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Old 09-12-2021, 06:02 PM   #1
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Adding 300 Watts Solar To Our 5.0 (Long)

Adding 300 Watts Solar To Our 5.0



When we purchased our 5.0 in October 2018 we received a 170 Watt Go Power panel and matching solar charge controller. We also had 220 ah AGM batteries (110 usable). For 2 ˝ years it worked quite well, except in Death Valley in January where the air conditioning shaded the solar panel, in shaded sites, and had problems with constant charging of our phones and laptops, and the furnace draining our battery bank. The phones/laptops we could charge in the pickup, but the furnace was a problem.

Because of the shaded sites issue in February 2020, we purchased a 100 watt Renogy portable and a Victron 100/20 SCC to run a separate charging circuit. I quickly found out portables can be a PITA and I didn’t like the management needed with a portable. We wanted a better solution.

In January 2019, our 3 month old AGM batteries failed. They were sent back to Crown and was infomed one was dropped when originally shipped to our home. We received two new batteries under warranty and they worked great, but still were playing the “Watch Your SOD” game. Because the GoPower SCC has no history to watch, I installed a Victron 712 BMV. The 712 gave a better view of what was going on and how much power our devices were consuming (found charging a phone can take .75-1 amps an hour per phone).

In early February 2021, our AGM’s failed again, but this time from a faulty WFCO charger that decided to push 21 volts to the batteries. Having been in some sort of technology all my life, having a Minnesota low voltage electricians license, and previously progressively buying larger batteries (Group 24-31) we wanted something different in batteries. I initially wanted two Battleborn batteries, but the cost was too high for the money we had available (yes, we budget) and after talking to Battleborn they felt we would be disappointed in their inability to charge below freezing and operate below 0 F. We purchased 260 ah’s Soneil SiO2 (silicon dioxide) lead batteries and they have performed beyond our expectations. This thread is not about SiO2 batteries though.

With the 260 ah’s of batteries we had no problems keeping the batteries charged last winter in the SW, nor in our seasonal site, despite the errant WFCO being disconnected since last February. We wanted to get better solar on the roof so the portable didn’t have to be deployed so often (hopefully never again).

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 09-12-2021, 06:03 PM   #2
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Panel Choice

I knew there was room behind the escape hatch on the 5.0 for a 80 watt or larger panel, but why not go all out and install three. Most of the work is in the first panel, so three panels wouldn’t take much extra time.

I originally was going to remove the 170 watt GoPower, sell that panel, and install four 24v 200 watt Rich solar panels all running in parallel to combat shading. Once I got on the roof and looked, I found it was impossible to put a 200 watt panel between the AC and the Maxx fan, so now down to three Rich Solar panels for 600 watts. After much playing with numbers I realized installing two Rich Solar panels between the Maxx Fan and the escape hatch was going to be possible, but awkward, so now only one Rick Solar panel up front for two total (400 watts). In the end the Rich Solar would have broke our budget, but it was a great exercise in what is possible.

Then the ruined solar panels on the front of an Escape camper started showing up on the forum! Perfect timing! I still had my measurements and realized I could install up to three 100 watt Renogy Eclipse panels and keep the 170 watt panel in back for 470 watts. Because of the price, I ordered two 100 watt Renogy Eclipse panels.

Once the Eclipse panels arrived I saw a panel that was not built as robust as our Renogy portable. Plus after going to a number of sites explaining mixing panels I realized that the Eclipse had a VMP of 17.7, the Renogy Compact 100 watt panel, similar in size, had a VMP of 18.6 and the GoPower 19.3. When combining panels in parallel you have to use the lowest VMP in the set. The Eclipse with a VMP of 17.7 would drag the GoPower 170 watt panel down to 155.5 watts, whereas the Compact at 18.6 would give the GoPower 165 watts. I would actually lose watts with the supposedly better Eclipse panel. In addition the Renogy Eclipse was $195 at the time but the Compact was $106. I could buy two Eclipse panels for $390 or three Compact panels for $318. This was a no-brainer since I also felt the Compact panels were built more robust. I returned the Eclipse panels and received three Compact panels.
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Old 09-12-2021, 06:04 PM   #3
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The Brackets

A wide panel like our rear 170 watt panel will have the brackets over the upper cabinets so you can run a bolt through the hull and use a board or aluminum angle iron to secure the nut without causing stress to the structure. The shorter 100 watt panels will not reach the cabinets on each side so a bolt will be exposed in the headliner. I didn’t want that!

The 41” wide Renogy Compact panels are neatly situated behind the 24” wide escape hatch in our 5.0 for only 17” of exposed panel edges. Plus, all three panels are in line with each other, so they will not see as much wind as a wide panel and shouldn't blow off, especially with the massive amount of VHB tape used.



AM Solar claims they NEVER have had a panel held to the roof with VHB tape blow off. Yea, right! You should watch their video though. AM Solar’s mounts are 2 ˝” long and 1” deep for 2 ˝ square inches of VHB tape. I wanted more VHB tape on the roof.

I decided to purchase a RV Tilt Mount Bracket from Renogy (Rich Solar offers the identical bracket) for $35. The front solar panel directly behind the escape hatch can easily be angled by just sticking your body through the hatch, easily accessing the panel to angle if needed. Once I received the brackets I realized the Escape roof has a very slight bow. The bracket to VHB tape to the roof was off the roof on one end, besides I didn’t need 36 square inches of VHB tape on each side if AM solar can keep larger solar panels on the roof with only 5 square inches (2 ˝ sq in X 2) on each side.

1 ˝” angle aluminum ⅛” thick was purchased at Lowes. The angle aluminum is used to attach to the existing holes on each side of the panel. There were three choices and the middle set was chosen. The angles are bolted to the panels with M8-1.25 stainless bolts, lock washers, and Loctite.

I had enough angle aluminum in the Renogy tilt kit to cut for two panels and purchased 2” x 2” aluminum angle for the third panel roof mounts. Including the RV Tilt Mount bracket I have about $75 invested in aluminum for the mounts and another $30 in stainless steel bolts, nuts, and lock washers (each panel has 8 bolts, etc ). I also double nut and blue Loctite where appropriate.

Enough VHB Tape?

The front panel behind the escape hatch has 6" x 2" front brackets on each side and 7 1/2" X 2" brackets on the back. That's 54 square inches of VHB tape holding the panel that gets the most wind in place. Total overkill!

The center panel behind the front panel, but ahead of the Maxx Fan has 7 1/2" x 2" brackets on the front and 4" x 2" brackets holding the rear. That's 46 square inches holding the panel in place. More overkill!

The rear panel between the air conditioning and Maxx Fan has 3 1/2" x 1 1/2" brackets on all four corners. That's 21 square inches holding that panel protected by the Maxx Fan and the two forward panels. Still overkill.

Remember AM Solar uses just 10 square inches total to hold a considerably larger panel. I think the panels are safe.


Once the brackets were in place on the panel Terry helped install by holding the one side in place while I slowly removed the paper from the VHB tape and placed that bracket in its place on the roof. This is ten times easier than it sounds. After 24 hours in place I removed the panels and installed Dicor on all the roof bracket edges and wire attachment points (see Cabling).


The first panel has mounting brackets outside of the panel and I should have had similar mounting for the other two panels. It was a decision made so I didn’t have to travel 45 miles to Rochester to buy another aluminum angle. It’s much, much easier to mount the panel to the roof if the bracket bolts are not hiding underneath the panels! I wish I had made the drive.



I used Eternabond tape for the first two of the twelve mounts, but found it to be a PITA to use. The rest of the brackets have Dicor applied to keep the VHB tape from the elements.

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Old 09-12-2021, 06:05 PM   #4
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Cabling


If you chose to wire the panels in series, the cabling is simple, I would have only needed one added cable and no branch connector, but because of shading, and a 65 watt loss with the 170 watt mismatched panel wired in series, parallel was a better choice for us.

I needed a branch connector set for the cables to the existing ETI installed 10 awg entrance cable to the SCC, located underneath the GoPower panel. Also needed 35 feet of 10 awg duplex roof wire with UV resistance cut to different lengths for the three new panels to reach the branch connector, and used 10-12 roof wire attachment points to keep the duplex wire in place. Each attachment point is surrounded by Dicor.


Most of my purchases were from AM Solar. With AM Solar I know I’m getting the correct parts, but could have saved $10-20 using Amazon (branch connectors were Amazon purchases). I did not keep tabs on the total cost, but it was under $500.

I easily have 40 or more hours for this install (I'm a slow perfectionist) and at 72 quickly tired of climbing ladders. I used two ladders, one on each side and cut pool noodles to protect the gelcoat. The week before I started the solar project, the entire camper was cleaned and waxed with Zep wax. The roof has five coats, but used sandpaper to sand off the Zep where the brackets were taped to the roof. Yes, I followed AM Solars prep before mounting the brackets.
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Old 09-12-2021, 06:06 PM   #5
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The Result

Figuring the loss from mixing panels, we have 465 watts in parallel, only a 5 watt loss for the 170 watt GoPower panel.

When not out camping, our 5.0 sits in a seasonal site eight-tenths of a mile from our condo. Our condo has no outside space to sit and enjoy ourselves, but inside our condo we have a view to die for. We go to our seasonal camp site quite often to sit around a fire, eat, and occasionally sleep.

Since the install, we’ve been camping only two times (each a week) in shady sites. The worst situation gave us a loss of about 8 - 10 ah’s a day according to our Victron 712 BMV. It easily would have been a loss of around 20 ah’s a day with only the 170 watt panel. We do get a decent charge in cloudy, shady weather, whereas before the charge was meaningless. Remember, I don’t want to use the 100 watt portable and if this is what we can expect I doubt the portable will ever come out again. LOL!

Remember our WFCO charger has been disconnected since February and our batteries only fill with solar. We don't want or currently need a DC-DC setup. There are no trees at the seasonal site to block the sun. However, I’ve disconnected the solar and 110 amp service to find how much drain there is on the batteries from the fridge on gas, lp detector, Maxx Fan on low, water pump on (but not running) and other constant drains not stated here. According to the Victron 712 BMV we use between 16-18 ah’s a day. In the fall, winter, spring when using the furnace and charging our phones/laptops that will move to 30-40 ah’s or more a day.

The solar has been off for four days now and I’m waiting till it gets the batteries down to 50 % DOD (110-120 ah’s used) to see if it can refill the batteries in one day or two. In 7 months the BMV 712 has yet to register a cycle. The Victron 712 registers a cycle when the SOC goes below 65% and then charges back to 90%. We’re nearing the equinox in Minnesota so that recovery should be interesting. I’ll post the results once I get them.

Except for the one time last winter when we camped with the 170 watt panel directly underneath a tree, the 170 watt roof panel easily kept our SiO2 batteries full. OTOH, we’ve only seen three cloudy days in a row, but with easily 220 usable ah’s our batteries have no problems filling.



So why add 300 watts of solar? First, the portable that I don’t care about managing will only come out perhaps once a year. However, the next electrical project will be to install an inverter capable of running a toaster (yes, Terry wants a toaster), a low wattage hair dryer for Terry, and a Danfuss refrigerator some time in the future. Besides I was going to add 100 watts minimum, so adding 300 watts didn’t take that much extra time.

I’m dyslexic and have proofread this for the past two days, but still may have grammar, math, or communication errors.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 09-12-2021, 06:17 PM   #6
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Wow, you've been busy Perry! This looks terrific, I am jealous!
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Old 09-12-2021, 06:55 PM   #7
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Looks good

Thanks for sharing and the excellent write-up
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Old 09-18-2021, 09:45 AM   #8
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Great explanation.
Thanks for sharing - especially the photos.
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