power and would also be adding a step up charger from your tow vehicle. All this is because Lithium would like to charge around 14.3 volts. It’s a bit of a project, in other words.

Once you do all this you’d likely want a battery monitor like the Victron BMV-712. That would show you total state of charge, and amps in/out.
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Old 04-28-2020, 07:54 AM   #8
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Seems this is another fine example of "just because you could, doesn't mean you should."
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Old 04-28-2020, 10:37 AM   #9
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On the refrigerator question: I found some specs on the Nova Cool compressor refrigerators that I think are used in some Airstreams. Here is the document: http://www.novakool.com/documents/Sp...cLTCurrent.pdf It appears these refrigerators are much more efficient than the energy hog in my Globetrotter. From these specs, it appears your refrigerator may use between 2.2A and 5.2A while running. And since its a compressor refrigerator, it may not run nearly continuously like my absorption refrigerator that uses 12A while running on DC! Therefore, it may be possible for you to install enough solar to operate your refrigerator while dry camping.

So if your unit uses 5.2A and only runs 50% of the time, that would only be 5.2A x 24hrs x 50%, or 62.4AH per day. On a typical sunny day, a 100W solar panel can produce 300Wh which totals 22AH. Therefore, 300W of solar would be needed to operate the refrigerator. If I had one of these refrigerators, I believe I could run it continuously with 600W of solar and 400AH of batteries. You should be able to do three day drycamping trips with 270W of solar and 200AH of Lithium batteries.

If you have one of the smaller refrigerators that only use 2.2A, you should easily be able to do three day dry camping stints with 270W of solar and a pair of AGM batteries if you are frugal with your other power usage.

Part of your issue may be that you are stating your battery voltage while under load. Lead Acid batteries (AGM) have significant voltage drop under load and need to be rested before determining state of charge with voltage. For example, when using a hair dryer or vacuum, my batteries drop to 11.8V but then recover when rested. I don't concern myself with the 11.8V reading and assume my batteries are 80% depleted since I know that after resting the batteries recover to almost the same voltage as before using the hair dryer or vacuum.

Some may correctly recommend installing a BMV-712 to monitor your battery usage, which is not a bad idea. I use a different philosophy. I just use and abuse my cheap 6V golf cart batteries and will replace them when they no longer provide enough amps to meet my daily needs. So far, this philosophy has been working well for me. My batteries are on their third season with over 270 days of dry camping abuse and they still test and perform as new. So I haven't bothered with installing a BMV-712.
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Old 04-28-2020, 10:54 AM   #10
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This is very helpful and i realize I have been thinking about this incorrectly.

So I can replace the factory controller for the roof panel(s) and the Zamp suitcase controller, each with a Victron (2 total). And added a Victron BMW.

Does the victron phone app and the BMW consolidate (not sure if that's the right word) data from the 2 controllers, to give me a complete overview of my usage, status, charge (from both controllers), etc.?
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Old 04-28-2020, 11:00 AM   #11
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You might be better off just using your existing solar controllers, AGM batteries, and installing only the BMV-712. Connect the suitcase solar panel so that its negative connection is after the BMV-712's shunt. Then you will see all the solar production amp hours through the BMV-712 and you will get an accurate reading of your battery's state of charge. Your situation may be the perfect scenario for installing a BMV-712. It will communicate over Bluetooth so you will be able to monitor your solar production and battery state of charge on your phone. That is what I would do in your situation.
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Old 04-28-2020, 11:20 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by AirMiles View Post
You might be better off just using your existing solar controllers, AGM batteries, and installing only the BMV-712. Connect the suitcase solar panel so that its negative connection is after the BMV-712's shunt. Then you will see all the solar production amp hours through the BMV-712 and you will get an accurate reading of your battery's state of charge. Your situation may be the perfect scenario for installing a BMV-712. It will communicate over Bluetooth so you will be able to monitor your solar production and battery state of charge on your phone. That is what I would do in your situation.
So the BMV-712 would replace the Sunexplorer II panel, and I wouldn't have to change out the factory installed charge controller for the roof panels?

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Old 04-28-2020, 12:04 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by SurfnSoCal View Post
So the BMV-712 would replace the Sunexplorer II panel, and I wouldn't have to change out the factory installed charge controller for the roof panels?
No, You would keep the Sunexplorer and the solar controller on your solar suitcase. You buy a Victron BMV-712 and install it per its instructions on the negative battery cable(s) before the Airstream negative busbar. Connect the solar suitcase to the Airstream through the Zamp port, but wire the Zamp port directly to the Airstream's positive and negative busbars. Then use the Victron BMV-712 to monitor your solar and batteries by seeing the attached screens on your bluetooth smartphone.

Here's a wiring diagram: https://amsolar.com/rv-agm-batteries/40-agmbmv220
Here's a link with videos how to install and program: https://amsolar.com/rv-battery-monitors/60-vtbmv
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Old 04-28-2020, 01:22 PM   #14
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SurfnSoCal, great advice by AirMiles so far!

I can offer some help on the BMV-712 installation as I just completed one. Check it our here: https://www.airforums.com/forums/f44...ml#post2340285

As AirMiles stated, you want your BMV's shunt to be in between the batteries and all the other negative connections. I used a negative busbar to aggregate all the connections then ran one cable to the shunt.

The shunt needs to see all the current flow between the batteries and devices to accurately measure everything going in and out of the batteries.

So, the good news is it will tell you ALL the solar charging but not which source provided it.

Hope that helps!
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Old 04-28-2020, 01:54 PM   #15
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I believe you asked the simple question of whether (1) lithium would provide as much power as (2) AGMs. Power is how many watts. Watt = Volts x Amps.

Nominal voltage on a lead acid is 12 volts and lead acid / AGM should not be discharged over 50% if you want anything close to the stated cycle life which is usually 500 cycles. So the watt hours in a 100AH LA / AGM battery is 100Ah x 12 = 1200WH x 50% = 600 usable watt hours

Nominal voltage of a lithium battery is 12.8v with a cycle life of 3000-5000. Lithium batteries can be discharged to 100%. So watt hours of a 100Ah Lithium battery = 100Ah x 12.8v = 1280 usable watt hours.

To answer your question - Yes

A lithium battery will actually have more than 2x the energy than a AGM.
It will also weigh less than 1/2 as much.
It will charge faster.
Lithium will self discharge at less than 3%/month vs AGM self discharge of 2-8%/month and increases with temperature.

(2) quality AGM such as Lifeline or Trojan will approach the cost of a lithium battery with significantly shorter life.

Suggested battery suppliers:

Battle Born https://battlebornbatteries.com/

AMPS https://lithiummarinebattery.com/

Renogy https://www.renogy.com/

Relion https://relionbattery.com/
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Old 04-28-2020, 02:14 PM   #16
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I like how Jeffmc306 and Klashnikov ( https://www.airforums.com/forums/f44...as-205312.html ) installed the shunt near the battery box. This would make it easier to connect the Zamp port to the battery positive and the load side of the shunt without needing to run wires between the battery box and the busbars. There's lots of good ideas on AirForums.
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Old 04-28-2020, 03:43 PM   #17
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All- thank you! great info and explained perfectly for a noivice like me. I reached out to AM Solar for a quote on a few products.

thank you, great community here!

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Old 04-28-2020, 03:48 PM   #18
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I bought my complete first solar installation from AmSolar and got excellent support for installing it. I bought some of my second solar installation from AmSolar and reused the parts from my first installation. I have nothing but good things to say about them.
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Old 04-29-2020, 12:16 AM   #19
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Ditto on AM Solar and Lew Ferber too!
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Old 04-29-2020, 12:58 AM   #20
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Ditto as well. Been totally reliable since installing it as a do-it-yourself kit over 7 years ago. Adding a couple more panels to boost output. It was designed to easily handle the upgrade. Solidly built and keeps my series pair of golf cart GC-2 batteries charged just right...
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