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Old 02-04-2020, 03:56 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Durango, Colduhrado
Posts: 492
Gonna do me some solar - oh boy

I am getting ready to add on a permanent solar system on the van so just want to check to see if I have it all covered. E350 with 6.0 diesel engine with the heavy duty charger for the engine circa 2008. Not all that huge of an output when looking at whatís out there now, but seems adequate for the job so far.

Our current usage for amps is the standard small Norcold fridge, water pump, LED lighting, stereo, Espar furnace, Espar hydronic engine/water heater. I think the panel I have chosen from Renogy will work well.

Currently using a Zamp foldable panel system rated at 120 watts of power. Panels have their own controller and the 15 foot cord plugs into a SAE type of plug we installed in the rear Aluminess bumper and runs to the house battery under the van just in front of the rear axle. Panel seems to do OK but seems limited by programming how much power gets put out to the battery. The plus for this setup is that we can park in the shade (we have that in CO) and put the panels in the sun. Parking with permanent panels in the shade may not go so well for us after doing this. We shall see but there are plenty of times we are parked in Moab or elsewhere in the sun and it would be nice not to have to deploy and lock the portable panels. I suppose if need be we could use both.

We have a Sure-Power 1315 separator that will be replaced before doing all this by a Blue Sea 7622 ACR with a cut off switch to keep excess current from always going to the van/starting battery. Want to be able to only charge the house battery most the time when on solar. Our charging system is alternator and the shore power connection to a Tripp Lite 2000w inverter/charger. We want to keep the shore power connection available although the charger really doesnít put out the desired max voltage for charging the Lifeline 210ah 4D AGM battery (new in September í19).

I know enough to be dangerous here and have gotten some good info from Greg @SCALF77 and others on this site. I have also been reading a lot from handybob on the Internet as well as other sources on solar power. Some info is good and some seems not so good.

I have another SMBer buddy that took his solar panel wiring into the penthouse then wired it into one of his 12v connections for a light or socket. He has used that connection to get the juice back to the battery bank via that connection and it seems to work for him but not sure that is what I want to do as it may not be the correct wiring to avoid voltage drop and not really sure I would get all I could out of the system. Would it really be all that simple and all that is needed along with a controller??

What I am thinking about is:
* Renogy 165w mono crystal solar panel that is 51x 26. This panel has the bypass diodes to account for some shading. Seems about every other panel is 58x26 which is just a few inches too long to sit sideways on the penthouse roof. Going to mount on the front of the penthouse roof as we have Thule mounting and crossbars and have a big need to use our Thule top box. Will probably have to get a shorter but wider roof box for the future if shadows become a problem from the box. Will use a plug setup either MC4 and/or SAE mounted flush in the penthouse roof so that the panel could be removed if needed. Will want to run the heaviest wiring that I can which appears to be 8awg strait to the controller and then directly to the house battery.

* Bogart Trimetric PWM charger along with the Trimetric panel for programming and monitoring. Would like to have the Balmer SOH monitor but then have to find another way to have both monitors on different shunts (or could I use the same). The controller will be located as close to the battery as I can get it - same with the shunt. Reading up on the Bogart stuff either from Greg or others looks like a good one as you can adjust the input to the battery more in line with Lifelineís instructions rather than some random controller interpretation of what it needs to be. We are at 7k feet and it gets cold and the power to the battery needs to be higher in the cold than a normal controller will allow. The Bogart is totally programmable and has the micro equalizing feature which sounds like a good thing to have.

Biggest issue is that I suck at this stuff and being small town CO, there isnít anybody even close by that I can work with so here goes. Big issues will be getting underneath to drop the 130 pound battery out and then back feeding the solar wiring and temperature monitoring wires back to the inside from the battery location. What I believe I can do is get the wire from the penthouse to the back of the van pulling trim pieces and such from the interior and mount the charge controller under the couch. RB50 layout and I can pull the couch cushions out to gain some open space in which to work. From the controller the wires will feed outside to the battery. Have to run a connector cable to the control panel and mount that somewhere, just not sure where. The problem with the Bogart panel is that itís ugly but thatís the way it goes sometimes. The RV panel they have might make more sense and just flush mount it.

All this gets to be done outside in the cold weather as the van will not fit in the garage. Need to get it all done in time for a trip to Baja towards the end of March. Never pulled interior wall panels and donít know squat about electric except to not short it all out. As I disconnect some stuff, I will take old bike inner tube pieces to insulate any open ends of cable till I figure out which is which. I donít think it will be too hard but just time-consuming for me.

What you all think? Sound like a plan? How hard can it be?
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