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Old 01-16-2019, 09:31 PM   #1
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Solar question

Our 2017 19’ is prewired for solar. We are going to this year’s rally in Osoyoos and I am considering an appointment to have ETI install the rooftop solar. At purchase, I had ETI install a Zamp port, wired directly to the batteries to use my portable solar panel with its own controller. So far that’s worked fine, but just to make life easier and possibly ensure longer battery life, I am considering the fixed panel.

My question is, would I still be able to use my portable panel with controller, using the Zamp port wired directly to the batteries if I also have the rooftop unit? Or would I need to bypass the portable’s controller and wire the Zamp port into the rooftop’s contoller?

Fun fact: I had been using a 60w Renogy portable unit, but then at last year’s Escape rally, my doorprize was a new GoPower 100w portable! I know it is possible to combine my two existing portables, but I have read it is a bit of a hassle due to two different brands. I also like the idea of just using the rooftop most of the time and only bringing a portable when we anticipate too much shade.

Thanks to everyone for all I’ve learned on the forum! I was just a desk jockey my whole career. You craftsman, techie and engineer types are really impressive! Sad part is that I understand a bit less than half of some of the threads, but I try.
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Old 01-16-2019, 10:12 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ColoradoSwany View Post
Our 2017 19’ is prewired for solar. We are going to this year’s rally in Osoyoos and I am considering an appointment to have ETI install the rooftop solar. At purchase, I had ETI install a Zamp port, wired directly to the batteries to use my portable solar panel with its own controller. So far that’s worked fine, but just to make life easier and possibly ensure longer battery life, I am considering the fixed panel.

My question is, would I still be able to use my portable panel with controller, using the Zamp port wired directly to the batteries if I also have the rooftop unit? Or would I need to bypass the portable’s controller and wire the Zamp port into the rooftop’s contoller?

Fun fact: I had been using a 60w Renogy portable unit, but then at last year’s Escape rally, my doorprize was a new GoPower 100w portable! I know it is possible to combine my two existing portables, but I have read it is a bit of a hassle due to two different brands. I also like the idea of just using the rooftop most of the time and only bringing a portable when we anticipate too much shade.

Thanks to everyone for all I’ve learned on the forum! I was just a desk jockey my whole career. You craftsman, techie and engineer types are really impressive! Sad part is that I understand a bit less than half of some of the threads, but I try.
During our 19'er's build, my understanding is ETI wired our external, portable solar panel zamp port into the rooftop, fixed solar panel's controller. That being the case, you'd probably need to have the zamp port re-wired into the rooftop solar's controller too. While I have no idea if this is the case, you wouldn't want to different solar controllers "fighting" each other while trying to supply current to the battery.

BTW... The solar panels and controller are on the battery side of the 12v master switch, so even when the batteries are switched off from the trailer, they're still being charged by the rooftop panels.

My Victron battery monitor shows 13.67v steady state when the batteries are on the converter (in-house charger) and not under load. The monitor shows 13.91v when the batteries are disconnected from the trailer thru the master switch and just being charged from the solar panels. 'not sure if the 0.24v difference is important/significant or not.
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Old 01-16-2019, 11:02 PM   #3
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.... My question is, would I still be able to use my portable panel with controller, using the Zamp port wired directly to the batteries if I also have the rooftop unit? Or would I need to bypass the portable’s controller and wire the Zamp port into the rooftop’s contoller? ....
This question has been cussed and discussed previously on this forum, but I believe the take-home message was that any panel with its own controller can be wired directly to the battery with no problem, but every panel needs to connect through a controller to prevent damage from over-charging. Or something like that. The second option you mentioned (bypass portable's controller and wire the portable directly into the rooftop's controller) should also work fine because the one controller will prevent either panel from battery over-charge damage. I repeat - or something like that....
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Old 01-17-2019, 06:13 AM   #4
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ColoradoSwaney, I agree with you 100%, I really enjoy reading the forum and wish I lived right down the street from several of the forum members so I could hands on learn from them. I just don;t feel I have the skills and knowledge to do many of the things I read about.

Enjoy the journey,

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Old 01-17-2019, 07:00 AM   #5
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ColoradoSwaney, I agree with you 100%, I really enjoy reading the forum and wish I lived right down the street from several of the forum members so I could hands on learn from them. I just don;t feel I have the skills and knowledge to do many of the things I read about. Enjoy the journey, Steve
I wonder if camper modifications follow the 90/10 rule where 90% of the serious mods are being done by just 10% of the owners. We've owned our 21' for 2 years now, and the only mod we've done is add a second access door under the bathroom side of the bed. We bought the little door pre-fabbed from ETI, so all we needed to install it was a saw and a screwdriver, and I can handle that. Other than that one oversight that we should have included to our original build sheet, we're content camping in an ETI factory "stock" trailer.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:03 AM   #6
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See post 14 for Alan's write up.

This one was incorrect.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:02 AM   #7
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It is my belief that with 2 controllers... If the rooftops controller is outputting say 14.5vdc while charging and you go out and hookup the portable, the suitcases controller will see the 14.5vdc and conclude the batteries are charged and no output.
I've only once had my portable hooked up (directly to batteries) once last summer when had a few days in a shaded spot. With the rooftop constantly in shade I moved the portable around into the sun. The batteries came back to full very quickly. I only plan on taking the portable on future trips when know I'll be in a very shady spot. We bought the portable when we had our old 5.0 without solar and at that time hadn't planned on a newer trailer.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:12 PM   #8
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I wonder if camper modifications follow the 90/10 rule where 90% of the serious mods are being done by just 10% of the owners. We've owned our 21' for 2 years now, and the only mod we've done is add a second access door under the bathroom side of the bed. We bought the little door pre-fabbed from ETI, so all we needed to install it was a saw and a screwdriver, and I can handle that. Other than that one oversight that we should have included to our original build sheet, we're content camping in an ETI factory "stock" trailer.
My guess would be you are dead on with this assessment. We probably have way less than 10% of the total Escape Owners that are ever seen on the forum, and most are probably using the stock trailer till they move on. Even the 3 Scamps I've redone, very few if any changes or mods were ever done to them.
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:04 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input everyone! Looks like I’ll be making some changes to the portable solar hookup if we get the rooftop.
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:17 PM   #10
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I wonder if camper modifications follow the 90/10 rule where 90% of the serious mods are being done by just 10% of the owners. We've owned our 21' for 2 years now, and the only mod we've done is add a second access door under the bathroom side of the bed. We bought the little door pre-fabbed from ETI, so all we needed to install it was a saw and a screwdriver, and I can handle that. Other than that one oversight that we should have included to our original build sheet, we're content camping in an ETI factory "stock" trailer.
I guess I'm in the 10%. I began making changes as soon as I had the trailer home from Chilliwack. I believe that just because the trailer isn't exactly the way you wanted from the factory, it doesn't mean you can't have it the way you want.
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:19 PM   #11
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I've always heard you are better off having the portables port wired into the on board controller and bypassing the suitcase's controller.

It is my belief that with 2 controllers... If the rooftops controller is outputting say 14.5vdc while charging and you go out and hookup the portable, the suitcases controller will see the 14.5vdc and conclude the batteries are charged and no output.

Keep in mind, I'm no expert.
This has not been my experience. I have a 90W portable suitcase solar panel with it's own controller. I use it directly connected to the batteries while at the same time the roof top factory system is doing its job. The batteries top up faster with the portable connected. In fact if Paula has cooked dinner in the insta-pot the night before, the roof top panels (90W + 60W) barley get the batteries back to full charge the next day. With the portable attached, they are fully charged by mid-day. (90W + 90W + 60W)

And ... that is with my new roof top panel hooked up incorrectly in series instead of parallel for my PWM controller as I learned this week. Thanks TDF-Texas!
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:24 PM   #12
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I wonder if camper modifications follow the 90/10 rule where 90% of the serious mods are being done by just 10% of the owners.
Yes, some of us have admitted we are tinkerers who enjoy projects. I guess my running list of almost 20 mods that is a sticky under Modifications and Alterations is a bit of a giveaway. Seems to be a good number of engineer types on the forum. Working on it and making improvements is part of the fun. The great thing is that you can also do nothing and they are a fantastic trailer.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:43 PM   #13
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Yes, some of us have admitted we are tinkerers who enjoy projects. I guess my running list of almost 20 mods that is a sticky under Modifications and Alterations is a bit of a giveaway. Seems to be a good number of engineer types on the forum. Working on it and making improvements is part of the fun. The great thing is that you can also do nothing and they are a fantastic trailer.
Guilty...

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Old 01-17-2019, 11:34 PM   #14
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...
It is my belief that with 2 controllers... If the rooftops controller is outputting say 14.5vdc while charging and you go out and hookup the portable, the suitcases controller will see the 14.5vdc and conclude the batteries are charged and no output.

To split some hairs...
If you hook up one panel/controller to the battery and measure 14.5 vdc at the battery then your battery is charged. So if you hook up the second system, also set to roughly 14.5 vdc then you are correct, it will think the system is charged. But the point here is the battery is charged, not that there are two solar systems hooked up to it.

But look at the problem from the battery's point of view. A big lead-acid battery that is hungry for power can absorb 50+ amps initially. Your (and mine) peanut sized panel/controller can only put out 5 to 10 amps - at best. So the battery rises slowly from hungry to full (12.0 to 14.5 for example).

Now hook the second panel-controller directly to the battery. It will see the battery terminal voltage of 12.0 at the beginning. It won't know or care that another system is trying its darnedest to charge the battery. It will contribute its own 5 to 10 amps - until the battery begins to approach what ever voltage that slows the rate of charge below the combined output. A rough guess would be around 13.8.

To verify what I am saying, hook up a constant current - constant voltage supply (any size is ok) to a drained battery. It will charge at the set current for a few hours. Measure the voltage on the battery - it will be lower than the voltage setting on the supply. After a few hours the voltage at the battery begins to rise and the amps drop off. Eventually the voltage reaches the setting on the supply (hopefully you set it around 14.5 vdc). At that point the amps could be 1 or 2, or perhaps less depending on the battery. Should you be using a 50 amp supply then the above demo won't apply (and more power to you). But we're talking solar panel size input here.

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With both panels feeding the same controller the currents are combined in the controller with a single output.
I combine my portable with the fixed roof panel. Why? Because I didn't want (or need) a second controller. But aside from a bit of loss due to efficiency considerations, it wouldn't bother me to use both.
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Old 01-17-2019, 11:53 PM   #15
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There are pluses and minuses to solar.

The hydrogen fuel at the core of the Sun will finally be exhausted in five billion years, when the Sun will be 67% more luminous than at present.
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:51 AM   #16
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There are pluses and minuses to solar.

The hydrogen fuel at the core of the Sun will finally be exhausted in five billion years, when the Sun will be 67% more luminous than at present.
You will need to buy stronger sunglasses!
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Old 01-18-2019, 09:12 AM   #17
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Guilty...

and then there are those who have already made planned modifications to their trailer that has yet to be built.......... I'm taking some tools and parts to make changes at Osoyoos the day of delivery.
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