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  #1  
Old 03-22-2015
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NealinNevada NealinNevada is offline
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Default ALMOST 1kW solar panel install...

Well, I promised I would do this...better late than never! I ran into Joe Garner (konehd) at Organ Pipe NM after Q. We were just getting back from a couple of months in Mexico. I was admiring Joe's solar panel install on his Bird because we like to boondock as much as possible, while hating the generator usage it takes to keep our 800Ahr of AGM batteries happy. While standing on Joe's WB roof, Joe made the mistake of saying "Why don't you come up to our place in Sedona, AZ and I'll give you a hand installing them". Before he could take his next breath I jumped in with "You bet!"

Well, off to Tucson for a couple weeks of visiting and preparing for the install (purchase angle aluminum, plate aluminum, and order the panels/controller). In addition, I had to junk an old satellite dish and move the newer one to the front of the coach to get the room for the installation. I had a couple of objectives that I fretted over for a while. The primary one was to put the three largest output panels I could find yet have room at least on one side of the coach to walk the entire length of the coach for maintenance. I wanted high-output panels so that I would not have to get on the roof to raise the panels to maximize solar input. So I purchased way more aluminum than I would need, ordered the panels and an MPPT controller. Here was the basics and what they cost:

3/16" aluminum plate, 6 inches wide - about 16'
2"x2" aluminum angle - about 50'

cost: $250 (this could have been $150 if I had waited until I got to Sedona to measure everything up...but I preferrred to have as much in place as possible when I got there. I could likely do a second install with the material I have left over).

3 - Kyocera KD330GX-LFB, 330 watt solar panels ($1.07 per watt)
1 - MidNite 200 lite MPPT controller
1 - MidNite remote graphics panel
1 - 500A shunt
1 - MidNite Whizbang Jr. battery monitor
1 - 60 amp breaker (input side of the controller)
1 - 60 amp Maxi fuse holder and fuse (at the batteries)
6 - aluminum aircraft hinges (allowing the panels to be raised on either side)

cost: roughly $1900

So here we go...with pictures!

First the attachment of the aircraft hinges. They were riveted to the frame of the panels their entire length. Here is Joe and I (fat guy in front) with the hinge fabbed-up up to the panels with one of the legs which extend from the panels to the aluminum ribbed plate on the top of the bus. The solar panel is face down on the table in the picture and those things which are sticking out are Cleco fasteners which basically hold the fabrication in place and aligned as we begin to rivet the assembly together. We then riveted the hinges to the feet and the angle aluminum which the panels rest inside of on the coach. We did not rivet the panels to the hinges until we got the frame installed on the roof of the coach.



Here is a close up of the foot connection.



After the hinges and feet were fabricated...Notice on one side the feet are bent and the other side they are not. The plan was to mount the bent side to the catwalks on the coach and the straight pieces to the goatrails on the drivers side of the coach.



After the frame assemblies were up on the roof and with the entire drivers side installed we began getting the panels up there...easier said than done. These panels weigh about 60 lbs each. This is yours truly drilling and riveting the frame/hinge assemblies to the goatrails...



and here is the center panel installed.



Then basically replicating what we did with the center panel, the three panels were installed! That is about 17 feet x 4.5 feet of panels!



We found that the goatrails are not as rigid as we suspected...so we made two braces which tightened the assembly up dramatically.



Then we plugged these panels in series (making for a potential 150+ VDC off the roof) and ran the wires through flex conduit to the curb side rear where it entered the coach.



I ran conduit up from the battery compartment (and down from the roof) to where the old TV was installed in the bedroom and that is where I installed the controller.



So, the job was finished (at a cost of about $2.15/watt installed) and after about a most pleasant two week visit/install session with Joe & Pat and John & Diane (altogether 6 panels were installed while we were there, on three coaches) it was time to hit the road and see how they worked.

We headed to Mesquite Springs Campground at Death Valley (no hookups). Here is my typical day usage of electricity...

- 2 pots of coffee in the morning,
- water and air pumps for the coach,
- lights at night, and
- watch a movie or two (32" flatscreen with soundbar and subwoofer),
- music (through the soundbar) or radio almost all day, plus
- a continuous 4.9 amp draw for the coach systems (parasitic draw)

This usage used to make me run the generator approximately 4 hours per day to keep the batteries charged. The morning after arriving at Death Valley (after coffee) when I got up the state of charge on the batteries was about 85% (reading about 12.5 volts open circuit) By 1 PM the batteries were at 100% charge and the controller went into float mode . Every day for the ten days we were there it was the same thing...charged full batteries between 12 noon and 1 PM! One day was really overcast, so very little charging. The next morning after coffee the batteries were at 70% charge and they were fully charged by 3 PM.

The highest voltage I have seen recorded by the controller is 143 volts and the highest wattage has been at 711 watts...the controller has charged the batteries at 40 amps a number of times. Typically by 10 AM it is already charging the batteries at 30 amps. Now I am designing a system to divert the electricity available in the afternoon to the water heater...man, I can't wait!

I am more than pleased with the outcome and we wish to thank Joe and Pat for their hospitality and friendship...I couldn't have done it without you Joe!

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1994 WB40 and a slow '73 Nova SS
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Last edited by NealinNevada; 03-23-2015 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 03-23-2015
Jim Brookshire Jim Brookshire is offline
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Great looking job! You guys do good work!😃 I added a 4th panel (picked it up in Flagstaff on the way back from Q) and now have 4 X 275 = 1100 watts. Still need about an hour of gen a day due to residential refrig. Big panels in series seem to be the way to go.
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Old 03-23-2015
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JamesR JamesR is offline
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Very nice write up. I am interested in this for a future project.

Way to go!!
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  #4  
Old 03-23-2015
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NealinNevada NealinNevada is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Brookshire View Post
Great looking job! You guys do good work!😃 I added a 4th panel (picked it up in Flagstaff on the way back from Q) and now have 4 X 275 = 1100 watts. Still need about an hour of gen a day due to residential refrig. Big panels in series seem to be the way to go.
Jim, one of the reasons I put on panels was so that I could switch to a residential refer unit and now you mention that you must run your generator an hour per day . What refer did you install? I probably will forestall the hot water heating installation until after I do the refer swap. I guess a fourth panel is a possibility, if I had to.
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1994 WB40 and a slow '73 Nova SS
Palomino Valley, NV

Where we are...

Once more I have to ask "What did humans ever do to deserve dogs?"

Map of Service Centers
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Old 03-23-2015
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rtpn60 rtpn60 is offline
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Guess it just depends on your overall system idle draw AND the type fridge you use. After my 900w solar installation I have not used my genset since last November! I'll need it soon for AC use as the heat hits us in Arizona but for my fridge, CPAP, stereo, amplifier, subwoofers, etc... no issue.

The biggest issue with the larger nice fridges are the ice makers and auto defrost, those draw much more power than the simple units do, so do your home work.
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Old 03-23-2015
Jim Brookshire Jim Brookshire is offline
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Refrigator is Samsung French door 18 cuf with ice maker. And wife uses LOTS of ice. I'm sure Mike is correct about the power use, unfortunately wife would now rather leave me behind than the refrigerator.
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Old 03-23-2015
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My wife loves our Samsung also, food lasts much longer! Also have to run gen about 4 hours to recharge, fridge runs great on BB inverter.
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Old 03-23-2015
mpierce mpierce is offline
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A big loss is the 4.9 amp parasitic load. Almost 120 per day. One needs to try to get that as low as possible. Getting to two amps per hr, would save about 70 per day!
Also, add more batteries. If full by one pm, there is a lot of amps that could be stored after that.
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Old 03-23-2015
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NealinNevada NealinNevada is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpierce View Post
A big loss is the 4.9 amp parasitic load. Almost 120 per day. One needs to try to get that as low as possible. Getting to two amps per hr, would save about 70 per day!
Also, add more batteries. If full by one pm, there is a lot of amps that could be stored after that.
I should have added that additional batteries were on my mind when I said "add another panel". I am hunting around for the parasitic draws to eliminate them if possible. When I flip the AT switch, the draw goes down to 1.9 amps. Does anyone have suggestions for killing the "easy" parasitic draws?

I do believe I will install the Samsung 18 cu. ft. model and give it a spin for awhile to see if the panels can keep up the batteries with the added demand. I do NOT want to go back to running the genset to keep batteries charged under most conditions. As Mike said, I have not had to run the generator since I flipped the solar system on about three weeks ago and it is not missed, at all!
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Neal

1994 WB40 and a slow '73 Nova SS
Palomino Valley, NV

Where we are...

Once more I have to ask "What did humans ever do to deserve dogs?"

Map of Service Centers

Last edited by NealinNevada; 03-23-2015 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 03-23-2015
konehd konehd is offline
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Besides installing Neal's 1KW system I added a third panel to my roof.
It brings my total to a little over 900W.

BTW, the parasitic load on mine is almost 6A.

Heres a photo of the front 2 panels, I added the front one. The 3rd panel is behind, over the rear AC unit.

We had a lot of fun doing this! A friend with a SOB installed 2 x 250W panels on his roof at the same time.... There is a photo of him too!

/Joe
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