Accidental Snowbirds

DIY Project, Solar Install

Solar DIY, DIY, Solar tips, Solar tricks, RV solar, Solar setup, RV solar shopping list, RV solar items, 12V inverter, 12v batteries, 12v battery, 6v batteries, 6v battery, solar setup, RV trip, RV life, Full time rving, rving, fulltime rv living, rv living, rv project,

When we first started our RV journey, so we planned our trips around RV parks, State Parks, and National Forest parks, but never around BLM land. Soon, that would change and we decided to boondock more, so we needed the solar to get it there. 

Initially, we decided to try boondocking in Alamogordo, New Mexico; we even wrote a blog about it here. I must admit it was an amazing experience and a fun blog to write. 

During this experience, we realized that we enjoy boondocking, and we want to do it more. This revelation led us to start getting our rig more and more equipped for boondocking and living in remote areas. The solar project was born. 

Lance’s Rules:

Considering that Lance has a solid rule of making all the modifications to the rig with his own hands, it was imperative for him to understand the ins and outs of the solar install before he dove headfirst into it. 

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Learning from everyone about the solar setup

After the Taos (blog here) and Santa Fe (blog here) Convergence, seeing all the solar setups and talking to people who are extremely knowledgeable people to learn from, we felt confident enough to attempt it. 

The convergence is where we met Dan Heming. He’s The Solar Guy for sure. We talked to him for hours and he was awesome at explaining everything solar and answering all the questions that I have with knowledge and ease.

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Dan supervising

If you are thinking about adding solar to your rig, I can’t recommend Dan’s consulting services enough. He knows the ins and outs of the whole setup and he shared some valuable knowledge with me. We could not have done this project without his expertise.

Steps: 

Ordering the Solar Project Parts: 

We ordered all the items to Salida, Colorado. That’s where the next Xscapers Convergence was going to take place. We figured if we needed help, the convergence will provide us with an amazing amount of help and information to get the job done. 

I added the list of items we purchased and links to them at the bottom of this DIY blog. 

Installing the Parts: 
Setting Up on the Roof:

First, we needed to make sure that the solar panels are going to fit well on the roof, even though we measured them before.  So, we laid the panels out on the roof ensuring they are oriented the right way for the connections. We wanted to make the entry through the roof to the rig centralized, making it easier when running the wires through the rig. 

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Laying the panels on the roof

Some Tips for this Solar Project:

Make sure to tape the cardboard boxes that the panels came in over the solar panels until you have completely installed the system and are ready to test it. This will keep it from creating energy.

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Keep the panels covered

I recommend that you keep the cords on the back of the panels banded together so it’s easier to carry to the roof.  Just make sure before mounting them down to the roof take the bands off, or it would be a nightmare to reach them under the panels. 

Also, if you can, have 3 people to get the panels onto the roof; one on the ground, one on the ladder, and one on the roof. This will keep the panels from acting like sails (If it’s windy) and launching somebody off the roof or injuring someone.

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Moving the panels to the roof using all the manpower I can get
Wiring the Rig: 

Then, we drilled a hole through the roof to get the wires from the roof to inside the rig. We decided to run the wires through Lance’s closet. After that, we snaked the wires through the belly of the rig to get to where the inverter, charge controller and batteries are.

RV Solar, Solar, RV energy, Renewable energy, RV life, RV trip, RV road trip, Full time RV living, RV living, RV tips and tricks, RV tips, RV tricks, Solar tips and tricks, Solar tips, Solar tricks
Getting the wires through the rig
Re-wiring the Batteries: 

We had to purchase two new batteries to add to our battery bank. Therefore, we ended up getting the same ones we had since we just bought the old ones two months ago. 

Next, we took the old batteries out and had to re-wire two of them together in a cluster to get 12V (since my batteries are 6V each) and then wire that cluster with the other cluster to get two 12V batteries for the overall battery bank.  

 

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Batteries in a tight place
Plugging in the Inverter: 

I was lucky that my rig has two power hookups: one from the front (where we decided to put all the electronic components of the solar system) and one in the back. As a result, I utilized the front connection to plug into the inverter instead of wiring the whole rig back to the electrical panel.

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About to wire the inverter
Wiring the Breakers: 

Most importantly, ensuring none of the equipment will get damaged in case of a power surge, we decided to add two breakers; one from the batteries to the charge controller and the second from the solar to the charge controller.

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We had to add a breaker to the box
Making Sure Everything Works Well: 

Since my rig is not wired for solar, we had to add a new breaker into an empty spot in the box to be able to disconnect the converter so it won’t use the battery power to charge the batteries when we are not plugged in. I know it sounds weird, but it is a thing. Haha!!

Testing the Parts: 

Lastly, after everything is wired correctly, we will need to remove the cardboard off the solar panels and ensure that the panels are producing electricity that is flowing to the batteries and the rig is functioning correctly.

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Making sure all the parts are working correctly

Items you need for the Solar Project: 

Solar Project Cost: 

  • Dicor 501LSW-1 Self-Leveling Lap Sealant, (4 Pack) $31.00
  • Solar Panel Mounting Z Brackets with Nuts and Bolts (4 Sets) $32.99
  • Cable Entry Gland Waterproof $12.99
  • MC4 Male/Female Solar Panel Cable Connectors (5 Pairs) $7.99
  • Y Branch MC4 Parallel Connector Adapter M/FF and F/MM (2) $13.99
  • 30 Feet 10AWG Solar Extension Cable (30FT Red + 30FT Black) $36.95
  • 4 X 200 Watts Solar Panels $820
  • AIMS Power 3000 Watt Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter $410
  • 30 Amp Circuit Breaker Manual Reset Waterproof Inline Fuse Inverter $11.99
  • ANL Fuse Holder + ANL Fuse (2pcs 250A Fuse) $14.46
  • 60 Amp Circuit Breaker Manual Reset Waterproof Inline Fuse Inverter f $11.99
  • MPPT Charge Controller 60 amp 12V/24V Auto, 60A Solar Panel Charge $109.99
  • Misc items $300

Special thanks to Dan, Kevin, Shane, Don for their help and guidance in this project.

 

Check out our other DIY projects:

 

Vent Cover Install 

7 Way Trailer Wiring Harness 

RV Water Pump

DIY PROJECT, Weighing Your Truck and Trailer

 

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