RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

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Hi Folks,

I have been lurking and reading about solar RV systems for a while now. This is my 17 foot Boler. I have been trying to make progress on the solar system but in this climate there are only two seasons, snow or no snow. When there is no snow I am too busy using the trailer to work on it and during snow season, most of the time its too cold. Probably nothing anyone here can do about that but maybe you can give me some tips on the electrical system anyways.

Comments

  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Welcome. I can't help with the electric but hope if you do something that you keep providing pictures. What do you want to know?
    gww
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Here's my battery. Its a few months old. Right now I charge it with a CTEK smart charger for a complete charge. This year I had a heavy guage charge wire installed on my tow vehicle a Dodge Ram diesel. I want the solar system for the times when I am not traveling and boondocking in the country. First thing I did was change the interior lights to LED from incandescents. That made a big difference. I have 7 bulbs now LED at 4 watts each. I rarely use more than 4 at a time on battery power but I like to stay up late reading at night. So the lighting load is about 1.5 amps for 4 to 6 hours per day for 6 to 9 amp hours a day. Next most important thing is the waterpump. Not sure how many amp hours it really uses but I am sure it could pump my 20 gallon tank dry in less than an hour at 4 to 5 amp draw. My battery is group 27 with 100 AH of which I plan to use less than 50 AH day. 20 to 30 AH would probably be better.
  • SkykoSkyko Solar Expert Posts: 121 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    I would think with your cold weather area the furnace fan is going to be your major current draw. The ones in the Atwood propane furnaces draw about 3 amps at 12V and run a lot!
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    I am sure someone will chime in. I also drive the dodge diesel. Off subject, do you plug the dodge in during cold weather? I got about 300 watts at a wet weather stream, It will run a few lights, radio and maby a projection screen using a dvd player. It is just two car batteries and homade panels which I don't recomend.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Here is my battery box and the electrical wires where they enter the trailer through the floor. Routing of the wires is an issue for me. I am trying to avoid putting holes in the roof and having unsightly wires strung in view inside. I want to bring the new wires in where the original wiring is.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Hey gww1, I will roll out the entire scenario in a bit. I plug the dodge in if its colder than -12C. It is not a daily driver though so I dont run it when its really cold unless I have to.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Skyco, you are right about the furnace blower. Major issue with larger RV's. You often need a catalytic propane heater installed for boondocking. Fortunately my boler has an old fashioned if not somewhat inefficient heater without a blower! Also have the threeway fridge that some genius installed on top of the furnace so you can heat and try to cool your food at the same time! Unless I am plugged into shore power, the fridge runs on propane.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    So here is some more interior shots. The bench seat has a storage compartment where the wiring comes inside. I want to bring the wires up in the corner by the window through a white plastic pipe conduit so it is less likely to bee seen. The wires will go inside the upper cabinet where I plan to install the monitor. The old car stereo gets used a little. Mostly when I want to drown out noisy idiot neighbors. I want to put an auxillary adapter in it so I can hook up my mp3 player. Also note the 120v outlet below the bench seat. Plan to put a small 300 to 400 watt? Inverter there. Have a 19 inch LCD TV, DVD player and an immersion blender that will used occasionally. Non 12V chargers, power supplies would also be used if needed.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Most of my loads should be optional. We actually don't watch much TV but use our tablet computers alot. We also run a hotspot smartphone, ereaders, cameras, GPS, FRS radios and MP3 players. So any excess power will get sucked up for sure. I want to install 12V power sockets 2 and use them for USB charging 1 to 2 amp loads max.

    As you can see, this is one of two 75 watt panels I got second hand. Both the same dimensions. BP poly panel a bit heavy and bulky for portable use but should get me started. Originally I had planned to mount the panel on the trailer roof but due to wiring complications, I changed my mind. Now I want to make a suitcase like setup with the panel. Thinking of a flat cover of some sort to fold over the front of the panel for protection in transport.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    I got this controller, Its a rebranded Steca PR3030 30 amp controller with built in monitor. German made at a reasonable price. PWM without an external temp sensor. Mounting it inside would mean the controller and battery are different temperatures.
    Mounting it within two metres of the battery with heavy wire and getting wires to the PV and Load was a potential nightmare. Now I want to use this controllers for a second system in my shop. BUT not until I get the RV system done right!


    My latest idea is to put the PV on the ground with an appropriate length and guage of cable. Attach a sealed weatherproof controller near the battery along with a shunt and fuses then run wires in for a separate battery system monitor. The inverter would
    be within 2m of the battery on heavy wire. I dont totally understand the shunt and monitor wiring completely yet but since there would be no long runs of wiring that carry much current, I thimk it would be better with the controller outdoors.
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    The simplest thing to do would be to forget about having a monitor and just use a simple module controller But I really want a monitor because I think it will help me understand the operation of my system much better, enable proper conservation of power at the right time and give me the data I need to make upgrades effectively. My budget? $100-150.. I need wire for sure. $25-50 for a weatherproof charge controller 10 to 30 amp, a shunt, some fuzes, and a digital meter with a big variation in price. I might settle for a volt/ammeter if I have to. Get it working first and upgrade a bit later. ??????
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Here is a MPPT solar charge controller. 10 to 30 amp weatherproof with external temperature compensation. $25. I could see mounting this on the outside of my battery box. Wire run to the battery would be short. Put MC4 connectors on the PV terminals and go straight from the battery terminals with the load or should I use the load wires on the charge controller?



    http://www.ebay.ca/itm/151401437166?var=450586212269&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Here is the system monitor. 30 or 50 amp. With shunt for current measurements. Low power consumption, if its not low enough I will install a power switch. $35. The listing has a neat little wiring diagram that seems to be appropriate to my circumstance.


    http://www.ebay.ca/itm/180916808096?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649
  • ReedReed Solar Expert Posts: 55 ✭✭
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Rangergord

    You might find a couple of monitors helpful. The TriStar monitor tells how many Watts are being transferred to the battery bank and how many total W-hrs have been transferred to the battery bank that day (among a lot of other things). The battery monitor tells how many W-hours we are from full charge along with charge/discharge rate.

    They really give us a handle on what the solar/battery bank system is doing and what different appliances are drawing. We have several modes/mind sets in using battery bank/solar: from extremely frugal when we turn off the inverter when not in use to running the Dometic 24 hours a day.

    Have to admit that using the Olympian Wave8 catalytic heater makes a real difference in propane/battery use. We do not plan to be around places where it goes down below -12C very long.
    Reed and Elaine
  • rangergordrangergord Registered Users Posts: 12
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors
    Reed wrote: »
    Rangergord

    You might find a couple of monitors helpful. The TriStar monitor tells how many Watts are being transferred to the battery bank and how many total W-hrs have been transferred to the battery bank that day (among a lot of other things). The battery monitor tells how many W-hours we are from full charge along with charge/discharge rate.

    They really give us a handle on what the solar/battery bank system is doing and what different appliances are drawing. We have several modes/mind sets in using battery bank/solar: from extremely frugal when we turn off the inverter when not in use to running the Dometic 24 hours a day.

    Have to admit that using the Olympian Wave8 catalytic heater makes a real difference in propane/battery use. We do not plan to be around places where it goes down below -12C very long.
    Reed and Elaine

    Would love to have a catalytic. If the convection heater ever dies, I will put one in. Have no room for two heaters and I am just a short term RV'er at this point. My budget for this is rather small so top grade monitors are out but I do want to have an idea of what is going on. A voltmeter at the very least. The coldest temps I have used the trailer in was -5C, that was with water system drained and antifreeze filled. At -20C we took a motel room.
  • ReedReed Solar Expert Posts: 55 ✭✭
    Re: RV travel trailer solar system trials and errors

    Rangergord
    You would only need a small Olympia 3 for your size TT. The Olympa 8 (2.5 kW = 8000 BTU) keeps the main cabin of our 34' (11 m or so) 5th wheel quite nice to below freezing. We had to have everything going at -12 C. At continual -5C, you have to run the forced air heater several times a night to keep the main bay warm enough to prevent the pipes from freezing (turn off the water and drain the pipes before going to bed). Leaving a 40 to 60 W lamp on in the main bay will keep it fairly warm as well (best put a remote thermometer in the bay to make sure it is above freezing) Prolonged exposure to real cold probably requires baffles about the sides of the RV and some heating to keep the water tanks (fresh/grey/black) from freezing. We just head south.
    Reed and Elaine
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