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Old 01-08-2023, 04:33 PM   #1
MJohnston
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Recommendation for adding solar

Hello All,
I have a 2018 3120rl that we bought new back in 2018. I still have the two original factory batteries and am ready to upgrade. I am very interested in upgrading the batteries and installing a solar system. We typically boondock for only a couple days at a time, but want the freedom to boondock longer and not have to operate on portable lights and heavy blankets! I don't want to go crazy, but we are looking to be able to enjoy the RV while boondocking. We don't need to run the microwave, coffee maker or hairdryer, but would like the ability to turn on the lights and perhaps use the AC and TV on a limited basis. Our fridge is a dual mode fridge (propane/electric). I plan to install softstart this spring as well.
I'm looking for advice on how best to approach this and a rough idea of how much I can expect to spend on this upgrade. Generally, I am pretty handy after working 30+ years as an engineer in the aerospace industry, but I am not an electrical expert by any means.
Also, I have a portable 4500W generator that I can use as a backup, but really want a system that will allow me to boondock for several days without having to worry about running out of power.
Thanks in advance for the insights and advice,
Michael
 
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Old 01-08-2023, 05:38 PM   #2
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Michael,

There are several good youtube, articles and threads here that discuss how to establish a power budget. That is your first step.

Size your battery bank first based on what you would expect to use in 24-36 hours. Lead acid, AGM or Lithium come at different price points but any will do the job.

Next is your inverter, you want at least 3000 watts or larger if you are considering running ac.

Solar is last and it should be enough to recharge your battery bank in 6-8 hours of good sun.

Price can vary quite a bit with battery price being the biggest variable but would think a minimum of $6000 or so for a system that would run a single ac.
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Old 01-08-2023, 05:40 PM   #3
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99% of what you wrote is very much like looking into the mirror. I too would like to install some solar power and will be following this thread very closely.
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Old 01-08-2023, 05:47 PM   #4
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Search in the forums. Lots of peps have upgraded.
https://www.montanaowners.com/forums....php?p=1243234
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Old 01-08-2023, 06:06 PM   #5
MJohnston
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Thank you AZ Traveler! I appreciate breaking this down into the major categories. I need to think through the budget. I'll likely create a spreadsheet to estimate usage, clearly the AC will be the driving factor for power consumption.
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Old 01-08-2023, 06:07 PM   #6
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Thank you for the link!
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Old 01-08-2023, 07:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MJohnston View Post
Hello All,
I have a 2018 3120rl that we bought new back in 2018. I still have the two original factory batteries and am ready to upgrade. I am very interested in upgrading the batteries and installing a solar system. We typically boondock for only a couple days at a time, but want the freedom to boondock longer and not have to operate on portable lights and heavy blankets! I don't want to go crazy, but we are looking to be able to enjoy the RV while boondocking. We don't need to run the microwave, coffee maker or hairdryer, but would like the ability to turn on the lights and perhaps use the AC and TV on a limited basis. Our fridge is a dual mode fridge (propane/electric). I plan to install softstart this spring as well.
I'm looking for advice on how best to approach this and a rough idea of how much I can expect to spend on this upgrade. Generally, I am pretty handy after working 30+ years as an engineer in the aerospace industry, but I am not an electrical expert by any means.
Also, I have a portable 4500W generator that I can use as a backup, but really want a system that will allow me to boondock for several days without having to worry about running out of power.
Thanks in advance for the insights and advice,
Michael
What............no coffee maker
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Old 01-09-2023, 09:53 AM   #8
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We installed 6) 100AH lithium batteries and a 3KW inverter. I used all Victron equipment and canadian 350 watt bifacial panels.
Our first test has been boondocking in Quartzsite for 2 weeks, our lifestyle has not been affected at all running on solar. We use approx 40% to 50% of the batteries overnight and charge time is 4-5 hrs. in 2 weeks the only time we have run the generator was on a totally cloudy day. We have a residential fridge. It would figure those 2 weeks were the coldest we've seen since being in Arizona, so we ran the furnace quite a bit! It was all a challenge to install. I tucked the batteries in the generator bay because we don't have a built-in gen. then the equipment is in the empty spot behind the passthru wall behind the control center. I was appalled when I first opened the space as it was a tangle of wiring, couldn't even really organize it without disconnecting a lot of the wires! I ran the bundle of wires in a cable tray to make room for the equipment. It was terrible fun! I used a solar company to help with suggesting and calculations for the system. My only regret so far is not installing more batteries.
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Old 01-09-2023, 10:48 AM   #9
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Hello Todd & Mary!

Sounds like you had good power for those 2 weeks. Curious how many panels you installed? What could I expect the cost to be to install a similar system?
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Old 01-09-2023, 06:15 PM   #10
Daryles
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I installed two 200W solar panels, 552Ah lithium batteries, 2000W inverter, SoftstartRV on the front AC, 60A DC-DC charger (for backup if not carrying the portable generator).
Runs TV, Dish satellite, Wally, Nintendo, microwave, Nespresso. RV fridge on propane. We are usually charged up by afternoon.
I have tested running the front AC (with the SoftstartRV) on the batteries with the 2000W inverter. It works BUT, if running at night you will need about 1000Ah of batteries. I would recommend if running the AC to use a generator.
If I was doing it again I would use unistrut rails on the roof, then mount the panels to the rails.
By using rails you can be sure every rail mounting screw goes into a rafter stud.
Also I would get a 3000w inverter.
If you want to go all in, get a Victron Multiplus ii.
Converter, inverter, Transfer switch, MPPT, DC-DC charger all in one.
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Old 01-09-2023, 09:41 PM   #11
Todd & Mary
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We installed 4 panels with tilt mounts. They are Canadian bifacial panels. Supposedly they can gather from both sides for up to 420 Watts each. I have not seen more than about 330 watts so far.
I used all victron equipment.
4 mppt controllers, a DC to DC truck charger and Touch panel controller. Batteries were $6000
3000 watt Victron Multiplus II inverter
4) 100/30 MPPT charge controllers
GX cerbo integrator
GX 50 touch screen
breakers for panels to MPPT and MPPT to batteries
lynx buss bar
600 watt inverter disconnect
4 Canadian 350watt bifacial solar panels on tilt mounts on zinc coated strut. I wanted to use SS, but the cost was out of this world!
My cost was roughly $13,700 all in.
Regrets:
Not installing more batteries. should have went with 4) 270 AH batteries
not getting GX 70 touch panel. It is 7" as opposed to 5"
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Old 01-15-2023, 02:16 PM   #12
Mikelff
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I am not a big boondocker but my cousin is. Battery wise Lithium is the way to go. All the boondockers I know swear by them, as well as the boondockers on this forum. They produce level, steady voltage until they are out of juice. Many lithium batteries have auto shut off at 80% discharge. You will also need a converter or inverter that will handle Lithium batteries. They are also much lighter than regular 12 volt batteries which allows for more battery storage. He has solar and a generator back up for cloudy/ rainy days. He can boondock for months on end as long as he can get to potable water and empty his tanks. Lots of good advice on this forum, especially the recommendations for figuring out your power needs, then building a system based on that. I am doing my first boondocking for more that two days end of May. I will be living off a generator since I rarely boondock. If I did it more often I would be doing the solar thing like you. Big investment so need to use it. Best of luck.
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Old 01-15-2023, 05:55 PM   #13
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RV Solar

Here is a generic price sheet from Future Solutions. I am attaching it so you can get an idea of the size of a system you might be looking for. Sounds like you want to DIY so as others have said youtube will be your friend. Check out videos by Will Prowse and Explorist.Life. Also make sure you visit the Solarflex section of this forum.

Best of luck to you!
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Proposal Solar REV2_BasicSystemTiers (003).pdf (3.20 MB, 41 views)
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Old 01-15-2023, 08:16 PM   #14
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Solar recommendations

I have a 2022 with the 1,200 super solar, so 1,200 watts of panels, 2-50 amp controllers, 3,000 watt inverter, 6-100ah batteries and soft starts on both A/Cís. We also have residential fridge. We have only done 1 long trip so far last summer (4 months) and only about 1 week off grid, some days in 95 degree temps, other days in mild temps. While adequate for mild temps, in hot weather during the day the A/C and fridge really ate the batteries which limited our ability to run A/C at night, or use the RV at night in the usual way. Also, no way we could leave our dog in RV and go out leaving A/C on, as only a few hours A/C possible. We were always worried about our batteries, not fun.,

Bottom line is we want peace of mind and ability to use RV more akin to being on hook-up, so we have an appointment in September at Future Solutions to add another 400-800 watts of panels (depending on room), 3 more 100ah batteries to bring us to 900ah total, and a DC-DC charger. Already spent $19,500 when we bought the RV, might as well spend a little more to insure a comfortable off-grid experience, which will allow us to go off-grid a LOT more (thus saving $$) and enjoying nature.
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Old 01-16-2023, 09:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robokatz View Post
I have a 2022 with the 1,200 super solar, so 1,200 watts of panels, 2-50 amp controllers, 3,000 watt inverter, 6-100ah batteries and soft starts on both A/Cís. We also have residential fridge. We have only done 1 long trip so far last summer (4 months) and only about 1 week off grid, some days in 95 degree temps, other days in mild temps. While adequate for mild temps, in hot weather during the day the A/C and fridge really ate the batteries which limited our ability to run A/C at night, or use the RV at night in the usual way. Also, no way we could leave our dog in RV and go out leaving A/C on, as only a few hours A/C possible. We were always worried about our batteries, not fun.,

Bottom line is we want peace of mind and ability to use RV more akin to being on hook-up, so we have an appointment in September at Future Solutions to add another 400-800 watts of panels (depending on room), 3 more 100ah batteries to bring us to 900ah total, and a DC-DC charger. Already spent $19,500 when we bought the RV, might as well spend a little more to insure a comfortable off-grid experience, which will allow us to go off-grid a LOT more (thus saving $$) and enjoying nature.
Sounds to me like you need to add a gen..
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Old 01-16-2023, 11:33 AM   #16
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Forgot to add that I did buy a Champion 2500 Dual Fuel gen to have as a backup just in case, and actually did have to use it 1 day when temps were north of 100 degrees, but even then could not keep up with both A/C's running. Yes, I should have bought a larger generator, but only learned that in hindsight. Hopefully with the larger battery bank and more panels we will be fine 95% of the time without need for any generator, we will find out next September.
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Old 01-16-2023, 02:53 PM   #17
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Lots of good discussions. Let me get one thing straightened out first. Forget running AC except for a few hours. That’s with 540 ah of lithium, 1200 watts of solar, DC-DC charging and soft starts on both AC’s. Second, invest a little money for a Victron smart shunt or similar battery monitor. That way you can determine what you need. In our last unit we did four golf cart batteries, a 3000 watt inverter and wired the kitchen and tv/satellite system. That ran our rv fridge, thermal carafe coffee pot, charged our devices and allowed us 3-4 hours of TV time. That was about 270 ah of “usable” power. Hope that helps. Now, our current unit has the 1200 watt Super Solar, soft starts, 540 ah lithium, 3000 watt magnum inverter, etc. When in sunny climates, we have camped unlimited without running generator. Because lithiums charge so fast, we are only taking 1 2000 watt Honda to Alaska. Sounds like you are around 600 watts or so, but your battery monitor will tell you your true usage.
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Old 01-16-2023, 03:54 PM   #18
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Neil,

Your other option is camping in cooler places.
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