Adding another 200 watts to our system

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Well… looks like someone has the Springtime camping bug.  Time to look ahead to a long, fun camping season and get some modifications and projects done.

After several long trips last Fall with our system, we found that while 400 watts of solar was generally sufficient, towards the late fall with lower angle sun, less predictable weather, we were wishing for more solar collecting power.

I got the chance to visit Eddie and his family who were staying at an undisclosed location in Eastern Arizona.  This spot is the beautifully rugged property owned by the kind and gracious Kim from Love the RV Life.  Kim and Jessie were willing to let me stay on their property for a little while and get some work done on the trailer with Eddie.

Although our roof is small, there is room for 2 or 3 more 100 watt panels.  Our Morningstar TriStar TS-45 PWM can handle 45 amps, of which approximately 20amps are in use (from the 4 panels already on the roof)

We already have a custom combiner box on the roof, built by Eddie last August

A picture of the combiner box built last August in Wyoming.  Plenty of room for more panels

Therefore, “all that needs to happen” is to grab 2 more panels, attach them to the roof, run the cable, tape it down, connect to the combiner box and, BLAM !  we’ll have 600 watts.  (Of course, this specific job is pretty straightforward due to the work that Eddie had already done, planning ahead for possible panel expansion.)

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this picture, taken at our RV storage joint, shows the 2 obvious spots to put the panels.

The plan was to get the smaller (but more expensive) Renogy Eclipse panel 100 watt for the spot between the radio antenna and the shower skylight.  This Eclipse panel is a bit smaller (40.8×20.7×1.4 in), lighter (15 lbs) and is slightly more efficient than the panels on the driver side..  Obviously, there are going to be shadow issues with the A/C unit for both new panels (depending on the time of day).

The plan for the drivers side of the trailer was to match the existing panels since there is more space available.  These Renogy 100 watt panels are considerable cheaper and have been performing fine, but they are larger (47.3×21.3×1.4 in) and heavier (16.5 lbs).

We decided to use the z-brackets from Arizona Wind and Sun since they are solid and we have had no issues with them. (neiher of our planels ship with z-brackets).  They don’t match the non-eclipse panel bracket height (that we had previously used for the larger panels), but they are pretty close and we don’t think this will cause any real issues.

We also needed 40 feet of #10 THHN wiring (Wire 2A-1002 10-2/C Type TC 600V SunResistant), 2 tubes of dicor self leveling sealant, and 20 feet of 4′ inch Eternabond tape.

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Eddie lining up the larger panel on the slide out side
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Eddie connecting the new panels to the combiner box.  Note the torch, used to shrink tube the permanent connections on the new panels (he removed the MC4 connectors)

Of particular amusement / annoyance to Eddie was hiding inside the combiner box which had several (dead) flying ants from Solar Hill (wyoming) from the August 2018 install day.  On day two of the original install, Eddie had a heck of a time with these pesky creatures.  A friendly reminder of the little buggers lying in state, stuck forever in the spray foam.

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the new panels all tied down, dicor sealed, eternabond taped, mc4 connectors removed in favor of permanent hand-made connections, wired to the combiner box and DONE.

So, we now have approximately 30amps of potential collecting power from 600watts of panels.

Day 1 with 600 watts :

After a very windy day, the overnight temp dipped down to about 45F.  So, of course I had the trailer furnace heater on, which in turn meant the blower was working.  With my evening activities, overnight heater and morning coffee, I was left with 83% of battery by morning.  Below are some numbers I collected to show our progress to full.

Note:  our trailer was parked at an angle approximately back-end to due south.  It was a clear sunny day with very intermittent passing puffy clouds.

time sun angle volts watts amps bogart battery % bogart amps battery temp
9:30 41.5 13.6 315 23.2 83 19.1 61 F
10:30 52 13.7 388 28.5 92 21.3 71 F
11:30 59.2 14.3 64 8.2 100 2.2 71 F
4:30 34.9 14.4 151 4.5 100 0 69 F

the above chart shows that basically we were back to full by 11:30 am, while running the following :

  • 2000 watt inverter (to make A/C)
  • cell booster (dc)
  • usb for hotspot (usb from DC)
  • a laptop (AC to usb C)
  • a 23″ lcd monitor (AC)
  • water pump (DC)

In the chart, you can see, we get to basically full at 11:30am, and we’ve been holding steady at 100% for the last 5 hours.  The reason for the fluctuation in incoming watts and amps is due to the solar controller.  That would be a discussion in and of itself, but the numbers to notice are those prior to full.  Specifically at 10:30, we were pulling in 28.5 amps (and the sun wasn’t even at its highest point in the sky)

So what have we learned so far ?  Well, it seems that for now, our 200 Amp Hours of Battle Born batteries is sufficient, but having more solar collection capability certainly is going to help us get back to full faster.  Since it was basically “plug and play” it was a no-brainer add-on to the trailer.

What can Brown do for you ?

Even though we are in a very rural location in Eastern Arizona, (so far East that we can literally see New Mexico from here), good ol’ UPS delivers !  Kind of mind blower.  There are many other homesteaders and permanent residents up here on this lovely mesa.

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High and Dry 

I had pulled my trailer here dry from my half-way-ish stop in Santa Fe and couldn’t quite figure out where to get water in the nearest town.  Lucky for me, Eddie was kind enough to let me use part of their 65 gallon tank to fill up my trailers 43 gallon tank.  We used a home-made water transfer pump that Kim built, which is essentially an RV pump, a long extension cord with DC alligator clips which efficiently moves water from the big tank into the trailer.  Brilliant ! We hooked it up to the trailer battery and got pumpin’ !

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The water from town is surprisingly “sweet”, so it was great to load up.  The smaller containers are 5 or 6 gallons each so thats about 110 gallons of water in the truck.

Thats a wrap for this project.  Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Adding another 200 watts to our system

  1. Hi Matt! This is so impressive on multiple levels. The tech part is WAY impressive ‘cause I don’t know diddle-squat. The ‘off the grid’ part is impressive in terms of your spirit to explore. I love it! Congrats on some true Swiss Craftsmanship! Love to you & Gretchen. Phyllis >

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