5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
After reading and researching for quite awhile now, especially here on this forum, I've begun acquiring the components to add solar, inverter, and increased battery capacity to my 5th wheel RV.

My goal is to extend dry camping time and limit generator usage. Also, I find solar power interesting, and am using this as an opportunity to learn more about solar, eventually hoping to get a larger setup for my home.

Here's the parts list so far:

Two Mage Powertec Plus 180 ME PV panels from NAWS (Thanks Eric!)
http://www.magesolar.com/us/products/mono-and-polycrystalline-modules.html

Rogue MPT-3024 MPPT charge controller (Thanks Marc!)
http://www.roguepowertech.com/products/controllers.htm

Xantrex Prosine 1800 inverter
http://www.xantrex.com/power-products/power-inverters/prosine.aspx

Four Trojan T-105 Plus 6V batteries wired for 12V bank
http://www.trojanbattery.com/Products/T-105Plus6V.aspx

I'm nearly ready to start the install, but a few nagging wiring/fusing details have me stalled.

1.) The inverter instructions say to connect the inverter DC in leads directly to the battery with fuse on positive lead. Should the charge controller leads be attached directly to the battery too? Or should I use a bus bar?

2.) The Rogue charge controller manual says I need a disconnect between it and the PV panels, and between the charge controller and the battery. What should these be?

3.) For the inverter positive lead to battery, I believe I need a 250 amp rated fuse. What type of fuse should I use, a class T fuse or ANL fuse, or should I use a breaker?

4.) I'm going to wire the AC side of the inverter with an additional breaker box separating the loads I want powered by the inverter from those I don't (like the AC, refrigerator, etc.). Something like this (from "Mark's RV Resource"): http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/inv3.gif

5.) The inverter has a monitor that I plan on mounting remotely inside the RV. I think it's mainly an on/off control and voltage monitor. Do I need an actual battery monitor with shunt? Or will this suffice?

Any help or constructive criticism would be appreciated!

Comments

  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,146Super Moderators admin
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade
    soleil wrote: »
    1.) The inverter instructions say to connect the inverter DC in leads directly to the battery with fuse on positive lead. Should the charge controller leads be attached directly to the battery too? Or should I use a bus bar?
    All the leads (charging, inverter, etc.) should be connected to the same "ideal" point (bus bar, common connection bolt, etc.) as per this:

    Smart Gauge Battery Wiring page

    2.) The Rogue charge controller manual says I need a disconnect between it and the PV panels, and between the charge controller and the battery. What should these be?
    For a small array with one or two parallel strings, you really do not need breakers/fuses for protection... So any DC rated switch should be fine in the solar array input.

    For the output, especially if you want to switch the batteries directly--one of this Boat A-B switches or equivalent would be nice (charge controller to A, inverter/other loads to B, batteries to common connection (oposite of how they are normally wired in a boat):

    Blue Sea Battery Switch 1-2-OFF 350 Amp
    3.) For the inverter positive lead to battery, I believe I need a 250 amp rated fuse. What type of fuse should I use, a class T fuse or ANL fuse, or should I use a breaker?
    Pretty much your choice... If everything is done correctly, the fuse/breaker should never pop unless the inverter input fails or you have a harness short. Using a DC Breaker is nice because it adds the "switch function".

    With any fuse/breaker/switch--It is always important to look at the voltage and current ratings. Many DC switches and breakers are limited to 12 or 24 volts--and are not designed for 48 volt battery banks (switch could arc instead of stopping current).
    4.) I'm going to wire the AC side of the inverter with an additional breaker box separating the loads I want powered by the inverter from those I don't (like the AC, refrigerator, etc.). Something like this (from "Mark's RV Resource"): http://www.marxrv.com/12volt/inv3.gif
    Should be fine...
    5.) The inverter has a monitor that I plan on mounting remotely inside the RV. I think it's mainly an on/off control and voltage monitor. Do I need an actual battery monitor with shunt? Or will this suffice?

    The monitor only gives you information on the inverter's power use and such...

    A battery monitor really does watch what is happening with the battery itself.... Basically, it is a bi-directional Amp*Hour meter / Totalizer. As you draw current*time out of the battery it counts down. As you return current*time to the battery, it counts up (in Amp*Hours).

    It also does some math--you tell it your battery's capacity--it will tell you it XX% state of charge. They also can account for Peurket Factor (higher current flow, the less efficient the battery).

    If you have others (spouse, kids, guests) that will not watch bank voltage/monitor specific gravity--the Battery Monitor is a very nice tool to help prevent damage to your battery bank (over discharge, deficit charging, etc.).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • PhilSPhilS Posts: 369Solar Expert ✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I'll add that the control panel for that inverter comes off by removing 4 screws and can be remotely mounted inside your fiver. A regular telephone extension cord is all that's needed (although Xantrex would prefer you buy a high priced remote extension cord).

    I ran a ProSine 1000 for years in my fifthwheel that way (and only changed it because I had an extra 2000w inverter and wanted to occasionally run the microwave).

    Phil
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Thanks for the helpful comments Bill and Phil!

    I drew a rough schematic of how I think I want to wire things (see below -- I haven't drawn in the negative side yet.). Does this look good? Anything I should do differently?

    Of note, the wire lengths are less than 5 feet from the batteries to the inverter, charge controller and generator. I believe the wire sizes are OK, right? (The drawing incorrectly shows 2/0 rather than actual 2 AWG from genny to battery.)

    Does the 250A fuse/breaker need to go between the positive bus bar and the inverter rather than between the batteries and the positive bus bar?

    Currently my 5th wheel has a Blue Sea switch, similar to the one you suggested, Bill, between the battery positive and a bar of over a half dozen loads. It is nice because when I store it, I just turn off the switch and it prevents the battery from being drained. I would like to have a similar arrangement when I rewire things. Will positioning the disconnect switch between the loads and the positive bus bar keep that same functionality? Would there be a better place to put that switch? I don't think I can put it between the battery and the positive bus bar, as then I couldn't have solar charging when stored. Will the inverter when off and the solar charge controller drain the battery when the RV is stored?

    Phil, I did buy the $49 remote panel interface that goes in place of the display panel on the inverter that I will mount somewhere convenient.

    rvsolarelectricroughsch.jpg
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,146Super Moderators admin
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade
    soleil wrote: »
    I drew a rough schematic of how I think I want to wire things (see below -- I haven't drawn in the negative side yet.). Does this look good? Anything I should do differently?
    Every positive wire that leaves the battery bank should have a properly rated fuse/breaker (close to battery) to protect the wiring against shorts/cuts/failures.

    No fuses/switches in negative leads.
    Of note, the wire lengths are less than 5 feet from the batteries to the inverter, charge controller and generator. I believe the wire sizes are OK, right? (The drawing incorrectly shows 2/0 rather than actual 2 AWG from genny to battery.)
    Should be fine.

    However, we don't know the DC charging current from the genset--So I cannot confirm the maximum fuse rating/current rating vs the AC charger output.

    For RV use, you can use the following table as a "maximum" rated current guide for generic open wiring. NEC will be quite a bit less allowed current (more conservative).

    American Wire Gauge Table
    Does the 250A fuse/breaker need to go between the positive bus bar and the inverter rather than between the batteries and the positive bus bar?
    Remember the fuse protects the wiring leaving your battery box... In theory, you can place the fuse in either location to protect the inverter + wiring.

    However, you would still need a fuse for every other wire (10 awg, 14 awg, etc.) that leaves the positive bus because the 250 Amp fuse would be way to big to protect the smaller gauge wires.

    Also, another issue... If you have the fuse between the battery and the battery bus--if you ever blew the 250 amp fuse--it would take out all of your electricity and leave you in the dark. If you fuse each load/wire branch--then a single fault would still leave you with some DC lighting, etc.
    Currently my 5th wheel has a Blue Sea switch, similar to the one you suggested, Bill, between the battery positive and a bar of over a half dozen loads. It is nice because when I store it, I just turn off the switch and it prevents the battery from being drained. I would like to have a similar arrangement when I rewire things. Will positioning the disconnect switch between the loads and the positive bus bar keep that same functionality?
    Sounds like a good idea... With the two position switch I gave you--it does give you the ability to have "two switched buses"... For example one to the heavy loads and a second to your solar charger (1, 2, 1+2, all off).
    Would there be a better place to put that switch? I don't think I can put it between the battery and the positive bus bar, as then I couldn't have solar charging when stored. Will the inverter when off and the solar charge controller drain the battery when the RV is stored?
    Read carefully through the inverter specifications--Each one seems to have its own way of working... Many inverters have no off switch--so you have to provide you one (or they will draw 6-30 watts of power even with no loads). Some have search mode (AC on for a few cycles, then off for a second, stay on if load > 8 watts is found, etc.). So they draw less power on "standby"--but still not zero.

    And some inverters have an "inhibit switch". And even when "off/inhibited", they still draw 1/2 a watt or so.

    Also, if you store your solar panels under cover/building/roofed area--Most charge controllers do draw a little bit of standby current too... If the solar panels are covered during storage, the charge controller should be disconnected from the battery bus too.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Thanks for the good explanations, Bill! I think I'm starting to getting a handle on it.

    So I suppose I'll just switch and fuse everything.

    That switch you pointed out does sound good. Like two switches for the price of one.

    I've been looking for a nice surface mount 250A breaker for the inverter, but am having trouble finding one that I like and isn't too expensive. I'd like to use one of these (from NAWS):
    wind-sun_2131_68245862
    However, they're only available rated up to 150A. Would I be asking for problems if I used a 150A breaker like this instead of the recommended 250A? (I think I know the answer already, but I do like these breakers :D.) 150A X 12V = 1800W. How often would I be pulling max power from my inverter (unless start-up loads come in to play a lot)? I see a lot of people use the T-class fuses, too. Are they better than ANL fuses?
  • BB.BB. Posts: 25,146Super Moderators admin
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    You have to hunt down the voltage ratings for each fuse type you want to use... I think the ANL where 32 volts max, and the T type were much higher.

    For example, a quick google search shows:

    ANL fuse rating:
    Bolt-On Fuse
    Ampere Rating : 60A To 300A
    Voltage Rating : 32Volts DC
    Material : Body-Bakelite

    Also there is an interesting chart near the top of the link that shows how fuses really behave to over current conditions:
    Typical AGU Glass fuse (round tube)
    time to blow ratings at XXX% of rated current:

    110% ; 100%
    • 35A ~ 80A
    • 4 Hours , Min
    110% ; 100%
    • 0.5A ~ 30A
    • 4 Hours, Min ; 1Hour , Max
    200%
    • 0.5A ~ 8A ; 10A ~ 30A
    • 5 Sec , Max ; 10 sec , Max
    300%
    • 35A ~ 80A
    • 4 Sec , Max

    The Class T JLLN fuse (Littlefuse PDF booklet) is rated for 125 VDC or higher (depends on physical size/current rating) and something like 20,000 AIR (amperes interrupt rating).

    Anyway--There are fast blow, standard blow, slow blow, etc. fuses... So, if you are intent on running large surge current and lower capacity fuses--You need to look at the tables (like in the PDF above) to see what will be acceptable to you or not for actual fuse rating.

    And remember, you should design for worst case current ratings (for safety and reliability)... If you really want to pull 1,800 watts continuous (more than 5 minuets at a time?)...
    • 1,800 watts * 1/10.5 volt inverter cutoff voltage * 1/0.85 inverter efficiency * 1.25 NEC safety factor = 161 amps minimum fuse/wiring rating.
    Could use use a 150 amp breaker there--probably just fine. I doubt that you will be running 1,801 watts, at 10.5 volts (near dead battery/lots of voltage drop). Running the breaker at 150 amps continuous--you may get false trips and/or the breaker may have less than a 20+ year operational life (if you have to replace the breaker in 5-10 years--I don't think you will be unhappy).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I'm getting ready to hook things up... I have another question regarding the 40A circuit breaker that I'm installing between the positive buss bar and the solar charge controller.

    Here's a picture of a 60A version of what I'm using:
    7135-7148.jpg

    On the breaker, there are two connecting posts labeled "Line" and "Load". For the inverter, I connected the cable to the DC in on the inverter to the load bolt, and the line side to the battery. But for the solar charge controller, I'm not certain which way it should be connected, as power flows from the solar to the battery. (Is the battery the load then?)
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    "Is the battery the load then"

    yes, it goes by the direction power is usually flowing. the batteries are receiving the power from the cc so it is a load in this case.
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Thank you! That makes sense.
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I've gotten the batteries installed and laid out most of the power center elements. Here are a couple of pictures of the progress so far:

    Battery Box:
    installedbatteriesinbox.jpg

    Power Center:
    anotatedpowercenterbiggv.jpg
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I'm working on installing the inverter now, a Magnum MS2012.

    My plan is to have a subpanel with the loads I would want to power from the inverter (20A microwave, 15A bedroom outlets, and another 15A outlet circuit). The inverter's manual states to feed the subpanel with a 30A single pole breaker from the main panel for pass through when connected to shore power/generator. My understanding is that I hook up a 10 gauge 3 wire section of Romex to the 30A single pole breaker in the main breaker box, just as if it were any other load, and connect it to the subpanel breaker box as shown in the picture below. The two hot buses in the subpanel breaker box are not connected. Do I just connect them with a piece of wire, also as shown in the picture below?

    Picture of subpanel breaker box with proposed 10 gauge input from 30A single pole breaker on main breaker box:
    subpanelbreakerbox.jpg
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    i think we need to be 100% certain of the configuration you are utilizing before we talk of the subpanel. look at the chart in the pdf,
    http://www.magnumenergy.com/Literature/Manuals/Inverters/64-0007%20Rev%20B%20%28MS%20Series%29.pdf
    labeled table 2-3 on page 24
    one has to differentiate between using 2 separate 15a 120vac circuits paralleled and using both legs of 240vac. if they are on the same side of the panel bus to each other (note that opposing buses are placed side by side) that this puts them as parallelable.
    note that #10 wire is rated to 30a for ac wiring.

    caution as paralleling each leg in a 240vac setup to each other will result in some fireworks before any breakers pop.
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Thanks for your response, Niel.

    My intention was to try to wire my inverter and subpanel for single in - single out, as shown in figure 2-11, page 25 of the pdf file you posted. However, I am not certain that this is the configuration I should choose.

    Which do you think would be the best way to do it? I usually dry camp, but since I am wiring it to take advantage of it's pass through capacity, I wonder if single in - single out will be enough for battery charging and powering the circuits when connected to shore power.

    Thanks for your input.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    imo it is fine to opt for the 60a, but do it with one 60a breaker and at least #6 wire just as shown in fig 2-12 p26. to parallel 2 30a breakers is fine when they are both on the same bus, but it's way too easy to forget and go with opposing buses. with that said you don't need 10/3 as 6/2 and 1 60a breaker would be appropriate for 60a operation for safety reasons even though paralleling 2 30a #10 wire circuits works in theory. if this is too much to do for 60a as a nice option then stay with the 10/2 30a circuit configuration.
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Pardon my ignorance, but what are opposing buses? :blush:

    Would it be safe/good to take a 10/3 wire from a double pole 30A breaker from the main breaker box (where all the circuits are on a common bus) and run that to the inverter. Then run a 10/3 wire from the inverter to the subpanel box, connecting one hot to each of the breaker buses shown in the above picture? (Something like figure 2-15, page 29, but without any 240V outlets). If there is a better type box to use as a subpanel box, I can certainly get another one.

    I realize I'm in a little over my head, but I feel like I'm really close to getting it done. I appreciate your help!
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    note that you did not say you were going dual in/dual out. it can be as in that figure, but the 2 legs of the 240vac are being handled separately. as i said, you don't want to bring the 2 hot legs of a 240vac circuit together. the fact that you don't know what it is i'm talking about suggests to me that you should not wire it as 240vac at all and stay with either a large #6/2 wire and a 60a breaker or the 30a breaker and 10/2 wire.
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    OK. You've been most helpful. Thank you.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    don't take what i said wrongly as i'm thinking of your safety here. i don't want somebody to needlessly get hurt or damage their stuff.:cry:
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Thank you for steering me in the right direction, Niel. I'm going to go ahead and go with the single in - single out then. I couldn't find a single pole 60A breaker here, and I already have the 30A single pole breaker and half the wiring already run. I looked at my main breaker panel this evening. Since all the breakers are in a row, I presumed it was single phase. I just looked more closely and see the buses do alternate just like a larger home panel. If I just use single in - single out, I don't have to worry about phase, right? If as such I have only one hot wire coming to my subpanel from the inverter, I can just connect it to both of the hot buses in my subpanel load center as pictured above, right?
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    correct and correct. you're learning.:D
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade
    niel wrote: »
    you're learning.:D
    Little by little... With regards to phase, do I need to be concerned about lack of load balancing the way I have my subpanel wired (as pictured above)? Is that going to have any significant affect on the power output of my inverter?
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    pictured above where? way back?

    as far as the subpanel goes it's all 1 phase so nothing to balance. it's possible your utility connected panel could go a bit out of kilter if it's fed 240vac. if it does go off a bit then switch places with a breaker right beside it. you can judge beforehand which leg may have the larger draw upon it and then place the inverter onto a breaker on the other leg. this assumes you know how to use a dmm without doing harm to yourself or the meter. it is only a 30a tap and i wouldn't be too worried in any case.
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I've decided to go with the dual in - single out configuration. Supposedly this will allow charging of the batteries to be unencumbered by the loads when on shore/generator power. I believe the subpanel wiring will be unchanged. Thanks for all your advice!
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    very good.
    good luck with your project and be careful.:D
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I've completed the installation of the inverter in my 5th wheel. It works great, and nothing has caught on fire! :D

    Here are a couple pictures of the completed installation, if anyone's interested. Again, thanks for the helpful comments. Next up: solar installation.

    Inverter installed in pass-through storage compartment (basement):
    inverterinstallcomplete.jpg

    Added outdoor electrical outlet hinged cover for access to breakers of subpanel which is behind wall of basement storage compartment (pictures showing it closed and open):
    subpanelaccessclosed.jpg
    subpanelaccessopen.jpg

    Magnum ME-ARC remote inside:
    inverterremotedisplay.jpg
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    I completed the final stage of the electrical upgrades on my RV. I mounted the two Mage 180W panels on the roof and got every hooked up.

    We went dry-camping last weekend, so I got to put the system to test. I'm happy with the results. Having the inverter and solar panels significantly decreased generator run time. I probably only used the generator 1/4 of what I previously would have. It was nice being able to watch a movie at night, or use the microwave in the morning without having to start up the generator.

    The maximum daily harvest was 2.43kWh (178.6Ah). The maximum amp output I observed on the Rogue's display was 25A. This seemed good to me, but this is my first experience with solar. Does that sound about right for flat mounted panels?

    Here are some pictures of the completed installation:

    solarpanelsinstalled.jpg

    chargecontrollerdisplay.jpg
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Posts: 17,615Banned ✭✭
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    25 Amps peak out of 360 Watts of panel on a 12 Volts system is good. It's like 98% efficiency. Likewise 2.4 kW hours - nearly 7 hours of "equivalent good sun". (Of course controller meter readings aren't perfectly accurate.)

    Sounds like you've got it good! :D
  • soleilsoleil Posts: 45Solar Expert
    Re: 5th Wheel RV Solar/Battery/Inverter Upgrade

    Thanks Marc. Now I need to get some panels for my house!
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