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Old 08-28-2020, 01:12 PM   #1
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Solar help

Hi all,
I don't have my crossroads trailer anymore, but I still read and post here because I have gotten really good knowledge and advice from you guys over the years. So, I am going to post this here.

I know there is a ton of information on solar out there. I just found out that its going to cost me thousands of dollars to get temporary power on my property.

So, I need to learn about solar. I have next to 0 knowledge, so can you point me to some good articles where I can learn the basics quickly and build my knowledge base.

Basically, I have a 2003 Montana 3655fl 5th wheel. It is 50 amp, but only has one ac. I can run the water heater and refrigerator on propane. I am assuming 12v led lights are a minor issue, but I will need electric for the furnace or ac, plus maybe computer and TV. Maybe refrigerator is no good and I would have to put an electric one in. What about the water pump.

I have a generator, but don't want to run it all the time. Can the generator charge up the battery banks as well.

Trailer should get decent sun during the day. It is on the edge of a clearing.

We will only use on the weekends.

What is the minimum, average and maximum systems I would need.

This is an older trailer, so I am assuming it doesn't have any solar pre wiring.
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Old 08-30-2020, 08:03 AM   #2
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Your furnace should run on propane. Yes the generator will charge the batteries. You will still need to winterize to keep the pipes from freezing. I know you can use solar to charge up the batteries and but I’ll let someone that’s more knowledgeable about a true solar setup give better advice. Maybe this video will help. Good luck.
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Old 08-30-2020, 06:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Dallasrules View Post
Hi all,
I don't have my crossroads trailer anymore, but I still read and post here because I have gotten really good knowledge and advice from you guys over the years. So, I am going to post this here.

I know there is a ton of information on solar out there. I just found out that its going to cost me thousands of dollars to get temporary power on my property.

So, I need to learn about solar. I have next to 0 knowledge, so can you point me to some good articles where I can learn the basics quickly and build my knowledge base.

Basically, I have a 2003 Montana 3655fl 5th wheel. It is 50 amp, but only has one ac. I can run the water heater and refrigerator on propane. I am assuming 12v led lights are a minor issue, but I will need electric for the furnace or ac, plus maybe computer and TV. Maybe refrigerator is no good and I would have to put an electric one in. What about the water pump.

I have a generator, but don't want to run it all the time. Can the generator charge up the battery banks as well.

Trailer should get decent sun during the day. It is on the edge of a clearing.

We will only use on the weekends.

What is the minimum, average and maximum systems I would need.

This is an older trailer, so I am assuming it doesn't have any solar pre wiring.

I have solar, but it's not a big system. I installed it quite a few years back. Solar was more expensive then.

For you to put in a system that would take care of all your needs that you talked about, would cost you a lot of money. Then with a system that big, you would have to put in a big enough battery bank to store all of it. you also would need a pretty good size pure sine wave inverter. You are talking big bucks.


If you only use the rig on weekends, I suggest just sticking with the generator till they get the power into you.
Probably not what you wanted to hear, but I think it makes the most sense.
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Old 08-30-2020, 08:53 PM   #4
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i don't have solar on my rig yet but have been looking at it pretty hard. Things to note:
Your DC stuff won't have much of a problem. You're running it now on a couple of lead/acid DC batteries and it probably works.

Trying to run the AC stuff can be a problem. You can put an inverter in but then you're probably going to need more batteries. If you hot water tank is AC it will eat power like crazy and the AC is going to eat a 100AH lithium battery every hour.

Long and short... if you're just wanting to have power available when you get there a couple of panels with a Solar converter will do that. if you want to run everything like you do at home it will be expensive.
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Old 08-31-2020, 01:53 PM   #5
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I also have been looking how to boondock efficiently. A rock solid solar setup using what you stated as requirements is going to way exceed a generator run for a few times each day to charge batteries and run high draw AC when needed. The batteries you would need going solar are $1K each and you would need a minimum of 2. The panels, charge controller, and inverter are minimally another $2K. Analyze the solar exposure to direct sun - location, incident angle of sun onto panel, and clouds are critical. A 12V TV as seen in conversion vans would alleviate some of the 110V need. Using a laptop PC also eliminates 110V needs. I see the AC as your only concern so long as you can refrigerate, heat, and cook on propane. If you can live without AC, suitcase 100W charger and using the tow vehicle to charge your batteries would be sufficient. The only way to run AC is on a 3500W generator, unless the soft start conversion would lower the requirement to 2500 to 3000W. Good Luck. And please let us know what you find.
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Old 09-01-2020, 03:24 PM   #6
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My system will maintain 550ah of lithium batteries. I usually have another camper plugged into mine to charge it as well.
The inverter run continuous. We run all except the water heater and a/c without generator. But we just had a very hot week up here and had to run generator for the a/c in mid day. The tv never shuts off cause I have a teenage kid that can not survive without mindless drone.

I would look at matching the system. so panel total watt will push the solar controller to the max charge current the batteries can take.

I looked at xantrex for inverter but the warranty fell short of what I wanted. So I went with victron Energy for the 3 main items. MPPT solar controller 150/100 model. BVM-712 battery monitor. And finally 12/3000/50/120 Inverter.
I installed 1240W of Q-Peak panels on roof (4X310w).
If your in the US then look at the battleborn Lithium batteries.
I almost forgot that I installed a cerbo gx to monitor and control the system. It also controls the generator start/stop.

Now this system was put together because we mainly never see a powered site. Actually this upcoming weekend will be the first time in 5 years. Kinda excited to see if shore power will work as well....
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Old 09-01-2020, 05:08 PM   #7
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Miniozzy3, what was the overall cost of solar and the genset you are running? And do you know the draw from both hooked up per hr. and peak?
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Old 09-01-2020, 05:20 PM   #8
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with satellite powered ,phones and other camper plugged it usually pulls 9-10A on the system. If I omit the other camper and turn off the sat reciever approx 6A.
the generator is a cheap King Canada 4000w (basically the same as Westinghouse 4500). At 100A charge rate it pulls 1750-1800w while charging.
But I don't usually use it to charge.
The solar I have seen it hit 72A of charge, which is awesome for being in Canada and the panels flat on roof. In Arizona I would expect them to almost keep up with a/c.

The solar was the cheap part. 240.00 CDN per panel and MPPT was cheap until I went lithium then I had to upgrade to one that was controlled by BMS. 1200.00 CDN ( the original was returned and was 460.00 cdn)

I will usually go through 140ah per night and it will be charged by supper if the kid has the tv on all day.
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Old 09-02-2020, 04:21 PM   #9
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[Full time weekenders is a good description of what we would be doing. We own the property, but don't plan to do anything with it for now, except to camp. The electric company wants $8000 to run temporary power, so that is out.

I have found a system that I think will work for the most part. Seems pretty good to me, except that I think they have too much panel for the batteries. From what I was learning, I would probably need more battery, and less panels, but I can add those. Plus its only a 2000w/4000w inverter. I was thinking 3000w, but otherwise, I believe a good deal. Please if you all can give me input, I would appreciate it. Price is good at $1500, but its a 5 hour drive to go get everything. I would go on Sunday. System is basically new and I can add batteries over time (can't I?)

Cotek 2000w pure sine inverter, Morningstar TS-45 solar controller, Sqare D 70 amp breaker box, (2) 70 foot lengths of 10 age photovoltaic wire, #2 wires for connecting batteries, (4) Infinium Solar 250 watt panels and (4) Vmax SLR125 AGM deep cycle batteries. Had boxes mounted, but never hooked it completely up. $3200 invested, selling for $1500 firm.

I would want to set this all up on the ground. Can I run an rv plug from the panel box and plug the rv up to it?

I do have the generator, but don't want to run it all the time. Probably won't need ac soon, more than likely the furnace as we get later into the year. If anyone sees any major problems with this, please speak up.
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Old 09-02-2020, 04:54 PM   #10
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Thatís not a bad deal. My whole setup was probably 16-18,000. But I had to rewrite the complete RV due to previous owners jumping and splicing to find their problem. Also my batteries made up about 8,000 of the bill due to being only 2 batteries.
I seriously thought about AGM before going lithium.
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Old 09-02-2020, 10:28 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Miniozzy3 View Post
Thatís not a bad deal. My whole setup was probably 16-18,000. But I had to rewrite the complete RV due to previous owners jumping and splicing to find their problem. Also my batteries made up about 8,000 of the bill due to being only 2 batteries.

I seriously thought about AGM before going lithium.
Is that 16k-18k dollars?!?!?!
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Old 09-03-2020, 07:19 AM   #12
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It is in Cdn dollars. We bought a lemon.
Electrical was totally shot. And my batteries bms and electric disconnects were almost 8000.00
Way above battleborn batteries as there is internal heaters and they are 275 ah per battery. I can charge below 32 deg.
And it was cheaper than bringing power to where we boondock. Iíve been out there since early may. So it was worth it to us
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Old 09-03-2020, 12:38 PM   #13
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Wow, Ive been following this thread and know you've put in a lot of work. But man, for that cost you could have bought a 7000 watt Honda inverter generator and still had plenty left over for fuel for years.
I'd like to get solar some day, but too expensive for me at this time.
Just remember, eventually you'll need new batteries, start saving again.
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Old 09-03-2020, 12:53 PM   #14
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My problem was wearing out generators like 2 per year.
Last year alone I basically put 2000 hrs on generators.
Even the Honda’s are as good as they used to be. And burning 10 gallon of fuel per week was bugging me. And now my wife can’t sleep so she gets up and watches tv 1/2 the night. I’m glad I don’t need to hear the generator running at night.
I do have the system programmed to auto start the gen if it reaches 1800w draw for more than 5 min and or 20 percent battery.
The plan is to never deal with battery replacement again and still be able to boondock in my sixties
Im kinda a tech nerd when it comes to that stuff. I’ll be installing actual float sensors in tanks this winter. And the system will also monitor that.
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Old 09-03-2020, 03:20 PM   #15
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https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/the-rv-battery-charging-puzzle-2/

This is the most informative blog I've used with the whole solar/battery/inverter design questions.

For me the most important first step was replacing my batteries with the 6v's and installing a battery monitor. Now im never blind to my usage. I've figured out how much power I need using real time camping vs estimates, which was great for figuring out how much Ws I need.

2nd biggest word of advice is dont cheap put on cable gauge. Went in doubt size up.
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Old 09-03-2020, 03:46 PM   #16
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Totally agree. A battery monitor is the best purchase for really knowing what you have available. Volt meters tell nothing and the kib monitor that most rv’s have is worse.
Buy one with a decent sized shunt so it counts properly. Ah in and ah out.
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Old 09-04-2020, 11:42 AM   #17
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a few more questions

I do have an 8K window ac unit I can use, and I do have a generator. Probably won't need the ac until next year anyway.

The system I am looking at only has a 2k/4k inverter. How do I know if that is enough?

I want to build something on the ground to put the whole setup in. It comes with a 70amp breaker box. Can I run a 50amp plug off that breaker box and plug up the rv with the shore power cord, or do I need to wire it differently? If I can plug it in, how does that effect the power setup that comes in the trailer (battery and whatever charges it?) I am still unclear on how this part of the system would work? Also, how is the generator used to charge up the batteries? How does it fit into the system as a whole?

I guess I still need to get a battery monitor for this setup also.
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Old 09-04-2020, 03:57 PM   #18
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A 13.5 a/c roof top unit will run 1700w once it’s all running. So could be around 12-13 amps @120 vac. But most unit will have a large spike in amps to start compressor. That is what kills inverters.
I can start mine on battery and it will run. But I had to install a micro air easy start.
Now it runs at 1300w. And compressor spike is up to 1800w. So for any off grid setups look at that.
As for panels and batteries. Panels are rated at max or peak performance. I have 1240 w on top of my rv. The most I have seen generated is 850-900w for a short time. So basically my batteries are large enough to start. But I will run out of owner after about 5 hrs because the panels will not charge the batteries at the same rate of discharge. So depending on where you are located the panels will generate less than peak.
The inverter you have might be able to start it being 4K peak. Just run large cables
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Old 09-14-2020, 11:13 AM   #19
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Update

I have learned alot, thanks to everyone. here is my current status in my solar adventure

What I want to do:
I want to build a solar setup that will be the primary source of power to my RV. I want this setup to be self contained in a box with the panels attached to the top. It will sit 20 to 30 feet away from the RV. i want to be able to plug the rv into the setup for power, and disconnect it when not in use. We will mostly only be using the rv on the weekends. I also have a generator that I can use to charge the batteries, or run some ac next summer.

Here is what I have:
Cotek 2000w pure sine inverter
Morningstar TS-45 solar controller
(4) Infinuim 250w panels (12v or 24v?)
(4) vmax SLR125 AGM batteries
Square D 70 amp breaker box with 40amp breaker
(2) 70' 10 age photovoltaic wire
#2 wires for connecting batteries
2003 Montana 3655FL 5th wheel trailer (50 amp)

Here is what I think I need:
MC4 connectors for the solar pannels
fuse or beaker coming out of solar charger (size?)
negative ground bar, possibly a positive one also for connections
inline fuse for + battery terminal connection
4 guage wire and connectors to connect components if system is 24v
A way to power rv ac from inverter. I think I can run the inverter to the beaker box to an rv plug and use the rv shore power cord to plug in to that. I can turn off rv breakers for what I don't want to run.
I need to disconnect the converter and battery that are in the rv
I need to connect the rv dc fusebox to the solar battery bank. Can I run another cord and plug for this? what size would I need? Is power drop going to be a problem for dc over the 20 to 30 feet to the trailer. I have either a 6 or 8 guage cord I can use.
Battery monitor. I would like to be able to monitor the batteries from inside the rv, so something with bluetooth or a remote display would be preferable.
I need a way to charge th battery bank from my generator. Do i need another converter for this? If so, where does it fit in the system?
If panels are 24v, I need to know hoe to connect my batteries. I know I connect 2 in series to get 24v. That would give me 2 sets of 24v, but then how do I connect those in parallel? Also, if I add batteries in the future, do I have to add them in Pairs?
I need to know how to connect my panels. if the are 24v, do they all just connect in parallel?
If my solar panels are not 24v, will my solar charger still work? or will it work if they are 24v?
I need to know how to configure the solar charger
if my battery bank is 24v, is there anything neccessary to connect it back to my 12v rv system?
brackets to connect my solar panels to the (frame/box). I plan to build the box to house the system, but would be open to buying something if the price was reasonable.
am I wrong in any of the above information, or am I missing anything?
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:28 PM   #20
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Lots to think on here.
With panels I would hook them up in series ( depends what voltage the mppt can take). This keeps the wire size down. Also mc4 connectors are only good to a certain amp rating. You might be crossing it if left parallel.

24 v system keeps wire size down but what voltage is the inverter? If it’s only 12v then you need another box to drop voltage to it.
A good battery meter will help a lot in knowing how the system is doing. Check out victron BVM-712. It even has build in relay that you can hook up to turn the inverter off if batteries get low or run a electric disconnect to prevent batteries from over charging.

The solar chargers work best if you get close to the max input voltages. Then they will get the higher amps to charge. (My panels are running series/parallel. 76-78 vdc at about 7-9 amps. Which the mppt then converts to 12v @60-70 amp)

Sorry had to jump from phone to computer and had to come back and edit....

1. get grote disconnectable breakers between solar panels and mppt.
2. converter can still be left in to charge batteries with shore/generator. And you only need one.
3. if your going to manually turn off breakers when running on inverter just get a transfer switch and have it set to disconnect inverter when shore/generator are powered. ( had a cheap one from amazon before I got the current setup).
The problem will be running both legs in a 50 amp service. mine was 30 and I just powered everything and we knew what we could run and what we couldn't
here is what I had but in 50amp https://www.amazon.com/Technology-Re...%2C201&sr=8-10

Solor panels should not be connected in the dc fuse box. panels to breakers to mppt to batteries. and on the negitive side there will be a shunt between mppt and batteries.

Configuring the solar charger should be covered in the manual. Also contact the battery manufacture and usually they have info on what best to charge at.
Power drop will not be a problem with the solar panels to mppt that is in the RV.
Definitely look into series wiring the panels.

I found I could build all the brackets cheaper by sourcing metal and just going that way.

I hope some of this helps.
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