Solar and batteries - 2011 Chev Crew hd 2016 Arctic Fox 5th Wheel

Solar and batteries - 2011 Chev Crew hd 2016 Arctic Fox 5th Wheel

by Thomas
(Calgary Alberta Canada)

Solar and batteries - We have a 2011 Chev Crew hd 2016 Arctic Fox 5th Wheel, new at this full time rving.

Have 4x6v Trojan 105s and 3x 140 solar panels seems to work ok with my 4k invertor, runs everything including my ac but not for more than 3 days then have to get the gen set out.

Would like to go total solar and battery power. Was wondering about 8 batteries and more solar. Running out of room on the roof.
any answers email me at digger124 at hotmail.com

Thanks not enough sun lol

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Apr 29, 2016
Solar Needs
by: Wil

I tried to email you at the addy provided but no joy:

digger124 at hotmail.com

Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the server for the recipient domain hotmail.com by mx3.hotmail.com. [207.46.8.199].

The error that the other server returned was:
550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable


Therefore, in all it's longwinded glory, here is my message to you:

I read your question over on Full Time RVing Blog. In my personal opinion, either you are profligate to the extreme in your use of power, or you are using your furnace excessively, resulting in too much battery draw, or your charge controller is not set properly, or some fundamental wire sizing errors have been made. I'll discuss all three, in reverse.

3 solar panels of 420 watts should be sufficient to recharge 4-6v golf cart batteries in series to deliver 12 volts nominal to your inverter. Unless you are using humungous g.c. batteries. Or, your charge controller isn't set to a high enough voltage to provide a full charge. That's the most likely cause in my estimation. Then again, the installer may have only provided 10 AWG wire for the down leads from your panels, instead of the 4 - 6 AWG that 420 watts at full charge needs - ie. a wire capacity problem. Then there are the leads from the charge controller to the batteries - a notorious bottleneck for delivery of charging power. If the inverter is indeed a 4KW unit, the leads between battery posts and inverter must be massive in order to deliver all 4000 watts without undue loss of voltage. All of this should be checked by a competent, experienced tech.

It gets bloody cold in Calgary, although it is often a dry cold. Here in Maine, in Montreal and in Alaska (all places I have lived in inside of RVs in winter) it gets bloody cold, too, often more damp than the plains of Alberta. Regardless, lets both agree we both know cold. And if one is over-wintering in an RV, that means running a furnace or two full-time or suffer the extreme condensation of using an unvented heater. That's particularly true from mid-December through late March. But, bracketed either side of that period are long stretches where you/we can get by with a catalytic LP heater for about 1/3 the cost in gas and no electrical draws. If you already do that, forgive me the assumption that you didn't. If you don't, why not? Conservation is the name of the game. Using computers, TV's, Satellite receivers, etc. while running on batteries all night long is going to make it hard to recover during the 5 hours of sunlight worth counting on a flat solar panel in January. Do most of your consumption during the height of solar recharging when the panels are outputting 100% of capacity, conserving computer use during off hours and keeping TV consumption down to evenings helps a great deal. Using a drip coffee maker with LP stove heated water, rather than an electric one, is the more efficient choice. But I suspect none of that applies to someone already using a 4KW inverter.

So, add more panels as budget and time allows, upgrade the charge controller to higher capacity, consider going the route of 48 volt panels stepped down through an MPPT charge controller, which will allow more useable amps to be generated and stored in your batteries in the same space you are now using, add tilting mounts to maximize winter solar collection, install additional panels on the roof and hood of your truck (flex panels are good for the hood, provided temps are held down from underneath with full insulation under the hood) as well as on the roof of the trailer and on the cowling(s) of your AC units, consider going to Lithium Ferrite batteries as they are approaching the magic cost/benefit point for longevity and capacity/dollar spent.

Or, you can start conserving power use and avoid the additional costs associated with ongoing big consumption. It is NOT practical to do air conditioning with solar in an RV, but a 3000 watt generator and some gas cans can provide you all the coolth you need in Arizona or Manitoba in June, provided the generator can handle the heat (many, maybe most air cooled units can't). Or you learn to get by with fans, shade and cool libations. I'm not talking West Texas heat in Hell -- find a hookup during those conditions. And don't forget your home has wheels. Every gain of 1000' altitude will bring a drop of 5*C. When it gets hot, go for the mountains.

I hoped this helped clarify your thinking a little bit. If it didn't, don't worry. I'm just some schlub on the internet, so it doesn't really make no nevermind...

Best Regards,

Wil

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