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Old 09-24-2022, 04:39 PM   #1
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Solar Panels & Lithium Batteries: Recommendations--Ignore Cost!!

I know there a multiple threads where folks have advised on what solar panels and lithium batteries they are using, but I'm looking for an update.

In the next several months, we'll be having a 3rd party install a solar system on our 2023 Globetrotter FBT. Thus, I'm now focused on figuring out what we want.

Ignoring comparative prices, if you were purchasing Solar Panels and Lithium Batteries today for a new install on an AS, or even better, a 27' AS, what brand Solar Panels and what brand Lithium Batteries would you select?

In other words, for purposes of this thread, please assume that price is irrelevant. Performance, reliability, etc. are paramount.

Thank you.

Cheers,
Bryan
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Old 09-24-2022, 05:07 PM   #2
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HI

If you are hiring a pro to do the work, why not ask him? Feeding somebody parts that they do not normally work with is a *very* bad idea. You want them working with stuff they have used before .....

Battery wise, Battle Born has the longest / best track record on RV batteries. They also have a very good warranty. One would *guess* ( = nobody ever knows ) they will be around in 10 years to honor that warranty if something goes wrong.

Solar panels are a bit less brand specific. Most of what you see are panels not made by the outfit selling them. That makes things more than a little tough to evaluate. If what they bought a year ago was great and what they are reselling this year is junk ... hope you didn't buy this year.

There are a lot of other components that go into a system .....

Bob
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Old 09-24-2022, 05:52 PM   #3
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I got my system through AM Solar earlier this year on the Tradewinds rebuild. 400 watts on the roof and 400AH. Could not be happier. I would do it again and recommend them without reservation.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:15 PM   #4
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Yes, certainly I will ask the professionals what they use, but each installer has some of their own favorites.

And yes, I certainly understand there are other components besides the panels and the batteries.

Cheers
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:30 PM   #5
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Lot's of folks will have had success with pretty much every energy system component and battery being manufactured today.

The trouble is that one person's success doesn't really tell you much about the overall failure rate for a companies products.

Example would be Renogy. Some folks have their products and have zero failures and are willing to attest to how wonderful their products are. Other folks ... well ... not so much luck.

You will get better system monitoring, control, equipment communication/networking/coordination and perhaps better reliability in the long run if you can afford to stick with one manufacturers products.

I've learned more about Victron than other competing solutions because Victron is what I decided to use on my trailer upgrades. So my comments below will be with respect to what Victron can do. Other manufacturers might offer similar capabilities.

Victron equipment and batteries can be a bit pricey, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality and reliability. I would be willing to stick my neck out and say their stuff is the best available overall as a general statement. At the very least, they would be in the top handful of suppliers into this market (in terms of RV/marine applications at a minimum).

Their brand new 330ah smart batteries have bluetooth and network seamlessly with the other Victron equipment you would want to have such as:

Networked BMS
Multi-plus II 2x120 hybrid inverter
Victron SmartSolar MPPT controller
Victron Smart 12v-12v DC-DC isolating tow vehicle charge controller
Cerbo GX (can also monitor propane tanks with built in level sensors)
Touch 70 display

The Victron stuff is all interconnected and the Cerbo GX provides the ability for external/remote monitoring and control via connection with a cellular modem (recommend peplink/pepwave products for that function).

As an example of the advantages of networked hardware, you can have two victron smart solar controllers (one for rooftop panels and another for your external portable arrays). After you register the solar controllers into a Victron network containing Victron smart batteries, the batteries automatically broadcast their charge parameters and the smart solar controllers will automatically sync battery charging parameters and charging states. This synchronization also includes transitions between charging states (I.e. they will transition from one charging condition to another simultaneously).

The Victron batteries will also broadcast the voltages at the battery terminals. The solar chargers (and multi-plus inverter) then compare the battery terminal voltage value with the voltage at their local terminals and determine what the voltage output needs to be on each peace of equipment in order to cancel out the resistive voltage drop on the wires from each equipment to the battery terminals. This ensures batteries get fully charged without the long term battery degradation that can come from slight overcharging that can occur otherwise.

The synchronization and communication also prevents one solar charger from deciding that the battery bank is full and dropping offline prematurely.

That's enough for now. I'm tired of typing and I'm sure everyone else is now tired of reading this
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:38 PM   #6
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As for solar panels.

The zamp 100W Obsidian rigid panels have an excellent track record in terms of performance and reliability.

The Merlin flexible panels that Airstream is using on 2023 trailers also have a strong track record but this manufacturer and their panels are perhaps less well known among the RV community. Merlin panels are designed to meet military robustness requirements and are in use in US military applications today.

Merlin panels on the airstream rooftop would conform to the roof and would help preserve the low resistance streamlined profile that airestreams are known for. That's something to consider. I don't know how pricing compares to the zamp Obsidian panels. I suspect they are a bit more expensive, but I could be wrong.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foobar View Post
The Merlin flexible panels that Airstream is using on 2023 trailers also have a strong track record but this manufacturer and their panels are perhaps less well known among the RV community. Merlin panels are designed to meet military robustness requirements and are in use in US military applications today.
According to the Airstream blog (https://www.airstream.com/blog/whats...del-year-2023/), the new Merlin panels are rigid on the traditional trailers. Someone also reached out to AS and Merlin and they confirmed they are rigid panels but are not listed on the Merlin site. Currently the only way to get additional/replacement panels is through AS
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Old 09-24-2022, 07:58 PM   #8
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Zamp, Victron, Battleborn are some of the highest end and trusted names on the market.
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Old 09-24-2022, 08:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by jeffb831 View Post
According to the Airstream blog (https://www.airstream.com/blog/whats...del-year-2023/), the new Merlin panels are rigid on the traditional trailers. Someone also reached out to AS and Merlin and they confirmed they are rigid panels but are not listed on the Merlin site. Currently the only way to get additional/replacement panels is through AS
Ah, bummer. Having them installed flush with the roof would be an advantage, I would think.
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Old 09-25-2022, 08:22 AM   #10
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Ah, bummer. Having them installed flush with the roof would be an advantage, I would think.
Hi

Less of an advantage than you might think. The rigid panels turn out to be easier to keep clean. They also are a lot less prone to issues as the trailer or van flexes (which they most certainly do).

If you ever have to replace them, the rigid panels will be a bit easier to pull off compared to properly installed flexible panels. Yes, only an issue if something ( like that wire from inside the panel to the outside world ...) breaks or shorts.

Technology does change. That said, the flex panels that folks have been able to use have not lasted anywhere near as long as the rigid panels. It is rare to find anybody with a properly installed rigid panel that has failed. There are *lots* of stories about flex panels ....

Bob
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Old 09-25-2022, 08:36 AM   #11
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Hi

Less of an advantage than you might think. The rigid panels turn out to be easier to keep clean. They also are a lot less prone to issues as the trailer or van flexes (which they most certainly do).

If you ever have to replace them, the rigid panels will be a bit easier to pull off compared to properly installed flexible panels. Yes, only an issue if something ( like that wire from inside the panel to the outside world ...) breaks or shorts.

Technology does change. That said, the flex panels that folks have been able to use have not lasted anywhere near as long as the rigid panels. It is rare to find anybody with a properly installed rigid panel that has failed. There are *lots* of stories about flex panels ....

Bob

Bob
Thanks Bob, good points. I was mostly thinking of the impact of rigid panels that are elevated off the trailer roof on the air resistance of the trailer when towing. I was not aware of the historical information regarding relative reliability/longevity of flexible vs rigid panels.
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Old 09-25-2022, 12:30 PM   #12
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Second the recommendation on AM Solar. They've installed 900 watts solar and 400 ah Lithium on our 30' Serenity. Their house brand of solar. Lifeblue on the batteries (2 x 200 ah). The rest of the system is Victron. They also install Battleborn and Zamp I believe.
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Old 09-26-2022, 06:52 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by foobar View Post
Thanks Bob, good points. I was mostly thinking of the impact of rigid panels that are elevated off the trailer roof on the air resistance of the trailer when towing. I was not aware of the historical information regarding relative reliability/longevity of flexible vs rigid panels.
Hi

Any aerodynamic advantage is pretty minor. (if there even is one ...). The big reason folks like them is the look.

Bob
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Old 09-26-2022, 09:56 AM   #14
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I also think Victron is tried and true, have had mine for 5 years and going well. Also another vote for AM Solar.. if I was redoing or doing new, it would be Victron and AM solar hands down, but this is the more expensive approach for sure.
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Old 09-26-2022, 10:07 AM   #15
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If you are in Oregon then I would schedule AM Solar to do the work. My recommendation would be all Victron including the batteries and their Lynx BMS system with Cerbo GX. For solar panels Zamp obsidian.
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Old 09-26-2022, 10:43 AM   #16
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I am not sure about the gt, but the 2023 classic we just had in the shop has a different shaped roof than previous "camel hump" models. They also switched to Coleman HVAC units, the additional width, and shape of roof do not allow traditional placement for the regift panels many use. You need to switch to a narrower panel 18 ish inches wide if you have mounting feet on the sides. An am solar tilt mount that puts the feet on the ends of the panel should do the trick to help out.

Battle born batteries may have a decent track record, but they eat up so much valuable space, even the 275ah is massive. Victron or lithionics batteries are MUCH more power dense. In the space of 3 battle born 100's you can fit 660ah of either victron or lithionics... More than doubling the capacity.
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Old 09-26-2022, 10:49 AM   #17
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I am not sure about the gt, but the 2023 classic we just had in the shop has a different shaped roof than previous "camel hump" models. They also switched to Coleman HVAC units, the additional width, and shape of roof do not allow traditional placement for the regift panels many use. You need to switch to a narrower panel 18 ish inches wide if you have mounting feet on the sides. An am solar tilt mount that puts the feet on the ends of the panel should do the trick to help out.

Battle born batteries may have a decent track record, but they eat up so much valuable space, even the 275ah is massive. Victron or lithionics batteries are MUCH more power dense. In the space of 3 battle born 100's you can fit 660ah of either victron or lithionics... More than doubling the capacity.
This volumetric efficiency of the latest, but very pricey victron and lithionic batteries is very impressive.

I am squeezing 1320ah into approximately the same space as 4 or 5 100ah battleborn batteries.

The only downside is that you need to sell a kidney on the organ black market in order to be able to pay for them, lol.
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Old 09-26-2022, 11:40 AM   #18
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Bb lion used to be the best.

Now there are better ones with denser capacity .
Many lion suppliers have good internal controllers

Always best to look around and compare
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Old 09-26-2022, 04:25 PM   #19
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If cost is no object, I would go with 100% Victron equipment - DC-DC chargers, solar charge controllers, Lynx fuse/bus system, battery monitor, Cerbo GX with 7" display, Multiplus or Quattro (depending on your needs) and Victron batteries.
I would upgrade to a Balmar external regulator with lithium setting and alternator (if you do not have a compatible one)
I would go with 24v or higher voltage panels - as big and as many as you can put on. Stay away from flexible as they have issues.
Victron has been around longer than anyone else relative to lithium batteries and electrical components. BattleBorn is a 2014 company, Victron has been around since 1975.
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Old 09-26-2022, 05:47 PM   #20
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After much due diligence I reached out to AM Solar this morn for mine. They do both DIY plans (program equipment and support) and full installs. Too many people have said great things to ignore
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