Readers Ask (and make comments, too)

Friday, February 8, 2008

After I posted my solar setup, I received a lot of feedback, questions and comments. Some I could reply to but feel they might interest others, some I couldn't so they are posted here as well.

"I know that rigs & tires are different but do your front tires actually require 80#? My duals require 80# but only 60# for the front. I believe that 80# is the maximum. I guess if your rig is heavier than mine in the front that it could require more than 60#."
Guess I have to plead ignorance here, I am doing what the dealer who installed them told me. My rig is heavy (E-450 chassis) so that may be the difference.

" on earth do you remember all that you have to check,etc. before moving on?"
Well, I could lie and tell you I have my checklists all in order and use them religiously. Actually, they are a work in progress. The biggest thing is taking my time...I don't ever leave in a rush. I do forget things from time to time but so far, thank goodness, it's either been minor or caught quickly. Truthfully, checklists used each and every time is the RIGHT way to go.

"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."
In my case, the refrigerator will be run on propane unless I am hooked up to shore power. I have to be really careful since when you take the two-way off AUTO, no light shows that it is on gas. What happens is that if the propane goes off, then a CHECK light comes on. So I carefully monitor what I am doing and whether the refrigerator is keeping cold or not.

"How did they pull the 10 gauge wire down from the roof?"
I wasn't there during this process but I know they fished it down to the refrigerator. I was told that is the standard method.

"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."
I'm assuming that this writer thinks the board is the only thing holding up the batteries. In fact the board was placed across the metal support to provide a slightly wider base for the batteries. They are fully supported by very strong, sturdy, welded metal platform. Thanks for the tip though!

"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?"
Yes, they are 12-volt batteries. I had intended to go with 6-volt for the added capability but they didn't have them. Yes, there is a fair amount of weight and yes, I am probably slightly overweight (well, the rig....okay, me too....LOL!) and am working on that. I have upgraded my suspension and am hoping that I can reduce some of what I am carrying soon. I have moved some of my heavier basement items into my trailer to help balance things.

"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."
Thanks, I will continue to this when I can but HOPEFULLY this is my last big purchase. LOL!!

:Being able to boondock offers so much more flexibility in the RV lifestyle. And being able to camp in the "boonies" sometimes is what RVing is all about, IMHO. Campgrounds are nice at times but getting out in the desert or forest away from others is a whole different experience - slower paced, relaxing and beautiful. I much prefer looking at nature than at someone else's slideout or awning!"
Oh so was hard to come into this campground even for a couple of days. But it's a small one and quite nice. I do enjoy not having to watch how long or when I run my TV or radio. But the more I boondock, the less I will be coming to parks and the more I will enjoy that. LOL!

"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 distributed 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."
This is a long one and here is what I replied to the writer:
1) Yes, they are 12 volt AGMs, they didn't have 6 volt ones
2) The handling is just fine...I've driven it several hundred miles without any issues but I will be getting it weighed next week. Remember, I do have air bags that I can use to help compensate for side to side weight differences but so far, no problams.
3) I've talked to at least a dozen folks about his problem with distributing them throughout the chassis and everyone looked at me like I was nuts so not sure about that one...
4) The tilting mechanism was no extra money, they tossed that in for free. There is almost no extra weight, they are aluminum and I doubt there is a pound total. I got them in case I am ever stuck in one spot for a long period and then if I could find someone to put them on, then I could get more sun if needed. Better than getting the flat mounts and never being able to tilt them.
5) I do have two inverters....the big one runs everything except the frig & air conditioner. During the day that is overkill if all I want to do is run my laptop (& maybe printer). I have a 400 watt that I can plug into my 12 volt adapter and run just the laptop. It was $30 from
6) I've discovered that everyone has their own opinion on what is best and there will always be differences between folks....I am confident in what I got and the work that was done. I did go over my budget by the extra $1k but this system will what I need and that's the most important thing.

So that's it for the latest Readers Ask...

Till next time - keep on rollin',


  1. As to distributing your batteries in different areas of the coach, for electrical reasons you want them close together & close to the inverter as you want your wire runs (lengths) between them as short as possible. This is especially important with the 12v wiring.

    As to tilting the solar panels, when I first tilted mine I gained 50% in the amperage I was getting out of them. In the winter it is well worth it. Not so important in the summer when the sun is closer to directly overhead.

    You have a great system and I am sure it will work well for you. Just be careful about pulling enough 12v amps to run that 400w inverter at full power if you are just plugging it into a standard "cigar lighter" type outlet with standard automotive wiring. 400w at 12v is over 30 amps and that needs at least #10 wiring. Unless your rig has been specially wired to power 12v outlets like that you could easily overload the wiring feeding the inverter and perhaps end up with a fire. On my Xantrex 400w inverter that will peak at 800w on startup, they say to use #8 size wire from the batteries to the inverter.

  2. My Minnie Winnie is also an E450, just like yours. We probably don't have the same brand of tires but for my 19" tires it is 60# in the front, with a maximum of 80# for the duals. Actually, you should weigh each tire position and consult the manufacturer's recommendations for the particular weight at that location. Mine handles better with 60# than the 80# the local Ford mechanic increased them to.


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