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Old 09-06-2022, 10:25 AM   #41
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Another couple of steps closer on the solar install today.

#1, I double checked and finished wiring my panels in series sets (4x365 watt panels and 3 x 200 watt panels). Apparently I got a little distracted on the 200 watt panels last week.

#2, I ran the solar wires to the combiner boxes in order to parallel the series sets.

#3, wired up the output wires from the combiner boxes to what will drop down into the rig and down to the storage hatch.

#4, drilled 2 x 1 1/4” holes through the roof. Did the first one from inside and when it hit the 3” of styrofoam insulation in the roof, it exploded into a snowglobe like explosion of festivity.

#5, fished the wires through the cabinet, down to its base, and then down into the storage hatch. Pretty straight shot but still required disassembly of so many things.

#5a, reassembled many (but not all, because why not leave future Doug work &#129315 of the things I disassembled.

And then I still have lots and lots of cord management on the roof along with a ton of other little wrap up projects. The Balloon Fiesta and 2 weeks of dry camping is in under a month!

And lastly, an update on the rack- we have over 1,200 miles over 5 travel days on the rack so far. We're now down in Oklahoma at a friend's property near the Arkansas line. I've had a couple of minor run-ins with tree branches, the typical kind of stuff that I seem to do more than I'd like but have always done... so.... yeah.

I went up on the ladder with all of my wiring and other than clearing out bits of leaves and whatnots, I was able to confirm that the rack is still super solid. Nothing moves, nothing looks damaged, dented, or loose.


So now some details...

Combiner box #1. This brings the 2-strings of 365 watt panels in series together in parallel and then has the output ready to be dropped down into the RV.




Combiner box #2. This brings the 2-strings of 200 watt panels in series together in parallel and then has the output ready to be dropped down into the RV.




I marked the corner of where my washer/dryer cabinet should be based on measurements from a vent and a window. I then measured in towards the center line of the camper by 10" and made a mental not of where I thought it would be.

I drilled upwards from inside and popped out right about where I expected. Woot for math working!




With the hole started, I set the 2 combiner boxes into place to test fit them. Need to make sure I have enough room between the edge of the RV and the solar panel rack.

Looks good. Now I committed to drilling the 1 1/4" holes. That was nervewracking as all heck.




I wish I was an actual RV content creator and recording myself every step of the way because this explosion of snow globe-like styrofoam was the stuff of legend. It would have made such a satisfying video.




Holes drilled and wire pushed down from the roof into this storage cabinet. The wires will go down past that little box in the corner in order.




Under the storage cabinet is where our combo washer/dryer lives and then under that is some deadspace where our furnace is housed.




Lots of twisting, contortions, and the whole family was involved in feeding wire down. I had to pull out our electric fireplace in order to get a hand hold on the wire (with laying on my back and my arm being as far into this space as possible). Lots of hand scrapes for me.




And then the front part of that dead area. These are drain lines for the bathroom and and clothing washer/dryer. But, I was able to drill through this floor and straight into the hatch that I need everything in. WOOT!

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Old 09-06-2022, 11:58 AM   #42
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And then related but unrelated, rewired my secondary panel to be an actual subpanel. Jayco was dumb on this one and previously was powering the secondary panel directly from the automatic transfer switch.
Tomorrow I’ll start wiring the disconnect breakers, solar controllers, and will actually connect the panels to the combiner box.

The new 30amp breaker replaced the 15 amp water heater breaker. My water heater is tankless and runs solely off of 12v+propane. And I’ve looked back there to try and find a 120v outlet and came up empty handed. So finding what that breaker used to control is now a future Doug problem!

I capped the old load lines off of the 15 amp breaker. My secondary panel came from the factory being fed directly from the automatic transfer switch vs. being a subpanel (which meant, it wasn’t powered by or account for by my inverters). I put in a 30 amp breaker and connected the subpanel’s main power input.

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Old 09-09-2022, 02:02 PM   #43
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This day has been a long time coming! I’m officially stealing power from the sun!

2 nights ago, I finished the hardware installation and turned it on right at dusk. Yesterday morning, I woke up excited to see how it was going and was frankly, very, very underwhelmed. The batteries were full and the panel output was very minimal because of the smart controllers.

I ran 2 air conditioners for a few hours, hit high noon, and things were rocking and rolling, stealing power from the sun.


If you want to see a video of the storage bay/equipment area and a few boring videos of voltmeter readings from each rack of panels, check this post on Imgur. Their movie links don't translate well and don't play in the browser unless you're on their site.


Now, let’s look at that hookup a little better. Each rack/size of panels on the roof are split in half with them wired together in series. I then take those series sets and take them each to their own combiner box.

Coming out of the combiner box, I drop down through the roof, down through a floor to ceiling cabinet, and then directly into my equipment bay/storage hatch.

I come directly to these circuit breakers. A couple of things:
1, in the RV world, it’s common to only switch the positive connection and not both. NEC and ABYC standards say you should do both. I’ll be changing my breakers out so that I can switch both.

2, my wiring connection on the right is kind of crappily done because the breaker doesn’t accept a size 2 wire going into it. I had to trim the strands so it fit and it’s not as clean + tidy as I’d like.

The circuit breakers are there so I can “turn off” the panels as needed. You should never have a solar controller with power coming into it with no batteries to go to. It can damage the controller. So, this lets me turn the panels off.




Coming off of the breakers, I feed into the solar controllers. The big panels are red + black wires, size 2 awg. This was recommended to me by the vendor who sold me most of the solar hardware and the small panels. Personally, my math says it’s overkill. But it works.




The small panels are 6 awg and are orange/black. Why orange? No idea. That’s what they sold to me.




Coming out of the solar charger, I want to be able to disable one or both from my electrical system. The black + yellow 40A and 120A circuit breakers let me do that. These also act as a safe guard in case bad ever happens. But that’s also a bit of belt + suspenders protection as I have fuses in that Lynx Distributor box.




Speaking of that Lynx Distributor, let’s take a look under its dress, so to speak. This is just a fancy pair of bus bars + integrated fuses. I have the smaller controller fuses at 40amps to protect the wires (always fuse at less than the wire rating) and the big controller at 125amps.

Can I be honest for a second? I worked with the rest of the system up and live and while I love my Lynx Distributor, I was nervous as well working in such a tight place. I really should have just cut power for a bit.




Now, let’s start looking at some of the output. These are the big panels. This wasn’t the highest output I saw yesterday- just so happens to be what I have a saved screenshot from.




And now for the smaller panels. I only have 5 of my 6 panels as one came with shipping damage. I have them in 2 series sets- one of 3 panels and one of 2 panels. Series adds the voltages up of each panel.

Those 2 sets are then wired in parallel. When wiring in parallel, the lowest voltage controls the output. So since I have just 2 panels on one set, it’s effectively like I have 2 panels on both sets.

Longest story shortest, it’s like I only have 4 panels hooked up. Adding the last one will be like gaining 2. *magic*




The Victron Connect app is where I go to see my solar universe. I’m able to see output watts of each set of panels. As you can see here, I was pulling in a total of 2,310 watts from the sun and recharging the batteries.




The day’s production.. It’s very interesting to see how the output jumps around based on clouds, shadows, battery state of charge, and all the things.




And now, a look at my real mess. This is the battery bank. It’s currently setup for only 1/2 of the batteries (left side currently). It’s extra messy because I have lead wires laying there for both sides. When it’s finally finished, I’ll be able to get rid of 1/2 of the cables and will make up a set of wires that I can hopefully tidy up somehow.




Now that solar is done, inverters are done, and I’m starting to see the finish line- it’s time to get the 2 banks of batteries wired together. The first thing to do is to top balance the cells so they are all as equal as possible.

When that’s done, I’ll wire every 2 cells in parallel (+ to + and - to -) and then I’ll wire up those 2 pairs in series to get up to 48v. This is called 2P16S.

(video is in the Imgur link above)



I truly still have a bunch of little nagging things left to do. Mostly wiring cleanup and interconnecting some bits. But I've got a great start at making power from the sun.
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Old 09-09-2022, 02:37 PM   #44
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Now, reminder lessons in safety! I had a previous post about surprise/accidental welding when I was switching some things around last time. The end of a battery cable got away from me and short circuited. The sparks were epically terrifying and honestly didn’t go out right away when hitting the wood.

Now, I put a piece of heat shrink tubing over the loose ends.

As well, since I don’t have proper electricians tools, I wrap my socket wrenches in painter’s tape to try and insulate them.

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Old 09-09-2022, 03:40 PM   #45
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This has been an amazing project man!!!!!!!!
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Old 09-09-2022, 03:46 PM   #46
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This has been an amazing project man!!!!!!!!
Thanks! Just a little more to go. I won't lie, I'm ready to be done!
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Old 09-09-2022, 03:59 PM   #47
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Thanks! Just a little more to go. I won't lie, I'm ready to be done!
I'll bet that's right.

At least once your done, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of a job well done man!!!!!
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Old 09-15-2022, 01:32 AM   #48
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Well, I finally had my letting out of the magic smoke and sparks and surprises. It’s now pert near 4 hours later and the room still stinks. 12v converter is dead and the factory 1,200 watt inverter is, too.

I was running a #10 gauge copper wire for grounds from the panels/rack, down through the house, and to what I thought was a 12v negative and/or chassis ground.

Turns out, I seem to have inadvertently fed 54-55 volts into the 12v system- I think my ground wire drug across the 48v positive busbar (even though it was mostly covered). The converter let out a significant amount of smoke. The supposed chassis ground sparked and sputtered quite a lot. And the inverter had a made-for-TV dramatic death.

To make matters more exciting, I cross-threaded the supposed chassis ground and ended up breaking the bolt trying to unthread it.

So now, I guess my 48/12v step-down converter gets moved up in the priority list! We are running 12v off of our pair of 6V AGMs with no good way of recharging them.

Oh and we leave on Saturday morning. I still have roof stuff to finish to be travel ready.
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Old 09-16-2022, 07:24 AM   #49
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Well, I finally had my letting out of the magic smoke and sparks and surprises. It’s now pert near 4 hours later and the room still stinks. 12v converter is dead and the factory 1,200 watt inverter is, too.

I was running a #10 gauge copper wire for grounds from the panels/rack, down through the house, and to what I thought was a 12v negative and/or chassis ground.

Turns out, I seem to have inadvertently fed 54-55 volts into the 12v system- I think my ground wire drug across the 48v positive busbar (even though it was mostly covered). The converter let out a significant amount of smoke. The supposed chassis ground sparked and sputtered quite a lot. And the inverter had a made-for-TV dramatic death.

To make matters more exciting, I cross-threaded the supposed chassis ground and ended up breaking the bolt trying to unthread it.

So now, I guess my 48/12v step-down converter gets moved up in the priority list! We are running 12v off of our pair of 6V AGMs with no good way of recharging them.

Oh and we leave on Saturday morning. I still have roof stuff to finish to be travel ready.

Dang man, I'm not sure i understand exactly what happened but it doesn't sound good.
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Old 09-16-2022, 10:27 AM   #50
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Dang man, I'm not sure i understand exactly what happened but it doesn't sound good.
Yeah, applying 48v to a 12v system = lots of smokes, sparks (twice), and dead components.

Oh and I had to change my drawers.
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Old 09-16-2022, 12:21 PM   #51
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Oh and I had to change my drawers.
Oh, I'll bet that's right!!!
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Old 09-26-2022, 03:58 PM   #52
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Thanks for the ideas on terminating those wires. I looked at it last night as I had the under-bed area opened up but was busy wiring up the full battery bank. I'm officially using the whole bank - every 2 batteries are in parallel and each parallel set is in series with each other. I also reconfigured the layout so that I freed up more under bed space. I tried tidying up the wires and it looked nice until I put out the 16 cell/balance leads and then it turned into a hot mess again. I'm *never* going to win any prizes for non-embarrassing wiring.

And last week, I finally got my replacement warranty panel. That was a mess with moving addresses and Rich Solar (the manufacturer) not being forthright with when they were shipping. My wife had to stick around our friends in Oklahoma City for an afternoon while I left with the motorhome to drive to Amarillo.

I got it installed and wired up. I still have Dicoring to do up there. And I'd like to pull the MC4 connectors apart and really test out how much my booboo on the one big panel is costing me.

And, we're officially boondocking from today to October 9th at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta! So far, we've ran 1 air conditioner set at 72° and the second intermittently kicks on at 75° and I'm still at 99% over the last 4-5 hours.

At 1 air conditioner, I'm making electric above and beyond what's needed:

Click image for larger version

Name:	Fiesta - Day 1 - 1 Air Conditioner.png
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ID:	84407

At 2 air conditioners, I'm often running at a slight deficit. I can't figure out if it's an amount of sun, that booboo on the panel, or if it's just Victron not going all out since I'm at 98-99% of battery so far.

Click image for larger version

Name:	Fiesta - Day 1 - 2 Air Conditioners.png
Views:	1
Size:	43.7 KB
ID:	84408

I still have a myriad of little tasks to do.
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