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I am in the process of starting to buy the things I need for my solar panel system and all electronics. I am looking for recommendations. I know that there is recommendations on a bunch of different post on here but finding the time to read every single one is hard. I have taken some suggestions so far from other post.
I will be using my van mainly off the grid for 2-5 day trips a couple of times a month.(mainly 3 day trips)
This is mainly what I will be running:(not all at one time)
2= Maxxair Fans 00-05100K
Dometic CFX-50US Portable Electric Cooler Refrigerator/Freezer
6= Gold Stars GW21500 Chrome RV Reading Lights
Small microwave(need suggestions do not have one yet)
USB chargers(for phones and lap tops)(need suggestions if specific ones are better)
I would like to like to install a couple of 120v outlets also(just in case)

I am looking for the BEST cheapest suggestions on:(Brands and Models if you have)(web link if you have)(where you bought)
Panels (thinking 200w or 300w)
Controller
Inverter
wiring(sizes and lengths)
Batteries (2x6v or 12v) why one over the other
Battery Isolator
Fuse Block(How many circuits)
Do I need a battery disconnect switch?
Connectors to go from outside to inside for wiring.

Anything else I may be forgetting to go into the system.

Are the Renogy premium kits any good?

Thank everyone for any suggestions!!!
Dave
 

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Lots of us use the Renogy panels. I have 2/150 w ones myself. Get them from Amazon or directly from Renogy's website.. 200 w should be more than enough for what you want to run. Buy the controller from them also. A small cheap micro (750 w) is all you need for $50 and a 1500 inverter from Harbor Freight for less than $100. You don't need to spend a lot of money for a sine wave inverter for that kind of equipment. Use either 2/6v golf cart batteries or one 12v (2 if you can afford it). Many of us like the AGM's but the flooded are half the price and can work just as well. You don't need to connect them up to your alternator but you would be wise to in my opinion.

There are countless well documented threads here on what and how to do it. Do yourself a favor and read them before you waste your money on unnecessary equipment. If you can find someone near you that has done it get together with them to see how it's actually done. There are many ways to do it and all of them work well. There is no "right" way. Some people swear by one brand or another but in the end you have to do your own shopping and determine what's the best value for you. You can mix and match component but if someone is offering a complete kit you may save a few $ by buying it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
keeponvaning
Money is not (really) an issue but I don't want to spend it on things that I don't need to(like names brands just for the sake of it). I would prefer to stay away from Harbor freight for anything electronic. Would there be any other brands for the inverter that would do what I need it to do that would be a little more reliable even if it is a little more expensive? I have read a lot on here that people use 2000w inverters would a 1500w be good enough or should I spurge for the 2000w. I have seen a lot about 6v and or 12v but have not seen why you would want to chose one over the other. Do you know why people chose one over the other? You said 2-12v would I wire them for 24v or just to have one for an extra? From what I have read on here so far AGM seems to be the best for me since I am forgetful sometimes.

Thank you for the info!
Dave
 

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I have a 2000w inverter from HF and it works fantastically. I would buy another in a second but that is simply a value judgement. If you are running a small load as you indicated 1500 should handle it. Over sizing the inverter is wasteful in terms of power consumption and besides inverters are about the least expensive item you will need.

2/6v vs 1/12v (or 2/12v) is simply another value judgement as is flooded vs AGM. No, if you use 2/12v you connect them together for more capacity not more voltage. I prefer AGM's others love flooded. AGM's are mainlanders free but double the cost. 6v golf cart batteries are built to last almost forever and are probably a better choice. In my Sprinter I had a bank of 4/6v flooded batteries and in my Promaster I have 2/12v AGM's and I personally see no difference.

Everyone here will have their own pet way of setting up their system and none are wrong. You need to do the work to find out what is best for you by reading all the different threads here and on other sites to find out what's the best way for you.

Get a pad of paper and make notes as you read different threads and try to figure out what you need and want and why or what someone suggests is better or worse for you.

I'm sure others will chime in and tell you their way is the very best and there is only one way to do it but that is like saying only Chevys are worth owning, never buy a Ford, Dodge the best, white vans are ugly, red vans are fast, black vans get to hot.

I would especially suggest you follow medicineman's current build in progress. He has asked, and received, all the info he needed and you may gain a huge an]mount of inside from what and why he is doing.
 

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If you could do without the microwave you can do this much simpler and cheaper. I use a butane stove instead. https://www.amazon.com/M-V-Trading-...&qid=1488036323&sr=1-19&keywords=butane+stove
No inverter then (or small one), smaller battery and 100 watts of solar, etc. Everything the microwave can do is just as easy on a burner and it probably will be warmed evenly and taste better. Think about it before you just say no.
 

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Big fan of Renogy here. Excellent quality and value.

The solar controller box usually has a USB charger port built in and takes current off the load circuit during daylight use. Even a small microwave is inefficient as heck and will suck huge current. Requires at least a 1000 watt inverter too. My small apartment mini fridge draws 5 amps when running. Hot weather it has to run more of course. Cooler evenings it'll run a few minutes each hour. I use two 12v deep cycle batteries in parallel. Makes one big 12v battery! About 180 amp/hrs. On a typical night the fridge will draw the batteries down to the low 12's in voltage and at first light, the four panels start recharging it immediately. By lunch time they are all topped off and then float the charge all afternoon.

I too have become a big fan of using a tiny butane stove for cooking.

Took a week long road trip to Florida earlier this month. Everything worked perfectly.
 

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RD is the person I know that won't use a microwave but it's most handy appliance ever invented for campers tho. I couldn't imagine traveling without one.

He is correct when he says use a butane stove for cooking however and yes, without a micro you have no real need for an inverter.
 

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Hi,

The loads you have are about:

6 light at 0.3 amp each for 3 hours = 5 amp-hrs per day

2 fans at 2 amps each for 4 hours(?) = 16 amp-hrs per day

Fridge 3.5 amps on half time for 24 hrs/day = 42 amp-hrs per day

mirowave 900 watts for 15 minutes per day with 90% inverter efic
(900 watts*0.25hr/0.9) = 250 watt-hrs/day, or 21 amp-hrs per day

Laptop (40 watts/12volts) 2 hours/day = 7 amp-hrs per day

This totals to 91 amp-hrs per day

This is a bit surprisingly high, and may be a bit conservative -- you can play around with the numbers above and adjust the times on for each load. The fridge might be a bit more efficient than I show (but probably not a lot). But, you may end up with some other small loads by the time you are done -- eg water pump, CO and propane detectors, TV... loads tend to grow a bit over time.

So, if you went with the common solution of two golf cart batteries in series to make a 12 volt battery, it would give you about 200 amp-hrs. So, one night with no charging would bring you down to about (200-91)/200 = 54% State of Charge. You might get to two nights without charging by going down to 20% SOC, but you would have to go easy on some of the loads to do this as you would have to get down to 80 amp-hrs per night.

On a good sunny summer day (sun high in the sky), a not shaded 200 watts of solar might get you close to the 90 amp-hrs, but not all days are sunny and in the winter, the sun is lower and does not do so well on flat roof panels. PVwatts (the online PV calculator) can give you more precise answers on how much solar will provide. For a 3 night off the grid trip, you will probably have to do some running of the van for charging -- not a problem at all if you are doing some driving each day.

On batteries, I used the Costco golf cart batteries, and they have been fine -- now going on 3 years old. I do think that Trojan (and probably some other brands) make better batteries that provide more amp-hrs and have a longer life, but they also charge a healthy premium. I think its not such a bad idea to go cheap on the first set of batteries as there are lots of ways to kill them before their time through user error, and its not a bad idea to go up the learning curve on a cheap set of batteries. Agree with KOV that AGM vs flooded is a look at the pros and cons and pick on whats important to you -- both are good solutions.

I think a switch to disable charging from the van is a good idea to have -- I'm about to add one to my van. A lot of the time, the solar will be enough to charge the batteries, and the solar charge controller will be easier on the batteries than charging from the van. A master switch to shut off all loads, but keep the solar charger hooked up would also be handy. Make sure the switches are good quality and rated for the load.

You might consider and inverter/charger unit, which combines a battery charger that charges from shore power with an inverter that provides 120VAC from the batteries when you don't have shore power. It handles the switch over from batteries to shore power automatically and makes the wiring a bit easier.

As a practical matter, we find we don't end up using our AC outlets in the van very much at all.
DC appliances are more efficient as you don't have the inverter inefficiency in there, and inverters use power on standby even when there are no loads (10 watts on mine) unless you turn the inverter off when you are not using AC loads.

Gary
 

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A lot depends on when/where you plan to camp. Yesterday, when we got back to the van from a hike, the temp had already dropped to 36°. It was 23° when we got up this morning. No way were we going to cook outside or even open a window/door/vent to cook or heat on a stove inside, notwithstanding that we have chosen not to use a stove inside under any circumstances. Microwave to the rescue--lasagna and soup brought from home. Coffee, oatmeal, Mac'nCheese breakfast. With your short trips and a microwave, you would almost never even need to bring a stove. Don't let RD talk you out of it.

I think most of us used the Rival 700W MW from Walmart. In store, they have replaced it with their Mainline brand which seems inferior, but the Rival may be available from WM online. If I were buying now, I'd look seriously at the Sharp I saw at Lowes. Same specs as the Rival, but much better looking.

MW really needs 200Ah of battery and 1500W inverter. We bought a Raptor inverter because it was recommended by a company that upfits trucks for electrical contractors. It is excellent, but not the only excellent one. We added 300W solar because we could and are glad we did. Solar conditions are not always great, and this way we never have to risk wishing we had added more when it was easy to do so.

For reference, dinner and breakfast in the MW, Webasto heater fan for 14 hours, 45-qt Engel fridge set to 36°, plus lights and charging used 60Ah, bringing the batteries down to 70% charge. With reasonable sun even in winter, they could repeat this cycle indefinitely.

I'm a minority here, but we chose to go with Bogart Engineering's Trimetric meter and solar charger, which work together. We are very pleased with it and with the personal attention Ralph at Bogart gave in helping to set the charging profile to match the batteries. I particularly like seeing our percent charge at a glance--like having a fuel gauge.

Edit: Gary and I were typing at the same time. We have an isolator and a cut-off switch for van charging. We found that the isolator itself (Surepower 1315) has a significant draw when idle, so it is disabled unless actually in use. We have used it a couple of times to allow the van to charge house batteries after several cloudy days. We have used it once to allow the house batteries to start the engine when the van battery died (we are beginning to suspect it suffered on the dealer lot.)

We consider AC essential. AC water boiler for coffee, oatmeal, etc. With hook-up, the MW runs better, and we can use electric heat.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Msnomer
In medicineman post you said you had the Raptor inverter and a separate Noco charger. What model Noco do you have? Why would you go with two separate things and why would one be better than the other? Gary said above to get a inverter/charger together. I definitely like the price of the Raptor but if I have to buy a charger separately am I any better off.

Silly question(I know nothing about electrical) but when my van is at home and I am not using anything in the van and the van is under a covered carport does the batteries need to be charging on anything?

I am for sure going with AC set up now and build around it then decide I want it later and have to figure out the wiring after everything is installed.
 

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I didn't know the combo existed until my system was already in place, so I can't comment on which is better. My whole electrical system build was a novice stumbling in the dark. I'm lucky it ended well. My NOCO is the Genius 1500 recommended by Trojan because my batteries like its charge profile.

I don't have a carport, but my driveway is so shaded I get almost no solar in the summer. I keep the AC plugged in because I leave the fridge on 24/7.
 

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Since some years appeared in the market DC-DC chargers that combine solar charge and charge from vehicle alternator (or another source).
Solar charge with MPPT technology is the one that allows actually to have maximum recharge current from the solar panels.

All charging systems draw energy even if idle, some more, some less.
It is important verify periodically, and eventually to recharge, batteries status.
Battery life can be potentially heavily reduced if voltage goes under minimum recommended value.
One option is to have a switch / breaker / ... installed in the crank vehicle battery and leisure battery.

Some examples:

http://www.ctek.com/hu/en/chargers/D250S%20DUAL

This one can charge lead batteries (different profiles for different lead battery chemistry) and also lithium batteries (it is an australian product) or have a custom charge profile
http://www.enerdrive.com.au/product/dc-to-dc-battery-charger/

http://projecta.com.au/Products/DualBattery/DCSolarChargers.aspx#!prettyPhoto

There are many different manufacturers of these kind of systems, with different functionalities/capabilities.
The above are only some examples.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
MJAB
Would this be the same as the charger controller you would get when you would buy the solar panels? Sorry I don't know if that is a dumb question I just don't know much about solar and I am learning as I go. I read about these in the links and under stand what they do but don't under stand where they go in the system or if this is to replace getting something else.

Thank you for the links also!

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far!
 

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It’s simple. Multiple solar panels are wired with special cables called MC4 cables and there are Ys to connect them together and extension cables to reach to the controller. Passing those through the van needs some sort of waterproof box attached to the van to get the wires inside such as: https://www.amazon.com/LINKSOLAR-We...77863&sr=8-1&keywords=solar++waterproof+entry once inside the cables connect to an MPPT controller sized for the panel output such as https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-MPPT-...1488078028&sr=8-1&keywords=solar++MPPT+20+amp it has connections for the battery, solar, and some others you may not use. You might just buy a kit like: https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Monoc...8&qid=1488077965&sr=8-17&keywords=solar++MPPT which is a nice 200 watt setup. It should do all any campervan needs. AGM or FLA golf cart batteries finish it off.
Caveman stuff!
 
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When I did all the electrical and solar for BoB, I worked with AM Solar, great folks there. Might be a bit cost prohibitive to work with them, being across country (they're in OR). However, they have some good info on their site

http://amsolar.com/diy-rv-solar-instructions/

Start on that page and read through the rest of what's available there.
 

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MJAB
Would this be the same as the charger controller you would get when you would buy the solar panels? Sorry I don't know if that is a dumb question I just don't know much about solar and I am learning as I go. I read about these in the links and under stand what they do but don't under stand where they go in the system or if this is to replace getting something else.

Thank you for the links also!

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far!
That kind of devices are multi-function devices that act as charger and battery management systems that can have two inputs (or more), one from the solar panels and one from the vehicle crank battery (better to say the current arrives from the vehicle alternator, but easier connection is done where it is the battery).
Some have also input fir AC current.
The management of the charge from the different sources is done automatically, as well as the charge process is tailored to match the specific battery type.

If You read last RDinNHandAZ post, this device substitute the MPTT solar charger.
At same time it has the function of a dual battery isolator.
 

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I have a 100W solar system that Winnebago installed as an option. It has a 3 connection box on the roof for more panels and a charger that keeps my 2 AGM batteries charged along with recharging while driving. The system is Zamp Solar and I contacted them about adding another 100W solar panel (Grape Solar) that I purchased from Home Depot for $120 w/ free shipping to home. The Grape solar panel had the MC4 connectors but I had to change to the 2 plug connector to plug into the roof box. When it warms up here in TN, I am ready to install on roof.

MLogan
2017 Winnebago Trend
Smyrna, TN
 

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Just my opinion

You get what you pay for. I would never buy anything from China that goes into my body. I am very leery of anything from China made with any metal. I used to think that anything in Harbor Fright was either junk or over priced but if you just need it for a little while or buy extended warrantees and keep replacing it, it can work for you. Cheep electronics can make noise, cause heat or fail. I am guilty of falling for all of these things except that I will not knowingly eat anything from China. I believe that the reviews that you can find on the internet are very useful. I like to look at the worst reviews first to see if they pertain to the product, are just nit picking or have legitimate gripes and suggestions. I believe that Walmart will sell you anything from a tooth pick to a Lear Jet if you ask them nice and maybe save you money.
Just my opinion.
 

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:,
It’s simple. Multiple solar panels are wired with special cables called MC4 cables and there are Ys to connect them together and extension cables to reach to the controller. Passing those through the van needs some sort of waterproof box attached to the van to get the wires inside such as: https://www.amazon.com/LINKSOLAR-We...77863&sr=8-1&keywords=solar++waterproof+entry once inside the cables connect to an MPPT controller sized for the panel output such as https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-MPPT-...1488078028&sr=8-1&keywords=solar++MPPT+20+amp it has connections for the battery, solar, and some others you may not use. You might just buy a kit like: https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Monoc...8&qid=1488077965&sr=8-17&keywords=solar++MPPT which is a nice 200 watt setup. It should do all any campervan needs. AGM or FLA golf cart batteries finish it off.
Caveman stuff!
I was just looking at the renogy kits on Amazon. They offer a 200 watt kit for a little less than your link that comes with a "wanderer" charger. Any input on the controller types that renogy offers and which you'd recommend. I may make it my goal to try and get solar and batteries setup in the month of April before a trip Into CA. Just received my maxxair fan and I'd like to be able to run it and my TV (whiskey and a western after the lady goes to bed = happy CaptainRob). Trying to get some of the main things assembled and sorted so I can then do the finishing of walls etc.

This was a great thread to read so far! Lots of good info from everyone. I realize I only need a very small inverter I think. I wrote down some amp hr figures on similar items. What is the amp hr of a led TV? Um, a hair dryer for a quick amount of time, and do they have DC ones? My lady is going to want to camp all the time when I call owls down after she blow drys her hair. Hahaha
 

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That kind of devices are multi-function devices that act as charger and battery management systems that can have two inputs (or more), one from the solar panels and one from the vehicle crank battery (better to say the current arrives from the vehicle alternator, but easier connection is done where it is the battery).
Some have also input fir AC current.
The management of the charge from the different sources is done automatically, as well as the charge process is tailored to match the specific battery type.

If You read last RDinNHandAZ post, this device substitute the MPTT solar charger.
At same time it has the function of a dual battery isolator.

I Just installed a Projecta dc/dc charger that I got off ebay here http://www.ebay.com/itm/Projecta-Du...ash=item3ac8f43faa:g:NwQAAOSwbYZXcwvk&vxp=mtr I like the fact it has a 3 stage charge instead of putting a constant 14.7 volts in my case to my house battery from the alternator. It is multi function and will do everything you need it to. It is a battery isolator, 3 stage charger coming from the alternator and it has and MPPT solar charge controller built in also. So people have said there is no need for the 3 stage charging from the alternator and that the constant voltage wont hurt. but for around $250 I have the piece of mind of a correct charge profile for my batteries and have the option of solar now. oh and lastly it has selectable modes for different battery types. below is a picture of mine installed. The picture is sideways you just have to tilt your head to the left lol
 

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