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Thinking about upgrading my factory solar system

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  • Thinking about upgrading my factory solar system

    I have the factory 300w solar system and I'm thinking about upgrading it. I don't currently have a need for this. It would just be nice to have a decent solar system that I can fall back on if needed. The current factory system is a single 300w panel, 30a solar charge controller, 2,000w inverter and transfer switch. I added two Lion Energy LiFePO4 batteries. I'm thinking of going with four 300w+ panels, a 3,000w inverter, a new solar charge controller and four BattleBorn heated LiFePO4 batteries. I want to add the capability to run the microwave, washing machine (no dryer) and maybe an A/C unit sparingly from the inverter/batteries.

    My questions-
    1- Can I use the existing 300w Jaboni solar panel with three new 360(ish) watt panels from another manufacturer? I think the answer is yes if wired in series.
    2- Do I need to replace the existing auto-transfer switch?
    3- How difficult would it be to include the microwave, washer and A/C to the inverter circuit? Kinda looks easy from the photo below if I'm understanding the wiring correctly.

    As some of you know, I'm not an expert at anything handyman related. But, I'm pretty good at researching and copying what others have done. I already rewired the front battery compartment on my last two RV's (thanks to help from Cate&Rob). So I know how to make battery cables and move things around.

    Here is a picture of the factory mounted equipment on the ceiling of the front compartment. If you stuck your head into the front compartment and looked up, this is what it would look like. The lower portion of the photo is the front wall of the storage compartment. The lines on the left are for the hydraulic leveling system.

    Click image for larger version

Name:	Transfer switch.jpg
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    The black box below the inverter is the transfer switch. It's connected to two yellow wires. Are those the wires that run to the main and sub panels? I think the inverter only powers the sub panel.

    BTW, I looked at a couple companies that do this kind of work and they wanted something like 80 hours and $10,000 just for the labor for a system like this. That's insane. It just doesn't seem that difficult to me but then again, I'm the guy asking very basic questions here so...
    Brian & Kellie
    2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R, FBP, MORryde IS w/ disc brakes, 1,460w solar
    2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW PSD Tremor, 60g TF fuel tank, 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

  • #2
    bertschb

    Brian - Let's start with the Jaboni controller. It is limited to 45Vdc, and 30Adc. One 300 watt Jaboni panel produces the following: 39.85V (Voc) and 9.75amps (Isc). You can't run four panels off the controller no matter how they are configured. In addition, if you look at the specifications for the Jaboni controller, it states it will work on lithium-ion batteries, but it is silent about LiFePO4 batteries.

    If you were to go with a Victron MPPT controller, their calculator calls for the following controllers

    2 panels in series/2 strings in parallel. Smart Solar MPPT 150/85
    4 panels in series: Smart Solar MPPT 250/85

    Next, let's take a look at the 2000W to 3000W inverter. Step one would be to determine the wire size on the 2,000 watt inverter. My memory says it's probably 2/0 AWG. Most 3,000 watt inverters typically require 4/0 AWG wire. If that is the case, you'd have to upgrade the wire and probably the fuse between the batteries and the inverter.

    On to the transfer switch. Can you provide the make and model of the current transfer switch? We need to determine if it can handle the current for the devices you want to run.

    Jim







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

    Jim and Ginnie
    2017 Reflection 297RSTS

    Comment


    • #3
      bertschb (Brian),
      First recommendation--separate the solar questions in this thread from the inverter and auto-transfer questions. You could upgrade the solar and leave the current inverter/battery setup exactly the way it is, or you could go get a completely new inverter and battery setup with the current solar configuration.

      Second recommendation--I suggest forgetting about running the air conditioner on the inverter and batteries. I've done it--the air conditioner draws way too much power and will drain the batteries in a very short period of time, likely before the trailer has even cooled down. Microwave--absolutely, yes, you can do that. Being able to stop on the road at a rest stop and make lunch is fantastic (running everything off the inverter). Almost everything except the fireplace, water heater, and air conditioner runs great off the Victron 12/3000, but not those listed components--they draw too much power.

      Third (and final) recommendation--if you're looking to have the batteries 100% charged upon arrival at a location, something along the lines of the DC-DC Charger mod should be considered. Having the truck charge the batteries while towing (regardless of weather or time of day) is awesome.

      I'm sure you know all of my projects are linked off the Modification excel spreadsheet or my Comprehensive thread.

      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


      • #4
        Originally posted by howson View Post
        bertschb (Brian),
        Microwave--absolutely, yes, you can do that. Being able to stop on the road at a rest stop and make lunch is fantastic (running everything off the inverter).
        I run my microwave every morning with my 2,000 watt inverter. It handles it just fine.

        Jim

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

        Jim and Ginnie
        2017 Reflection 297RSTS

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by TucsonJim View Post
          ...On to the transfer switch. Can you provide the make and model of the current transfer switch? We need to determine if it can handle the current for the devices you want to run.
          Hi Jim

          The factory transfer switch is a Magnum Dimensions CSW-TS20. Here is a picture of it:

          Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_3097.jpg Views:	0 Size:	188.6 KB ID:	42510

          I know I need to replace the OEM solar charge controller. As for wiring to the inverter, the factory actually used 4/0. But even if they hadn't, I have the parts and tools to make my own cabling.

          The OEM fuse between the inverter and batteries is 300A.

          Click image for larger version  Name:	fuse.jpg Views:	0 Size:	65.2 KB ID:	42511
          Brian & Kellie
          2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R, FBP, MORryde IS w/ disc brakes, 1,460w solar
          2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW PSD Tremor, 60g TF fuel tank, 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


          • #6
            howson

            Thanks for the feedback Howard

            Originally posted by howson View Post
            You could upgrade the solar and leave the current inverter/battery setup exactly the way it is...
            I have the residential fridge and between running that and some lights, cellular modem, TV and soundbar, I think adding a microwave to that mix might overload the factory 2,000w inverter.

            Originally posted by howson View Post
            ..or you could go get a completely new inverter and battery setup with the current solar configuration.
            I could do that but part of the fun of having solar is being able to recharge batteries for "free" (and yes, I use that term VERY loosely here). Plus, solar panels are cheap.

            Originally posted by howson View Post
            ...I suggest forgetting about running the air conditioner on the inverter and batteries.
            I realize with only four batteries I couldn't run the A/C for longer than an hour or two. What I want is the ability to run it. I can always add batteries later if I find it useful.

            Originally posted by howson View Post
            ...if you're looking to have the batteries 100% charged upon arrival at a location, something along the lines of the DC-DC Charger mod should be considered.
            I have considered that but it would be a project by itself. I picked up a 4,500w DF generator this week and can fall back on that if needed.

            And yes, I've looked at your threads re: your solar project and the DC-DC charging project. You are the undisputed master of documenting your work and sharing it with others.
            Brian & Kellie
            2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R, FBP, MORryde IS w/ disc brakes, 1,460w solar
            2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW PSD Tremor, 60g TF fuel tank, 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


            • #7
              Originally posted by TucsonJim View Post
              I run my microwave every morning with my 2,000 watt inverter. It handles it just fine.
              Even if I could run a microwave along with my residential fridge on a 2,000w inverter, the factory wiring doesn't support that. From what I understand (having read it on the separate thread here), nothing on the main 120v panel runs from the inverter. I've confirmed my microwave and washing machine don't. Of course, I never tried the water heater or fireplace while on the inverter.
              Brian & Kellie
              2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R, FBP, MORryde IS w/ disc brakes, 1,460w solar
              2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW PSD Tremor, 60g TF fuel tank, 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


              • #8
                Originally posted by bertschb View Post

                Even if I could run a microwave along with my residential fridge on a 2,000w inverter, the factory wiring doesn't support that. From what I understand (having read it on the separate thread here), nothing on the main 120v panel runs from the inverter. I've confirmed my microwave and washing machine don't. Of course, I never tried the water heater or fireplace while on the inverter.
                Isn't there a separate inverter dedicated to the residential fridge? Then the 2000w inverter wouldn't be supporting both the fridge and the microwave.

                One of the yellow wires comes FROM the Main Panel circuit breaker labeled Sub Panel. The other yellow wire goes TO the Sub Panel and supplies power to the 3 circuit breakers there.

                I struggled with figuring out how to run the microwave for a short period of time on my 2 batteries and 2000w inverter without rewiring. I have a 6" piece of12 gauge extension cord. I plug it into an outlet under the microwave (which IS powered by the inverter) and then plug the microwave cord into it. It works.
                Pat and Karen
                2021 Solitude 310GK, Full Body Paint, Dual Pane Windows, Heat Pump, Slide Toppers, Solar, MORryde 7K IS w/Disc Brakes, Splendide W/D Stacked Pair

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by pengle View Post
                  Isn't there a separate inverter dedicated to the residential fridge?
                  Not that I'm aware of. I've worked behind the basement wall and I've never seen one there. The only one I've seen is on the ceiling of the front compartment.

                  Brian & Kellie
                  2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R, FBP, MORryde IS w/ disc brakes, 1,460w solar
                  2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW PSD Tremor, 60g TF fuel tank, 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


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bertschb View Post

                    Not that I'm aware of. I've worked behind the basement wall and I've never seen one there. The only one I've seen is on the ceiling of the front compartment.
                    Rob, Second Chance said this in a post a few months ago: "I see where the 18 cu. ft. residential refrigerator is listed as an option on the Solitude 2930RL page - but it's not listed on the build and price page. ...In any case, the unit would come with only one inverter, so it would "default" to the 2,000 watt inverter if you get just solar or both solar and the residential fridge."

                    With only a 2000w inverter and running the residential fridge (my RV fridge uses 700 watts when on the inverter) that doesn't leave many watts left for the rest of the trailer. I can see why you would want to upgrade the inverter. During my microwave test it used 1700 watts.
                    Pat and Karen
                    2021 Solitude 310GK, Full Body Paint, Dual Pane Windows, Heat Pump, Slide Toppers, Solar, MORryde 7K IS w/Disc Brakes, Splendide W/D Stacked Pair

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Lots of good advice here. If you’re thinking of upgrading the inverter then depending what you get it may have a transfer switch built in (Victron and Magnum do). If that’s the case there should be no need for a new transfer switch. If you’re going to keep the sub panel system you have now you’ll need to move the loads you want to be able to run on the new inverter to the sub panel. Keep in mind the Victron internal transfer switch only handles 30 amps so you’ll need to either keep the sub panel or manage it another way. Howard went with the smart ATS to handle this. It was back ordered when I replaced my Magnum so I moved all my critical loads to one phase of the rig (ensuring they’re below 50 amps) and put my non inverter loads on the other phase. This works for me but does have a couple drawbacks. The main one is the non inverter loads are not considered in the power assist calculation, so I need to account for that myself. The only large loads I have over there is the factory converter which I don’t use, and the electric water heater, which if I’m using power assist I’m probably running it on gas anyway.

                      Just something to keep in mind.
                      Neil Citro
                      2018 Reflection 28bh
                      2019 F350 6.7L Long Bed Crew Cab

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ncitro View Post
                        ...so I moved all my critical loads to one phase of the rig (ensuring they’re below 50 amps) and put my non inverter loads on the other phase.
                        Based on actual usage experience over time, that's exactly how I'd configure my system if I was building it from scratch today. The advantage is that the "non-critical loads" on the non-inverter leg will automatically drop off if shore power is lost, an easily overlooked issue associated with the Smart ATS.

                        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


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by howson View Post

                          Based on actual usage experience over time, that's exactly how I'd configure my system if I was building it from scratch today. The advantage is that the "non-critical loads" on the non-inverter leg will automatically drop off if shore power is lost, an easily overlooked issue associated with the Smart ATS.
                          Yeah, it might be a bit off topic, but I struggled with what to put on the other phase. Obviously keeping overloading in mind (which tbh I think most of the loads in my rig would all run on one phase) I wanted as much as possible going through the inverter for Power Assist. So for instance I have both AC units on that phase, I would never run both on the inverter, but want them figured into Power Assist. A Momentum or Solitude with more three AC units or a dryer would be different, but as long as I do not run my fireplace, microwave, and both AC units together I should not be anywhere near 50 amps. And even if I am nothing is at risk, I will just trip the breaker.
                          Neil Citro
                          2018 Reflection 28bh
                          2019 F350 6.7L Long Bed Crew Cab

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well, I've run into a snag in my plans to upgrade the factory solar system. I understand how to replace the solar panels, solar charge controller, batteries, etc. But, I'm getting hung up on how to connect the inverter to the panel. I don't have a good enough understanding of how the panel works (e.g. two 50 amps legs, separate sub-panel for the fridge, etc) to understand how to connect the inverter.

                            I think the only way I would be able to install the inverter myself would be to use AM Solar's Smart Phase Selector. If I'm understanding that product correctly, the connection to my main panel would be the location that my current 6/3 wire connects from my EMS. Easy-peasy. I think the Smart Phase Selector would power everything in my RV just as if I was connected to 50 amp service. I understand I can't power everything at the same time but I'm fine with that. I would be able to run my residential fridge and the microwave or fridge and hair dryer, etc. I have no plans to run the fireplace, electric water heater, etc while on the inverter. The problem is the Smart Phase Selector won't be available until summer.

                            Now I'm just considering upgrading the solar panels and charge controller - along with increasing the battery bank. I can do those without changing the factory inverter setup. I'm kind of deflated after all the research I've done but I know my limits and I've reached them.

                            The good news is this exploratory project led me to remove the rear basement wall in preparation for moving all the equipment to that location. There were a lot of things attached to that wall (vacuum system, cable outlet, electrical outlet, solar control panel, BMV-712 display, etc) which is why I left it alone until now. But, I will now move that wall to the rear about a foot which will free up some space in the basement. Can't have too much space in the basement!

                            Thanks you all for your help and advice. I really do appreciate it.
                            Brian & Kellie
                            2020 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R, FBP, MORryde IS w/ disc brakes, 1,460w solar
                            2020 Ford F-350 Platinum SRW PSD Tremor, 60g TF fuel tank, 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


                            • #15
                              bertschb

                              I was faced with the same debate. I couldn't wait for the SPS so I just fed my MultiPlus with one leg of the 50 amp service. I moved the loads I knew I would never run off the inverter to the the other phase on the panel (water heater and factory converter) and I was all set. The only downside to this approach is I could overload the 50 amp panel if I ran both AC units and the fireplace and microwave all at once, but it will just trip the breaker, all the circuits are still protected correctly. The other downside is since the inverter does not know about the water heater it does not figure into the power assist that it does. I don't consider this an issue since if I'm in a situation where I'm relying on power assist (moochdocking mostly) I'll probably have the water heater on propane.
                              Neil Citro
                              2018 Reflection 28bh
                              2019 F350 6.7L Long Bed Crew Cab

                              Comment

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