Our new RV Solar installation
Where do I put my batteries and equipment?
We purchased a 2020 Outdoors RV in February, 2020. It is a 26kvs Mountain Series travel trailer. We have been researching for the last year ever since we went full time after selling the house. It's just the two of us and no children or pets. That made the choice of a smaller rig rather easy. We started out with a 2018 Keystone Cougar 24rbs and a 2016 F-150 V8 gas tow vehicle. While it was OK, it was still a one room RV with small windows. We discovered, in a hurry, that we wanted a separate bedroom and bigger windows so we could enjoy the incredible places we were visiting.
Our research led us to Outdoors RV, manufactured in the mountains of Oregon. The reasons would fill a BLOG of it's own. Suffice it to say we had a specific model picked out that satisfied all of the check boxes on our list of desirable features. We went to the Dallas RV show and bought one on site. They had to bring one down from Idaho for us. We picked it up two weeks later and moved in. We cannot be happier.
Our old rig had a solar power system I had pieced together and installed myself. When we traded up to the ORV I kept the equipment with the exception of the 4 solar panels. I really didn't want to try to remove them and leave a mess on the roof. The panels were 100 watt Renogy slims which served us well but we wanted more. More power or more panels. We also had built up the battery bank to 4 Battle Born Batteries. Each was 100 AH Lithium. They are amazing. That's another BLOG also. I purchased 2 more when Battle Born had their blemish sale on Black Friday for a total of 6.
That brings me to this point. The trailer has one pass through bay in the nose. I could put everything there and try to run cables to the breaker box somehow. I really did not want to tear into the underside of the RV. That opens up a can of worms I did not want to deal with. I must also admit that I am an Ambassador for Battle Born and love to brag on them every chance I get. Our living area has a dinette in the slide with the refrigerator on the drivers side.
Opposite that is a huge window with two recliners that are movable and swivel so you can watch TV, have conversations with visitors or turn to the window and have a terrific view. Under the window is a stretch of space from the pantry to the main door that's about six feet long. The bottom of the window is about 16 inches from the floor. It finally struck me that I could put everything there and make a display of sorts to show it off. I put my thinking cap on and came up with a plan. The breaker box is located at the bottom of the pantry! How convenient. I can penetrate the side of the pantry and run all cables directly to the back of the breaker box. So, how do I arrange the batteries and the electronics so it looks acceptable and is functional?
I needed some way to anchor everything in place so when we travel down the road, off-road as well, we did not throw everything all around the room! I decided to build a cabinet that would secure the batteries and allow me to mount the Victron Multi-Plus and Solar Controller. While designing the cabinet it hit me that it could also double as a table for the two recliners. I decided on simple pine wood and screws to make it both light weight as well as sturdy. I wanted the bottom to be one piece so everything is anchored together. The top (table part) only needed to cover the batteries. I build it so the table surrounded the batteries securely. The part between the batteries and the pantry was just going to be a solid bottom and back for mounting everything. Switches, buss bars, breakers, battery shunt and the Victron equipment would mount to either the bottom board or the back.
I finished the cabinet with two coats of sealer and two coats of a light blue flat water based enamel paint. I wanted it to match the soft earth tones of the decor but still stand out a bit. What do you think?
With the cabinet built, I placed it under the window and it fit perfectly. I installed the batteries and made additional cables to connect them together in parallel. This gives us 600 amp hours of 12 volts power. Plenty for several days of boon-docking. The rest of the equipment pretty much installed itself by following the circuit diagram and connecting everything with custom made cables. I made the cables from welding cable for the most part. All cables should be as thick, and as short, as possible for maximum efficiency and fewest losses.
I connected the new equipment in two phases. Phase one was the A/C side. Shore-power comes in on the slide out side (driver side), opposite the installation, and comes up from under the floor into the breaker box. It was simply a matter of splitting the romex wire and running the feed to the Victron Multi-Plus and from the Multi-plus back to the breaker box input. Now, shore-power comes in to the Victron and then is fed back to the A/C distribution side of the breakers. Having done that I reconnected the shore-power and fired it all up. A/C worked perfectly. At this point the Victron and the battery bank would be able to supplement our needs if we demanded more power than our hook-up could provide. The Victron was also charging the batteries as needed.
The next phase was to replace the power source for D.C., which was the lead acid battery on the tongue of the trailer. That was a matter of removing the front battery, disconnecting the inverter that came with the rig, and connecting the + & – cables to the terminals in the breaker box. We powered up and everything in the rig was now running on the new 12v power source.
I have some additional equipment that displays what the system is doing. There is the battery monitor, a BMV-712 from Victron that displays the state of the battery bank. There is also a control panel the displays the current state of the Multi-Plus and also allows me to turn a knob and limit the amount of current being taken from shore-power. If we mooch-dock at friends or family (like we are doing now) we could hook up to a 15 or 20 amp circuit and make sure we don't pop their breaker. The Victron will make up the needed 110v A/C from the batteries if needed. As long as the total does not exceed 30 amps all is well. I removed a blank panel next to the breaker box and manufactured a replacement that will be secured with velcro so I can access inside the cabinet as needed. I painted the panel matte black and I think it looks pretty good. I have one more display that gives an animated color graphic showing energy moving throughout the system.
The next phase will be installing the 4 solar panels I have purchased. They are 200 watts instead of the 100 watt older panels. A total of 800 watts of 12v should keep the batteries charged if we get some good sunlight.
Check out this short overview
All-In-All I am very pleased with how it turned out. I am looking forward to meeting many of you on the road and showing off the Battle Born & Victron equipment. Let me know what you think!