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Old 09-07-2017, 04:10 AM   #1
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Default Xplorer AM Solar Setup

Tonite I completed my install of the AM Solar Kit. This kit came with everything you need (except for tools of course) to install solar on an RV from nothing.

I got the Victron 50 Amp kit with a 180 watt panel. It came with all the fittings, a run of 10 AWG cable and 30' of 4 AWG cable, a combiner box, switch, circuit breaker and feet for the panels with VHB tape. Even came with a tube of Dicor. It also came with a bluetooth dongle so you can change settings and monitor performance on your smartphone.

My plans are only to run this one panel for the time being. I have room to install one more smaller panel (probably their 100 watt) forward of the roof vent. With the curvature of the roof, I didn't really want to load the roof up with panels. This single panel is mostly unnoticeable from the ground. It should keep ahead of my refrigerator and some minor charging. Should be good for 9-10 amps DC most days.

I drilled a hole in the roof and mounted the combiner box and panel a few days ago. Tonite I ran all my cables, installed ring terminals, mounted the controller, switch and circuit breaker and connected all the cables. I mounted everything in one of the lockers and routed the cable under the locker and into the storage bay and on over to the battery bank. I don't think it takes up too much space. All the parts are extremely robust - some may argue it's overkill. I did have to drill one hole thru the bulkhead to get to the storage area, but luckily didn't hit anything.

I still need to dress out my cables with some tie-downs.

Everything came to life correctly when I threw the switches. I did have to download the app and update firmware on the dongle and the controller. But it found all devices in about a second - Victron seems to have their app game on point! Every easy to use.

Here are some pics of the finished installation:
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Old 09-07-2017, 11:02 AM   #2
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Congratulation, nice installation. 30 of 4 AWG cable was required for future expansion or for 15 distance between the panel and the charge controller. The AM Solar is a great company, they were the only company I found to sell 10ga duplex wire with round profile to enable good seal in roof penetration.
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Old 09-07-2017, 03:33 PM   #3
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I went to their website and found they have an interesting way to tilt the panels or lift them for working underneath. Looks to be very easy to install and useful to have.

Your installation looks really professional. Please let us know how it works out after you had some time to use it.
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Old 09-07-2017, 03:42 PM   #4
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Since I only am using the 1 panel, I ran the AWG 10 all the way to the controller. So I have lots of AWG 4 left over. If I add another panel, then I'll have to replace that run from the combiner box to the controller with the heavier cable. I guess having the combiner box was a waste of money since I'm really using it only as a roof penetration housing.

Yes, I'm very impressed with the quality of the kit. It's not cheap, but it is compared to adding solar on most new RV's - usually you pay far more and get low grade components.

I'm very impressed with the mounting hardware for the panels. They use a terrific VHB tape - I doubt I could pull the feet off the roof without damage. I wish I had used this setup when I did my Class A. Much better than the "Sticky Feet" mounts I used.

The tilt kit is essentially two aluminum bars (with drilled holes) for each panel. $40 is a bit much for it, but it is what it is. Not sure I'll get those, but I like that you can add it later.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:04 PM   #5
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My only concern with the tilt kit was that the knobs appear to use plastic heads and I wonder how they will hold up to heat, cold and UV.

Our Crossfit came with 100 A solar, using a flexible panel. In theory, they also come with a 200 A option, but I don't know where they would put the second panel. We travel in the SouthWest, where it is sunny and HOT (113 at my house last week). Our RV is dark and the panel is dark and that all adds up to solar gain inside so we have to run the generator and AC more than we would like.

Although the flexible panel reduces wind resistance and possibly helps mileage, a rack-mounted flat panel would have the benefit of shading the roof and also be a bit cooler itself, resulting in better efficiency. Additionally, because of the curve of the roof, a flat mounted system would allow an additional panel without issue. The system you just installed looks really good so I'm interested in hearing how it works out in case we decide to replace our flex panel with a rack mount.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:16 PM   #6
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I've heard some complaints about heat losses with the flexible panels. ARV mounts them to a board first, and then to the roof. I think that helps their performance.

If the knobs deteriorate, they can always be replaced with stainless bolts and wingnuts you can get at a hardware store. AM also sells the knobs as a stand-alone part, so that may tell you something.

I'd not worry too much about aerodynamics of traditional panels. You are well within the slipstream of the vehicle, so there isn't much wind load on the panels. I have read about people having them blown off by passing trucks - largely I think because they put them on tall racks that allowed a big gap between the panel and the roof, thus creating tremendous uplift forces.

On my panel, I chose the middle setting on the mounting feet - there are 3 holes on each. I looks to leave a 1 1/2" gap between the panel and the roof, which seems plenty for cooling.
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Old 09-07-2017, 04:33 PM   #7
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.

The best protection against UV on plastic parts -- get some rattle-can outdoor paint and spray them. Cheap and effective. I do that to my flower pots, etc.,
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Old 09-07-2017, 05:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQ View Post
.

The best protection against UV on plastic parts -- get some rattle-can outdoor paint and spray them. Cheap and effective. I do that to my flower pots, etc.,
Nice tip.
Thanks
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Old 09-08-2017, 10:45 AM   #9
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I'm impressed with all the high quality items ................

Nice stuff!
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Old 09-16-2017, 01:27 AM   #10
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Well, I've been playing with the AM Solar setup for a week now. So far, I'm pretty impressed with it. You set a rotary switch for you battery type, so mine is on LiFEPO4.

The app is really convenient. It confused me at first, but it appears that the panels only output what the charger wants to take.

I was wondering why it wouldn't show a full 180 watts in full sun. What was happening was that the batteries were above the cut-off point on voltage, so it wasn't wanting to put any amp load into the batteries.
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