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Old 02-25-2021, 06:24 PM   #1
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Configuring Rooftop Solar for my Bigfoot th

Finalizing specifics for my BF 21 solar system.

Last year, I “dropped” Battleborn 100ah lithium, installed Victron BMV-712; 12 volt outlets throughout cabin. Also put together an amphours/day spreadsheet.

Did some dry camping, and love that lithium battery.

But it’s time to finalize my solar array configuration. Have been speaking with Rich Solar. Will get either 2 200 watt monocrystalline or 3 100 watt polycrystalline panels.

I’d love to get a Victron MTTP controller, purchasing a kit, which includes Rich Solar’s 40V MTTP controller/Bluetooth module, will yield considerable savings. The Rich Solar controller is the same exact product as the Renegy 40V MTTP.

I need to measure my rooftop real estate to determine if I can get a third, possibly forth poly panel on the roof. Otherwise I’ll go take the route of least resistance & go with the 200 watt panels.

I know i’m going big with the panels, but I do most of my dry camping in Northern California & Oregon during the Winter.

I was planning to complete this project this week. Unfortunately, I’m a bit behind. But should be done in a couple of weeks.
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Old 02-27-2021, 11:28 AM   #2
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Hmm a couple of days and no answer. I will refer you to my solar install thread.
https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...ead-92081.html

Feel free to PM me and if you want we can exchange phone #'s if you are looking for a lengthy discussion.
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Old 02-27-2021, 03:08 PM   #3
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Hi Thomas:
I’m guessing folks figured my post is too full of holes to respond.

I did read your install thread, but will check it out again. I never refuse an Ofer to discuss a TT project. Thanks for offering your advice.
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Old 02-27-2021, 07:41 PM   #4
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Here's a couple of images regarding my rooftop configuration. The pictured trailer is NOT MY Bigfoot 21. This helps illustrates where I can added solar panels. I added some "notes" describing the difference between the picture and my trailer, starting with the fact that I have no solar panels installed on my rooftop.

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The next few images are my 100ah (Battleborn) lithium battery drop, completed last year. I decided to locate the battery under the driver's side dinette, next to the charging center. The Victron 712 was installed on the back wall, just adjacent to that orange mallet head. I also located a kill switch at the end of the dinette bench, next to the Carbon monoxide detector.

There is room for a 2nd lithium battery in that cubby hole. But I'm going to wait and see how the one battery works with the solar panels. Per Battleborn, 400 watts worth of solar panels will not harm my single lithium. What it will do is charge the battery faster. It givers me an option to add a second battery.

The solar panel wiring will be feed down the refrigerator vent. I will mount the solar controller & inverter in the cubby hole next to the Lithium battery. Alternatively, I can locate the controller in the cabinet next to the refrigerator.

I had the electrical work done professionally, and I am very pleased with the result.
I plan to use the same folks for the solar install work.

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Old 02-27-2021, 08:30 PM   #5
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I cannot safely mount a generator on that trailer. Bigfoots are now designed to carry a generator under the carriage. So I will be dependent on solar when camping. I do most of my boondocking during the Winter and early Spring in Northern California and Oregon.

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I've been researching Will Power's DIY Solar YouTube site, as well as Handy Bob's blog and the various, excellent threads on Fiberglass & Escape Forums.

Will Power is very big on using polycrystalline, 100 watt panels on RVs. He is particularly high on Rich Solar and HQst.

Although I'd love to go with flexible solar panels, I am concerned about quality, longevity and challenge of getting them off the roof if I need to replace any panels.

I want to say that I am pleasant surprised on the price of these panels - particularly 100 watt polycrystalline - $75/panel.

Rich Solar suggests I ago with two 200 Watt panels which should fit on either side of the moon roof. They will sell this as a kit.

If I decide to get four 100 watt polycrystalline panels, Rich Solar will package that as a kit.

I am going back and forth between each option.
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Old 02-28-2021, 03:25 AM   #6
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400 watts of solar is as much as I have. So far I haven't needed it as I have been home or here in Florida plugged in at my daughter's house. I wanted to go to Quartzite this year but 2020 struck. Well there is always next year.

I have decided that if I need more solar I will get a portable and plug it in to my Anderson connector at the hitch. My controller could tolerate another couple of hundred watts so I won't have to change any of my wiring.

It looks like you are going about it in a good way by doing a little at a time. I have a tendency to go OCD and doing way more than I need but it was a lot of work and I am glad I won't have to do it again.
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Old 02-28-2021, 04:00 AM   #7
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the factory 160W solar on my 2014 Escape has never failed to keep my dual GC-2 (golf cart 6V 220AH) batts topped off by noon, but I'm careful with my power usage when boondocking, and much of my boondocking is in the wide open with zero shade at astronomy events (shade blocks the night sky so is undesirable) and music festivals (rarely enough shade to go around).

pretty much, my DC usage is limited to LED interior lighting, MaxxFan in the day, and furnace at bedtime, and charging various low power things like USB phones, tablets, bluetooth speaker. I do carry a 300W portable inverter, this can charge my wife's laptop and our ebikes, I'll do this mid day to get max solar so it doesn't dent the battery much (my ebike chargers are about 100 watts each, so I can run both at once on the '300W' inverter, which I treat like 200W max).
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Old 02-28-2021, 06:42 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by John in Santa Cruz View Post
the factory 160W solar on my 2014 Escape has never failed to keep my dual GC-2 (golf cart 6V 220AH) batts topped off by noon
The factory 170 watt solar on our 2018 Escape never failed to keep our batteries topped off by noon until......................................we parked in the shade. We could have had 1,000 watts on top and still wouldn't have topped our batteries by noon, much less when the sun went down in a couple of sites. We also carry a 100 watt Renogy portable that we've used over half the time on this current trip that started January 14th. Many times that rooftop is just situated in the wrong place. We carry three 15' cables and needed to use all 45' one time (7 nights in Chiricahua National Monument).

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 02-28-2021, 06:48 AM   #9
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yeah, ok, I have a renogy 100W suitcase, too. heh.

I don't actually have an easy way to connect it to the house batteries, I've been using it to power a car stereo in a box with a 20AH 12V AGM. I need to add a powerpole connector on the outside behind a weather cover.

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Old 02-28-2021, 07:02 PM   #10
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First of all I need to post a correction to my post #5:

I misspelled Will Prowse's name (referred to him as Will "Powers" - sorry about that).

Will's "DYI with solar power" video channel has been highly recommended in several solar threads, and it has helped me understand the various components of a RV solar system, and important product considerations. Will conducts product tests which compares types of products and manufacturers, under various conditions.

He does favor covering RV roofs with several 100 watt panels as opposed to a fewer number of larger panels.

Below are links to 3 videos which informed my thinking about the type and size of panels I am considering.






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Old 02-28-2021, 08:13 PM   #11
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I thank everyone for their suggestions.

Regarding my thinking regarding amount of wattage for my rooftop.

I honestly think I could comfortably subsist on 200-300 watts of solar and my 100 ah lithium battery when the sun is shinning. And I originally planned to begin with 200 watts and, if need be, add another 100 watt panel.

However, I usually dry camp, during winter and early spring, in Northern California and Oregon. And I have experienced as many as 7-10 days of continuous overcast & rain. Because I will not have a generator, I am thinking about getting more panels.

I could initially mount 3 polycrystalline panels on my roof (1 next to the drivers side of the AC cover, and 2 more on either side of the sun roof). There is room in the right rear corner of the roof should I want to add a 4th panel. These panels weigh 16.5 lbs and are on sale for $79 at RichSolar.

A more elegant solution (suggested by RichSolar) is to mount two 200 watt monocrystalline panels on either side of the sun roof. Each of these panels weigh 26.5 lbs. They are 20" longer than the polycrystalline panels and less than an inch wider.

RichSolar will sell me either alternative as a kit, which includes wiring, connectors, inline fuses, mounting hardware and a 40amp solar controller with a bluetooth module.

The poly panels, in particular, are nicely priced and it would not cost much more to get that 4th panel.

There are pros and cons to each alternative - overall cost of each configuration; replacement costs for a damaged 200 watt mono panel vs a 100 watt poly; maintaining 2 versus 3-4 panels; total weight of the monos vis a vis the poly panels; comparative efficiency for harvesting sunlight.

I’m juggling potential, superior efficiency of several 100 watt panels covering most of the roof against the ease of maintaining two, larger solar panels. Let’s face it, covering the roof with solar panels would make it a royal pain to clean & polish the area & access the AC cover or the two fan vent covers.

Let me address suggestions of getting a minimum number of roof panels and transporting a 100 watt portable suitcase. A couple of years ago, I started a thread regarding using portable solar verses rooftop. Most of the respondents who started with portable units eventually moved to rooftop arrays. Very few people with both rooftop & portable systems bother with their suitcase panels.

I don’t have room for a suitcase panel, I am away from the trailer all day, and I have enough problems getting myself and my dogs ready for a day in the field. The thought of lugging a solar suitcase out of it’s storage bin & away from the trailer, setting it up, and plugging it in is a major turnoff. I’d rather go overboard: mount 400 watts on my roof & be done with it!

@Perryb67: I understand that Escape is now installing 190 watt panels. If true, this does validate purchasing 200 watt panels.

I also understand that the tape mounted solar panels began to blow off Escapes. Consequently, Escape Industries are now using screws to mount their rooftop solar panels.

BTW, I did call Escape for info on their solar installations and suppliers. But they are far too busy to speak with a non customer. I'd very much appreciate it if an Escape owner could confirm these two things.
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Old 03-01-2021, 06:55 AM   #12
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I also understand that the tape mounted solar panels began to blow off Escapes. Consequently, Escape Industries are now using screws to mount their rooftop solar panels.

BTW, I did call Escape for info on their solar installations and suppliers. But they are far too busy to speak with a non customer. I'd very much appreciate it if an Escape owner could confirm these two things.
Not sure what a “non-customer” is. Everyone should be treated as a customer. When I used to call Escape about something very specific sometimes Reace the owner would call me back. Those days are unfortunately over but I do believe they are working hard to maintain good customer service.

This older post by Reace probably gives the best history of solar mounting tactics and issues...
https://www.escapeforum.org/forums/f...html#post95941

The last I heard Escape was now using a 190W kit from GoPower:
https://gpelectric.com/products/over...-charging-kit/
with the option of a second panel on some models
https://gpelectric.com/products/over...expansion-kit/
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Old 03-01-2021, 09:16 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jane P. View Post
I thank everyone for their suggestions.

Regarding my thinking regarding amount of wattage for my rooftop.

I honestly think I could comfortably subsist on 200-300 watts of solar and my 100 ah lithium battery when the sun is shinning. And I originally planned to begin with 200 watts and, if need be, add another 100 watt panel.

However, I usually dry camp, during winter and early spring, in Northern California and Oregon. And I have experienced as many as 7-10 days of continuous overcast & rain. Because I will not have a generator, I am thinking about getting more panels.

I could initially mount 3 polycrystalline panels on my roof (1 next to the drivers side of the AC cover, and 2 more on either side of the sun roof). There is room in the right rear corner of the roof should I want to add a 4th panel. These panels weigh 16.5 lbs and are on sale for $79 at RichSolar.

A more elegant solution (suggested by RichSolar) is to mount two 200 watt monocrystalline panels on either side of the sun roof. Each of these panels weigh 26.5 lbs. They are 20" longer than the polycrystalline panels and less than an inch wider.

RichSolar will sell me either alternative as a kit, which includes wiring, connectors, inline fuses, mounting hardware and a 40amp solar controller with a bluetooth module.

The poly panels, in particular, are nicely priced and it would not cost much more to get that 4th panel.

There are pros and cons to each alternative - overall cost of each configuration; replacement costs for a damaged 200 watt mono panel vs a 100 watt poly; maintaining 2 versus 3-4 panels; total weight of the monos vis a vis the poly panels; comparative efficiency for harvesting sunlight.

I’m juggling potential, superior efficiency of several 100 watt panels covering most of the roof against the ease of maintaining two, larger solar panels. Let’s face it, covering the roof with solar panels would make it a royal pain to clean & polish the area & access the AC cover or the two fan vent covers.

Let me address suggestions of getting a minimum number of roof panels and transporting a 100 watt portable suitcase. A couple of years ago, I started a thread regarding using portable solar verses rooftop. Most of the respondents who started with portable units eventually moved to rooftop arrays. Very few people with both rooftop & portable systems bother with their suitcase panels.

I don’t have room for a suitcase panel, I am away from the trailer all day, and I have enough problems getting myself and my dogs ready for a day in the field. The thought of lugging a solar suitcase out of it’s storage bin & away from the trailer, setting it up, and plugging it in is a major turnoff. I’d rather go overboard: mount 400 watts on my roof & be done with it!

@Perryb67: I understand that Escape is now installing 190 watt panels. If true, this does validate purchasing 200 watt panels.

I also understand that the tape mounted solar panels began to blow off Escapes. Consequently, Escape Industries are now using screws to mount their rooftop solar panels.

BTW, I did call Escape for info on their solar installations and suppliers. But they are far too busy to speak with a non customer. I'd very much appreciate it if an Escape owner could confirm these two things.
We're on our second solar setup. The first with an 80 watt panel on our Bigfoot. It was an older install and worked OK, but if we would have kept the Bigfoot would have started from scratch.

Doesn't matter if you have a million watts on the roof, if you're in the shade you're screwed. The 170 watt ETI supplied panel worked great for the first year, but the second we seemed to be camping in more and more shady areas and needed a portable with long wires to the camper. We purchased a 100 watt Renogy portable, 100/20 Victron controller, Zamp port and three 15' Zamp cables (45' total). We also have a BMV-712 Victron battery monitor. Today I'll be ordering a 100/30 Victron controller to replace the ETI supplied GoPower controller since our new SiO2 batteries need a bigger bulk/absorption (14.6 amps) and a larger float (13.6) than the cheap GoPower can supply. I want a controller that I can program, but doesn't take a brain surgeon, and Victron has an easy-to-use interface. I also like the fact that Victron equipment can be read using bluetooth, including driving down the road.

We really rarely use the portable, but when you need one it's worth the hassle. We don't want to lose a great site just because we're not carrying a portable. Got sick of that and finally added the portable.

Because we have a 5th wheel Escape our single panel is tipped to the rear by 5-10 degrees. If we're parked in the wrong direction our panel works poorly. I'll be adding a Lensun flexible panel to the front, that's angled the opposite direction, this summer. I wouldn't be scared of forgetting the rigid and gluing a couple of 100 watt flexibles to the roof if starting over. The Escape installed, glued rigid panels that flew off were installed incorrectly.

I would purchase one 200 watt panel over two 100 watt panels, since they will be slightly more efficient (line loss) and are still rigid enough for vibration down the road. At some point in size the physics currently work against you. We don't buy the most expensive, but avoid cheap every time. Escape uses GoPower branded panels/controller that are decent quality. I've been around enough solar installs to hear about cheap panels. Their failure rate is high. Buy decent quality equipment!

When in the sun, the 170 watt panel provides all the solar "we" need (everyone is different), but fails when not in the sun. Most seem to find that out sooner or later.

We don't have an inverter and don't need one. We've had 15 previous campers and find we camp more and more off the grid.

Don't screw around with batteries. At a minimum purchase a pair of 6v 220 amp hour batteries. Personally, if I was starting again, I'd get a pair of Trojan AGM batteries (around $500) giving you 110 ah's of usable energy. I feel 100 usable ah's is a minimum. We're currently experimenting with two 6v Soneil 260 ah SiO2 batteries giving us 190 usable ah's. I love to experiment. I'm not recommending them though. If you have the discretionary money purchase one or two Battleborn batteries ($1-2,000). Batteries are a key player in the system.

It sounds like you're trying to build the system on the cheap. Good luck. The more cheap items in the system the more failures you're going to have. I learned not to buy cheap a long time ago. Start small and slowly buy decent/better equipment as you have the money. That's what we did.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 03-02-2021, 07:15 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Perryb67 View Post
We're on our second solar setup.

Doesn't matter if you have a million watts on the roof, if you're in the shade you're screwed.) I want a controller that I can program, but doesn't take a brain surgeon, and Victron has an easy-to-use interface. Victron equipment can be read using bluetooth.

We really rarely use the portable, but when you need one it's worth the hassle.

I would purchase one 200 watt panel over two 100 watt panels, since they will be slightly more efficient (line loss) and are still rigid enough for vibration down the road.

We don't buy the most expensive, but avoid cheap every time. Escape uses GoPower branded panels/controller that are decent quality. ... Buy decent quality equipment!

We don't have an inverter and don't need one.

If you have the discretionary money purchase one or two Battleborn batteries ($1-2,000). Batteries are a key player in the system.

I learned not to buy cheap a long time ago. Start small and slowly buy decent/better equipment as you have the money. That's what we did.

Enjoy,

Perry
Thanks for your response. I'm moving back and forth between 200 vs 100 watt panels. I will definitely check out the ETI panels.

I am a complete novice about solar and I plan to have someone else do the install. But I do believe I need to spend the time researching solar and deciding what is best for us. If I purchase a kit, I'd like to know that the included fuses, hardware and wire are appropriate and correctly sized.

I bought this trailer about 18 months ago and immediately began preparing it for boon docking:
I purchased an installed a Battleborn Lithium battery and Victron 712 BMV shortly after getting the trailer. I downloaded pictures of that Battery drop in this thread.

While waiting for the Battleborn to arrive, 12 volt cigarette outlets were installed around the Dinette and our bed. These outlets allows us to recharge mobile devices and run the CPAP machine while dry camping.
Although I tend to stage my trailer projects, I'm ready to get it done and go camping. A quick and dirty approach would be to install either a 400 watt (2 panels) or 300 watt (3 panels) solar array. The weight difference between these alternatives is negligible.

I could also install two 100 watt panels and later on determine if I need an additional third panel. But at this point, I'd rather install my panel array once and not have to go back and add more panels. What I will not do is mix panel sizes (combine 200 with 100 watt panels).

I've discussed the advantage of going with 400 watts with Battleborn. 400 watts will not damage my single, 100 ah battery, but will charge the battery faster.

I appreciate your concern about saving money by purchasing lower quality components. I did not mean to leave that impression: I totally embrace your philosophy, and am always interested in finding quality products at good price. RichSolar has an excellent reputation. And its panels, manufactured in India, sell for less than other manufacturers.

I did post links to those 3 videos for a reason. Will Prowse conducted tests comparing several popular panels selling on Amazon. He also compared polycrystalline panels with monocrystalline. In these videos, he also checked out the boxing of each panel, the mounting frames, as well as the wiring on the backside. RichPower & HQST panels are less expensive & the same if not higher quality than the other manufacturers. The recommendations gleamed from these videos match up with other online reviews of these companies.

Another thing about RichSolar: they return phone calls. That is not currently happening with Renergy.

One disadvantage of the solar kits I am considering: I am locked into the seller's solar controller. Although I would prefer a Victron MPPT controller, RichSolar's kit includes their 40 amp MPPT Controller and bluetooth module. This is the same exact controller sold by Renergy. It's user friendly and does have programing capabilities. The reviews on the Renergy website are somewhat mixed.

So, let's review the bidding:
  1. two 200 watt monocrystalline panels vs
  2. three 100 watt polycrystalline panels vs
  3. four 100 watt polycrystalline panels

Victron MPPT vs RichSolar (Renegy) 40 amp MPPT

I will definitely get a Renegy DC-DC charger.

I will decide "down the road" if I need a second lithium battery and/or an inverter.
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Old 03-02-2021, 07:34 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rubicon327 View Post
Not sure what a “non-customer” is. Everyone should be treated as a customer. When I used to call Escape about something very specific sometimes Reace the owner would call me back. Those days are unfortunately over but I do believe they are working hard to maintain good customer service.

This older post by Reace probably gives the best history of solar mounting tactics and issues...
https://www.escapeforum.org/forums/f...html#post95941

The last I heard Escape was now using a 190W kit from GoPower:
https://gpelectric.com/products/over...-charging-kit/
with the option of a second panel on some models
https://gpelectric.com/products/over...expansion-kit/
Thanks, this is exactly what I needed.

BTW, Escape has an excellent reputation for customer service. But I do not own an Escape and have no immediate plans to buy one. They have no reason to spend time returning my phone calls. I don't want to misrepresent myself.
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Old 03-02-2021, 08:24 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by John in Santa Cruz View Post
the factory 160W solar on my 2014 Escape has never failed to keep my dual GC-2 (golf cart 6V 220AH) batts topped off by noon, but I'm careful with my power usage when boondocking, and much of my boondocking is in the wide open with zero shade at astronomy events (shade blocks the night sky so is undesirable) and music festivals (rarely enough shade to go around).

pretty much, my DC usage is limited to LED interior lighting, MaxxFan in the day, and furnace at bedtime, and charging various low power things like USB phones, tablets, bluetooth speaker. I do carry a 300W portable inverter, this can charge my wife's laptop and our ebikes, I'll do this mid day to get max solar so it doesn't dent the battery much (my ebike chargers are about 100 watts each, so I can run both at once on the '300W' inverter, which I treat like 200W max).
John, please upgrade to lithium. You'll never regret it!

I have been in contact with Battleborn regarding this solar project, and their batteries are going down in price. I bought my battery for $900 last year - they discounted it $50 because my husband was a veteran. Today, I'd pay $850, including that veterans discount. Apparently, they sell batteries with a blemish on the outside for $850. I wouldn't hesitate to ask about an additional "veteran" discount. Additionally, if you belong to the Escapees trailer club, they will allow you to trade up your battery for any future updates. Perhaps they also offer a discount for Escapees.

I never seek shade when boon docking.

I'm fugal with my power usage as well. I limit use of cabin lights and limit the furnace to before bed & mornings. When cold, I sleep under down comforter and cover my head. I plan to replace the original thermostat with a digital unit to prevent icicles.

The CPAP machine eats up power. I plug it into the 12 volt outlet - no need for an inverter.

As the weather heats up, I'd like to use our Fantastic ceiling fan while we're sleeping, and I would like to be able to set it on the medium setting. I want to be able to use my audio stereo system the majority of time we are in the trailer.

So, given that we are starting from scratch, this would be a good opportunity to splurge a little on power usage. I believe the rooftop configuration I'm considering will support the CPAP machine, and allow for extended use of the ceiling fan and stereo system. Not really anticipating using an electric coffee machine, toaster or microwave while off grid.

My husband brings his laptop. But we do have a 400 watt portable inverter. Overtime, I can evaluate if we want to install an inverter.
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Old 03-02-2021, 10:06 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Jane P. View Post
I will definitely get a Renegy DC-DC charger.

I will decide "down the road" if I need a second lithium battery and/or an inverter.
Renogy makes a Battery to Battery charger that is also a MPPT solar controller. It will handle 600 watts of solar panels and a minimum of 25 amps going B to B. I have one and like it . It will simplify the installation.

Personally I would get Mono-crystalline over the poly.

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Old 03-03-2021, 01:20 AM   #18
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Name: Jane
Trailer: Bigfoot 25B21RB
California
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Originally Posted by ThomasC View Post
Renogy makes a Battery to Battery charger that is also a MPPT solar controller. It will handle 600 watts of solar panels and a minimum of 25 amps going B to B. I have one and like it . It will simplify the installation.

Personally I would get Mono-crystalline over the poly.
Thanks, Thomas. I was thinking about this product, but wasn’t if it would work with a travel trailer & tow vehicle. I’d like to know how you installed it.

You mentioned that you are currently at your daughter’s house. How much experience have you had actually towing with this Renergy combo controller/charger unit?
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Old 03-03-2021, 06:24 AM   #19
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Name: Tom
Trailer: BigFoot 25B25RT
Massachusetts
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It works great. There are 4 wires to hookup, solar in, TV in, ground, and power out to your house battery. My inverter also charges my batteries but the profile is for lead acid and changing the profile is worse than programing a VCR. It has a float charge rate of about 13.6 which is a little low for a battle born but everyday the solar panels working through the MPPT part of this unit bring the voltage up to 14.3.

The worst part is adding a 4 ga wire to your TV but then you will have someone else do that. Will Prowse really liked the unit in that video.

As far a s how I installed it? I mention in post 24 about wiring the truck. Otherwise it is like hooking up any other MPPT. One nice thing is it is so easy to change the charge profile. You just insert a probe "paperclip" into a small hole to access a switch. When you click the switch an LED changes color until you get to the right profile for battery type. I wish my inverter used the same method to change charging profiles.
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Old 03-03-2021, 07:57 AM   #20
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Name: Dave
Trailer: 2010 Escape 19
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My inverter also charges my batteries but the profile is for lead acid and changing the profile is worse than programing a VCR.

... I wish my inverter used the same method to change charging profiles.
Tom: Just to prevent any confusion I assume you mean converter not inverter.
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