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Need advice on portable solar charge controller


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I went with the 390 AH Lithium batteries and Xantrex's 3000W inverter but elected to opt out of the 340W roof mounted solar panels.  I will get Zamp's 230W portable with it's controller and have OTT put a solar port on the LEII we just ordered. Seems like it would be more efficient to aim directly at the sun, not have to park in the sun, and be able to keep the panels cleaner.  I have read that it's better having the controller close to the battery vs at the portable panel that's on the end of 30ft of 10 AWG cabling.  Would it be beneficial to have the controller taken off the Zamp and moved to the battery compartment (if there's room) or maybe better, inside of the trailer where it would have been if I'd have bought the complete solar package deal.  Hopefully I'll get enough power from the portable to charge the batteries and not wish that I had put the larger roof mounted panels on.  Thanks for any and all suggestions 🙂

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I think a portable unit is a great accessory, but ONLY if you have the rooftop array. As a stand alone charger it is really limited, because while you are towing, obviously there is no solar charging! So you might miss twelve hours of charging at up to 20 amps, until the time you arrive at camp, and THEN you have to hope you can find a clear spot for your portable unit, and the day is ending or the sun has gone behind a mountain. Your tow vehicle, as the trailer is delivered, will not do it. With a roof array, your system will always be operating, even when you fire up the inverter and microwave at a lunch stop, to keep the system as fully charged as possible. There is no shade on a highway to block them.

Buy the roof panels, then if you feel they are a little lacking, buy a small portable panel, and put the controller inside the Ollie if you want to tweak that device’s performance. 

John Davies

Spokane WA.

 

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Johnwen, do you boondock much? Travel a lot? Camp normally with power? 

All these things contribute to the decision.

Even if you have rooftop solar, you still need a separate controller for the suitcase solar, as the Oliver port (like those installed by virtually everyone) goes to a fused line to the batteries. 

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I feel confident that after I park and spend the day away hiking or site seeing my roof top panels will still be there when I return.  Unless I’m in deep shade they will provide some charging during the day.  I wouldn’t want to leave portable panels out while we were gone.  Portables would be a good supplement.  As John points out, charging while on the road is a big deal too.  Mike

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2 hours ago, John E Davies said:

I think a portable unit is a great accessory, but ONLY if you have the rooftop array. As a stand alone charger it is really limited, because while you are towing, obviously there is no solar charging! So you might miss twelve hours of charging at up to 20 amps, until the time you arrive at camp, and THEN you have to hope you can find a clear spot for your portable unit, and the day is ending or the sun has gone behind a mountain. Your tow vehicle, as the trailer is delivered, will not do it. With a roof array, your system will always be operating, even when you fire up the inverter and microwave at a lunch stop, to keep the system as fully charged as possible. There is no shade on a highway to block them.

Buy the roof panels, then if you feel they are a little lacking, buy a small portable panel, and put the controller inside the Ollie if you want to tweak that device’s performance. 

John Davies

Spokane WA.

 

Thanks for the help John 🙂

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20 hours ago, johnwen said:

I went with the 390 AH Lithium batteries and Xantrex's 3000W inverter but elected to opt out of the 340W roof mounted solar panels.  I will get Zamp's 230W portable with it's controller and have OTT put a solar port on the LEII we just ordered. Seems like it would be more efficient to aim directly at the sun, not have to park in the sun, and be able to keep the panels cleaner.  I have read that it's better having the controller close to the battery vs at the portable panel that's on the end of 30ft of 10 AWG cabling.  Would it be beneficial to have the controller taken off the Zamp and moved to the battery compartment (if there's room) or maybe better, inside of the trailer where it would have been if I'd have bought the complete solar package deal.  Hopefully I'll get enough power from the portable to charge the batteries and not wish that I had put the larger roof mounted panels on.  Thanks for any and all suggestions 🙂

We do not have factory roof mounted solar panels on Ollie.

For now we have one Renogy 100W suitcase panel that will charge up to 6 amps in full sun.  We use the Renogy Voyager waterproof 20 amp Solar controller mounted in Ollie's battery box. We also use a Furrion solar port mounted on Ollie, but it's only rated for 10 amps. Have our solar panel cables in three sections adding up to 35 feet of 10/2 cable, when used through Furrion port on Ollie probably total of 40 feet of 10/2 cable between the solar panel and controller with up to 6 amps of charging in full sun from a 100W panel.  When we leave the campsite with solar panel out, use a padlocked bicycle type security cable on the panel connected to Ollie or something else in the campsite.

In the future may add two Solar Panels (up to 150W total) on the swing up doors on Diamondback cover on the pickup bed. Will probably install a solar port on Ollie's LP Gas bottle enclosure or front of Ollie running cables through Ollie to existing 20W Solar controller in the battery box. When we do this modification will add one more BattleBorn 100AH lithium battery, too. This modification will allow charging on the road as previously mentioned. Will install solar panels on Diamondback cover secured with locknuts/bolts & padlocks, but will still be easy to remove for storage when not on camping trips.

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Bill

LE2 #75

 

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2 hours ago, SeaDawg said:

Johnwen, do you boondock much? Travel a lot? Camp normally with power? 

All these things contribute to the decision.

Even if you have rooftop solar, you still need a separate controller for the suitcase solar, as the Oliver port (like those installed by virtually everyone) goes to a fused line to the batteries. 

Thanks SeaDawg, 15,000 miles last year, full timers, and very little boon-docking.  I see more boon-docking in our future though. 

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1 hour ago, Mike and Carol said:

I feel confident that after I park and spend the day away hiking or site seeing my roof top panels will still be there when I return.  Unless I’m in deep shade they will provide some charging during the day.  I wouldn’t want to leave portable panels out while we were gone.  Portables would be a good supplement.  As John points out, charging while on the road is a big deal too.  Mike

Thank you, Mike.  I would definitely lock it away when we're gone.  As you well know, those panels are not cheap! 🙂

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Rideandfly, thanks for your help and for the picture!  According to the Zamp website, the controller is rated 15 amps and produces 12.6 amps.  Can all that be passed to the battery?  Not sure if that's a proper question, my electrical expertise is rated about 5 out of 100 🙂   You  stated a Furrion solar port is rated for 10 amps.  Is that the port OTT installs?

 

 

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9 minutes ago, johnwen said:

Thank you, Mike.  I would definitely lock it away when we're gone.  As you well know, those panels are not cheap! 🙂

Especially the zamp. Really nice, and very efficient,  but pricey.

If somebody stole my old $100 Coleman panels, I  wouldn't be too stressed. I'd be very stressed if I  had a more expensive system.

You already have ordered almost 4x the useable battery power that we have in our 2008 shorty. That can sustain you a long time, with conservation. Guessing you've quadrupled or better the available power from the normal single Casita group 27, so there's that to consider, too. (That can put a serious damper on boondocking.)

It's a balance, and personal (and budget) choice as well. We're committed to making our own power, from renewable resources, as much as possible.  We're also committed to conserving power and water, wherever we are, at home, or camping or sailing. 

If, however, you usually camp with hookups, and boondock three or four days at a time, you probably don't need rooftop solar. 

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Well, as has been said - how you set up your Ollie and the solar  -  should depend on how you use the RV - for me its the amount boondocking you do  - or not. Honestly, with the increase in the numbers of folks that are now RV'ing and pretty much filling most campgrounds, not having the ability to stay off grid - comfortably - is a real issue. 

As much as I detest detailed trip planning - (where we will park)  - I have attempted to secure sites for June/July across several of the western states - and  -not to my surprise -  a few places I would like to have found a fri/sat spot are packed full. Luckily, most of where we plan to head has lots of great - free - boondocking.  With this in mind - I finally added a small gen set - just for the days the Sun is on strike.  (and for running the AC when we are trekking across the plains in summer) 

Having a fully capable off grid RV really adds to the versatility of the experience. Now I will say - if commercial RV parks are your thing - you can find a spot in most places - well - it was tough during spring break in Florida.

But having the ability to park in B.O.B. places- for weeks on end - are , well priceless.

RB

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Just now, SeaDawg said:

Guessing you've quadrupled or better the available power from the normal single Casita group 27, so there's that to consider, too

Thanks again, SeaDawg.  We were pretty basic with our Casita...  just an 100AH AGM battery with a 100W Renogy on 2 separate 8 day boon docking excursions.  And the limiting factor was, of course, the bladder tanks.  Your video is very much appreciated!  Spot on as far as I'm concerned.  Especially concerning the generator.  We did get the easy start capacitor for the smaller gen sets.

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3 hours ago, johnwen said:

Rideandfly, thanks for your help and for the picture!  According to the Zamp website, the controller is rated 15 amps and produces 12.6 amps.  Can all that be passed to the battery?  Not sure if that's a proper question, my electrical expertise is rated about 5 out of 100 🙂   You  stated a Furrion solar port is rated for 10 amps.  Is that the port OTT installs?

 

 

John,

I like the the Furrion port and wish it was rated for 20A, but when purchased all I could find was a 10A Furrion port.  Last time I checked 1 1/2 years ago Oliver installed Zamp ports.

I installed the Furrion port, still have the plug on my desk drilled out of Ollie, looking at it right now. Had to be sure where I was drilling! 🙂

I'm not an electrical expert either. 🙂 Zamp website shows connecting your controller directly connected to batteries.

Zamp installation Page 4:

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0344/2973/0953/files/ZS-10AW_15AW.pdf?v=1617051298

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Bill

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24 minutes ago, SeaDawg said:

Also, read this..

https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-tips/how-much-solar-do-i-need-on-my-rv/

Not everyone depends on solar. It's our lifestyle choice, at home and on rhe road. 

Since you full time, it's a big decision. 

 

I like the Drivin’ and Vibin’ videos and Kyle makes some good points on why not to get solar.  I disagree with his first point... we’ve found that camping in National Parks is usually a dry camping experience.  Having electrical hookups is the exception rather than the rule, especially in the west.  I agree that if you like campgrounds with hook ups then solar is not necessary.  That’s what we thought we would do when we got our Oliver 5 years ago, I got the solar package “just in case”.  As it turns out, we camp a lot in BLM and FS campgrounds, so I’m glad we opted for the solar.  Mike

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46 minutes ago, rideandfly said:

I like the the Furrion port and wish it was rated for 20A, but when purchased all I could find was a 10A Furrion port.  Last time I checked 1 1/2 years ago Oliver installed Zamp ports.

I installed the Furrion port, still have the plug on my desk drilled out of Ollie, looking at it right now. Had to be sure where I was drilling! 🙂

I'm not an electrical expert either. 🙂 Zamp website shows connecting your controller directly connected to batteries.

Thanks for the info, Bill.  Nice wheels 🙂

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  • 6 months later...
On 4/21/2021 at 1:26 PM, rideandfly said:

I like the the Furrion port and wish it was rated for 20A, but when purchased all I could find was a 10A Furrion port. 

JPR HUGE TYPO CORRECTED BELOW!

 

Ride and Fly and friends:

Doing planning for a suitcase portable solar panel upgrade and also ran into the 10 Amp Furion Solar Port issue.  If I'm going to do this, I prefer to have reserve capability for future expansion.  My starter may be the Renogy 100 watt suitcase panel with their 20 amp solar charge controller (SCC).  Puts out 6+ amps as others have indicated above and elsewhere.  My expansion would be a second suitcase panel without the SCC.   As such the 10 amp solar port is inadequate.  

I ran across the ZAMP double solar port, each rated at 10   20   amps (SAE Connections) served by two sets of 10 AWG wired.  They also make a triple version.  For me the double will be more than sufficient.  

I like this weather protected version more than just using the pigtail and exposed cap that I believe Oliver is using.  Although it is designed as aero smooth for rain protection I am thinking of mounting it with the plug side down vs. airstream while moving back.   

  • For the street side wall, would you mount it Aero (Horizontal, Plugs facing aft) or Self-Draining (Plugs down)?
  • One mounting option is where Oliver is mounting the pigtail solar port. Where would you recommend mounting this?
  • Is this overkill vs. two naked capped pigtails? 

  What say ye Oliver Pro's? 

GJ

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Edited by Geronimo John
TYPO on amps per circuit. 20 A not 10A.

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40 minutes ago, Geronimo John said:

ran across the ZAMP double solar port, each rated at 10 amps (SAE Connections) served by two sets of 10 AWG wired.  They also make a triple version.  For me the double will be more than sufficient. 

The triple port version is the same product Oliver installs as part of their solar package and the connector is the same as the single solarport you referenced above.  The only difference is the plastic or ABS housing.  If you like the Furion Solar Port just install two of those, maybe one on each side of the battery box.

Are you going to combine the output of both suitcase panels into a single SCC before connecting to whichever port/ports you decide on?

Mossey

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Mossey:

I corrected my earlier post.  The ZAMP double has #10 wiring.  Each plug-in can handle 20 amps for sure.  Their note seems to indicate higher.  I am now on the fence as to get the 100 Amp or the 200 Amp suitcase systems.  Either way, the current will be less than rating for a single Zamp port.  I do like you idea of having a solar port on both sides of the trailer.  I also like John Davie's idea of mounting one on the battery box door.  May put a second one as you suggested on the curb side.  Maybe inline with the basement storage area.  An easy path back to the street side electrical.

Thanks for the ideas!

GJ
 

 

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24 minutes ago, Geronimo John said:

Mossey:

I corrected my earlier post.  The ZAMP double has #10 wiring.  Each plug-in can handle 20 amps for sure.  Their note seems to indicate higher.  I am now on the fence as to get the 100 Amp or the 200 Amp suitcase systems.  Either way, the current will be less than rating for a single Zamp port.  I do like you idea of having a solar port on both sides of the trailer.  I also like John Davie's idea of mounting one on the battery box door.  May put a second one as you suggested on the curb side.  Maybe inline with the basement storage area.  An easy path back to the street side electrical.

Thanks for the ideas!

GJ
 

 

We just picked up a 200W Renogy case, but now I am wondering if we don't stick with the smaller 100W suitcase.  Big difference between 20 and 40 pounds, especially since we plan on storing the external panels in the closet.  That's a lot of weight up front.

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I agree with VBistro about the weight difference.  I’m not worried about the storage weight as much as having to handle the 200W suitcase. Personally I would rather handle a couple of 100W suitcases.

When I mentioned 2 individual ports, I was referring to both being on the street side, one fore and one aft of the battery box.  A few years back, Raspy mounted his port in the battery box door and he was happy with it.  I mounted one Furion port forward of the battery box for my 100W suitcase.  I am not sure if I would like a solar panel plugged into the wall of my front porch although it would be easier to move and follow the sun and I could keep a better eye on the suitcase and it’s sun exposure from my easy chair.  Wow, I am getting lazy.

What are your plans for the SCC?  You mentioned a second suitcase without a SCC.

Mossey

Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL   LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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30 minutes ago, VBistro said:

We just picked up a 200W Renogy case, but now I am wondering if we don't stick with the smaller 100W suitcase.  Big difference between 20 and 40 pounds, especially since we plan on storing the external panels in the closet.  That's a lot of weight up front.

You are correct on the 40 pounds.  I too have "plenty" of tongue weight as loaded.   If I find that I like the 100 watt, I could always just order out a second one without controller.  

Changing subjects, did you get their Ellipse versions?  

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21 hours ago, mossemi said:

What are your plans for the SCC?  You mentioned a second suitcase without a SCC.

Should I find that I really like the solar gig and wanted more power, the same Voyager 20A SCC is used on both their 100 and 200 watt suitcase kits.  No need for a second SCC just to get 100 more watts.  So get the kit without the SCC. 

 

Also, Renogy also makes the Ellipse versions.  For the 200 watt, it is 18% smaller, 7.2 pounds lighter, and 26% more expensive than the regular model.  Note:  The cost increase would likely be off set some by the federal solar benefit.

EDIT:  Last night I pulled the trigger on the 200w Eclipse solar suitcase.  It is on sale for 20% off.  Add to that the RENOGYSOLAR10 coupon for an additional 10% off. = 30% off with free shipping too!

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