WARNING – This post is incredibly long!!!!
I finished installing my 300w solar system on my new 377 RLBH today, and I couldn't be happier about how well it came out!
I’ve been asked a number of questions over the years about the solar power installation and supporting modifications that we recently completed. (Yea, right…. Is any project ever really completed? I’m already looking at things to add to make it even better!) Anyway, I thought that I’d try to put together a single post that would explain our installation and answer any questions.
First, a little bit about us and why (we believe) solar was the right choice for us. We live in Upstate New York, in the Albany area. Our 5'er is a North Point (Jayco) 377 RLBH. The entire system was taken off of my previous 2009 Rockwood, because when we traded-up to the Jayco, the dealer didn't want it!
We typically camp in a variety of places, including some very nice RV resorts, private campgrounds, state parks with limited or no utilities, NASCAR races, and an occasional parking lot while in transit more than a day. One of our favorite trips is one that we try to repeat every other year, to Assateague IslandState Park, in Maryland. Camping at Assateague is truly boondocking. There are no services in all but one of the camping loops. Water needs to be hauled in, waste hauled out, and if power is needed, it means “disturbing the peace” by running a generator.
For boondocking, we have a 2400W Yamaha (quiet!) generator, purchased after our first NASCAR camping weekend without one, but using it means that someone needs to fuel it (me!), start it (also me!), keep an eye on it while it’s running (me again!), and then secure it when completed (yup, it’s me!). In spite of the Yamaha being quiet, this activity still requires “attention” – detracting from my camping leisure, burning long-dead dinosaurs whose remains directly fill the bank accounts of a society that includes those who would commit acts of terrorism (I’m a firefighter who worked on The Pile at Ground Zero in NYC post-9-11), and emiting CO and other toxins into my campsite!
So, the major components that I removed from the Rockwood, and reinstalled on the North Point include:
Four 6-volt golf-cart batteries, wired in series, then parallel, to be two BIG 12-volt batteries.
Roof Mounted Solar Collection - Two 150W Suntech Panels (34.4v)
Homemade two axis, four way tilting mounts – The design attaches (with removable pivot-pins) the panels to the roof of the unit in six points for travel or to use flat. The pivots, one in each corner, allow for the panel to be lifted on either end of the long axis. The hinges, three on each side, allow the panels to be lifted on either side of the short axis. Prop-rods of various lengths, with pin holes drilled every inch, allow for angle adjustment of the panel to accommodate different latitudes, seasons, and whether the unit is oriented N/S or E/W. For example, at my house (near Albany, NY @ latitude 42.6710), in the Spring or Fall I need a 39.5 degree angle. If parked N/S, the panels will be lifted from the North end a height of 43”. If parked E/W, the angle stays the same but the lift to achieve it is 21.5” (so I round up or down for early or late season). It the summer the two lifts are 17” and 8.5”, respectively.
Panel Disconnect – Installed to disconnect power from panels to controller for maintenance, storage, etc.
Rogue MTP-3024 Controller/Charger – I cannot say enough GOOD about this controller, Rogue, and their owner, Marc Loring! I bought this unit new, in 2009. Because of the lay-out of the Rockwood, the best place to mount it was right next to my side of the bed, where I could easily see the display. With the layout of the North Point, and the rooftop "prewire", the controller was moved to the basement, and the display is difficult to see. I contacted Rogue and had them send me a remote display, which had been available when I bought the unit, but I never ordered. When it arrived, it didn't work. After doing some troubleshooting with Marc, we determined that the problem was with my controller, so I took it back out, and sent it to him. He found a broken diode, but since (he said) I couldn't have gotten to it due to location, and that it wouldn't have been evident as I never needed the remote feature, he fixed my 2009 controller in 2016 as a WARRANTY repair! No cost! This DEFINES "customer service"!!!!
Xantrex PW2000 pure sine wave inverter - Turn my "battery bank" into 120v!
Next step will be to run 120v Romex from the inverter to a spot next to the 5'er cord connection, and install a 120v outlet there, powered by the inverter. Once done, I'll just have to plug in my dogbone adapter into the adjacent outlet.
I turned it all on today, at about 4:30PM, as the sky was darkening for some incoming storms, and the sun getting lower in the west...
After sundown, the system had topped-off my batteries (I had shut-off the charger in my 120v converter), delivering 71Wh, at 161 peak watts @ 5.1A. The system had been on "absorb" for only 10 minutes, then went to "Float" for 50 minutes before going to sleep.
So that about wraps it up. About the only thing left that I haven’t told you is blood-type: (B neg).
Some photos of the install below:
My home-made panel mounts:
Utilizing the North Point roof solar connection:
The panel install:
My apologies for being so long, but I warned you!!!! I hope that you got something from the read, and hopefully this answered any questions, and gave you some acceptable solar meat to chew on for a while…...