The Maxi Mod – Our Solar

He said…

This is the biggest (most expensive) modification to date! We got our solar system installed. We’ve planned for it since the beginning – to be able to not be stuck to a campground was one of our desires for this life style. But, ouch!  It’s a big bite.

However, now that it’s done and I see what was involved – I’m glad I didn’t try to do it myself. It would not have been pretty!

The Complexity of the System
The Complexity of the System

So we took it to AM Solar who, through my research, is one of the best RV solar installers around (if not the best).

Wanda At AM Solar
Wanda At AM Solar

They had it for six days to plan, install, and test the system before they walked through with Mariel and I explaining this tech stuff to us.  A lot of information was given, much of it over Mariel’s head and a lot of it dredging up old memories from my time in the nuclear power plants I used to operate – bleh (another reason I’m glad we had someone else do it).

We had 960 watts of solar panels installed and we decided to go for the discount “blemished” panels to save some money.

Six 160W Solar Panels (960W combined)
Six 160W Solar Panels (960W combined)

And the biggest expense came with my desire to go with Lithium batteries which are lighter than lead-acid or AGM batteries.  Since weight is always one of our concerns this was a biggie.  We changed from four 6v batteries with about 240 amp-hours of energy to two 300 amp-hour batteries (600 ah total).  We also upgraded our inverter/charger from 2000 watts to 3000 watts to better support our electrical loads and charging while we boondock.

An All Victronics System (Two 300 Ah Lithium Batteries, MPPT 150 Controller, 3000W Inverter/Charger)
An All Victron System (Two 300 Ah Lithium Batteries, MPPT 150 Controller, 3000W Inverter/Charger)

We changed out a single battery monitoring panel for three;  but, for all the complexity of the system, one of the nice things about it is the user friendliness of the monitoring/control system.

The controller
The controller.

This one screen pretty much says it all… It tells you how much energy is coming in from shore power and how much from solar power.  It also tells us what our AC and DC loads are. Lastly, it tells us the status of the batteries (charging or discharging).

Those dots on the line actually move to show the direction of flow of the power. And, before anyone says anything about the 50watts of solar – it’s currently about 9am and the solar panels are completely in the shade!

One of the neatest things about the system is its ability to provide a “power assist” if needed.  For example, if we’re hooked up to a 15 amp socket at someone’s house and we start to use up too much energy… the system will automatically start providing more power from the batteries via the inverter so that we don’t trip a breaker!  This would have come in handy at a campground with a touchy electrical system that kept tripping on us.