Monday, October 2, 2017

You can install solar on your RV

Solar is a great way to keep your RV batteries in Tip top condition. The controller has a program that conditions the batteries. About once a month it intentionally overcharges the batteries for about 2 hours. This blows off any sulfate deposits of the plates in the cells. Is it worth installing solar on your RV?.
If you go camping a lot then the answer is yes. It's not that difficult to install.  you can do-it-yourself and save a lot of money. My biggest fear was putting holes in the roof of our travel trailer and having it leak. One of my other fears is that the panels on the roof are not secure enough and having them rip off the roof as I'm driving down the highway. Well, I've traveled coast to coast with these and that hasn't happened. I had gotten the basic 100-watt Renogy kit to start off.  I went with monocrystalline because it is slightly more efficient than the polycrystalline and the cost difference is negligible. The kit came with a PWM controller. The Mppt Controller is more efficient, but on small setups, the cost difference isn’t justified. The PWM is simpler, and so less to go wrong. The MPPT works better at a higher Panel voltage. When the voltage output of the panels drops below a certain point it reverts to PWM style of charging anyway.
We took a short camping trip after I installed the panels period of solar panel stayed on the trailer in high winds sigh of relief. I found that the 100 W panel made the battery last longer but the battery eventually still depleted. So I bought another 100 W panel and connected it in parallel.i also installed a Renogy 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter. It will run sensitive electronic equipment with no problem. I also love the wireless remote to turn it on and off. Shortly after we went on a 2-week vacation we found that when we boondocked the batteries lasted much longer. But still eventually would deplete. We added a 3rd 100 W solar panel on the roof and put that in parallel with the other 2. We took A weekend trip and we were able to watch TV for 4 hours, our furnace all night without a problem, never ran out of power. We have a mini fridge in the outside kitchen and it was able to run that too.

300 W of solar seems to be sufficient for our needs. The battery bank consists of 2 12 volt batteries in parallel and they are 94 amp/ hours each. The batteries should be of same age and type. This way they will charge and discharge at the same rate.
You should never run your batteries below 50% of their capacity. So total capacity of our system is 94 amp hours. Max charge rate of our system in full sun is 15 amp hours. So the panels should be able to fully recharge the batteries in a little over 6 hours.
Of course, there are many environmental factors that would affect the charge rate such as elevation, clouds, and time of year. For example, in winter the sun is less intense giving you less power output. Also the further North you are in the country the less solar output as well. So to compensate for this one more solar panel may do the trick.
One would ask “why didn’t I install the system all at once?”. Two reasons, 1) it spread the cost out over time 2) if I created a leak when installing I would know which panel was the culprit.

I will write a second article detailing the installation.

Until next time, Happy Camping!
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