It's all about the sun!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I woke up early because I needed to be at Discount Solar by 9 am. The good thing about getting up early is actually SEEING the sun rise. It was beautiful yesterday morning.

I got the the shop about 15 minutes early, after a short defugalty with my inadvertently leaving my front door unlatched (happens when you exit one door, fully intending to re-enter that door but get side tracked and actually enter the driver's cab door...LOL)

They got us right in and we went through my requirements again. When I initially set up the appointment I was going with two Kyocera 130 watt solar panels. After much thought & discussion that day, I went with three since the additional labor was only $50 if done now. Since then I had decided to add another 64 watt panel if there was room...I would only be slightly over my budget and since I would be saving labor charges, it made sense.

They got up on the roof and laid out a plan for the three panels and possible location for the fourth, smaller one. We went inside to discover that there were no more 64 watt panels, there was a 55 watt and while they were measuring it I asked about the 80. We went to the showroom and they were all sold as well (that's what happens when you get your solar at the end of th Quartzsite show rather than before). While we were discussing the option of adding the 55 watt panel, one of the salesman broke in and said he had one 80 watt that had been saved for someone, no money down, no name, no phone number. Turns out the owner had been asked by someone he knew to hold it...he checked it out and released it to me. (Yes, I need a bumper sticker that says I AM A POWER PIG)

So the final panel setup was four Kyocera solar panels - three 130 watt panels (7.4 amps each) and one 80 watt panel (4.5 amp).

Next battle was the batteries. I had ordered six AGM 12 volt batteries, IF we could find room for them. I was sure I could easily fit four but again, Power Pig at work here. We opened the various compartments on side of the rig and they started measuring. At the same time we discussed where my inverter and Solar Boost controller would go. I opted to add the tilt mounts (more money) so if I am parked for a longer time and need them tilted, I have the capability (if I can find someone willing to go up on the roof & do it...and someone to undo it later...LOL!)

In the end they managed to fit five of the batteries in the battery compartment and one in the next storage bin where they also mounted the controller and inverter. Now the work on the roof mounting the panels, one doing the batteries, both of them involved in pulling the wiring and one more doing the supervising and the final inverter wiring and setup.

I took a lot of photos as the day progressed, here they are and then I'll outline my final setup for you.

Inside the Store

Measuring the 80 watt Panel

Battery Setup

Installing Solar Panels, Tilt Mounts & Sealing Roof

Inverter/Charger, Solar Boost & Remotes

Last night I mostly charged my laptop which was almost 100% depleted. This morning I ran the TV, DirecTV DVR, the microwave for less than two minutes, my laptop, the water pump, the water heater and catalytic heater...just as the sun was coming up. I could see a small charge coming in and that meant only 8 amps were going out. I was impressed!

Here is the final setup:
  • 3 Kyocera 130 watt (7.4 amp) Solar Panels
  • 1 Kyocera 80 watt (4.5 amp) Solar Panel
  • 4 Sets of Tilt Mounts (tilt to either side of the rig)
  • 6 Lifeline AGM 12 volt Batteries
  • Blue Sky Solar Boost 3024i 30 amp Charge Controller with remote IPN
    NOTE: can piggy-back another of the same controller to handle more solar panels
  • Prosine 2.0 Inverter/Charger with remote panel
    2000 watts pure sine wave with 4500 watt surge capability
    Remote temperature sensor - mounted on battery in storage compartment (unvented)
  • 10 gauge wire from panels to junction box
  • 6 gauge wire from junction box to batteries
  • 300 amp T fuse
  • 50 amp bullet fuse
It is set up so that the batteries will charge from the generator, shore power, the engine alternator or, of course, the solar panels. It's a really slick setup and I am VERY pleased with it, the folks at Discount Solar here in Quartzsite and the job they did. Final tab including all wiring & cables (which can't be accurately calculated until the actually start running the wire), labor & sales tax was $6122.75. As I said, expensive but I should never need to add anything more to this system and it will let me boondock and use my television and computer in a way that works for MY lifestyle. Campgrounds are going to be infrequent stops...more for doing laundry (now I'm glad I have a LOT of clothes with me) & taking that long, hot 30 minute shower. LOL!

Now for a couple of Readers Ask questions (remember folks, I can't email reply to your comments unless you log in and use an email address - so the best way to get a reply is to email me directly if you have a question):

"I am confused: you talked about getting a solar oven, and now you say it will be an all day job. Are you getting solar panels on the roof to charge your batteries? I don't see how a solar oven could be an all day job."
Sorry for the confusion. The Solar Oven is a free-standing item that you sit outside in the sun. Check out this link to better understand how you use it. My installation was for a full solar system so I can have power without using my generator (or plugging into shore power). Feel free to email me with more questions.

"You could leave your frig on auto IF the outlet it is plugged into is NOT included as one that the big inverter feeds. If the inverter is connected to the main power line such that it is auto-switching and feeds all the circuits then you don't want it on auto."
You are right. If you have solar you do NOT want to use the refrigerator on electric. My is an auto-switching one so it now is set on GAS and will not switch usage when there is 110 volt incoming power.

"Did you steal Tioga George's heater?" (tongue placed firmly in cheek)
No, but that sure might have been a shot he posted at some time! My shower is full of water bottles for the most part...LOL!

"I don't know where I'd put a heater, so I guess I'm stuck with the furnace!"
That's why I got the legs to put on mine. I have no place to mount and and with the quick-disconnect added, I can get it completely out of the way when I'm not using it (any place you have a little storage room). When I'm using it, thje 7' hose lets me place it where it's convenient - in the living area facing me or down the hallway or closer to the bedroom/bathroom area.

One caution to anyone considering a catalytic heater...because they require oxygen to run (just like we do), you must leave a window slightly cracked to allow more oxygen to enter your RV.

Till next time - keep on rollin',


  1. Wow! Sounds like you've really sunk some bucks into this RV...guess that means you're pretty contented with the size & handling. Glad it seems to be working out the way you wanted everything to go. And I'm STILL jealous!!

  2. Donna,

    You are on your way, dear friend. I love it when a plan comes together, and yours has.

    Hugs, Karon

  3. Hi Froggi,

    JC here. I curious about your solar configuration. SIX batteries in a Class C rig? And 12 volt not 6 volt? It puzzles me. Most everything I've read recommends 6 volt batteries for their better deep cycle capabilities and longevity versus 12 volt. And SIX of them? Isn't that an awful lot of weight for your rig? I know most Class A's only have 4 6 volt batteries (like mine). Why did you go with so much?

  4. Wow!

    As a metal fabricator, RV'er and engineer I do not like how they mounted the batteries. I would revisit that whole arena sometime soon. The AGM's require only maintenance to keep the posts clean which can be averted with proper terminal paint found at Freightliner truck dealers. I would make a hinged, drop down tray for the batteries somewhere under the chassis that allowed periodic access yet, secured the batteries hard.

  5. I love all of the detail with photos on projects such as this one. It provides a lot of information (especially appreciated by us gals who travel solo) to help understand what each "thing" is, how it works, what is involved with installation, and costs.


  6. I could not copy and paste the comment of a friend of mine who I send your solar "blog" to... First of all, are you sure they are 12V and not 6V?... the batteries... He is VERY oncerned about all the weight on one side, the handling, the safety of driving... as above comments they should have been dirtributed throughout the chassis with equal lenght, size, wiring. The tilting mechanism... you will never use it, just extra weight... and $'s... Glad that you did not go with the original plan of two inverters which also did not make any sense.
    Better take care of this while you are there... My friend, who would love to do mine at no labor charge is an expert, but unfortunately too far for me to go to... (Vermont!).
    Just thinking of you... be well... Ara & Spirit

  7. Great write-up: it'll be fun to see what interesting places you blog from. We just got done with a three-night trip without hookups and it was awesome.


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