Solar Array and RV Electric System Upgrade
One of the most unique things about our RV’ing adventures is that we are able to camp in very remote areas with what seems like no access to power, water & internet service. Well it may seem like we aren’t hooked up or are living off grid but we are just living within our means, within our own footprint. We carry fresh water on board, we have a Mifi hotspot from Verizon like many folks and we utilize the power of the sun to provide for most of our electricity needs.
Our solar array consisted of a couple of damaged 135 watt panels mounted directly to our roof and a few old batteries for our first year and a half of RV’ing and that was BARELY enough power to get by on. We were able keep our computers and phones charged, run some very very small LED’s for night light but not really do much else. This could be fine for some real campers, and people who want to just get by or stay in warm not hot climates most of the time.
We enjoy winter camping at high altitude and are big fans of the snow sports, but we did not have enough power on board to also run our propane heater with it’s electric fan blower when it was cold at night. Inevitably we would have to run our generator for a short period of time to recharge our batteries in the middle of the night to keep everything running. Not just that but BARELY enough power is just not enough power for two people who are bound to technology to earn an income and are interested in living a modern lifestyle.
Once we completed the installation of our new EPDM rubber roof JED was able to turn his full attention to upgrading the solar array, building a rack system that fit our RV and upgrading the electrical systems onboard. There are no RV packages that would fit our needs, so JED designed a system based on available materials.
After careful consideration we chose the following upgrades.
A new Outback Flexmax controller which charges the house batteries and our SunRNR unit.
A couple of new Trojan T105RE batteries (225Ahr 6VDC) and a 4D AGM battery (200 Ahr 12VDC).
We will be purchasing Lithium Ion batteries which are more lightweight, have a deeper depth of discharge ability, have a longer lifespan and charge quickly which is ideal for solar RV use. They are also significantly more expensive but we believe they will be worth the investment.
Here is how it all works.
The panels are mounted flat to the roof rack and are not adjustable so they receive a variety of sun exposure throughout the day. The Outback Flexmax charge controller turns that solar power into 12VDC which charges our batteries. The 12VDC is converted to 120VAC by the inverter built into our SunRNR unit. That 120VAC is then routed through a transfer switch to the main electrical panel which runs all of our electrical outlets and air conditioners.
We now have enough power when the sun is bright to run our air conditioner if we want, but until we increase our battery storage capability with a larger bank and/or Lithium Ion batteries we won’t be able to run our a/c continuously off of stored power.