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  • Solar System Installed in 2019 315RLTS

    There's another thread for individuals to document their setups, so to keep the conversation separate from my specific (contemplated) setup I am starting yet another thread. This thread will start at the planning stage (where I'm at now) and will progress through the entire installation and follow up with performance feedback.

    As you read this post and subsequent posts from me on this topic, please understand that I desire your input! Negative, positive, questions--it all makes me think. I understand that in social media environments there are those that just want affirmation of their decisions, but that's not me. I readily acknowledge I don't know it all and, from long experience, know that what I don't know comes back to haunt me. So ***please*** feel free to chime in!

    What I've done so far is create a picture of my 315's roof in Photoshop scaled 3:1. I've "installed" 8 different panel configurations, from the HQST 100 Watt Poly (the panel costs .79 per watt since it costs $78.99 on Amazon) to Zamp Solar's outrageous $5/watt Obsidian 100W panel. Others I've "installed" are Zamp's 115 Watt panel ($3.48/watt), Zamp's 170 watt panel ($2.90/watt), Solarland's 175watt Silver Poly ($1.85/watt), HQST's 150 watt Poly (.93/watt) and Hightec Solar's 180 and 200 watt panels, .93/watt and .92/watt respectively.

    Below are two examples I'm seriously considering. The one on the left is the HQST 100 Watt Polys in six series pairs. The one on the right is Hightec's 200 watt panels in parallel. (Red lines are series connections, green are parallel.)

    I especially like the 3" clearance provided by Hightec's mount clips. I haven't looked at their tilting system. The only place I'd use tilt is probably when the camper is in my backyard. I figure I can run the camper's dehumidifier 24/7 for free instead of paying Gulf Power. (For those that don't know, I already have a complete inverter system installed with four 100aH Battle Born batteries.)

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    I'm very limited on space so I've got room for one, and only one, charge controller. I've researched controllers and based on the equation ((Total System Wattage*90%)/Battery Voltage)=Charge Controller Amperage Rating I'm currently planning on no more than a 1200 watt system. (1200W*.9)/12V=90A The controller being considered is a Victron SmartSolar 150/100. I want the controller's bluetooth capability--the app for the Victron BMV-712 is awesome and I expect the SmartSolar's to be similar. I also want the VE.Bus capability as it will tie into my system's CCGX (the Victron color controller).

    The junction box being considered is AMSolar's C-Box. I really like how it's configured and that I can connect up to a 2ga wire from the box to the charge controller. (I plan on 4 ga, but nice to know I can go 2ga if I change my mind.)

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    For the runs from the panels themselves to the C-Box I am considering using AMSolar's custom 10ga wires. Pricey, but wire quality is not the place to cut costs in a solar installation.


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    That's it for now. Again, feel free to chime in. TIA!

    -Howard
    Last edited by howson; 02-10-2020, 02:52 PM.
    Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

    Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

  • #2
    OK Howard, you asked for feedback so I here I go...

    I know almost zero about solar but at a very high level it seems to me that using fewer larger panels makes more sense. Fewer holes in the roof. Plus, half the wires and connection points = fewer potential points of failure.

    I do understand where it makes sense to use 100w panels to fit in spaces where a 300w panel won't fit. So maybe two or three 300w panels then a few 100w panels for tight spaces? I think this might require parallel connections though because of the wattage of the panels being different?

    As I said, I know virtually nothing about solar. Just can't wrap my head around why RV roofs are covered in 100w panels when larger panels are available with fewer connections.
    Last edited by bertschb; 01-23-2020, 09:35 PM.
    Brian & Kellie
    2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R <---ordered
    2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW Powerstroke Tremor <---ordered
    Hensley BD3-F air bag hitch

    Previous setups:
    2019 Grand Design Solitude 373FB-R, 2019 Ford F-350 Platinum DRW Powerstroke, Hensley BD5 air bag hitch
    2016 Grand Design Reflection 318RST, 2016 GMC 3500 Denali SRW Duramax, Hensley BD3 air bag hitch

    Comment


    • #3
      bertschb -- thanks for the feedback!

      So here's something I learned new this morning--according to Victron's MPPT 150/100-TR SmartSolar Charge Controller's owner manual it doesn't initialize until PV voltage ("PV" is the input voltage from solar panels) is Vbat+5. (Vbat is the battery voltage level.) In other words, the input voltage from the panels must be 5 volts higher than the battery voltage.

      I know my Battle Borns are typically ~13.6v when @100% and ~13v @ 24%. That means the PV must be at least 18v for the Solar Charger to initialize.

      I think two different terms are used to quantify the maximum output voltage of a panel--Pmax or VMP. The Hightec 200W/12V panel I'm considering has a VMP of 21.052v. That voltage level, though, is under ideal conditions.

      So if you're still with me, if the PV drops too low when it gets hot, the sun is not at an ideal angle, or there's cloud cover; I could potentially get no charging from the Hightecs wired in parallel. Below is a screen shot from Victron's excel spreadsheet using a similar 175W/12V panel (with a higher 24.6 VMP!).

      Bottom line--I *think* I need higher voltage panels (24V?) or wire the 12V panels in series to get the voltage up.

      Notes: 10m = ~30', the longest run my trailer will see on the roof from module to junction box. Good for planning worst-case scenarios. 6.0 mm2 = 10AWG wire. 70C is 158F--hot!

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      Last edited by howson; 01-24-2020, 07:59 AM.
      Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

      Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by howson View Post
        bertschb -- thanks for the feedback!

        So here's something I learned new this morning--according to Victron's MPPT 150/100-TR SmartSolar Charge Controller's owner manual it doesn't initialize until PV voltage ("PV" is the input voltage from solar panels) is Vbat+5. (Vbat is the battery voltage level.) In other words, the input voltage from the panels must be 5 volts higher than the battery voltage.

        I know my Battle Borns are typically ~13.6v when @100% and ~13v @ 24%. That means the PV must be at least 18v for the Solar Charger to initialize.

        I think two different terms are used to quantify the maximum output voltage of a panel--Pmax or VMP. The Hightec 200W/12V panel I'm considering has a VMP of 21.052v. That voltage level, though, is under ideal conditions.

        So if you're still with me, if the PV drops too low when it gets hot, the sun is not at an ideal angle, or there's cloud cover; I could potentially get no charging from the Hightecs wired in parallel. Below is a screen shot from Victron's excel spreadsheet using a similar 175W/12V panel (with a higher 24.6 VMP!).

        Bottom line--I *think* I need higher voltage panels (24V?) or wire the 12V panels in series to get the voltage up.

        Notes: 10m = ~30', the longest run my trailer will see on the roof from module to junction box. Good for planning worst-case scenarios. 6.0 mm2 = 10AWG wire. 70C is 158F--hot!

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        I did my solar project last winter, and can tell you I did a similar system. I went with six 200 watt Hitec panels, and the same wire and combiner boxes and charge controller. I chose to wire mine in three pairs of two series panels. It simplified my wiring, and allowed me to have higher voltage and lower current going down to the charge controller. I also figured this would give me capacity to add two more panels down the road if I found I needed more.

        Last fall we took a three month trip and had a fair amount of dry camping. While we are fairly heavy electric users (18 month baby and my wife and I still work full time), we found that the solar did a good job of keeping up with our usage. At the same time we replaced our refrigerator with a residential unit, so that increased our draw as well. We would still run our generator on occasion to top off, usually for a half hour or so before bed, but I am very happy with the configuration we chose. I have had no issues with shading causing any trouble with the series combination, and my four lithium batteries take the charge from the charge controller with no issue.

        I strongly recommend the Victron unit for the reasons you mentioned. I unfortunately do not have a Victron inverter, so I do not have a CCGX, but the app makes it easy to adjust settings and see what is going on. That coupled with their battery monitor makes it very easy to keep track of where we are at.

        Let me know if you have any questions.
        2018 Reflection 28bh
        2019 F350 6.7L Long Bed Crew Cab

        Comment


        • #5
          After discovering I can't go with a 100% parallel configuration (see post 3) with the majority of panels I was considering, I went back through the whole decision process again. I did more mock installations using Photoshop and carefully scaled panels. I thought someone here may like to see what I've done and the decision process.

          First, the top of my roof without any panels (as it is today). You can see the ladder in the bottom corner to orient yourself. The picture also shows where my batteries and inverter are located so you can understand why I'm locating the junction box at the front, curb side of the camper.

          And yes, the black lines are really on my roof. (Something that seems to affect TPO roofs but is harmless to the roof itself. Since no one sees the roof I really don't mess with cleaning the lines anymore.)

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          This next picture shows my top three choices. (There will be three more in the last picture, which are ranked ordered 4, 5 and 6, respectively.) As the legend details, I considered cost per watt, roof access for maintenance, total wattage vs panels, then the layout and speculated impact if the panels were shaded by roof-mounted items. The total weight of the panels (but not the mounts as they are TBD) and number of cells in a panel are annotated, too.

          As I noted above by the "X", I'll probably remove the little-used MaxxAir cover over the kitchen vent fan as it sits quite high. That will remove one potential source of shade.

          The reason I chose the Renogy Eclipse as my top choice is the 22% efficiency rating. It was a tough call, though, with the .79/watt cost of the HQST. Note that the standard Renogy panels are identical to HQST panels. (Watch Will Prowse's videos on YouTube.) According to Renogy, the Eclipse is "4-5% more efficient than their Poly or Mono panels." The Renogy rep went on to say (in a YouTube video) that given the same amount of shading the Eclipse will output more power than their standard poly or mono panels. Tough call given the price differential, but I'm only doing this once.

          The Eclipse's size, too, makes for a much cleaner installation since they are smaller than their 100W standard Poly-based counterparts. If you look closely you can see the size difference as the panels are scaled the same way relative to their actual size.

          The order, from left to right, is definitely subjective and open to debate as it is based on my personal criteria. I'll take no offense if you challenge my choice or rank order.

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          As always, I welcome feedback and/or questions.

          -Howard
          Last edited by howson; 02-04-2020, 07:04 PM.
          Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

          Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

          Comment


          • #6
            Parts are starting to arrive. Unfortunately five of the twelve Renogy panels I ordered were received with damage. On three of them the damage is superficial, or could even be called cosmetic. The other two have frames split at the corner. Not acceptable for the price I paid for "premium" panels. I bought them through Newegg and they've been contacted. I'm awaiting replacement / shipping instructions.

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            Here's a 3 min unboxing video:



            For those that want to see what's under the lid of that connector box:

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            Finally, the Max Series Fuse Rating spec caught my attention. I don't remember seeing this (or reading about it) anywhere. What it means (to me) is no more than 2 of these panels in series, or the current flowing through the connector box will exceed its capacity. Anyone disagree with that conclusion?

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            Questions, comments (positive, negative, or neutral) are welcome.

            Did you catch the puns?

            -Howard
            Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

            Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

            Comment


            • #7
              Howard - Regarding the "Max Series Fuse Rating" of 10 Amps.

              Remember, when you put the panels in series, the voltage increases, but the current remains the same. So whether you have two or five of these panels in series, the fuse rating for the string should be no more than 10 amps. Your panels generate 6.1 amps in a short circuit situation, so a 10 amp fuse is providing just a little more protection than the 25% recommended.

              Jim
              The moderators for this site are not GDRV employees, but we do own GDRV products.

              Jim and Ginnie
              2017 Reflection 297RSTS

              Comment


              • #8
                Here is a good link from Renogy on fusing your system.

                https://www.renogy.com/blog/how-to-f...-solar-system/

                Jim
                The moderators for this site are not GDRV employees, but we do own GDRV products.

                Jim and Ginnie
                2017 Reflection 297RSTS

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by TucsonJim View Post
                  Howard - Regarding the "Max Series Fuse Rating" of 10 Amps.

                  Remember, when you put the panels in series, the voltage increases, but the current remains the same. So whether you have two or five of these panels in series, the fuse rating for the string should be no more than 10 amps. Your panels generate 6.1 amps in a short circuit situation, so a 10 amp fuse is providing just a little more protection than the 25% recommended.

                  Jim
                  So I guess the way folks are blowing diodes in that other panel we were discussing (with Al?) would be to put a couple of panels in parallel, and then wire the parallel groups in series? Why someone would do this is beyond me, but you're right--just stringing together panels in series theoretically shouldn't affect the current. (I caught a bug in Georgia so I think my brain is scrambled. Buy stock in Kleenex!)
                  Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

                  Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by howson View Post

                    So I guess the way folks are blowing diodes in that other panel we were discussing (with Al?) would be to put a couple of panels in parallel, and then wire the parallel groups in series? Why someone would do this is beyond me, but you're right--just stringing together panels in series theoretically shouldn't affect the current. (I caught a bug in Georgia so I think my brain is scrambled. Buy stock in Kleenex!)
                    Parallel should not affect that fuse or diode either, as that parallel connection is made at the combiner box, and the panel knows nothing about it. I combined mine in three sets of two series panels (total of six), to get the benefit of parallel for shading and series for wire size. Was hoping for a bit of the best of both.
                    2018 Reflection 28bh
                    2019 F350 6.7L Long Bed Crew Cab

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Making progress. The hard part is done--got the wires from the roof into the camper. After many, many hours of measuring and looking at alternatives I decided to come down through the hollow wall between the bedroom and the front closet.

                      The yellow arrow shows how the wiring will run. The wall is hollow all the way from the header (where you can see, in the second set of pictures, the holes I drilled) to the pass-thru floor, so accessibility of the the wiring to the batteries and all the other connections (in the pass-thru) will be simple. The red arrows show where the roof rafters are located. The kicker is there are two rafters side-by-side above the closet header. I nicked the rear-most rafter making the access hole, but it's minor. The wiring drops straight down from the AMSolar box into the wall. Nearly perfect, if I say so myself!

                      The Solar Charge Controller and shut off switch will be mounted in the closet, too. All that work is slated for this afternoon. Hopefully I'll have another update to post later.

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                      AMSolar box is installed and 2ga wire ran. None of the solar panels are mounted on the roof--yet. They will be installed another day.

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                      Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

                      Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Awesome job Howard. That's the first wire run I've seen in that area. Looks perfect.

                        Jim
                        The moderators for this site are not GDRV employees, but we do own GDRV products.

                        Jim and Ginnie
                        2017 Reflection 297RSTS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks, TucsonJim .

                          I made the mount this afternoon for the shutoff switch (wired between AMSolar box and PV input on Solar Controller) and the Solar Controller itself. I embedded "T-nuts" so I can bolt the items to the board, making removal (and reinstallation) easy.

                          Have I mentioned Kreg tools are awesome?

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                          I managed to get the Blue Sea switch wired, only to discover that with the switch flush mounted I won't be able to tighten the nuts once the paneling is up (the way I have it installed). Oh well--I'll figure something out.

                          If I measured correctly, the OEM shelf should install just below where the wires are coming out of the wall (and will go back in from the controller BATT outputs). I'll find out when I go to put it all back together. Weather is supposed to be lousy all next week, so hoping to get the controller connected to the battery and programmed. Still waiting for the 5 replacement panels from Renogy, anyway. (As noted in previous post 5 of the 12 panels arrived damaged.)

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                          The sharp-eyed may note the controller has Victron's WireBox attached. Pricey couple pieces of plastic and metal, but I wanted to cover the electric connections so went with the OEM solution. Unfortunately the cover and base don't line up correctly so can't screw it together. Easy enough to use a couple of black zip ties, though--once it's together it won't be taken apart. (At least that's the plan.)
                          Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

                          Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

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                          • #14
                            howson
                            Looking great Howard !
                            Are you sure that 10 pocket screws are enough to fasten the piece of plywood to the 1x3s ? .
                            I know . . . you just like using that Kreg pocket hole tool !

                            Rob
                            Last edited by Cate&Rob; 02-09-2020, 09:38 PM.
                            Cate & Rob
                            (with Border Collies Molly & Angel and their kitty Gracie)
                            2015 Reflection 303RLS
                            2014 Ecoboost F150 with Heavy Duty Payload Package
                            Whitby, Ontario, Canada

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                            • #15
                              Wiring from junction box to batteries complete. Powered up controller and, after two updates, worked as advertised. Setup of the controller was easy based on Battle Born's https://battlebornbatteries.com/prog...ge-controller/ and AMSolar's https://amsolar.com/rv-solar/support guides.

                              AMSolar's and BB's guides differ on one point. Battle Born says to have the Maximum Absorption Time set for 30m per 100aH battery. AMSolar says 30m, period.

                              The replacement Renogy panels just showed up, too, and they are perfect. Yea! Now to start crawling on the roof...


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                              Forum moderators are not GD employees--we are volunteers and owners presumably just like yourself. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we have nothing to gain should you choose to purchase a product or engage a service we discuss on this forum.

                              Howard, 2017 Ford F-350 DRW, '19 315RLTSPlus

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