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Old 02-28-2015, 06:53 PM   #1
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Default Razor antenna plus more solar

We did get a Razor antenna upgrade kit for our Winegard antenna on the 07 C190P Roadtrek. I had been waiting for someone to come up with an antenna that would clear enough area on the roof for another 100 watt solar panel, without totally moving the rotator and other things inside the van. The Razor is too wide to just drop in and use as it will overlap the Fantastic fan lid. There are a couple ways around that problem. You can just turn the antenna far enough toward the passenger side to clear, but we didn't like that as the outside corner of the antenna wound up hanging out further that we liked. It also put the antenna across some of the airflow when driving, so it might buffet. I decided to just put an offset in the support mast, using the leftover tubing from the old antenna. I had planned on just welding in some pieces to do it, but the aluminum tubing is extremely thin and I didn't think welding would be durable enough on it. I also couldn't just stack a few pieces of tubing and bolt through them to get offset because they crushed too easily. I finally made a couple of 1/8" aluminum plates to sandwich the two pieces of tubing, spaced about 3.5" apart. That spread the load enough to not crush the tubing. It put the antenna in the right place, but the new setup only uses the top hole of the old two tube mounting, so the tube doesn't engage the locating notch in the base. With the loosness of the rotating mechanism, the antennas could land over a 3-4" range on the roof without the guide, so sometimes it was over the fan cover, other times hanging over the edge of the van. I finally mounted a little piece of the tubing to underside of the mast to engage the guide, and now it locates very well.

View of the offset plate setup



You can barely see the small tubing used to guide into the base



The antenna sits much higher than it needs to, but is not any higher than the base casting, so it doesn't cost clearance. The foot that is sits on the roof with, could be cut shorter and epoxied back together to get lower, but then you would also need another offset in the mast to keep in parallel to the roof when stowed. I may do that in the future by getting some thicker wall aluminum tubing that could be welded into a cleaner mast setup.

Here is the clearance to the fan from the rear



I ran into glitch on the solar right off the bat. I had allowed for 3 panels from day one, including a Morningstar controller that could handle 3 panels in series or parallel. When I went to the Blue Sky controller, it said it was a "hv" or high voltage model, good for 50 volts, so I thought I was still good if I ever needed to 3 panels in series. In checking all the specs and wiring instructions one last time, I discovered that they want 50 volts maximum open circuit from the panels. The Grape Solar panels are 21.2 volts open, each, so I was way over. That meant a change to parallel and all the wiring to go with it on the panels. If had been able to series, it would have just plugged in with no extra wiring-bummer.

I made a homemade combiner box with a 4X4X2 pvc box and cover, and used two load center neutral bars for buss bars.



The buss bars are bolted in from the bottom with recessed flatheads, as they will be at voltage. I am on a fiberglass panel, so no big deal, even if not recessed. If I was on a steel panel, I would put a thin sheet of plastic under the box.



We now have 6 wires instead of only two to deal with into the air conditioner area



Our basic level when camping has changed since the original solar was put in, do to getting the bed support off the Roadtrek wooden wheelwell covers and onto steel supports. The rear basically sits different now when level, so it was better to step the panels down toward the rear so they stayed closer to the roof but still could flow air under them. Our old setup had the panels slightly low in back, I found out with a more careful check.



Panels from the top showing them, the antenna, and the screen we put on the sewer vent.



The panel we got turned out to be a bargain. It was an Amazon unused return for $206 with free shipping. With the need to turn the panels all parallel to each other we had to violate the don't mount from the ends rule they have on the install instructions. The reason is probably because the sides have a full channel frame, but the ends don't. AM Solar end mounts all the time, so it probably isn't a big deal, but I did decide to add a angle to end. It bolts in with 4 #10 screws through the side and a pop rivet to tie to the sides on the bottom.



The only issue came up when I checked the voltages on the panels to confirm polarity before hookup. The two older panels ran about a volt higher than the new one, open circuit, under the lights in the garage. I took them outside and there was still a difference in the bright sun. Old panels at 21.7 volts open circuit, new panel at 21.2 volts. Spec is 21.2 volts. I called Grape Solar a talked to an engineer there, and he wasn't at all concerned, and would be OK with up to 3 volts variation. He seemed very knowledgeable, so I put them in. No outdoor testing yet, but hopefully it will warm up enough soon to do some. We hope to get in the 15 amp range at 14.7 volts, but we will see. We may lose a little do to the 10 gauge wire that is from the combiner to the control, but the Grape engineer said we probably woundn't notice anything at 15 amps, especially with an MPPT controller. We will see.

300 watts should give us 90+ AH of recovery on a good solar day, which is close to 2 days use most times. It would be nice to get 15 AH in the shade (parallel should help that), as that is where we can use the most. We were under $300 for the whole upgrade.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg antenna mod offset.jpg (33.3 KB, 1099 views)
File Type: jpg antenna bottom guide.jpg (37.7 KB, 1099 views)
File Type: jpg antenna to vent space.jpg (43.8 KB, 1095 views)
File Type: jpg combiner box.jpg (52.0 KB, 1104 views)
File Type: jpg recessed buss bar flatheads.jpg (30.3 KB, 1095 views)
File Type: jpg end angle added.jpg (36.4 KB, 1094 views)
File Type: jpg Wires to AC area.jpg (40.1 KB, 1098 views)
File Type: jpg panels from side.jpg (41.9 KB, 1097 views)
File Type: jpg done from top side.jpg (41.9 KB, 1102 views)
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Old 02-28-2015, 09:44 PM   #2
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

300 watts all aft of the Fantastic Fan - nice job. You just mentioned the potential project and now it's completed. Nice low profile look too.

It will be interesting to hear how the Razar antenna works out and also what difference you notice (other than the extra 100 watts) with the panels in parallel now.
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Old 02-28-2015, 10:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

I ran a quick channel scan with the antenna in the down position inside the garage and got 32 channels, which is more than we usually got with the other antenna, so hopefully we will equal or better. We are about 30 miles from most of the towers here. Some of the online reviews mentioned scanning more channels, but having lower quality on some of them, so we will see. Winegard says this antenna is designed to work best in the lower channel number compared to higher, because the broadcast channels are allegedly being all moved to the lower channels. Can't confirm that though.
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Old 03-01-2015, 06:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: Razor antenna & channels

Generally a lower frequency will travel farther/ better quality than a higher frequency given the same radiated power.

that's why the low AM band stations travel so much farther than the high am stations...you may remember this as a kid.
all the big money AM stations position themselves lower in the range

generally the CBS/NBC stations which came first will be lower channels than ABC network...and then even higher up the FOX network, CW/ upn etc.

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Old 03-01-2015, 02:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

We have been pleased with Razor. In Sun City, AZ where I parked in the driveway I asked the host how many channels he could pull in over the air. He said about 30. I pulled in 55. He might have been estimating but that was a big difference. As I mentioned ours is the indoor model concealed inside the air conditioning shroud and doesn't raise and point.
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Old 03-01-2015, 04:04 PM   #6
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

@ Booster, that is a sleek install/mod.

@ Davydd, I like the idea of mounting the antenna under the AC shroud. It concerns me though if the AC is running and your watching TV, does the AC fan/ compressor disrupts or interferes with the TV signal? If not this is my ticket for installing a 3rd panel on my Agile. Thanks.
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Old 03-01-2015, 04:05 PM   #7
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

Booster, Great setup, exactly the issue I have been trying to deal with. I was more interested in freeing up roof real estate for adding solar panels than reception from he antenna but it would be great to have both. I am contending with interference from the Fantastic Fan and the power bath fan on our 07C210P. I can't get up to the roof right now due to winter snow and the cover but from my roof photos it looks like I might have to shorten the mast and move it over as you have done.
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Old 03-01-2015, 05:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travilnguy
Booster, Great setup, exactly the issue I have been trying to deal with. I was more interested in freeing up roof real estate for adding solar panels than reception from he antenna but it would be great to have both. I am contending with interference from the Fantastic Fan and the power bath fan on our 07C210P. I can't get up to the roof right now due to winter snow and the cover but from my roof photos it looks like I might have to shorten the mast and move it over as you have done.
We haven't had any issues with the Fantastic Fan causing interference (we have the upgrade automatic remote control version), but we have found that if we have the tablet or laptop on the 12 volt charge adapter we can lose channels.
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

Quote:
Originally Posted by RT.SS
@ Booster, that is a sleek install/mod.

@ Davydd, I like the idea of mounting the antenna under the AC shroud. It concerns me though if the AC is running and your watching TV, does the AC fan/ compressor disrupts or interferes with the TV signal? If not this is my ticket for installing a 3rd panel on my Agile. Thanks.
I will probably never find out. I rarely run the air conditioner and if one did could one even enjoy watching TV?
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:57 AM   #10
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Default Re: Razor antenna plus more solar

I am back in the Phoenix metro area at the White Tank Mountain Regional County CG up high west of the city. I scanned again and came up with 64 channels. However, just about everything past channel 20 is in Spanish.
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