Before I add SOLAR...

Electrical issues, both 12 volt and 120 volt
MalcolmS
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B190 Year: 1995

Before I add SOLAR...

Post by MalcolmS »

I have a working generator on my very stock & original 1995 B190, but I'm also going to add solar.

Before I do, I'm trying to read as much as possible. I've read some great ideas and advice in this forum. Some of the posts regarding solar & batteries are fairly old, so since technology is constantly improving, I'd like to see if anyone has added solar recently? If someone is also researching like crazy and has some advice to offer, please do so.

My first question is:
Are the wires which Airstream pre-installed for the purpose of running solar power from the roof to the controller adequate in size/gauge for a 300 watt 12 volt PV system? If not, has anyone used that same channel/conduit to pull new larger wires? Or is that not possible? If not possible through there, any suggestions for an easy route?

Has anyone discovered any complete high quality do-it-yourself kits that they like? I'm finding several that look good but would be nice to hear from someone who actually installed one of these kits recently. A few which I'm looking at are Zamp, Renogy, GoPower...

The battery option: I was thinking about locating my batteries under bench seat/bed. I was wondering where others who have done solar have decided to locate them? If they are inside I'll go with AGM but might possibly consider lithium but they are probably still too expensive.

I'm also converting to 4x4 soon and the lift might make accessing and storing batteries underneath possible?

Any thoughts/advise would be awesome.

Thanks
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usachris
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by usachris »

My suggestion would be to start with upgrading your power converter. It really is the heart of your power center. Check out Progressive Dynamics. They make a few models. I went with the 35 Amp and added a larger battery bank of 2 AGM 6v deep cycle marine batteries from Lifeline batteries #GPL-4CT

Upgrading my power converter and adding a larger battery bank were the steps I felt I needed to take first to prepare my rig for the addition of solar later this year.

https://www.progressivedyn.com/rv/power ... 00-series/

http://lifelinebatteries.com/products/m ... s/gpl-4ct/
Christopher Salazar
1999 B190 #301352
WBCCI #01422 Region 12, Unit 19
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skater
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by skater »

There is no stock solar controller - you'd have to add one (unless one was installed by a PO). The wiring in place is 12 gauge, if I remember correctly. I've heard from pros that they usually run a heavier gauge of wire to minimize losses, but I don't know how difficult that would be.
1991 Airstream B190 - bought, 2005; sold, 2011; bought 2017
1995 Airstream Excella 30' trailer

WBCCI #13270, Washington, DC Unit
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mountaindent
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by mountaindent »

MalcolmS wrote:I have a working generator on my very stock & original 1995 B190, but I'm also going to add solar.

Before I do, I'm trying to read as much as possible. I've read some great ideas and advice in this forum. Some of the posts regarding solar & batteries are fairly old, so since technology is constantly improving, I'd like to see if anyone has added solar recently? If someone is also researching like crazy and has some advice to offer, please do so.

My first question is:
Are the wires which Airstream pre-installed for the purpose of running solar power from the roof to the controller adequate in size/gauge for a 300 watt 12 volt PV system? If not, has anyone used that same channel/conduit to pull new larger wires? Or is that not possible? If not possible through there, any suggestions for an easy route?

Has anyone discovered any complete high quality do-it-yourself kits that they like? I'm finding several that look good but would be nice to hear from someone who actually installed one of these kits recently. A few which I'm looking at are Zamp, Renogy, GoPower...

The battery option: I was thinking about locating my batteries under bench seat/bed. I was wondering where others who have done solar have decided to locate them? If they are inside I'll go with AGM but might possibly consider lithium but they are probably still too expensive.

I have been thinking about upgrading with some solar and not wanting to give up shower or the wardrobe space(which is the access to plumbing and hot water heater bypass) thought about putting in the sliding drawer area under the couch/day bed. Would that be an ok place to put the batteries?

I'm also converting to 4x4 soon and the lift might make accessing and storing batteries underneath possible?

Any thoughts/advise would be awesome.

Thanks
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mountaindent
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by mountaindent »

usachris wrote:My suggestion would be to start with upgrading your power converter. It really is the heart of your power center. Check out Progressive Dynamics. They make a few models. I went with the 35 Amp and added a larger battery bank of 2 AGM 6v deep cycle marine batteries from Lifeline batteries #GPL-4CT

Upgrading my power converter and adding a larger battery bank were the steps I felt I needed to take first to prepare my rig for the addition of solar later this year.

https://www.progressivedyn.com/rv/power ... 00-series/

http://lifelinebatteries.com/products/m ... s/gpl-4ct/
Chris, what are you wanting to add as far as solar and what are you trying to accomplish with it? I need to piggyback off your ideas here and not sure exactly where to begin.
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okaynagan
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by okaynagan »

Congrats on going solar. I have just recently installed a solar panel and charge controller and have been researching solar for awhile now.
Here is a basic list of what you will need.
1) obviously solar panels
2) MC4 connectors and crimp tool for connecting the solar panels to your new wiring.
3) solar charge controller
4) Power inverter if you intend to run AC devices from your battery
5) Fuses to be installed between solar panel → controller and controller → battery
6) Needed wiring of the proper gauge
Solar Panels. 12 Volts panels are not truly “12 volt” Most “12volt” panels actually put out approximately 20 volts (on a good sunny day). So for calculating the gauge of wire you need you need the distance from your solar panels, charge controller and battery.

Here is a chart for the wire you will need:
Gauge-Chart.jpg
Gauge-Chart.jpg (77.16 KiB) Viewed 9451 times
Because solar panels put out 20 volts the amps for 300 watts of solar will be 15 amps. From the charge controller to the battery you are looking at about 13.5 volts and roughly 23 amps.

There are two types of charge controllers, PWM and MPPT. I choose to go with the MPPT. The problem with PWM controllers is that they “dumb down” the solar panel voltage to 13.5 volts and all panels need to be the same watts. What that means is that if you have a 100 watt panel the PWM controller effectively makes the panel an 80 watt panel. The difference with a MPPT controller is it will take in the 20 volts from the panel, converts the voltage down to 13-14 volts and converts the excess voltage to amps. i.e. 20 volts 5 amps in, 13.5 volts 7 amps out. Be sure you get a remote monitor. It really helps you see how your system is doing. Here is a link for the charge controller I got. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GH ... UTF8&psc=1

For 300 watts you should be able to use the 30 amp controller. Got the 40 amp controller for the times I may want to add on some extra watts using a portable panel.

Installation: Solar panel to charge controller. Removed the TV antenna cable, used that hole to bring the wiring in from the panel to the controller. Optionally you could drill a new hole in that general area and bring the wire in from there. If you remove the panel in the cabinet above the closet you will have access to the wiring from the roof and to the panels above the fridge. I choose to mount my charge controller to the above panel and run the wiring through the opening in the upper left corner of the panel.
charge controler.jpg
charge controler.jpg (134.58 KiB) Viewed 9451 times
monitor.jpg
monitor.jpg (33.47 KiB) Viewed 9451 times
When funds are available I will be purchasing and installing a 100 amp hour lithium battery and 1500 watt inverter. My reasoning for going with lithium are: life span of the battery, usable amps ( for a 100 amp hour battery 90 usable amp on lithium vs 50 amps on a lead battery) and weight (40 lbs vs 80lbs). I will be installing these two items in the area below the couch. When I install my new battery I will be disconnecting the lead battery in the engine from the coach. Currently I have my charge controller connect to the battery by adding a wire from the 12 volt outlet to the charge controller. That work for me right now. When I add two more panels I will need to run a new wire from the controller to the battery.
MalcolmS
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by MalcolmS »

okaynagan,

Thanks for the info. I'm either going to install 200 or 300 watts of PV on the roof. In doing so, it looks as though I can use the existing #10 gage wires Airstream installed from the roof down to the controller under the couch according to the wire size chart you posted. Did you consider using these existing wires?

I will be adding two to three 100 amp hour AGM batteries under the couch so I'll probably install all my other equipment in that area also. I'll probably purchase a kit from Renogy where I have a choice between PWM or MPPT charge controllers. I agree MPPT would be better.

Since my batteries will be under the couch I'm wondering what to do about the house battery under the hood? I'm guessing disconnect/remove that battery and either leave the bay empty or maybe install and wire in a second starting battery in case my 1st starter battery ever died? Either way assume I would need to somehow wire the new batteries under the couch so they could be charged from the alternator while driving or when the generator is being run. I have no idea yet how to do this but I assume assume it's done through my existing power converter (under the couch also) which originally came with the RV (which I'm upgrading with a Progressive Dynamics PD 4655VL 55 Amp Converter) I'll also be installing a 1500 - 2000 watt inverter because my wife wants to watch tv at night without running the generator, but can we tie the inverter into the existing AC wiring without abandoning the ACs connection with the generator or shore power?

I'm hoping someone has or is now doing all of this and can layout a wiring diagram.

My head is spinning but I love learning these things.
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okaynagan
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by okaynagan »

MalcolmS wrote:I have a working generator on my very stock & original 1995 B190, but I'm also going to add solar.

Before I do, I'm trying to read as much as possible. I've read some great ideas and advice in this forum. Some of the posts regarding solar & batteries are fairly old, so since technology is constantly improving, I'd like to see if anyone has added solar recently? If someone is also researching like crazy and has some advice to offer, please do so.

My first question is:
Are the wires which Airstream pre-installed for the purpose of running solar power from the roof to the controller adequate in size/gauge for a 300 watt 12 volt PV system? If not, has anyone used that same channel/conduit to pull new larger wires? Or is that not possible? If not possible through there, any suggestions for an easy route?

Has anyone discovered any complete high quality do-it-yourself kits that they like? I'm finding several that look good but would be nice to hear from someone who actually installed one of these kits recently. A few which I'm looking at are Zamp, Renogy, GoPower...

The battery option: I was thinking about locating my batteries under bench seat/bed. I was wondering where others who have done solar have decided to locate them? If they are inside I'll go with AGM but might possibly consider lithium but they are probably still too expensive.

I'm also converting to 4x4 soon and the lift might make accessing and storing batteries underneath possible?

Any thoughts/advise would be awesome.

Thanks
I would be interested is seeing a photo of where the solar pre-wired connections are on the roof. I found a small gray box on the roof just in front of the AC. Is that the solar connection point?

One of the thing that I liked about the charge controller I installed is the three connections. This allows you to have one connection from the solar panel a second connection going to the battery and a third connection that can go to the fuse box. That allow the charge controller to turn off the electrical connection to the coach when the battery level drops below a specific voltage. From what I have read most flooded and sealed lead batteries recommend that the battery not be discharged below 50% to avoid shortening the battery life or possible damaging the battery. Not sure if the AGM's have the same 50% usage limit. The lithium battery I will be using allows you to discharge the battery by 90%.

Just FYI below is a chart from the KOA website showing the apms used by items normally found in RV's. Yes I know a lot of these items would not be in the B190. This list includes items that could be installed in class A RV's.
120 Volt AC Amp Ratings

Appliance or Electronic Equipment
Estimated Amps

Air Conditioner (X number of A/C)
12-16 Amps

Blender
5-6 Amps

Coffee Maker
5-8 Amps

Compact Disc Player
1 Amp

Computer (Laptop)
2-3 Amps

Converter
1-8 Amps

Crock Pot
1-2 Amps

Curling Iron
<1 Amp

Drill
2-6 Amps

Electric Blanket
0.5-1.5 Amps

Electric Fan
1 Amp

Electric Water Heater
9-13 Amps

Electric Skillet
6-12 Amps

Hair Dryer
5-12 Amps

Iron
5-10 Amps

Light (60 watt % 120V)
<1 Amp

Microwave
8-13 Amps

Microwave (Convection Oven)
13 Amps

Refrigerator in AC mode
5-8 Amps

Space Heater
8-13 Amps

Television
1.5-4 Amps

Toaster
7-10 Amps

Vacuum (handheld)
2-6 Amps

VCR
1-2 Amps

Washer/Dryer
14-16Amps

 

12 Volt DC Amp Ratings

Appliance or Accessory
Estimated Amps

Aisle Light
1 Amp

CO Detector
1 Amp

Fluorescent Light
1-2 Amps

Furnace
10-12 Amps

LP Gas Leak Detector
1 Amp

Overhead lights (Per Bulb)
1 Amp

Porch Light
1 Amp

Power Roof Vent
1.5 Amps

Radio/Stereo
4 Amps

Range Hood (Fan & Light)
2-3 Amps

Refrigerator (LP Gas Mode)
1.5- 2 Amps

Security System
1 Amp

Television (12 volt)
4-5 Amps

TV Antenna Booster
<1 Amp

TV Antenna Booster 12 Volt outlet
Up to 8 Amps

Variable Speed Ceiling / Vent Fan
4 Amps

VCR Recorder / Player
2 Amps

Water Pump
4 Amp
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mountaindent
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by mountaindent »

okaynagan wrote:Congrats on going solar. I have just recently installed a solar panel and charge controller and have been researching solar for awhile now.
Here is a basic list of what you will need.
1) obviously solar panels
2) MC4 connectors and crimp tool for connecting the solar panels to your new wiring.
3) solar charge controller
4) Power inverter if you intend to run AC devices from your battery
5) Fuses to be installed between solar panel → controller and controller → battery
6) Needed wiring of the proper gauge
Solar Panels. 12 Volts panels are not truly “12 volt” Most “12volt” panels actually put out approximately 20 volts (on a good sunny day). So for calculating the gauge of wire you need you need the distance from your solar panels, charge controller and battery.

Here is a chart for the wire you will need:
Gauge-Chart.jpg
Because solar panels put out 20 volts the amps for 300 watts of solar will be 15 amps. From the charge controller to the battery you are looking at about 13.5 volts and roughly 23 amps.

Care to offer the cost of all this just so that I can either dream, save for or go ahead and purchase?

There are two types of charge controllers, PWM and MPPT. I choose to go with the MPPT. The problem with PWM controllers is that they “dumb down” the solar panel voltage to 13.5 volts and all panels need to be the same watts. What that means is that if you have a 100 watt panel the PWM controller effectively makes the panel an 80 watt panel. The difference with a MPPT controller is it will take in the 20 volts from the panel, converts the voltage down to 13-14 volts and converts the excess voltage to amps. i.e. 20 volts 5 amps in, 13.5 volts 7 amps out. Be sure you get a remote monitor. It really helps you see how your system is doing. Here is a link for the charge controller I got. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GH ... UTF8&psc=1

For 300 watts you should be able to use the 30 amp controller. Got the 40 amp controller for the times I may want to add on some extra watts using a portable panel.

Installation: Solar panel to charge controller. Removed the TV antenna cable, used that hole to bring the wiring in from the panel to the controller. Optionally you could drill a new hole in that general area and bring the wire in from there. If you remove the panel in the cabinet above the closet you will have access to the wiring from the roof and to the panels above the fridge. I choose to mount my charge controller to the above panel and run the wiring through the opening in the upper left corner of the panel.
charge controler.jpg
monitor.jpg
When funds are available I will be purchasing and installing a 100 amp hour lithium battery and 1500 watt inverter. My reasoning for going with lithium are: life span of the battery, usable amps ( for a 100 amp hour battery 90 usable amp on lithium vs 50 amps on a lead battery) and weight (40 lbs vs 80lbs). I will be installing these two items in the area below the couch. When I install my new battery I will be disconnecting the lead battery in the engine from the coach. Currently I have my charge controller connect to the battery by adding a wire from the 12 volt outlet to the charge controller. That work for me right now. When I add two more panels I will need to run a new wire from the controller to the battery.
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okaynagan
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by okaynagan »

When it comes to solar I started off on the cheap. Just so I could play around with it to gain some experience. Set up a “solar generator”
ALLPOWERS 80W Foldable Solar Panel $174
https://www.amazon.com/ALLPOWERS-Foldab ... dpSrc=srch

ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charger Controller $20
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MU ... UTF8&psc=1

SUAOKI 400Wh/120,000mAh Portable Solar Generator Lithium ion Power Source Power Supply. This power supply has USB plugs, 12 volt socket, 12 volt connection to jump start a low engine battery and 300 watt AC plug Currently $399
https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Generat ... aoki+400wh

Misc connectors and wires $40
I made the connectors myself so that I could use the solar panel to charge either the Suoaki power supply or plug an adapter into the 12 volt socket to charge the house battery in the engine compartment.

Here is a list and price for the major components for a full install.

Solar panels ridgid $120 - $160 per panel flexible $170 - $200 per panel
Charge controller 30 amp mppt $147
1500 Watt inverter $240 - $280
Battery 100 amp hour AGM $170 – 200 100 amp hour Lithium $950 – 1200. The house battery that came with the 95 B190 is approximately 60 amp hours.
Wires and connectors $100

The house battery that came with the van was showing signs of wearing out. When I installed the MPPT controller with a solar panel I ran the battery through a couple of de-sulfanating cycles and that seems to have improved the performance of the battery. The last time I checked the water levels the sulfuric/water solution looks really clear and I saw very little lead sulfate on the lead plates.
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mountaindent
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by mountaindent »

Great information! I go between I want solar=$unknown and I did not know where to begin so=no solar. Doing it step by step will help and within reach now.
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usachris
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by usachris »

mountaindent wrote:Chris, what are you wanting to add as far as solar and what are you trying to accomplish with it? I need to piggyback off your ideas here and not sure exactly where to begin.
My goal is to keep the batteries topped off when parked. I’m holding off on installing panels and hoping for an increase in efficiency and reduction in cost. The new power converter and expanded battery bank are a joy to have on their own. Great solar info in this thread BTW.
Christopher Salazar
1999 B190 #301352
WBCCI #01422 Region 12, Unit 19
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okaynagan
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by okaynagan »

okaynagan wrote:
MalcolmS wrote:I have a working generator on my very stock & original 1995 B190, but I'm also going to add solar...
I would be interested is seeing a photo of where the solar pre-wired connections are on the roof. I found a small gray box on the roof just in front of the AC. Is that the solar connection point?

"Seek and you shall find" it appears that images already been posted, years ago. We were just reinventing the wheel here, were we not? http://b190.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_vi ... temId=3022
Archived here also is a rather lively discussion on solar. http://b190.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1481
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skater
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by skater »

okaynagan wrote: SUAOKI 400Wh/120,000mAh Portable Solar Generator Lithium ion Power Source Power Supply. This power supply has USB plugs, 12 volt socket, 12 volt connection to jump start a low engine battery and 300 watt AC plug Currently $399
https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Generat ... aoki+400wh
These things irritate me for some reason. They're just a battery and a charger. That's it. "Solar generator." Marketing at its finest.
1991 Airstream B190 - bought, 2005; sold, 2011; bought 2017
1995 Airstream Excella 30' trailer

WBCCI #13270, Washington, DC Unit
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mountaindent
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Re: Before I add SOLAR...

Post by mountaindent »

I do not think of it as a generator no matter how it is marketed.
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