Solar Upgrade

posted in: Boondocking, RV Info | 0

We have had a Solar enabled RV for over 6 years and have really enjoyed the Boondocking freedom with that investment going from 2 AGM’s to 6.

Started with 850 Watt high voltage 35v + panels on the roof with a great MPPT solar controller and the largest copper gauge core the connections would take. Took every step to limit distances between PV Controller, Batteries, and Inverter. Installed 900ah of Lifeline AGMs as our bank.

We rarely depleted our bank below 72% maybe a few times upper 60% and the batteries lasted. But the AGMs took forever to charge with no shadows, full sun 6-7 hrs. tilting proper RV orientation etc.

We learned the motion of how to use it and how to better understand our consumption patterns relieving ourselves of AC dependence and converting to straight DC use eliminating AC tranformers throughout the coach. We really understood Watts AC vs Watts DC to gain greater efficiency from what we used and how to minimize needing the Inverter. Freeing ourselves of “wall warts”, the seemingly endless number of chargers for USB and devices that require DC.

We started moving away from propane wherever we could to leverage the “free electricity” and put greater demands on our lead-acid bank and system.

Getting the battery bank back to 100% became increasingly difficult as we began depleting more and more of our capacity with the move to more of an electric energy dependency while
Boondocking. Winter, Early Spring, and Late Fall simply made Panel tilting orientation, eliminating A/C shadows a daily effort.

When we had invested in our system Lithium was just starting and hadn’t fully developed.

We read about the amazing benefits and the substantial investment. We knew at some point we would replace AGMs or upgrade to Lithiums. We could not add more batteries or add more panels on our roof.

Our issues weren’t with how our core
System design/build or any component living up to its stated capabilities. Our issues were Lead-Acid limitations in the following three areas.

1. Charging limitations and lead-acid charging management would lead to hours and hours to charge them. Storms, overcast days and we were looking at dipping deep into reserve.

2. Available capacity limitations and high current watt use penalties.

3. lead acid size and weight per amp
hour and storage limits for out gassing.

Well we did make the upgrade and it was a substantial investment in batteries and lithium battery management… we relocated our bank and gained back an entire storage bay.

Now on overcast mornings with the same solar panels and core wiring we see our 50% – 60% depleted 600ah battery bank recharge in 1.5 to 2 HRs.

We now comfortable using up to 80% of our battery capacity vs living with the lead acid limitations. No more climbing on the roof to tilt or move a panel to get every last daylight minute to charge those AGM batteries.

With that freedom we eliminated a traditional propane fridge for a low watt dc one and can leverage low voltage floor radiant heat on occasion in the mornings to break the chill.

It is amazing how fast these batteries charge leveraging the 5 high voltage 170 watt panels we have.

It seems like some sort of miracle when I stir in the early morning see we are below 50% and by the time we are eating breakfast we are fully charged having run the induction cooktop and a small electric Vornado heater to take the chill out of the air.

The amount of thought and vigilance to keep tabs on the Solar Panels and Battery Bank as we boondock is now a thing of the past. I am thinking we are actually saving hours of thought to manage on some days was a ridiculous amount of effort in solar panel management and usage restrictions. Will the batteries get topped off today?

No More.

So glad we did and now we believe we are 300ah’s away from being able to depend on some regular electric heat usage as well as air conditioning for a few hours a day!!!

That’s our journey… now on to allowing ourselves to “being there”…. why we boondock and not so much on how we enable the freedom to be off grid and get away from the effort.