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640W of Solar on the Roof with A/C - I'm pretty sure it's possible.


Overland
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Thanks to the new narrow panel size that Zamp designed to fit Airstreams, I think you could make it work. No TV antenna, of course, like the 480W system. The trick would be to straddle the AC and MaxxFan with the narrow panels. There's just enough width between them and should be just enough length to maintain the Penguin II clearance requirements at the back of the unit.

 

Here's how it might work.  The three panels at the front are what Oliver will do for a 480W system - all I did was add the two narrow 80W panels to the rear.  Worst case, they'd just need to use a low profile plumbing vent to slide the panels forward enough, or slide the AC back a bit, just to maintain the AC clearances.

 

 

 

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Add a couple Zamp 200W portable panels, and you've got yourself a 1kW mobile power station.

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I think that with the configuration you show, I might be more inclined to broaden the scope and go with 2 Kyocera 265w panels, mounted sideways, instead of the 3 160s. Pulled all the way forward, to your leading edge, this would pull your back edge forward and clear the AC better with the slim panels and give you 50 more watts for the same space.

 

If you have them elevate the panels slightly and pull them forward over the vent (not fan) what is the code for venting under an overhang, you could probably slide another skinny panel in front of the maxx air. (Didn't do the math) and get 770w on the roof.

Randy


One Life Live It Enjoyably


2017 F350 6.7L SRW CC LB


2015 Oliver Elite II Hull #69

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Overland,

 

One option you may want to consider if you need more panels would be to have a set of auxiliary panels set on the ground and plugged in to your system with an Anderson plug. http://www.4wdadventurers.com/showthread.php?568-DIY-Guide-to-Anderson-Plugs

 

I see a lot of remote panels like this and it gives you much more versatility of where you can camp and still get good solar charging. In many of the forested camps I am in, the trailer may be in shade but there is full sun just 20' (or less) away. Out come the remote panels. If your spot is in full sun and you don't need the extra juice, they can stay in your TV. Yes, I suppose they would be more vulnerable to theft in some remote camps, but I think this is the way I will go. Probably a couple of 100 watt book-matched panels and 20' or so of heavy gauge cable.  So far, with just our 200 watt rooftop array, we have never had a lack of power. But our power needs are not too great.  Just a thought....

 

Dave

2015 Oliver Elite, Hull 107


1998 Ford E-250, 5.4 liter

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Randy - I agree on the Kyocera, but I understand that Oliver is limiting themselves to Zamp since it's all plug and play and much easier for them to install and support. My personal opinion of Zamp is that their stuff is way overpriced, but I'm fine with the panels themselves, and if that's what Oliver uses now, so be it.

 

Dave - We've asked Oliver to provide us with a port for adding portable panels. It will be a Zamp port rather than andersen, but that's easy to swap out. My concern with portables is theft, which is one of the reasons we want to maximize the rooftop solar first, and only think about portable solar as an expansion, though your reasoning on positioning the panels is 100% valid. Of course, if we buy the whole kit together, we can take the tax credit on the portables, so it may be worth going ahead and maxing out the system.

 

Buzzy - My primary goal is to have enough solar to not have to think about it. But apart from that, we do our camping in the winter and spring, when sunlight is scarce. Remember that we're adding a 12V fridge to our trailer, so our usage is upped by ~50Ah/day. It seems from others that the typical Oliver usage is 70-80Ah/day (which includes some microwave use, coffee maker, etc.) so adding the fridge to that we're at a budget of around 120-130Ah/day. (And you can probably add another 50Ah if we want to make good use of an induction cooktop or toaster oven, so it adds up fast.)

 

The two rules of thumb that I find repeated most often are 1) size your panels to 2W per useable Ah of storage; and 2) assume 20Ah/day/100W of solar. Some say 30Ah, but for winter camping, I'm sticking with the lower estimate. So for us, you'd start with 2W x 200 useable Ah = 400W of solar, and by that, we'd be good with Oliver's 480W option. By the second rule though, we're falling behind:

 

360W = 72Ah/day

480W = 96Ah/day

640W = 128Ah/day

 

If you accept those estimates, then 640W solar is what we'd need for our electrical budget, plus external panels if we want to use induction or a toaster oven. We can supplement with a generator at 45A per hour, but of course would rather not. I like my quiet.

 

It does give me pause that we have one rule of thumb that gives us an answer that's 60% higher than the other. So much for rules of thumb, but I suppose it's accounted for in assuming 20Ah rather than 30 per 100W of solar. Perhaps the first rule should be 2-3W/useable Ah of storage.

 

One other thing that pushes me toward the higher estimate is the fact that, at 120-130Ah of usage, we don't have a big cushion in our battery bank for rainy days, shade, snow, etc. I'd love to go with a 400Ah LiFePo battery bank, which would provide 320 useable Ah, but that requires swapping out everything for the Victron system that I mentioned to you before and I suspect that for that to happen, I'm going to have to do it myself.

 

I do know one traveller who is limited to 400W of solar on his roof and he has to supplement with alternator charging (he's in a Tiger, which is very similar to an EarthRoamer). The advantage of the EarthRoamer type vehicles is that they have diesel engines with dual alternators that aren't 25' away from their batteries and can recharge quite efficiently that way, at least for their bulk charging. Alternators for bulk charging + solar for acceptance and float is a great combination. They also use a Webasto diesel system that gives them heat, hot water and a diesel cooktop, so their electricity needs are actually very similar to ours.

 

The Webasto system is awesome, by the way - from both an efficiency standpoint and for travel in countries where propane isn't as easy to find - but the cooktop takes a bit to heat up and cool down so it's not really tuned for American expectations. Plus you end up carrying propane anyway if you want a grill or a gas campfire, so I'm good with the Oliver on that front.

 

 

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I don't know why I assumed that the two 160W panels would run front to back - it's an easier installation and takes less room to keep them all running side to side. What's cool is all the options these 80W panels open up. Oliver could easily change their standard package to 400W, and offer a 560W package that still allows the customer to keep both the A/C and TV antennas. The third option, at 720W, is probably pushing it, but who knows - it only depends on where precisely the A/C and bathroom fan are located.  I know the size of those but not their location front to back.  But from the photos, the rear of the A/C looks to be a bit in front of the rear of the awning.  I would guess that the A/C could be placed as far back as the awning, though I think the curve on the top of the roof begins a bit ahead of that, which is probably why the A/C is where it is.

 

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Just wanted to bump this to let you guys know that Oliver has given us the thumbs up on the 640 watt panel arrangement above.  I can't speak for them as to whether this will become a standard option, but maybe if things go smoothly on ours, they'll be able to offer a range of packages up to 640 watts.  Personally, I think being able to offer that sort of choice would be a big competitive advantage for them over Airstream.

 

I haven't had a chance to speak with Jason about it yet, but apparently it will require a different charge controller from their standard and a few other bits and pieces swapped out from Zamp to Furrion.

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Just wanted to bump this to let you guys know that Oliver has given us the thumbs up on the 640 watt panel arrangement above. I can’t speak for them as to whether this will become a standard option, but maybe if things go smoothly on ours, they’ll be able to offer a range of packages up to 640 watts. Personally, I think being able to offer that sort of choice would be a big competitive advantage for them over Airstream. I haven’t had a chance to speak with Jason about it yet, but apparently it will require a different charge controller from their standard and a few other bits and pieces swapped out from Zamp to Furrion.

Hey, I emailed Jason, but maybe you can find tell me, or find out....

 

Will the supplied controller handle one extra unregulated panel, and what would it cost to get the trailer prewired for this with a weatherproof outside receptacle near the batteries?

 

I am interested in your quest for massive power but I think the standard setup will be fine for me if I can set one extra panel out in a sunny spot when I am under trees... but I would really like it to be plug and play with the factory system.

 

Thanks,

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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I have that on my list to discuss with Jason.  We're also getting a port on the side for portable panels and from Jason's email, it sounds like the port can either run through the solar charge controller or bypass it and go direct to the batteries.  The Zamp, and probably most portable panels, come with a charge controller built in so probably direct to battery is the way to go.  I'll need to find out what charge controller he's thinking of using and do some research on the setup.  I believe the cost for the port was $140.  He gave me an option for a more expensive Furrion port, but I haven't discussed with him what the advantage of that might be.

 

Also, if you don't want to install a side port, I believe that the Zamp rooftop port has 3 ports on it, and so if you have the standard 2 panels, there should be a port free.  Getting to it would be a pain though.

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There is a port free, then you could run a wire down to the tool box and put a plug-in port there inside the box. With the rubber gasket, I don't think it will be an issue closing the door on the smaller wires of a Solar Suitcase style. I have an extension for mine but so far, I don't see a reason for any extra being that our is fully charged usually by 3pm on clowdy, rainy days. We haven't had one day in the last 2 months that the Solar didn't take full care of itself... And I have been watching it to the point of thinking that the 2 battery standard system would be more then enough for me alone, but with Karen's cooking in the instapot and then her CPAP that runs all night, it's nice to know that we have more then enough power. I took this pic at 5:30am yesterday just before the sun came up... This pic tells it all... No loss even after being used all night for the fan, heater, and CPAP.

 

IMG_20170401_061157.thumb.jpg.71484afa7ecff618e6b21d5711769efd.jpg

 

The key is the 4 bars on top showing full, not the battery charging indicator showing at 3, because it's not meaning 3/4, it just means that it's fully charged with no charger running. The only way to get the 4th on the left is when the blue light on the lightning bolt goes out during the day. There is a learning curve but it runs itself just fine as is.

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Happy Camping,


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Reed & Karen Lukens with Riffles our Miniature Poodle


2017 Oliver Legacy Elite II  Standard, Hull #200 / 2017 Silverado High Country 1500 Short Bed 4x4


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The Zamp, and probably most portable panels, come with a charge controller built in so probably direct to battery is the way to go. I’ll need to find out what charge controller he’s thinking of using and do some research on the setup. I believe the cost for the port was $140. He gave me an option for a more expensive Furrion port, but I haven’t discussed with him what the advantage of that might be.  

An unregulated panel gives you close to full panel voltage at the other end of its extension cable. A regulated panel starts out at a lower value and then there is the voltage drop through the wires. You should be able to get measureably more amps out of an unregulated one going through the Oliver house controller, correct? Why wouldn't you choose this setup?

 

Pardon my ignorance if there is an obvious answer..... it seems as if you should be doing the regulating as close to the batteries as possible, not somewhere out in the back yard, using undersized wires.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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In general, yes I agree.

 

What I don't know is whether the charge controller that Jason is thinking of using is MPPT (I'd prefer MPPT).  And I don't know if the MPPT would properly adjust the voltage if it sees both the rooftop and the portable panels as one large array.  That is, if the rooftop and portable panels are getting very different amounts of sun, then the ideal MPP for each set of panels would be very different, no?  Ideally, I think you'd have a separate charge controller for each set, but close to the battery as you say, as opposed to mounted on the back of the panel.

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I'm not a solar expert, but my thinking is battery capacity rules in non grid tied solar installations.

 

At home, we are grid tied. Excess goes back into the grid. We can use and recover in low months, but we sized our system to our needs.duke power pays us back for excess at wholesale rates. I would be better to run an extension cord to my neighbor, than over size my rooftop panels at home....

 

If your batteries can support excess power, good for you. For us, 250 watts on the trailer is as much or more than we need, and can store. Granted, we have 2 group 27 batteries. You probably have a better plan.

 

We charge laptop and phones in full sun, midday. And, I'm quirky, so I limit online time when we are camping. Actually, at home, too. I get tired of the forums using my data allowance....

 

Sherry

 

 

 

 

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  • 3 years later...
On 4/2/2017 at 3:15 PM, SeaDawg said:

I'm not a solar expert, but my thinking is battery capacity rules in non grid tied solar installations.

 

At home, we are grid tied. Excess goes back into the grid. We can use and recover in low months, but we sized our system to our needs.duke power pays us back for excess at wholesale rates. I would be better to run an extension cord to my neighbor, than over size my rooftop panels at home....

 

If your batteries can support excess power, good for you. For us, 250 watts on the trailer is as much or more than we need, and can store. Granted, we have 2 group 27 batteries. You probably have a better plan.

 

We charge laptop and phones in full sun, midday. And, I'm quirky, so I limit online time when we are camping. Actually, at home, too. I get tired of the forums using my data allowance....

 

Sherry

 

 

 

 

I agree . . . . . why have more solar output than you can use and/or the batteries can store?  

I'm thinking with four 6v AGMs with 340w solar we can manage just fine.  Our only limitation is that we camp a lot in the PNW  (vs desert SW).  I do like the fact that lithium batteries recharge much quicker, though I don't know if the difference is enough to pay more.

Ray and Susan Huff

Elite II Twin "Pearl" - Hull#699; delivered December 7, 2020

2013 F350 6.7l diesel Super Duty 4x4 long bed crew cab

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When I  wrote those comments years ago, I  didn't realize Overland was planning to upgrade the batteries to lithium. The lithium can really make use of the big power flow from extra panels, charging faster at a higher rate. Bigger funnel to fill bigger vessel, faster, in simplest terms.

That said, I don't begin to have room for Overland's batteries, nor his number of panels, in and on our 2008 shorty. I'm only a little jealous. 🤞🤥  We've camped with our setup (200 watts panels, 2 group 27 agm x 105 amp hour batteries) since 2008. Recent years added a 12v dc compressor fridge and a 100 watt portable panel, and it's doable, but requires considerable effort in monitoring,  and moving the portable panel around to follow the sun. And, use of the generator in low sun days 

I would love to at least upgrade the battery capacity, and the best way for us in the smaller Elite is dropin group 27 case size lithium, with our smaller battery tray. We are in the process of upgrading panels, and doubling solar fixed panel wattage in. The lithium will have to wait at least til the agms die . We're not in the habit of replacing what's still working.

I, too, suspect you'll be more than fine with agm,  if you continue to camp similarly to the way you have been camping/boondocking, with your current setup of 2 batteries and 200 watts solar. It's adding a lot of 110 appliances that will mess you up. You're already managing a week with half the capacity of your new proposed 4x 6 volts.  A week with double battery capacity  should be a pure joy.  And, you may find you can extend your stays by a lot, if you can conserve water, and resist turning on that inverter every day. (We removed our inverter a few years ago. We are mostly happy with 12v life.)

In 12 years, we've rarely camped with hookups with our Oliver. 

As far as whether the cost is justified,  you probably have to look at useable amp hours , and life cycle, to make true comparisons (along with an honest projection on boondocking days).  For me, one single battleborn 100 amp group 27 replacement would give me as much or  more useable amp hours than my two current group 27 agms. Why? Because I  don't run my agms down to 50 per cent, to preserve their longevity.  I tend to run no less than 60 to 70 per cent, and try to keep mine at 70 to 75 per cent. I'm speculating that that's why I'm only just a few years ago on my second set of batteries in 12+ years.

As far as maintenance,  agm vs lithium, I'd say it's a wash. You do have to keep agms charged in storage somehow (solar does that just fine for us, if we have some bit of sun and breakers are turned off.) Lithium can maintain a charge , without load, for a really long time without any charging, (less self discharge) but, they are temp sensitive for charging. Since I live in Florida,  and camp primarily in the shoulder seasons, or at moderate east coast elevation in summer, I  think we'd be golden with lifepo.

All that's relevant to how much time you actually get to use the trailer, how and where you use it, and if you can actually exercise the useful attributes of the solar and lithium batteries. And, realistically,  how long will you use the trailer? I'm thinking I may just get 10+  years  from properly charged lifepo dropins. Which may be longer than we continue to camp. Or not. We'll see.

Some people tend to get really psyched about new tech ( and I  have to admit, I'm one of them.) When I  get sad is when I  see people load up their trailers with new tech that they don't understand, and don't or can't use to its full advantage.  

Susan, as an experienced camper, knowing something of your preferred style over the years, you have an advantage over new campers, who can only conjecture what their choices might be. Still, you're the only one who can justify the additional expense of lithium vs agm.

Sorry for the really long post, which may or may not help.

Sherry

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Per my post above, I think the only way to work out solar and battery needs, without ending up in circular confusion, is to start with how much electricity you think you’ll use each day on average. Of course if you’ve camped before with a trailer, you probably have a good idea of what that is already, and if not, then the 70-80 Ah number seems to hold true for Ollie owners.  

From there you want a Plan A and Plan B for recovering that power.  Plan A is again based on averages - size your solar to give you enough juice to replenish your batteries each day.  The variables there will be your planned usage of course, but also when and where you plan to camp.  

Once you’ve done that, then you need a Plan B for when you’re camped under trees for three days or hit a stretch of rain and your solar can’t keep up.  If you try to size your solar for that, then you’ll need a second trailer to hold it all.  For most people, Plan B is a generator, which has the added benefit of being able to power your AC.  But if you’re trying to go without a generator like me, then instead you plan your battery bank to get you through those days.  For me, that means 3-4 days of battery storage, hence the size of my battery bank.  

It’s a simple problem if you think of it like that. Don’t overthink it, and don’t for a second think that just because someone is doing X that you have to do the same.  Take the time to think about your individual camping habits and needs.

But having said that, I think that Oliver’s standard AGM or lead acid batteries and solar package is sized correctly for 80% of buyers.  The other 20% are either people like me, or the opposite - people who never camp without hookups and don’t need solar at all.

Edited by Overland
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1 hour ago, Overland said:

Per my post above, I think the only way to work out solar and battery needs, without ending up in circular confusion, is to start with how much electricity you think you’ll use each day on average. Of course if you’ve camped before with a trailer, you probably have a good idea of what that is already, and if not, then the 70-80 Ah number seems to hold true for Ollie owners.  

From there you want a Plan A and Plan B for recovering that power.  Plan A is again based on averages - size your solar to give you enough juice to replenish your batteries each day.  The variables there will be your planned usage of course, but also when and where you plan to camp.  

Once you’ve done that, then you need a Plan B for when you’re camped under trees for three days or hit a stretch of rain and your solar can’t keep up.  If you try to size your solar for that, then you’ll need a second trailer to hold it all.  For most people, Plan B is a generator, which has the added benefit of being able to power your AC.  But if you’re trying to go without a generator like me, then instead you plan your battery bank to get you through those days.  For me, that means 3-4 days of battery storage, hence the size of my battery bank.  

It’s a simple problem if you think of it like that. Don’t overthink it, and don’t for a second think that just because someone is doing X that you have to do the same.  Take the time to think about your individual camping habits and needs.

But having said that, I think that Oliver’s standard AGM or lead acid batteries and solar package is sized correctly for 80% of buyers.  The other 20% are either people like me, or the opposite - people who never camp without hookups and don’t need solar at all.

I must agree - we have spent much more time off grid, than on, and the solar and agm set up works just fine - However, I must admit, some of the time I need shore power for the AC - and I hate finding and paying for that type campground - so I am seriously considering a generator. It can go right next to the kitchen sink - and all the other crap I seem to think we need. 

Edited by BackofBeyond
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