19 Build Sheet: Zamp Port and Factory Solar Install questions - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 04-16-2019, 02:25 AM   #1
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19 Build Sheet: Zamp Port and Factory Solar Install questions

We're working on our build sheet for our 19 and I'm trying to think through the solar components. We're getting the 170W solar panel, which comes with a PWM GoPower charge controller. Because we often try to camp in shade, I've been thinking about adding a Zamp port so that we could have a portable panel to supplement the roof mount. At least initially, we will have 2 6V batteries. We camp almost exclusively off grid. I have read a lot about solar, but never installed it. Practical input would be great.

When I asked about the Zamp port, our sales rep at ETI told me that they can wire it to the GoPower charge controller, so that it registers both the roof mount and the portable panel. All I have to do is get a portable panel without a built in charge controller. Has anyone done this arrangement and if so, how is it working for you? I've been thinking about it and I have some concerns.

My first goal is to have a flexible setup that allows us to harvest sun when the roof mount on the trailer is in shade. I think that if I want a roof mount and a portable to complement each other, they'd have to be wired in parallel. Otherwise, shading on the roof panel (or vice versa) would diminish the charging ability of the other panel. Is that correct?

My second goal is to have a portable system that I can easily move around (thereby making it easier to use). I think that the panels would have to be the same wattage if I want the system to work efficiently. But because the roof mount is 170W, the portable setup would have to be pretty big. In my solar dreams, I was thinking something more along the lines of 60W, which would be easy to use and transport in the TV. Am I correct that the panels should be similar or the same wattage?

If I want a smaller, more manageable portable panel in addition to the roof mount, I think it might work better if I actually have 2 systems. System 1 is the roof mount, which would run to the GoPower controller and System 2 is the Zamp panel, which would have its own built-in controller. Does that approach make more sense than trying to combine them at the GoPower controller? Or am I wildly overthinking this?

If you added the Zamp port, where did you instruct them to put it? It seems like it could actually be installed on the storage tub up front where the batteries are located in the 19. Or is there a better spot?

Finally, if you have the Zamp port, are you using Zamp panels, or have you found an adaptor that will enable you to attach other brands' panels to the Zamp port?

I apologize for the long post. I just want to try to think this through before we commit to expensive components. Thanks so much for any input you can provide.
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Old 04-16-2019, 04:00 AM   #2
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Hi, we had ETI install solar panel, 6V batteries and inverter and chose to also have them install (instead of prewire - same cost) our Zamp port. We bought the Zamp port over the phone at a solar company right down the street from ETI. The solar company hand delivered my Zamp port to our ETI salesperson That same day! When we drive from ca on May 22 to pick up our new trailer - we will also be going back over to the same solar company to buy a portable solar unit (called a Suitcase) which they also sell. They sell 2 different sizes. So both our portable and built in panel will use the same controller and ETI's controller amperage can handle both. Sorry I can't remember the solar company's name but I can get it tommorow as they are great and very knowledgeable and easy to talk over these questions you have.
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Old 04-16-2019, 05:45 AM   #3
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I went with a Furrion Solar Port which I had installed close to the Escape installed GoPower controller. In my 2014, that is in the cabinet above the sink. My portable panel is a 100 watt Lensun while my roof panel is 95 watts. I mounted my portable to a piece of plywood that is suspended in the area above the bed. The panels don’t need to be the same as long as the overall is within limits of the GoPower controller. My main goal was to have sufficient power when camping in winter when the sun angle reduces my power generation due to the suns angle.
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Old 04-16-2019, 07:06 AM   #4
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19 Build Sheet: Zamp Port and Factory Solar Install questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
We're getting the 170W solar panel, which comes with a PWM GoPower charge controller. Because we often try to camp in shade, I've been thinking about adding a Zamp port so that we could have a portable panel to supplement the roof mount.

This is a good plan that will provide versatile utility and all the advantages of both fixed and portable systems. Many of us have done the same.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
When I asked about the Zamp port, our sales rep at ETI told me that they can wire it to the GoPower charge controller, so that it registers both the roof mount and the portable panel. All I have to do is get a portable panel without a built in charge controller. Has anyone done this arrangement and if so, how is it working for you? I've been thinking about it and I have some concerns.
Yes. This arrangement works well. Even if you get a portable with a charge controller, you can easily rewire it to bypass the onboard controller.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
My first goal is to have a flexible setup that allows us to harvest sun when the roof mount on the trailer is in shade. I think that if I want a roof mount and a portable to complement each other, they'd have to be wired in parallel. Otherwise, shading on the roof panel (or vice versa) would diminish the charging ability of the other panel. Is that correct?
That is correct. If you have ETI wire the Zamp to the factory controller that will be a parallel setup. If you think about it, it would be much more difficult, not to mention electrically pointless, to wire them in series.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
My second goal is to have a portable system that I can easily move around (thereby making it easier to use). I think that the panels would have to be the same wattage if I want the system to work efficiently. But because the roof mount is 170W, the portable setup would have to be pretty big. In my solar dreams, I was thinking something more along the lines of 60W, which would be easy to use and transport in the TV. Am I correct that the panels should be similar or the same wattage?
Nominally, if you have multiple panels they should all put out the same voltage, or close to it. Remember though, that your intended use of the portable is when roof is shaded, ergo, it doesn’t matter if they’re the same since you will only be using one or the other at any given time. As long as they’re wired in parallel, and the total of both doesn’t exceed your controller capacity this will work well. We have two 160W panels on our E19 roof, but also plug in a 100W portable if we’re parked in shade. In this arrangement the smaller panel on the ground (in the sun) greatly outpaces the shaded roof panels.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
If I want a smaller, more manageable portable panel in addition to the roof mount, I think it might work better if I actually have 2 systems. System 1 is the roof mount, which would run to the GoPower controller and System 2 is the Zamp panel, which would have its own built-in controller. Does that approach make more sense than trying to combine them at the GoPower controller? Or am I wildly overthinking this?
This would also work. But I would not do it. Wiring everything to one controller is both simpler and more efficient, and you avoid the possibility of two charge controllers fighting against each other (eg one sees higher than battery voltage being put out by the other controller, then assumes the battery is full so goes to float, when it should still be in bulk. A single controller will take everything and then make the most of it. Other related points: solar controllers that come on portable panels are not known for being higher quality units, in general. And putting the solar controller at the panel end of your wiring run (vs the battery end) wastes amps. Rule of thumb: solar controller should always be located as close to batteries as practical. The stock ETI layout for the E19 is good in this respect.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
If you added the Zamp port, where did you instruct them to put it? It seems like it could actually be installed on the storage tub up front where the batteries are located in the 19. Or is there a better spot?
If you have it wired to onboard solar controller, then Zamp should be exterior to driver side front bench area, where the solar controller is located. If you go for a direct wire to batteries, you could put the Zamp on the front box, but then you’re back to two systems that may not play together as synergistically.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
Finally, if you have the Zamp port, are you using Zamp panels, or have you found an adaptor that will enable you to attach other brands' panels to the Zamp port?

You can use any panel you want as a portable. We use a Renogy briefcase unit when parked in the shade. Good unit, albeit heavy and bulky. You only need to splice a Zamp connector onto the leads of your extension cable so you can plug it into the trailer. Verify that you have polarity correct! Zamp differs from other companies in this respect. I recently built an adaptor of this type for a friend, and because of Zamp’s polarity switch the black and red wires on the adapter are opposite of their usual polarity. Double check to be sure you have it right.
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Old 04-16-2019, 07:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merry View Post
Finally, if you have the Zamp port, are you using Zamp panels, or have you found an adaptor that will enable you to attach other brands' panels to the Zamp port?
You would need a MC4 to SAE adaptor.

https://www.amazon.com/iGreely-Adapt...-1-spons&psc=1

This one comes with an adaptor to switch polarity from Zamp standard polarity to SAE standard polarity.
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Old 04-16-2019, 07:59 AM   #6
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A single controller will take everything and then make the most of it.
Gotta say, I agree with all your advise, pretty much what I was thinking.

One clarification though, is that an MPPT controller makes the most of all the input from the panel array, while the Escape supplied PWM controller takes the voltage it needs and discards anything above that. This said, if you see a full or near full charge daily through the PWM controller, this point is moot. Only if you really need to eke out every bit of charge would an MPPT controller be advantageous.
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Old 04-16-2019, 08:03 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by tdf-texas View Post
You would need a MC4 to SAE adaptor.

https://www.amazon.com/iGreely-Adapt...-1-spons&psc=1

This one comes with an adaptor to switch polarity from Zamp standard polarity to SAE standard polarity.
With my Go Power 80W portable panel I had to build an adapter from Anderson Powerpole connectors to the Zamp. To minimize confusion to a potential future owner, I cut the leads inside real short and changed the polarity there so the cables to the controller were correct. I do like that little polarity switching connector though, I had not seen one before.
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Old 04-16-2019, 08:25 AM   #8
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With my Go Power 80W portable panel I had to build an adapter from Anderson Powerpole connectors to the Zamp. To minimize confusion to a potential future owner, I cut the leads inside real short and changed the polarity there so the cables to the controller were correct. I do like that little polarity switching connector though, I had not seen one before.
I did the same thing with my Zamp port - I cut the leads close to the port, soldered / heat shrinked the leads to SAE standard polarity, and connected it to the solar controller.

The only portable solar panel I have seen that uses Zamp standard polarity is a Zamp. All other panels use MC4 connectors and the wiring polarity color code matches the SAE standard.

Since the chances of my owning a Zamp is right up there with walking on water, setting the port to the SAE standard makes sense.

I like the Lensun portable solar panel I bought. It's light and stores in the clothes cabinet in the trailer. I noticed it now comes in 100, 160, and 200 watt versions - I have the 100 watt.

Lensun 100W ETFE Flexible Foldable Solar Panel

Lensun 160W ETFE Flexible Folding Solar Panel

Lensun 200W ETFE Flexible Folding Solar Panel
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Old 04-16-2019, 08:26 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by tdf-texas View Post
You would need a MC4 to SAE adaptor.

https://www.amazon.com/iGreely-Adapt...-1-spons&psc=1

This one comes with an adaptor to switch polarity from Zamp standard polarity to SAE standard polarity.
Nice find!

I ended up using this one and replacing one side with the MC4 connections and flipping polarity with the new connectors.

https://www.amazon.com/Nilight-Gauge...dp/B0057ZQJ12/
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Old 04-16-2019, 09:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by tdf-texas View Post
All other panels use MC4 connectors and the wiring polarity color code matches the SAE standard.

I like the Lensun portable solar panel I bought. It's light and stores in the clothes cabinet in the trailer. I noticed it now comes in 100, 160, and 200 watt versions - I have the 100 watt.
'cept for Go Power using powerpole which though great for high amperage, is rather clunky. I might change all mine out to MC4, but for now.......

After using the Lensun on the roof, I too would go for one of their portable solutions to save weight and volume. Unfortunately I had the Go Power unit from before, and it does work, so........
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