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2019 Ram PM 3500 High Top 159" WB EXT
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Discussion Starter #1
Are there any considerations between these two setups? I see people using both setups so can't imagine there's a major difference. I'd like to fit as much solar power as I can. I will be putting a roof fan on the front and rear of the vehicle, and figure I have about 68 inches between them to fit solar panels, so looks like these are my two options. I'd like a roof rack and to fit the solar panels slightly below the top of them like I have seen others (like jracca) do.
 

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I have (2) Maxx Air fans and went with (2) 180 panels from Grape Solar. I love the panels and they've been trouble free, but it was an absolute PITA to mount them using the stock PM roof tabs. If you plan on using the roof tabs, my suggestion is to get a panel that's at least an a few inches shorter than the span between the tabs. The Grape Solar panels were basically exactly the same width, so I had to custom build all sorts of parts to use the mounts. Again, it was a PITA!
 

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If I remember correctly if you use two, you can run them in series for higher voltage (24V) and use smaller wire. I do not recall if you can run three in series with the charger regulators that are avaiable.
 

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If they fit, use 2 x 160

If fit is a concern you have to go with what fits. I have a fiamma roof rack and I needed panels that fit between the rails. So I have 4x100, not because it is better, because they fit.
 

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We have 4x100 mostly because they fit and we got a good deal on them. But since they are also in parallel, we get the added bonus of confining shade losses to smaller areas.

Orientation is something else to consider if you gang them in pairs like we did. We ran the joints across the van to make cleaning easier.

 

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If I remember correctly if you use two, you can run them in series for higher voltage (24V) and use smaller wire. I do not recall if you can run three in series with the charger regulators that are avaiable.
Watch for shading if you run them in series. In series shading one will kill both. In parallel shading one will only kill that one.
 

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2019 Ram PM 3500 High Top 159" WB EXT
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Discussion Starter #8
I just found this setup made by Hein which I really love, I think I might try to replicate it... I have two Maxxair deluxe 7000k (same as what that van has it looks like), not installed yet.

So far got this list:
8020 1517-LS for the roof rails (need to figure out length still)
3x 8020 1515-ULS (with counterbores for anchor fasteners) as cross bars (what length should this be?)
2x 8020 1502-LS (w/ counterbores) for front and rear cross bars for a "rectangular" rack instead of open ended (just for aesthetics)
10x 8020 anchor fasteners to fasten cross bars to rails
4x 8020 end caps (aesthetic)
Hein's roof rail attachment/bracket
Some number (?) of Hein's mounting tabs for mounting solar panels to cross bars (from a guess looking at his picture, 12x 2-hole tabs and 2x 3-hole tabs)
3x 160w Renogy solar panels

I should send @Hein an email, maybe he'll be nice enough to share the details :)

What do you guys reckon, doable?
 

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2018 Silver 159 HT
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Two 160w better, less mounting, less cabling, less wasted space
 

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I think I'm going to go for a single panel - 360w. I don't think I will have room for more than that w/ 2 fans on a 136.
2 each 190 watt panels mounted cross wise take up ~ 54 inches of length (front to back). ( ~ 26 - 27 inch wide each)

You can also split them to be in front and in back of the fan as needed.

If you decide to use a single panel, make sure that you have an indoor / non windy place to work.
 

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2017 136” HR
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2 each 190 watt panels mounted cross wise take up ~ 54 inches of length (front to back). ( ~ 26 - 27 inch wide each)

You can also split them to be in front and in back of the fan as needed.

If you decide to use a single panel, make sure that you have an indoor / non windy place to work.
Which 190W panels do you recommend?
 

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Recently I have seen some in that range from grape, rich and newpowa.

I looked at the specs on line and at least the written aspects look very similar. (approx 26 x 58)

I believe that the grape are assembled in the US.

This weekend I helped a customer install a rich 190 watt panel on his sprinter. It looks very nice. We also moved around 2 existing panels 100 watt panels and reconfigured the roof to accommodate some other items that he and his wife want.

We also installed 4 Lifeline AGM batteries in place of 2 of those over hyped full rivers and updated some of the other electronics. It took all weekend to do the work on the roof and inside, so we only had a short period of time to test things for functionality before he needed to go.

This week they will use the van around town and more feedback will come, but the goal was to have more power than needed for their vacation needs and the fridge has not arrived yet. Usually the fridge is the largest power user for most people, so lots of panels help.
 

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I just saw these on HD‘s website - isn’t this a super deal? I wouldn’t even use their charge controller. Any inside on the brand, or is that even important?

Probably work. I have noticed that the frames of some of these panels are slightly thinner depth wise (1.4 vs 1.7 inch). Potentially the slightly taller frame is stiffer for a longer span capability than the others.

I like to use the bogart SC 2020 solar charge controllers for 12 volt battery packs and panels in parallel. Very hard to beat.

One very useful thing to watch for is to make sure that they are parallel strings of cells in a panel with plenty of bypass diodes. These little things don't affect that official testing rating system, but do affect real life performance when a leaf or some dirt get on the panels.

If you live in a coastal area or location with a lot of overcast weather, consider instead to get a poly panel instead of a mono. They tend to produce power at lower light levels and off angles. In NM or AZ it doesn't matter. In San Francisco or nearby or up in the Pacific NW it matters.

Solarland makes some and they aren't cheap, but work well in low light conditions.

EDIT

Most solar panels use MC4 or the similar amphenol connector.

This one from HD uses an SAE connector as do some zamp panels.

The SAE connector is more commonly associated with panels that are for setting out in the sunshine on the ground and plugging into your van that is parked in the shade.

I actually use a special version of the SAE connector that is over molded with some extra protection for water resistance on my power systems, but I don't know how common that is.

 

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I just saw these on HD‘s website - isn’t this a super deal? I wouldn’t even use their charge controller. Any inside on the brand, or is that even important?

Dunno that I would call it "super" if you won't use their controller, we got BougeRV 170w mono panels on amazon for $145 each earlier this year. Looks like they're $170 now, but I imagine there are several other brand options in the ~$150 range.
 

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2019 Promaster Silver 1500 low roof
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2 each 190 watt panels mounted cross wise take up ~ 54 inches of length (front to back). ( ~ 26 - 27 inch wide each)

You can also split them to be in front and in back of the fan as needed.

If you decide to use a single panel, make sure that you have an indoor / non windy place to work.
Thanks, Harry. I will call you when I need that panel installed. :D No way will I install anything on the roof myself.

Based on something I saw recently (which may or may not be right but it was a guy who installs van systems all the time) if I'm going to need a 3k inverter (which, if I need any solar at all, I think I will need/should get), I should have that much wattage on the roof. This build will take quite a while so there is time to figure all this out .. this is just my current thought/hope.

Btw .. I will have one fan at the front (in the flat sunroof panel area) and one at the very back .. so the room I have left will be all in the middle.
 
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