Three 280 watt solar panels on Casita 13 - Fiberglass RV



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Old 05-05-2019, 10:32 AM   #1
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Three 280 watt solar panels on Casita 13

I posted some of this build before and got really busy with life and put it on hold for awhile. I told everyone I wanted to out three 280 watt solar panels on the roof and most people said it couldn't be done. Well they may be right, but here is my attempt to prove them wrong.

All the weight is supported by the four main poles, the lateral forces are controlled by the four feet that bolt into the top of the fiberglass shell. I weigh 220+ lbs and I can stand on the rack and it doesn't move at all.

The solar panels are going inside the frame stacked on top of each other. The top solar panel is going to b exposed to the sun on top. The two panels below will be on 42" locking drawer slides that extend out to the side.

Why so much solar? Basically this is going to be used in FL where it's super hot and I want to be able to run the AC for as long as humanly possible without having to plug in or start a generator up if I'm off grid camping. I ride bikes a lot and want to be able to use this to get to new spots and have a base to come back to to cool off and re supply. It would also be great for some day trips to the beach, tailgating at concerts ect.

I'm still not done with mounting the panels and slides. I'm trying to figure out a way to make the panels tiltable to get to most sun possible, but may just mount them flat for simplicity sake. The sun in FL in the summer isn't at a huge angle so I'm not sure how important it will really be. Once everything is done, I'm going to clean up the frame and have it powder coated.







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Old 05-05-2019, 12:14 PM   #2
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What about the batteries, where and what size to power the a/c?
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Old 05-05-2019, 12:24 PM   #3
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What about the batteries, where and what size to power the a/c?
Batteries going right where that cross member is infront of the front support poles. Four Trojan 1275 batteries for the time being as I had two of them already sitting around. I still need to build the mount/cover for them as well.

I'm going to be using a climate right 5000 unit. It is an external unit that is not mounted to the camper. It uses 700 watts/6.2amps while cooling and like 11amps for heating. But I'm not too worried about the heating.
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:25 AM   #4
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That is a beautiful job! Paul loves it! (Me, too!)

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Old 05-06-2019, 11:36 AM   #5
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I love the set up, but the only problem I see is that 65 amps or so to run the inverter at 12 volts.
However, I say go for it!
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:49 AM   #6
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I didn't think it was feasible to run AC off any reasonable size battery bank, but I guess I'm wrong! Crazy. I like the motivation, and everyone has their own personal reasons and needs, but man...Seems like more work than it's worth. Be sure to check the total weight, since I'm guessing your axle isn't rated too high.

Pay close attention to the power the AC takes to actually kick on. There's a huge spike in power use to turn an appliance on, and that needs to be figured in when you plan battery, inverter, wire and fuse sizes, though I'm guessing you've already taken that into account.

Nice troubleshooting, and good luck!
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Old 05-06-2019, 12:02 PM   #7
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If we could have enough solar to run the microwave for a few minutes and the heater overnight, that'd be plenty. Air conditioning...well, a fan/swamp set-up does us OK in Oregon/Washington, known for more dry summers.

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Old 05-06-2019, 01:37 PM   #8
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Three 280 watt solar panels, WOW, that's a lot of power!
A Buddy of mine went down this road so he (and friends) could play electric guitars in the back country. Six 2 volt deep cycle batteries on the tongue of his unit. Killed the batteries every night, recharged then the next day with solar. Totally cooked his batteries in about a month. Hope you have better luck.
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Old 05-06-2019, 04:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by redbarron55 View Post
I love the set up, but the only problem I see is that 65 amps or so to run the inverter at 12 volts.
However, I say go for it!
I'm going to run the system off 24V to cut the amperage in half. 65 amps is too much. I am also running the panels in series with an MPPT charger to cut down on the amperage from the panels. Good catch!

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Originally Posted by ZachO View Post
I didn't think it was feasible to run AC off any reasonable size battery bank, but I guess I'm wrong! Crazy. I like the motivation, and everyone has their own personal reasons and needs, but man...Seems like more work than it's worth. Be sure to check the total weight, since I'm guessing your axle isn't rated too high.

Pay close attention to the power the AC takes to actually kick on. There's a huge spike in power use to turn an appliance on, and that needs to be figured in when you plan battery, inverter, wire and fuse sizes, though I'm guessing you've already taken that into account.

Nice troubleshooting, and good luck!
Lots of good points here and I have accounted for them, I think lol. The inverter I'm using is capable of 2000+ watt spikes and I will also be using what they call a soft start on the A/C compressor. I found out about these during hurricane season. It allows you to run a wall banger type AC unit off one of the 1000w Honda generators, where normally the compressor motor coming on will kill the generator. The axle was going to be replaced anyway as it has seen better days and the trailer frame was braced in some key areas when I took the shell off.

As far as batteries not lasting, from what I read, that has more to do with charge controls and not draining too far between charges. Also poor battery maintenance wont help.

I will be the first to tell you that I went in wayyyyyy too deep with this camper. The camper was given to us by a family member that had passed and used it for years to come visit us. When I got it, the floor was completely rotted out, and what started out as fixer upper, turned into something else. I'll be honest, this camper isn't something I would have gone out and bought for myself. The driving factor is the sentimental value, the spirt of the person who gave it to me (a true craftsman/explorer) and wanting to create something I know he would be proud of. Not going to lie, I'm starting to get pretty excited about getting to use it soon!

But in all reality, this isn't really economical, or practical... I know that...I have all the tools and skills to do the majority of this project myself and have accounts at places to buy all the materials at wholesale prices.

I am by no means an expert on these solar systems, as this will be the first one that I have ever done. If anyone sees something they see as a problem, please don't be afraid to voice your concern. I'm very open to criticism. I think two of these guys above had some really good points.
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Old 05-06-2019, 05:11 PM   #10
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X 280 watt

[QUOTE=CasitaInFL;741017]I posted some of this build before and got really busy with life and put it on hold for awhile. I told everyone I wanted to out three 280 watt solar panels on the roof and most people said it couldn't be done. Well they may be right, but here is my attempt to prove them wrong.

All the weight is supported by the four main poles, the lateral forces are controlled by the four feet that bolt into the top of the fiberglass shell. I weigh 220+ lbs and I can stand on the rack and it doesn't move at all.

The solar panels are going inside the frame stacked on top of each other. The top solar panel is going to b exposed to the sun on top. The two panels below will be on 42" locking drawer slides that extend out to the side.

Why so much solar? Basically this is going to be used in FL where it's super hot and I want to be able to run the AC for as long as humanly possible without having to plug in or start a generator up if I'm off grid camping. I ride bikes a lot and want to be able to use this to get to new spots and have a base to come back to to cool off and re supply. It would also be great for some day trips to the beach, tailgating at concerts ect.

I'm still not done with mounting the panels and slides. I'm trying to figure out a way to make the panels tiltable to get to most sun possible, but may just mount them flat for simplicity sake. The sun in FL in the summer isn't at a huge angle so I'm not sure how important it will really be. Once everything is done, I'm going to clean up the frame and have it powder coated.

Hey, nice exo-sleleton, just what I need to do same on my class A. I mean, who needs anymore holes or weight on/in an RV roof?? for tilt think about drawer slides only oriented differently! Anchored at one end and angled to prop up the high end of the panel. Self storing and use minimal space.
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Old 05-06-2019, 05:12 PM   #11
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I have a mini-split and most of them have inverter power and therefore do not have that starting surge and my 9000 BTU unit maxes out at 900 watts, but usually runs a good bit less than that.
I don't know if the Climate Right has an inverter or if it is an across the line starter.
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Old 05-08-2019, 09:17 PM   #12
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Why 280W? If you're going all-out, it might be worth seeing if you can fit 3 of the high-efficiency LG NEON2 340W panels up there for only a tiny bit more space.
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:19 PM   #13
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now, you just need the 100KWH battery pack out of a Tesla, rewired for lower voltage (or using DC-DC converters to knock the 370 volts DC or whatever the tesla pack is wired for down to something sane).

problem with higher DC voltages is, they are extra deadly... if you get shocked with 200VDC, you can't/won't let go, unlike AC that has an intense BUZZ that kicks you back from it, DC welds you do it.
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Old 05-09-2019, 05:17 PM   #14
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John in Santa Cruz: Paul once saved a guy who was grabbed by DC by slamming him away from the current with a 2 x 4 at the shipyards. it was an exciting time. Poor guy~!

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