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Thread: solar in my 5th wheel

  1. #1

    Default solar in my 5th wheel

    I just bought a 37 foot 5th wheel and want to run it fully off of solar and wind how would I get the solar and wind power to my receptacles in the 5th wheel, can I just run a cord from my inverter to the outside plug in where I would plug in at a park?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SF Bay Area (California)
    Posts
    20,817

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Welcome to the forum Colt Le,

    Yes, you can do just about anything with the proper inverter and support equipment.

    Your limitations tend to be around Battery size, weight, and the amount of solar panel you can fit on the roof/side of the RV. Also, if you need backup power (generator/fuel supply).

    In general, it is really helpful to have some sort of design limitations/requirements. How much battery/solar panels you can support, how much loads you need to supply power to, and how much money you wish to spend.

    Power use is a highly personal set of choices--One person/family can live on 1,000 WH (1 kWh) per day (using propane for refrigerator/cooking/heating/hot water)--Convert over to a full sized energy star refrigerator/refrigerator and some more laptop computer/cell phone/digital data networking--Perhaps 3.3 kWH per day...

    Will you be living in the RV full time, weekends, seasonally? Will it be in the south west of the US (lots of sun)? Will you be parking in the winter/or going north for winter sports/etc.?

    Anyway, lots of questions about what your needs are.

    Off grid solar power is "expensive"--About 10x the cost of utility power--So lots of conservation and selection of equipment that will make use of the limited (off grid) power available.

    -Bill
    20x BP 4175B panels (replacement) + Xantrex GT 3.3 inverter for 3kW Grid Tied system + Honda eu2000i Inverter/Generator for emergency backup.

  3. #3

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Quote Originally Posted by colt le View Post
    I just bought a 37 foot 5th wheel and want to run it fully off of solar and wind how would I get the solar and wind power to my receptacles in the 5th wheel
    Normally an isolated sub panel including an isolated neutral bus. Most will put their wall outlets and microwave here and attempt to get by with a 2kw PSW inverter with built in transfer switch.

    Quote Originally Posted by colt le View Post
    can I just run a cord from my inverter to the outside plug in where I would plug in at a park?
    Yep but unless you have a monster inverter you won't power the entire RV. Are you 50 amp or 30 amp?

    -Jeff
    Coming; 700 watt's solar, Classic 150, 4 6v Gc2's

  4. #4

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Quote Originally Posted by colt le View Post
    I just bought a 37 foot 5th wheel and want to run it fully off of solar and wind how would I get the solar and wind power to my receptacles in the 5th wheel, can I just run a cord from my inverter to the outside plug in where I would plug in at a park?
    The solar and wind (reconsider that as it is not likely to be at all practical) power are DC and connect via charge controller to the battery. They do not feed the AC input at all.

    If you are considering adding an inverter you will probably end up doing an extensive rewire to remove the RV's 'converter' (basically an over-sized DC power supply) and replace it with an inverter-charger which can supply 120 VAC from the batteries or accept 'shore power' or generator AC input to both run AC loads and charge the batteries.

    You could take an AC output from an inverter and plug it in to the shore power input, but it will be somewhat messy and inefficient and necessitates isolating the inverter's batteries from any other RV batteries, otherwise you will create a power loop: batteries run inverter which supplies AC to converter which charges the batteries which are running the inverter. All that will do is use up power.

    Much depends on what you have now for a power system.
    1220 Watts of PV, OB MX60, 232 Amp hrs, OB 3524, Honda eu2000.

    Ohm's Law: Amps = Volts / Ohms
    Power Formula: Watts = Volts * Amps

  5. #5

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Mine is 50 amp I think your right though maybe easier to just run a separate panel for the solar and wind then I can still use the other panel if I plug in ever. Thanks

  6. #6

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Do you know where there is a wiring diagram anywhere online to wire this system from the solar panels all the way to the shutoff panel?

  7. #7

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Quote Originally Posted by colt le View Post
    Do you know where there is a wiring diagram anywhere online to wire this system from the solar panels all the way to the shutoff panel?
    Wiring from solar panels to charge controller to batteries is easy. Integrating new wiring of any type into an existing system is more difficult. Again it depends on exactly what you have now.
    1220 Watts of PV, OB MX60, 232 Amp hrs, OB 3524, Honda eu2000.

    Ohm's Law: Amps = Volts / Ohms
    Power Formula: Watts = Volts * Amps

  8. #8

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Quote Originally Posted by colt le View Post
    Mine is 50 amp I think your right though maybe easier to just run a separate panel for the solar and wind then I can still use the other panel if I plug in ever. Thanks
    50 amp. Do you know what this means? Dual 120's out of phase.

    Second question: No

    The question is what will you run off the inverter regardless where the inverter gets its power.

  9. #9

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Is there a way to just wire my 5th wheel just solar into my breaker panel that exists now I don't even care about having shore power

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SF Bay Area (California)
    Posts
    20,817

    Default Re: solar in my 5th wheel

    Yes, there are several ways...

    If your loads are relatively small: Battery to AC inverter to trailer internal AC outlets. Solar panel+solar charge controller to battery bank. And AC power to AC Battery charger to battery bank. Basically, a continuous AC inverter (UPS--uninterruptible power supply). If you have a few larger appliances, then wire separately to Shore Power/Generator line (Microwave, etc.). Not quite as efficient, but if kept small, the losses are not that big.

    Another way is to buy an AC inverter with an internal AC transfer switch--Wire as above, plus AC shore/generator to AC1 Input on AC inverter. Inverter will choose AC1 or battery backed AC power. Can glitch a bit (i.e., may reboot a desktop computer when shore power "goes away"). More efficient to use AC power from source (shore/genset) than to convert from AC to DC to Battery to AC -- Better for "larger systems".

    A new AC inverter-charger with "generator support". Sort of like the second one, but the battery+AC inverter can support AC output of the inverter. Helpful when you have a small genset (like a Honda eu1000i/2000i) but need occasional larger amounts of power (microwave, power tools). Really nifty. AC output from inverter has the efficiency of a small/fuel efficient genset and the backup power of a good size AC inverter+Battery bank to support short term surges/loads. Probably more likely to be found on large cabin/home/backup to grid for "city/country home", possibly with net metering, etc...

    And variations in between.

    Really gets down to defining your loads. As always, battery/solar/off grid power is not cheap. Lead Acid batteries are big and heavy (vs their storage capacity). A small off grid power system (lights, radio, small TV, laptop computer, cell phone charging, small fan) + a smallish genset (Honda eu2000i or other similar) for the dark days (recharging battery bank during day) and for larger loads (when needed).

    You are usually limited in battery capacity+solar array. Usually better to build a "balanced" system (right size battery bank, right size array to keep battery bank happy, backup genset+AC charger when needed).

    -Bill
    20x BP 4175B panels (replacement) + Xantrex GT 3.3 inverter for 3kW Grid Tied system + Honda eu2000i Inverter/Generator for emergency backup.

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