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Hello everyone,

I am having trouble finding the type of plug for additional portable solar panels. I am hoping it is MC4. I found that you can add an additional over 600 watts of portable solar panels. How many of you all use portable panels? 

Thanks for any information.

Kirk

Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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Oliver uses a Zamp connector on the trailer - which is proprietary, if I recall correctly; though I believe that it is a standard connector with reversed polarity. You can buy a Zamp to MC4 pigtail though, as well as polarity reversing adapters.

I think that at 600 watts, "portable" is debatable.  I have a 200 watt pair, and frankly, for me they're too cumbersome and heavy to deal with.  Three of those and I wouldn't have any room in the truck bed for anything else.  Though I also have 200 watts mounted on my truck, which I could attach to the trailer if needed.  That would be my advised route for anything more than say a 100 watt suitcase, which I think is the sweet spot for portables.

Portable pros are more watts, of course, and you can position them where you want, move them about, etc.  Cons are that they take up valuable storage space, are a pain to set up, and are easy and very attractive to steal.  

Given all that, my personal advice is:

a) Determine what you need and resist buying more just because it's more.  You can always buy another set later, and it's almost guaranteed that it will be cheaper when you do.

b) For anything larger than 100 watts, buy a separate charge controller and convert the panels to 24 volt.  That will allow you to run longer and thinner wiring while keeping the voltage high enough to get a full charge.  Which means, to get back to your original question, if you're buying a charge controller, get whatever connector fits your new controller.

 

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35 minutes ago, Overland said:

Oliver uses a Zamp connector on the trailer - which is proprietary, if I recall correctly; though I believe that it is a standard connector with reversed polarity. You can buy a Zamp to MC4 pigtail though, as well as polarity reversing adapters.

The  Zamp connectors are proprietary, but apparently do not have reversed polarity.  From the Zamp website (https://www.zampsolar.com/pages/faq): "Is the Zamp Solar port reverse polarity? No, but they are different from other brands of solar ports because all of our SAE plugs are polarity-protected for safety reasons. That means the positive pin on all of our SAE plugs is set back and covered to prevent accidental contact that could damage your panel, short your battery, or give you a pretty nasty shock. So, because of the polarity protection on our plugs, Zamp Solar ports are only compatible with Zamp Solar SAE plugs."  

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2021 Oliver LE2
Ram 2500 diesel

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Zamp uses some interesting verbage, but Overland is correct. Zamp wires the sae connector for their port reversed polarity of normal/standard sae connector wiring. The connector is not proprietary.  They just claim better safety  wiring different from industry standard,  which is actually true. 

So, you can make up your own cable, if you want to use a different brand portable, or, you can buy a cable with same connector, and buy a reversed polarity adaptor. Plugging in panels without the correct polarity could ruin your panels or other circuits. Or, you "could" reverse the wires from the port... but label it. And whatever you do, check with a multimeter.

The zamp port goes through a fused line directly to the batteries,  so you need a controller mounted to the panel, which most suitcase systems include. Or, a controller in the trailer.

Zamp panels are quality  plug and play, but they're quite heavy and very expensive. We have a different brand, my husband  made up the connector cable, and we wired up a slave controller for the portable panels instead of using the controllers on-board the panels. (Full disclosure,  we also installed a furrion port, instead of zamp, so this is not our experience.  My sister had the ubiquitous zamp port on her rpod.)

We  set up portable when we'll be in the same spot for awhile. It's too much work, as our panels are not featherweight, either, for an overnight stay. The rooftop panels charge our agms fine if we're traveling, so not necessary. 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

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I think that's Zamp's way of saying that their way is better than everyone else's.  They can nitpick the meaning of reverse polarity, but at the end of the day their connectors are still wired the opposite of other connectors.  

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Btw, Dometic bought Zamp this past year. I do think zamp quality is great. I just don't want to open the wallet quite that wide for panels we don't always carry, or use.

Probably bought by Dometic because so very many rvs have the zamp port installed, across so many brands. Plus the high quality of their (imo overpriced) panels.

Plug and play is great. Until it's too pricey and heavy to deal with. 

In my sister's rpod, we just ran alligator clip ends to the battery itself, with a panel with an on-board controller.  No big deal, as she had no other solar, no other controller. She and her husband started their trailer camping and boondocking career with first trip, with us. She's a veteran tent camper. 

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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Thanks everyone!

All useful information. I am amazed at how confusing this topic can be. I have a young electrical engineer friend, about to finish school and I am encouraging him to go into solar installation and design. It is difficult to find competent people in this field, IMHO. 

I agree with SeaDawg, Zamp seems overpriced to me. I was looking at Bluetooth. They have a 200 watt portable foldable panel that weighs about 16 pounds. They use the MC4 connection. If I go with those sounds like I can get a MC4 to Zamp converting coed. I will explore that option, for now. 

Thanks again, Kirk

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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@Kirk Peterson, if you buy other brand panels,  make sure you , or your young engineer friend,  check all connections and polarity.  Please.

It's not super difficult,  but it is important. 

Btw, never heard of Bluetooth solar panels. Was that a autocorrect thing?

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At 16 pounds, for 200 watts, they may be less efficient,  thin flexible panels. 

I'd like to see the specs. 

Our 200w fixed panels weigh 45 pounds each, I think

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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2 hours ago, Kirk Peterson said:

This one: BLUETTI PV200 200W SOLAR PANEL

My guess is those portable panels do not come with a controller attached. It appears they are designed to interface with the portable power station. I’d suggest installing a quality MPPT controller near the battery bank vs having it attached to the panels. 

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16 hours ago, ChrisMI said:

My guess is those portable panels do not come with a controller attached. It appears they are designed to interface with the portable power station. I’d suggest installing a quality MPPT controller near the battery bank vs having it attached to the panels. 

No, it doesn't.  I looked it up. The bluetti power bank, which the portable system is designed for, has its own controller.

So, yes, you would need a controller.  Looks like a nice, light, system, and they claim really good productivity. 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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After additional studying, the Zamp solar panels become more attractive, even with there cost and weight.  They have a 230 watt panel that weighs 46 pounds. I might try one of those, if I end up needing additional power. It get very confusing trying DIY with the solar systems, too many different options. 

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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With the right adapters, its not a big deal 

My advice would be to wait and see if you actually need anything,  at all.

Zamp is a big cost difference.  And 46 vs 16 pounds is huge, at least, for me.

Portable solar is the easiest add on, ever. See if you actually need/want it.

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2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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  • 3 months later...

I put this setup together to augment the one I built for my trucked cover.  I can connect all the panels in series/parallel for a total of 940 watts. (including the ollie roof panels) These are BougeRV 100 watt 9bb panels.  Much cheaper than the portable offerings from Zamp.  Hopefully I will be close to net zero while running the Houghton AC in full sun.

 

IMG_1682.thumb.JPG.b2d4220f6bd06dfb14af79a214a775a2.JPGIMG_1679.thumb.JPG.63074a5351771d1fd440429d8a1311df.JPG148951528_IMG_12682.thumb.JPG.8ef13efc5b6757ea6215e7d6076f50dd.JPG

 

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John and Kim

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II.   Hull #887

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4 minutes ago, Jps190 said:

I put this setup together to augment the one I built for my trucked cover.  I can connect all the panels in series/parallel for a total of 940 watts. (including the ollie roof panels) These are BougeRV 100 watt 9bb panels.  Much cheaper than the portable offerings from Zamp.  Hopefully I will be close to net zero while running the Houghton AC in full sun.

Very nice setup! 👍

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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4 hours ago, SeaDawg said:

Nice how you can angle the panels with the bed cover when you're parked. 

Yeah, I went through different configurations and panel sizes in order to make that happen.  I didn't want the panels to hang over the back in case a stray rock flew up while underway but it could only go so far forward to allow fully opening the cover. In the morning and afternoon that angle can take the truck array from around 230 watts to 290 watts.  Every little bit helps.😬

 

John

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John and Kim

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II.   Hull #887

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5 hours ago, Jps190 said:

that angle can take the truck array from around 230 watts to 290 watts.  Every little bit helps.😬

Absolutely!

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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On 1/6/2022 at 1:56 PM, SeaDawg said:

So, you can make up your own cable, if you want to use a different brand portable, or, you can buy a cable with same connector, and buy a reversed polarity adaptor. Plugging in panels without the correct polarity could ruin your panels or other circuits. Or, you "could" reverse the wires from the port... but label it. And whatever you do, check with a multimeter.

This is what we did with our Renogy 200W suitcase (charge controller included).  I triple-checked the polarity out of an abundance of caution.  🙂

I also agree that 200W is about as much portable as I want to handle, though it does stow nicely between the beds, or even on one of the twins.  It's still heavy, and will only make the trip when we will be in one place for a while.  

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MaryBeth
Boulder, CO

2022 Elite II #953
TV: 2021 Ford Expedition Max Platinum, Max Tow Package

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Did a quick 2 nighter and was able to do some testing.

IMG_1716.thumb.JPG.8ac62286e6b40677680a662a2b681585.JPGIMG_1717.thumb.JPG.945bdd8c1fabf661609fbf728733969d.JPG

 

 I had a full sun day just southwest of Atlanta and using the truck bed, portable setup and the Oliver panels I was able to pull in 5.82KWh over the whole day.  I lost sun due to trees at around 5PM so I could probably hit 7KWh in the clear. At the peak the total network power on the Victron showed about 822 watts.

IMG_1714.thumb.PNG.2879ba7ef642aaf9adf3a1411f81828b.PNG

 With the Houghton running I was only showing a 222 watt deficit but since the air cycles the batteries would catch back up.  Over all I am pretty satisfied.

IMG_0484.thumb.jpeg.e4cb1f656c4dbf9d71d905dc2d2f2de2.jpeg

 

John

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John and Kim

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II.   Hull #887

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We recently installed a Victron MPPT controller (100/30) to the pantry wall inside the area where the Zamp controller was.  Wiring was straight forward for the roof mounts.  We temporarily have plated over the hole using a white 3-gang blank AC switch plate.  The six screw holes allow some relief for the Victron heat sinks.

Then we removed the Zamp external connector and replaced it with a standard SAE connector.  Then we wired it to the Zamp controller now located in the bay below the curb side twin bed.  Now we can use the two old 100w portable solar collectors we bought from GoalZero years ago - they have no controllers.

Together we max out at 540 watts of potential solar wattage under perfect conditions.

Charlie.

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Arizona | 2020 Oliver Elite II Twin bed Hull #617 | 2021 Ram 1500 e-Hemi 4x4

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