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Old 05-18-2018, 11:20 AM   #1
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My Solar Story

Preface: A few years ago, after waffling and much newbie research I decided my Escape would go green; rejected generators, went solar. What followed was more newbie research on the internet. It was tricky. Cannot describe and can barely remember any of that. Truth is it came down to choosing component parts from afar from the various manufacturers of solar panels, controllers, et al, that seemed likeable and honorable. Build quality and price ruled. Wanted it portable but rejected buying a ready-made kit. Choices made, I cobbed together my own portable 100 watt solar package. Everyone needs a glory, even us non-techies. It was fun, right down to building a carry case.

This month I decided to get more solar. Ordered the HD Windy Nation 100 watt panel on sale 11 May, will pick it up at Home Depot, 12-14 days later. Opted for the store pickup instead of a faster delivery to the house just in case it arrives damaged. Looking forward to doubling my green-in-the-boonies solar connection. The long wait for delivery gave me time for planning storage and deployment.

The Windy Nation solar panel comes with nothing but MP4 connections. Has Polycrystalline cells. Noticed Home Depot now offers the same unit for only $10 more than my earlier sale price.

Side note: I paid $89 for mine. What seems odd is my panel is by WindyNation, but Home Depot also sells a 100watt panel by Grape Solar, for $145.49. Both are “Polycrystalline, heavy duty…outdoor, weatherproof…for boat, RV…etc., with no additional items included.” Wondering what could account for the big price difference? Both are bare bones panels.

I needed to add a fold-up bracket stand for the new panel. They do sell them on Amazon. Watched that posted commercial video of the portable solar kit - their folding brackets got my attention - a more practical design than what I originally made for my booked 50W solar panels. I could do this. Made test prototype using wood. Works great, a keeper. Bought 8 ft length of 1 inch square aluminum tubing, $16.27, plus machine screws, wing nuts, lock nuts for the new panel. Ah, the things you can do with a carbide tipped table saw blade!

In my tongue box I already had a SunsaverDuo Morningstar controller rated 25 amps input, next to the batteries. Has ports for an additional solar panel. Ordered a packet of extra MP4 connectors, $7.00, and two each 20 foot lengths of 10 gauge stranded wire, MP4 connectors attached, $27 on Amazon. Went to Ace Hardware, got 2 ea. 4 foot lengths of 10 gauge wire, 45₵ per foot. The extra MP4’s go on the two controller leads to the 20 ft. wire run.

All these things sit and anxiously await the solar arrival.

When it’s together, now how do I store it? A few years back I had made a simple guide track under the bed for two long, sliding storage trays. Removed that track and added 3 inches of wood spacer to it, to raise it up and create enough clearance under, for the 100 watt panel. Storage question answered. The new panel will store nicely on the floor in the space underneath the bed.
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File Type: jpg Solar09.jpg (157.4 KB, 57 views)
File Type: jpg solarBrackt.jpg (163.1 KB, 59 views)
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Old 05-18-2018, 03:43 PM   #2
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Nice post. Like you, I stored my panel under the queen bed. It really worked out well. My only recommendation would be to over engineer the fastening system of the storage shelf. There must be some dramatic forces in play on the rear end of the trailer. Also check it often, even with no play between panel and underside of bed, it required several “adjustments” to stay secure.
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Old 05-18-2018, 04:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MyronL View Post
Preface: A few years ago, after waffling and much newbie research I decided my Escape would go green; rejected generators, went solar. What followed was more newbie research on the internet. It was tricky. Cannot describe and can barely remember any of that. Truth is it came down to choosing component parts from afar from the various manufacturers of solar panels, controllers, et al, that seemed likeable and honorable. Build quality and price ruled. Wanted it portable but rejected buying a ready-made kit. Choices made, I cobbed together my own portable 100 watt solar package. Everyone needs a glory, even us non-techies. It was fun, right down to building a carry case.

This month I decided to get more solar. Ordered the HD Windy Nation 100 watt panel on sale 11 May, will pick it up at Home Depot, 12-14 days later. Opted for the store pickup instead of a faster delivery to the house just in case it arrives damaged. Looking forward to doubling my green-in-the-boonies solar connection. The long wait for delivery gave me time for planning storage and deployment.

The Windy Nation solar panel comes with nothing but MP4 connections. Has Polycrystalline cells. Noticed Home Depot now offers the same unit for only $10 more than my earlier sale price.

Side note: I paid $89 for mine. What seems odd is my panel is by WindyNation, but Home Depot also sells a 100watt panel by Grape Solar, for $145.49. Both are “Polycrystalline, heavy duty…outdoor, weatherproof…for boat, RV…etc., with no additional items included.” Wondering what could account for the big price difference? Both are bare bones panels.

I needed to add a fold-up bracket stand for the new panel. They do sell them on Amazon. Watched that posted commercial video of the portable solar kit - their folding brackets got my attention - a more practical design than what I originally made for my booked 50W solar panels. I could do this. Made test prototype using wood. Works great, a keeper. Bought 8 ft length of 1 inch square aluminum tubing, $16.27, plus machine screws, wing nuts, lock nuts for the new panel. Ah, the things you can do with a carbide tipped table saw blade!

In my tongue box I already had a SunsaverDuo Morningstar controller rated 25 amps input, next to the batteries. Has ports for an additional solar panel. Ordered a packet of extra MP4 connectors, $7.00, and two each 20 foot lengths of 10 gauge stranded wire, MP4 connectors attached, $27 on Amazon. Went to Ace Hardware, got 2 ea. 4 foot lengths of 10 gauge wire, 45₵ per foot. The extra MP4’s go on the two controller leads to the 20 ft. wire run.

All these things sit and anxiously await the solar arrival.

When it’s together, now how do I store it? A few years back I had made a simple guide track under the bed for two long, sliding storage trays. Removed that track and added 3 inches of wood spacer to it, to raise it up and create enough clearance under, for the 100 watt panel. Storage question answered. The new panel will store nicely on the floor in the space underneath the bed.
Nice Myron ! Pat
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Old 05-21-2018, 09:56 PM   #4
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§§§


Monday, May 21. Late last night Home Depot sent me an email - my order was now ready for pickup at the store. A very nice surprise since days earlier they sent me an apologetic note of regrets the shipment had been delayed in transit and shouldn’t be arriving until at best this coming Wednesday.

The panel arrived in perfect condition but, it is not the one I was expecting. I ordered the Windy Nation 100 watt panel and they sent me the Grape Solar 100 watt panel. Such nice people. The nice lady-greeter at the door even took my picture on the way out.
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File Type: jpg solarHD.jpg (124.9 KB, 40 views)
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:34 PM   #5
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Her photo isn't nearly as nice as the ones you take.

Hope the panel works well for you. Looking forward to hearing how it works out.

Ron
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:46 PM   #6
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Ron, does this look right to you?
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Old 05-21-2018, 11:12 PM   #7
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You've got me. I see your two negatives going to the correct battery terminal. But it looks to me like you have each of the panels going with separate positive leads to the controller. And I don't see the output from the controller to the battery.

I've had a long day, I'm probably missing something but I'm sure one of the forum gurus will jump in and confirm it for you.

Ron
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Old 05-22-2018, 12:19 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MyronL View Post
§§§


Monday, May 21. Late last night Home Depot sent me an email - my order was now ready for pickup at the store. A very nice surprise since days earlier they sent me an apologetic note of regrets the shipment had been delayed in transit and shouldn’t be arriving until at best this coming Wednesday.

The panel arrived in perfect condition but, it is not the one I was expecting. I ordered the Windy Nation 100 watt panel and they sent me the Grape Solar 100 watt panel. Such nice people. The nice lady-greeter at the door even took my picture on the way out.
Looks like you scored Myron ! Pat
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Old 05-22-2018, 12:27 AM   #9
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In my tongue box I already had a SunsaverDuo Morningstar controller rated 25 amps input, next to the batteries. Has ports for an additional solar panel....
Does it? The SunSaver Duo is capable of charging two separate batteries; according to the manual, it does not have two separate inputs (for two separate panels).

In the photo, it looks like
  • the Battery #1 terminals have only a negative connection... but maybe it's just that the positive wire changes from black to red midway and the entry of wires into the controller terminals isn't quite visible,
  • the panel input terminals have only a red wire (presumably the positive of the roof panel), and
  • the Battery #2 terminals also have a red wire (presumably the positive of the portable panel, but to an output terminal on the controller instead of an input).
The negative panel wires appear to go directly to the battery negative instead of the controller terminals, but that's fine.
I wouldn't dare plug in the panel using the MC4 connectors at this point, because it looks like the portable panel wires are attached to a battery output terminal instead of the panel input terminal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
You've got me. I see your two negatives going to the correct battery terminal. But it looks to me like you have each of the panels going with separate positive leads to the controller. And I don't see the output from the controller to the battery.
Almost the same here: panel positives to different places (even though there is only one panel input terminal pair), and the battery output connections are not clear. Either Ron and I are missing the same thing, or the controller is not the SunSaver Duo, or the added portable panel is connected to the wrong terminal.


Left to right, the terminals (according to the manual) are:
  • Batt #1 (+): red wire to right-hand battery positive terminal {not clear - may be black wire spliced to red}
  • Batt #1 (-): black wire to left-hand battery negative terminal {not clear - may be correct}
  • Panel (+): red wires from each panel's positive side (two wires into same terminal, or single wire from pigtail connection)
  • Panel (-): black wires from each panel's negative side (or no connection at controller - go direct to battery)
  • Batt #1 (+): no connection
  • Batt #1 (-): no connection

Attached is an example from the manual... but you have no second battery to connect, and two panels which will connect to the same place on the controller, and the negative to the battery can be from any of the three negative terminals on the controller. I think it's the same drawing stuck beside the controller in the photo.

Myron, should one of us mark up this drawing deleting the extra battery and adding the second panel?
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File Type: jpg SunSaverDuo-wiringExample.JPG (28.7 KB, 28 views)
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Old 05-22-2018, 10:39 AM   #10
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Just read over the SunSaverDuo installation manual and see big mistakes I made. So there’s only one entry port (+/-) in the controller. The others are for using up to two 12v batteries. But that shouldn't stop me, right? Reading …so when attaching my two separate 100W solar panels I should? combine the two wires from each solar panel, red (+) and red, black (-) and black.
OK, doing red into (+) solar input port is easy. How do the black (-) lines then conform to my two 6V batteries? This earlier wiring picture of my first panel was working.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg solarContrl3.jpg (105.3 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg Solar03A.jpg (55.4 KB, 18 views)
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Old 05-22-2018, 11:33 AM   #11
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I'd just splice in the new connectors just after the present ones.

You're just adding panels in parallel. They even make mc4 "Y" connectors to do the same thing.

I'd just leave your present negative where it is.

Ron
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Old 05-22-2018, 11:58 AM   #12
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When adding Zamp port for a portable panel we ganged the wires into existing ETI-supplied Go Power 30W controller. All working great!
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Old 05-22-2018, 03:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
I'd just splice in the new connectors just after the present ones.

You're just adding panels in parallel. They even make mc4 "Y" connectors to do the same thing.

I'd just leave your present negative where it is.

Ron
That works
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Old 05-23-2018, 09:18 PM   #14
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The new panel now has legs. Support brackets work good. Revised 10 gauge wires to the tongue box now in place. So far nothing is smoking. Trailer taken off shore power, now on solar in the back yard. Decided to retain my old wire connectors for the booked panels but utilized MP4’s for the new panel since the new wires came pre-installed with MP4's. The sun has set on another fun day so presently, we now pop open a cold one and wait for tomorrow’s solar sun results.

Lessons Learned:
  • Thought a carbide Ľ inch router bit would do a better job plowing a channel in aluminum than the table saw. Wrong – but cutting the openings in the square tubing reinforced my “wood butcher” reputation.
  • Not all MP4-Y connections are alike and therefore different brands wouldn’t mate for me. So I just spliced and soldered the 4 wires into two and wrapped up the connections.
My thanks, Ron, Brian, Pat, Fudgie, and Rossue, for your valuable input.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Solarduo3.jpg (183.0 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg SolarMultiwire.jpg (95.4 KB, 39 views)
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Old 05-24-2018, 04:53 PM   #15
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First solar results looking good. RM8551 has cooled efficiently, solar seems to be holding its own against fridge load.

Trailer batteries had been on shore power for a few weeks so were fully charged when I unplugged shore power yesterday. This morning turned the fridge on to add load powered by the two 6 volt batteries.

10:15 am 84°F and sunny outside. Turn fridge on, battery, 4 dots. It is 62 degrees in fridge.
200 watts solar energy connected.
Battery meter shows 13.61 volts.
Solar current is 11.26 amps, 1357 Ah.
1 PM Fridge temperature is now 39 degrees. It is 86° outside.
Battery meter shows 12.76 volts.
Solar current 9.66 amps, 1386 Ah.
Turn panels 45 degrees toward sun. Solar current jumps to 10.56 Amps, 1388 Ah.
Battery meter shows 12.83 volts, 1388 ah.
2:15 PM Fridge is at 37°F.
Battery meter is 13.02 volts.
Solar current 10.94 Amps, 1400 Ah.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Solarduo3A.jpg (143.3 KB, 20 views)
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Old 05-25-2018, 07:54 AM   #16
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You’re braver than me, Myron. I’m afraid I’d just go to AM Solar, tell them to work their magic, and then wince as I opened my wallet wide.
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Old 05-26-2018, 07:48 AM   #17
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New panel neatly stored (on a piece of remnant carpet) under the bed.
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File Type: jpg underbed4.jpg (98.3 KB, 30 views)
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