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Old 11-25-2010, 10:24 AM   #1
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Solar Installation for my Sovereign

This thread will be used to document the installation of my solar system. I purchased two 95-watt Sunwize solar panels and a Xantrex C35 PMW Charge Controller. I'll be using 10 awg wire to connect the solar panels to the combiner box. For the rest of the wiring run, 8 awg wire will be used between the combiner box and solar controller and from the solar controller to the batteries.

Now that I have everything I need, the first decision relates to solar panel placement. Even though there is lots of space on the roof of a '72 Sovereign, there are really only two options for the size of panels I have.

The first consists of placing the panels side by side between the two roof vents with the length of the panels parallel with the length of the trailer (see top pic). The second option consists of flanking the panels on either side of the A/C unit (one in front of the A/C and one in back) with the length of the panel perpendicular with the length of the trailer (see pics 2 and 3). The first option is the best, but eliminates any future satellite dome installation, while the main drawback of the second option is probable shading from the A/C unit.

Opinions?
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Old 11-25-2010, 10:47 AM   #2
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Hi Mike Option 1 sounds like the best. Would there be room to place them right at the edge of the shell and leave room in the middle for a sat dish that cranks up like television antenna. Lots of people use portable dishes on tripods because sometimes obstructions block roof top dishes and it's easier to move tripod that A/S.
With a roof that shiny you could point the solar panels at the roof and thery would work. LOL.
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Old 11-25-2010, 10:51 AM   #3
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Solar

Looks like a good plan. I would go with the first option, less wind resistance, and chance of damage. Who wants to watch TV anyway.(your camping)
Have you explored the wire run well? On my Clipper, I used a double run of #10 from the contoller to the #2 battery bank, as it was going to be a difficult and longer run with the heavier wire.

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Old 11-25-2010, 12:07 PM   #4
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Why don't you flank them, one on each side of the center fan/vent. Then you can connect them together and run the wire down the fridge vent.

Also, they will be only slightly slanted side to side, but enough to allow rain or wash water to clean off accumulated dirt and dust. The panel on our excella was mounted longways on the very top. It is level and allows dirt and dust to accumulate, so I need to get up there make sure it is clean when I wash the trailer.

Just a thought.
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Old 11-25-2010, 05:12 PM   #5
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Side by side, away from the AC shroud and its shadow.

I'd leave a gap between them so they're angled (as stated above) and so you can add a 3rd panel between them later if you so desire.
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Old 11-26-2010, 08:19 PM   #6
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I made excellent progress on this project today. I mounted the combiner box on the side of the refrigerator vent up on the roof and ran the 8 awg wire from the box down to the charge controller, which I installed in the streetside closet, just above the batteries. I also ran the wiring between the charge controller and the batteries. Everything is now ready for the solar panel installation on the roof which I'll do tomorrow morning.

This morning I got up on the roof and did some measuring. The panels, which are 22" wide and 57" long, will not fit between the roof vent and refrigerator panel so they need to be mounted in between both roof vents. I'll mount them off center so there's a slight angle to each to keep water off of them and to provide a better angle to the sun in early morning and late afternoon.

While I was up on the roof, I realized that the trailer had a solar system at some point in the past. Several mounting screws covered with silkaflex are still on the roof and the side of the refrigerator vent still had about 5" of wire from a previous installation coming out of it (see pic). This old wire was removed to make room for the combiner box. Before I mount my solar panels I'm going to first clean up things on the roof by removing the old silkaflex and screws and inserting olympic rivets in the holes.
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Old 11-26-2010, 10:24 PM   #7
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I own a 72/31', so I am very interested in your project. Lots of photos please, Trex
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Old 11-26-2010, 10:28 PM   #8
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great thread

Great thread and info Mike...thanks. This system is probably going on the 70 Safari. Thanks for posting this helpful pics as well. How wide are the panels each?
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Old 11-27-2010, 08:34 PM   #9
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Today was pretty productive but I didn't complete the installation as hoped. Basically, the brackets I ordered for the solar panels are too short (see top pic). With the curvature of the roof and the panel connection box the brackets don't reach the roof. Time to find a mounting system that will give the depth needed to keep the panel connection box off the surface of the roof while at the same time mount the panel at an angle.

The day wasn't a total wash out, however. I was able to remove most of the old hex screws and silkaflex (see middle pic) (the old silkaflex had turned slate gray from the recent polishing) and insert Olympic rivets in the old holes (see last pic for an example). Even after five years of use, the old rivet shaver still produces quality looking rivets.
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Old 11-28-2010, 08:09 AM   #10
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After researching my options last night on the Internet it looks like simple, aluminum L-brackets will work the best for this application. I'll need to drill four holes on the side of each panel to mount them rather than bottom of the panel where the old Z-brackets mounted. The L-brackets not only will give me the needed height but can also be angled to match the contour of the curved roof. A quick run to Home Depot or Lowe's and I'll be back in business.

You may have wondered how I was able to spend so much time on the roof yesterday in the full sun on a fully shined roof and avoided a serious sunburn. The pic will give you the answer.
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Old 12-04-2010, 03:49 PM   #11
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Completed the solar installation today. I made my own L-brackets out of aluminum stock from Home Depot. I don't have a sheet metal brake but I was able to bend the aluminum by using my vice. Rather than drill holes in my roof, I elected to use the VHB double sided tape.

The top pic shows how each panel is wired internally. The second pic shows the insulated 10 awg wire used on the roof, excellent wire from AM Solar. The third pic shows the wire runs to the combiner box. The last shows the CW combiner box purchased from AM Solar.
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Old 12-04-2010, 03:54 PM   #12
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Additional pics of the final installation. The last pic shows the amperage generated by the two panels on a very hazy day (not too shabby).
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Old 12-04-2010, 04:05 PM   #13
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MMT Controller will boost output like another panel

Hey Mike-

Impressively clean installation! Have you considered adding an MMT controller? With the controller and remote readout, they are pricey, but adding one to our system was about the equivalent of adding another panel. Somehow, they pull more power out of the existing panels, which is great from a weight, roof real estate, and windage point of view! Ours is a Bluesky (bluesky.com) and we were also very happy with their tech support.
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Old 12-04-2010, 05:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gecko View Post
Have you considered adding an MMT controller? With the controller and remote readout, they are pricey, but adding one to our system was about the equivalent of adding another panel. Somehow, they pull more power out of the existing panels, which is great from a weight, roof real estate, and windage point of view! Ours is a Bluesky (bluesky.com) and we were also very happy with their tech support.
Sounds good, Gecko. When you say "pricey," how much are you talking about?
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Old 12-04-2010, 06:09 PM   #15
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That is almost exactly what I would have done in your situation. I think the only thing I might have done differently was to have the feet attach to the AS roof bent in under the panel instead of facing out - not because it looks tidier but because it puts the tape mounts in a UV-protected location that is a little more thermally stable over time.

Excellent job. I am jealous!
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Old 12-04-2010, 08:13 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by mello mike View Post
Additional pics of the final installation. The last pic shows the amperage generated by the two panels on a very hazy day (not too shabby).
MM,

If you have used VHB tape, you should also seal all around the edge of the foot of the L-bracket with either Dicor or Sika-Flex to prevent any water from getting blasted under the foot and lifting the tape. The sealant application will prevent this from happening and allow the VHB to do it's job.
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Old 12-04-2010, 08:33 PM   #17
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Thanks Lew!!! That's REALLY good to know. The guys on the phone didn't say anything about using dicor or silkaflex.
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Old 12-04-2010, 11:34 PM   #18
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MMT controller

Hey Mike-
If you do the both the controller and remote readout, I think it was $500, but may have been $350. Check it out at bluesky.com Their tech support is really good. If you do it, it's really important that you follow instructions to ground everything in the coach to their very simple shunt. Our Airstream tech resisted doing this until other techs persuaded him to try it. Once he did, worked like a charm. Follow directions! The manual that comes with the device is very detailed, but the only thing you need to program is the size of your battery bank, and everything else follows.

It provides three levels of charging, depending upon battery charge--the third level us a trickle charge, do it also protects the battery. It was recommended to me by the battery manufacturer, Lifetime.

Readout gives you voltage from panels as well as at battery. The MMT boosts voltage from panels to battery. You also get amp hours to empty and percentage. The system "learns" and becomes more accurate as it"watches" your use patterns over time.
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Old 12-05-2010, 08:22 AM   #19
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Thanks Lew!!! That's REALLY good to know. The guys on the phone didn't say anything about using dicor or silkaflex.
YOU JUST CAN'T REVEAL ALL OF YOUR TRADE SECRETS NOW.........CAN YOU??????????
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Old 12-05-2010, 01:43 PM   #20
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How strong is the bond with VHB double sided tape?

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